Known for tacos, barbecue, live music, and a love of the outdoors, spending a long weekend in Austin, Texas is an absolute delight.
I absolutely adore this city and have spent time both living in and repeatedly visiting Austin over the course of the last 20+ years.
Our 3 day Austin itinerary will help you discover several sides of the capital of Texas, all with just a few days in Austin–taco trucks, honky-tonks, funky boutiques, natural swimming holes, and bats all included.
Here’s how to make the most of a long weekend getaway in Austin!
The Perfect Itinerary for 3 Days in Austin, TX
Day 1: Tacos, the Capitol, South Congress + Bats
Start with breakfast tacos.
No trip to Austin could reasonably start with anything but breakfast tacos!
Choosing the best ones in the city is nearly impossible, but we recommend heading to Veracruz All Natural (order the migas).
Juan in a Million and Tacodeli (the Congress Ave location–I’m partial to the Otto and the Jamon el Sauvecito) are also excellent backups.
Wherever you go, plan on ordering 2-3 standard-size tacos to make a solid breakfast out of them (this does not apply to the Juan in a Million Don Juan taco!).
Tour the Texas State Capitol.
Since you’re in the capital of Texas, head to the capitol building!
You can tour the grounds, the visitor’s center, and depending on the time of year, even the legislative chambers.
If you’re curious about more history of the Texas government, the beautiful governor’s mansion is also across the street and open for tours.
… or take a walking tour of Austin.
Not interested in touring a government building on vacation? Don’t worry, there’s something for everyone.
This small-group walking tour is a fantastic and well-reviewed introduction to the city and comes with not only great stories and advice on finding Austin’s hidden gems but plenty of restaurant tips to help you make the most of eating your way through the city.
Alternatively, if you’re itching to hunt down Austin’s popular murals, this street art tour is a great way to kick off your explorations.
Check out one of Austin’s museums.
Austin is packed with interesting museums, from the regal to the quirky.
You won’t have time to see them all on your visit–and spending too much time inside during your weekend in Austin would be a shame–but we’ve carved out time in this Austin itinerary for a couple of them.
This morning, consider visiting one of these:
This beautiful fine arts museum focuses on Mexican and Latino art.
Blanton Museum of Art
Located on UT’s campus, the Blanton Museum of Art is Austin’s largest art museum, and one of the largest university-based art museums in the country!
Bullock Texas History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum, which is the premier Texas history museum, is located close to the capitol building. Be sure to snap a photo with the star out front before heading inside!
Grab a bite to eat on South Congress.
Ah, South Congress. The closest thing that Austin has to a main drag, this beloved boulevard is lined with funky shops, excellent restaurants (some of which–like the South Congress Cafe and Jo’s Coffee–are Austin institutions), and of course, plenty of street art.
A few options for a great meal include the aforementioned South Congress Cafe, Perla’s for (somewhat pricey) seafood, Home Slice for pizza, June’s for classic American options, or Guero’s Taco Bar.
A bit further away but just off of South Congress, you’ll find Leroy & Lewis for absolutely delicious barbecue served out of a food truck.
Afterward, head to Amy’s to snack on some truly impressive ice cream!
Stroll down South Congress.
As a general rule, the further north, the more chain shops you’ll see. Austin is growing at a rapid pace, and national brands like Reformation and Madewell can now be found in the northern section of South Congress.
Keep walking south, and you’ll find the icons of South Congress: Allen’s Boots, Parts & Labour (one of my favorite shops on South Congress and an excellent place to pick up a Texas souvenir), Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds, Tesoro’s, South Congress Books, Big Top Candy Shop, and more are waiting to be perused.
Uncommon Objects, a beloved Austin store selling everything from classic antiques to the most absurd oddities imaginable, was located on South Congress until 2017. It has now moved a couple of miles away, to Fortview Road, and is absolutely worth going out of the way for if you want an example of Austin’s prized weirdness.
Slide over to 1st Street to snap a photo.
Located just a short walk off of South Congress, the famous Greetings From Austin mural is a fun photo spot to drop by when visiting Austin for the weekend.
Meet the largest urban bat colony in the world.
Some of the most famous residents of Austin have wings! From March to October each year, hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats live underneath South Congress Bridge.
If your timing is right, watching the bats emerge to hunt at dusk is absolutely one of the best things to do during a weekend in Austin!
There are several ways to watch the bats, including simply standing on South Congress Bridge, but the view is best from the water: we recommend this kayaking tour of Lady Bird Lake, which will ensure you have the perfect view.
Alternatively, this bike tour is a great option as well.
Fair warning, though: like all wildlife encounters, the bat viewing in Austin isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, the bats fly out all at once, and the resulting dramatic swarm is what visitors hope to see.
However, sometimes they emerge in smaller groups, which are still exciting to witness, but not nearly as dramatic (or photogenic). Be prepared for variety!
Day 2: Zilker Park, Museums + Outdoor Austin
Kick off your morning on the water.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Austin without some time spent on the water!
This morning, head to Austin’s beloved, spring-fed Barton Springs Pool for a taste of an Austin classic.
Didn’t have a chance to kayak last night, or just feel like going again?
Alternatively, spend the morning renting a SUP, kayak, or canoe on Lady Bird Lake to soak up gorgeous skyline views while participating in one of Austin’s favorite pastimes.
Dive into TexMex.
For lunch, fill up on some of Austin’s best TexMex: Matt’s El Rancho, Enchiladas Y Mas, La Casita, and Tamale House East are all excellent options.
Feel like something a bit different? Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ is a bit of a drive, but it’s absolutely delicious and a unique combination of two of Austin’s most beloved cuisines.
Go for a short hike.
The capital of Texas is well-known for its love of the outdoors, so it’s no surprise that there is some stunning urban hiking in Austin!
Without going far from downtown, you can enjoy the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail, which has magnificent views of downtown and goes directly over Lady Bird Lake in certain places, or enjoy a stroll to Lou Neff Point in Zilker Park.
For something that feels a bit more like you’re lost in nature, you can hike to Campbell’s Hole, a popular swimming hole on the Barton Creek Greenbelt that shows off the beauty of Austin.
If you start at Barton Springs Pool at Zilker, it’s only about a 20-minute walk to Campbell’s Hole–but since the main trail of the greenbelt stretches 7 miles, you can keep going further if you wish.
Visit another Austin museum.
Depending on what time you finish hiking, you may have time to squeeze in another museum visit before night falls!
You can check out one of the museums you didn’t get a chance to see yesterday, but here are a few more you might want to consider adding to your Austin weekend itinerary.
LBJ Presidential Library
Lyndon Baines Johnson was the first of three US presidents from Texas, and the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum holds an enormous archive of historical records from Johnson’s time in office.
Exhibits include a replica Oval Office from the 60s, a detailed exhibit on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and an exhibit exploring the tragic circumstances of Johnson taking office after President Kennedy was assassinated, among many more.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden
A less traditional museum (but one that is conveniently located right next door to Zilker Park), the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is a beautiful and peaceful sculpture garden that celebrates the work of Charles Umlauf.
George Washington Carver Museum
Housed in a former library building, the George Washington Carver Museum is dedicated to celebrating and exploring the contributions of Black Americans, both in Texas and beyond.
The museum also operates as a genealogy center for Black families.
Watch the sunset over ATX.
This isn’t an absolute must on this Austin itinerary, especially since you’ve been enjoying the outdoors most of the day, but if you have a car, consider heading over to Mount Bonnell or to the 360 Bridge viewpoint to catch the sunset.
Both are incredibly popular views of Austin that are easy to access. While you could categorize them as extremely short “hikes”, both are located only a couple of minutes worth of climbing away from where you’ll leave your car.
Enjoy Austin’s famous nightlife.
Austin works hard to live up to its reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World–and whether you’re looking for a dive bar or a laid-back wine bar, the city has something to offer.
For a thorough overview of Austin’s nightlife, this pub crawl is a great place to start. Not only will you not have to worry about handling any logistics as you explore the city, but you’ll be led by someone who knows Austin like the back of their hand!
Want to strike out on your own? Dirty Sixth (aka East Sixth Street) is where you’ll find the wild-and-touristy party vibes (the Austin equivalent of Bourbon Street, basically).
Rainey Street caters to a slightly older, more laid-back clientele, and Guadalupe Street focuses on UT students.
For famous, longstanding honky-tonks, consider The Broken Spoke or White Horse, where you can try out your Texas Two-Step.
Day 3: Barbecue, Waterfalls + the Hill Country
I’m going to make what may be a controversial suggestion for your final day in Austin: leave the city.
Austin is located on the far eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, a magical place packed with wineries, adorable small towns, beautiful rivers, magnificent hiking, and idyllic barbecue joints that look like a slice of quintessential Texas… because they are.
Austin is positively amazing, but this morning, jump in the car and head out.
We have a full guide to day trips from Austin here, but for a first-time visitor to the area on a tight schedule, here are our top picks:
Swim in Krause Springs (which has a much longer swimming season than some of Austin’s popular swimming holes) and follow it up with barbecue at Opie’s. You could also potentially tour the magical Westcave Preserve.
Read our guide to Spicewood!
Dripping Springs + Driftwood
Head to the rightfully famous Hamilton Pool, and follow it up with a trip to The Salt Lick in Driftwood.
Read our guide to Driftwood!
The furthest of these suggestions, Wimberley will take about 45 minutes to reach–but you’ll be rewarded with an artistic downtown, a chance to swim in the Blue Hole or Jacob’s Well, and excellent views of the Hill Country at Mount Baldy.
Read our guide to Wimberley!
It’s worth noting that with the exception of Krause Springs, the other popular swimming spots outlined here–Hamilton Pool, the Blue Hole, and Jacob’s Well–all require advance reservations to swim in (and in the case of Hamilton Pool, even to visit).
Though you can’t swim there, you’ll also need an advance reservation to visit Westcave.
In other words, be sure to plan ahead!
All of these towns are positively packed with wineries as well, so consider heading out for a flight and beautiful vineyard views after your barbecue lunch!
Don’t have a car? You can still visit the Hill Country via a tour!
This popular tour will take you to two wineries and the famous Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood.
Head back to Austin to enjoy one last evening in the city.
For your last night in the city, consider taking a ghost tour!
Part history, part legend, part walking tour, and all entertainment, ghost tours are a fun way to get to know the city–and it’ll give you an excuse to visit the positively magnificent Driskill Hotel, which is both incredibly beautiful and quite possibly haunted.
For something a bit lighter on legends and heavier on horror, this popular murder tour that focuses on a 19th century Austin serial killer is also an interesting option.
Book your Austin ghost tour today!
If you have a single ounce of energy left, you’ll still have time for a last round of drinks after you finish your tour!
… Or if you’re me, let’s be real: one more round of tacos. One of my favorite Austin taco joints, Las Trancas, serves until 12:00 AM, and if you’re even later than that, Tyson’s Tacos and Kerbey Lane Cafe (order the queso) are both open 24 hours.
Where to Stay for Your Weekend in Austin
When choosing a hotel for your weekend trip to Austin, a good rule of thumb is to know that while, by the nature of the city, you won’t be within walking distance to everywhere, it’s best to be within walking distance of somewhere.
If this is your first weekend in Austin, we recommend staying on or near the South Congress area, or downtown close to 6th Street/the capitol building. That way, you’ll be within walking distance of some of the most popular sightseeing spots and easily be able to reach others.
From boutique properties to luxurious hotels with rooftop pools, there is an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to narrowing down where to stay in Austin, but you can’t go wrong with these popular choices!
Firehouse Hostel — Housed in the oldest firehouse in Austin, the well-reviewed Firehouse Hostel is located right across the street from the Driskill Hotel, a quick walk from the capitol building, and right around the corner from Sixth Street.
For the price, you absolutely cannot beat this location in Austin! Both dorm-style accommodation and private rooms are available.
Austin Motel — The iconic Austin Motel is located “so close, yet so far out” in the heart of South Congress Avenue.
Known for its vintage decor and absolutely perfect location (you’ll be within walking distance of most of the places on this Austin itinerary when staying here), the Austin Motel also features excellent reviews, an on-site pool, and on-site parking.
The Driskill — This iconic Austin hotel dates to 1886 and is an unmissable landmark in the city. Staying at The Driskill, you’ll never forget that you’re in a luxury hotel… in Texas.
From the dark, cozy bar populated with cushy leather furniture to the Texas-shaped waffles served with breakfast, The Driskill constantly works to impress a sense of place on its patrons.
Located just off of 6th Street and within walking distance of many of Austin’s best sightseeing spots, visitors looking for an unforgettable, luxurious Austin weekend getaway should check into The Driskill (and if you don’t get spooked easily, don’t forget to ask about the ghosts!).
More Than 3 Days in Austin?
A weekend is far from long enough to hike every trail, visit every museum, and sample every taco truck in Austin, and if you have longer than 3 days in the city, you won’t be sorry!
With more time in Austin, consider touring Austin City Limits Live, exploring the historic Tejano Walking Trail, visiting the peacocks at Mayfield Park, browsing the iconic Waterloo Records, and experiencing a barbecue right of passage by waiting in the Franklin Barbecue line.
Plus, of course, with the number of options outlined in this Austin 3 day itinerary, you can always find plenty to do by going back and enjoying the spots you missed on the first pass!
Getting Around During an Austin Weekend Getaway
While a decent chunk of this Austin weekend itinerary is walkable and with a well-chosen place to stay you can technically make do by cobbling together a combination of Ubers, bus rides, and tours to get around during your 3 days in Austin, we recommend renting a car if at all possible, and at an absolute minimum, for the last day of your trip.
Austin is a driving city, and as a result, parking is fairly plentiful (unless you’re visiting during an event like SXSW or Austin City Limits, in which case, avoid a car like the plague) and easy to use–you can even download an app to pay for city-owned parking throughout the city.
Driving also opens up a world of possibilities, from more restaurants to choose from to getting to easily access the city beyond its center, which truly enhances a long weekend in Austin.
If you can’t or aren’t comfortable driving, though, it is possible to have a wonderful weekend getaway in Austin without a car.
If you do choose to rent a car, we recommend searching for one through Discover Cars, which will sift through dozens of companies to find the best combination of low prices and reasonable rental terms for your trip.
Shop rental cars for your weekend in Austin today!
When to Visit Austin, Texas
The absolute best times to visit Austin, in my biased opinion, are from late March through mid-April (when the Texas wildflowers will be blooming all over the Hill Country), and in October and November, when the average daily high temperature finally dips below 90° (it’s 82° in October).
While Austin can certainly be characterized as a year-round destination, I would really only recommend planning a summer trip if you’re planning on spending most of your time in the water and the rest of your time sweating.
July and August, in particular, are absolutely brutal, and it’s entirely possible to visit then and not experience a single day with a high under 100°.
Austin does get a few cold snaps and rainy weeks over the winter, especially in January and February, so planning a winter trip is a bit of a dice roll–but since you may also be greeted with sunny skies and 65° days, planning a long weekend in Austin over winter can also work out beautifully.