Quintessential Austin, Texas: Things To Do + Where to Stay

Photo by Philip Kromer

Welcome to Austin. The state capital of Texas. Self-proclaimed “music capital of the world.”

Known for incredible public parks, lakes, outdoor excursions, drool-worthy dining options, music festivals, motor sports and a multitude of unique attractions. This city has a bit of something for every person that passes through. The Austin Independent Business Alliance came up with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” to promote small businesses in the area, so you better believe there are still some “weird” things to discover around town. Yes, Austin has its quirks, so embrace them and enjoy the incredible sights and stays in one America’s hippest cities.

Where to stay

You will have no problem finding wonderful accommodations in Austin. From historic hotels, high rises, boutique hotels, to bed and breakfasts - your stay is as unique as you!

Personally, I find myself drawn to boutique hotels with a mix of modern style and a dash of vintage appeal. Sure, there are wonderful large scale hotel chains that consistently offer quality and reliability, but that might mean every room looks about the same and lacks that special flair that makes a place like Austin so special.

I’m always searching for a more intimate location that offers an eclectic design and makes you feel like you’re “home.”

Here are a few boutique hotels that ooze Austin style and are sure to make you feel that warm Texas welcome.

Heywood Hotel

Photo from Heywood Hotel

Photo from Heywood Hotel

The Heywood may be the smallest of the hotels that we have on our list, but it sure packs a big punch. Each of the 7 rooms is completely customized. Each room offers a different experience and design, so each time you come back you’ll be able to experience something new!

Photo by Heywood Hotel

Photo by Heywood Hotel

Your reservation includes a number of perks that you won’t find just anywhere. Amenities include everything from free wifi, coffee and tea service, free parking, and even use of bicycles so you can explore the city the Austin way.

Heywood Austin patio

Photo from Heywood Hotel

Saint Cecilia

hotel saint cecilia Austin Retreat Venue

Hotel Saint Cecilia is perhaps one of the most upscale boutique hotel options in Austin. If you're looking for luxury, you'll found it here.

Inspired by music and poetry of the 1960s and 1970s, the hotel has a unique vibe and stylish decor. There are a total of 14 bungalows at Hotel Saint Cecilia, which is conveniently located just a block from the South Congress District.

hotel saint cecilia Austin Weddings and Events 1

Your stay at Hotel Saint Cecilia will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired, thanks to the modern furnishings and strong color palate. Amenities include a 50 foot heated pool, designer bath robes, and a ‘lending library’ stocked with vintage albums, poetry anthologies, and books.

Saint Cecilia Hotel, Austin

image via Venuelust

Hotel San Jose

Photo from Hotel San Jose

Photo from Hotel San Jose

The Hotel San Jose is a larger boutique hotel with 40 rooms. The minimalist style, concrete floor, and handmade furniture are just a few reasons why you'll want to stay at Hotel San Jose. From custom sheets to kimono bathrobes, everything here is designed to a T.

Amenities include a swimming pool, lush grounds, well-stocked mini-bar, wifi, artisan bath products and more. You can even rent bikes from the hotel or borrow their vintage polaroids and typewriters. Bring Fido along too! Dogs are welcome here for a small fee.


What to do

Hope Outdoor Gallery

Photo by

Photo by Nan Palmero

If you like street art, you’re probably familiar with the work of Shepard Fairey and his signature OBEY propaganda. If not, google him now. Fairey helped start up this outdoor paint park run by the non-profit HOPE events. This isn’t an ordinary graffiti ridden park. All tagging here has an inspirational and positive message. Since opening in 2011, the HOPE Paint Park has provided a job creation for local artists, provided art classes for local schools, foster children programs, and countless events.

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

Photo by Eric

Photo by Eric

Known for having the largest urban bat population in the North America, the Congress Bridge is home to an estimated 1.5 million bats. At dusk, the bats swarm the skies as they leave in search for food. If you’re visiting on a hot and dry night, be sure to gather on the bridge to catch their flight. If you miss them, the bridge is still a great spot to check out to watch the sun set. You’re likely to catch the bats between March and November

Zilker Park

Photo by Jeff Gunn

Photo by Jeff Gunn

A trip to Austin is not complete without visiting Zilker Park. The park is a great spot to take in views of the Austin city skyline while also enjoying your natural surroundings. Zilker Park is 351 acres of land in which you can participate in all types of outdoor adventures like swimming, kayaking, biking, running, etc. It also makes for some incredible people (and dog) watching.

The park is also host to music festivals including the 3-day festival Austin City Limits each fall and the free Blues on the Green summer concert series. Zilker

While you’re there be sure to run (or walk) the Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail, stand up paddle board on Lady Bird Lake or take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool.

Dirty Sixth

Photo by Geoff Livingston

Photo by Geoff Livingston

Austin wouldn’t be the Austin it is today without its infamous Sixth Street. You’ve probably heard of the South by Southwest music and film festival. Much of the festival revelry takes place here on Sixth street.

The “Dirty” portion of Sixth Street stretches between Congress Avenue to I-35. This historical district is a major entertainment area, full of bars, clubs, and music venues. On weekends the traffic shuts down as bar and music patrons take over the streets. Come here for a good time, but expect to leave with a hangover.

Salt Lick

Photo by vxla

Photo by vxla

Texas is home to some of the best BBQ in the nation, and Salt Lick is known as one of the very best BBQ joints around. With three locations in the Austin area, this is a “must stop” for foodies. If you’re traveling with a group, get the family meal which comes with all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw and beans.

Why is Salt Lick so special? Tomatoes are absent from their BBQ sauce which prevents the sauce from burning and tasting bitter. They cook their meat over live oak wood rather than mesquite as they feel like mesquite has too much tar in it and creates a bitter taste. They also baste the meat four times during the cooking process so the sauce caramelizes and seals in moisture. These are just a few of their secrets, but you can check out their FAQs here.

Food Trailers

Photo by Alaina McDavid

Photo by Alaina McDavid

Austin took food trucks to another level. There are over 1,000 food trailers, trucks, and carts around the city. Don’t know where to start? I recommend heading to The Picnic at Barton Springs. The Picnic is home to 9 food trucks (at the time of publication) so you won’t have trouble finding something you’ll want to gobble up.

Your Turn…

What are your favorite places to stay in Austin?What are your favorite places to visit?

What are your favorite places to visit?
For more of Austin’s best places to visit be sure to check out our Insider’s Travel Guide to Austin, Texas.