If you only had 24 hours in Austin, what would you do? This is a loaded question for such a fabulous town. And the answer depends on so many things, like what part of town you’re in, what you like, how old you are and your budget.
When creating this “ultimate itinerary,” I decided to use all 24 hours. Because…why not? I also decided to focus the itinerary in South Austin, to get the most out of those 24 hours by avoiding traffic situations. You can do most of this itinerary on foot or by bike. You can also do it any time of year.
So here it is. The best 24 hours of your life…in South Austin.
4 a.m. – La Mexicana
As they say, go big or go home. So we’re starting off our itinerary bright and early at La Mexicana. La Mexicana is a family-run bakery and restaurant that’s conveniently open 24 hours a day. So grab a coffee and migas to start off the day.
1924 S. 1st St.
5 a.m. – Barton Springs
After breakfast, make your way to Barton Springs Pool. It opens every day at 5 a.m. and is free until 8 a.m. You’re likely to have the entire pool to yourself by going so early, which is amazing if you ask me. And considering the water is 68 degrees all year long, you can enjoy the springs any time of year. So dive in, take a swim and relax. This is also a good time to sneak in your first nap of the day.
2201 Barton Springs Road
7 a.m. – Morning Hike
From Barton Springs, you have two amazing hiking options. You can opt for the 10-mile trail around Lady Bird Lake (various distance options include the 4-mile eastside loop), or the 7.5 miles of trail through the Greenbelt. Both are absolutely breathtaking first thing in the morning. If you want to take this itinerary to the next level, bring your climbing gear or mountain bike, since there are several rock climbing and mountain biking options.
9 a.m. – Brunch at Austin Java
Editor’s Note: This location of Austin Java is now closed. Try Stonehouse Coffee & Bar, a local coffee shop around the corner on South Lamar Boulevard.
Whether you walk Lady Bird Lake or hike the Greenbelt, by 9 a.m. you’ll be ready to eat. Pop over to Austin Java on Barton Springs Road for brunch. Sip (another) coffee and enjoy some food. This may be the ultimate 24 hours itinerary, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush through the day. So take your time. Perhaps read a book. If you’re feeling antsy, start at Austin Java and head to one of the many local restaurants on Barton Springs Road, such as Shady Grove or The Picnic food trailer park.
1608 Barton Springs Road
12 p.m. – Zilker Park
By this time, you’ll either be buzzed from all the coffee or ready for your second nap. I strongly recommend a cat nap under one of the large pecan trees at Zilker Park, since the day is not even halfway over. But this is also a great spot to fly a kite, pick up a game of soccer or volleyball, or people-watch. You choose!
2100 Barton Springs Road
1 p.m. – Texas State Capitol
Okay, the Texas State Capitol isn’t technically in South Austin, but it is a must-see. You could walk the two miles from Zilker Park to the Capitol building. But after the morning hike, you may want to simply rent a bike to make your way over (check out B-cycle).
Schedule a tour of the building and wander the surrounding grounds, which span about 22 acres and include several statues and monuments. You can find self-guided tours on the Capitol website.
1100 Congress Ave.
3 p.m. – Shopping on South Congress
Take a stroll down SoCo–South Congress Avenue–for the best window shopping in town. This stretch of Congress south of the river has kept its quaint, small-town vibe. Pick up a pair of cowboy boots, take your photo near Jo’s iconic “i love you so much” graffiti and grab a treat at Amy’s Ice Creams. You deserve it!
4 p.m. – Happy Hour at Hotel San Jose
Hotel San Jose is one of my favorite spots in town. Happy hour is 12-5 p.m. every day, so there’s no missing out!
1316 S. Congress Ave.
6 p.m. – Dinner at Threadgill’s and Bat-Watching
Editor’s Note: Threadgill’s shuttered in 2018.
Now this is the tricky portion of the itinerary because seeing the bats depends on the time of year and when it gets dark. So you have to play the next few hours by ear. Regardless, pairing bat-watching with dinner at Threadgill’s couldn’t be more “Austin.” Threadgill’s also has live music on select evenings, so do some research beforehand.
301 W. Riverside Drive
9 p.m. – Music at The Continental Club
Now that you’re fed and happy, it’s time to move your feet to some music! There’s no better place to do so than the famous Continental Club. Another one of my favorite spots on SoCo, they have music every single night of the week. They also have an upstairs listening room called the Gallery, so you have twice the musical options. You’ll want to plan on closing down the joint.
1315 S. Congress Ave.
2 a.m. – La Mexicana
Bringing it full circle and head back to La Mexicana. But instead of coffee and migas, treat yourself to some fresh-baked pastries and call it a day!
This itinerary may seem a little extreme for those of you who live here, but it’s great for special occasions with friends or out-of-town guests.
@jpino9 wants to know:
If you only had 24 hrs in Austin, what would you do?