The Most Fun Things to Do in Austin, TX, from BBQ to a Natural Pool
The best hotels, eats, and things to do in Austin, the Lone Star State’s capital of cool
Written byCiara O'RourkeOctober 10, 2018
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1 of15Nick Simonite
South Congress Hotel
These boutique digs are close to some of the city’s best eating, drinking, and shopping, but with three restaurants and a rooftop pool, the hotel is a destination unto itself. southcongresshotel.com.
Allison V. Smith
2 of15Allison V. Smith
Hotel San Jose
A former motor court from the 1930s, this South Austin hotel provides bungalow-style lodgings a few blocks from Lady Bird Lake. Drop your bags and have a glass of wine in the garden courtyard before crossing the bridge to downtown. sanjosehotel.com.
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3 of15Nick Simonite
Hotel Saint Cecilia
Cecilia is the patron saint of music and poetry, so it’s only appropriate that this hotel, with suites, bungalows, and studios, looks to artists and writers of the 1960s and ‘70s as muses. Have a cocktail on the terrace and then maybe take a few laps—the heated pool is open 24/7. hotelsaintcecilia.com.
4 of15Wyatt McSpadden
This hallowed barbecue spot opens at 11 a.m., but you’ll have to join the line a few hours before that if you want even scraps from Aaron Franklin’s smoker. Just sip a Shiner (you won’t be the only one with a small cooler of beer) and meditate on this koan: brisket, burnt ends, bourbon banana pie. franklinbbq.com.
Courtesy of Veracruz All Natural
5 of15Courtesy of Veracruz All Natural
Veracruz All Natural
The migas breakfast taco (pictured) at this local favorite has a cult-like fan base, and with good reason—a soft pile of eggs, tortilla chips, and cheese are topped with thick slices of avocado, all nestled in a homemade corn tortilla. Wash it down with an agua fresca, and then maybe double back for a fish taco, too. veracruzallnatural.com.
Tara Miko Grayless
6 of15Tara Miko Grayless
It doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than dining al fresco on five acres of land only a few miles from downtown. The carefully-plated courses on chef Sonya Coté’s weekend prix-fixe menu showcase produce from the urban plot and meat from family-owned ranches. Not counting the complimentary cocktails, this establishment is BYOB, but don’t worry—the corkage is also gratis. edeneastaustin.com.
Thomas & Elizabeth Winslow
7 of15Thomas & Elizabeth Winslow
No foreign food here—this regionally-focused restaurant serves Texas fare cooked in local fats alongside wines made with Lone Star grapes. The menu hews to the seasons; expect asparagus in the spring and Gulf Coast oysters in the winter. The mezze platter, piled high with pickled vegetables and pillowy purees, is thankfully available year-round. daidue.com.
8 of15Justine Gilcrease
This eatery neighboring an oxygen supply company can be hard to find. “When you think you’ve gone too far, keep going,” advises the web site. Fortunately, there’s a lighthouse—a blinking, neon “brasserie” sign that beckons patrons to the former bungalow where chic servers shepherd some of best steak frites in town. If there’s a wait inside the moody dining room, calme-toi and order a French 75 at the bar. justines1937.com.
9 of15Chase Daniel
Food halls might be a fad, but the restaurants at Austin’s first are no lightweights. Nibble on crispy green beans from Contigo, choose between sushi and ramen at Ni-Komé, or try a gourmet grilled cheese from Antonelli’s. Coming soon: a street-level bar, but there are still plenty of happy hour specials in the meantime. faregroundaustin.com.
10 of15Mark Weatherford
This intimate Oaxacan mezcalería upstairs from where Whisler’s craft cocktails are served is only open on Friday and Saturday nights, so make the most of its extensive selection—including Arroqueño, Jabali, and Espadin—and order a flight amid the bar’s rustic furnishings. whislersatx.com/mezcalera-tobla.
Jester King Brewery
11 of15Jester King Brewery
Jester King Brewery
Sip farmhouse ales and barrel-aged wild sours among the live oaks at this brewery on 165 acres of land on the edge of Hill Country. Free farm tours are offered every Saturday—don’t miss the grazing goats—and wood-fired pizza from Stanley’s is onsite if you work up an appetite. jesterkingbrewery.com.
Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department
12 of15Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department
This iconic spring-fed pool has an average temperature of about 68-70 degrees year-round, and admission is free from 5-8 a.m. if you can will yourself out of bed for some early-morning laps. Sunbathers will start claiming lawn space later in the day as families splash in the shallow end; even Robert Redford learned to swim here when he was a boy. austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool.
One of the University of Texas’ most popular museums highlights temporary exhibits at events like B Scene, when music and dancing complement the show, but the real draw is in the permanent collection. Austin, a 2,715-square-foot chapel-like building with colored glass windows and a wood totem (pictured), was designed by the late artist Ellsworth Kelly and opened after his death. Visiting on the third Thursday of the month? Wine and a slice of pizza are only $5 at the museum’s cafe. blantonmuseum.org.
Austin Central Library
14 of15Austin Central Library
Austin Central Library
Since opening in fall 2017, Austin’s literary hub has already racked up architecture awards and landed on Time’s 2018 list of greatest places in the world. Overlooking Lady Bird Lake, the library regularly draws renowned authors like Mohsin Hamid (Exit West)—but don’t forget the art gallery, rooftop butterfly garden, and cafe if you get peckish. austintexas.gov/central-library.
15 of15Josh Frank
Only a few dozen cars are allowed at this mini urban drive-in movie theater that favors films from the open-air venue’s heyday, but four wheels aren’t required—the theater will lend a radio to patrons on foot or bike. BYO chairs and snacks if you want, but food—including s’mores fixings—are sold at the concession stand. bluestarlitedrivein.com.