Austin is a destination that many vacationers flock to for a variety of reasons — more than 27 million people per year, in fact, according to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. But when’s the last time you went and did something wonderfully touristy and really enjoyed the city that you’re lucky enough to live in? Try enjoying an Austin staycation with these recommendations.
Hotel: Take a quick trip out to Hyatt Lost Pines in Bastrop for a family staycation. Though not technically in Austin, it’s just right around the corner, and it’s really hard to beat this family-friendly location. Great food (including a large dinner buffet to meet the needs of all diners), a ton of daily activities, a small water park that includes a slide that runs during the winter, and the lovely Spa Django. It’s also pet-friendly!
Activity: If you’re staycationing with older kids, especially teens, treat them to the special exhibits and activities at the engaging and innovative Blanton Museum of Art.
Activity: Barrel O Fun is one of Alamo Drafthouse’s newest offerings, a boardwalk funhouse by day, and bar by night. Check out their calendar for specially curated activities like family karaoke and sparkle parties, or just stop by for some fun before watching a movie.
Be sure to visit Free Fun in Austin for up to date activities and events perfect for families.
Food: Though a hot, steaming bowl of liquid and noodles may not fit the bill for family-friendly for all families, for those with older kids and junior foodies, Ramen Tatsuya is a yummy treat for those who like to have a little fun slurping up their dinner.
Shopping: Do a little shopping and grab a treat by stepping inside the fun duo of Monkey See, Monkey Do and Big Top Candy Shop, located near one another on Congress Avenue. Monkey See has a ton of fun, weird, and outrageous toys and gifts, and it appeals to kids from 0 to 100. Big Top Candy Shop is full of candies, chocolates, novelties, and a soda fountain.
Hotel: Drop yourself in the middle of all the action by booking a weekend at JW Marriott in downtown Austin. It’s posh, trendy, and nearly everything you’ll need — bars, shopping, nightlife, spas, are within walking distance. In fact, you won’t want to leave your hotel to get pampered, as JW has a fantastic spa.
Activity: Learn a little more about your friends as your knowledge is tested, and a few cocktails are knocked back, at a trivia night. They’re hosted all around town nearly every night. There’s a complete list on Austin.com — just search “trivia night” to find “Strain Your Brain With our Complete Guide to Trivia Nights in Austin.”
Food: Holy Roller is one of downtown Austin’s hippest choices, thanks to the decor, the bar menu, and the food menu. Their “nostalgi food with a bit of whimsy” includes some real treats, like their four different varieties of dressed fries, hot brick chicken, and West Texas mac and cheese.
Shopping: South Congress is always a great place to spend some money. There are a variety of shops and experiences, it’s easy to break into smaller groups to meet everyone’s needs, and once everyone is done filling their bags, the group can meet back up for margaritas and live music at Guero’s.
Hotel: Cozy, yet trendy, the 40 rooms that make up Hotel San Jose are cute and quiet, making for a perfect romantic getaway. The small dipping pool is the perfect size to cool off while enjoying one another’s company, followed by a cocktail and snacks in their lounge (or just have drinks delivered poolside and enjoy the sun all day).
Activity: Take a dessert tour of Austin! Skip the heavy entrees and hop right to the desserts. Many of Austin’s favorite restaurants have such incredible dessert menus, you’ll want to get multiple treats and share them. Try Holy Roller, Launderette, Uchi/Uchiko, and Sway, among many others.
Activity: Cozy up to your partner as you learn to two-step at The White Horse. Instructors from Two Left Foots are there every Saturday night at 7 p.m., ready to teach you how to slide, twirl, and really own that country and western dance floor.
Food: It doesn’t get more romantic than a classic Italian meal, served with a bottle of red wine. Vespaio is near Hotel San Jose, a long walk or quick cab ride away, and serves up pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and other classic dishes by candlelight.
Shopping: If you’re looking to add some extra spice to your staycation, Cindie’s is close to downtown on South Lamar. Stock up on lingerie, accessories, toys, and other fun romantic items to make your night extra memorable.
For the Music Lover
Hotel: Hotel van Zandt is kind of a no-brainer for music lovers – it was named after beloved Texas musician Townes van Zandt. Music is part of every bit of this luxurious hotel, from the decor to the performing stage at Geraldine’s restaurant, and it’s settled right in the middle of the Rainey Street District where live music and local DJs can be found in most of the bars in the area.
Activity: Catch a show at ACL Live and check out all of the beautiful photos of rock n roll history at the Jack + Jim Gallery in the venue. If you’ve already been to see shows there, try changing up your experience a bit and go on one of the venue tours. Of course, no “visit” to Austin is complete without snapping a selfie with the Willie Nelson statue, just outside the venue.
Activity: Country fans (and fans of fun in general) get some nice, live music, as well as a very memorable experience during Chicken Sh!t Bingo at both Ginny’s Little Longhorn and C Boy’s Heart & Soul on Sundays. Buy a bingo ticket, tap your toes, enjoy a Lone Star tallboy, and hope that the chicken chooses your spot to poop on.
Food: Stubb’s BBQ manages to be both a BBQ joint and concert venue in one. Even if you’re not staying for a show, you can enjoy dinner in a building where the likes of Johnny Cash and Muddy Waters have performed. They also have a gospel brunch on Sundays, in case you want breakfast and a show.
Shopping: Waterloo Records is the place for music lovers. If you haven’t been in a while, plan to visit during an in-store performance so you can enjoy free beer and a free show, then stick around to dig through the used vinyl bins.
For the Budget-Conscious
Hotel: Your best bet for affordability is to find an AirBnB rental and look for one with plenty of amenities like pool, exercise room, hot tub, etc. Lots of people list their condos in nice complexes for good prices. For added affordability, book one near South Congress or downtown so that you can do more walking and less paying for cabs or parking. You can also save money by cooking at least one meal in your rental, rather than eating out all the time.
Activity: Find a variety of free weekly activities on Free Fun in Austin, whether you’re looking for couples’ only activities (Date Nights) or are trying to find fun for the whole family (What’s Up Weekly and Weekend Picks), as well as a variety of activity guides that tell you all about Austin attractions.
Activity: If you’re visiting Austin during the summer months, nothing beats spending time on or under the Ann Richards Congress bridge to watch the bats emerge. Pack your own drinks and picnic, and don’t worry about the admission fee, because there is none!
Food: Brace yourselves — we’re about to make a suggestion that you’ll rarely see on a budget-friendly list — for to Uchi for dinner. Well, for early dinner. Surprisingly, the lauded sushi restaurant has an amazing happy hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every day. The Sake Social happy hour offers sake, wine, and beer, as well as nigiri, onigiri, white miso tofu, and more.
Shopping: Whether you’re looking for something practical to take back home, or just a little piece of kitsch to brighten your day, Room Service Vintage has a lot of weird, vintage items. Plus, you can spend half a day entertaining yourself digging around all of their wares.