The first stop for a powerhouse weekend of fun, downtown Austin is where you’ll find bustling activity day and night. From the most romantic restaurants to eclectic sightseeing tours, the downtown core is compact enough for walking yet has no shortage of must-dos. Take a museum stroll early in the day, dine your way around town, then get your laughs at one of Austin's many comedy shows before hitting up the downtown nightlife.
You know those giant platters that make life easier for the indecisive? That is Fareground in a nutshell. Austin’s first food hall, located at One Eleven Congress, carries the best of the city under one roof so you can food-hop for your starter, main, side, and dessert. Our top picks: Taco Pegaso for guac and queso, Austin Rôtisserie for rotisserie chicken, and an Israeli dessert from TLV. Two on-site bars provide liquid refreshments.
Downtown’s trendiest nightlife spot promises a sinfully good time (it is spiritually themed, after all). The historic building is decked out in religious artifacts, stained glass windows, and a DJ booth made from a vintage organ. Go for a Seven Deadly Sins cocktail, like Lust (tequila, mezcal, absinthe, strawberry syrup, and blackberries) or the wickedly sweet Gluttony (vodka, heavy cream, coffee liquor, and nutmeg).
As the Live Music Capital of Texas, Austin knows how to put on a show. The Paramount Theatre is Downtown’s finest stage, not only for music but for comedy, screenings, musicals, talks, drag performances, and more. Opened in 1915, it is the oldest theatre in Austin, and legends from Miles Davis to Dr. Maya Angelou have graced the auditorium. Their annual Paramount Anniversary Gala is an Oscar Party-style night out for those looking to turn it up in a gown (when Congress Avenue is transformed into a red-carpet fiesta), but a quick look at their events calendar is sure to offer something to tickle your fancy.
As an architectural wonder and more-often-than-not official partner of virtually every major event, the Fairmont Austin is the most happening stay downtown. Towering rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows so guests can soak up skyline vistas, but don't spend all day in bed—the hotel has plenty of social spaces up for grabs that you won't want to miss. The rooftop pool is the largest downtown, lined with palm trees and a very celebratory crowd, and downstairs you'll find the acclaimed restaurant Garrison, famed for cooking up Austin’s best steak.
If you do just one thing…
Duck into the Texas State Capitol, if only for a peek at the beautiful building (it is actually taller than our nation's capitol). Free daily tours are available, too.