So, you've decided to visit Austin, Texas — the live music capital of the world. You've heard so much about it, but you're still not sure what to do in Austin for a weekend. Well look no further, traveler, because our travel guide to Central Texas’ most famous city has you covered! From the vibrant and energetic downtown to the beautiful and relaxing hills out to the west, our Austin itinerary will give you three nights in Austin you won't forget.

Quick Answer Guide to the Most Popular Neighborhoods in Austin

‌Cool and Unique Areas of Austin‌

  • Best for museum lovers: West Campus
  • Best for lovers of urban nature: Zilker
  • Best for folks who like the quieter side of cities: Hyde Park

‌Hidden Gems of Austin‌

Most Popular Neighborhoods in Austin

These are some of the most famous places in Austin. Live music, weird art, wild bars, all the things that put this town on the world stage, can be found here. No matter who you are or where you end up staying, these are the places no traveler to Austin can afford to miss.

1. Rainey Street Historic District

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  • Perfect For:‌ Party animals
  • Highlights of Rainey Street Historic District:
    • Trendy bars
    • On the river
    • Near downtown

Rainey Street is one of the coolest places in town. The center of Austin nightlife, it's home to the hippest bars and wildest clubs the city has to offer. If you like to party, then head on down to Rainey Street.

‌How to Get to Rainey Street‌

Only 13 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Rainey Street is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Head west on Highway 71, then north on I-35 and you'll be there in no time.

‌Things to Do on Rainey Street‌

Rainey Street Historic District is known for its nightlife. Bars like Unbarlievable and The Tipsy Alchemist are a must-visit for anyone looking to party on their Austin weekend trip. If you get tired from all that partying and need to relax, the beautiful banks of the Colorado River are just a stone's throw away. Rainey Street is a perfect first stop on anyone’s Austin itinerary

‌Where to Stay Near Rainey Street‌

The Hotel Van Zandt on Davis Street is as close to the action as you can get. With live music, a rooftop pool, and a great location to boot, the Hotel Van Zandt has everything you could possibly want from your Austin experience. Just minutes from the bars and the river, you won't have to miss a second of your vacation experience.

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Mint House at The Hatchery is a vacation rental overlooking Lady Bird Lake. It offers a space that's up to three times larger than a hotel room, as well as free Wi-Fi and an on-site washer/dryer. All this while being just across the highway from Rainey Street itself.

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2. South Congress

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  • Perfect For:‌ Those who like to keep it weird
  • Highlights of South Congress:
    • Unique shops
    • Delicious food
    • Historic places

If you've heard the motto "Keep Austin Weird" and wondered what exactly it means, South Congress holds the answer. Full of art, food, and curiosity, this area is the soul of the city. If I had to pick one place in Austin no one should miss, it would be South Congress.

‌How to Get to South Congress‌

South Congress is about 13 minutes from the airport. Just head west on Highway 71 and you'll get to the street in no time. To see the most interesting parts of it, you'll want to make a right and get closer to the river. When you see the Capitol building, you’ll know you’re there.

‌Things to Do on South Congress‌

South Congress Avenue is the quintessential Austin experience, and no Austin itinerary is complete without it. Sate your curiosity in cute and weird shops like Big Top Candy Shop, Allens Boots, and Uncommon Objects, and grab some brunch at top-notch eateries like Magnolia Cafe and Bouldin Creek Cafe.

You can also check out Austin’s famous food trucks, many of which are very near this area. You can get breakfast tacos at Torchy’s Tacos, or check out Jo’s Coffee for a pick-me-up. Then, you can walk up South Congress and take a guided tour of the Texas State Capitol. On your walk you’re likely to see some of Austin’s street art, including the iconic “i love you so much” mural. Oh, and don't forget to see the Lone Star State’s famous Mexican free-tailed bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge at night.

‌Where to Stay Near South Congress‌

The Hotel San Jose is found in Austin's artsy So-Co region (local slang for the South Congress district) and is known for its sleek, modernist styling. Each room comes with hardwood furniture set in an earthy, warm color palette. Amenities include complimentary wireless internet, locally-designed bathroom amenities, and flat-screen TVs. Unique complimentary rentals, like Polaroid cameras and an original Remington typewriter, let you document your visit to this historical property in a fittingly retro fashion.

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This vacation rental is a cute apartment close to South Congress. It is fully furnished with coffee, tea, a fully stocked kitchen, and both on and off street parking. You won't lack for things to do, with the Town Lake Hike and Bike trail and tons of restaurants close enough to walk to.

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3. Red River Cultural District

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  • Perfect For:‌ Music lovers
  • Highlights of Red River Cultural District:
    • Live music
    • Clubs and bars
    • Near other downtown attractions

They don't call Austin the live music capital of the world for nothing. Red River is packed with venues of all shapes and sizes, playing every kind of music you can imagine. Just walking down the street you'll hear the sounds Austin is famous for.

‌How to Get to Red River‌

Like most places downtown, Red River is about 15 minutes from the airport. Just head down Highway 71 West, then take I-35 North up to 8th Street. Take a left and you'll be there.

‌What to Do in Red River‌

The Red River Cultural District is perfect for the music lovers. Clubs and venues like Cheer Up Charlie's, the Mohawk, Swan Dive, and Valhalla deliver live music and great dancing every night. Truly the center of Austin's music scene, Red River is one place no weekend trip to Austin is complete without.

‌Where to Stay near Red River‌

The Driskill Hotel, built in 1886, was once the luxurious home of an Austin cattle rancher, replete with a marble lobby and massive stone pillars. Today, it's a 189-room hotel found just outside of downtown Austin's 6th Street entertainment district. All rooms are decorated with local artwork and house custom-made hardwood furniture and beds, plasma TVs, stone-tiled bathrooms, imported European bathroom amenities, and complimentary high-speed internet.

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This vacation rental is right in the middle of downtown. It offers a deck with a great view of downtown, as well as easy access to not just the Red River district, but Rainey Street and Sixth Street as well. It's also quite close to Lady Bird Lake, if you want to spend some time enjoying the water.

Downtown Vrbo cottage Book Now

Cool and Unique Areas of Austin

While not exactly off the beaten path, these neighborhoods are a bit less well known to outsiders. They still have plenty of attractions, some of which are quite famous, but they're maybe not what immediately springs to mind when you think "Austin." If you've already seen the major sights, or are just looking for something a bit more laid-back while still getting the authentic Austin experience, these neighborhoods might be more your speed.

4. West Campus

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  • Perfect For:‌ Museum lovers
  • Highlights of West Campus:
    • Blanton Art Museum
    • University of Texas Campus
    • Harry Ransom Center

The University of Texas is one of Austin's most recognizable areas. While it's a top rated school for sure, it's also a bit of a cultural haven. Walking around the beautiful 40 Acres, you'll find some of the most fascinating museums and historic buildings the city has to offer.

‌How to Get to West Campus‌

West Campus is about 20 minutes from the airport. Getting there is as simple as heading north on US-183, then a lovely drive up Airport Boulevard. Once you hit Manor Road, head west across I-35 and you'll see UT Tower in no time.

‌Things to Do in West Campus‌

In addition to the great restaurants and bars that can be found all over Austin, West Campus is home to some of Austin's best museums. The Blanton Museum of Art houses artwork from all time periods, and is free to the public on Thursdays. The Harry Ransom Center rotates its main exhibits quite often, but one of the constant highlights is Austin's very own Gutenberg Bible. The Bullock Texas State History Museum will give you a glimpse into the city’s Texan past. Also be sure to get some dessert at Amy’s Ice Cream on Guadalupe Street.

‌Where to Stay in West Campus‌

The Moxy Austin is a hip hotel right on the north edge of campus. Among other things, it features a bar and 24-hour tacos in the lobby. A complimentary cocktail at check-in tells you everything you need to know about this place.

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This cute little cottage is right by the college. It comes equipped with two bedrooms, cable TV, and internet. It's also pet-friendly, so if you want to bring your furry friends, you're covered!

Campus Vrbo cottage Book Now

5. Zilker

  • Perfect For:‌ Lovers of urban nature
  • Highlights of Zilker:
    • Zilker Botanical Garden
    • Barton Springs
    • Zilker Park
    • South Lamar

From large natural areas, to bustling streets full of food and shops, Zilker really has it all. Zilker Park is one of the best spots in Austin, with hiking trails, spring-fed pools, and a playground for the kids. If you're here in the summer you can even catch a play at the Zilker Hillside Theater. It's an area that truly has something for everyone.

‌How to Get to Zilker‌

Zilker is about 15 minutes from the airport. Take Highway 71 into the city, then exit onto Menchaca Road heading north. Then just keep heading north once you get to Lamar Boulevard, and you'll be at Zilker in a jiff.

‌Things to Do in Zilker‌

Zilker has the perfect mix of natural and urban life. The main highlight is Zilker Park, which houses the amazing Zilker Botanical Gardens, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and the refreshing Barton Springs pool. The 3-acre pool is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68 to 70 degrees — perfect on a hot day and swimmable even in winter — and the bottom of the pool is the river bed bottom.

It’s also the home of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, if you happen to be in town for it. However, there are also plenty of fun things to be done in the South Lamar area, with plenty of restaurants and urban life to keep your trip interesting. Be sure to check out Chuy’s Tex-Mex to get a taste of Austin’s Mexican food, and Black’s for some quintessential Texas BBQ.

‌Where to Stay in Zilker‌

The Carpenter Hotel is a luxury hotel on the north end of the Zilker neighborhood. Close to Lady Bird Lake, it boasts an outdoor pool and terraces in every room. It also has its own coffee bar, which has $5 espresso martinis at their daily happy hour.

Carpenter Hotel - Austin Book Now

This cottage is a vacation rental on the south side of Zilker. They are dog-friendly, and have a yard with an outdoor grill. They also offer beach towels and chairs, which is perfect if you decide to take a dip at Barton Springs.

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6. Hyde Park

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  • Perfect For:‌ Folks who like the quieter side of cities
  • Highlights of Hyde Park:
    • Elisabet Ney Museum
    • Cute coffee shops
    • Blue Velvet Vintage Clothing

Hyde Park is a historic neighborhood in Austin, and its quiet charm feels quite different from the noise and lights of downtown. The streets are perfect for walking, and the neighborhood cats are quite friendly. Hyde Park is an oasis of calm right in the middle of the busy city.

‌How to Get to Hyde Park‌

Hyde Park is about 20 minutes from the airport, a pretty straight shot to the northwest. Take Highway 71 to 183 North, then head west on Airport Boulevard. Once you get across I-35, you're in Hyde Park.

‌Things to Do in Hyde Park‌

Hyde Park is a historic residential neighborhood in Austin, full of quirky houses and singing birds. It's home to some of the city's best coffee shops like Epoch and Quack's, as well as restaurants like Hyde Park Bar and Grill. Be sure to try some of Austin’s famous Tex-Mex at Julio’s Cafe. The area is also home to some local breweries, like Lazarus Brewing Company and the Draught House Pub and Brewery, so be sure to try some of their wonderful craft beer. It's a lovely neighborhood for walking, and Shipe Park on 45th Street has free public tennis courts. Also be sure to check out the sculptures and lovely architecture of the Elisabet Ney Museum.

‌Where to Stay in Hyde Park‌

The Commodore Perry is a beautiful estate-turned-hotel in the heart of Hyde Park. It has stunning architecture and is surrounded by lovely gardens and a courtyard. Complete with a pool, it's one of the classiest hotels in the city.

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The Hyde Park Carriage House lets you experience what life is like for the neighborhood's locals. It's close to the best restaurants in the area, and has a private outdoor patio to boot. Taking in the Texas evenings on the front porch will have you feeling right at home.

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Hidden Gems of Austin

These are the out of the way parts of the city, the outer areas that most tourists don't think to visit. These neighborhoods are perfect for travelers who want to see Austin more like the locals do, or just those who have already seen all the big sights. These neighborhoods are often more quiet and natural, though they still boast plenty of fun, Austin activities.

7. West Lake Hills

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  • Perfect For:‌ Nature lovers
  • Highlights of West Lake Hills:
    • Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
    • Barton Creek Greenbelt
    • Red Bud Isle

If you're tired of the city and want to get back to nature, West Lake Hills is the place to go. The beautiful hills of West Austin offer stunning views of the river and greenery straight out of the countryside. The hills of Austin are some of the most beautiful scenery the great state of Texas has to offer.

‌How to Get to West Lake Hills‌

As you can probably guess, to get to West Lake Hills you need to head west. Head west on Highway 71 to US-290, then head north on the scenic Capital of Texas Highway. From there, head north on Westlake Drive and you'll be there.

‌Things to Do in West Lake Hills‌

West Lake Hills displays the more natural side of Austin. Go for a hike at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve or the Barton Creek Greenbelt, or go kayaking at Red Bud Isle. If your weekend trip to Austin needs a bit more nature in it, head out to this spot in the Texas Hill Country.

‌Where to Stay in West Lake Hills‌

Hotel Viata is a romantic getaway among the trees of West Lake. Despite its close location to downtown Austin, this retreat feels like another world. The patio is perfect for watching the sunset, and they offer a lovely pool as well.

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This lakeside Airbnb condo has floor-to-ceiling windows, offering a stunning view of Lake Austin. It has a fully stocked kitchen, and a comfortable living room. Despite the proximity to downtown, it is completely removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.

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8. Lakeway

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  • Perfect For:‌ People who love being on the water
  • Highlights of Lakeway:
    • Out of the way
    • On the river
    • Boating

Lakeway is famous for, well, the lakes. More specifically, its calm sections of the Colorado River offer numerous opportunities for aquatic relaxation. If you need to get out of the city but don't have time for a real trip, Lakeway offers a secluded experience much closer to home.

‌How to Get to Lakeway‌

Lakeway is way across town from the airport, so it takes about 45 minutes to get there. It's a pretty straight shot west on Highway 71, then a nice drive down Farm to Market Road 620 out to the water.

‌Things to Do in Lakeway‌

Lakeway is way out west, offering a quieter side of the river that runs through the heart of Austin, Texas. Life out in Lakeway is all about the Colorado. It's a great place to go boating or paddle boarding, and restaurants like Captain Pete's Boathouse offer a dining experience right by the water. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing long weekend in Austin.

‌Where to Stay in Lakeway‌

Situated on the shores of Lake Travis, the Lakeway Resort and Spa is a world away from downtown Austin. With tranquil surroundings and spectacular views across the lake, guests can unwind in a relaxing atmosphere and enjoy all the benefits of a first-class hotel at the same time. All rooms feature flat-screen televisions, wireless internet access, and study desks, and guests have the option of either lake view rooms or hill country views. On-site facilities include 3 swimming pools, a restaurant and lounge, and a fitness center; nearby are several recreational facilities such as a sailing academy and a golf course.

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This little cottage is dog-friendly, and has outdoor grills and fire pits. Located out in the hills near Lakeway, it has beautiful views and clean, modern decor. Three nights in Austin would be well-spent here.

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9. North Burnet

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  • Perfect For:‌ Lovers of variety
  • Highlights of North Burnet:
    • The Domain buildings
    • K1 Speed
    • Balcones Park

North Burnet is home to The Domain, a charming outlet mall that feels like a town itself. The area is also home to parks, restaurants, coffee shops, and more. It's basically a microcosm of the city itself.

‌How to Get to North Burnet‌

North Burnet is about 30 minutes from the airport, all on major highways so you won't get lost. The directions are simple: Take Highway 71 West, then US-183 North, and then the last leg is on North Mopac.

‌Things to Do in North Burnet‌

North Burnet is an eclectic area, showcasing many different things to love about Austin. The Domain has all the shops you could ever dream of laid out like their own little village. Also nearby is K1 Speed indoor go-karts, if you're looking for a bit of a thrill. North Burnet doesn't skimp on the green space either, with Balcones Park just across the highway from the Domain.

‌Where to Stay in North Burnet‌

Lone Star Court is a charming hotel at the Domain in North Burnet. It offers complimentary bicycles, fire pits, an outdoor swimming hole, and a great location. On top of all that, they also have live music every weekend.

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This Vrbo apartment is perfect for group trips, and is right in the heart of the Domain. It has a private balcony and a great location, close to tons of shops and restaurants. If you're celebrating something like an anniversary or a birthday, they'll even set up decorations for you.

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10. Bee Cave

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  • Perfect For:‌ Animal lovers
  • Highlights of Bee Cave:
    • Austin Zoo
    • Hill Country Galleria
    • Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park

Way out in the southwest of Austin, Bee Cave is another beautiful and hilly area of town. If you're an animal lover, this is definitely the part of town for you. The Austin Zoo and Barton Creek Habitat Preserve are both nearby, with many critters to meet and observe in each.

‌How to Get to Bee Cave‌

Bee Cave is about 30 minutes from the airport, but it's a straightforward drive. Just head west on Highway 71 and you'll be there in a flash.

‌Things to Do in Bee Cave‌

The biggest highlight in Bee Cave is the Austin Zoo. Open Monday through Friday, they have (among others) capybaras and Galapagos tortoises. Bee Cave is also home to the Hill Country Galleria, so you can get some shopping done while you're here. If you want an adventure, be sure to check out the Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park.

‌Where to Stay in Bee Cave‌

Sonesta Bee Cave in Lake Travis, near Bee Cave, is a comfortable and modern hotel within a few minutes of the Austin Zoo, Lake Travis, and Lady Bird Lake. Bee Cave is about 17 miles from downtown Austin, so this hotel is right in the middle of a quieter side of Austin.

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This one bedroom Airbnb apartment is only a five-minute walk from the Hill Country Galleria. It has access to a gym, pool, and a Zen garden. The apartment is also wheelchair accessible.

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I hope this list has shown you the variety of vacations that is possible when you plan a weekend trip to Austin — whether you decide to stay in the funky South Congress district, the quieter Hyde Park, or the waterside area of Lakeway, there's so much to do here. Happy vacationing!