The full guide for where to stay in Austin! Check out the top neighborhoods, most popular attractions, and best hotels for every music lover’s budget.
Austin is the capital of a couple of things. Firstly, it is the capital of Texas. Secondly (and maybe more famously), it is the Live Music Capital of the World. Deciding where to stay in Austin comes down to the type of Texas vacation you’re looking for and the style of accommodation you prefer.
Austin is a mix of world class entertainment surrounded by the beautiful outdoors. The University of Texas gives the city a young and vibrant feel, and the array of musical performers bring a sense of creativity and passion to the city.
Austin is a great place to visit for its focus on outdoor adventures and nonstop entertainment.
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Where to Stay in Austin, Texas: The Best Neighborhoods
People take music seriously here, whether it is country, rock, or anything in between. There are over 250 live music venues within Austin and you can find some sort of live performance any day of the week.
One of the star studded events that rolls through Austin every year is South by Southwest. The celebration of media, music, and film is one of the top attractions in the city.
Deciding where to stay in Austin comes along with a wide range of accommodation options. Whether you want to stay in an ultra luxurious boutique hotel or a wallet-friendly hostel, Austin has it all.
The neighborhoods of Austin each have their own personality and put together make one of the top destinations in the United States.
Downtown Austin is the anchor of the city. It is where you can find a little bit of everything, for everyone.
Being the capital of Texas, downtown Austin is full of important government buildings. This includes the famous Texas State Capitol and many 19th century designed historical landmarks.
Downtown Austin is the financial hub of the city and many major businesses and corporations have offices in this part of town. It is one of the best areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Austin.
Aside from the government and business aspects of this neighborhood, downtown Austin is also about entertainment. Anyone in search of some major retail therapy should walk through the 2nd Street District, because well known brands and national retailers have set up shop in this part of town.
Check listings at the Paramount Theatre to catch a live show while in town. If you want to mix your city adventure with a touch of wildlife, head over to the Congress Avenue Bat Bridge right before sunset. This is where you can catch a unique glimpse of 1.5 million bats flying overhead every night, from March to October.
The Warehouse District offers locals and visitors a chance to go bar hopping. Stop by the famed Driskill Bar for some cocktails and a bit of elegance.
Where to Stay in Downtown Austin
Firehouse Hostel – One of the most unique Austin hostels, the Firehouse Hostel is located within one of the oldest fire stations in the city. This wallet-friendly hostel encourages a social atmosphere for travelers who want to spend more money on their experiences, rather than on a hotel.
Guest rooms are dorm style with shared bathrooms. To get to the hostel’s bar you must go through a hidden bookshelf. The bar has live music performances as well.
If you are looking for where to stay in Austin with a fun and energetic atmosphere, The Firehouse Hostel is one of your best bets. There are a lot of hotels near downtown Austin, and this option will let you save a little money to spend on the rest of your vacation.
The Driskill – One of the most popular downtown Austin hotels. The building the hotel is housed in is a historical landmark in the city and has been around since the 1800s.
The Driskill embraces its historical past and incorporates it into the interior design. It also mixes in modern elements, making each guest room unlike others in Austin.
The hotel also has a swimming pool and fitness center for guests to enjoy, as well as a restaurant and bar on the property. Guests can experience live music every night of the week at this Austin hotel. The Driskill is known as one of the best hotels in Austin.
JW Marriott Austin – One of the most luxurious options in the city. True to its brand, the JW Marriott Austin offers chic and elegant guest rooms with state of the art technology and comfortable beds. This hotel has great views of Austin and is centrally located near many of the city’s top attractions.
The JW Marriott Austin has various amenities throughout the property that make this one of the best hotels in Austin. There is a sun terrace with an outdoor fire pit, and the hotel also has a fitness center and a rooftop pool.
Bicycle rentals are available for all guests and there is a shuttle to and from the airport. In terms of luxury accommodations, the JW Marriott Austin is one of the best places to stay in Austin.
South Congress is a trendy part of town you’ll want to explore on foot.
Locals and visitors tend to stroll up and down the busy thoroughfares of this neighborhood on the daily. And, it’s not hard to see why with the boutique shops to browse through and numerous live music venues.
This is the part of Austin that you can’t miss, especially if you want to get a taste of local products, restaurants, and the true character of Austin. Most locals will tell you that it is one of the best neighborhoods in Austin.
Oh yeah, did I mention that this area is known for its bats too?
Thousands of bats put on a nightly show from spring to fall as they fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge. Every evening just before sunset, the bats flock to the sky and put on an unreal show for everyone down below.
It’s one of those attractions to write home about and a one-of-a-kind experience that you can only find in Austin.
If bats kind of freak you out, you can avoid them by stopping into some of Austin’s most original eateries and bars. If you want an Instagram worthy picture and a cup of coffee, head over to Jo’s Coffee. This is where you can find Austin’s famous “I Love You So Much” Mural.
The Magnolia Cafe is one of the most popular restaurants in South Congress as well. It serves up a mix of comfort food and Tex Mex, 24 hours a day. Grab a mojito and a Cuban sandwich at Habana Restaurant.
Where to Stay in South Congress
Austin Motel – This budget-friendly accommodation in South Congress has kicked it up a notch. The Austin Motel is not your typical outdated Motel, it’s a trendy and affordable option in one of the best neighborhoods in Austin.
The interior design of the guest rooms are colorful and funky and pets are allowed in this motel, which is a big plus for anyone traveling with their furry friends.
The motel also has a pool and free coffee is available in the lobby. Choosing where to stay in Austin on a tight budget doesn’t have to mean a shared hostel when you can stay at the Austin Motel.
South Congress Hotel – When you stay in one of the trendiest neighborhoods of Austin, you expect your hotel to have some character. The South Congress Hotel won’t disappoint on this front.
It is a mid-range hotel option in the heart of the neighborhood. Guest rooms have a modern design and either have a city or pool view. Robes are available in each room and the hotel welcomes pets.
There is also a swimming pool, sun terrace, and fitness center for those who want a bit of relaxation. The South Congress Hotel is one of the best Austin hotels to choose from in this area.
Hotel Saint Cecilia – A luxury option in South Congress with tons of charm and character, the Hotel Saint Cecilia is a boutique hotel with stylish guest rooms and sleek bathrooms.
Staying at the Hotel Saint Cecilia feels more like staying in a large house with comfortable furnishings than a chain hotel in the middle of the city. It is perfect for travelers who want more of a local feel, rather than a standard experience in a well known hotel.
The hotel has a pool, restaurant, and bar. Pets are also allowed to stay. This is a perfect option for those who want a little extra trendiness in an accommodation while staying in a popular area in Austin.
The Zilker neighborhood is famous for its main anchor, Zilker Park. Zilker Park is 350 acres of outdoor recreational space for locals and visitors.
For those who can’t decide between city living or being one with the outdoors, Zilker thankfully has a little bit of both.
Nature enthusiasts will love this area for its urban playground. Other famous outdoor attractions like Lady Bird Lake and Barton Springs Pool are located in Zilker as well. This is one of the best Austin neighborhoods to be outdoors.
Sure, lots of people travel to this part of Austin to wander through the beauty and nature of the park, but there is a lot more to this neighborhood than just this one attraction.
Zilker is a trendy area of Austin, full of a vibrant cultural scene. Many top-rated restaurants in Austin are located in Zilker. The outdoor areas and top attractions make this neighborhood one of the best places to live in Austin as well.
For food in the Zilker district, Uchi is one of the most well known sushi restaurants throughout Austin. It is located in an old Austin home and from the outside doesn’t look nearly as sophisticated as it is on the inside.
If you want something a bit more casual with a large outdoor patio, swing by Shady Grove. This restaurant has live outdoor performances throughout each week. Odd Duck is another favorite of Austin locals. Contemporary American food is what’s on the menu at this Zilker restaurant.
Where to Stay in Zilker
One Bedroom Cottage House Rental – Stay at this local house in Zilker for a cheaper accommodation option. This bright and airy house is perfect for a couple of guests.
The cottage has a separate living space, full kitchen, and a private porch to relax on. Stay at this affordable accommodation to get a true feel for how the locals live in this Austin neighborhood. It is walking distance to Zilker Park and close to downtown Austin.
The Carpenter Hotel – A mid-range hotel in Zilker for those who want an accommodation with style but an affordable price tag. The hotel and guest rooms are big on wood furnishings and leather.
The Carpenter Hotel has a unique personal style on the inside and out and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool that is available for all guests. There is also a restaurant and bar on the property and an outdoor terrace perfect for a bit of relaxation after exploring Austin.
This is a pet-friendly hotel in the heart of Zilker.
Guild Lamar Union – A luxury hotel option in Zilker. The apartment style design of these guest rooms are great for travelers who want a bit more space or for families traveling with more people.
The accommodation has separate living areas, a kitchen, and feature bright and colorful decor. The building has a fitness center and a modern pool with tons of lounge chairs to relax on and there is also a picnic area and table tennis available.
East Cesar Chavez is the type of place that has only become trendier over the past ten years. It is located just east of downtown Austin and has been on the up and up for some time now.
For anyone into the nightlife scene, East Cesar Chavez is a neighborhood to check out. This area comes to life when the sun goes down, with the bars and music venues drawing in the crowds.
When it comes to nightlife, this neighborhood is home to many local favorite spots, but there’s more to East Cesar Chavez than just its watering holes.
Come to this area of Austin for some trendy boutique shopping. If you are interested in local artwork, visit grayDUCK. After that, grab a couple of cocktails at Stay Gold, a neighborhood staple for drinks and live music. For some down right delicious barbecue, try some brisket at La Barbecue.
Where to Stay in East Cesar Chavez
HK Austin – A hostel style accommodation in East Cesar Chavez. HK Austin is located within a house and guest rooms are either private or have bunk beds.
There are many shared common spaces throughout this hostel, including a lounge, kitchen, garden, and outdoor terrace. There is a shared bathroom for guests to use as well. The experience of staying in a house rather than a standard hotel will give you more of a true neighborhood feel.
Studio condo – Stay at this condo in the heart of the neighborhood for a mid-range accommodation option that has a nicely furnished apartment with a full kitchen.
The condo is part of an eco-friendly apartment building and guests have access to a pool and private parking space. This apartment is ideal for no more than two travelers who don’t mind a smaller space with a lot of amenities.
Heywood Hotel – A popular accommodation in this part of Austin. The Heywood Hotel is a small, boutique hotel that has a few stylish guest rooms that are contemporary and exude a colorful decor.
The property itself has a snack bar and a terrace for guests to enjoy. There are also free bicycles to use until 7:00 PM daily. This quaint hotel has everything you’d want in an intimate setting. It is the perfect fit for travelers who want charm and personality in their accommodation.
The Red River Cultural District is a neighborhood within a neighborhood. It is located inside of downtown Austin, but has a vibrancy and excitement all on its own to be considered a unique part of Austin.
This area is also one of the best areas to stay in Austin if you are looking for a great nightlife scene.
Red River is actually only three blocks long but it has some of the best live music venues in all of Austin. Entertainment is king in this part of town, with plenty of bars, music venues, and nightclubs to choose from.
If you’re looking for a delicious meal in the Red River Cultural District, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q is one of the ultimate favorites for locals and visitors alike for its music and food. Another great barbecue spot nearby is Franklin Barbecue, if you’re willing to wait in line.
Where to Stay in Red River Cultural District
Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown – A beautifully designed hotel in the heart of the Red River Cultural District. The furnishings at this hotel are modern and the decor is fun and colorful. Even though this hotel is a budget accommodation, it still brings tons of flavor.
There is a pool and fitness center available for all guests. A bar in the hotel welcomes guests for cocktails and pets are allowed to stay with you in your room. You won’t feel like you’re staying in a cheaper hotel option when staying at the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown.
Native Hostels Austin – Technically on the edge of East Cesar Chavez, but in close proximity to the Red River Cultural District, Native Hostels is an adults only hostel in the heart of the city (and one of the coolest Austin hostel options).
Basic amenities are provided, the interior design of the hostel is a bit darker and masculine, and guest rooms are dorm style with shared or ensuite bathrooms.
Make sure to catch the hostel’s special social events during your stay, whether it’s a dance class or comedy show. This mid-range option is a good choice for those who want a more social atmosphere with their stay.
Hilton Austin – An internationally well known chain hotel, the Hilton is a luxury pick for this part of Austin. The hotel has a sense of elegance and refinement with guest rooms that are contemporary and have all the amenities you’d want in a standard hotel room. The property also has a restaurant and bar.
At the Hilton Austin, there is a swimming pool and a fitness center. A sauna and steam room are located within the fitness center for guests to relax in after a workout. The hotel is pet-friendly and centrally located near main attractions, including the Austin Convention Center.
How to Get Around Austin
What’s the easiest, most cost efficient way of getting around Austin? Public transportation.
Austin’s Capital Metro is the public transportation system that both locals and visitors use to get around the city and outer neighborhoods. It consists of extensive bus lines to make it easy to navigate the city.
A single fare begins at $1.25, which is a pretty good deal to get around Austin. A one day pass is $2.50. For those staying in Austin and its closer neighborhoods, the bus is the way to go. Bus routes connect many well known neighborhoods and the system is fairly easy to use.
For anyone traveling father out of the city to some of Austin’s suburbs, the MetroRail will do the trick. Each ride is $3.50. The MetroRail reaches 26 miles in and around Austin.
If you are staying within Austin city limits and want a fun way to get around town, hop on a bicycle. Bike rides are popular throughout the city and a great way to explore while being outdoors.
Austin B-cycle is a popular bike share option. You can pick a bike up at one of the many locations around downtown. However, you do need a monthly membership, which costs $11.00 with a $15.00 one time fee.
This will give you unlimited one hour rides around the city and a good option if you’re staying in Austin for a longer period of time.
Cars are, of course, another way to get around town, but traffic is a big deal in Austin, so consider yourself warned. Traffic congestions seems to only be getting worse in recent years, so if you happen to drive around, be patient. Car share options are also available, like Uber and Lyft.
When it comes down to it, sometimes the best transportation you can find as a traveler is your own two feet. Walk through Austin’s many walkable neighborhoods for some explorations you just can’t do on a bus or bicycle.
Top 10 Sights to See in Austin
There’s lots to see and do in Austin, aside from its world renowned live music scene. Austin is a combination of city adventures and outdoor exploration. It is the state capital of Texas and that comes with a ton of proud Texan history.
In between catching some of the best live music performances in the country, find yourself at some of these popular Austin attractions.
Texas State Capitol
This government building is one of the most important sights in all of Austin. Since Austin is the capital of Texas, this building is home to the government officials and lawmakers that represent Texas. It is a grand building in the heart of the city and one that shouldn’t be missed.
The Texas State Capitol is located on beautifully designed grounds and there is a free tour of the building that occurs multiple times a day. Check out this historic destination for a bit of history, government, and to admire the architecture of this Texas building.
It is the largest state capitol building in the country, so I guess it is true that things really are bigger in Texas.
Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
Have you ever gone to see a bridge specifically for its bats? Probably not. But if you’re in Austin, make sure to visit this bridge right before sunset to see bats fly out from underneath it every night.
The crevices under the bridge’s design has made for perfect little homes for these bats. This has made the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge one of the most peculiar, and most visited, spots in all of Austin.
Recommended Experience: Congress Avenue Bats Bike Tour
Lady Bird Lake
It may look more like a river, but this Austin lake is one of the best places for outdoor activities right next to the city. Lady Bird Lake is a local favorite and if you are looking for some recreational fun, look no further.
There are plenty of water activities do to on Lady Bird Lake. You can rent a stand up paddle board, canoe down the river, or even watch the famous Austin bats take flight from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. There are also biking and hiking trails around the lake to take advantage of.
Recommended Experience: Lady Bird Bike Tour
Bullock Texas State History Museum
Any history buffs out there should visit Bullock Texas State History Museum on a trip to Austin. This is the place to be if you want to learn the history of Texas and how it became the state it is today.
The museum has exhibits on the beginning times of Texas, Texan cowboys, and the history of women’s suffrage in Texas. For a more modern exhibit on Austin, there is a section about the Austin City Limits Theater as well.
It is a great museum with a comprehensive look into what it means to be the state of Texas.
Come to Mount Bonnell for the beautiful views. Mount Bonell is the highest point in Austin and offers some spectacular views of the area. This part of the city has been a popular tourist destination since the 1800s and it hasn’t stopped since.
Climb up 102 steps to reach the overlook deck and make sure your camera is fully charged for some unobstructed views of downtown and the water.
Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool is one of the local favorite attractions in Austin. Keeping in line with the idea that everything is bigger in Texas, this pool is about three acres in size. It is filled from the underground springs in the area and makes for a perfect spot to take a dip when the weather is nice out.
Barton Springs Pool is located inside Zilker Park and is a unique place to go for a swim in the heart of Austin.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the most beloved outdoor spaces in all of Austin. It is an area full of different trails. In fact, there are over 12 miles of trails in the Greenbelt, with the longest trail of them all being seven miles long.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is perfect for those who want to go on a walk, hike, or bike through this scenic outdoor area of Austin. Aside from taking advantage of the trails, there are also spots to enjoy swimming and rock climbing as well.
LBJ Presidential Library
The LBJ Presidential Library is named for the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. It is both a presidential library and a museum of President Johnson.
At the library, there are different exhibits about his life, including a look into the Oval Office and LBJ’s Presidential Limo. A Civil Rights exhibit is one of the most important ones throughout the LBJ Presidential Library.
This top Austin tourist attraction is constantly changing with current exhibits. It is a good place to visit if you are interested in learning more about the former President.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
For flower and nature lovers, head over to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This is actually the official botanic garden and arboretum of Texas with over 900 different types of plants and flowers.
There are many special events that take place at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center throughout the year and exhibits are constantly changing based on the type of plants that are in season.
There are guided tour of the gardens, happy hour events, and classes for children to learn about all things flowers and plants.
Blanton Museum of Art
Anyone interested in art should make a stop at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art. It is one of the biggest art museums in the whole country and located in the University of Texas at Austin.
There are exhibits on contemporary art, film, and media. The museum has both permanent and temporary exhibits, so make sure to check what kind of art installations are available during the time of your visit.
Top 3 Day Trips from Austin
If you can peel yourself away from Austin’s stellar music performances, venture out of the city for a day to check out the surrounding sights in Texas. There’s lots to discover just within a few hours of Austin that will make you feel like you’ve traveled a world away.
Checking out these few day trip locations will allow you to see more of what Texas has to offer.
San Antonio is an easy day trip for anyone staying in Austin. It is located just one hour and forty minutes south of Austin and easily accessible by car or bus.
Granted, you might want to stay in San Antonio for longer than a day, since it is another one of the major cities in Texas with tons to see and do. But, if you can only make it there for a day, take advantage of some of its beautiful top attractions.
The San Antonio River Walk has to be one of the most well known spots throughout the whole city. Walk this pedestrian friendly part of town and have some local Tex Mex food. There are lots of restaurants and and shopping in this area as well.
San Antonio is steeped in history. Stop by the Alamo for a lesson in how Texas became an independent state from Mexico. The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is where you can tour four separate missions, dating back to the 1700s.
Recommended: San Antonio Day Tour from Austin
Just like the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas.
Slightly less than one hour away from Austin is Lake Travis. And this is one really big lake. It stretches for 63 miles and has over 270 miles of beautiful shoreline.
Explore Lake Travis by boat if you can and get a true sense of its nature. Unwind from the city life of Austin by this serene Texas lake. There are tons of outdoor activities to do on Lake Travis aside from boating. You can go ziplining or head over to Travis Waterloo Adventures for a floating obstacle course on the water.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that seems also as big as the lake itself, stop by The Oasis. It is 30,000 square feet and has some of the best sunset views in the area.
McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is just 25 minutes outside of downtown Austin but feels like a world apart from the city center. This state park has some of the most picturesque views in all of Texas. Make sure you take some photos of the beautiful waterfalls that the park is known for.
It’s also a popular area for fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping – with more than 70 campsites in the park.
What to Pack for Austin
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