Austin is a big city with a small-town heart. There are real problems associated with rapid growth and the “boom” in population (like that one time Uber left the city…) but much of what people loved about old Austin is alive and well. You can find an authentic music joint, have a day on the lake, explore a peaceful hiking trail, and treat yourself to some killer tacos, all in one day. In spite of the boom, Austin is still Awesometown and is an extraordinarily open and welcoming place—a city where you’re not only allowed but expected to be yourself, in all your quirky glory.
WHERE I STAY IN AUSTIN – BEST HOTELS
HOTEL ELLA. Two words. Dog. Friendly. This magnificent and beautifully decorated boutique hotel is not only located in downtown (right next to UT campus), but also allows pups. Hallelujah! I brought Hazel girl along for the ride. The luxury historic boutique hotel is darling. I would definitely stay there again. Everywhere you turn something screams, “Hi. I am insta-worthy.”
-PARLOR BAR @ HOTEL ELLA. We checked in 10 minutes before happy hour ended so after changing (and jumping on the bed for a hot second) my friend Cassidy and I made our way to Ella Parlor Bar located next to the hotel lobby. I’d heard amazing things about the happy hour, half off all cocktails, beers, and spirits from 4-7 on weekdays. I ordered my favorite, a Paloma, and it was so refreshing. So it is confirmed. The HH is really that good.
-GOODALL’S KITCHEN @ HOTEL ELLA. The next morning we had breakfast at Goodall’s Kitchen and oh, boy! This breakfast was dang GOOD. Breakfast is my jam – I actually consider myself a pretty tough critique when it comes to my favorite meal of the day. The feta spinach omelette and hot cakes still make my mouth water just thinking about them.
-POOL PASSES @ HOTEL ELLA. After breakfast we spent a morning sipping rosé by the pool. Now through Labor Day, you can spend a daycation poolside at Hotel Ella for $20! The pool pass gives you access to a reserved pool chair under a cabana and a complimentary parking pass. Other hotels I have stayed at in Austin include Hotel Van Zandt, South Congress Hotel, Lake Austin Spa Resort, and the W Hotel downtown.
WHERE TO EAT IN AUSTIN
There are new places opening every week, it’s impossible to stay on top of Austin’s exploding food scene. That’s a good thing, because it means there’s plenty of scrumptiousness to choose from, whether you can spend a lot or a little.
SWAY. So, if you can spend a lot…this is my favorite restaurant in Austin and offers modern Thai. To be honest, I can’t understand anything on this menu but I promise, you can’t go wrong. Order the Son & Law. Just do it. Then call me and thank me for treating your tastebuds to such an exquisite experience. Sway is on the more expensive side so I typically go for special occasions but if you are in town visiting, it’s worth it. I don’t think you can make reservations so I’d go 30 min early to get your name on list and hang at the bar.
TYSON’S TACOS. You can’t come to Austin and not have a breakfast taco. To be honest, picking my favorite taco joint is pretty difficult but I love Tyson’s because it is a little underrated and definitely a local spot.
GRIZZELDA’S. Grizzelda’s can make one heck of a marg and that goes a long way in my book. This is one of my favorite Mexican food spots in Austin, the palm print wallpaper and pinks margs are super blogger friendly. Grizzelda’s is the perfect spot for a girl’s night out, bachelorette party, hot date, you name it! The happy hour is 5-7 everyday and includes drinks and appetizers. I love the tostaditas and bacon gaucamole for appetizers and usually share beef tacos with a friend. The chips and salsa also SLAY.
IRENE’S. Breakfast culture is a big deal here in the 512. Irene’s is a great lunch/brunch spot for a group of people. I order the avocado toast or turkey sandwich. Both insanely savory!
ELIZABETH STREET CAFE. For a heavier brunch down south, I’d stop by Elizabeth Street’s breakfast bánh mì. The interiors are some of the cutest in town. Don’t be surprised to see a bunch of bloggers taking outfit pics outside.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET. This isn’t just another Wholefoods. This is THE Wholefoods, the flagship location. It’s definitely worth a visit! Great coffee, smoothies, desserts, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, and salad bar. The breakfast is really good too. Whatever you are craving, Wholefoods has it! I was pretty spoiled living down the street from this WF for 5 years. It’s always crowded but the parking garage and checkout is very efficient so you really could run in and out pretty quickly.
WHERE TO SHOP IN AUSTIN
THE DOMAIN. If you want to shop, head up north to the Domain. The Domain is unique and a quickly developing part of Austin. The Domain has it all – fitness, food, fashion, and fun. (The 4 f’s). New apartments, bars, hotels, and restaurants are popping up every week! This dog friendly shopping mall recently expanded and added a new street of stores and restaurants including, Nordstrom (gorgeous!), Drybar, Soulcycle, Restoration Hardware, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Archer Hotel, Wholefoods, and Starbucks Reserve.
The selection of stores is jaw dropping. Some of the other stores I l shop include Planet Blue, Lush, Wildfox, Sephora, Joie, Frye, NYX Cosmetics (yes an entire store dedicated to the drugstore brand), Luxe Apothetique, Kelly Wynne, Anthropologie, Zara, Tory Burch, Lululemon, Johnny Was, and of course, the Apple Store. Jordan likes to venture into SuitSupply, Bonobos, and Filson. After a day of shopping, I end the day with a glass of rosé on Rock Rose, a street of new bars and restaurants adjacent to the Domain.
RESTAURANTS AT THE DOMAIN. If I am in a healthy mood, I will pop into Flower Child and grab the “Mother Earth” bowl and a kombucha (on tap). If you’ve worked up an appetite from all of that shopping, North Italiana is a must. This is a favorite spot of mine in Austin. I order the zucca chips, fig and prosccuto pizza, or spaghetti bolognese. The quinoa salad is also delicious. Culinary Dropout is great for a group of friends since you can play pingpong, horseshoes, and listen to live music.
SOUTH CONGRESS. Most commonly referred to as SOCO, this neighborhood is a nationally known shopping and cultural district famous for its many eclectic small retailers. Pop into ByGeorge, Kendra Scott, Gypsy Wagon, Cove Boutique, and Maya Star and grab a quick slice of pizza at Home Slice to refuel! If you have time to sit down, I highly recommend eating a burger at Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Best burger you will ever have. They also have the best frozen marg in town. I know random.
WHAT TO DO IN AUSTIN
BARTON SPRINGS POOL. You cannot deny the necessity to be in the water during an Austin summer. Barton Springs is the most popular spot to cool off in Austin. The pool is filled with water from the nearby natural springs so don’t be surprised if you see fish and other creatures swimming beside you. (Not creepy at all though.) The cost to get in is $8 cash, no credit cards. Get there early to avoid a line. If there is a line, I highly recommend you take the wait. The water is SO refreshing and the experience is very unique. Make sure to bring your own towel and bug spray. Open 5am – 10pm every day except closed Thursdays from 9am – 7pm for cleaning.
LADY BIRD RUN & BIKE TRAIL. There are many pretty places to hike and bike right in town, including the trail around Lady Bird Lake. This trail is the heart of Austin and connects with numerous other urban paths and trails. With current lake crossing options, you can make your workout a variety of lengths, anywhere from 3, 4, 5, 7, or 10 miles in a loop. I usually park at Austin High School and start a 7 mile run there. The terrain is mostly dirt/gravel, flat, and shaded except for the Boardwalk portions and bridge sections. Beware the bat & bird guano under the bridges, as well as the occasional spring flooding/washouts. An excellent interactive map showing amenities and crossings is available here: thetrailfoundation.org/e…
TOWN LAKE – PADDLE BOARDING & KAYAKING. When the earliest mornings boast record high temperatures, (105 degrees here in the ATX) it is hard to find the drive to get outside. The only way to do so is by the water. Luckily, Austin has plenty of lakes, swimming holes, natural springs, and pools to take advantage of during the summer. I kayak or paddleboard Town Lake on a weekly basis. Check out SUP ATX for more info.
ZILKER PARK. This expansive park is situated on the shores of Town Lake, and has stunning views of downtown from the large grassy knolls that make up Zilker. It’s the perfect park for flying a kite, enjoying a picnic, throwing a football, or playing sand volleyball. There’s also a leash-free dog zone where I let Hazel run wild!
HAMILTON POOL. Want to avoid tourists? Take the path less traveled. The mile hike to Hamilton Pool will make you feel like you are stumbling upon a hidden gem. With the 45 foot waterfall and the refreshing dip preserve’s pool you won’t regret the adventure. $10 reservation fee – paid online with credit card, not refundable. You must make a reservation online.
THE GREENBELT. This is a 12+ miles long trail. I recommend heading down Loop 360 to access point at 3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy. It’s about a 45 minute hike to Twin Falls! Last time I took the hike, I saw a massive snake tho, screamed like a little girl, and haven’t been back since.lol. It was probably a harmless massive snake?? Idk but just keepin’ it real over here!
NIGHTLIFE IN AUSTIN
There are 3 areas of Austin you can get your dance on and party like there’s no tomorrow (but remember there is a tomorrow you will have to face, so please drink responsibly, and more importantly, enjoy the people you are with more than the drinks. Use Uber or Lyft (the’yre back in Austin)! If you decide to take a peti cab (bicycle rides) negotiate a price before you hop in their ride. They often overcharge touristy looking people. A lot of people I know (the type of peeps who really want to rally) start out at Rainey St with a cocktail, make their way to West 6th around 11 pm, and hit up “dirty” to end the night. This progression sounds awful to me though.
RAINEY STREET. I prefer Rainey street, a street of old houses converted into bars and restaurants. Here you will find 20-30 somethings, the yo-pros (young professionals lol) and sit back and really enjoy solid conversation, good live music, and a specialtly craft cocktail. Rainey street gets really fun around 11 – I like to dance at Container Bar or Icenhausers with my ladies! Banger’s on Rainey is SO YUMMY. GREAT sausage and craft beers, in a picnic table environment. Such a bro place but the ladies love it too!
WEST 6TH STREET. I go to West 6th every once in a while. I really enjoy the rooftop bar at The Ranch (Jordan loves the Ranch Water – a drink made with Topochico) or Green Light Social. Starbar is also a fun spot.
‘DIRTY’ 6TH STREET. It is called dirty for a reason. I’ll let you find out why for yourself but if you do end up on ‘dirty’ spare yourself a rough night/hangover and pop into Pete’s Piano Bar. Take a seat and listen to the dueling piano players. Totally worth the $5 cover and super entertaining! Those dudes are not only super talented but hilarious. Oh! EAT AT ROPOLLOS PIZZA!! This hole-in-the-wall pizza spot will change your life. I personally avoid ‘dirty’ at all costs but to each their own!
Ruffle Sleeve Top (size small)
Pink Wool Guess Coat (size small)
Tow-Tone Skinny Jeans (size 24)