How to Plan a Girls’ Weekend Getaway to Austin, Texas
In recent years, Austin has experienced an explosion in tourism, and it’s no wonder: from dozens of hot new restaurants to serene lakeside beauty and one of the best live music scenes in the country, there’s a seemingly endless list of things to see and do. Not sure where to start? We did the work for you: here’s how to plan an unforgettable girlfriend getaway in Austin, Texas.
Style-seekers, prepare to fall in love with this 83-room boutique, beloved for its minimalist-chic aesthetic (exposed concrete, distressed leather sofas, and oversize windows flooded with sunlight) and trendy in-house neighborhood haunts including the 12-seat Japanese restaurant Otoko, Central Standard bar and grill, and the more casual Café No Sé (don’t miss the sweet potato beignets). Groups should consider booking the Bunkroom Suite: built for grown-up girls’ nights, it's got two sets of queen pillow-top bunk beds, a luxuriously spacious bathroom with its own dual vanity, walk-in shower, and C.O. Bigelow products; and a separate living room that opens onto a private balcony overlooking a courtyard. Have drinks there, or head up to the rooftop pool for a sunset toast overlooking downtown.
Don’t let the word "motel" dissuade you—this 41-room property is impossibly cute. Interiors are decked out in playful-yet-tasteful midcentury furnishings—think yellow leather headboards, vintage radios, and Pop Art-printed wallpaper—alongside modern amenities like USB charging ports and free-trade coconut bath products. (Note: there are no hair dryers, so you'll have to bring your own). The motel’s best features are its sizable pool, where you can sip lattes (Jo’s Coffee is right next door) and recharge after a day on the town, and its address fronting buzzy South Congress Avenue, just across the street from Austin's famous Continental Club. If you’re a light sleeper, request a room facing the pool.
It doesn't get much closer to the action than the Hyatt Place Downtown. Situated on 3rd Street, the hotel is just a short walk to the walking and biking paths along the Colorado River, the city's best restaurants and cafés lining 6th Street and Rainey Street, and the airport shuttle—and yet it manages to stay quiet when it’s time to sleep. The 296 guest rooms are contemporary and spacious—larger than those at other Hyatts we’ve stayed in—and include HD TVs with laptop hookups, WiFi, and free daily breakfast (a good way to get the group moving early). Admittedly, the Hyatt may not the hippest property in town, but it offers the best value in the heart of the city.
Set on a resplendent farm just outside of central Austin, this rustic eatery embodies the name Eden. Long farm tables accommodate groups of all sizes for $70 five-course dinners or—our favorite—BYOB weekend brunches, which feature classic southern staples like fried chicken and duck fried rice with over-easy eggs. Bring a few bottles of Champagne, mixers, and a blanket, then spend the afternoon wandering the vegetable patch or sprawled out under strands of twinkling string-lights.
If there are two things Austin is known for, it’s barbecue and music. Stubb’s, which has been around for nearly 50 years and hosted the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, combines the best of both. During Sunday Gospel Brunch ($26.95 for a view of the band; $22.95 if not), you can load up on bottomless barbecue—best paired with baked beans and brisket swimming in Stubbs’ famous sauce—as well as Southern staples like fried catfish, cornbread, grits, and biscuits. For an additional $6, you'll have access to the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, where you can garnish your (unlimited) cocktails with olives, celery, carrots, and a handful of spices and mix-ins. While you chow down, powerful voices take the stage, performing uplifting gospel tunes that—by the end of the meal—will bring the entire room to their feet.
Dessert before dinner? It's totally acceptable at this funky food truck (set up at the intersection of South First and Live Oak Streets), where you can cool off with a healthy-ish ice cream-alternative: frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, peanut butter, or vanilla and covered in decadent toppings like coffee, cinnamon, toffee, and cookies. If you’re overwhelmed with the possibilities, there's a set menu of tried-and-true combos such as the Cookie Crumble (made with Oreos and chocolate chips) and the Texas Two Step (chocolate, peanut butter, and walnuts).
For a glammed-up dinner with your favorite gal pals, do yourselves a favor a book a table at Fixe. The family photos and ornate lighting fixtures in the private dining room make you feel like you’re dining at a wealthy friend’s home rather than a restaurant. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu—pork shoulder with pinto beans and mustard greens; blackened red snapper with bone marrow and toasted farro—the sides are what really shine. Flaky hot biscuits are served with homemade jam (the recipe belonged to the owner’s grandmother), and impossibly creamy grits come three ways: vegetarian with garlicky kale and egg; pescatarian with Texas shrimp and corn; or meaty with quail, pickled pears, and pecan. Don't miss the expertly crafted cocktails—we recommend the twist on a Manhattan, made with barrel-aged bourbon and a slice of tender-belly bacon.
On 6th Street, Austin’s premier party strip, pedestrians have free reign to be as loud and hedonistic as they want—and plenty do. It’s worth a stroll (if only by day) to get into the party spirit and sample some local music, which can be heard pouring out of nearly every bar on the strip. One worth ducking into is Midnight Cowboy, a swanky, reservations-only cocktail bar and 6th Street’s best-kept secret. With just a half-dozen booths and two private rooms, you’ll feel miles away from the madness outside. Our suggestion: go before or just after dinner and get the Naked and Famous—a bitter, boozy mix of Chartreuse, Aperol, and Mezcal.
The courtyard lounge at Hotel San Jose is where Austin’s young, well-heeled crowd goes to see and be seen. The intimate foliage- and cacti-framed patio, which features a small rectangular pool (intended for photo-ops more than swimming), feels like a private resort just steps off of South Congress. Come for happy hour and order (likely several) rounds of Frozés—frozen rosé mixed with homemade lemonade, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice ($11). Refreshing, and highly 'grammable, it’s the perfect way to end the day—and kick off the night.
A 10-minute walk from downtown, this strip of old houses have been converted into young and lively bars—a perfect place to go bar-hopping and dancing whether you’re after DJs or live music. After a round of craft brews and innovative cocktails at Bungalow, head over to Container Bar—two stories of shipping containers circling a sandy dance floor—where you can dance the night away to hip-hop hits. For an all-day affair, the massive backyard at Bangers hosts Saturday smoke-outs and nightly live music. With 100-plus craft beers on tap and a menu stacked with homemade sausages—including a duck, bacon, and fig blend and a surprisingly delicious vegan version made with tempura eggplant—you can easily spend a whole day here.
One of the best things about Austin is its proximity to nature—specifically, its man-made lakes. If you’re visiting during the summer months—trust us—you’ll want to be on the water. ATX Party Boats offers captained pontoon rentals for groups, which depart from the west side of town and motor down the Colorado River toward Lake Austin. Along the way, you’ll pass impressive lakefront properties and the downtown skyline en-route to a cove, where you’ll stop to splash around and party. Half- and full-day tours both include free fuel, an ice chest, a stand-up paddle board, and a floating pad large enough for your crew to share. Be sure to pack your own food and drinks (and yes, alcohol is permitted).
Austin’s largest street art gallery is less polished (and considerably dirtier) than others like it (5 Pointz in Queens, New York and Miami’s Wynwood Walls), but it is the only place where visitors are encouraged to contribute to the ever-changing mural—ensuring no two visits are alike. (People sell spray paint on-site, but it’s better to BYO.) From the top of the staggered graffiti-covered walls, built into the side of a hill, are excellent views of downtown. FYI: the project, managed by the non-profit HOPE Events, is planned to be moved from its current location (11th and Baylor Streets) to southeast Austin this year.
Dark, divey, and intimate, the Continental Club is to Austin what CBGB was to New York—even Robert Plant has graced its stage. The legendary club hosts live performances almost every night of the week across all genres—from rock to country to jazz to roots—with a small cover charge ($5 to $10) at the door. Order a round of beers or no-frills mixed drinks from one of the tattooed bartenders, then snag a table or standing room up front—when the artists take the stage, you'll feel like you’re watching a private concert for you and your close friends.
If you’re looking for a statement piece to spruce up your weekend attire, Feathers is the best in town. The boutique specializes in bohemian and retro Americana, as well as vintage-inspired used clothing and accessories—think embroidered tunics, funky statement jewelry, batik dresses, and kimonos. Prices are on the steep side, but you won’t have to hunt; Feathers carefully curates and organizes its merch. Fall in love with something but can’t afford the splurge? You can rent items for 72 hours at 30 percent of the retail price.
Open since 1982, Waterloo has been a fixture in the Austin community well before the city was the music mecca it is today. There’s a reason it’s been named Austin’s best music store year after year, and one of the best in the country: its collection spans nearly every genre and comprises CDs, vinyl, DVDs, boxed sets, new, used, hard-to-find recordings, souvenirs, and more. There’s even an entire wall dedicated to local artists. The staff is enthusiastic and knowledgeable to guide your purchase(s). Bonus: Waterloo’s in-house performance space routinely hosts influential artists and record release parties. Our tip? Just be sure to budget enough browsing time.
Here are a few ideas on what to throw on for a weekend in ATX.
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