A Truly Unique Weekend In Austin, Texas
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If you’re trying to plan a truly unique weekend in Austin, Texas, you’re in the right place! Austin is the ideal destination for a long weekend trip, although you could easily spend even more time in this delightfully quirky city. This 3-day Austin itinerary is full of unique attractions and things to do that will make the most of your Austin weekend getaway!
Rather than mapping out a day-by-day itinerary, I’m going to focus on highlighting all that Austin has to offer, including many hidden gems that are often overlooked. I’ve sorted all my top recommendations into two categories: indoor things to do in Austin, and outdoor things to do in Austin.
To make the most of this choose-your-own-adventure style itinerary, I recommend mapping out all the attractions that catch your eye using a Google map. This will help you decide which days to plan your activities, as well as which to prioritize based on their proximity to each other.
Know Before You Go
Before you plan your weekend getaway to Austin, Texas, here are some helpful tips:
Dress casual. Austin is a T-shirt and shorts kind of city. Bring clothes that are going to keep you cool on those scorching hot afternoons.
Austin is generally much more liberal than the rest of Texas. This city has been described as a “blue island in a sea of red” and is a haven for hippies & artists. It’s also generally pretty LGBTQ+ friendly.
Everyone’s travel style is different, but, generally speaking, you can expect to spend about $150 per day during your Austin weekend getaway. This is taking into account accommodations, attractions, transportation, and food.
The cheapest drinks in Austin are on 6th Street, or “Dirty Sixth.” There are lots of great bars and lots of Happy Hour specials.
Austin is a safe city to visit. Like any city, petty crimes do occur from time to time, but as long as you use common sense during your Austin weekend you’ll be fine.
To get the most out of your weekend getaway in Austin, Texas, you’ll need to bring some essentials. Sunscreen, a reusable water bottle, reusable bags, and good walking shoes are all a must. You should also dress light, and consider bringing swimwear as there are lots of places to cool off in Austin.
Get In The Mood
Indoor Things to Do in Austin
Elisabet Ney Museum
If I could only recommend one indoor thing to do during your weekend in Austin, Texas, this would be it. The Elizabet Ney Museum is the former home and studio of one of the most incredible female artists you’ve never heard of, Elizabet Ney. Elizabet was a Neoclassical German artist who moved to Austin in 1882, where she remained until her death in 1907. Her sculptures are as amazing as the trailblazing life she led, which you can learn all about on the museum’s fascinating tours.
The Elizabet Ney Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from noon to 5:00 P.M. and admission is free! If you can’t make it during visiting hours, you can still explore the grounds which feature outdoor sculptures as well as the exterior of Elizabet’s amazing castle-like home.
Texas State Capitol Building
Another one of Austin’s coolest things to do indoors is the State Capitol building. What better way to start off your weekend in Austin, Texas? It is the state’s capital city, after all, and you’d be surprised by how beautiful the building’s interior is. My favorite thing about the Capitol building is that it features two of Elizabet Ney’s original sculptures!
The Capitol is free to visit, and also has free tours about every 30-45 minutes. Their hours vary, so check out the Texas Capitol website before you visit for more information.
Uncommon Objects is one of those stores that is just so Austin. It’s weird, it’s flashy, and it’s full of all kinds of interesting nicknacks and artifacts. From jewelry to old photos, to taxidermy, to dolls that are probably haunted, this shop offers unique curios for everyone. You could spend hours exploring every little corner of this place, so I recommend giving yourself ample time.
Museum of the Weird
One of my core childhood memories is watching the segment on Unsolved Mysteries about the “Iceman”, a sideshow attraction that was said to be a primitive human-like creature preserved in a block of ice. The Iceman had gone missing after questions were raised about its authenticity, and for years its whereabouts remained a mystery. Imagine my surprise when I saw the legendary Iceman on display at Austin’s Museum of the Weird!
The Iceman is just one of the many weird things you’ll have a chance to sneak a peek at during your tour. You’ll also learn a bit about Austin’s weird history and the history of traditional “freak shows”. This place is very much a tourist trap, but it’s one that I think is totally worth the visit if you’re a fan of oddities, classic horror films, dime museums, or watching a grown man torture himself. Tickets are $12.99 for adults and can be purchased through the Museum of the Weird website.
The Alamo Drafthouse is one of my most highly recommended indoor things to do in Austin, and it’s definitely one of the best movie theater experiences you’ll ever have, if not the best. One of the things I love about the Alamo Drafthouse is that they show a good mix of new releases as well as indie films and cult classics.
They also feature a unique multi-course dining experience where you order your food from the comfort of your seats, and they bring it out to you throughout the film. They also have a wide variety of beers, cocktails, and spirits. I strongly recommend trying one of their boozy shakes! I still dream about their grasshopper shake.
There are several locations throughout the city (and beyond), so it should be easy to squeeze a visit into your Austin weekend getaway!
I Luv Video
Do you cry every time you watch the Blockbuster scene in The Holiday because it fills you with nostalgia for the glorious days gone by when a trip to the video store was part of your weekly routine? Does the phrase, “be kind, rewind” mean anything to you? If the answer to either of these questions is, “dear God, yes!” then you will definitely want to pay a visit to I Luv Video.
I Luv Video claims the title of the “oldest and largest video store in the world”, and they have many rare and unique films to choose from, as well as all your childhood favorites. This place is one of Austin’s truly unique attractions, and I strongly urge you not to skip this one. Just remember to return your movies before you head home!
Shopping In South Congress
South Congress, sometimes called SOCO, is where I spend most of my time whenever I have a weekend getaway in Austin. This is one of Austin’s trendiest neighborhoods with all kinds of offbeat shops, bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. Sixth Street, or “Dirty Sixth”, as it’s lovingly called, is home to a whole host of very niche shops that are lots of fun to visit.
South Congress Books is not only my favorite bookstore in Austin, but one of my favorites in the entire country. Curia Arcanum’s House of Curiosities is another great place to find books that are a little more on the dark side, as well as art and all kinds of bizarre goodies.
If cowboy boots are more your style, Allens Boots is pricey, but literally stocked with thousands of pairs of cowboy boots so you’ll have no problem finding what you’re looking for.
Sadly, one of SOCO’s most iconic stores, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, closed in December 2022.
Lala’s Little Nugget
At Lala’s Little Nugget Christmas comes not once a year, but every single day! This unassuming little bar is packed with festive fun no matter what time of year you plan your weekend getaway in Austin. Although this place is totally worth visiting for the ambiance alone, it doesn’t hurt that they have a killer menu with all kinds of delicious foods and drinks. “Jolly Hour” is from 4:00-7:00 on weekdays.
Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art is located at the University of Texas at Austin and is considered to be one of the biggest art museums in the country. Their collection includes everything from ancient Greek pottery to modern artworks, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. They also feature temporary exhibits year-round, so be sure to check the Blanton Museum website to see what artists they’re featuring during your visit.
Tickets are $12/adult, and they’re open Wednesday-Sunday. Their hours vary, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Outdoor Things to Do in Austin
Cathedral of Junk
Art lovers and outdoor adventurers alike will find something to appreciate about this massive, ever-changing sculpture made of 60+ tons of discarded junk. You can go inside the Cathedral, and you’d be amazed how many different areas there are to explore. The Cathedral of Junk is located in the artist’s backyard, so keep in mind that it’s street parking only.
The artist, Vince, began working on the Cathedral in 1989 and never stopped. In fact, he was working on it during my visit and he’ll probably be out there adding to it when you’re there as well. Vince is super nice and only asks for a $5 donation per adult, so please be respectful during your visit. To make an appointment, call Vince at (512)299-7413.
See the Congress Bridge Bats
The Congress Bridge Bats alone drive thousands of tourists to Austin every year. From March through September, these Mexican free-tailed bats can be seen around dusk as they head out for their nightly feeding. This massive swarm of bats are an incredible sight to behold, and seeing them is an absolute must-do for nature lovers.
Most people choose to watch the flight from the South Congress Bridge. The bridge offers a great view, but it can get a little crowded so I recommend getting there a little early to find a good spot or finding a different spot to watch from. There’s a less crowded bat-watching spot on the southeast corner of Congress Bridge and Lady Bird Lake. You can also take a kayaking tour or boat tour to get the best possible view.
If you’re visiting in the summer, your weekend in Austin, Texas will likely be sweltering and muggy in the afternoons. Thankfully, there are many places to cool off not too far from the city. Barton Springs Pool is a very popular municipal pool in the city that’s open year-round. However, if you have the opportunity to head about 40 minutes outside of the city, you have to visit Hamilton Pool. This gorgeous natural swimming hole is made even more beautiful by the waterfall that pours into it.
Reservations are required to visit Hamilton Pool, and there is an admission fee of $8/adult. They usually don’t allow swimming after heavy rains due to increased risk of bacteria, so always call them at (512)264-2740 ahead of time to make sure. Although they don’t allow swimming under these circumstances, you can still walk around and take in the views! If you do plan on swimming, bring drinking water and water shoes. Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Drippin Donuts on the way.
Mayfield Park and Nature Reserve
Mayfield Park and Nature Reserve is another one of Austin’s many free attractions, and it’s absolutely stunning. This historic park is home to many peacocks and peafowl that roam the gardens freely, and they aren’t shy! There are also koi ponds filled with beautiful water lilies and turtles. This park is the perfect peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and is open daily from about 5:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M.
Austin is home to some iconic murals, as well as some lesser-known ones. My personal favorite is the “Before I Die” wall where you can make your own personal contribution by writing your bucket list items in chalk. Every time I’ve been there they’ve had pieces of chalk lying around, but you can bring your own just to be safe. If you choose to do so, consider leaving it there for future visitors!
There are so many murals to appreciate, so pick your favorites or make it a goal to see them all! Here’s where to find some of the most awesome murals Austin has to offer:
Before I Die Wall: 206 E Elizabeth St
I Love You So Much: 1300 S Congress Ave
Mr. Rogers: 1421 S Congress Ave
Willie For President: 1423 S Congress Ave
Love From Austin: 1912 S Congress Ave
Historic 6th St Mural: 582 N IH 35 Frontage Rd
You’re My Butter Half: 2000 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Greetings From Austin: 1720 S First St
Black Mamba (tribute to Kobe Bryant & his daughter): 3700 Guadalupe St
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum
This memorable garden and museum are dedicated to the sculptures of 20th Century artist, Charles Umlauf. His artistic style varies from Neoclassical realism to chilling Expressionism, and many abstract pieces as well. This is another great happy medium where both museum lovers and those who prefer the outdoors will find something to appreciate.
Admission is $7/adult and they’re open Tuesday-Sunday.
Immerse Yourself In Austin’s Music Culture
Austin’s music culture is a major part of the city’s identity. Austin has been called the “live music capital of the world,” and is home to major music festivals as well as a unique underground music scene. Austin’s most notable annual event is Austin City Limits, a massive music festival that takes place in Zilker Park every October. Check out the Austin City Limits website to see their next lineup and more information.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, Austin has a lot of great bars and music venues. See who’s playing at Stubb’s BBQ, the Continental Club, or the Elephant Room. You can also check out Do512 to see who’s performing during your Austin weekend getaway, or, when in doubt, just follow the music.
Rent A Kayak
Austin is a beautiful city with some of the best weather the United States has to offer. As such, there are so many ways to get outdoors and get active. Renting a kayak or paddle board is a great way to beat the heat at Lady Bird Lake. Or, if you’re up for the challenge you can brave the Ann and Roy Butler hike & bike trail for a 10-mile loop around some of the most beautiful parts of the city.
More Fun For A Weekend In Austin, Texas
Bullock Texas State History Museum: If, like me, you always want to learn about the local history of any place you travel to, this is the place to start!
Zilker Botanical Gardens: Zilker Park is an iconic Austin landmark that features a gorgeous Japanese garden, as well as a prehistoric garden and a rose garden.
University of Texas campus: There’s a lot more to do here than study! Check out their cool museums & more on the University of Texas website.
White Horse: You may honk the honk, but do you tonk the tonk? Prove it, coward! White Horse is the place to be if you love country music, dancing, and taco trucks.
Where To Eat
You can’t spend a weekend in Austin, Texas without indulging in the city’s many fine eateries. Whether you’re in the mood for breakfast tacos, BBQ, a lovely beer garden, or the best damn sandwich you’ve ever had, Austin’s got you covered.
Avenue B Grocery & Market: Classic deli-style sandwiches, located in Austin’s oldest grocery store.
Rainey Street Food Truck Lot: Can’t agree on dinner? Or maybe you want a little bit of everything? This spot is basically food truck heaven, with so many different foods to try!
Lucky Robot: This is a great sushi spot with a really fun ambiance, right in the heart of South Congress.
The Picnic Food Trailer Park: Another great spot in South Congress that features several food trucks that rotate seasonally.
Garbo’s Fresh Maine Lobster: Honestly one of the best lobster rolls I’ve ever had. They have a sit-down restaurant as well as a food truck that you can track down through the Garbo’s website.
Drippin Donuts: This one is a bit of a drive, but so worth it! Definitely stop here if you take a trip out to Hamilton Pool.
Where To Stay
Austin is home to a vast selection of charming (and very conveniently located) Airbnbs, so if that’s your travel style, have at it! This is an especially good option if you choose to rent a car, as most Airbnbs won’t charge a parking fee. If that’s not your thing, here are some fantastic accommodations:
Luxury: The historic Driskill hotel is undoubtedly the most luxurious stay Austin has to offer, but it’s also the most haunted. Don’t let that scare you away, though! Just beware of room 545.
Location: Austin Motel is iconic! Their, umm, interestingly-shaped sign is a South Congress landmark. The hotel itself is cute, funky, and features really unique rooms and a pool. Plus, it’s right in the heart of SOCO and it doesn’t get more central than that.
Charm: Park Lane Guest House offers the quaintest little historic cottages you ever did see! If you’re looking for something equally cozy and quirky, this is the place for you.
Coolest Neighborhoods In Austin, Texas
East Austin: This is arguably the coolest neighborhood in Austin. This is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly areas the city has to offer, with so many bars, restaurants, shops, and more!
South Congress: This area really showcases Austin’s weird side. Taking it all in as you stroll down 6th Street is practically a right of passage, and a must-do for any weekend getaway to Austin.
Downtown: You can’t visit a place like Austin without experiencing the big city itself! Make your way down Rainey Street for the best brunch spots, restaurants, and food trucks. The Warehouse District is another cool neighborhood where you’ll find some of Austin’s hottest LGBTQ+ bars.
Getting Around Austin
If you’re flying into Austin, Texas for your weekend getaway, you’ll be arriving at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport which is about a 20-minute drive from Downtown Austin. To get to your hotel or Airbnb you can use a shuttle service or any of the following transportation methods:
Rent a car: As I’m sure many of you know, I’m a San Diego girl and as much as I love my hometown, it’s one of those cities where you need a car to get around effectively. For that reason, I usually prefer to rent a car when I travel. That being said, there are downsides. Parking can be tricky in busy areas, and free parking can be even trickier.
Rideshares: This may be a good option if you want the luxury of driving directly to your destinations without the hassle of renting your own car and having to deal with parking. In addition to Uber and Lyft, Austin also has its own rideshare called RideAustin.
Public transportation: The Capital Metro (or Cap-Metro, as most locals will call it) is the cheapest method of transport in and around downtown Austin. However, the obvious downside is that you won’t be able to venture outside of the city and you will have to do a lot more walking.
Walking: Some parts of Austin, like Downtown and South Congress, are extremely walkable. You can even walk to South Congress from Downtown and vice versa by making your way down the South Congress Avenue bridge.
When To Visit Austin
So when should this weekend getaway in Austin take place? Well, it depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip.
If seeing the Congress Bridge bats is a priority for you, you’ll want to plan your weekend in Austin, Texas sometime between late March and early September (although the bats can sometimes be seen as late into the year as early October.)
Austin City Limits takes place every October, but if you want to see what’s going on the rest of the year, check out these scheduled events in Austin.
Weather-wise, Austin is sunny nearly year-round. Expect the weather to be HOT from June through September. May and October are often said to be the best months to visit but know that rain is a possibility.
- Afternoons in Austin are scorching for the majority of the year. Downright brutal. I suggest that you get an early start on any outdoor activities, and try to stick with indoor attractions during the afternoon hours. Once the sun starts going down, it’s safe to venture out again to enjoy Austin’s famous nightlife!
- If you’re planning to see the South Congress bridge bats, don’t be discouraged if they don’t appear right at sunset. They are animals after all, and while their nightly feeding usually takes place right around dusk, they can sometimes take flight a little earlier or later.
- Franklin’s BBQ may be world-famous, but the line is insane. If you don’t want to spend an eternity waiting but still want to enjoy fantastic BBQ during your weekend in Austin, Texas, try Rollin Smoke BBQ instead!
- If you have time to kill while you’re waiting for your flight out of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, take a little trip to the Infinity Gate (between gates 12 & 14) for a fun little surprise. 😉
As of 2023, the Cathedral of Junk is still open to visitors! There is no admission fee, though Vince requests donations of $5 per adult, or $10 per group. Call (512)299-7413 to schedule a visit.
While Austin is typically more expensive than the surrounding areas, you’d be amazed at how many free and cheap activities the city has to offer. You can totally plan a weekend getaway to Austin on the cheap if you take public transportation, focus on visiting their many many free/inexpensive attractions, and plan your meals accordingly!
Barton Springs does not allow dogs. However, “Barkin’ Springs,” which is just beyond the Barton Springs Dam is totally dog-friendly. And, unlike Barton Springs, it’s free! To get there, head east of the Zilker Park playground until you come across a staircase off of the hiking trail and make your way down.
🌊 If you like this list of things to do on your weekend getaway to Austin, Texas, please don’t forget to like and share! If you do any of the things I recommended use the hashtag #theseasidecalls so I can share with my followers!
Great job on this! I think Elizabet Ney and the bats were my favorite. I’d go back just for the food.
Oh I know, Austin is probably the best city in the country for foodies! And yessss I would return to the Elizabet Ney museum 100 times!
Wow! I’m blown away by the through information in this post! Thanks for taking the time to do all the work for us. I can’t wait to plan my visit!
GLad this helped! Take lots of pictures!
As someone who lived in Austin for 5 years this blog post is VERY thorough. If anyone ever asks me for tips I’ll just send them here! Also, I lived in Hyde Park so seeing the old grocery store and Elizabet Ney was so memorable as I would pass them by everyday. I loved spending time upstairs in Elizabet Ney’s old house, typing on the typewriter and envisioning her life there. 😀
Thank you! That’s such a beautiful mental image haha it’s so good to hear that you’re as much of an Elizabet Ney fan as I am. I’ll never forget that museum! The grocery store too!
Excellent reviews, Nena! I love Austin and plan to go back & check out some of your recommendations.
Thank you! Definitely let me know what all you end up doing!