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How to Hit Austin Hard in 24 Hours

Jam-Packed Itinerary Will Jumpstart Your Stay in the City

Article by Brooke Roberts

Photography by Brooke Roberts

If you find yourself in Austin, the Texas state capital, for just a hot minute, you might feel a bit overwhelmed deciding what to do, where to go, what to eat and drink, and which of the incredible live music venues you need to experience. 

Don't worry, friends. This 24-hour itinerary will give you a taste of this vibrant and culturally diverse city in Texas, or jumpstart your stay in all the right ways. 

Morning: Time for a Fatty

You're going to need a jolt of sugar and caffeine for everything we're packing in today, so head to Gourdough's Big Fat Donuts for some innovative donut creations and coffee (and other adult libations). They have brick and mortar locations, but we prefer the "food truck" vibes of their airstream located at 1503 S 1st St., Austin, TX.

Mid-Morning: Time For ‘Church’

After your morning stomach grumbles are squashed, head to the Cathedral of Junk to experience one of the oddities that helps "Keep Austin Weird." Make sure you give them a call during breakfast to schedule your visit—it's by reservation only and requires a $5 donation per adult. 

But we promise you, it's worth the five bucks you'll drop to explore this life-size sculpture made entirely of...well...junk. Vince Hannemann began building the Cathedral in 1988 and it's taken on many forms and lives over the past 30-plus years. Bonus points if you get a chance to see their adorable and friendly chihuahuas. 

Pre-Lunch: Congress Street Explorations 

Before we head to lunch (yep, we're eating's Austin!), time to explore South Congress Street—locally known as SoCo. This eclectic neighborhood of local boutiques and eateries combined with big brands like Toms and Warby Parker is a must-stroll for anyone visiting (or living in) Austin. 

And don't forget to grab your pic at the iconic "I love you so much" mural at Jo's Coffee

Lunch: Carry a Torch for Austin 

Okay, now that you've worked up an appetite, it's time to fill your bellies with a local Austin icon—the taco. I mean. Did you even go to Austin, if you didn't eat tacos? And did you even eat tacos, if you didn't eat Torchy's Tacos? Nope. 

While Torchy's has locations all over Austin (and Texas) including the original taco truck, we headed to the joint conveniently located on South Congress Street. 

I don't think there's a bad thing on the menu, but we loved the Fried Avocado and Independent (both vegetarian) plus the carnivore options of the Trailer Park and the Crossroads. Yum. 

Afternoon: Soak It All In

It's Austin. It's hot. Even in the winter. But if you find yourself there in the summer, you're going to need to cool off after all that sun and all those tacos. One of the best things about Austin in the summer time is the access to natural springs, pools, and lakes...all within the city limits. You can kayak around Lady Bird Lake, take a dip in the cold spring water at Deep Eddy Pool, or do what we did and head to Barton Springs Municipal Pool

The pool is filled with ice cold natural spring water and cost $9 for visitors ($5 for Austin locals) to enjoy all day. Bring your floaty, towel, sun screen, and some cold (non-alcoholic) beverages and plan to relax all afternoon. 

Parking can be a bit crazy during the weekend hot summer days, so consider parking at your Airbnb and taking a Lyft or Uber to save your sanity. 

Evening: Next Best Thing to BBQ

After a few hours at Barton Springs, we headed back to our Airbnb for a little rest and to get showered and changed for our evening out. 

Here's the deal...when you go to Texas, you should always try to enjoy some BBQ while you're there. But being from Kansas City where BBQ rules all other BBQ (I know those are fighting words), we decided to opt for the next best thing. 

Instead we headed to Loro, an Asian smokehouse and bar from the masterminds Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue—both James Beard Award winners so you know it's legit. 

And legit it was. We had the Oak Smoke Beef Brisket sandwich and the Char Siew Pork Belly rice bowl. 

After dinner, stroll down South Lamar about a mile to a beautiful—but little known—spot to view the Austin city skyline. It's the Alamo Draft House parking garage. I know it sounds strange, but do it anyway. Head to the top level which has a perfect spot to see the full width and scale of the city skyline and its new towers and apartment buildings. Bonus points if you stop off at Lick Honest Ice Cream to grab a cone first. 

Late Night: Time to Get Dirty

Like tacos or BBQ, you can't really experience Austin until you've listened to some live music. Continue your walk down Lamar from Alamo Draft House to the famous Saxon Pub. This iconic spot is small and intimate, letting you get up close and personal with bands that typically play much larger venues. 

We were lucky to see the Dirty River Boys from the front row and only purchased our tickets the night before. The cocktails and beers are very affordable (just $8 for a whisky soda) so you can afford to indulge a little. 

Grab your Lyft or Uber home and hit that pillow knowing you hit Austin hard, y'all! 

Follow Brooke Roberts @thenewdorothy