They say "third time's a charm" and this well-used saying certainly applied during our third visit to Austin. The first time I visited Austin was during SXSW when the city is packed with out-of-town visitors clogging the sidewalks. The second time was in September of 2020 at the start of the pandemic when the city seemed to struggle with how to best deal with the new restrictions while attempting to cope with having liberties and freedoms taken away. This third time, however, the locals seemed happier and better equipped to deal with the neverending presence of the virus. In fact, with the new "no mask mandate" recently implemented in Texas, most people walk around unmasked which is a stark contrast from the vibe we encountered here back in September. We really enjoyed this last visit and have a new sense of the city and all it offers.
Please see my post detailing our last visit to Austin here where I highlighted some great meals and sites during our September visit. Below I will share some new places and activities we discovered in this third round. I hope you'll enjoy the additional tips on what to see and do on your next visit to this fun and activity-filled city.
I always say that the best way to get to know a city is by walking its streets. There are many adorable neighborhoods in Austin each offering a colorful character. Take a stroll on South Congress, Guadalupe Street, South Lamar, Rainey Street, and West 6th Street. I found these streets to be full of flavor, lively restaurants, colorful murals, and interesting shops. One of the things I admire most about Austin is the abundant patches of greenery located throughout the city, most notably in Zilker Park, which is expansive and very active.
Rent a Bike
We rented bikes at Barton Springs Bike Rental who offers very reasonable rates and great service. We rode the ten-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake which is truly a great way to explore the city and get a sense of downtown's architecture, the locals who flock to the trails for their fitness routines, and the coveted lake which is filled with kayakers and SUPers. The trails are fairly easy with only a couple of steep inclines and can be completed in under two hours.
The ride around the lake truly delivers a beautiful perspective of the city.
Pass over the Pedestrian Bridge
Locals love this bridge and proudly recommend it to visitors. While it's a small bridge, the views are quite pretty. There is lush vegetation on both sides of the structure and strikingly blue waters below. It's a welcoming oasis in the middle of the city.
Feast at a Food Truck
Like Portland, Austin takes their food trucks seriously and you can find them all over town. From taco trucks to burger trucks to even dessert trucks, everything you'll crave will be satiated.
Dine, Drink or Enjoy a Decadent Treat
Austin really does have a fantastic food scene. We didn't pass any restaurant chains here. All the restaurants are just adorable with creative decor and welcoming patios. Below are some highlights from this third visit.
You know that Josephine House is a great find when locals keep pointing you in its direction. This corner restaurant has a vibrant outdoor patio, doting staff, excellent cocktails, and a fantastic menu that will appease all food lovers. You'll love the vibe here and you will find yourself recommending it to others as well.
You'll absolutely love your cocktails at Nightcap. Drinks are paired with great music and a lively crowd. The mixologists do a fantastic job creating creative cocktails that are well-balanced and delicious. My "ghost 'em gurl" signature cocktail, with Dulce Vida tequila, pineapple, lime Cointreau, ghost pepper nectar, jalapeño, and hibiscus, made me rethink whether ghosting someone is really a bad thing after all.
During our last visit to Austin, we checked out Amy's Ice-Cream on South Congress. During this current visit, we made a couple of stops to their West 6th location which we much preferred since you can actually enter the space, interact with the staff, and watch them mix the ingredients to prepare your perfect scoop. Their Rainbow Rock flavor is one of the dreamiest I've ever had. Since they change their flavors daily, don't be dismayed if it isn't available on the day you visit. Just ask them to combine their (not so) standard sweet cream flavor with sprinkles and mini marshmallows. It. Is. Life. Changing.
A neighborhood staple, Swedish Hill is always bustling. They bake their bread and pastries onsite and have a full menu of sandwiches and pastries to enjoy on their cute patio or to-go. I was easily hooked on their creamy iced-lattes and couldn't resist a daily visit to get my caffeine fix.
Definitely stay in the city if you can as this will give you easy access to all the great neighborhoods. We absolutely loved our Airbnb rental in the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin which offered us a plethora of restaurants, bars, and shops right at our doorstep. In fact, I think that staying in this neighborhood played a big part in reshaping our experience in Austin. By staying here, we finally got the charm of the city.
This five-bedroom home was extremely clean, well-stocked, and perfectly located. You'll find everything you need just a few steps away.
I am so thankful that we gave Austin another try. We truly had a wonderful experience this time around. Sometimes, the timing of our explorations certainly plays a role in our perspectives. Between the large lake holding the city together, the beautiful parks, tons of trails, never-ending options of restaurants, and adorable shops, I finally get the buzz. I hope you get to check it out and experience it for yourself too!