Today I’m sharing everything you should add to your Austin 3 day itinerary for the best trip ever!
Portland may be weird, but Austin is the home—the originator—of the “weird” movement. “Keep Austin Weird” is a decades-old slogan that has resulted in the cultivation of—and heartfelt respect for—the unique, innovative, and sometimes kooky vibe that keeps this city a rainbow of flavors.
From the outdoor eateries of Rainy Street to the mineral water of Barton Springs Pool, there are a lot of things to do in Austin. And if you’re here at the right time, you could even catch some live new music at the world-famous South by Southwest Festival (SXSW—Quick side note and embarrassing story, I remember during my very first job out of grad school our CEO at the agency I worked at was speaking at South by, but I had never heard of it so I called it S X S W…like I spelled it out 😳 😂).
If you travel to Austin for just one day, you’ll still have a chance to eat tacos, try Austin barbecue, and explore SoCo. But if you’re in the Texas capital for longer, then you’ll want a list of things to do in Austin that will keep your time exciting and interesting.
That’s where I come in with this list of everything to add to your Austin 3 day itinerary!
I’ve created this very handy (and pretty huge!) 3 day itinerary for Austin. It’s filled with travel tips and all the things you could fit into a three day Austin trip to this incredible city.
With enjoying green spaces alongside hitting up hipster haunts and street art, it’s easy to find more than just a few things that help keep Austin awesome for you on your travels.
Austin 3 Day Itinerary
Lady Bird Lake
Looking for a slice of green while you’re in Austin, TX? Head to Lady Bird Lake to find your zen in the city.
Actually part of the Colorado River that was made into a reservoir in the 1960s, it’s still known to everyone as a lake. And it’s now the place to go for all things outdoors in Austin.
On summer days, this place is packed with joggers, strollers, dog-walkers, kayakers, and even stand-up paddleboarders. It’s got a great vibe.
One of the best things to do here is to check out the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. This ten-mile trail meanders around the lake itself and is a great way to soak up all of what this park has to offer. There are even some awesome views of the Austin skyline from here, too.
If you happen to be in the city from May to October, don’t miss bat season. Seriously! Every evening as the sun sets, hundreds of thousands of bats fly out from underneath their collective perch on the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge to make a stunning cloud in the sky.
My tip? Take a boat out on the lake at sunset to get the best views of the clouds of bats appearing from their roost. It’s actually an awesome spectacle and one that you won’t forget anytime soon!
Austin City Limits Music Festival
Everyone knows about SXSW, so I’m not even going to talk about it. However, not everybody knows about the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
So if you’re into live music and you’re in Austin in October, then you should make a beeline for this music festival.
However, you really need to get your tickets early—they sell out FAST!
This annual music festival takes place in Zilker Park across two consecutive weekends. It might not be as famous as SXSW, but it’s been running for almost 20 years and there’s a consistently good list of big names (everyone from Childish Gambino to Paul McCartney!) as well smaller acts—a mix that’ll have you amped to attend.
Austin City Limits Music Festival is actually the largest music festival in Austin and draws people from around the world. Basically, it’s a mix of food, fashion, and fun that will have all you party people out there pretty psyched about a trip to Austin.
While this is one of the best things to do in Austin, it’s important to remember that it is time-sensitive. Tickets do sell out fast—and the festival is in October—but thankfully, Austin’s got a cool live music scene anyway, so you’ll get a taste at any one of its venues. Check out the Cactus Cafe or Antone’s Nightclub, for a start.
Texas State Capitol
“Impressive” doesn’t even begin to describe this stunning and huge state capitol building. It’s one of the most famous in the United States, and it’s not something you should miss out on.
Constructed in 1885 (it’s on the National Historic Register), the palatial Texas State Capitol is an important part of not just state history but national history.
It may not be as exciting as the other “weird,” and cool parts of Austin, but if you like architecture, then you should definitely pay a visit to the Texas State Capitol.
The largest state capitol in the country, and constructed of striking Texas granite, it may be cool from the outside, but the inside has an interesting story to tell too.
You can even book yourself on a tour of the capitol building to see all those luxe interiors for yourself, learning about the history and checking out all the chandeliers and gleaming details.
This physical slice of Texas state history also boasts some grounds to stroll around—20 acres of manicured lawns, to be exact. It’s perfect for a wander or a picnic. Alternatively, you could take a bite at Capitol Grill, located on the grounds (breakfast recommended). You decide!
Barton Springs Pool
What’s really cool about Barton Springs Pool is the fact that it is actually set in a channel of Barton Creek and is filled with 100% spring water.
Fun fact: Barton Springs Pool has actually been in use for a LONG time. It was considered sacred by the Tonkawa Native American tribe, who once used it for rituals related to purification.
Today, that’s not the case and it’s open for everybody to use. For Austin residents, it costs $5 for the day to use it, but for non-residents, it’s $9.
Barton Springs Pool is a cool thing to do in Austin all year round because that natural spring water—coming ALL the way from under the earth—remains a balmy 68-70 degrees throughout the year. Warm in winter, cool in summer.
Another fun fact: Robert Redford learned how to swim in Barton Springs Pool!
South Congress Avenue—aka “SoCo”—is Austin’s happening neighborhood. Even though much of Austin is known for its weirdness, SoCo is where it’s at for all the hipster vibes you could ever dream of in the city.
Like many hipsters—and hippies—their hangout, SoCo was once a seedy, run-down area. Now, it’s a haven for craft coffee, creative boutiques, and yoga studios.
If you want to enjoy a fun-filled day in the city, then you’ll be glad that you’ve got a three-day itinerary, because you really can spend ALL day strolling around SoCo.
One of my favorites ever is June’s All Day, which is a cool joint where you can tuck into wine and tasty bites all day.
If you’re hungry and you’re feeling like a splurge, I’d recommend Otoko at South Congress Hotel. Ok, so it may be $150, but you do get a multi-course omakase experience from a top chef at this awesome restaurant.
Feeling more thrifty? Then go to Botticelli’s, an Italian trattoria with a reasonable happy hour.
For shopping, there’s a TON of stuff to choose from in SoCo, from vintage finds to colorful craft shops. Uncommon Objects, Yard Dog, and Tesoros Trading Company are very SoCo, very “Austin,” places to browse.
Round up your day with a trip to the Continental Club—which has been going since 1955—for live music.
The Contemporary Austin-Laguna Gloria
One thing is certain about Laguna Gloria—it looks the part. Set on the shores of Lake Austin and built in 1916, the building itself is an Italianate style villa and was once home to girl boss Clara Driscoll.
Today, the home is now a contemporary art museum. And the bonus is that it is actually free to visit (with a recommended donation).
Inside is very cool if you’re into interior design and retro features. Think black and white tiles, arching windows, and all that early 20th-century goodness that will get your Instagram popping!
Set over 14 acres, the gardens of the Laguna Gloria are adorned with artwork and installations. It’s a journey of contemporary art that makes for an interesting look into the art scene of Austin.
There’s a cafe here, too, which makes for a great spot to grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere. Browse the gift shop for a unique souvenir to remember this awesome Austin location.
LBJ Presidential Library
The LBJ Presidential Library is located on the campus of the University of Texas. One of just 13 presidential libraries in the US, it’s home to a massive 45 million pages of historical documents.
One of the more weird things about the LBJ Presidential Library is that it actually has a replica of the Oval Office on the top floor—7/8 the size. And it’s been decked out just as it was in Johnson’s time.
The exterior of the building is something that any architecture buff or someone looking for that perfect Insta shot for the day should not miss out on. It’s a huge concrete and glass cube that looks pretty out of this world—super striking.
Full of historical facts and info, all presented in an easily digestible manner, there’s a lot to learn about the U.S. here—and, if you’re not there for the history, it looks cool.
University of Texas Tower
Also on the campus of the University of Texas is the famous University of Texas Tower. This landmark of the city isn’t all that amazing from the outside, but you can actually go up it to find some pretty views!
The views from the top of the city are pretty impressive. From there, you can snap panoramic photos of the Austin skyline, including the Texas State Capitol.
For a more in-depth visit to this architectural icon, you can take a “Tower Tour” for $6 and get some insight into the history of the tower.
During the 45-minute long tour of the tower, you will be escorted by a student guide as you ride the elevator to the 27th floor, then take three flights of stairs to the viewpoint.
Originally, the building was used as a library, with a dumbwaiter system to deliver the books from the lower floors to the upper floors. The University of Texas Tower was built in the 1930s. It may not have a cool book delivery system anymore, but the 307-foot tower is still an interesting spot to check out.
Bullock Texas State History Museum
Complete with a huge Texas star out front, the Bullock Texas State History Museum sets out to tell the story of, well, Texas!
Spread out across three floors, this museum in Austin city may have been newly renovated in 2018, but it covers not just recent history, but 16,000 years! From early Native American civilizations all the way to the modern-day story of the state capital city, there’s a whole lot to learn about the history of Texas here.
One of the cooler parts of the museum is the Austin City Limits Theatre, which shows a whole bunch of live music performances from over the years in Austin. Music fans should definitely check this out.
Overall, this museum is well-designed, bright, and modern, making the fascinating dive into the past of Texas much more easily accessible than what you might imagine from a museum.
And if you think you know all there is to know about Texas already, think again! You’re bound to learn something new about this once-Mexican, then independent, now-fellow state of America.
Taking a trip here is definitely something you should think about putting on your Austin itinerary.
If you REALLY want to get to know Austin’s music scene, then I would recommend making Waterloo Records your starting point.
The largest record store in the city, this integral part of Austin’s music scene has been operating since 1982.
Fun fact: Interestingly it was actually named after the original and first name of Austin—Waterloo—which it was first called in 1839 after the city was dubbed the capital of the newly independent Republic of Texas.
The logo, on the other hand, recalls the iconic design of London, England’s Underground train network (Waterloo is a major station in the British capital).
Not only can you get lost digging for obscure records for hours—or trying to hone in on something in particular—but Waterloo Records also puts on live music throughout the year.
Especially during SXSW, when sometimes as many as ten bands or artists take to the stage at Waterloo Records for a live session.
Honestly, this icon of the city should be number one on your Austin itinerary if you are a music fan. It’s often cited as one of the best record stores in the United States!
If all the museums and urban sprawl of Austin is getting to be a bit much for you, then I have the perfect solution for you—take a day trip!
If you have your own wheels with you, it’s easy to hit the highway and see what the surrounding area of Austin has to offer.
My number one choice for day trips from Austin has got to be Hamilton Pool Preserve. It’s a stunning slice of nature that’s located 23 miles west of the Texas state capital that you will easily be able to reach by car (it’s located just off Highway 71).
Hamilton Pool is beautiful—the result of thousands of years of erosion that has created a beautiful jade green pool and a cave filled with stalactites, making for very cool scenery.
If you’re thinking about swimming, however, you’re out of luck—it’s not allowed!
You can explore on foot, though. The preserve itself is made up of 233 acres of pristine nature, with hiking trails, waterways, and ancient bald cypress trees making this a blissful dive into nature.
Veracruz All Natural
Austin isn’t just about hipsters and music; food plays a big, big part of the city, and one of the best things you could eat here would be tacos.
Thought to be home to some of THE best tacos in town, Velacruz All Natural is food truck heaven. I’m seriously talking like some of the best tacos you may have—ever!
There may be tons of restaurants in Austin, but I’m sticking with this family-run taco bar thanks very much!
Take your pick of hard and soft-shell tacos, and get them filled accordingly. Breakfasts mean eggs, sausages, and cheese (and other good stuff), with vegetarian and vegan options available all day long.
There are also some KILLER quesadillas, with a whole selection of insane side dishes that will probably make this your new favorite spot. Homemade salsa and guacamole? Yes, please.
Honestly, if you are in town for three days, you could quite easily subsist on just the food from this awesome food truck the whole time. I’m actually thinking of breakfast, lunch, and dinner at this bright blue food truck.
Velacruz All Natural is a casual sort of place where you can hang out with a group of friends, your BFF, or just yourself with jazz music in the background throughout the day and night. On Fridays and Saturdays, Austin being Austin, you can even catch some live shows here.
Torchy’s is another famous taco spot in Austin, with a few different locations. I recommend trying both of them to see which one is your favorite! Whatever you do, don’t skimp out on the queso.
You kinda knew this would have to be on your Austin 3 day itinerary, right? Texas barbecue is a big deal, people. And when it comes to Austin, you really cannot say you’ve properly visited unless you’ve tried Texas barbecue.
It’s just so freaking good. People treat it like a science, or like a religion. It’s that big of a deal, and I’m here for it, literally and figuratively.
Whether you’re into brisket or ribs, or you’re into a particular side, there will be a place for you. But there are also some deservedly famous spots in the city when it comes to BBQ.
You cannot say “barbecue” and “Austin” in the same breath without mentioning Franklin Barbecue.
From the mind of Aaron Franklin himself to well-deserved fame, this BBQ spot has been featured on the likes of food shows such as No Reservations, among others—Anthony Bourdain called it “supernatural.” That says a lot.
Yes, you may have to wait in line—I’m talking like, two hours of waiting in line sometimes—but if you like food and you are a fan of barbecue, then I’m going to have to say that it is worth it. Just don’t show up late—we arrived around 9pm and they looked at us like we were crazy and said, “We sold out of BBQ a couple hours ago.”
If you’re way too hungry to deal with standing in line, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew offers up tasty trays of meaty goodness, while trailer venue Micklethwait Craft Meats offers up a food truck atmosphere but with incredible food.
Once you try barbecue in Austin, you’ll be forever changed! 😂
If all that eating around Austin has made you feel like you need to get your workout on, then Mount Bonnell is the destination for you.
It feels like a day trip from Austin, but it’s just half an hour from the city center. It is a fairly short hike up to the top of Mount Bonnell. It’s 775 feet above sea level, so this won’t be like proper mountaineering or anything—just something to get you working up a sweat.
Set on the east bank of the Colorado River, Mount Bonnell is often cited as the highest spot in the city. As such, you can get some pretty incredible views of the city from up here (sunrise and sunset are extra special times to visit).
To get to the top, you won’t have to clamber over any boulders. All you have to do is scale the 102 stone steps that lead to the summit. Once you’re there, bust out a snack (there are picnic tables up there), rehydrate, admire the view, and snap a pic. It’s a great spot.
Most people will take this main, 0.3-mile trail to the top, but if you like your hikes to be a little more grueling than that, don’t worry! There are a few side trails that zig-zag in different directions, great if you like your views to be more rewarding and you want to avoid the crowds.
Austin may be famous for areas of the city like SoCo, where it’s all hipsters and their hangouts, but there is one neighborhood in particular that has a very different vibe altogether.
The adorable Rainey Street, featuring refurbished historic bungalows on a backdrop of modern condos, has a whole lot of charm.
With bungalows repurposed as eateries, complete with patios adorned with lights and packed with tables, as well as food trucks and live music spots, Rainey Street is totally the place to be for cute vibes in the city.
There are a ton of cute spots that you can hit up along here. Chill in a hammock on the patio at Lucille’s, grab a genuine on-tap Texas beer at Craft Pride, or find the cool speakeasy that is Bar Illegal. The options are almost endless.
Arts fans can learn about Latino culture in the city at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center, complete with historic and contemporary art and exhibitions (free of charge to enter). There is also the Trail of Tejano, representing the story of Texas through statues of Latino musicians.
Rainey Street is like the chill version of Sixth Street. While Sixth Street is known for drunken debauchery and a lot of college students (and just generally being…dirty lol), there are some fun spots to eat and drink around East Sixth Street. But Rainey is known for good times, craft cocktails, and music. Personally, I’d opt for Rainey Street every time!
This may seem like a weird one, but Allens Boots is iconic. The store itself is like an institution.
Open since 1977, Allens Boots is an Aladdin’s cave of cowboy couture. If you want a pair of cowboy boots, then THIS is the place to head—no doubt about it, people.
From the outside, it’s iconic. There’s a single big red boot, and Texas stars dot the wall. Step inside, and the scent of leather will hit your nose for sure.
And if somehow you’ve got a cowboy boot style in mind, trust me—Allens Boots will have it.
If you’re not in the market for boots, don’t worry, there’s basically everything you’ll ever need to create that perfect Texan cowboy (or cowgirl) look. There are a whole load of shirts, belt buckles, and even cowboy hats to choose from.
Even if you don’t feel like you want to buy anything—hey, maybe that’s not your style—it’s still fun to visit and check out the row upon row of amazing boots. You could even try some on for a lol. I bet you’ll end up getting a pair, even if you planned specifically not to purchase them!
Austin is so much fun and there are SO many things to do here that it can easily make your head spin. Checking out the interesting museums, going for a swim in a mineral pool, and live music is just the tip of the iceberg.
You know me, I’m a major foodie and love exploring new places through food, so I love the fact that you can get so much amazing food in Austin! That’s one of my favorite things about this place. The barbecue is just next level incredible, and don’t get me started on the tacos!
And then there’s the music. With SXSW and City Limits making up two particularly famous festivals, there are more live venues besides, and tons of places to buy it, too (hi, Waterloo Records!).
So, if you are going to Austin anytime soon, please tag me in your photos and stories on Insta (I’m @wtfab) and let me know what you get up to! I haven’t been for a while, and I am seriously craving some Torchy’s now.
Traveling to Austin? Be sure to explore my other Austin content here.
The best time to travel to Austin Texas is from September to November or March to May when the weather will be at its best.
It is recommended to spend a minimum of 3 days in Austin Texas to really explore what the city has to offer.
Yes, Austin is a very walkable city especially in the downtown area. There are also a number of ways to get around the city via public transportation or bike.