THE 'BAT' ASS CITY
Austin may be the state capital of The Lone Star State, but it has drifted far beyond the perception of Texas as oil, cattle, and cowboy country. A university town, "ATX" now draws and inspires creative and entrepreneur-types, as it hosts the annual music/film/digital festival South By SouthWest (SXSW), and Austin City Limits, the award-winning public television music show turned two-weekend music festival. In more recent years, Austin has blossomed into a city of great outdoor beauty, technology, a progressive food scene, music (of course!), and health and wellness (it’s home to Whole Foods). As it evolves and thrives, Austin has become a desirable, livable (and affordable) urban oasis, particularly for millennials. Just three years ago, Rainey Street and South Congress Ave. were run-down, no-name streets; today they’ve transformed into the most desirable districts in town. Our Guide will take you to the best of “old Austin” and the newly-established parts of town which will surely have you planning your next visit sooner, rather than later.
HOTEL SAINT CECILIA
HOTEL SAINT CECILIA. Just steps off the main drag of South Congress, stands a white plantation-style home turned high-end boutique hotel. The majority of the 14 rooms are in the main house, with bungalows and studios spread across the charming property. Although the exterior of the house blends with the modest Southern neighborhood, the interior courtyard, pool, bar, lounge, and common areas have all undergone a facelift that’s more in tune with the retro-inspired South Congress neighborhood (think, black and white herringbone tiles, red Parisian chairs, tufted sofas, and vintage accents). The pool is a charmer with a self-serve refreshment cooler, and the employees will all know your name by the end of your stay. Now that’s true Texas hospitality!
KIMPTON VAN ZANDT
KIMPTON VAN ZANDT. This new kid on-the-block has become the most popular place in town with its sleek, sexy vibe, sprinkled with elements of Austin’s unique style. Its location is as close as you can get to the liveliness of Rainey Street (we’ll tell you more later), making it ideal for those who don’t want to venture far for action. Enjoy a daily wine, beer, and margarita hour for guests in the dramatic multi-level lobby. The beautiful pool, with views of downtown Austin, attracts a young, lively crowd, and is a top pick for locals, as is the restaurant Geraldine’s, which offers live music. The rooms include boutique amenities, and you’ll notice an appreciation of place withTexan-inspired art, maps, and wallpaper adorning each room.
SOUTH CONGRESS HOTEL
SOUTH CONGRESS HOTEL. The South Congress Hotel is the flagship of South Congress Avenue (SoCo) which is arguably the hippest 'hood in town. Its stunning mid-century architecture and interior furnishings make this place a destination of its own for locals and artsy-minded tourists alike. Spanning an entire city block, the first floor includes multiple retail outlets, dining options, and a popular restaurant, Cafe No Se. The lobby bar is the place to hang, and the small, intimate pool overlooking South Congress Ave. is an ideal to place to socialize.
HOTEL SAN JOSE
HOTEL SAN JOSE. This rundown motel lodge turned hip bungalow-style hotel lead the South Congress gentrification and sparked the Austin trend of transforming old unconventional spaces to design-centric concepts. Located on the hippest and liveliest block of SoCo, this place feels like you crossed south of the border. The custom bright kimono robes, handmade furniture and Mexican woven accents makes this minimalist hotel feel like a cozy escape. The variety of rooms from shared bathrooms to courtyard suites will please any type of traveller. The pool, fire pits, and restaurant have a communal feeling that will have you mingling and making friends during your stay.
EAT_ FORTHRIGHT or TORCHY'S TACOS (South Congress or South Lamar location). Downtown and down by the river is FORTHRIGHT. Enjoy everything from quinoa porridge to a waffle sandwich and an expansive coffee menu. You’ll be fueled and ready to go for your walk down by the lake.
There's nothing more Texas than breakfast tacos and TORCHY'S TACOS does it right. The variety of breakfast tacos from your more traditional bacon, egg, and cheese, to migas with tomatillo sauce, will satisfy any palate.
WALK_ LADY BIRD LAKE or CRUSIE_ LAKE AUSTIN. You can start your walk right after breakfast and do the loop around LADY BIRD LAKE. It’s a beautiful lake (more of a river) that’s walking distance from downtown where Austin’s active crowd hangs.
If you’re with a larger group, rent a boat from one of the many rental companies and spend the morning on LAKE AUSTIN. Just ten minutes from downtown, It’s more of a river, straddled by stunning Texas-sized estates on both sides. It really captures the beauty of Texas and provides a leisurely morning or afternoon of enjoyment, maybe over a few drinks.
EAT_ LAUNDERETTE . A converted laundromat and gas station turned restaurant, this stunner captures Austin’s progressive restaurant scene— unconventional spaces transformed into hip, design-focused restaurants with award winning food. Holding the title of "best restaurant in Austin" for multiple years (and from multiple publications), LAUNDERETTE consistently delivers fresh, delicious, small plates with a middle eastern flair. The dining area is small and reservations are taken for certain times of the day. Oh, and leave room for the famous birthday cake ice cream sandwich for dessert (that alone is worth the trip).
WALK & SHOP_ SOUTH CONGRESS AVE. North Congress Ave is home to the state capital building (be sure you look north up the block to see its grand appearance). Across the river, South Congress Ave. is home to vintage stores, restaurants, music venues, and quirky specialty boutiques. The stretch of South Congress (starting your stroll at Academy Drive), fully captures Austin’s renaissance. You won’t want to miss: AMY'S ICE CREAM (yes, the line is worth it), SOUTH CONGRESS HOTEL, COSTAR, JO'S COFFEE, , TESOROS TRADING, ALLENS BOOTS, BY GEORGE and and the all antique stores.
DRINK_ VAN ZANDT POOL DECK. Head to the Van Zandt pool area for a pre-dinner drink. Hip locals and hotel guests gaher here at all hours of the day, and particularly just before dusk, to socialize. Grab a cocktail and a spot overlooking the river to watch 1.5 million bats (Yes, those nocturnal flying mammals, and, yes, 1.5 million of them) migrate from their home under the South Congress bridge nightly in the spring and summer months.
EAT_ EMMER & RYE or OTOKO. EMMER & RYE helped Austin’s rise on the “foodie city” map when it opened two years ago. The daily-changing menu of shareable dishes (assemble your own crawfish fritter lettuce wraps, charred broccoli, and cacio e pepe spaghetti) are simply delicious, as are the specialty cocktails and desserts. The approachable patio and indoor space on Rainey Street is perfectly situated on the block for a quiet dinner before hitting the rowdy row of bars on Rainey.
Sushi probably does not come to mind when you think of Austin, but maybe it should. The 12 seat OTOKO is an omakase (chef's choice) experience prepared by Chef Yoshi, for the most intimate and innovative dining experience. -- and if you love wine, try the sushi wine pairing. Make sure to get there early, and head to the speakeasy next door, WATERTRADE. This small, intimate space focuses on Japanese inspired cocktails using ingredients from the region and will properly prepare your palate for the main event.
DRINK_ RAINEY STREET. RAINEY STREET gets high marks for contributing to the rebirth of Austin; it has completely changed the landscape of Austin nightlife. Rainey is easily the mostly lively street in Austin. Charming, historic bungalows have been repurposed to outdoor restaurants, beer gardens, wine bars, and gastropubs. Some of our favorites: CONTAINER BAR, LUSTRE PEARL, UNBARLIEVABLE, and ICENHAUER'S. Many of the bars pack a good crowd all hours of the day. If you find yourself strolling down the block in the afternoon, take a break at an outside table and enjoy a leisurely glass of wine.
DRINK_ MIDNIGHT COWBOY. If you’d rather enjoy an artisan cocktail in a less rowdy environment, make a reservation at Midnight Cowboy. If you aren’t convinced this is a cool place based on the name alone (or that late 1960s film of the same name), this speakeasy-inspired bar makes the best cocktails in town and draws Austin’s in-crowd.
EAT_ SOUTH CONGRESS CAFE or CAFE NO SE or JUNE'S. SOUTH CONGRESS CAFE, the throwback-feeling diner in the heart of SoCo, serves up your favorite brunch and breakfast dishes with a modern twist. Wash your crab cake benedict or carrot cake french toast down with their famous Bloody Mary.
CAFE NO SE has it all. From a beautiful space in the South Congress Hotel, a small but stunning light-filled dining room, a buzzing outdoor patio perfect for people watching, a coffee bar and delicious food. Start your day here with dishes like the mushroom scramble, avocado toast, or a healthy yogurt bowl.
The newest addition to SoCo, JUNE'S ALL DAY, a charming Parisian style cafe, with black and white checked floors, cafe chairs, and a beautiful bar. The buckwheat crepes with gruyere, ham, and an egg or the breakfast chalupa are why locals flock here all hours of the day.
HANG_ BARTON SPRINGS or DOWNTOWN AUSTIN. Head to Barton Springs where natural springs create a large outdoor swimming pool, a chill hangout for locals and tourists alike. Pack your bathing suit and towel or just your walking shoes and walk around the beautiful natural pool. Or, walk DOWNTOWN via Cesar Chavez and check out the business city center, shops, venues, restaurants, and make your way over to the OG WHOLE FOODS. This Whole Foods is the grandaddy of them all, right where Whole Foods started, feeling more like a large marketplace with specialty outlets than a grocery store.
EAT_ GERALDIN'ES AT THE VAN ZANDT. The jazz brunch on Sunday’s at GERALDINE'S has become a weekend-cap for Austin locals. Listen to live classic jazz while devouring delicious brunch bites from Austin’s newest restaurant. The large space is stunning with arched ceilings, industrial lights, geometric tiles, and views of downtown.
DO_ LITTLE LONGHORN SALOON (CHICKEN SHIT BINGO) or ALAMO DRAFT HOUSE. Every Sunday at 4pm, The Little Longhorn Saloon hosts CHICKEN SHIT BINGO, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. When the chicken decides to make moves on your number, you get to check it off. It’s interactive, weird, and fun, which makes it "Austin cool."
If Chicken Shit Bingo isn’t calling your name (or you have a soft stomach), head over to ALAMO DRAFT HOUSE to catch a movie with local-draft beer in a retro-inspired movie theatre. After, take a stroll around SOUTH LAMAR after and make your way over to EBERLY for a drink. This newer area is booming; it’s hip and livable and attracts a lively crowd.
EAT_EBERLY or JUSTINE'S BRASSERIE. Opened by Austin natives in a large, old printing shop, EBERLY is not only a beautifully-designed, multi-space restaurant with a calming decor, it’s history is worth sharing (just like the delicious plates). Before or after your meal, head to THE CEDAR TAVERN (part of EBERLY). This bar, relocated from its 1866 roots in New York City, was frequented by well-known artists, musicians, and writers. EBERLY's attempt to encapsulate creativity and bring it to Austin has attracted a young, spirited, creative crowd to this gem of a restaurant and bar.
The dark-dining room filled with red-velvet antique furniture, old records, funky accents, and delicious food, is local favorite, JUSTINE'S. The French menu ranges from classics from mussels and steak frites to daily specials and delicious pastas. The crowd is hip, young, and you can stretch your dinner into an all-night event.
LISTEN_ THE CONTINENTAL CLUB. If you still haven’t had your live music fix, head over to South Congress to one of Austin’s most famed venues, THE CONTINENTAL CLUB. This establishment is a serious throwback to Austin’s original live music scene in the 70s, and even served as a burlesque venue and supper club dating back to the 50s. On any given night, you'll see upcoming musicians and ACL veterans.
DRINK_ WEST 6TH. You've heard about it, SIXTH STREET (well, ”Dirty Sixth Street") is famously known as rowdy, touristy, and fratty and having the best block of bars in all of Texas. However, now that Rainey Street has stolen its thunder, WEST 6th in downtown has become the more frequented low-key destination for live music, large open bars, outdoor patios, and restaurants. We love GREEN LIGHT SOCIAL and STAR BAR for a good time.
** To get your barbecue fix, we recommend going to THE SALT LICK at the Austin Airport. Give yourself a little extra time before your flight, as there can be a wait (but not nearly as long a wait as their original location, where the wait can often be hours).