Welcome to MarieClaire.com's series on weekend travel—a smart girl's guide to making the most of those glorious two days off.
Austin, Texas has been on my travel list for some time—and it's easy to understand why. The city, known for festivals, Tex-Mex, and keepin' it weird, is one of the hotspots of the past year, and I took full advantage during a weekend away. Here, I do the planning for you. (You can thank me in tacos, please.)
Austin has plenty of spots to stay—including Airbnbs around the city, but to be close to the action, you might want to opt for one of the (many!) hotels available. For a girls' trip or weekend away with friends, I'd recommend The W Austin. Not only are the rooms relaxing and spacious (and stocked with everything you might need), but there are plenty of lively common spaces—including the awesome pool and the Living Room, where you can hang out during the day to work, read, or play, or, you know, get a cocktail. (Pssst...the "Secret Bar" or red-room bar is quite a popular spot for pre-going-out drinks! Tell them Sam sent you. Just kidding. That won't do anything.)
For a truly elevated experience (and for a respite), the Four Seasons Hotel Austin is It. From the second you walk in you can say "ahhh." (There is a spa as well, so you can truly say "ahhh" again.) Located at Lady Bird Lake, you can walk to pretty much any attraction in downtown Austin, and the Sunday brunch at TRIO (on the outside terrace) is A+. Not only that, but the service is just—well, the best. Did we mention the complimentary champagne in the lobby at happy hour? Yeah. You can definitely unwind here.
What to Do
So. many. things. From dancing the two step at honky-tonk bars to walking and shopping on South Congress to exploring East Austin to creating your own graffiti (more on that later), there's plenty. Make sure you know what stops you definitely want to hit, then spend the rest of the time just exploring. It's better that way. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Graffiti Park:
Do not be one of those people who shows up in heeled, well, anything. This "park" is a tagged landscape of concrete, with hills that you climb to get to the very top. Bring your own spray paint, or buy some from local vendors, and tag your heart out. Legit.
2. South Congress:
Head to the different boutiques (I loved The Gypsy Wagon), cowboy boot shops, and outdoor markets on South Congress, and make sure to stop by the Austin Motel for a great photo op before heading across the street for a cupcake from the Hey Cupcake! (in a cute airstream trailer). Feeling hot? Head to South Congress Hotel Mondays through Fridays from the beginning of summer through Labor Day, where $20 will get you a daytime pass to the pool with free towels and valet parking. (Email
firstname.lastname@example.org for booking.)
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3. The Austin Mural:
I mean, it's a must. Right? (Pro tip: There generally will always be people there. Go early or just brave the crowd before grabbing some tacos from Torchy's down the street for lunch and get your pic. You can do it, I believe in you.) (Located at 1720 S 1st St.)
Where to Eat and Drink
Again—so. many. things. There's more than 1,500 food trucks ALONE in Austin, and downtown Austin has the highest number of bars per capita in the entire country. So there are a lot of choices. My tip? Ask your bartenders and servers at your first spot where they like to go, then play a game of restaurant-and-bar telephone. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Torchy's Tacos: A must. There's more than one location, but the original truck is located on first street. (Pro tip: Hit it up before or after seeing the Austin Mural. For food-belly purposes, I'd recommend after.)
2. Josephine House: My favorite restaurant in Austin, hands down. The sister restaurant of upscale Jeffrey's, this adorable eatery is straight-up delicious. I recommend going for brunch.
3. Justine's: Located in East Austin, this restaurant is fun and chic, with French-inspired cuisine without any pretentiousness. Plus, it's perfect for late-night dining...it opens at 6 p.m. and stays open until 2 a.m.
4. Franklin's Barbecue: A tradition and a must. Some say it's the best BBQ in Austin. Others will argue that. But no one will deny it's damn good.
5. Uchi: Take a break from Tex-Mex, tacos, and BBQ and eat some of the best sushi, with fish flown in every day from Japan. Boom.
For drinks: Head to Broken Spoke for old school two step, The Firehouse (a hostel and craft cocktail bar) for delicious drinks "hidden" behind a bookcase, Whisler's for great drinks in a cool building (with a patio!), or walk down Rainey or 6th Street for a slew of bars for your picking (and discussing which is the best).
1. Austin is spread out and you might want to have a car, but there are other options. For a long time, fought back on having big rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft around. But worry not—they're back. If you're into supporting smaller startups, they're there too. And yes, there are cabs.
2. There is often almost always a festival of some sort going on in Austin, so make sure to do your research before booking to a) save on rates and b) avoid getting irrationally angry when you're stuck in traffic for a festival you care nothing about.
3. Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World" and for good reason—there are many venues and many bands playing pretty much every night. Make sure to check out one of the classic venues—I'd recommend The Continental Club—and enjoy.
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Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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