Austin is the darling of Texas and more people move into town than any other city in the U.S. Find a dining scene with everything from food trucks to fine dining. And the live music billows out of downtown honky-tonks or city-wide music festivals. The museums add a bit of culture and bats add a nighttime phenomenon. Read on for the Ultimate Guide to 48 hours in Austin, Texas.
Must-See Sights in Austin Texas
Austin, the capital of Texas, is definitely the state’s hot spot. Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is filled with great places to listen to music, but it’s also a great spot to get outdoors, check out the local culture, and explore the area’s history. Here are a few of the must-see sights while you visit Austin.
Outdoor Activities in Austin
There are some great outdoor activities in Austin, an area filled with mild weather most of the year. Inside the city limits, you’ll discover a number of parks and gardens. Here are a few you can check out during your ultimate 48 hours in Austin.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical Garden is beloved by Austinites, so take time to explore its 26 acres. Amble through the Tamiguchi Japanese Gardens and find the koi. Stroll through the rose gardens. Explore the woodland fairy garden.
Located at 2220 Barton Springs Road, it is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission $3 for adults and $1 for kids and seniors (cash or check only).
Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
Wander through a landscaped garden featuring the bronze sculptures of Charles Umlauf. Discover the wooded area tucked away just a few blocks from Zilker.
Located at 605 Azie Morton Road, it is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday. Adult admission is $5, seniors are $3 and kids 12 and under are free.
The Contemporary—Laguna Gloria
The Contemporary Austin is an outdoor contemporary sculpture garden. Visit and explore 18 acres of wooded landscape dotted with art. It’s the former Driscoll Villa and along the shores of Lake Austin. And stop in the Épicerie Cafe for a snack.
Located at 3809 W. 35th St. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., most days. Adult admission is $10, seniors are $5, and admission is free for kids 18 and under.
Mayfield Park is like two parks in one. The central area is a formal landscaped water lily garden with a vintage cottage. But the show stopper is the flock of peacocks that roam the property, perching in the trees.
Find an additional 21-acres of wilderness area to explore outside the landscaped area.
Located next to Laguna Gloria at 3505 W. 35th St. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission to Mayfield Park is free.
Head up the rock stairs to Mount Bonnell for some of best views in Austin. At the top, find a pavilion and look down on the Lake Austin section of the Colorado River.
This is the place to watch the sunset. Then see downtown lights of the Austin skyline twinkle on.
Located at 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd. Open daily from dawn to dusk. Free
Austin is Batty
You can’t leave Austin without checking out the famous bats. The Congress Ave. Bridge on South Congress houses the largest urban bat colony in the world.
You can stand on the bridge and look for the bats heading east over Lady Bird Lake. Or head to the Statesman Bat Observation Center at 305 S. Congress and watch from the banks.
Departing at dusk from March through October. Free
Historical and Cultural Sights in Austin
Texas has a rich history and culture that spans centuries. While Austin is filled with hip and trendy, the capital city is also brimming with art, culture, and a rich history.
Texas State Capitol
For Texans, a trip to the capital is a must. Built between 1882 and 1888, it’s actually taller than the U.S. Capitol. The capitol grounds offer shaded walking paths and the interior features the sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen Austin, by local artist Elisabet Ney.
Visitors to the Texas State Capitol have to pass through airport-style security. Parking is located at the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto Blvd.
The Texas State Capitol building is at 1100 Congress Ave. It’s open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tours are available from 8:30 to 4:30. Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with tours from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with tours from noon to 3:30 p.m. Free
Stop by the Capitol Visitors Center for more information. And the Texas Travel Center is also located in this building at 112 East 11th St. It’s not required to stop by the visitor center before heading to the Capitol Tour. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Elisabet Ney Museum
At the Texas State Capitol, you saw Elisabet Ney’s sculptures of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Originally born and educated in Germany, she immigrated to Texas in 1882.
Explore the former studio where she lived and worked. See lots of examples of her sculpture, and then continue outside to see the gardens around the museum.
Located at 304 E. 44th Street, it is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Free
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
Learn more about Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Check out the artifacts area for historic objects. And the Texas TimeLine and Interactive Texas Map explain the state’s unique history.
Located at 1800 Congress Avenue, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $13, seniors are $11, and kids (4 to 17) $9.
Shopping on South Congress in Austin
The perfect way to take home a bit of Austin is shopping on South Congress, or SoCo as the locals call it. This great stretch has plenty of eateries and hip boutiques, making it ideal for local shopping and art selfies. Here are a few of the shops you must visit during your 48 hours in Austin, Texas. Be sure to check out the famous Austin street art. It’s a fun, creative way to get the Austin vibe.
Allens Boots—If you’re looking for cowboy boots, head to Allens Boots. It’s where I bought my Lucchese boots. Or just window shop and breath in the rich leather smell. Located at 1522 S. Congress Ave.
Tesoros Trading Company—With a wide assortment of imported items at Tesoros Trading Company, you can poke around for unique finds. Located at 1500 S. Congress Ave.
Big Top Candy Shop—The kids-at-heart will love Big Top Candy Shop. This old-fashioned candy store is located at 1706 S. Congress Ave.
Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds—Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds is a costume shop that offers everything imaginable—and a catchy name. Located at 1506 S. Congress Ave.
Amy’s Ice Cream + Amy’s Cartoon People Mural—Another ATX original, Amy’s Ice Cream offers ice cream so creamy and rich, it’s worth the splurge. Located at 1301 S. Congress Ave.
Hey Cupcake + Smile Mural —Located in the vintage Airstream trailer, Hey Cupcake offers an assortment of cupcakes piled high with buttercream. Located at 1511 S. Congress Ave.
Jo’s Coffee and the I Love You So Much street art—When it’s time for a pick-me-up, stop at Jo’s Coffee. Be sure to snap a selfie at the street art on the side of the building.
Before you head out of SoCo, I recommend you check out the Willie for President mural located at the intersection of Elizabeth and S. Congress Ave.
Where to Eat in Austin
Austin has a hopping food scene. There are plenty of options for every meal. Your only problem will be deciding which options to try—and trying to figure out when to return to try the other great foodie options in Austin.
Grab an Austin-style Breakfast
Start a day in Austin with a solid breakfast. Head to the original Kerbey Lane Cafe at 3704 Kerbey Lane for stellar pancakes. I also recommend that you try the chilaquiles—a Latin specialty with crispy corn tortilla strips, queso fresco, two over-easy eggs, and a Verde sauce. Although it all started at this original small location on Kerbey, this ATX institution now offers several locations throughout Austin. Open 24 hours.
If there are two things Austinites love, it’s breakfast and tacos. So grab both at Cisco’s, an Austin Institution. Since opening in 1950, not much has changed.
Find Migas, or tortilla chips fried up with onions, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Or grab a selection of breakfast tacos a la carte. You can also sample a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary. Cisco’s is at 1511 E. 6th Street, just east of Interstate 35. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lunch Under Pecan Trees or with a View
When you have 48 hours in Austin, Texas, you also have time for a couple of lunches. Head to one of Austin’s iconic outdoor dining spots at Shady Grove. With a menu packed with burgers, nachos, salads, and queso, it offers a good selection for lunch.
Catch free live music on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. from April through September. Unplugged at the Grove features a line-up of Austin’s favorite bands.
Shady Grove is at 1624 Barton Springs Road. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Take in some Lake Austin views at Hula Hut, an ATX institution that offers boat parking and Tex-Mex with a Hawaiian twist. Try the Tubular Tacos for a Hawaiian take on a burrito. Hula Hut is at 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For a quick snack, head to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, located next to Hula Hut on Lake Austin. Find desserts, coffee drinks, and ice cream. Open 7 a.m. to midnight, most days.
BBQ for Dinner?
Usually, BBQ is reserved for lunch in Austin. Though Austin offers fancy BBQ, well, fancier BBQ.
Lambert’s offers both of best worlds with smoked and grilled meats. Order the brisket or pork ribs for smokey stables. Or sample a hanger steak or quail for grilled entrees. And chef-created sides add to the elevated BBQ experience.
Lambert’s is at 401 W. 2nd St. and is open Sunday to Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Dinner al Fresco
Add free-flowing baskets of crusty bread and butter and you’ll forget about the carbs. Pour a glass of hearty red wine, and then savor the Steak Frites, a ribeye with beurre maître d’ and perfection fries.
Justine’s is at 4710 E 5th St. It is open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., closed Tuesday.
Check Out Austin Live Music
As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin has music at every turn. For something seriously Texas, head to the Broken Spoke for a legendary Texas Dancehall. All the greats have played here—Dolly, George, and Garth. I recommend you check out the local band, The Derailers, playing most weeks.
Broken Spoke is at 3201 S. Lamar Blvd. The dancehall opens at 7:30 p.m. and bands play at 9 p.m.
Let the neon sign light the way to The Continental Club. Since 1955, it’s blended innovative lineups into a genre best called Austinesque. Find western swing to the blues, rockabilly to Latin-inspired instrumentals in this historic landmark. The Continental Club is at 1315 S. Congress Ave. Open daily from early evening to 2 a.m. Some shows charge a cover.
If You Go To Austin, Texas
Thanks to its central Texas location, Austin is a quick drive from other Texas cities. It sits about three hours south of Dallas-Forth Worth and three hours west of Houston. If you fly in, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport offers lots of direct flights from several airlines, including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, jetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and WestJet.