With the absorbed growth the city has seen over the past decade, it is clear that Austin is a happening place with plenty to do. Weather you come to eat, drink or hike, the capital city of Texas won’t let you down. While finding a list of the best things to do in Austin is never difficult, you will also surely find lines at every one of the places listed. If you are visiting Austin in 2019 however, I am here to help direct you to some of the best things to do as well as avoid the crowds.
Although Austin may pride itself in recent history for the excellent vegan dietary options, beef is still what’s for dinner. On the freshly gentrified and increasingly popular area east of 35, EastSide Tavern has a menu as loaded with deliciously smoked meats as their Frito Pie – which is a must-try. Wash it all down with some local craft beer on draft and don’t worry about waiting an hour for a table like any other restaurant similar to this in Austin. For whatever reason, this gem has remained hidden enough.
BBQ is a must when you’re in Austin but unfortunately can create the longest lines. Kerlin BBQ however tends to be overlooked due to its proximity to other popular BBQ joints like Franklin, La Barbecue, and Micklethwait. Although not as busy, if you want to try a barbecue kolache – which you most certainly do – try to arrive early before they sell out.
If you are looking for some excellent Italian food downtown with one of the nicest interior designs, look no further. La Volpe is in a great location right next to Cedar Door and has one of the best chiefs in the city with a flawless menu. The only reason there isn’t already an absurd wait for a table is because it is still fairly new. Make sure to try it out before the masses discover just what they are missing in this hidden gem.
888 Pan Asian Restaurant
When compared to other Texas cities like Houston, Asian food is usually not something I would recommend in Austin. 888 Pan Asian Restaurant however is one of the few quality options if you’re in the mood for Chinese. However, the menu covers multiple Asian cuisines such as Thai and Vietnamese as well and at decent prices. Other Austinites have caught on to 888 though so if there is a line; don’t hesitate to checkout Java Noodles next door. It’s also a great alternative when you’re in the mood for Asian.
Obviously TexMex is a must when in Austin but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some authentic Mexican cuisine as well. Fresa’s is an Austin original that offers some great homemade tortillas and salsa. With two locations, you can sit down and enjoy the amazing outdoor scenery at their South 1st restaurant or grab something quick in the drive thru at 9th and Lamar. Both have awesome walk-up windows for enjoying great tacos on the go.
If you are looking for a much more casual dining experience that offers amazing food at an affordable price and nearly no wait time, this is your place. Originally created in 2010 as an Austin food truck, this Korean Mexican fusion restaurant took off and now offers five brick and mortar locations throughout the city. By combining the Korean kimchi with the Mexican cilantro to create the name, Chi’Lantro offers a spectacular menu primarily comprised of rice and noodle bowls and absolutely nothing that doesn’t taste amazing.
Radio Coffee & Beer
With coffee, local craft beer, great music, food trucks and outdoor seating under Live Oak trees, it’s hard to make a most authentically Austin bar. Although Radio may not necessarily be a hidden gem depending on who you ask, it’s not on dirty 6th, Rainey or east 6th which means you’ll actually be able to order a drink and find a place to sit.
Strange Land Brewery
If you’re in the mood for a local craft brewery, Austin is one of the best cities to scratch that itch. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one with that itch it seems. Even with the amount of breweries in Austin, there still seems to be a long line everywhere you go. Thankfully, Strange Land Brewery is off 360 in Westlake and has become somewhat of a hidden gem in the Austin beer scene. Although the atmosphere is nothing more than actually drinking in a brewery warehouse rather than a hip bar, the beer is really good and they make one of my personal favorite local IPAs. Just look for the pink flamingos and you can’t miss it.
Although it has become a bit more popular than some of these other options, you can’t discuss Austin hidden gems without mentioning Garage. As one of the only truly hidden bars in the city, Garage is quite literally a bar that is hidden within a parking garage with an ironically upscale atmosphere on the inside. If you are looking to grab a drink here, don’t be surprised when the map on your phone leads you to an actual parking garage because you are actually in the right place.
If you’re looking for an authentic Austin dive bar full of pool tables with hipsters and locals alike but can’t stand how crowded the Mean Eyed Cat has become, Crow Bar is right up your ally. Located past the tourism on South Congress across from St Eds, Crow Bar knows exactly what it is and so do the patrons. There isn’t anything special about Crow Bar which is exactly why it is so great.
Yellow Jacket Social Club
This low-key east side bar has a weird emphasis on hipster bikers as if the next season of Sons of Anarchy was set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With a huge outdoor patio, excellent drink options and a fairly hidden location, the Yellow Jacket Social Club is one of the best places to drink off East 6th without the crowds of Volstead or HOTEL VEGAS. If it’s a weekday, you could also checkout The White Horse across the street.
The Buzz Mill
Similar to Radio, Buzz Mill offers coffee as well as beer in a saw mill themed bar you would find in the mountains of Colorado. With an enormous back patio, you can enjoy more than just great craft beer as you watch live standup comedians every Wednesday from Buzzkill Comedy. Don’t worry about closing time either because this Riverside joint stays open 24-hours with coffee.
Although there’s a surprising lack of barcade options in Austin, Pinballz Arcade holds up. Staying true to its name, Pinballz has an enormous collection of pinball machines as well as plenty of arcade games. While the Lake Creek location has a great bar, the original location is actually BYOB. Enjoy playing some classic pinball machines without having to worry about over-priced alcohol; just make sure to freshen up on the BYOB rules.
Hike & Swim
Although Austin is an excellent big city for outdoor activities, occasionally you have to venture outside the city limits for something a bit more breathtaking. While places such as Hamilton Pool, Enchanted Rock or Lost Maples offer spectacular experiences outside of the Austin, it can be nearly impossible to enjoy a full day with the enormous crowds. Krause Springs on the other hand has been a local’s favorite swimming hole for generations that is just far enough away to limit the crowds. Privately owned by the Krause Family for over 50 years, this place offers spring-fed swimming, beautiful waterfalls, a butterfly garden and even overnight camping. Definitely worth the drive.
St. Edward’s Park
Any outdoor loving Austinite knows just how busy Zilker, Barton Springs or Campbell’s Hole can get. Thankfully, there are excellent alternatives that don’t get quite as crowded. St. Edward’s Park may not be the most hidden of gems but it doesn’t get busy because of tourist, locals just know how great it is. Whether you are looking for a place to hike, walk a dog or drink some cold beers in spring-fed water on a hot day, this is one of the most underrated parks in the city. If pretty views is more your thing, don’t worry about having to find parking at Mount Bonnell or the Pennybacker Bridge Overlook, St. Edward’s Park has beautiful hill country views.
Pedernales Falls State Park
If you were planning a trip to Hamilton Pool but realized you will never be able to get in because of the crowds, I highly recommend considering Pedernales Falls State Park instead. 30 miles west of Austin through the Hill Country, the Pedernales River flows over huge slabs of limestone that creates breathtaking photos as well as amazing swimming under the shade of giant cypress trees. With a breathtaking landscape and fun activities, Pedernales Falls State Park is possibly the most underrated park in all of central Texas.
Bull Creek District Park
If you would like to enjoy the pleasant hiking trails and casual creek swimming of Barton Creek but hate the crowds, Bull Creek will be the perfect alternative. Just off 360 in Westlake sits the Bull Creek District Park that offers great hiking trails along Bull Creek that winds through the hills of West Austin. With great cliffs to climb and trails for either hiking or running with a dog, Bull Creek District Park is an excellent park inside the city with a great creek to cool off in on a hot day.