The Perfect Itinerary for 3 Days in Austin, TX: A Local's Guide
If you've never been to Austin before, congratulations on finally getting to visit one of the best cities in the country! Austin and the surrounding areas are so special, and have something to offer everyone. From delicious food, to stunning nature, to a bustling night life - this is truly a city with everything you could ever want.
But because of that, it can be a little overwhelming planning a trip to visit. Which sites are overrated? Which shouldn't you miss? Should I stay in the city, or explore around a bit more?
Well don't worry, we're here to help! We compiled a full 3 day itinerary for Austin and the surrounding area full of the sites we truly believe can't be missed. From where to eat, to what to do - we've got you covered.
DAY 1: DOWNTOWN & CONGRESS
Depending on where you're staying, this itinerary is totally flexible. Just make sure to pack your swimsuit and walking shoes if it's a nice day!
Veracruz all Natural - Regardless of where you are staying in Austin, you must start your day with a breakfast taco. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. And we truly LOVE the tacos at Veracruz all Natural - an Austin staple. Bonus? They have 5 location in Austin now, so pick one closest to where you're staying, and go from there.
If you'd rather get closer to your next stop, go to the downtown Veracruz location. It'll make your next moves a tad easier.
We have a few options next to do before lunch, so see which one strikes your fancy and keep on moving! Depending on how you're feeling, you may be able to squeeze in up to 3.
Capital Building - You can't go to Austin without visiting our State Capital Building. You can always opt for a tour if that's what you're into, but we think it's just enough to take it in on it's own with a coffee in tow.
Town Lake/Congress Bridge - After a peak at the capital, head down to town lake! It's such a beautiful walk, especially down South Congress Bridge. On a nice day it's packed with people on their paddle boards and kayaks. Want to partake? There are so many places to rent, especially on the south side of the lake.
Barton Springs - If you want to keep walking and actually swim rather than water-sport, head over to Barton Springs! You've likely already heard of the famous natural swimming pool. It's a huge site for Austinites and tourists alike on a hot Texas day. But be warned, it can get super busy, so you may wait in line to get in.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum - A great option if you don't feel like getting wet, Umlauf is a wonderful spot to take in some beautiful art while still enjoying the Austin weather. It's also a great stop while heading to lunch after spending some time at one of the previous outdoorsy options. Speaking of lunch...
There are a few spots in the Zilker Park area that are worth stopping at for lunch, truly depending on what you're craving.
Chuy's: Tex-Mex - If breakfast tacos left you jonesing for more Mexican food, Chuy's is the perfect option, especially if you're visiting from out-of-state. Chuy's is a Tex-Mex chain that is delicious and affordable. It's also often pretty crowded, so expect a wait.
Terry Black's: BBQ - You can't go to Texas and not have BBQ. You may be surprised to see Franklin's isn't on our list: and for good reason. Don't get us wrong, Franklin's is delicious. But it's hours of waiting, and if you only have 3 days, we think you can skip it. There's plenty of other places with delicious BBQ - and Terry Black's is one of them.
We've grouped the following South Austin activities by neighborhood. Power to you if you have time to visit both, but we'd probably suggest picking one!
South Congress (SoCo): Shopping and Sights
If you've looked into Austin at all, you've definitely heard of South Congress. This famous street has been around for ages, and it's full of cute shops, restaurants, and amazing views of the Capital building.
Now South Congress has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years. It's now a huge street for large chain stores and boutiques, and there aren't as many local businesses to shop. If you're looking for some local Austin South Congress shops, here are some stores we don't think you should miss:
- Allen's Boots (est. 1977) - There's nothing quite as Texan as cowboy boots, and there's nowhere in Austin more historic for boot shopping than Allen's.
- Amy's Ice Cream (est. 1984) - If you need a sweet treat, Amy's is the quintessential South Congress ice cream shop. And it's home of the original Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream!
- Big Top Candy Shop (est. 2007) - For old school vibes, and delicious candy, ice cream, and soda. Definitely stock up on some candy to go!
- Tiny Grocer (est. 2021) - This newer spot is a small local grocery store that is beyond cute and worth stopping in! And make sure to keep an eye out for the best Texas olive oil and balsamic vinegars in town.
East Congress: Art and Booze
A little further South, East Congress is an area full of a lot of, in our opinion, can't miss sights.
The Cathedral of Junk - If you have time, the Cathedral of Junk is a cool south Austin sight you won't want to miss. Located in Vince, the artist's, backyard, this sculpture is quite literally, a Cathedral of Junk. Just make sure you call in advance to schedule a time to visit.
St. Elmo Warehouse District - Located just a hop skip and jump away from the Cathedral of Junk, the St. Elmo Warehouse District is one of the best places to drink in the city, due to it's huge amount of options. So many types of booze available in just a short radius!
- St. Elmo's Brewing Company - Besides the wonderful beer, they're also home to Spicy Boys Fried Chicken food truck.
- Still Austin Whiskey Co. - A distillery for both whiskey and gin, this is a great stop for some well-made cocktails with local liquor.
- The Austin Winery - With a huge selection of Texas wine to choose from, this winery is a necessary stop on your booze tour.
- Texas Sake Company - A newer spot, and a great way to try some different types of sake, from traditional to flavored to frozen!
There's a reason Austin is known for it's food scene. To make this easier, we've narrowed down our dinner suggestions to South Austin, in the off-chance you decide to go straight to dinner from your afternoon activities. Here are a few of our favorite spots:
Torchy's Tacos - Torchy's is famous for a reason: it's delicious. If you're looking for something yummy, quick, and not too pricy, Torchy's is a must stop. Also, do yourself a favor, and do not skip on the queso. Bonus: it's also on SoCo, so it may make your nighttime stops even easier to get to.
Perla's: Seafood - Another great spot on South Congress! Perla's is beyond delicious, and also aesthetically a beautiful spot on the historic street. This is also a great option if you're looking to eat somewhere a little more high-end. They definitely have one of the best oyster selections in town!
Mattie's: Southern Food - If you're looking for ambiance, Mattie's is it. On expansive grounds with peacocks walking around, you'll eat delicious southern style food, albeit at a higher price tag. If you're not looking to drive too much, it's only about a 20 minute walk back to SoCo.
When in a city famous for its music scene, we can't not suggest a few late night options for dancing and drinking.
Broken Spoke - This bar is an Austin institution for a quintessential Texas night out. If you're looking to do a little two-stepping, listen to some live country music, and drink a few beers, this is the place for you. They also offer dance lessons if you're new to the South and need a some pointers.
Continental Club - This Austin staple has been around since 1955, and is a South Congress institution. The main Continental Club right off SoCo hosts tons of bands on a nightly basis.
C-Boy's Heart and Soul - Another live music institution on South Congress, C-Boy's is a great spot to listen to classic soul and R&B in a super cool setting. You can even head upstairs to the Jade Room, a lounge style bar modeled after 50s Japanese GI bars.
DAY 2: DRIPPING SPRINGS
Now you may be thinking that spending one full day outside of Austin doesn't really fit the bill, and to that we'd wholeheartedly disagree with you. Austin is so much more than the downtown city, and you can't fully get the full Austin-Texas experience without leaving that cityscape behind.
If you want to start off in Austin...
Kerbey Lane Cafe - A quintessential Austin brunch spot, Kerbey Lane has a few locations around Austin, so pick whichever is closest to your Hotel or Airbnb. There might be a wait, but it's well worth it.
If you want to get to Dripping Springs...
Abby Jane Bakeshop - Located in the heart of hill country, this bakeshop has delicious pastries and coffee to help you start off your day. Perfect if you're skipping a stop in downtown Dripping.
Hamilton Pool - This, in our opinions, is a stop you can't miss. It's a trail and grotto with a waterfall that is open for hiking and swimming year round. You need to make a reservation in advance, and keep an eye on their website for any updates, as sometimes due to bacteria levels, swimming is prohibited.
Reimers Ranch - If you like to mountain bike, hike, fish, and rock climb, Reimers Ranch is definitely a great stop for you. Unlike Hamilton Pool, Reimers does not take reservations, so access is first come first serve.
The Bistro at Texas Hill Country Olive Co. - This stop has lunch, shopping, and an activity all in one! We'll give you a little run down on what it has to offer
- Lunch - Eat at the Bistro and enjoy the famous grilled cheese and tomato soup, as well as seasonal variations of flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads. Top it all off with some Gambini wine and delicious gelato.
- Tour/Tasting - Get a tour of the property and olive mill, and enjoy lessons and tastings with first cold pressed award winning Texas extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars. *Book online in advance!
- Shopping - Enjoy perusing the gourmet goods in the grocery section, as well as kitchen items, beauty products, hats, and more!
You can't really experience Dripping Springs without stopping at some of the breweries, wineries, and distilleries that have helped make the area famous. Here are a few in the area we think you can't miss.
- Jester King Brewery - Besides the delicious beverages, Jester King also offers goat experiences. Yes, you read that right! So after 1pm on weekends, you can book goat experiences, brewery tours, and occasionally Sunday sunset goat yoga.
- Hawks Shadow Estate Winery - If you're looking for good wine in a stunning setting, look no further. Enjoy tasting and amazing views, and truly get a sense of the beauty of the hill country.
- Dripping Springs Distilling - Try some vodka made right in Dripping Springs, and take a tour! Enjoy their expansive seating, and play some corn hole while you're at it.
- Family Business Beer Company - Besides being owned by Danneel and Jensen Ackles of Supernatural fame, this place also just makes really delicious beer.
Alice's Restaurant at Treaty Oaks Distilling - We think Alice's is the perfect stop at the end of your Dripping Springs day. Some good and casual BBQ is the perfect Texas dinner, and getting to finish the night off at Treaty Oaks doesn't hurt either...
Treaty Oaks Distilling - Lucky for you, you're already there eating dinner (or so we assume). You're in the perfect spot to finish off your day in Dripping Springs. Treaty Oaks Distillery makes delicious whiskey, and is just a stunning property. They also often have live music on Friday and Saturday nights!
DAY 3: NEW BRAUNFELS AND GRUENE
You'll definitely want to hit the road, so we think a quick stop on route to New Braunfels is your best bet. One thing we think you need to eat in the Austin area are kolaches. If you've never heard of them, they're pastries brought over by Czech settlers to Texas in the 1800s. The following breakfast stop options all sell kolaches, so time to eat up...
Buc-ees - Chances are you've heard of this magical place before, however if you live outside of Texas there's a chance you've never set foot inside of a Buc-ees. It's basically a giant gas station stop, filled with all the snacks and food and merch your heart could ever desire. Pop in while filling up your car, grab some kolaches, coffee, a cooler with libations for later, and keep moving!
Naegelin's German Bakery - Started in 1868, this New Braunfels bakery is one of the oldest active bakeries in Texas. If you can hold out on eating before the drive to Austin, it's definitely worth the wait.
The main reason for the quick breakfast is the activity you're about to partake in...
Floating the Guadalupe or Comal River - Floating the river is a quintessential central Texas activity that you don't want to miss. It somehow manages to be relaxing while crazy fun at the same time. People have koozies and coolers full of beer, and music blasting, while at the same time enjoying peaceful moments on the water.
The float typically takes 2-4 hours, so it'll be the majority of the first half of your day! We say the earlier the better, so you can make the most of a full day in the area.
There are so many tours to choose from, some of which will take you to and from Austin if you don't have a car. Rockin R is is a great choice, and you can base your location on where you want to go next for lunch.
Alpine Haus - Located in downtown New Braunfels, this local staple serves German beer and food, like Schnitzel and Goulash. It's a great stop if you're looking to explore downtown NB for a little.
Krause's Cafe - Another spot for German faire, this beer garden has a massive selection of taps, and is just an all around fun ambiance in downtown New Braunfels.
Gruene River Grill - If you're looking to get right to Gruene, the River Grill is a great option for lunch. Delicious Southern classics like chicken fried steak and shrimp and grits are what this place is all about.
Walk, Shop, and Drink Around Gruene - Gruene is truly the cutest quintessential Texas town, and it definitely deserves a full afternoon. Here are a few spots we think are worth checking out:
- Gruene General Store - The cutest little old fashioned general store and gift shop.
- Gruene Antique Co. - Peruse their huge collection of collectables, gifts, and antiques in this historic old building!
- Gruene Coffee Haus - Need a little pick me up before continuing on your busy day? This adorable coffee haus is the caffeine break you need.
- The Grapevine - Stop and drink from their huge selection of wine and beer, listen to some live music outside, and shop in their cute gift shop. It's a great late afternoon spot before dinner.
The Gristmill - You can't go to Gruene without eating at the Gristmill. It would actually be blasphemous to do so. Located in the ruins of a 1878 cotton gin, and situated right on the Guadalupe river, this restaurant is a true dining experience. Delicious southern food, wonderful drinks, and live music make this spot an institution.
This restaurant is on a first come first serve basis, and it get crazy busy! We highly recommend getting there at least an hour before you want to eat. Luckily the live music, and drinks are accessible where the wait it.
Gruene Hall - Another necessary stop in Gruene is the historic Gruene Hall music venue. They have live music every single night, from local bands to huge names. It's definitely worth looking at who is playing and booking in advance, as a lot of shows will sell out. But we truly think this experience is a can't miss. Shows are also on the earlier side, as they close at 10pm so if you're spent after that, time to drive back to Austin!
HAVE FUN IN AUSTIN!
We hope you have the absolute best time visiting our favorite city in the world. Make sure to stay safe, pack lots of layers and sunscreen, and rent a car to visit us in the beautiful Texas hill country.
An Austin trip is incomplete without seeing the surrounding area, so make sure you make the most of your trip, and see all that Texas has to offer.
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