There’s nothing like driving on South Congress as the sun begins to set and the colorful hues of red and orange bounce off the magical Austin skyline. The beautiful Capitol building has this rich copper tone that illuminates the surrounding buildings. Lady Bird Lake is calm but filled with laughter from people waiting to see the bats, the echo of rowers being guided, and dogs splashing in all its glory. You see parents and children walking hand in hand to grab a scoop of Amy’s Mexican Vanilla, only after they filled their bellies with Home Slice Pizza. People are grabbing a much-needed cup of coffee at Jo’s while others take the must-have photo in front of the, ” I love you so much” wall. But just when you felt it couldn’t get better, the live music coming from Guero’s outdoor patio begins to fill the air with a little Texas folk music. At that moment, you sigh and realize, “I love this city.”
This is just a very small window of what makes Austin great.
So if you’re looking for a helpful guide, well you’re in luck. Here are some great categories to help make your planning a little easier. On a budget? No worries, I’ve provided (CS=cost savings) next to items that will fit anyone’s budget!
Where To Stay:
- San Jose Hotel: It’s in the heart of one of the most visited spots in Austin. Just seconds away from many of the fun activities and local shops South Congress offers. If you want something with a local feel and a beautiful backdrop, this is where you would want to stay. Plus, you can practically walk anywhere from that location or just hop on a pedicab.
- Hyatt Regency Lost Pines: This place has it all. From movies on the lawn, a lazy river, wading pools, golfing, programs for the kids, and a selection of eateries. If even offers an onsite babysitting service, so you can have a date night. It’s a great spot to hang out with the family! It is outside of the city, but only a 15-20 minute drive into Austin.
- Hilton Austin: Right in the middle of downtown, minutes from great places to eat and explore. It’s family-friendly and offers a continental breakfast.
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Southwest: Bringing your pups along and wanting something affordable with the option of a continental breakfast? This place is clean, affordable, and allows for your fur babies to join in on the family fun. It’s a straight shot to downtown with a 5-10 minute drive on South Mopac Expressway. (CS)
- JW Marriott: One of the newest hotels that really provides a great Austin feel in the middle of downtown. It’s a hip, family-friendly hotel, with easy accessibility to all things downtown.
Austin Eats & Treats:
Food in Austin is no joke. We have full food revolutions. Two words…breakfast taco. Even if the food has existed for awhile, this city really prides itself in changing things up. You will find delicious options in a variety of places. Some of the best restaurants started as trailers, which is a big Austin movement. You could practically fall over a trailer here in Austin since it seems like we have food trucks at every corner. Don’t shy away from trying new things, some of the most amazing meals I’ve eaten in Austin were wrapped in paper and delivered in a food boat. These are just a few well-known Austin places that are fun to try, especially if your visiting with your family.
- Home Slice: it’s the ultimate neighborhood pizza place that offers Austin flavor. From whole pies to large single slices, it’s a great place for the family. Not only because the environment and pizza are fantastic, but they give kiddos a big ball of raw pizza dough. Trust me, this has saved us many times from screaming hungry kids. (CS)
- Salt Lick BBQ: So this is further out in Driftwood, but worth the drive for a full on BBQ experience. Wooden picnic tables for family style dining, the open BBQ pit fills the air with delicious aromas, and local music has everyone wanting to two-step. Even though the line can be long on the weekends, there’s a chance to try their local wines created from their own vineyard and the kids can explore the grounds. The BBQ keeps being served, especially if you order the Family Style option. Make sure to wear loose clothing, because you’ll want to make room for their amazing cobblers.
- The Midway Food Park: Trailers. Live Music. Playscape. What more can you ask for? Actually, this place is great to not only enjoy the Austin culture but feel that sigh of relief that your kids won’t be screaming to run around. It’s a place to play, eat, and dance. It’s about 10 minutes from downtown (by car), but definitely great around dinner time. (CS)
- Bouldin Creek Cafe: Are you vegetarian or vegan? Even if you’re not, this place will fill your taste buds with an amazing selection of healthy and filling foods. Looking for a great breakfast spot? This spot not only has some delicious coffee concoctions but a mouthwatering menu of breakfast delights. Thankfully after you fill your belly and feel you need to walk if off, the Bouldin Creek area is another great place to walk and explore the Austin culture. (CS)
- Hopdoddy: Ready to try some amazing burgers? Well then head on over to one of the two Hopdaddy locations for a juicy burger and great selection of beers on tap. The line may be a bit long at the Congress location, but once that mouth watering burger hits your lips, it’s really worth the wait. (CS)
- La Barbeque: Want BBQ within the city limits? Looking to check off having good ol’ Texas BBQ from your list, but don’t want to go too far from the city? Well, La Barbeque will hit the spot. This food trailer offers amazing BBQ that will meet all your expectations. (CS)
Yes, these need their own category. So, are you looking to take part in a taco tasting extravaganza? These spots offer some really flavorful options. You know, the mouth watering, everything you dreamed of, fall head over heels in love with kind of options. There are so many great spots to try out here in Austin, but that would take over this entire post, so I’ll limit them to a few of my favorites.
Having a sweet tooth will be met with a happy hug here in Austin. From places that have competed in Cupcake Wars to donuts that will blow your mind, Austin is a place to enjoy all the finest treats that will make your glucose levels jump through the roof.
- Voodoo Donut: It’s donut heaven. Seriously. They even make non-donut eaters fans of their delectable treats. A must try! (CS)
- Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop: A big fan of pop culture and cupcakes? Well, these cupcakes are not only delicious, but many are named after well-known artists. From James Brown to Marilyn Monroe, these goodies have you singing for more. (CS)
- Amy’s Ice Cream: A fan of ice cream and looking for something with Austin flare? Amy’s offers personality in not only their flavors but also with the friendly employees. They even have an employee contest every year to show off their amazing ice cream juggling skills. There are multiple locations throughout the city. (CS)
- Hey Cupcake: You can’t miss one of their trailers smack dab on South Congress. Just look for the gigantic cupcake on top of an Airstream. (CS)
- Lick’s Ice Cream: Did you say goat cheese, thyme, and honey? In ice cream? Yes, yes they did. What makes this even more amazing…it works. Their flavors are different, but they have made them to sweet treats you can’t ignore. (CS)
A Night Out (Sitter Services Included):
Looking to have a night out? Maybe you’d like to see a bit of Austin without the kiddos? Well, there are some phenomenal places to check out and explore, plus a highly recommended babysitting service that is highly recommended.
DATE NIGHT IDEAS:
- Check out this post from my fellow AMB contributor on ideas for date night in Austin. It offers some great places to check out with your honey so you could possibly have a full uninterrupted conversation with one another.
- Other options:
- Rent an Austin B-Cycle and explore the town. Whether you’re a newbie or veteran to Austin, this is a great way to venture into different parts of the city. As an added bonus, they are easily accessible and affordable. Plus if the weather is beautiful, it’s a great way to see the city lights and local attractions.
- Tour de Food: Are you and your honey foodies? Well, this little adventure might be perfect for you. Pick your top 5 trailers within the city and pick one item from their menu. Sit back, enjoy quality time and food, then take a stroll after to explore the rest of the city.
- Austin’s Capital Grannies: Austin’s Capital Grannies is a mommy–owned and operated babysitting referral service. We were founded by a mom in 1986, and we have since provided the families of Austin, TX with affordable, professional, loving childcare!
- Sitter City: Take a look and find someone you feel comfortable with within the area. Go ahead and directly reach out the sitter based on their profile. Each sitter is evaluated and asked to be screened to make sure you receive the most qualified and trustworthy sitter.
- Nanny Poppinz: An incredibly reliable babysitting/nanny service that makes sure to provide you with incredibly qualified individuals to watch your little ones. They are certified in CPR, go through a background check, and are highly recommended.
Looking to get a quick mani/pedi or treat yourselves to a spa day as a date day? Maybe you want to plan a mommy/daughter date? Check out these great places:
- Lacquer: This place is not only ultra chic, but it’s a great place to relax and pamper your hands and feet. It’s also a socially conscious nail salon. For a classic mani, it’s only $25. It’s a win all the way. They will be opening their second location soon. Treat yourself to a great experience!
- Milk & Honey: Need a long overdue massage? Maybe a haircut or facial? This place offers a little bit of everything. They have multiple locations for you to check out.
- Blo Blow Dry Bar: Need a quick blow out before the big date? This place has multiple locations and is affordable. Give yourself some me time, while sipping on champagne. (CS)
Explore The Outdoors:
- Barton Springs Pool: This famous natural pool brings both locals and tourists to enjoy the cool waters from the springs. It’s a great place to swim, relax, and catch some sunshine. It’s super affordable, and loved by all!
- Zilker Park: This the park of all parks for Austin. Not only does it house popular events like Austin City Limits Festival, Zilker Kite Festival, and Blues On The Green, but it’s also a great place to pack up a picnic, enjoy the Austin skyline, and just make it an afternoon at the kids park with a ride on the Zilker Zephyr mini train.
- Zilker Botanical Garden: A gorgeous park that allows you to enjoy the seasonal flowers, Japanese gardens, and are known to have some great festivals for the family. With it’s beautiful scenery, it’makes a great spot for family photos.
- Texas Rowing Center or Rowing Dock: Looking to try kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, or rowing? These offer them all. There’s just something about being on the river. It may be the stillness of a bustling city, the coolness of the water, and the excitement of exploring the city in a whole different way that makes it a great experience.
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Have you ever wanted to be surrounded by multiple butterflies, venture out to see the native Texas plants, or just allow your kiddos to explore the Family Garden? This place is really a beautiful spot in South Austin. They’re known for regularly having great events for the entire family.
- Lake Travis: Looking to explore the hill country or possibly rent a boat with the family? This place offers both. Whether you’re visiting with a small group or a large one, you can rent a personal boat to a party boat to enjoy a day on the lake. There are places along the lake to dock and enjoy something to eat and take a swim. You won’t regret it!
- Deep Eddy Pool: Take a cool dip in another one of Austin’s great natural pools, that not only has a fantastic wading area for the younger kiddos, but also a lap space for the more dedicated swimmers. During the summer months, they offer family movies and other fun events. Definitely worth checking out.
- Schlitterbahn (New Braunfels): Slides, wave pools, children’s wading pools with pirate ships…a little window to the well-known water park. This place offers something for everyone in the family. It may take a couple of days to do everything the park offers, but you’re in luck because they have an onsite hotel and family cabins.
- Zilker Hillside Theater: Does your family enjoy theatrical plays or music under the stars? The Hillside Theater is a great place to catch the latest performance al fresco. Take a blanket, chairs, or just pack up a picnic for you and the family to enjoy while you sing or dance along.
Beat The Heat:
During the summer months, it can get a little warm in our wonderful city. So you may want to explore all things indoors. Thankfully, there are multiple places to visit that will keep you just as entertained.
- Thinkery: This place is fun for both kids and kids at heart. Explore Science and Arts in the best way possible, by really getting your hands dirty and understanding how things work. It also offers workshops and events for all age groups. A must-see here in Austin.
- Alamo Drafthouse: These movie theaters are not your ordinary run of the mill theaters. They not only offer nostalgic commercials and cartoons while you wait but also a great menu of delicious foods and beers on tap. Have a baby in tow? No worries, each theater has a Baby Day (mostly on Tuesdays) where they allow babies to come to the movies, and they even dim the lights and sound.
- Texas State Capitol Building: Take a stroll down Texas history and visit a key landmark within Austin. Explore the halls that many famous government officials have not only walked but have played a vital role in our state’s policies. Make sure to take a tour to really enjoy this beautiful building’s history.
- Bob Bullock Museum: This place not only has a great I-Max theater that runs multiple educational movies, but gives you a great stroll into the state’s past. It’s a great place for the kids to explore and to learn.
- Zach Theatre: Check out some amazing local talent at this fine theater. They offer multiple family-friendly opportunities to keep everyone entertained.
- iFLY Austin Indoor Skydiving: Have you ever wanted to try skydiving, but not so sure about jumping out of a plane? Thankfully you don’t have to. You can take the kids and yourself to explore what it feels like to skydive…while inside. It’s definitely an adventure everyone should try at least once.
- Here’s another great post from another fellow AMB contributor with more indoor spaces to explore
Don’t Leave Without:
Make sure to venture out to some of the well-known Austin photo spots and famous shops. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to take some fun pictures or shop at some great local spots with the family. Here’s a list of some places you may want to check out. Keep in mind, some may change—
- “I love you so much” wall: Grab a cup of coffee at Jo’s and take a quick photo at this famous hot spot.
- Hope Outdoor Gallery— This place drives artists of all levels and backgrounds to come out and share their talent. Multiple walls to find the best spot to take some colorful photos.
- Austin wall— It’s on the wall connected to the very cool Roadhouse Relics. This mural is the best place to let everyone know you’ve arrived at this great city!
- “Smile, even if you don’t want to” wall — Grab a treat at Hello Cupcake then take advantage of making one of those sarcastic or silly faces to fit this expression
- “You’re My Butter Half” (2000 E. Martin Luther King Jr.)—super cute wall to take with your loved ones.
- Here’s another great post from a fellow writer that shared some more Austin murals.
- Willie Nelson statue (next to W Hotel): Who doesn’t love Willie Nelson? Take a couple pics with this Austin favorite.
- Stevie Ray Vaughan: He’s known for really influencing the music scene in Austin. So why not hop over to Auditorium Shores to not only have a chance to capture the Austin music culture, but also the beautiful Austin skyline.
- Allen Boots: You can’t leave without trying on a pair of Cowboy/Cowgirl boots while in Austin. From traditional to eclectic styles, Allen Boots is the place to go to try on a great pair of custom boots for the entire family! On your way out, check out how many famous people have visited this great place.
- Parts & Labour: Looking for great local Austin gifts? This place brings local artisan handmade pieces in one place. No need to look further for that perfect gift, this is the place to go. Plus everyone that works there is incredibly helpful.
- Here are a few more great spots that house multiple must-see shops in the Austin area: