With tech and music industry folks floating down to SXSW in Austin every March, wise travelers avoid the springtime throngs in the “live music capital of the world” and visit during fall instead. Here’s our guide to this vibrant hub of world-class barbecue, family-friendly breweries, outdoor activities, art museums, and some of the best hotels in the country.
Austin’s Proper hotel, the brand’s first foray outside of California, is designer Kelly Wearstler’s ode to Texas-inspired elegance. Plenty of coastal-chic influences made their way into the 244-room building, which also includes 99 residences. Lots of wood details and Craftsman influences give the rooms added warmth, while floor-to-ceiling windows help bring the city views inside without letting in heat or noise. A fifth-floor pool for hotel guests means there’s plenty of space for sunning and swimming.
–A $6 ticket gives you free rein to wander the lush, 28-acre grounds of Zilker Metropolitan Park in the heart of downtown, where themed gardens like the Mabel Davis Rose Garden give way to koi ponds, manicured lawns, and carefully cultivated native plants.
–While downtown, do as the locals do and hit up Ranch 616, a classic South Texas–style icehouse—an indoor/outdoor beer joint built to beat the heat. This one comes complete with cooling misters on the patio.
-Austin is a brewery hotspot, and Hold Out Brewing has plenty of local libations on draft, including some rather tropical IPAs, in taster, half-pint, or full-pint sizes.
For those who never want to leave the uber-private atmosphere that a Soho House breeds, rooms here range from cozy to extra large—think beige walls and a neutral, textured palette accented with pops of jewel-tone velvet and eclectic fixtures. Located right on South Congress within the Music Lane development, this property, opened in 2021, marks the first Texas location for the UK-based brand. There’s plenty of shared space in the club if you’re a member, but keep in mind that outside guests are limited.
-There’s vintage, then there’s Texas vintage. Check out the monthly sale at City-Wide Vintage if it’s running during your visit, or wander up and down South Congress for plenty of one-off secondhand stores.
-Everything’s bigger in Texas, of course, and that goes for swimming pools, too. How about a three-acre outdoor pool? Seriously, Barton Springs—a giant swimming hole that’s fed from a set of underground springs—is beloved by locals, so it’s worth the hype.
–Rainey Street is dominated by a walking avenue flanked on both sides by houses that have been converted into taverns.
Auberge Resorts, Commodore Perry Estate
Designer Ken Fulk approached the task of reimagining the 1928 Commodore Perry Estate with an eye toward preserving the history and personality of the original residence. Now part of the Auberge Resorts collection, this sprawling Italianate manor offers guests their choice of five suites available in the original mansion or a rooms or suite at The Inn, a newly built hotel with three floors of additional guest rooms. Located on 10 acres and complete with the original pool intact, the grounds now also boast Lutie’s Garden Restaurant, named for the estate’s late first lady, who was known for throwing lavish soirées. For those looking for a truly boutique experience, it doesn’t get any more unique than a refurbished mansion in the middle of Texas.
-Located at the University of Texas, the Blanton Museum is one of the largest university art museums in the country and offers free admission every Thursday.
-There’s nothing like looking for vinyl in a music town, and Breakaway Records is one of the best and located just a mile from the hotel.
-Every night, right before sunset, swarms of bats emerge from their perch under the Congress Bridge. If you catch it at the right moment, this natural phenomenon feels utterly magical.
One of the newest luxury boutique hotels in town, the Thompson Austin officially opened its doors in January 2022. But being brand new hasn’t stopped this downtown guesthouse from attracting quite a few visitors. A bigger-in-Texas outdoor pool and on-site food and beverage offerings that include two spots from James Beard–winner Mashama Bailey, mean there’s plenty to love at this 212-room skyscraper. Bailey’s reputation in Savannah precedes her, as The Grey Market and Diner Bar both have counterparts in Georgia, and expertly execute a high-brow/low-brow effect. Darker and more masculine than some other new properties in town, the Thompson is flanked by a little-sister hotel, the Tommie, just like in Hollywood. By pairing the two, parent company Hyatt can ensure there’s something for everyone in their corner of downtown.
-If you eat one thing in Austin, make it the brisket at Franklin Barbecue, the incredible, local, smoked-meats purveyor, which is so popular it launched its own PBS series.
-Speakeasy culture is back, or maybe it never left, and Here Nor There is as decadent as they come. Downloading the app is the secret to getting in if you’re new in town.
-Whether it’s biking, swimming, jogging, or boating, Lady Bird Lake has it all. This local haven is bustling on weekends, so stake your claim early if you’re in an outdoorsy mood.