They say everything’s bigger in Texas. After 4 days in Austin, that’s definitely proven true. From the portion size of an entree to the sheer distance from point A to B, Texas is a grand experience. If you’re looking for a quick long weekend getaway, check out my tips below for a rough itinerary, ways to get around, where to stay and where to eat. Enjoy y’all!
Where to Stay in Austin, TX
I definitely recommend getting an AirBnB. Why pay $200 a night for a stuffy hotel room in the corporate part of town when you can spend less AND get a more authentic experience by staying in a local’s home? Some AirBnBs in Austin let you rent out an entire house, while others are shared. I split a gorgeous plantation home with my two friends visiting from New Zealand and our host couple, Miller and Ruston. They were a great resource if we had any questions or needed a local’s opinion on something we’d read online. Plus, their cute dogs were fun to come home to. We felt like we were at home. My Kiwi friends loved being able to do their laundry, too.
How to Get Around the Austin Area
Austin doesn’t have Uber or Lyft. The city is passionate about growing local businesses, so instead, you can try Ride Austin or Fasten (or any number of other ride-sharing apps). They work just like Uber, but since Austin’s rather spread out, it can get expensive to use ride shares all weekend. I definitely recommend renting a car for your adventures. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Austin has an alternative to airport rentals. Instead of getting slammed with fees for being a young driver or having to wait in lines at Enterprise, I picked up a car straight from its owner’s house, not too far from our AirBnB. I used Turo to book the car instantaneously, and it was only $90 to rent it for two days (including the cost of insurance).
Getting Out of the City
For me, this was the best part. Not that I didn’t like Austin, but with a rental car at my disposal, it was easy to see what the more rural parts of Texas are all about. We drove past ranches as we ventured over to Gruene, a historic town just 45 minutes away from the city. It’s a protected destination, so everything still looks like it’s straight out of 1887.The town’s main source of entertainment, Gruene Hall, was filled with men, women and children of all ages. Donning cowboy hats and tattoos, Texan couples two-stepped to the sounds of a steel banjo playing right before us. It’s the oldest music hall in Texas, and looks almost exactly as it did nearly 150 years ago. Gruene also had a few antique and clothing shops that were fun to meander through. The shops were set in what used to be the villagers’ homes. A changing room in one store doubled as a bathroom, and another had cute jewelry in the attic.
Venture Towards Nature
When it’s 90+ degrees and the air is thick with no beaches in sight, Jacob’s Well becomes a great option for adventurers. It’s ~30 minutes from Austin, and can even be done in the same day as Gruene. Plan this in advance, though, because swimming spots are limited. The water is crystal clear and the walk down to the well offers pretty wildflowers and prairies thick with golden grass.
Since we didn’t have swim tickets, we parked our car on the side of the road not too far from Jacob’s Well. We went swimming in water that was just as clear as the well in this picture, without anyone else around 🙂
Eat Some Southern BBQ
No trip south of the Mason Dixie Line is complete without a little BBQ. A great option for Austin-goers is Saltlick just outside of the city in Driftwood, TX.
It’s a cash only hotspot where the hour long wait is actually pleasant. You can spend it sitting at picnic tables on a porch under a thicket of trees that’ll protect you from the Texan heat. Sip on a few local beers or wine from their winery right on site while you wait in the rustic backcountry.
Once inside, choose from brisket, ribs, turkey or chicken, all grilled at their massive pit and served with an array of barbecue flavors.
Other Restaurants You Have to Try
Just outside the city, besides Saltlick, Grisstmill in Gruene is also great. It sits right on a river and also has a small town, rustic charm.
In Austin though, be sure to check out these two restaurants:
Dotted with hammocks, rooftops, indoor/outdoor bars and deliciously local Moscow Mules, this is a great spot to kick off your night. If you get hungry you don’t have to wander too far, as Rainey has several food trucks that serve all different kinds of food, from gourmet grilled cheeses to Pad Thai.
A country-music must see, this area comes complete with a mechanical bull. Guitar sounds fill the air as live music pours out onto the street from dozens of bars all competing for your attention. Only on 6th Street can you sip on a glass of whiskey while the barrel it came in doubles as your table. No cover charges here, just raw talent waiting to be discovered.
If you have any questions about Austin, my trip, or anything else I mentioned above, definitely get in touch!
Have you been to Austin? Let me know in the comments!