7 Steps to Make the Most of One Day in Austin, TX: Building the Ideal Itinerary

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Here’s how this is going to work: Below is a treasure trove of restaurants, bars, activities, and destinations curated by Austin locals. Your job is to go through the list, pick one item from each step, and then bask in the glory of your perfect itinerary. If you want to select more than one option, go for it! The goal is for you to get a crash course in what it’s like to live in Austin.

Try something new like paddle boarding during your day in Austin.

Step one:

Try a new experience

During your time in Austin, it’s a perfect chance to experience one of the new activities in the city. Check below for a small collection of activities in Austin ranging from a game of golf to a theater performance to overnight stays if you plan on extending your trip. Pick one or choose a couple to explore during your day. 

Butler Pitch and Putt: “Whether you’re a scratch golfer, weekend warrior, or never swung a golf club in your life, Butler Pitch and Putt has been a staple outdoor activity in the Austin community since 1949. This 9-hole, par 3 course is unique, fun and easy to play for all ages and skill levels. Located in the heart of downtown Austin, Butler’s mission is, and always has been, to make golf fun & accessible while also providing delicious food trucks (one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat) and cold drinks.” – Resident.com.

Ransom Center: “The Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research center at The University of Texas at Austin that’s open to visitors every day except Mondays. From one of 20 copies of the Gutenberg Bible surviving today to Albert Einstein’s notes and original works by Frida Kahlo, the Ransom Center is a great place to visit for curious minds. It is located in the heart of the University of Texas at Austin campus where parking is limited; a good way to get there is by CapMetro Routes 20, 801, or 803, which are all high-frequency routes.” – Movability Texas.

The Driskill Hotel: “Take a quick ride or a short walk to The Driskill Hotel, an iconic Austin landmark. Make your way through the impressive lobby full of timeless charm, and head to The Driskill Bar in the back of the hotel. Enjoy a glass of their famous Old Fashion bellied up to the ornate bar with pistol lamps or on one of the bar’s inviting and rustic leather couches.” – Nic Van Biene of Pinthouse Pizza.

See the city on e-Bike or e-Scooter: “With Austin being such a huge city to get around in, Uber and Lyft costs can add up pretty quickly. Instead of spending hundreds on rideshares during your visit, take in more of the city on e-bikes and e-scooters. A slower pace allows you to marvel at the architecture and culture more thoroughly and it’s easier on your wallet. Try e-scooter and e-bike apps like Lime, Bird, Wheels, or Link. Practice safety and pay attention to pedestrians and larger vehicles when riding.” – Travel Branyik.

Visit FireSong Ranch: “FireSong Ranch is the perfect spot for a staycation or baecation. Located in Spicewood, just outside of Austin, FireSong Ranch is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. With luxury accommodations and amenities, a stay at FireSong Ranch with its natural beauty and gorgeous views is sure to leave you relaxed and rejuvenated.” – Clarissa of RomanticSpots.com.

Explore East Austin: “The last bastion of ‘old-school Austin.’ Great restaurants, cool hip bars, and plenty of things to happen upon and discover while walking around the small town streets.” – Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In.

City Theatre Austin: “Celebrating its 18th Season, City Theatre is an Austin-based, not-for-profit arts organization and is sponsored in part by the Austin Creative Alliance and the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin. CTC is dedicated to providing a quality, reputable, and diverse public theater and stage entertainment experience that is accessible to all artists and the entire Austin community. City Theatre is located in the heart of Austin, next to Patterson Park and the always ‘something new’ Mueller Community with lots of restaurants, shopping, museum, and outdoor activities.” – Andy Berkovsky, Artistic Director and General Manager of City Theatre Austin.

Explore Austin Theatre with CTX LIVE Theatreand ATX Theatre: “Austin is home to 80 theater companies, from the prestigious ZACH Theatre downtown to do-it-yourself groups producing creative work in found venues and public places. Discover the best-kept secrets of Austin’s astonishing creatives by visiting CTX Live Theatre and ATX Theatre to plan your trip.” – Michael Meigs of CTX Live Theatre.

Step two: 

Find a lunch spot

Make sure to plan where you’ll be stopping for lunch! From lakeside cafes to food trucks, you don’t want to miss out on the amazing food that Austin has to offer.

Ski Shores Café: “An iconic waterfront restaurant on Lake Austin accessible by boat and car. A version of this place has been there for many, many decades.” – Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In.

Verde’s Mexican Parrilla: “I would recommend Verde’s Mexican Parrilla for lunch on your way to or from Hamilton Pool. Verde’s is a locally owned and operated Mexican grill located at 16018 Hamilton Pool Road. I highly recommend the chipotle pork chop or the pollo palomino. With fresh margaritas and a playground it is the perfect stop to catch a bite if you are heading to the hill country.” – Chef Cody Kidwell of Verde’s Mexican Parrilla.

Paco’s Tacos: “If you’re more of a foodie, tacos are the local specialty. Nay – subculture. My fave is Paco’s Tacos on East 51st Street: quirky, authentic, and more than a half a dozen sauces to choose from to suit whatever mood I’m in. Happy to discuss housing over tacos anytime.” – Michael Thurman, President of Thurman Homes.

Casino el Camino: “They have the best burgers in Austin! They are made fresh and worth the wait.”- Tasha Miller, owner of Pelons Tex Mex.

Visit some food trucks:Midway Dogs and Un Mundo De Sabor are two of our top taco trucks for any occasion. The Chicago Dog at Midway Dogs is the best in town and Un Mundo has been voted one of Austin’s top taco trucks!” – Reagan Williamson of Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

Photo courtesy of Pinthouse Pizza
Photo courtesy of Pinthouse Pizza

Step three:

Select your prime dinner spot

With your one day in Austin, we’re going all out for dinner. Check below for some of the best local restaurants as recommended by Austin residents. You’re only in Austin for a day, so go big or go home.

Pinthouse Pizza: “Take a quick trip to Pinthouse Pizza, and start off with a handmade Pizza Roll stuffed with cheese, garlic and pepperoni, and irresistibly delicious jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. For an entrée, indulge in the savory and sweet honey-drizzled Ooh La La pizza, a fan favorite, or if you’re looking for lighter fare, enjoy The Pinthouse Salad with baby spinach, sliced red onions, candied pecans, blue cheese, cranberries, and poppy seed dressing. Pair any of these mouthwatering menu items with Pinthouse’s award-winning beers, highlighted by Austin’s most celebrated beer, the Electric Jellyfish Hazy IPA.” – Nic Van Biene of Pinthouse Pizza.

Lamberts: “For dinner, head downtown to Lamberts on 2nd Street, located in the historic Schneider Brothers Building. A classy establishment without being pretentious, it serves up slow-smoked barbecue and modern Texas cooking with local beers, classic cocktails, and new-world wines. The Prime Ribeye with a mustard and brown sugar crust is decadently delicious. If you’re having trouble picking one of the sumptuous dishes, the Three Meat Sampler is a nice option that includes prime brisket, country pork ribs and choice of sausage. Enjoy these dishes with at least a couple of the Family Style Sides, highlighted by the Baked Mac & Cheese and the Ranch Style Borracho Beans.” – Nic Van Biene of Pinthouse Pizza.

Moonshine Grill: “Austin has some really good food! Again, soooo many great options for food — but I’m going to go with brunch at Moonshine. Moonshine has been around since 2003 and their all-you-can-eat brunch buffet is out of this world.” – Jessica Artice of The Blackbird Flies.

Lonesome Dove: “Lonesome Dove is the perfect place for upscale food and service in an amazing setting.” – Tasha Miller, owner of Pelons Tex Mex.

Go on a food tour of South Congress: “South Congress is home to delicious and beloved local restaurants, from Homeslice Pizza to Guero’s Taco Bar. Parking is tight and adjacent neighborhood streets allow parking by neighborhood permit only so grabbing a MetroBike or taking CapMetro Routes 1 or 801 will get you there without the hassle of parking or traffic. Get some coffee and take a selfie with the famous ‘I Love You So Much’ mural at Jo’s Coffee, check out local shops like Allen’s Boots, duck into the cool oasis of the Hotel San Jose’s courtyard for happy hour, or indulge your sweet tooth at Big Top Candy Shop while you’re visiting SoCo.” – Movability Texas.

Explore plant-based options: “Explore the city’s eclectic culinary scene by indulging in some mouthwatering inventive cuisine at food trucks or plant-based restaurants scattered throughout the city. My favorite places to eat are Bouldin Creek Cafe, Nissi Vegan, Casa de Luz, The Vegan Nom, Counter Culture, Mr. Natural, Zucchini Kill, and Bistro Vonish.” – Tara Fisher-Munoz of Vegan Family Adventures.

Step four:

Explore a park or two

Austin is home to several incredible parks and nature features. If you like to get outside, pick one of the activities from below to explore.

Barton Creek Greenbelt: “For anyone looking for a nature fix in the middle of the city, Barton Creek Greenbelt is an incredible gem. There are 12 miles of trails with waterfalls and swimming holes, perfect for beating for the Austin heat. If you’re lucky, you might even see some otters playing by the creek.” – Vanish Travel.

Sculpture Falls: “This is a fun and easy introductory hike that leads to a great water hole. Highly recommended!” – Tasha Miller, owner of Pelons Tex Mex.

McKinney Falls: “We love this place for a beautiful and easy-going hike, plus an awesome swim if the weather is warm. We are super close by so we love bookending a long hike with a refreshing beverage on the tasting room lawn.” – Reagan Williamson of Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

Chapel Dulcinea: “Chapel Dulcinea is breathtaking in so many ways from the cliff-top views, to the intricate details of the architecture, to the inspiring beauty of the property. Chapel Dulcinea is more than just a free wedding chapel, it also offers great walking trails with beautiful gardens and hidden sculptures and a Welcome Center with friendly staff and awe-inspiring artwork. There is also an awesome whiskey distillery tasting room on the same property for Crowded Barrel Whiskey, the world’s first crowdsourced whiskey distillery. You can check out the Chapel and the grounds while enjoying a craft cocktail from the distillery.” – Clarissa of RomanticSpots.com.

Step five:

Get out on – or in – the water

After you’ve explored some parks and attractions, you might be looking for a place to cool down – it can get quite toasty in Austin. If you’re in town when the weather is nice, make sure to get out on the water or go for a swim in one of Austin’s breathtaking lakes.

Float On Boat Rentals for Lake Austin: “Grab a few 4-packs from Pinthouse to go and book a 12-person pontoon boat with Float On Boat Rentals for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours and enjoy an amazing afternoon on Lake Austin. Float On provides a YETI cooler, a large Lilypad to soak up the sun in the water, and a captain that will take you and your crew around the lake. Seeing Austin from the water is a truly unique experience that you don’t want to miss. From the beautiful and lavish estates that surround the lake to up close views of the famous Pennybacker Bridge, it’s an unforgettable experience. Pro-tip: Ask the captain to take you to ‘Little Venice’, a secluded lagoon channel along Lake Austin for a closer glimpse of some celebrity homes.” – Nic Van Biene of Pinthouse Pizza.

Lady Bird Lake: “When there’s fair weather, rent a kayak or SUP from one of many kayak rental companies and take a leisurely paddle on Lady Bird Lake. While called a lake, it’s part of the Colorado River, but still counts as still water, making it perfect for a relaxing day of paddling. Rentals are as little as $45 a day for individuals and $55 for couples. Be sure to bring a dry bag with a towel, camera, and snacks, but leave behind any valuables you don’t want to lose to the depths.” – Travel Branyik.

Lake Travis: “Lake Travis is a scenic reservoir on the Colorado River known for its natural beauty, water recreation, and proximity to Austin. Visitors enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking in the surrounding Hill Country. Lakeside dream home anyone?  If you’re like me, you agree the best place to be in Texas is behind a boat – on a surfboard. Of course, Circuit of the Americas is just down the road if you prefer spectator sports.” – Michael Thurman, President of Thurman Homes.

Hamilton Pool: “I would recommend a visit to Hamilton Pool. This is a historic naturally spring-fed pool and hiking trail. It is about a 20-minute drive from Austin. Make a reservation for pool access information or just to hike this beautiful part of the hill country. The pool is crystal clever and iconic to this part of Texas.” – Chef Cody Kidwell of Verde’s Mexican Parrilla.

Barton Springs: “There’s no better way to beat the Texas heat than a plunge into Barton Springs, a spring-fed pool in Zilker Park with a constant temperature between 68 and 70 degrees. The pool is open year-round but gets most crowded on weekends in the summer. There is limited parking available, so many people opt to get there by bike – either their own or from the bikeshare service MetroBike – or via the free Zilker Shuttle or CapMetro Route 30.” – Movability Texas.

Step six:

Go meet the locals

A great way to meet the locals in Austin is to explore the popular bar scene. From cozy cocktail bars to eclectic pubs with live music, Austin has it all. Pick one or a few to visit.

Nickel City: “Consistently ranked one of the best bars in America (let alone Austin), come grab a cold one at Nickel City. Located in Austin’s historic east side district, Nickel has been a staple dive bar of the neighborhood for years. From their delicious finger bites and bar grub to their classic whiskey shot and beer combo for $5, this spot will stay in your heart long after you’ve walked out the door.” – Resident.com.

Ah Sing Den: “Ah Sing Den is a great cocktail bar on East 6th Street. The vibe at Ah Sing Den is almost as exceptional as the cocktails. The cocktails are innovative, beautiful, and delicious. The eclectic vibe is a mix of speakeasy and garden oasis, with Asian elements. Ah Sing Den also serves Asian-inspired morsels that pair perfectly with the cocktails.” – Clarissa of RomanticSpots.com.

C-Boys Heart and Soul: “Follow Congress Street from the state capital straight south across Lady Bird Lake and don’t stop until you hear the music from C-Boys. A hidden gem that’s a bit farther down Congress than the more popular Continental Club, come enjoy a cocktail and listen to your new favorite band in one of the most intimate music venues in the city. If you’re looking for some of the best R&B, jazz and rock in Austin, you’ve found it.” – Resident.com

13th Floor: “One of the last few places that features the original Austin weird music vibe. Beautifully decorated.” – Tasha Miller, owner of Pelons Tex Mex.

Bar hop on Rainey Street: “If you’re into bars and live music, the vibe on Rainey Street can’t be beat. It’s more laid-back than 6th Street, Austin’s other mecca for partying, but the scene is still full of energy, music and good food. You feel like you’ve stepped back into history walking these couple blocks, a welcome contrast from the rapid development of Austin.” – Vanish Travel.

Step seven:

Craft breweries and distilleries 

Another draw of living in Austin, Texas, is the access to stellar craft breweries and distilleries. If you’re a beer or whiskey fan, you’ve come to the right place. 

Nomadic Beerworks: “A great small craft brewery with beers inspired by their travels. It’s a good hangout with shops, restaurants, and nightlife nearby on SoCo. An Ale Trail passport will get you a free soft pretzel with your first beer.” – Jordan Golembeski of Austin Ale Trail.

Vacancy Brewing: “A unique little brewery with Route 66 vibes that regularly offers music, bites, and popups to discover. Located in the St. Elmo/Yard area, featuring bars and restaurants perfect for an afternoon with friends or date night. An Ale Trail passport gets you 10% off beer and merch.” – Jordan Golembeski of Austin Ale Trail.

Hold Out Brewing: “A hidden gem near downtown with great beer and delicious food. It shares a lot with its sister coffee shop and diner, Better Half, and is a nice spot to hit up after a day of paddle boarding on the lake. Show an Ale Trail passport for 10% off your tab.” – Jordan Golembeski of Austin Ale Trail.

Pinthouse Brewing: “This is Pinthouse’s main production facility. The 29,000 square foot space features an award-winning taproom with a picturesque brewhouse backdrop, a nice and airy 5,000 square foot covered patio, and a private loft that intertwines with the brewery itself. The flagship location offers a unique food concept from the three Pinthouse Pizza brewpubs, with a chef-curated menu featuring, bar snacks, sandwiches, burgers, shared plates, Sicilian-style sourdough pizzas, salads, and desserts, all prepared in its scratch kitchen and bakery.” – Nic Van Biene of Pinthouse.

Family Business Brewing Company: “If you’re already planning a day trip to Hamilton Pool Preserve near Dripping Springs, and happen to be a beer enthusiast, snag a Car2Go rental and visit Family Business Brewing Company just five miles away. Supernatural TV star, Jensen Ackles and wife, Daneel, own the charming brewery serving delightful craft beer in a woodland setting. It’s the perfect last stop after a day of swimming in crystal clear waters at Hamilton Pool.” – Travel Branyik.

Fierce Whiskers Distillery: “Our tasting room is the perfect spot to hang, sip a craft cocktail, and enjoy the sunset over South Austin. We make our own gin, agave spirit, rum, and of course, whiskey for everyone to enjoy.” – Reagan Williamson of Fierce Whiskers Distillery.