Travel Guide: Austin, Texas
It’s safe to say Austin is becoming one of my favorite US cities to visit. The food scene, the music, the vibes… it’s just our style. I just returned from a trip with Fairmont Austin for Austin City Limits and just like prior trips, food and bevies were definitely the highlight of my experience.
Keep scrolling to see my fave places to eat and things to do. Also recs on where to stay and a few tips if you happen to be going for SXSW or ACL!
During my last two trips to Austin (both this year!) I stayed at the Fairmont Austin which is always a treat. I’m a big fan of Fairmonts because their hospitality is top notch and you always know what to expect no matter what city you’re in. When I’m traveling there’s comfort in knowing I have a place that feels familiar, you know what I mean? The Austin location is the newest Fairmont property and it’s very central to ALL THE THINGS especially Rainey Street which is a lively area with tons of bars and restaurant.
The hotel has a gorgeous pool that apparently is popping during the summer months and boasts multiple restaurants and really great bars (see my faves below). Not to mention, there’s a super luxurious spa with all the bells and whistles. I received one of the best spa facials ever during my recent trip. The facial bed itself was one of the most comfortable things I’ve ever laid on.
If you find yourself looking at a Fairmont property I highly suggest treating yourself to Fairmont Gold. My first taste of Fairmont Gold was in Toronto and let’s just say once you go gold you can never go back - hah! It’s a hotel within a hotel featuring your own concierge and front desk staff, an INSANE Gold Lounge with breakfast, honor bar, + endless snacks, plus special room upgrades and features. Did I mention that all Fairmont properties stock Le Labo products? Yeah, I know!
Play, Eat + Drink
South Congress - literally the CUTEST. It's a single street packed with delicious restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. We always spend a good portion of our trips walking up and down the street checking exploring.
Revue- probably my favorite one-stop shop for an assortment of delicious cuisines (Italian, Asian, Seafood, and Pastries!). It’s located in the Fairmont Austin and great if you’re traveling with friends; there’s truly something for everyone and everything is locally sourced and freshly made. My fave: GYOZAS. They were so good I ordered them twice!
Vista Brewing - If you’re looking for something to do a little outside the city and take a liking to local beer, definitely make a stop at Vista Brewing. They have a spectacular tasting room plus outdoor seating AND the food is AMAZING.
Desert Door Distillery - make an afternoon of it and stop by Desert Door Distillery after Vista Brewing. Mark my word: SOTOL is going to be your next favorite spirit. It is the only spirit distilled at Desert Door and the stepsister of tequila and mezcal. A light smokey flavor that works in a ton of great cocktails. Not to mention, the overall vibe of Desert Door is so desert chic - you’re going to want to take all the pics and also redecorate your house visiting
Garrison - two words: AVOCADO BUTTER. Also located in Fairmont Austin and probably one of the most indulgent meals I’ve ever eaten. Everything is cooked on an open flame and has a smokey flavor to it, including the bread which is quite possibly the best bread I’ve ever had. Add the avocado butter and it’s heaven. This is a great spot for a romantic date night if you’re traveling as a couple.
Takoba -QUESO QUESO QUESO. Definitely the best queso I’ve ever had in Austin. Their brunch menu is filled with yummy egg dishes and great cocktails. It’s the perfect place to catch some college football and indulge a little (or a lot).
Launderette - incredible american/farm to table restaurant that used to be an old laundromat. Probably one of the best meals I've had since Tulum. The decor is cute AF which means every corner is instagrammable and it's situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood which offers a cool element. We went here for dinner on Sunday night after playing in South Congress all day.
Torchy's Tacos - talk to ANYONE who's ever been to Austin and they mention having to hit up Torchy's Tacos. Here's the thing: the tacos were good, not amazing. I personally prefer Velvet Taco which is only available in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago.
Café No Sé - it's connected to the South Congress hotel and is perfect for breakfast. Delicious poached egg dishes, avocado toast, and legit coffee! I had breakfast there twice because it was just that good. Plus the ambiance is great!
Hotel San Jose - You can't go to Austin without trying to Frozen Rose at Hotel San Jose. Given the temperatures there, I can see why this drink is a hit. It's also pretty delicious and not too sweet.
Snarf's Sandwiches - after we ate our way through the city on Sunday, on Monday I was like "need a little break from indulgent food" so we grabbed some subway sammies from Snarf's and brought them to Barton Springs Pool for a little picnic. It was a great plan all around. Snarf's is pretty well known in Austin for having great sammies and they did not disappoint.
Barton Springs Pool - huge outdoor natural pool. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it. It's a must just to experience and a great way to veg out for a bit. Warning, the water is COLD.
Juliet Ristorante - probably my favorite Italian restaurant in Austin - I’ve been twice during my last three visits. All of Austin's restaurants have incredible outdoor dining areas and Juliet was no different. The food is super indulgent and rich, so just know what you're getting yourself into.
Going for SXSW or AUSTIN CITY LIMITS?
I was lucky enough to hit both festivals this year. Here’s a few tips and thoughts about heading to Austin during festival season:
To be honest, SXSW wasn’t my favorite. It’s poorly organized and although it takes over the city, which should be awesome, it feels VERY overwhelming. Unless you’re SUPER in the know of the latest music or activities going on, there’s a lot of decision paralysis going on because there’s just SO much to do and see. That being said, if you happen to be there make sure to stick around for the LATE performers at the main stages as they are usually the BIG up and comers. ie: LIZZO! Andy and I left a stage early one night because we were tired and had never heard of some girl named “Lizzo” - still kicking myself. One very cool thing is there’s tons of brand activations all over the city with free stuff, especially food. You could probably eat and drink for free the entire SXSW if you strategized correctly! In terms of where to stay: since there’s no central location any hotel or Airbnb should work. There’s always Ubers around and scooters at every corner.
I much prefer ACL over SXSW because everything is in one central place, Zilker Metropolitan Park. Fairmont Austin hooked us up with VIP passes this year and they were so clutch. I believe the passes go for roughly $500 a day and TBH I think it’s worth every penny. Inside the VIP area there’s free food and drinks - we’re talking GOOD food and great cocktails. On top of that there’s some cool brand activations, free swag, a viewing platform that lets you see two of the main stages, and “nicer” bathrooms.
If you’ve been to Coachella or another big festival that isn’t centrally located in a city then you know the hassle of getting in and out. ACL is in the middle of Austin which makes getting too and from pretty easy with Ubers, scooters, or bikes. I would definitely suggest staying somewhere close by like Fairmont Austin; it makes the stress of getting to the festival slim to none.
Definitely download the ACL app - it comes in clutch when organizing your day!
what to pack
From my experience it’s usually pretty warm in Austin unless you’re going in the dead of winter! Always good to pack layers just in case. And a great time to break out your western boots!