3 Days in Austin: The Perfect Austin Itinerary

From live music and mouth-watering BBQ to quirky art and outdoor adventures, Austin's eclectic charm awaits. Follow this 3-day Austin itinerary for best results!

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

I'll never forget the first time my wife Sarah and I set foot in Austin. We'd heard the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, but honestly, we were a bit skeptical. How weird could a state capital in Texas really be? Turns out, pretty darn weird – and we loved every minute of it!

As we stepped out of our Uber from the airport, the energy of the city hit us like a wave. The smell of smoky BBQ wafted through the air, mingling with the sound of live music spilling out of nearby venues. A group of people on electric scooters whizzed by, narrowly avoiding a street performer juggling flaming batons. Sarah turned to me with wide eyes and said, "West, I think we're not in Kansas anymore." (Not that we're from Kansas, but you get the idea.)

Over the next three days, Austin proceeded to blow our minds with its unique blend of Southern hospitality, hipster cool, outdoor beauty, and culinary delights. We laughed, we ate (oh boy, did we eat), we danced, we swam, and yes, we embraced the weird. By the end of our trip, we were already planning our return visit.

So, buckle up, folks! Whether you're a music lover, a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, or just someone looking for a good time, Austin has something for you. In this guide, I'll walk you through how to spend 3 perfect days in Austin, hitting all the highlights while also diving into some of the city's hidden gems. Trust me, by the end of this itinerary, you'll be looking up flights and planning your own Austin adventure.

But before we dive into the day-by-day breakdown, let's cover some essential pre-trip planning to ensure your 3 days in Austin are as smooth as Texas whiskey.

Pre-Trip Planning: Setting the Stage for Your Austin Adventure

When to Visit: Timing is Everything

First things first: when should you plan your 3-day trip to Austin? Well, as the saying goes, "There's no bad time to visit Austin," but some times are definitely better than others.

Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are the sweet spots. The weather is pleasant, wildflowers are blooming in spring, and the city is buzzing with events. If you're a music or film buff, you might want to time your visit with the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in March. Just be prepared for higher prices and bigger crowds. Fall brings the Austin City Limits Music Festival, another huge draw.

Summer in Austin is HOT. We're talking "fry an egg on the sidewalk" hot. But if you can handle the heat, it's a great time for swimming holes and outdoor concerts. Plus, you get to see the famous Congress Avenue Bridge bat emergence in all its glory.

Winter is mild by many standards, with fewer crowds and lower prices. It's a great time to explore the city's indoor attractions and cozy up in its many excellent restaurants and bars.

For more detailed info on the best times to visit, check out this handy guide from Austin Vacation Rentals.

Getting Around: Navigating the Texas Capital

Austin isn't the most walkable city in the world, but it's got a decent public transportation system and plenty of options for getting around. Here's the lowdown:

  1. Capital Metro Bus System: Affordable and covers most of the city.
  2. MetroRail: Great for longer trips, but limited routes.
  3. Ride-hailing services: Uber and Lyft are widely available.
  4. Bike and scooter rentals: Perfect for short trips, especially downtown.
  5. Walking: Many attractions in downtown are within walking distance.

For more details on transportation options, visit the City of Austin's transportation page.

Pro tip: If you're planning to use public transport a lot, consider getting a Capital Metro day pass. It'll save you money and the hassle of buying individual tickets.

What to Pack: Be Prepared for Anything

Austin's weather can be as unpredictable as a game of Texas Hold'em, so it's best to come prepared. Here's what you should toss in your suitcase:

  • Comfortable walking shoes (trust me, your feet will thank you)
  • Light, breathable clothing (it can get HOT)
  • A light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings
  • Swimwear (you'll want to take a dip in Barton Springs Pool)
  • Sunscreen and a hat (the Texas sun doesn't mess around)
  • A reusable water bottle (stay hydrated, folks!)
  • A portable charger (for all those Instagram-worthy moments)

And don't forget to pack your sense of adventure! You'll need it for this weird and wonderful city.

Where to Stay: Rest Your Head in the Heart of the Action

Austin has accommodations to suit every budget and style. Here are a few recommendations:

Budget: Firehouse Hostel - Located downtown in a converted fire station, it's got character and won't break the bank.

Mid-range: Hampton Inn & Suites Austin @ The University/Capitol - Great location near the University of Texas and the State Capitol.

Luxury: The Driskill - A historic hotel in downtown Austin. It's a splurge, but hey, you're worth it!

For the best experience, try to stay in or near downtown or the South Congress (SoCo) area. You'll be close to many attractions and can soak up the city's vibrant atmosphere.

Safety First: Keeping It Weird, But Safe

Austin is generally a safe city, but as with any urban area, it's good to keep your wits about you. Here are some tips to ensure your 3 days in Austin are memorable for all the right reasons:

  • Stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night in entertainment districts.
  • Keep valuables out of sight and secure.
  • Use ride-sharing services or taxis for late-night trips.
  • Stay hydrated, especially during summer months.
  • If you're planning to partake in Austin's famous nightlife, know your limits and have a plan to get back to your accommodation safely.

Remember, the locals are friendly, so don't hesitate to ask for help or directions if you need them.

Alright, now that we've got the basics covered, let's dive into our 3-day Austin itinerary. Get ready for a whirlwind tour of the best this quirky city has to offer!

Day 1: Downtown Delights and Live Music Magic

Rise and Shine in the Heart of Texas

Good morning, sunshine! It's your first day in Austin, and we've got a packed schedule that'll give you a taste of the city's history, culture, and legendary music scene. Grab your comfy shoes and let's hit the ground running!

We're kicking off our Austin adventure in the downtown area, where you'll find a mix of historic sites, modern attractions, and enough live music venues to make your head spin. Today's itinerary is designed to give you a crash course in what makes Austin tick, from its role as the seat of Texas government to its status as the "Live Music Capital of the World."

Texas State Capitol

Interior view of the Texas State Capitol dome in Austin, showcasing its architectural beauty
The intricate details inside the Capitol dome left me in awe. Did you know it's taller than the U.S. Capitol in D.C.?

Start your day with a visit to the Texas State Capitol. This iconic pink granite building is hard to miss – it's actually 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

As you approach the Capitol, you'll be struck by its imposing dome and the sprawling grounds dotted with monuments and stately oak trees. Inside, the rotunda is a sight to behold, with portraits of every person who has served as president of the Republic of Texas or governor of the state.

Take a free guided tour to learn about the building's history and architecture. The guides are full of interesting tidbits and often throw in some humorous Texas-sized tales. Did you know that the door hinges are custom-made with the state seal? Talk about attention to detail!

After the tour, take a stroll around the grounds. Keep an eye out for the quirky "Goddess of Liberty" statue atop the dome. Legend has it that she was once used for target practice by bored legislators. (Don't worry, she's been restored since then!)

Why Visit: It's the heart of Texas government and a beautiful example of Renaissance Revival architecture.

Insider Tip: If the legislature is in session (odd-numbered years), try to catch a debate. It's political theater at its finest!

  • Location: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

Lunch at Torchy's Tacos

Variety of colorful tacos on a tray at Torchy's Tacos in Austin, showcasing their unique offerings
These 'Damn Good Tacos' at Torchy's live up to the hype! The Trailer Park taco (get it 'trashy') is a must-try.

After all that history, you've probably worked up an appetite. Time to introduce your taste buds to a local Austin favorite: Torchy's Tacos. Head to their South Congress food truck for the true Austin experience.

Torchy's started as a food trailer in 2006 and has since become an Austin institution. Their slogan is "Damn Good Tacos," and let me tell you, they're not lying. The menu is a creative mix of traditional and unconventional tacos that'll make your head spin (in a good way).

My personal favorite is the "Trailer Park" – fried chicken, green chiles, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cheese on a flour tortilla. But if you're feeling adventurous, try the "Brushfire" with Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jalapeños, and mango. And don't forget to order a side of their famous green chile queso. It's so good, you might be tempted to drink it (no judgment here).

As you're munching on your tacos, take in the lively atmosphere of the food truck park. This is Austin's food scene at its most casual and creative. You might even catch some live music – because in Austin, there's always music somewhere.

Why Visit: It's quintessential Austin food in a quintessential Austin setting.

Insider Tip: Ask for your taco "trashy" – they'll replace the lettuce with queso. You're welcome.

  • Location: 1311 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 7:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Friday: 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM, Saturday: 8:00 AM - 11:00 PM, Sunday: 8:00 AM - 10:00 PM
  • Price: $-$$

South Congress Avenue

I love you so much' mural on South Congress Avenue in Austin, a popular photo spot for visitors
Couldn't resist snapping a pic at this iconic Austin mural. SoCo is full of Instagram-worthy spots!

Walk off those tacos with a stroll down South Congress Avenue, affectionately known as SoCo. This strip is the epitome of "Keep Austin Weird," packed with eclectic shops, street performers, and more photo ops than you can shake a selfie stick at.

Start at the iconic "I love you so much" mural on the side of Jo's Coffee. It's basically illegal to visit Austin and not take a picture here. Then, make your way down the street, popping into the various shops. Some must-visits include Uncommon Objects for bizarre antiques, Allen's Boots for authentic cowboy gear (the wall of boots is a sight to behold), and Big Top Candy Shop for a sugar rush that'll fuel the rest of your afternoon.

Keep an eye out for street performers – you might see everything from musicians to magicians to guys painting with spray cans. And don't miss the view of the State Capitol from the south end of the street – it's particularly stunning at sunset.

Why Visit: It's the heart of Austin's weird and wonderful culture.

Insider Tip: If the line at Amy's Ice Creams is too long, head to Dolce Neve for some amazing gelato instead.

  • Location: S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: Varies by shop, but generally 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
  • Price: Free to wander, but bring money for shopping!

Dinner at Franklin Barbecue

Long line of people waiting outside Franklin Barbecue in Austin, showing its popularity
The line at Franklin's is no joke, but trust me, it's worth the wait. Their brisket is life-changing!

Time for dinner, and in Austin, that means one thing: barbecue. And when it comes to barbecue, Franklin is king. This place is so popular that people start lining up at 6 AM for lunch service. But here's a pro tip: they recently started dinner service, and the lines are much more manageable.

The brisket here is the stuff of legend. It's so tender it practically melts in your mouth, with a perfect bark and a smoke ring that'll make barbecue aficionados weep with joy. The ribs and pulled pork are also excellent, and don't sleep on the sides – the pinto beans and potato salad are personal favorites.

Yes, it's a bit of a splurge, and yes, you might still have to wait in line. But trust me, it's worth it. This is the kind of meal you'll be talking about for years to come.

Why Visit: It's consistently rated as some of the best barbecue in the country.

Insider Tip: If the line is still too long, or if Franklin is closed, head to La Barbecue for an excellent alternative.

  • Location: 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
  • Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM (or until sold out)
  • Price: $$-$$$

Live Music on Sixth Street

Neon signs illuminating Sixth Street in Austin at night, showcasing the lively entertainment district
Sixth Street comes alive at night! The energy here is electric, with live music pouring out of every bar.

No first day in Austin would be complete without diving into the live music scene, and there's no better place to do that than Sixth Street. This historic district is packed with bars and live music venues, earning it the nickname "Dirty Sixth" (take that as you will).

Start your musical journey at The Driskill Bar, a classy spot in the historic Driskill Hotel. They often have live jazz or acoustic performances, and it's a great place to start the night with a craft cocktail.

From there, make your way down Sixth Street, popping into whatever venues catch your ear. Some favorites include Antone's for blues, The Parish for indie rock, and Pete's Dueling Piano Bar for a raucous sing-along experience.

Remember, the beauty of Austin's live music scene is in the discovery. Don't be afraid to wander into a random bar – you never know what amazing band you might discover.

Why Visit: It's the epicenter of Austin's famous live music scene.

Insider Tip: If Sixth Street feels too crowded or rowdy, head to the nearby Rainey Street for a more laid-back bar scene with plenty of live music options.

  • Location: E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
  • Hours: Most venues open from 4:00 PM - 2:00 AM
  • Price: Cover charges vary, but many venues are free

As you stumble back to your hotel, ears ringing and heart full of Texas-sized memories, you'll realize you've only scratched the surface of what Austin has to offer. But don't worry, we've got two more action-packed days ahead!

Day 2: Nature and Relaxation

Embrace Austin's Outdoor Spirit

Good morning, nature lovers! Hope you're not too tired from last night's musical adventures, because today we're diving into Austin's gorgeous outdoor scene. One of the things that surprised Sarah and me most about Austin was how much natural beauty it has to offer. Today's itinerary is all about embracing that outdoor spirit, with a mix of active adventures and relaxing experiences.

We'll be exploring some of Austin's most beloved green spaces and water features. It's a perfect way to experience a different side of the city and understand why Austinites are so passionate about preserving their natural environment. So slather on that sunscreen, fill up your water bottle, and let's get moving!

Barton Creek Greenbelt

Scenic hiking trail along Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin, showcasing the natural beauty within the city
Found this little oasis right in the heart of Austin. The Greenbelt is perfect for hiking, biking, or just relaxing.

Start your day with a hike in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, often just called "the Greenbelt" by locals. This 12-mile stretch of public land is a natural oasis right in the heart of the city. With limestone cliffs, dense forests, and a creek running through it, it's hard to believe you're still in Austin.

There are multiple access points to the Greenbelt, but I recommend starting at the Loop 360 access point (also known as the Gus Fruh entrance). From here, you can hike to some of the Greenbelt's most popular features, including the Gus Fruh Pool and Sculpture Falls.

The trail can be rocky in places, so wear sturdy shoes. As you hike, keep an eye out for rock climbers scaling the limestone cliffs – it's a popular spot for bouldering. If you're feeling brave (and the water level is high enough), you can even take a dip in one of the many swimming holes along the way.

Why Visit: It's a slice of Hill Country wilderness right in the city.

Insider Tip: Water levels in the creek can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall. Check the Greenbelt Now website for current conditions before you go.

  • Location: 3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78704 (Loop 360 access point)
  • Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily
  • Admission: Free

Barton Springs Pool

People enjoying the clear waters of Barton Springs Pool in Austin, a popular natural swimming spot
Nothing beats a dip in Barton Springs on a hot day. The water stays a refreshing 68°F year-round!

After your hike, cool off with a visit to Barton Springs Pool. This three-acre pool is fed from underground springs and maintains a refreshing 68-70 degrees year-round. It's the perfect antidote to a hot Texas day.

The pool is a beloved Austin institution, attracting everyone from families to fitness swimmers to sunbathers. The grassy hills surrounding the pool are perfect for picnicking or just lounging in the sun. If you're lucky, you might even spot the Barton Springs salamander, a rare species found only in this pool and a few nearby springs.

Take a moment to float on your back and gaze up at the sky. The juxtaposition of the natural spring-fed pool with the city skyline in the background is pure Austin magic. It's no wonder Robert Redford learned to swim here as a child – this place has been captivating Austinites and visitors alike for generations.

Why Visit: It's a quintessential Austin experience and a refreshing natural wonder.

Insider Tip: For a more secluded experience, check out the smaller Barton Springs Spillway (also known as Barking Springs) just downstream from the main pool. It's free and dog-friendly!

  • Location: 2201 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily (closed Thursdays 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM for cleaning)
  • Admission: $5 for adults (residents), $9 for adult non-residents

Lunch at Picnik

Assortment of colorful, healthy dishes at Picnik restaurant in Austin, showcasing their menu offerings
Picnik proves healthy food can be delicious too. Their butter coffee is a game-changer!

After all that swimming, you've probably worked up an appetite. Head to Picnik for a healthy and delicious lunch. This restaurant started as a food trailer and has since expanded to a brick-and-mortar location, but they've kept their commitment to high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

Picnik is known for their butter coffee (don't knock it 'til you've tried it!), but their food menu is equally impressive. Try the Harvest Hash with sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, and a perfectly poached egg, or go for the Southwest Chicken Salad if you're in the mood for something lighter.

What I love about Picnik is that they cater to a variety of dietary needs without sacrificing flavor. Whether you're paleo, vegan, or just hungry, you'll find something delicious here.

Why Visit: It's a taste of Austin's health-conscious food scene with flavors that don't compromise.

Insider Tip: Don't skip the butter coffee, seriously. It's like a hug for your brain.

  • Location: 1628 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM
  • Price: $$

Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail

People jogging on Lady Bird Lake Trail with Austin skyline in the background, showcasing outdoor activities
Morning run with this view? Yes, please! The trail around Lady Bird Lake is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.

Time to get moving again! Head to Lady Bird Lake (which is actually a river, go figure) for a afternoon of kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. The lake is surrounded by 10 miles of trails known as the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, which offers beautiful views of the Austin skyline.

Several rental companies along the shores offer kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. I recommend Rowing Dock for their friendly service and variety of rental options. Paddle out onto the calm waters and enjoy the unique perspective of the city from the lake. You might even see some turtles sunning themselves on partially submerged logs!

If water sports aren't your thing, you can always rent a bike or simply walk along the trail. The people-watching is excellent, and you'll get a real sense of how Austinites love to stay active.

Why Visit: It offers a unique view of Austin's skyline and a chance to get out on the water.

Insider Tip: Time your visit to end around sunset for a breathtaking view of the sky changing colors over the lake.

  • Location: 2418 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746 (Rowing Dock)
  • Hours: Varies by rental company, but generally 7:00 AM - 8:30 PM
  • Price: $$ for rentals

Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Watching

Bats emerging from Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin at dusk, a unique natural spectacle in the city
Witnessed the bat exodus at Congress Avenue Bridge. It's mind-blowing to see over a million bats take flight!

As the day winds down, it's time for one of Austin's most unique spectacles: the Congress Avenue Bridge bat emergence. Every evening from late March to early November, up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the bridge to feed. It's the largest urban bat colony in North America and a sight you won't soon forget.

Stake out a spot on the bridge or in the viewing area at the Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center just east of the bridge. As the sun sets, watch the sky darken with bats. The sound of their wings and high-pitched calls fills the air – it's eerie and amazing all at once.

The whole spectacle usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. It's a testament to Austin's commitment to coexisting with nature, even in the heart of the city.

Why Visit: It's a natural phenomenon unique to Austin and a must-see spectacle.

Insider Tip: Check the Bat Conservation International website for estimated emergence times based on sunset.

  • Location: Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: Best viewing times vary by season, typically around sunset
  • Admission: Free

Dinner in East Austin

Witnessed the bat exodus at Congress Avenue Bridge. It's mind-blowing to see over a million bats take flight!
Vibrant street art mural in East Austin, showcasing the neighborhood's artistic character

Cap off your nature-filled day with dinner in East Austin, one of the city's trendiest neighborhoods. This area has seen a lot of development in recent years, but it's managed to maintain its quirky, artistic vibe.

For dinner, I recommend Suerte. This modern Mexican restaurant uses local ingredients to create innovative dishes that still feel true to their roots. The menu changes seasonally, but if they have it, don't miss the suadero tacos with confit brisket. And definitely order the house-made tortillas – they're life-changing.

After dinner, take a stroll around the neighborhood. You'll find colorful street art, hip bars, and maybe even some live music (because, well, it's Austin). If you're in the mood for a nightcap, check out Whisler's for craft cocktails in a cool, laid-back setting.

Why Visit: East Austin represents the city's evolving food scene and hipster culture.

Insider Tip: If the wait at Suerte is too long, try Licha's Cantina for delicious interior Mexican food in a charming bungalow setting.

  • Location: 1800 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (Suerte)
  • Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM, Friday-Saturday: 5:00 PM - 11:00 PM, Sunday: 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Price: $$$

As you head back to your hotel, reflect on how you've experienced two very different sides of Austin in just two days. From the bustling downtown to the serene natural spaces, this city really does have it all. But don't get too contemplative – we've still got one more day to go!

Day 3: Culture, Quirks, and Culinary Delights

Embrace the Weird

Rise and shine, intrepid explorers! It's your last day in Austin, and we're going to make it count. Today's itinerary is all about embracing Austin's motto: "Keep Austin Weird." We'll be diving into the city's vibrant cultural scene, exploring some of its quirkier attractions, and of course, indulging in more of its fantastic food.

Today's adventures will take us to some of Austin's most creative and unconventional spots. From street art to offbeat museums, we'll be experiencing the unique spirit that makes this city so special. So put on your comfiest shoes (and maybe your weirdest hat), and let's dive into Austin's wonderfully weird side!

Breakfast Tacos at Veracruz All Natural

Migas breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural food truck in Austin, a local favorite
These migas tacos from Veracruz All Natural are the best way to start the day in Austin. Don't skip the homemade salsa!

Start your day the Austin way – with breakfast tacos! Head to Veracruz All Natural, a beloved local chain that started as a food truck and has since expanded to several locations. Their migas tacos are the stuff of legend, filled with eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese.

I recommend going to their original food truck location on Cesar Chavez for the full Austin experience. Grab your tacos and find a spot at one of the picnic tables. As you savor every bite, you'll understand why breakfast tacos are such a big deal in this city.

Why Visit: It's consistently rated as having some of the best breakfast tacos in Austin (which is saying something).

Insider Tip: Their agua frescas are house-made and absolutely delicious. Try the watermelon if it's available!

  • Location: 1704 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:00 AM - 3:00 PM, Saturday-Sunday: 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
  • Price: $

HOPE Outdoor Gallery

People painting on walls at HOPE Outdoor Gallery in Austin, showcasing the interactive art space
Watching artists at work at HOPE Outdoor Gallery. This place is like a constantly evolving canvas of creativity.

After breakfast, head to the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. This community paint park is one of the largest outdoor galleries in the USA and it's a testament to Austin's vibrant artistic spirit.

The gallery is essentially a massive canvas where artists can legally create street art. The result is a constantly changing kaleidoscope of colors, messages, and artistic styles. Take your time wandering around and soaking in the creativity. The art ranges from beautiful murals to thought-provoking social commentary to silly doodles.

Don't forget your camera – this place is Instagram gold. And if you're feeling inspired, you can even bring your own paint and add to the gallery! Just make sure to check the rules on their website first.

Why Visit: It's a unique, ever-changing showcase of Austin's street art scene.

Insider Tip: Wear closed-toe shoes with good traction. The ground can be uneven and sometimes slippery with paint.

  • Location: 1101 Baylor St, Austin, TX 78703
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

LBJ Presidential Library

Exterior view of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, an important historical landmark
Spent the afternoon exploring the LBJ Library. The animatronic LBJ telling jokes is... something else.

From modern street art, we're going to take a jump back in time with a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library. Now, I know what you're thinking – a presidential library doesn't sound very "weird." But trust me, this place is full of surprises.

The library offers a fascinating look into the life and times of President Lyndon B. Johnson, one of the most complex and controversial figures in American history. But it's not all serious politics – there are some genuinely quirky exhibits too. My personal favorite is the animatronic LBJ that tells jokes. It's equal parts impressive and unsettling.

Make sure to check out the replica of the Oval Office as it looked during LBJ's presidency, complete with his favorite chair. And don't miss the section on the 1960s culture – it's a groovy trip down memory lane.

Why Visit: It's an engaging blend of history, politics, and 1960s nostalgia.

Insider Tip: Look for the display about LBJ's infamous "Jumbo" moment. It's... enlightening.

  • Location: 2313 Red River St, Austin, TX 78705
  • Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: $13 for adults

Lunch at East Side King

Colorful Asian fusion dishes from East Side King food truck in Austin, showcasing their unique menu
East Side King's Asian fusion is mind-blowing. The beet fries are a must-try, even if you think you don't like beets!

Time for lunch! Head to East Side King, a local chain started by "Top Chef" winner Paul Qui. Their original location is a food truck behind Liberty Bar, but they now have several brick-and-mortar locations as well.

East Side King serves up Asian-fusion cuisine with a distinctly Austin twist. Their beet home fries are a must-try – even if you think you don't like beets. The Thai Chicken Karaage is also fantastic, with a perfect balance of crispy and juicy.

What I love about East Side King is how it embodies Austin's food truck culture and innovative culinary scene. It's unpretentious, delicious, and just a little bit weird – in the best possible way.

Why Visit: It's a taste of Austin's acclaimed food truck scene with an Asian twist.

Insider Tip: If you go to the original food truck location, you can enjoy your food in Liberty Bar with a cold beer. It's a win-win!

  • Location: 1618 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (brick-and-mortar location)
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM
  • Price: $-$$

Museum of the Weird

Display of odd artifacts at Museum of the Weird in Austin, showcasing its quirky collection
The Museum of the Weird lives up to its name. The Minnesota Iceman exhibit is particularly... interesting.

After lunch, it's time to get weird – really weird. The Museum of the Weird is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of oddities, curiosities, and all things strange. It's part dime museum, part freak show, and 100% Austin.

As you walk through the museum, you'll encounter everything from shrunken heads to real mummies to a "feejee mermaid." The highlight for many visitors is the Minnesota Iceman, a mysterious creature allegedly found frozen in ice. Is it real? Is it a hoax? You'll have to decide for yourself.

The museum also features a live sideshow performance included with your admission. It's campy, it's bizarre, and it's a whole lot of fun. Just remember – not everything is as it seems in the Museum of the Weird!

Why Visit: It's a quirky, offbeat attraction that truly embodies the "Keep Austin Weird" spirit.

Insider Tip: Some exhibits might be a bit intense for young children or the faint of heart. If you're squeamish, you might want to skip this one.

  • Location: 412 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 10:00 AM - 12:00 AM, Friday-Sunday: 10:00 AM - 1:00 AM
  • Admission: $12 for adults

Mount Bonnell

Panoramic view of Austin skyline from Mount Bonnell at sunset, a popular scenic overlook
The climb up Mount Bonnell is worth it for this view. Pro tip: bring a picnic and watch the sunset!

As the afternoon winds down, make your way to Mount Bonnell for a stunning sunset view over Austin. Don't worry – despite the name, it's more of a hill than a mountain. A short (but steep) climb up 106 steps will reward you with panoramic views of the city skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country.

Mount Bonnell has been a popular tourist destination since the 1850s, and it's easy to see why. As the sun sets, watch the city lights come on and reflect off the water. It's a magical moment that captures the beauty of Austin's natural and urban landscapes.

Bring a small picnic or a bottle of wine if you like – it's allowed here. Just remember to pack out whatever you pack in!

Why Visit: It offers one of the best views in Austin, especially at sunset.

Insider Tip: Parking can be limited, especially around sunset. Consider taking a ride-share or arriving a bit early to secure a spot.

  • Location: 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd, Austin, TX 78731
  • Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily
  • Admission: Free

Dinner at Odd Duck

Creative farm-to-table dishes at Odd Duck restaurant in Austin, showcasing their innovative menu
Odd Duck's menu changes daily, but it's always amazing. Their commitment to local, seasonal ingredients really shines through.

For your final dinner in Austin, let's go out with a bang at Odd Duck. This farm-to-table restaurant embodies Austin's commitment to local, sustainable cuisine, all wrapped up in a playfully creative package.

The menu at Odd Duck changes frequently based on what's fresh and in season, but everything is guaranteed to be delicious. They're known for their innovative small plates that are perfect for sharing. You might find dishes like grilled quail with peach barbecue sauce, or goat cheese fritters with lavender honey.

What I love about Odd Duck is how it manages to be both upscale and unpretentious at the same time. The flavors are complex and surprising, but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It's the perfect place to reflect on your Austin adventures over a great meal.

Why Visit: It showcases the best of Austin's innovative culinary scene.

Insider Tip: Don't skip dessert. Their pastry chef is a wizard, and the desserts are as creative as the main courses.

  • Location: 1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM, Friday-Saturday: 5:00 PM - 11:00 PM, Sunday: 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
  • Price: $$$

Esther's Follies

Comedy performance at Esther's Follies theater in Austin, showcasing the city's entertainment scene
Laughed my head off at Esther's Follies. Their political satire is spot-on and the magic tricks are mind-bending!

Cap off your night – and your trip – with a show at Esther's Follies. This long-running comedy theater combines magic, sketches, and musical numbers into one wild ride of a show. It's part vaudeville, part political satire, and 100% Austin.

The show changes regularly to keep up with current events, but you can always expect a mix of topical humor, amazing illusions, and plenty of laughs. The theater's large windows look out onto Sixth Street, occasionally incorporating unsuspecting passersby into the act.

As you laugh along with the locals, you'll feel like you're really part of the Austin community. It's the perfect way to end your 3 days in Austin with a bang – and a chuckle.

Why Visit: It's a beloved Austin institution that showcases the city's quirky sense of humor.

Insider Tip: Try to get seats in the middle section for the best view of both the stage and the street behind it.

  • Location: 525 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
  • Hours: Thursday: 8:00 PM, Friday-Saturday: 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM
  • Admission: $25-$35

Wrapping Up Your 3 Days in Austin

As you stumble out of Esther's Follies, sides aching from laughter, you might find yourself already planning your next trip to Austin. That's the effect this city tends to have on people – one taste is never enough.

Over the past three days, you've experienced the many faces of Austin. You've delved into its history at the State Capitol and LBJ Library, and embraced its weird side at the Museum of the Weird. You've soaked in its natural beauty at Barton Springs and Mount Bonnell, and tapped your feet to its incredible live music scene. And let's not forget the food – from breakfast tacos to world-class BBQ, your taste buds have been on quite the journey.

But here's the thing about Austin – no matter how much you see and do, there's always more to discover. Maybe next time you'll explore the emerging brewery scene in North Austin, or take a day trip to the nearby Hill Country wineries. Perhaps you'll time your visit to coincide with one of Austin's famous festivals like South by Southwest or Austin City Limits.

Whatever draws you back, one thing's for sure – Austin will be waiting with open arms, a cold beer, and probably some live music playing in the background.

Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Austin is a city that rewards exploration and spontaneity. Don't be afraid to wander down that intriguing side street, pop into that quirky-looking shop, or strike up a conversation with a friendly local. Some of your best memories might come from the unplanned moments.

As you pack your bags (probably with a few new weird souvenirs), take a moment to reflect on your Austin adventure. You've laughed, you've eaten, you've danced, and yes, you've kept Austin weird. And in doing so, you've experienced the true spirit of this one-of-a-kind city.

Safe travels, y'all – until next time!

Alternative Itineraries

For the Time-Crunched Traveler

If you're short on time and want to hit the absolute must-sees, here's a condensed itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Morning: Texas State Capitol tour
  • Afternoon: South Congress Avenue shopping and Barton Springs Pool
  • Evening: Dinner at Franklin Barbecue and live music on Sixth Street

Day 2:

  • Morning: Breakfast tacos at Veracruz All Natural
  • Midday: LBJ Presidential Library
  • Afternoon: Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail
  • Evening: Congress Avenue Bridge bat watching and dinner in East Austin

This compressed itinerary hits the major highlights while still giving you a taste of Austin's diverse offerings.

For Families

Traveling with kids? Here's how you might adjust the itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Morning: Texas State Capitol tour
  • Afternoon: Thinkery children's museum
  • Evening: Dinner at Home Slice Pizza on South Congress

Day 2:

  • Morning: Barton Springs Pool
  • Afternoon: Austin Zoo
  • Evening: Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Day 3:

  • Morning: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Afternoon: Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
  • Evening: Bat watching at Congress Avenue Bridge

This version includes more kid-friendly activities while still capturing the essence of Austin.

Remember, no matter how you spend your 3 days in Austin, the key is to embrace the city's laid-back vibe and quirky spirit. Whether you're a foodie, a nature lover, a music enthusiast, or just looking for a good time, Austin has something for everyone. So come on down to the Lone Star State and see for yourself why everyone's talking about Austin!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 9:05 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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