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Where to Stay in Austin in 2023 | The 5 Best Areas

Where to Stay in Austin in 2023 | The 5 Best Areas

Where to stay in Austin? The short answer to this question is: wherever you like! Austin is very big and considerably developed, with a lot of hotels, restaurants, shops, museums, parks, attractions, and general things to do.

It’s not a small thing to be the capital of Texas since being the main city of the second largest and most populated country in America really builds up expectations. However, Austin delivers in every possible way.

Where to Stay in Austin

Austin is definitely in the big league — it’s the 11th most populous city in America. Having that in mind, it’s not surprising that Austin has it all, nor is it an exaggeration. It has a rich and diverse cultural and historical heritage, vibrant popular culture, exciting nightlife, and great live music.

On top of that, it has parks, rivers, and lakes. Being the capital of Texas, most of the cultural, historical, and monuments of the second-biggest state in America are located in Austin.

The White House of Texas — the Texas Governor’s Mansion — is located in the city’s center. The State Capitol Building is also here, and it’s a sight to behold! Those are some of the things that make you feel like you’re walking through the Washington DC of the South.

Austin’s culture and history are mainly expressed through its innumerable museums. There’s the “usual” stuff, like historical and natural museums, but also much, much more. Austin proudly speaks of itself as a “weird” city — and the adjective is used in a completely positive way.

Most of all, Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” There are a lot of venues, concert halls, nightclubs, venues, and festivals. Simply put, you’ll see (and hear) everything: from up-and-coming youngsters and amateurs to Grammy award-winning professionals, in no small part due to the captivating Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Finally, the Colorado River runs through the city and is next to the famous Zilker Park. Lovers of nature and the great outdoors will have the time of their life in the park since it offers everything for the potential visitor: biking, hiking, cycling, picnicking, and walking.

And so, the circle closes: Austin really has it all.

The 5 Best Parts of Austin

Image of a map with an upclose focus showing where to stay in Austin

Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock

Austin is a big city, and like all big cities, it has many different districts and neighborhoods — so different from each other that you may feel, as you cross from one to another, that you’ve traveled to another city.

But that’s a good thing, too, since every one of them has something specific and quite distinctive to offer.

  • Downtown: The best place for first-time visitors to Austin because of its versatility — in short: a lot of history, museums, hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • Red River Cultural District: If you’re looking for exciting nightlife and a vibrant, live music scene, this is the right district for you.
  • East Austin: The most “authentic” part of Austin, full of city art, murals, and very cheap accommodation options.
  • South Congress (SOCO): The best and most interesting shops in town and some of the weirdest things in Austin.
  • Zilker: Located next to the Colorado River and Zilker Park, it’s the most family-friendly area in Austin, especially great if you’re a lover of outdoor activities.

Austin’s Best Areas and Hotels

In short, some of the best hotels in Texas are in Austin. Also, and that must be emphasized at the beginning, almost all of them are pet-friendly and customized for serving people with disabilities. That’s both very humane and very convenient.

The downtown of the city — but also some of the other districts — boasts extreme luxury in the form of five-star hotels of great beauty, class, and historical importance. The Driskill in Downtown Austin is an obvious example, but it’s not the only one.

Simply put, if you are looking for luxury, you won’t have to look hard in Austin. A Four Seasons, a Marriott, or a Sheraton is always around the block. The same holds for mid-range options. There are plenty of great three-star hotels in Austin in all of its districts.

Some mid-range hotels lean to a more budget-type price (and quality), but there are many more two-, three-, or four-star hotels that lean to the luxurious type.

That being said, there are also budget hotels in Austin, but the city is far from the cheapest accommodation-wise. You’ll find two or three budget options in every neighborhood (in some more than in others), but not much more.

1. Downtown

The downtown area, one of the best areas to stay when visiting Austin, pictured from the riverbank looking up at the bridge and the skyline

Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

Downtown Austin is the perfect place for first-time visitors to this beautiful Texas city. Like all the other Downtowns, in all the capital-like cities, it’s the center of its life — the heart of the city, so to speak.

You’ll feel the atmosphere of the typical business day; see the historically memorable buildings; join the most exciting tours; and visit the most famous museums. In a few words, you’ll take your first steps on your definitive Austin adventure.

The first thing you should do is to simply walk around and stroll the streets of the city center. The most important landmarks of Austin are in Downtown, so make sure you take a good look at them. The State Capitol Building has its origins in the 19th century.

The Texas State Library and Archives is also here, and the Texas Governor’s Mansion — which is basically Texas’s White House. Also, close by are some of Austin’s most important monuments: the Texas African American History Memorial, the Heroes of the Alamo Monument, and the Ten Commandments Monument.

All of them are really close to each other, and you can see them in a single stroll. While you’re in a culture and history-induced ecstasy, visit some of Austin’s most important museums.

Bullock Texas State History Museum, Blanton Museum of Art, and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin are next to each other — each offering a different perspective on the city’s culture. The first one is about the history of Texas, the second has over 18,000 exponents in its collection, and the third is quite contemporary and weird (in the good sense of the word).

Like every other downtown, Austin offers a variety of options regarding shopping, accommodation, and food. The same goes for restaurants: the variety is practically infinite.

Finally, some of the best hotels in Austin are also here. Starting from luxurious and historic places like the five-star The Driskill to many four and three-star mid-range hotels and innumerable budget places. As we said, a great place to start your Austin аdventure!

Things to Do

  • Feel the vibe of the city and look at it from some unusual perspective by joining some of the many tours available. The Double Decker Austin Single Loop Sightseeing Tour is an obvious choice for newcomers; the Austin Downtown walking tasting tour with Secret Food Tours is simply made for foodies; Capital of Texas Segway Tour for history buffs; and Haunted Austin Walking History Tour is perfect for those who want to see the weird side of the city.
  • Austin’s Downtown may look like a paradise for museum lovers. Go on a museum tour, and make sure you visit the big three: Bullock Texas State History Museum, Blanton Museum of Art, and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin.
  • Explore the shopping potential of Downtown Austin. We recommend you go to 2nd Street District for the boutiques, to the SFC Farmers Market at Republic Square for the food trucks, and to The Austin Visitor Center for the Austin-themed memorabilia, like shirts, cups, posters, etc.
  • Grab a bite at some of Austin’s most unique and tasty restaurants. Go to Wu Chow for modern Chinese food, La Condesa for Mexican, or Red Ash for Italian. Continue to some of the clubs: drink cocktails at Roosevelt Room or craft beer at HandleBar.

Where to Eat

  • Roaring Fork is an exciting Southwestern restaurant that gives off an old-school vibe. They usually prepare their food on a simple wood fire — like in the Old West — using both fresh and simple ingredients in an innovative way. Here you can eat either pork, lamb, chicken, or fish dishes.  
  • Wu Chow is a restaurant that offers modern and contemporary Chinese food. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and takes takeaway orders online. While you eat here, you can sit either inside or outside on the beautiful patio. The soup dumplings are especially great.
  • III Forks is the Traveler’s Choice for 2022. It’s a luxurious place with a club-like atmosphere, famous for its steaks and American cuisine in general. Their Tomahawk steak is especially famous, but the seafood and the drinks are also great.

Downtown Budget Hotels

  • Modern, CozyCouple’s Getaway w/Relaxing Patio! is a very cheap three-star hotel located in the center of Austin just one kilometer away from the Capitol building. It offers free parking, free Wi-Fi, and constant air-conditioning. And the rooms have a bedroom and a fully equipped kitchen.  
  • Super 8 by Wyndham Austin Downtown/Capitol Area is a great two-star hotel right at the center of Austin’s Downtown. It has free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and a nice outdoor pool. The grab-and-go breakfast is particularly suitable for visitors who want to spend most of their time strolling the city.

Downtown Mid-Range Hotels

  • The Westin Austin Downtown is a great and beautiful four-star hotel with a rooftop pool, bar, and restaurant on the premises. The restaurant — named Stella San Jac — offers American Southern food, and the rooftop bar has a great variety of cocktails. The premium rooms in the hotel offer a great city view of Austin.
  • Fairmont Austin is another four-star hotel in Austin’s Downtown that offers a pool, spa and wellness center, a bar, and a lot of eating facilities on the premises. The hotel is properly customized to receive and take care of disabled guests, and it’s completely pet-friendly.

Downtown Luxury Hotels

  • The Driskill, in The Unbound Collection by Hyatt is at the same time an exquisite, modernized, and luxurious hotel and a landmark, signifying Austin’s rich historical heritage. Built in 1886, it offers a city view, a richly decorated interior and rooms, a bar, a restaurant, a terrace, and live music almost every night of the week, usually provided by Grammy-winning artists.
  • Four Seasons Hotel Austin is a luxurious facility in the true sense of the word. Very expansive, it offers an indoor heated pool filled with salt water, beautifully furnished rooms, a spa and wellness center, a bar, and an on-site restaurant. The hotel is also pet-friendly. 

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2. Red River Cultural District

The Red River Cultural District, one of the top picks for where to stay in Austin, pictured with people standing outside a club

AUSTIN, TEXAS, USA – March 15, 2019: People crowd Sixth Street in Austin Texas during SXSW festival in March 2019. This historic street is famous for its live music bars /Rolf_52/Shutterstock

Basically the southern part of Downtown Austin, Red River Cultural District stretches between the 4th and 15th streets, and it’s the most fun part of town. The streets are lined with clubs and cafes that play live music all the time.

Red River Cultural District offers both the best music and the best nightlife in all of Austin. It may remind some people of New Orleans’s Bourbon Street or the Las Vegas Strip.

You can listen to all kinds of performers here: from amateurs and up-and-coming bands to professional performers and famous names. One thing is constant: the whole street moves in the rhythm of the blues standards that Austin is famous for.

We can recommend some of the better-known places, but our list is far from complete:

  • Barbarella is a great place with a versatile program. On Tuesdays, it’s time for TuezGayz; Thursday is rock and roll night; 80’s night on Friday; and New Noise on Saturday.
  • Elysium is unpredictable in the best sense of the word. You never know what you may find there, from neo-goths, horror drag shows, or an 80s night. Alternative is the best word to describe this place.
  • Empire Control Room & Garage is perfect for lovers of hip-hop and soul. It has quite a distinctive look because it’s an Auto shop transformed into a club.
  • Mohawk is a great place for rock lovers, a place that has both outdoor and indoor stages, plus a rooftop. Here you may also find stand-up comedy shows.

There’s one more thing you have to know if you’re a fan of live music and have a taste for nightlife. The first week of every January is called “Free Week.” At that time, almost all the venues don’t charge for tickets. It’s up to you to tip them well!

Things to Do

  • Just have a crazy night out — that’s the main reason why you’d choose Red River Cultural District. The list of clubs is unbelievably long, but here are some of them: Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Swan Dive, Barbarella, Elysium, Empire Control Room & Garage, Mohawk, Cheer up Charlies, etc.
  • The restaurant scene is as versatile and great as the nightlife scene. You can’t party on an empty stomach, can you? Go to the Asian-inspired Koriente, Arlo’s food truck, have a Jersey-style pizza at Hoboken Pie; or cornflake-fried chicken at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill.
  • Just stroll the streets and listen to some good music. There’re a lot of street performers on the streets of the Red River Cultural District that are quite good at what they do.  You might just end up listening to the next Grammy-award-winning performer.
  • Just a block away from Red River Cultural District, you’ll find the Museum of the Weird. It goes hand in hand with the general weirdness of the area, with its exhibitions of mummies, monsters, UFOs, freaks of nature, Fiji mermaids, and other paranormal things. It’s really a shame to visit Austin and not visit this place.

Where to Eat

  • Arlo’s Truck is perfectly typical of Austin and Red River’s general atmosphere. It’s open till 2 o’clock AM and offers burgers, tacos, and other types of food that you need after a long night of singing and drinking. It also has great and tasty vegan and vegetarian options.  
  • Hoboken Pie is another place that works till late at night (until 2:30 am) and offers a crunchy and cheesy Jersey-style pizza. It also has pick-up and delivery.
  • Pelón’s Tex Mex is a great Mexican restaurant. It’s famous for its hot fajitas and tasty margaritas that you can grab before the show starts. It also offers all the other Mexican classic dishes, like burritos.

Red River Cultural District Budget Hotels

  • La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Austin Capitol / Downtown is a relatively cheap three-star hotel with a pool and a gym. The term budget applies to this hotel only in a relative sense because there are no cheaper and less luxurious hotels in the area. Like almost all hotels near Downtown Austin, it has facilities for disabled people and is pet friendly.
  • Firehouse Hostel is a one-star hotel and the only real budget option in this area. It offers family rooms and a bar on the premises. The facilities for disabled people are also an obvious plus.

Red River Cultural District Mid-Range Hotels

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown, an IHG Hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a collective sun terrace. It has free Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel and its area, private parking, and customized facilities for disabled people. The rooms are specially furnished for families, and there’s a great breakfast in the hotel’s buffet.
  • Hyatt House Austin/Downtown is a great-three star hotel with a swimming pool, a bar, a  buffet, and a barbeque facility on the premises. The buffet offers a great breakfast every morning, consisting of sausages, bacon, and an omelet. Like most hotels in the area, it has facilities for disabled people, and it’s pet friendly.

Red River Cultural District Luxury Hotels

  • Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol has large rooms equipped with 32-inch flat-screen TVs, a working desk, and a coffee machine. The hotel has a swimming pool and a restaurant on the premises. The restaurant — The Yard — offers Southwestern, local cuisine. It’s also customized with facilities for disabled people, and it’s pet-friendly.
  • Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown is an IHG Hotel is a luxurious three-star hotel with a huge outdoor pool. It also has a business center, a gym, a bar, and a sun terrace on the premises. The hotel offers evening entertainment for the guests at the bar almost every night.

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3. East Austin

Aerial shot of the suburbs in East Austin, one of the top picks for where to stay in Austin

Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

Located on the East side of the city center is the area simply called East Austin. It’s the most up-and-coming neighborhood in Austin and has a reputation as the most authentic part of town.

In the past, it was a working club neighborhood, but through the years, the hipster culture got hold of it — precisely because of its working-class origins. Today, it’s probably the coolest place in Austin, boasting many hip restaurants and cafes, interesting galleries, and a lot of street art.

It’s also the most walkable place in Austin. As we said, the streets are full of street art and murals, and it’s quite a joy simply to walk through them and absorb the creative atmosphere that surrounds you from all sides.

Your mural-searching walk should culminate in George Washington Carver library, where you’ll see literally one of the best murals in your life. It’s the personification of the unique Tejano style that’s distinctive of the art climate of East Austin.

There are some nice museums too, just like Downtown. You should definitely visit these three:

  • George Washington Carver Museum is completely dedicated to preserving and exhibiting African-American material culture. Simply put, it’s the best place for celebrating black culture and blackness in general.
  • Texas Music Museum is the second on the list. As Austin is completely dominated and absorbed in music, it’s completely logical to have an institution that’ll tell its history. Almost every month is a celebration of something else, some distinctive tradition, ethnic group, etc.
  • The Republic of Texas Museum is quite simple and straightforward: to educate its visitors about the history of Texas and its people.

Accommodations in East Austin are quite cheap and potentially available to everyone. It’s not as crowded as Downtown, and the hotels offer both great quality and a lower price. All in all, it’s a great base for your Austin adventure, allowing you to feel the authentic vibe of the city — murals, music, museums, and everything else.

Things to Do

  • East Austin is the best place for walking in the whole of Austin. It’s not as crowded and full of tall buildings as the downtown on the one hand, and it’s full of murals and other forms of street art on the other hand. Some say that the streets of East Austin reflect the most authentic art impulse of the city. Take a walk, and find out for yourself if they’re right.
  • Visit the three museums available in East Austin, all of them telling a different story about both the city and the wider region. George Washington Carver Museum collects Afro-American material artifacts and narrates the story of blackness in America; Texas Music Museum is about the rich and diverse history of music that Austin has to offer; The Republic of Texas Museum tells the story of the state of Texas and its people.
  • East Austin is famous for its Latin culture. So, if you want to find out more about the rich culture and history of the so-called Tejano, join the Tejano Walking Trail, established in 2012. It will show you all the aspects of their culture, from businesses to churches and arts.
  • Austin, in general, is famous for its food. The same holds for this part of town, full of hipster restaurants and cafes that you simply have to visit if you want to feel the authentic Austin atmosphere. Visit Justine, Franklin Barbecue, Launderette, Buenos Aires Café, Dai Due, or Salty Sow.

Where to Eat

  • Justine’s is a hipster French brasserie with an equally hip menu. It’s basically a bungalow with a beautiful patio, serving steaks and snails in combination with classy wines and innovative cocktails. The restaurant is the perfect representative of the hip side of Austin.
  • Franklin Barbecue offers probably the best barbeque in Austin, and the line in front of the restaurant can stretch up to six hours! But it’s worth it because the restaurant has won every possible barbeque-related award. It’s mostly famous for its brisket and ribs, but you won’t make a mistake with any meat on the menu.
  • Launderette is located in a converted gas station, and its point — quite hip — is to look like it’s not even trying. Despite its looks, it offers one of the best burgers and hummus in the area. Just don’t forget to try their most famous dessert: the ice cream sandwich.  

East Austin Budget Hotels

  • Super 8 by Wyndham Austin Downtown/Capitol Area is a nice two-star hotel that offers air-conditioned rooms with a microwave and a refrigerator. It’s quite cheap, has a business center, and offers a free breakfast. On top of all that, it has an outdoor pool.
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Austin/University/Downtown in the northern part of Austin is a nice and cheap two-star hotel. Every room has a coffee machine, a refrigerator, and a microwave. Continental breakfast is served in the mornings, consisting of cereal, pastries, and juice.

East Austin Mid-Range Hotels

  • East Austin Hotel is a great three-star hotel that has a sun terrace and a swimming pool. The rooms are nicely furnished with seating areas, a desk, and cable TV, and there’s also a restaurant and a bar on the premises. The hotel is completely pet-friendly and customized for servicing disabled people.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Austin-University Area is another three-star hotel, part of the Hilton Chain hotels. It’s quite cheap in relation to what it offers, having a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises. The rooms are quite nice, and the hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast.

East Austin Luxury Hotels

  • ARRIVE Austin is a great four-star hotel. It has a restaurant, a bar, and a terrace on the premises, and it also provides free parking for its guests. It’s especially suitable for couples, and like almost all hotels in Austin, the place is both pet-friendly and has facilities for disabled people.
  • Sentral East Austin at 1630 E Sixth is another four-star hotel in the area, especially suitable for couples. There’s a beautiful sitting area in the hotel’s garden and a practical gym on the premises. The rooms are furnished in a modern way, equipped with all facilities. The sitting areas look really appealing.

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4. South Congress (SOCO)

Aerial image of Soco, or south congress, pictured for a piece on where to stay when visiting Austin

Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

South Congress or SOCO — as its residents commonly call it — is the best neighborhood for shopping in all of Austin. Just to the south of Downtown Austin, connected to it by the incredibly long 1st street, it was once a simple rural area.

Today, it holds both the best shops in town and an unforgettable view of the Texas State Capitol. The usual brands are obviously here, but that’s not what made this area famous — the typical Austin weirdness did it.

Here are some of the most unusual shops you just can’t miss:

As you can see from all of the shops on our list, SOCO is quite weird — there’s no denying that. But one place definitely holds first place. Uncommon Objects is an emporium where you can find anything you can think of or anything you’ve never thought of.

The weird, the bizarre, and the wonderful: all of them have their place here. Concerning food and accommodation, South Congress is not weird at all.

It’s a genuinely lovely place with a lot of beautiful and not very expensive restaurants. The same holds for the hotels too. You’ll find both budget and luxurious accommodations with a lot of mid-range hotels in between.

Things to Do

  • Experience the completely weird side of Austin and visit Uncommon Objects. Full of unusual, eccentric, and bizarre stuff, you can spend your whole day here, digging through the oddities. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something here that you didn’t even know you needed.
  • Visit the hilariously named Cathedral of Junk in South Congress. If Uncommon Objects is the shopping center of the weird, then Cathedral of Junk is its museum. Founded in 1988 by Vince Hannemann, today, it contains around 60 tons of junk. By some standards — probably the standards of weird — it can be considered one of the most interesting galleries in Austin.
  • South Congress holds probably the best and most interesting bookstore in the whole of Austin. Go to South Congress Books and visit the place that specializes in many things: art, photography, music, literature, old books, first editions, and vintage children’s books. You can buy everything here — from expensive first editions to the new works and editions written by local writers.
  • If you want to prepare for next year’s Halloween, or you’re a fan of drag, or just enjoy cosplay and masks, don’t you dare miss the store with the most unusual name: Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds. The store covers more than 8,000 square feet.

Where to Eat

  • Twin Peaks is weird and nice like the famous TV series. It’s mostly famous for its waitresses and American comfort food, but the burgers and the selected bourbons are especially nice. The interior is lodge-like and adds to the comfortable and warm atmosphere.
  • Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse is a nice, family-friendly pizza place with a friendly vibe. They’ve made pizzas from scratch — using only fresh and natural ingredients — for more than 30 years, and they’re not planning to stop now. They also offer a great variety of Texas craft beers and vines.
  • Jalisco’s Restaurant & Bar at Austin, TX is another family-friendly place that’s existed for around 30 years. Serving traditional, homemade-styled Mexican food, its main mission is to make its customers feel like they’re at home. The tequila list — by the way — is also quite extensive.

South Congress (SOCO) Budget Hotels

  • WoodSpring Suites Austin South Central I-35 is a decent two-star hotel with a fitness center on the premises and available laundry facilities. The rooms are air-conditioned and have free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Finally, the hotel is both pet-friendly and customized for welcoming people with disabilities.
  • Comfort Suites – South Austin is a nice two-star hotel that offers free Wi-Fi throughout the area and an indoor free gym. There’s also breakfast every morning, and you can bring your pet with you because the hotel is completely pet-friendly.

South Congress (SOCO) Mid-Range Hotels

  • Red Roof Inn PLUS+ Austin South is a very cheap but great three-star hotel. It offers a lot: it has an outdoor pool, for example. Also, you can get coffee, tea, and a newspaper every morning in the lounge and bring your pet with you.
  • Casulo Hotel is another relatively cheap, three-star hotel. It boasts a swimming pool, a sun terrace, and a restaurant that offers Asian cuisine. The rooms are pretty great, with a refrigerator, a hair dryer, and tea and coffee machines available. It’s particularly suitable for couples.

South Congress (SOCO) Luxury Hotels

  • South Congress Hotel is the most famous hotel in the area. A small but very stylish boutique hotel, it has an outdoor pool, a gym, and a bar on the premises. The rooms are just beautifully furnished, and room service is available at any moment. Finally, there are shops on the premises and an ATM machine if you run out of cash.
  • Residence Inn Austin South is probably the best three-star hotel in the whole area. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a business center, and a gym on the premises — free of charge for every visitor. Also, the rooms are quite large, boasting a sitting, sleeping, and kitchen area (the kitchen is also wholly furnished). Moreover, the hotel offers a tasty breakfast in the morning.

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5. Zilker

Aerial view of Zilker, one of the top picks for where to stay in Austin

Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

South of Austin Downtown and on the southern side of the Colorado River lies Zilker, the greenest part of Texas’s capital. It’s a quiet and calm area, at the same time both close to the din of the city center and far from the madding crowd.

If you’re a nature lover, or you just want to bring your family to a healthy, refreshing place, staying in Zilker is a no-brainer. Zilker also houses the largest natural area in the whole of Austin — Zilker Park.

The park came into being during the Great Depression and has continued to develop since the 1930s. Today, the 351-acre park offers many things: recreation, picnic, hiking, swimming, statues — it basically has it all. But there are some things you definitely can’t miss.

  • The Barton Springs Pool is a large, naturally filled swimming pool with an average temperature of 68F. It has a long history and tradition — at least from Native American time — but it has served Texans well for more than a century. Also, going to the pool is quite cheap: $3 for adults and $2 for kids.
  • Zilker Botanical Garden is probably the most exciting place in the whole park. It has around 26 demarcated (fenced) areas of different plant life, like a Cactus garden, a herb garden, Taniguchi Japanese garden (which is quite famous), and even a Hartman Prehistoric Garden, full of fossils and dinosaurs’ tracks.
  • Zilker Eagle Miniature Train is a very sweet, miniature train that was renovated in 2022 after being closed for three years. It offers a 25-minute ride through the park that your kids will simply adore.

There are many other things you can visit or do in the park: look at the statues at Umlauf Sculpture Garden; kayak at Lady Bird Lake; or visit the Austin Nature and Science Center.

But the main point is more general — Zilker is the most family-friendly neighborhood in Austin. It’s a great place to take your children to green areas, trees, and water, entertain them with sports and activities, and just let them have fun.

Things to Do

  • Go to Zilker Hillside Theater, Austin’s most famous outdoor scene. You can see or listen to everything — it all depends on the time of the year or the schedule. You can go to Shakespeare plays or concerts, but the most important event of the year is the Zilker Summer Musical, which provides very interesting musical theater shows. For example, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is planned for 2023.
  • Zilker Park holds one of the world’s most interesting and exciting music festivals — Austin City Limits Music Festival — every October. The names that visited this festival are just unbelievable: Metallica, Depeche Mode, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, etc. More than 450,000 people attend the festival each year.
  • Zilker Park is not only about green areas, trees, and lawns. It’s about water, too, since the Colorado River is quite nearby. Kayaking or rowing at Lady Bird Lake or swimming at The Barton Springs Pool — the choice is yours because both places are practically perfect.
  • Learn something new about the nature that surrounds you. First, go to Zilker Botanical Garden and learn about the different types of flora, even prehistoric nature. After that, visit the Austin Nature and Science Center — an award-winning institution — and look at its exhibits and join the activities it organizes. The Dino Pit is particularly famous, especially for children, because it gives them a chance to make their first paleontological steps.

Where to Eat

  • Matt’s El Rancho is at the same time one of Zilker’s main historical attractions and a great place to grab a bite. Opened in early 1952, it’s a family-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant famous for its enchiladas and Margaritas. In this restaurant, you can feel the history of Austin and taste one of its tastiest cuisines.
  • Chuy’s is another Tex-Mex restaurant that’s not as old as Matt’s but is sure as tasty. It offers everything: burritos, nachos, tacos, enchiladas, etc. The interior is kitschy and down to earth, and the restaurant’s mission is to make it possible for everybody to feel themselves while they enjoy their favorite dish.
  • Uchi is a contemporary Japanese restaurant that gathered a lot of hype in the last few years. The hype — as the reviews and the customers say — is completely deserved. Both the hot and cold dishes are tasty, and the interior is quite stylish and comfortable to sit in. All in all, the restaurant’s a complete 10.

Zilker Budget Hotels

  • Extended Stay America Suites – Austin – Downtown – Town Lake is a two-star hotel that offers comfortable family rooms and breakfast every morning. The location of the hotel is quite great — close to a lot of attractions — and it’s also completely friendly and customized to serve people with disabilities.
  • At South River Condo all the rooms have a sitting area, a dining area, and a kitchen area. The hotel is completely air-conditioned, the rooms have flat-screen TVs, and the bathrooms have hairdryers. There’s a decent outdoor pool on the premises, too.

Zilker Mid-Range Hotels

  • Carpenter Hotel is a slightly more expansive mid-range hotel that’s especially suitable for couples. It shares many of the things that luxury hotels have, except the price. There’s a pool, a bar, a terrace, and a restaurant on the premises, for example. Finally, like many of the hotels in Austin, it’s pet friendly, and it has facilities for disabled guests.
  • Austin Motel is a quite beautiful three-star motel located in the heart of South Austin. All of its rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and constant air-conditioning. There’s also an outdoor pool on the premises and a pretty interesting bar. The motel is completely customized for receiving people with disabilities, and it’s pet friendly.

Zilker Luxury Hotels

  • The Loren at Lady Bird Lake is a very expensive and very luxurious five-star hotel. It has practically everything — aside from the richly furnished rooms with minibars — a pool, a spa and wellness center, a restaurant, a bar, and a terrace. All of them are very high class, meaning the food is delicious, the drinks strong, and the view striking. On top of that, the hotel’s completely pet friendly.
  • Hotel Saint Cecilia is simply one of the best hotels in South Austin and probably one of the best hotels in the whole town. It has a swimming pool, bar, and restaurant and serves breakfast every morning. The rooms have a sleeping and a sitting area, and some of them offer a beautiful river view. Like the Loren, Saint Cecilia is completely pet friendly.

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So, Where Should You Stay in Austin?

The Austin gig is over, the guests are starting to leave the venue, and they’re asking one final time: where should I stay in Austin? Although we already answered this question, let’s make a quick summary of our guide.

  • Downtown Austin is the best place for those who plan to make their first visit to Austin. Basically, the most important historical and cultural stuff is located in the center of the city, but it also offers great shops, accommodations, and restaurants.
  • Red River Cultural District is the perfect place for music lovers and night owls. It has the best clubs and venues, with concerts, gigs, and street music all the time. For those who are in search of an exciting nightlife experience and great music, this should be their district of choice.
  • East Austin is commonly named the most “authentic” part of Austin. In the past, it was a working-class neighborhood, but today it’s the hippest one in the city with great street art and murals, some interesting museums, and some of the most interesting and unusual restaurants in town.
  • South Congress (SOCO) is the place for shopping. Aside from the regular and expensive branded shops, South Congress offers something more interesting and bizarre: a list of the weirdest shops you have ever seen.
  • Zilker is perfect for nature lovers and those keen on outdoor activities who want something more family-friendly. Close to the Colorado River, it also offers swimming, rowing, and kayaking and has some very interesting educational institutions for children.

Regardless of the area in which you choose to stay, you’ll be surrounded by friendly locals, amazing food, gorgeous scenery, and activities for all ages, interests, and budgets. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Austin today!