This trip was my fifth long weekend Austin and my third with SVV in tow. By now, 13 years of traveling together, we’ve gotten into a rhythm: eat, drink craft beer, get outdoors, eat some more, find some murals, photograph all the things, repeat. Austin is such the perfect place for all of that, and it easily fits in a long weekend itinerary.
Like our last visit to Austin, we had the guidance of our favorite locals: my bestie, college suitemate and wedding officiant, Lemon, and her husband, Keaney. Not one to ever let us go hungry—not even for a minute—she always has a long list of must-eats prepared for us.
Here’s how to plan a long weekend in Austin with your spouse or significant other:
Day 1: Check into your hotel
We arrived in Austin mid-afternoon thanks to a quick and easy 90-minute direct flight from Nashville, were starving so grabbed a snack at the Fulton lounge inside the Fairmont Austin upon checking in. For the next couple hours, we walked around downtown before hitting up Easy Tiger for happy hour and sampling a whole lot of Austin beers in one fell swoop.
There were plenty of restaurants within our Austin luxury hotel, but we were itching to see more of the neighborhood, so upon Lemon’s recommendation, we hopped in a Lyft (our driver was a female Presbyterian pastor!) and rode 10 minutes to Laundrette, a contemporary American-style restaurant with farm-fresh fare housed in—you guessed it—a former laundromat.
Pro tip: Laundrette doesn’t take reservations and is often slammed; the only way we were able to get a table was by sitting outside on the patio on a 100-degree night. There is, however, seating at the bar on a first-come, first-served basis.
If we weren’t 80 years olds in 35- and 44-year-old’s bodies, we would have headed out for live music—Continental Club, Broken Spoke, White Horse and Gueros all came highly recommended. But alas, food comas set in, so we chilled in our room at the Fairmont and watched the city come to life below us before hitting the hay hard.
Day 2: a little pool and spa time
The nice thing about visiting Austin in the heat of summer is that most hotels have pools, and we had nowhere to be, so—you guessed it—we camped out on the Fairmont’s pool deck for most of the day. It was blazing hot out, and we made sure we were constantly slathered up in SPF 30 as we turned shades of bronze we haven’t been in years. Another option we considered was venturing out to Blue Hole, Hamilton Pool or one of the other nearby natural swimming holes in Texas, but ultimately we thought the Fairmont’s pool was the wisest option.
We had a date with the Fairmont Spa mid-afternoon, so there was no reason to try to get out and explore before then; instead, we did work by the pool and read our books until 3pm rolled around.
We decided to keep in theme of our day and not leave the hotel for dinner. Instead, Lemon met us in the lobby and we walked to the Fairmont Austin’s Garrison, where we indulged in all the vegetarian dishes (and a steak to share for SVV and me).
And! We saw a lovely couple, Jen and Brent, get engaged in a carefully choreographed scene that he created just for her. Right next to our table!
Day 3: head into East Austin by scooter
On Friday morning, our lazy Thursday behind us, we set out to explore. We opted not to rent a car on this visit to Austin and instead were going to get around by Lyft—that is, until we saw dozens, if not hundreds, of people zipping around on scooters. Obviously, we had to jump on board that trend.
Austin has two competing services: Bird and Lime. We initially downloaded the Bird app and when we couldn’t locate any of the scooters on their app, we downloaded Lime instead and immediately found a pair just waiting for us a couple blocks away.
We Limed all over East Austin along East Cesar Chavez, stopping to admire the many art installations along the way. East Austin is brimming with public art! Many of the main corridors in Austin have bike lanes, and if they don’t, it’s safer to ride your scooter up on the sidewalk.
One important stop we had to make was at Veracruz All Natural Food Truck, known around town as the place to go for breakfast tacos. We were not steered wrong; they were everything the locals told us they would be and more!
After tacos, we continued east to Lady Bird Lake, which is flanked by a lovely greenway, before looping back and riding downtown to the Waller Creek Boathouse via the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
Paddleboarding at the Rowing Dock was on the morning’s agenda, but I’ll be honest: We were having too much fun on our scooters to stop, so we paused at the boathouse to watch the kayakers and paddlers go, then rejoined our scooters to close the downtown loop.
In case you’re wondering how much Lime cost us, the grand total was $16 each for a two-hour ride. The scooters are an initial $1 to undock, then you pay-as-you-go by time at a rate of $.15/minute. We could have, at any point, ditched the scooters and checked them back in, but we wanted the full experience so we held onto them for two hours. When you’re done, you simply drop the scooters wherever you are, check back in via the app and leave. It’s such a cool way to get around town, and we saw so many people using this method of transit.
In the app, it shows you the area of coverage you can take your scooters in within your designated city, and Austin has a very wide radius, so we could have gone nearly anywhere we wanted. Austin doesn’t have a helmet law, but there are free helmets available for borrow if you feel safer with one. We just stayed off of main streets and chose wide, roomy neighborhoods to scoot through instead.
That afternoon, we met up with Lemon at the famed Franklin Barbecue to pick up lunch. This was my first visit to Franklin because, well, I think this line says it all.
But Lemon being a local gave us invaluable information: You can actually place your order online weeks in advance, then pick it up at the back window during your designated time slot and avoid all lines.
We headed back to Lemon’s house and chowed down on brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork, with a hearty order of sides. Despite Lemon being a vegetarian, she made sure we did not miss a thing! The Great Dane clean-up crew was on hand to finish anything we did not.
When we were done and had all indulged in post-BBQ naps, we headed back to East Austin, this time by car, for Blue Owl Brewing, aka a brewery that does all sours, aka the key to SVV’s and my hearts.
Every night at dusk, a strange thing happens in Austin, and that’s that thousands of bats leave their beneath-bridge perch to prowl for an evening snack. None of us had ever seen the bats of the South Congress Bridge, so we arrived around 8pm to check them out. There’s no designated time the bats make their flight—they’re wildlife, after all—but it’s usually around the time the sun goes down.
Despite getting there an hour before that, the bridge was absolutely packed and we were at least three rows back; if you really care about the bats, you should stake your turf a couple hours early or head out for a sunset paddle or river cruise and watch from atop the water. They’re a tricky thing to photograph, so we just enjoyed their flight before heading our merry way. Here’s a handy guide to checking out the Austin bats.
After the bat viewing, we walked over to Fareground, Austin’s first food hall that’s located downtown just a couple blocks from the river and the perfect place for a quartet of food lovers to dine because we were able to order a smattering of cuisine from many different vendors and try a little bit of everything.
Day 4: brunch, murals and other weekend fun
We had a lazy Saturday morning, and when we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we headed over to Tiny Boxwoods for brunch. I immediately felt like I’d been transported to New England, as it had a certain yuppie vibe to it you don’t find elsewhere in Austin, but the food was also amazing and the decor just my style.
From there, we headed around town via car on a mural hunt. It’s not a trip to a city if we’re not on the lookout for the best murals, and Austin has a ton of them. We didn’t even set out knowing where any of the locations were; we simply drove and had Lemon pull over whenever we saw a cool wall to shoot.
The most iconic one, the Greetings from Austin mural, is located in South Austin at 1720 S 1st St. on the exterior wall of Roadside Relics.
We weren’t far from my favorite Austin neighborhood, which has gotten absolutely chaotic since my first visit a decade ago. South Congress is home to some of the city’s most photographed stops, like the Mr. Rogers and Willie Nelson murals, in addition to Allen’s Boots.
South Congress is also a great place to do some local shopping, and we found a quaint crafts market put on by one of the local churches.
That afternoon, we kicked it at (512) Brewing Company, named for the Austin area code and a spot that is definitely off the beaten path in an industrial area, but one of my favorite Austin breweries by far. In Austin, you can’t technically sell pours of beer, so instead you buy chips, tickets or, in this case, guitar picks, which you cash in for pours. We planned to stay an hour, then head to our next brewery, but nearly three hours later, we were very invested in Jenga and had ordered pretzel delivery from Frank. As one does. Also, WORTH IT.
I can’t think of a better Austin send-off than dinner at Uchiko, sister restaurant to Uchi. If it’s any indicator of how awesome a place this is, the waiters knew Lemon and Keaney by face because they’re in there so often. We put our fate in their hands and ordered a little bit of everything—then came back for seconds of several of the dishes.
Don’t miss the: shishito tempura, hana cauliflower dish, and the milk ‘n cereal dessert. The jasmine cream was also positively delightful, though it sounded weird to me when Lemon first suggested it. Take her advice, though, go in a big group and order one of everything, both on the main menu and the dessert menu.
Had we not had a 6am flight back to Nashville, you know another brunch would have been in our future. Lemon recommends Counter Cafe, Holy Roller, 24 Diner, Phoebe’s and Eberly, and luckily I’ll be back in her part of the woods in September so I can check off all those off then.
I also missed Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin at the Blanton Museum of Art, Loro, The Cavalier, Live Oak, Lazarus, Suerte, Jester King and a whole lot of classic murals like the “you’re my butter half” wall, so all of those are going on my next Austin itinerary.
A big thanks to Lemon and Keaney for showing us a good mix of local and tourism favorites.
What’s one must-do for you on any trip to Austin? Send me your recommendations before my next trip there, please!
For more Texas travel inspiration, check out these posts:
- Meet Austin’s Glitziest New Downtown Hotel, the Fairmont
- Beat the Crowds at Hamilton Pool (+ Other Texas Swimming Holes)
- Highways & Byways: The Ultimate Texas Road Trip
- Austin Like a Local: Eat, Drink, Play
- A Luxury Getaway, Deep in the Heart of Texas