Answers from Our Experts (1)
If you had only one day to see Austin, this is how I would suggest you spend it:
Wake early and treat yourself to breakfast tacos at either Torchy’s Tacos, TacoDeli, or Tacos Veracruz on Cesar Chavez. Not only are breakfast tacos something you can’t leave Austin without having, but these will give you sustenance to power through the rest of your jam-packed day (well, until lunch).
From here, it’s a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure. There are always plenty of Segway tour groups zipping around town and the Land and Lake Duck Adventures tour takes you on an amphibious tour of downtown and Lake Austin . If this is your cup of tea, it could be a great way to see more of the city and learn about the history from someone whose job it is to tell you about it. (But be warned: the latter does, in fact, hand out duck beak noise makers for all participants to use at will. Just sayin’!)
If you are not so much the touring type, you might opt to walk off those tacos with a self-guided tour of the Capitol, followed by a stroll down South Congress, where there are shops aplenty and great people watching. If you’re there until lunch, Hopdoddy is a great burger bar, and Perla’s has fantastic seafood. (But since you do only have one day in this scenarios, you might want to opt for Texas barbecue or Mexican food by hitting up any of the recommendations listed in this post.)
By the afternoon, you’re going to most likely need a swim (assuming it’s warm weather season). Barton Springs is another must-see for out-of-towners. The spring-fed canal remains a cool, constant 68 degrees and the tree-shaded hills are perfect for lounging and reading to the tune of bongos, guitars, and sometimes even a didjeridoo if you’re lucky.
After a shower (and potentially a quick nap if you need one), it’s time to change for dinner and a glimpse of Austin nightlife. But first-- watching the world’s largest urban bat colony take flight for food is an activity that’s not to be missed! This mass bat exodus happens around sundown-- usually between 8 and 8:30pm. They can be viewed from the Congress Bridge, from an adjacent viewing area, or from a bat tour boat.
For dinner, you can’t go wrong choosing from any of the restaurants on this list. However, Congress and Trace are closest to the bat bridge, and both would be impeccable choices which focus on local ingredients. Do be sure to make reservations ahead of time for any of the fine dining establishments I’ve listed. (And several do not take reservations, in which case you can anticipate a 1-2 hour wait).
Afterward, choose an area to get drinks (West 6th Street is preppy, “Dirty Sixth” between Congress and I-35 is wild coed-central, the Warehouse District is gay and clubby, Red River/Seventh is a grungy crossroads for live music, hipsters reign on Sixth Street east of I-35, and Rainey Street is a newer district that attracts mostly yuppie psuedo-hipsters). But since they all honestly run into each other, why not take a stroll through through downtown for the full scenic tour? (On weekends, Dirty Sixth is a sight to behold on par with the likes of Bourbon Street...definitely worth taking a gander, if only for novelty purposes!)