Austin is the capital of Texas, serving up an oversized experience to visitors. The Texas State Capitol, constructed 10 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol, goes to prove that everything truly is bigger in Texas. Whether you’re watching for the emergence of the largest bat colony in North America or exploring the city’s 220 parks, you’ll find no shortage of highlights. Austin gets 300 sunny days a year on average, so the chances are excellent that you’ll enjoy a bright stay in the city.

State Capital
The State Capital Building in Austin.

Early Morning: Fuel Up at Biscuits & Groovy

The Biscuits & Groovy food trailer serves up a hearty helping of creativity and kitsch. The music-inspired menu begins with the classic biscuits and Groovy which features three buttermilk biscuits covered in white pepper gravy and topped with chives and sausage. The Aretha Franklin adds peppered maple bacon and Colby jack to the mix. With the village biscuits, you’ll enjoy pickled jalapenos and Colby jack on top.

If you’re not in the mood for a gravy-smothered dish, you can get the biscuits with butter and innovative homemade jams like bourbon peach or pomegranate port wine. The M.C. Hammer tops the biscuits with scrambled eggs, bacon, or sausage, along with cheese, and chives. Dig into freshly baked biscuits any way you like at this Austin favorite.

Midmorning: Go Wild for the Austin Zoo

The Austin Zoo began its life as the Good Day Ranch, transitioning to a full-fledged zoo in 2000. The zoo now has more than 300 animals representing over 100 species. The animals here are retired from other facilities due to age, rescued from animal cruelty, retired from laboratory research, or surrendered from exotic pet owners who realized they could not meet the needs of these creatures.

At the zoo, you can meet wild cats, primates, black bears, wolf hybrids, and other fascinating creatures. Learn about the coatimundi, genet, and binturong. View massive tortoises that can live up to 100 years. Exhibits cover animals from around the world as well as those native to the Austin area, so you’ll enjoy a well-rounded experience.

Noon: Get an Award-Winning Lunch

No visit to Austin is complete without at least one tantalizing taco meal. Tacodeli’s diverse selection of dishes ensures that there’s something on the menu for everyone. You can choose tacos topped with beef, chicken, seafood, or pork. Vegetarian options let beans, portobellos, or potatoes take center stage.

If you’re in the mood for something distinctive, try the Tikin Xic with achiote-marinated grilled salmon, salsa negra, habanero-onion escabeche, and cilantro. Though this is one of the more innovative options, you can’t go wrong with any of the items on this menu.

zilker park
Zilker Park.

Afternoon: Explore Zilker Park

Austin’s Zilker Park is a wildly popular highlight for just about every type of outdoor recreation. Though manmade, the Barton Springs Pool is fed by a natural spring that maintains a temperature of 68 degrees year-round. For another type of watery fun, hit Lady Bird Lake for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding.

If you want to stay dry, you can hike or bike the 10-mile trail around Lade Bird Lake. At the Zilker Botanical Garden, you can explore the soothing Japanese garden and koi ponds or step back in time in the Hartman Prehistoric Garden. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum features more than 200 sculptures strategically placed for stunning views. Many of the attractions in Zilker Park have their own modest admission fees.

bob bullock museum
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Late Afternoon: Browse the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Texans are wildly proud of their history. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The museum’s three floors cover land, identity, and opportunity. You’ll learn about cotton, oil, rice, and ranching. View the hull of the 17th century La Belle, the long-leaf pine desk of Stephen F. Austin, and a Mother Hubbard saddle among the museum’s 700 artifacts. Join almost 8 million visitors who have explored these halls and find out more about what Texas is all about.

Dinnertime: Enjoy Farmhouse Fare at the Salty Sow

The Salty Sow sources its ingredients from local farms and suppliers so you’ll enjoy fresh, authentic farm-to-table dishes. Start with gourmet hors d’oeuvres like bacon and gruyere roasted bone marrow or triple fried duck fat fries. The decadent mains include everything from candied pork belly with soy balsamic syrup to crisp chicken thighs with smashed potatoes and neck bone gravy. Pair your dishes with fine wines or craft brews for the perfect finish.

Evening: See Esther’s Follies

Showing on Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 10, Esther’s Follies is a comedic must-see for Austin visitors. This gut-busting show has been on the stage for more than 40 years, selling out to audiences who love the Saturday Night Live air of the performance. Actors and musicians poke fun at politics, pop culture, and more through skits, songs, and magic acts.

The theater’s back wall is constructed entirely of glass so the actors aren’t always the only ones in the show. Passersby on sixth street can get drawn into the playful entertainment as well. Shows sell out, so you should get your tickets in advance.

Late Night: Jam to Jazz in the Elephant Room

The Elephant Room has offered up cool jazz since 1991. This lounge is open nightly till 2 a.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to unwind after a long day of exploring Austin. You’ll find a full bar with more than 20 drafts and wines. The musicians change nightly, so it’s worth checking the schedule to see who’s on while you’re in town. Though there’s a small cover charge on weekends, weeknights are usually free of charge.

mt bonnell
Mount Bonnell (also know as Covert Park) in Austin.

Airport Guide

Austin visitors will most likely fly through the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Centrally located, this airport features two terminals and plentiful amenities. Though it’s small for a metropolitan airport, ranking 35th out of 48 metropolitan airports in the United States, it doesn’t skimp on comfort or convenience. Traffic through the airport has been on the upswing, hitting a record high of over 11.8 million passengers in 2015.

Airlines and Destinations

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport serves 18 airlines including Allegiant, Virgin American, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and more. Travelers enjoy nonstop access to cities around the world from this airport. Direct flights are offered to Amsterdam, Cancun, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Punta Cana, Toronto, and more. Nonstop flights are widely available within the U.S. and within Texas as well.

The South Terminal

The South Terminal at Austin-Bergstrom opened in April 2017. It features a charming retro design that hearkens back to the 1950s. Passengers at this terminal cross the tarmac and embark via a ramp, further enhancing the old school feel. The vintage mural inside the terminal paints the perfect picture of what passengers are meant to feel in this midcentury modern building.

austin bergstrom
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The Barbara Jordan Terminal

The Barbara Jordan Terminal spans 680,000 square feet in a smart crescent-shaped design that cuts down on walking to streamline your travel. Designed with sustainability in mind, the terminal features low-energy insulating glass that lowers heat gain. It exceeds the requirements of the energy code by 15 percent.

Amenities

Most of the shopping and dining at Austin-Bergstrom is in the Barbara Jordan Terminal. Here, you’ll find picks like the Fara Café & Sports Bar in the ticket lobby, Saxon Pub and Hoover’s Cooking at gates 1 through 9, and The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que and Maudie’s Tex-Mex at gates 11 through 25. For shopping, choose from 24-Hour Flowers, Austin Warehouse District, Stars of Austin, Fifth & Congress, and more at various locations throughout the airport.

In the South Terminal, choices include a simple concession area with snacks, sandwiches, and beverages. There’s also an outdoor patio for food trucks to pull up outside this terminal.

Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout both terminals.

Transportation

There are several types of ground transportation available for passengers at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Taxis, limos, and charter shuttles are on hand from several companies. If you’d prefer more freedom while you’re in town, you can rent a car as well.

The rental car facility is located across from the Barbara Jordan Terminal. It’s accessible via a pedestrian bridge. Companies include Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty car rentals on the first level, National, Alamo, Enterprise, and Fox on level 2, and Avis, Budget, Advantage, and Payless on Level 3.

Spacious and comfortable, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has all the services and amenities you’ll need to get in and out of the city from points around the world.

downtown
Downtown Austin in Austin.

Where to Stay

Austin has accommodations that cover the gamut from cozy and affordable to spacious and opulent. Whatever you’re after, Austin will serve it up in style. This is one city that’s as accommodating to budget travelers as it is to luxury tourists who want to be pampered.

Comfortable Hostels

For the ultimate in affordable travel, try one of Austin’s hostels. Drifter Jack’s Hostel is a colorful pick, adorned with vibrant murals in the bedrooms and common areas. Guests enjoy quality mattresses and Serta pillows on their beds. Mini-fridges are located in every room, so you can keep drinks and snacks on hand, and individual lockers offer a safe place to keep your things. Ample recreation is available on-site with a movie room, pool table, and book exchange.

The HI Austin Hostel on Lady Bird Lake is designed for relaxation. Guests have access to a complimentary continental breakfast, yoga mats, free Wi-Fi, and a lounge. Another unique option in Austin is The Firehouse Hostel, housed in the oldest firehouse in the city. Guests have access to a kitchen for quick food prep and common area with cards and games. A free breakfast is provided every morning, so you can always start the day right.

Affordable Hotels

Most of Austin’s more affordable hotels are located away from the city center in areas either north or south of downtown. Though it’s one of the lower-priced options in the city, The Grand Peers Hotel gets outstanding ratings. Amenities include in-room refrigerators, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a free breakfast complete with waffles.

North of the city, the Georgetown Inn is an affordable choice with comfortable rooms. Guests enjoy free Wi-Fi and a complimentary continental breakfast. This is a pet-friendly hotel, so you’re welcome to bring furry friends along. If you’d like to get closer to the city center, try The Bungalows Hotel and Event Center. Rooms here are equipped with full kitchens that include a refrigerator, stove, and microwave, so you can enjoy the convenience of a home away from home.

Mid-Range Options

If you’re looking for the perfect blend of affordability and comfort, Austin is the place to be. The Staybridge Suites Austin North are affordably priced with home-like accommodations and a wealth of amenities. Guests enjoy evening socials, outdoor barbecue facilities, and complimentary access to the hotel’s laundry room.

The Wyndham Garden Austin, Best Western Plus Austin City Hotel, and Austin Hotel also offer highly rated rooms for mid-range prices near the center of the city, so you’ll enjoy convenient access to top highlights from a comfortable room you can afford.

Upscale Accommodations

Austin’s elegant accommodations go above and beyond for guests who want extra pampering. Rooms at the W Austin are equipped with iPod docking stations, mini bars, and media libraries. Original artwork and photography make each space pop. Guests can recline poolside at the Wet Deck or book a tension-releasing treatment at the Away Spa.

The Hotel Saint Cecilia features décor inspired by the 1960s and 70s. The heated lap pool is nestled amid lush greenery, and you can pop into the lobby to purchase fragrances made from the hotel’s own garden. The guest rooms feature organic beds, kimono bathrobes, and mini-bars with food, beverages, and even body care products.

If you’re headed to Austin, you’ll find the city equipped to offer nearly any experience imaginable. Enjoy the sun and fresh air, or hop about the museums and galleries. From tasty tacos to healthy hiking, it’s all just waiting for you to explore.