This post has been a long time coming. Steven and I have been to Austin quite a few times now since moving to Texas so I have lots of favorite places to share. Being in Dallas, we’re only about 3 hours away from Austin so it’s an easy drive for a quick, weekend getaway.
I also get a lot of questions on how we’re able to travel so much so this is a glimpse at how we keep things affordable but still enjoy everything a city has to offer. So let’s jump to it – here’s my budget friendly Austin city guide.
Where to Stay On The Cheap
When it comes to hotels, we try and keep it cheap. Most of the time we’ll stay outside of the city and just Uber when we go out at night or plan on drinking. Not really an inconvenience and it’s much, much cheaper to pay for an Uber versus staying in an expensive, trendy hotel.
While I wouldn’t recommend the most recent hotel we stayed at (not every place is a gem, folks), we have stayed numerous times at The Casulo Hotel and it’s always a favorite. Free parking, free Wifi, free breakfast buffet and it’s only about a $10 Uber ride to popular Austin hot spots. Rooms are almost always under $150 a night so it really can’t be beat. But no pets allowed, sadly.
The Aloft Downtown is another solid choice for great, modern rooms without being insanely expensive. If there’s an Aloft hotel somewhere I always try and stay there as I’ve had nothing but good experiences at their hotels and they are usually pretty decently priced. Not to mention free Wifi (clearly a must for me). This one is situated right smack in downtown Austin so you’re really close to everything. They’re also dog friendly!
I have to share this little secret for finding the best hotels on the cheap – the HotelTonight app! HotelTonight is perfect when you’re looking for a last minute hotel and want to find the best deal possible. We have used this app every time we stay in Austin and it has never steered us wrong. It even gives you lower rates based on a “geo filter” if you’re already in the area you’re looking to stay.
We usually do very last minute trips to Austin so HotelTonight has come to our rescue every time. We don’t book the room until we get to Austin and it finds us the cheapest hotel options in the area for that night (or a few days out). We’ve even used it to score a super affordable room at The Driskill which is usually over $300 a night! I cannot recommend this app enough.
Hotels For the Gram
This is pretty self explanatory, but I encourage you to click through each hotel link below to see their geo tag feeds on Instagram to see what I mean. We usually stay in affordable, not-so trendy hotels, so we enjoy sneaking into the ones below and snapping some pics along the way. Who doesn’t love a good photo op? The trick is to find a quiet area or open gate/door and venture through. Act like you’re supposed to be there and no one will question you. 😉 Most of them have beautiful bars and restaurants that you can go to without staying at the hotel as well!
photo: Austin Motel
Hamilton Pool was the coolest thing we did in Austin. It’s a little bit of a hike, but nothing intense and about 35 minutes from downtown Austin. It really is so, so cool. The pool was created thousands of years ago and looks like something straight out of a movie. Think 50-foot waterfalls, limestone walls, plenty of lush landscaping, and cool bridges. The water is always this gorgeous hue of green and you can swim in it! You have to make a reservation ahead of time (you can do so here) and you will have to pay for parking but it shouldn’t be more than $15. And make sure to get there early to beat the crowds and get the best photos! Trust me, it gets really crowded in the afternoon.
We alway walk the Lady Bird Lake Trail when we’re in Austin, especially if we have Charlie Boy with us. It’s a 10-mile trail along Town Lake Downtown and is perfect for a nice stroll or a morning job (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing). There are so many pretty bridges and little nooks around the lake. It really is a lovely walk and there are always people walking around. It’s easily accessible from Downtown Austin and there are plenty of places to park for a minimal fee. We’ve also kayaked on the lake! A quick search will help you find plenty of places to rent affordable kayaks for a few hours. It’s surprisingly peaceful and fun!
If you’re heading to Austin during the warmer months, Barton Springs is a must. It’s the perfect place to cool off in the pool or catch some rays along the grassy hills. The man-made pool on Barton Creek is actually 3 acres and is fed from underground springs. The average temperature is 68-70 degrees so it’s always perfect for a dip. And it’s only $8 a person so it’s a great way to spend the day without breaking the bank.
photo: Barton Springs Pool
Best Coffee Shops
Coffee needs no introduction so I’ll just leave this list here for you to reference when you’re in Austin. All amazing coffee spots and all insta-worthy, of course. Houndstooth is always a favorite, but if you live in Dallas, skip it and try something new. You can always get Houndstooth in Dallas. 😉 And don’t forget to stop by Jo’s for the infamous “I Love You So Much” wall.
Where to Drink
I prefer to stick with Rainey Street when it comes to the bars at Austin. I’m not a huge fan of Dirty Sixth, unless I’m trying to hunt down local food trucks. Javelina is always my go to for good music and dancing – it’s never overly crowded. Easy Tiger is a go to for hanging out and chatting over beers. They also have a really cool bakery upstairs! Banger’s Sausage House + Beer Garden is another solid choice for good beers – they have an impressive amount of beers on tap. Garage Cocktail Bar and Whistler’s are also favorites for delicious drinks and speakeasy vibes.
photo: Café no Sé
Where to Eat
This is one of the best brunch spots in Austin. It’s also at one of my favorite hotels. And for the love of all that is holy, get the Golden Quinoa Bowl. With bacon on the side. Just add it in. It’s fucking phenomenal. Trust me. You also can’t go wrong with their avocado toast. They even have the cutest coffee cups (to go)!
Brand spankin’ new – this restaurant just opened in April! It is both delicious AND Instagram worthy. Because come on, you’ve gotta hit both checkboxes nowadays, am I right? Seriously, this restaurant is so beautiful! Check it out for the incredible food menu (good for brunch!) and coffee.
Vegans, look away! But for everyone else… you’re welcome. This is a solid choice for insanely good BBQ without having to wait all day at Franklin (trust me it isn’t worth it – not when you’re only in town for a weekend, at least). This is good ol’ Texas brisket and ribs and is seriously mouth watering. I’m also a big fan of their the wall art. And psst… ask for the burnt ends, my personal favorite.
Korean BBQ inspired rice bowls and the original Kimchi fries. I’m drooling just thinking about it. This place is heaven. If you’re a fan of bibimbap, Korean bbq, or kimchi, then this place is for you. They have a stand-alone restaurant and a food truck on 6th Street. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
OMG. This place is both heaven and hell. The food is disgustingly delicious, almost to the point where you regret it after lol. Burgers with donuts as the bun, gravy on chicken fried steak and donuts… or the sin-a-bomb, a donut with melted cinnamon, butter and sugar poured over cream cheese icing. I’m just going to leave the rest of the menu for you to read riiiiiggghhht here.
Vietnamese fusion = deliciousness. Breakfast bánh mì is what originally sold me, and then a quick search for them on Instagram made me immediately want to go. It’s the cutest little restaurant that was originally a house. You can sit indoors or outside on the patio and it’s perfect for brunch or lunch. If you’re a big fan of pho, then this place is also for you. They also have incredible coffee and pastries!
Best pizza in Austin. Fun atmosphere and definitely worth the wait. They’re also open until 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays which is ideal after you’ve had a night of drinks and just need something greasy and delicious. Of course, there are always food trucks, this is the best option for those looking to sit with a group since they serve NY-style pizza by the pie or slice.
We really do love Austin. Not only do you get the fun of the city but you also get the outdoor experience too. I love that there is so much to do outdoors, beyond patio drinking, because let’s be honest… that gets old quickly. Moving from California to Texas was a huge adjustment for me, so Austin was a breathe of fresh air after we had been in Dallas for a bit. Wished I had known more about Austin before we settled on Dallas haha! Every time we go we actually look at Austin real estate, just to see. Because you never know. So many gorgeous neighborhoods and really cool houses that almost make us feel like we’re in LA, without the LA prices of course.
So when do you plan on visiting Austin? Let me know if you check out any of the places I listed. I’d love to hear about your favorite spots and experiences!