The Perfect Getaway: A long summer weekend in Austin
This summer, the party is in Austin. Head to Texas for a long weekend getaway filled with good eats, live music and Instagrammable artwork. | By Cynthia J. Drake | May 18, 2023
Known for barbecue, brisket, live music and big festivals, the capital of Texas has plenty to explore beyond those signature experiences. Point your boots in the right direction to make the most of your long weekend getaway in Austin.
Texas traditions: Find your favorite breakfast taco and barbecue joint and perfect your two-step
Hill Country beauty: Spread out in spacious parks and enjoy a beautiful hike
Keep Austin weird: Commune with bats and laugh till you cry at a sketch comedy show
After arriving in Austin and dropping off your bags at Canopy by Hilton Austin Downtown — your centrally located home base for the next few days — head to pedestrian-friendly South Congress Avenue for an afternoon of vintage and boutique shopping. This former countercultural epicenter, now with a decidedly trendy vibe, is the place to be for a true taste of the local retail scene. Browse for statement cowboy boots and western wear at Allens Boots or pick up an authentic made-in-Texas souvenir from Parts & Labour.
When you get hungry, grab a simple slice from Home Slice Pizza, a local landmark, or a heartier meal at community chophouse Maie Day. Get your caffeine fix with coffee from Jo’s. While you’re there, be sure to snap a pic by the famous I Love You So Much mural.
Coffee in hand, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, one of Austin’s most popular paths.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
Named after a former Austin mayor and his wife, this beloved 10-mile urban trail meanders along Lady Bird Lake. Visited by over two million people per year, this scenic recreational area in downtown Austin is an outdoor mecca for runners, walkers and cyclists.
Continue your urban exploration at a slightly faster pace with an eco-friendly bike ride through the city. Located less than a mile from the State Capitol, downtown restaurants and entertainment, Canopy by Hilton Austin Downtown offers guests complimentary Canopy Bikes for an easy (and fun!) way to tour the town.
Texas barbecue inspires intense debate and passion here. For a flavor twist, check out Egyptian-Texan fusion newcomer KG BBQ at Oddwood Brewing, which serves innovative creations like pomegranate glazed pork ribs. For tender brisket and pulled pork by the pound, follow the long line of devoted locals and visitors to Franklin Barbecue. Helmed by James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin, this Austin hot spot has garnered a national following that includes presidents, renowned chefs and celebrities.
After dinner, spend an evening of laughs and magic at Esther’s Follies, a sketch comedy troupe and an Austin tradition since 1977 with a frequently updated ripped-from-today’s-headlines show. Best of all, it’s less than a mile from your hotel home base, meaning a nightcap at on-property restaurant Verbena is just a quick walk (or ride!) away.
Join Austinites for one of their favorite activities: weekend brunch. Go beyond run-of-the-mill bacon and eggs by styling your own brunch crawl at Fareground, a downtown food hall with six eateries and two bars, where you can nibble your way from bao to tacos — all washed down with mimosas, of course. Prefer a side of theater with your eggs? Head to Halcyon Coffee Bar in the 4th Street Warehouse District for a drag and burlesque brunch that’s beloved citywide.
Take a stroll through The Contemporary Austin — Laguna Gloria, a lush outdoor sculpture garden just 5 miles (8 kilometers) from downtown. Grab a bite to eat at the on-site cheese-centric cafe, Spread & Co. Insider's tip: If the weather’s nice, this makes for a great picnic. Nearby is Mount Bonnell, one of the city’s highest points at 781 feet (238 meters) with picturesque views of the city, as well as Mayfield Park and Preserve, where you can roam with peacocks.
Head back to your hotel for a quick refresh before heading out again for a dinner of Neapolitan pizza at Bufalina Due. After you’ve had your fill of the delicious wood-fired pies, pull on your dancing boots for a night of honky-tonks and a taste of authentic Austin.
Visit Broken Spoke, a rip-roaring dance hall since 1964, where the late owner’s daughter, Terri White, offers two-step lessons on select evenings.
Open since 1964, Broken Spoke is where music legends and music lovers come together for a good time. Be sure to inquire about a Texas two-step dance lesson or enjoy dinner and show. This country music dance hall has hosted presidents, governors and stars from all genres of entertainment, so you know you’re in for a legendary evening.
If you just can’t get enough of good music, you’re in luck. Known as the live music capital of Texas, Austin has something for every listener. Scratch your musical itch with a choose-your-own-genre adventure — the Continental Club, an old-school venue featuring country, rock, blues and rockabilly, Antone’s for the blues, Elephant Room for jazz and the Cactus Cafe for acoustic. Pinch yourself if there’s a show at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater (ACL Live), the iconic 2,700+ capacity venue that helped stamp Austin as the state’s live music capital.
Savor an under-the-radar Sunday morning event enjoyed by locals of all faith traditions: gospel brunch at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. A deeply moving experience, this legendary venue downtown serves up phenomenal spiritual music from a rotating group of gospel singers, along with a delectable all-you-can eat Southern breakfast and barbecue spread (all the greats have played here, from Johnny Cash to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and John Lee Hooker). Reserve your tickets in advance, and keep in mind that you’ll be able to hear — and feel — the music whether you’re upstairs or downstairs.
Embrace the great outdoors with a relaxing afternoon in Zilker Metropolitan Park, a blanket of 351 acres (142 hectares) of green space right in the heart of Austin.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
Considered Austin’s most beloved park, Zilker Metropolitan Park is home to a variety of recreational activities, sports, theater, music events and more. Play disc golf on a full 18-hole course or enjoy a friendly volleyball match at one of five courts before renting a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board to take out on Lady Bird Lake. Zilker Botanical Garden is a great place to observe native plants, while The Great Lawn is where you’ll find some of Austin’s favorite annual events like the Blues on the Green summer concert series.
Ten minutes by car from Zilker Park you can continue your cultural journey through Austin with a visit to the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas. The Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas at Austin campus unveiled a new outdoor redesign with sound and sculpture installations in the spring of 2023. What's more, its permanent collection features more than 21,000 works of art including European paintings, prints and drawings, modern art and contemporary American and Latin American art.
End your day with a dinner splurge at Olamie for elevated Southern cuisine (be sure to order the off-menu biscuits). Then experience Austin’s local colony of Mexican free-tail bats with a cruise on Lady Bird Lake with Lone Star Riverboat or Capital Cruises, from late March through September. The largest urban bat colony in North America — estimated at 1.5 million — resides underneath the city's famous Congress Avenue Bridge, and lends Austin its moniker, Bat City. Watching the bats from the bridge at sunset is a local favorite.
As you head out of town, grab one last breakfast taco from Austin Taco Project at Hilton Austin. No one will blame you for wanting to tuck a jar of salsa in your luggage and taking a fresh tortilla for the trip home.
Though you’ve danced and dined your way through Austin, there’s so much more to do on your next trip back. As they say: “Don’t be a stranger.”
Travel writer Cynthia J. Drake has lived in Austin for a decade and enjoys seeking out off-the-beaten-path restaurants and activities. She writes regularly for Texas Monthly, Texas Highways and Southern Living.
Canopy by Hilton Austin Downtown
Located in the West 6th Market District, our hotel is less than a mile from the State Capitol, downtown eats, and entertainment. The University of Texas and Zilker Metropolitan Park are within three miles. Our complimentary Canopy Bikes are perfect for a ride along the trails of Lady Bird Lake. Relax in a cabana at our elevated pool terrace with skyline views and a seasonal bar.