You’re headed to the Texas state capital for a quick weekend getaway and think how will I see everything? Fear not. Austin is packed with personality, but with a small enough footprint you’ll easily get around from one cool neighborhood to the next for the best possible intro to the city. With 48 hours in Austin to explore, you can see many of the top Austin attractions and the best Austin museums. Follow our guide and you’ll also catch some of the best live music venues in what continues to be known as the Live Music Capital of the World, thank you very much. And since you’ll work up an appetite during this weekend blast through town, we’ll make sure you even know where to get the best tacos in Austin. Now that's 48 hours in Austin well spent.
RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Austin
48 hours in Austin
Besides “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin retains the nickname of “Bat City.” And with good reason, too—the Congress Avenue Bridge is the world’s largest urban bat colony with a whopping 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats living underneath it. During early evenings March through October, chill along the railing to watch this nocturnal colony emerge for an evening meal. If you’re visiting during the off-season, it’s still worth it to head to the bridge for a sunset stroll as the Austin skyline turns from yellow to orange to purple.
You’ll need to plan ahead for your first night in the city. That’s because Here Nor There not only requires a reservation, but a secret password to make it through the gated entrance. Download their app, share the code, and step into this super exclusive funky venue where the signature drink, Milk and Honey, is served in a fancy tea cup. Order a martini served with liquid nitrogen, or take it a notch further with something from the experimental menu and you’ll have speakeasy bragging rights even among locals.
Let’s be real: You came (at least partially) for the breakfast tacos, and we’re not going to deny you of our city’s official dish. To get a taste of what everyone’s talking about, head to Veracruz All Natural (there are multiple locations) for the revered migas tacos, along with some local favorites like cochinita pibil and chicken mole enchiladas. For an energy kick to last you through the day, try one of their thick and creamy smoothies.
There’s no better way to experience Austin’s natural beauty than with a trip down the Colorado River, which runs right through Central Austin. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard from Rowing Dock—or any of the other Lady Bird Lake outfitters that can be found along the river. Local tip: slather on the sunscreen, hydrate, repeat.
Most of Austin’s art museums are located downtown, so you can hit up a few in one afternoon. Start at the Blanton Museum of Art, which houses one of the largest permanent collections of art in Central Texas. It also happens to be one of the largest campus art museums in the country. Then explore what we love to be known for here in Austin: the wonderfully weird. It’s a sure bet you’ll find sideshow attraction strangeness at Museum of the Weird. Finally, learn about the city’s connection to Latino art and culture, both historical and contemporary, at the Mexic-Arte Museum.
Via 313 has long been a local favorite in Austin, specializing in hearty Detroit-style pizza. Do it right and get The Detroiter, which has smoked pepperoni tucked under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni on top. If you’re looking for a thinner crust, opt for the bar-style pies (we’re a fan of the Jack White clam pie). Then head next door to Whisler’s for an old-fashioned—arguably the city’s best—on the outdoor patio.
The Mohawk has become one of the most reputable places for musicians to perform and thanks to a tiered balcony you’ll get a great stage view no matter where you park your feet. Hit up a show there, then venue-crawl your way through this district, rooted in Austin’s punk scene (though it now caters to music of all genres). Head down the block to Cheer Up Charlie’s (an LGBTQ hot spot), cheer on the great prices at Beerland, then pause for a bit at Empire Control Room & Garage. Close out the night with a dance session at Barbarella (trust us—you won’t want to go anywhere except for your bed after Barbs).
Refresh after a hot night out by beginning your final day in Austin reconnecting with nature at Barton Creek Greenbelt (lovingly referred to by locals as the Greenbelt) and its 7.9 miles of dense forest, limestone cliffs, shallow swimming holes and hike-and-bike trails. Whether you hit up the super-popular Campbell’s Hole, the gushing Sculpture Falls or the relatively secret Lost Creek site, there’s beauty around every corner. Bring a swimsuit in case you decide to take a dip in one of the swimming holes—most notably, the popular Barton Springs Pool, located at the eastern end of the Greenbelt.
Yes, the meat is that good at Franklin Barbecue but do you really want to spend your last few hours in Austin waiting in line? It’s your call but we’d like to suggest the equally mouth-watering La Barbecue. Wow your taste buds with seriously tender brisket, but don’t miss the ribs. Oh, and the sides? At this east side trailer surrounded by a few simple picnic tables with some enormous old trees for shade, it’s the chipotle coleslaw—zestier than most with a kick to match the house-made chipotle sausage—and house made pickles that raise the total-package bar a cut above.
Before you skip town, head to the South Congress neighborhood for some retail therapy and souvenir shopping. Allens Boots has been selling premium leather footwear to tourists and locals alike since 1977. With more than 4000 boots on display, you’ll be hit with the smell of leather as soon as you walk through the door. At South Congress Books just around the corner, you’ll find a selection of well-worn vintage books and posters, along with a selection of signed first editions. Down the block, wander the aisles at Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, the pièce de résistance in the Austin costume scene. Finish your trip on a sweet note with a scoop of inventive ice cream from local favorite Amy’s Ice Creams. Try sweet cream and bourbon or avocado and lime.