Walking down Congress Avenue in Austin, starting in the south and headed north towards the Lone Star capital, one passes through a collection of the Texan-spirit. This list of Austin classics is what locals picture long after they have had to move away and the reason visitors eagerly book their next weekend getaways.
There’s the outdoor spots turned into the feeling of being in some neighbor’s bigger-is-better backyard.
- Barton Springs
A favorite in Austin, Barton Springs is a natural spring with minimal construction to make the area suitable for swimming while protecting the wildlife. The water is naturally cold and in the Texas heat, welcome company. Grab some towels, spend the day in and out of the water, and then head over just past the springs to kayak Lady Bird Lake as the sunsets.
- Peter Pan Mini Golf
A giant Peter Pan and a dinosaur mark this mini golf gem. Practice your small putts and go ahead with large laughs as you feel like a kid again; that is, until 6th street opens up.
- Hotel San José
Bunkhouse Group is known for their dynamic hotel properties, just look at the tepees in Marfa. Hotel San José is a gem on South Congress Ave. Some of the best restaurants and shops are literally a parking lot away, but for all the bustle on the street, San José is a quiet oasis made just for good friends to grab a patio seat and do what friends do best on the weekend.
There’s the no-frills, no-fuss food joints that only want to serve up comfort on a plate. (And get comfortable because you’re going to want to eat several rounds)
- Home Slice
Three words: darn good pizza. That’s it. A staple choice for anyone walking around Austin.
- Second Bar + Kitchen
Heading towards the capital on North Congress Ave, Second Bar + Kitchen can’t be missed. All their food is amazing, but Texans love burgers and Second has a delicious twist: pork belly + burger. Seriously, stuff your face and then roll on out to catch the bats fly out from under Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. You’re fed, they’re fed, all is right in Austin.
- Jo’s Coffee (and breakfast tacos)
Chances are you stayed up late the night before, but don’t skip breakfast. Jo’s has the best coffee (get the Iced Turbo, maybe two) and some breakfast tacos. Make sure you don’t sleep in too long because once the tacos are sold out, you’ve missed the perfect pair. Still get an Iced Turbo to nurse your taco-less heart. Don’t forget to snap a photo with the famous “I Love You So Much” mural on the side of the store!
* Honorary Mention: Salt Lick BBQ
Ok so this one isn’t exactly on Congress Ave, you’re going to have to drive a good ways out or leave time at the airport to stop by. Being state-famous in a state that’s all about barbecue is more than worth the time needed to get your fix.
Then there’s the places in which you’ll forget what you were doing before you got there and possible forget the plans for the rest of the day.
- STAG Provisions for Men
Located right next to Home Slice, STAG Provisions for Men is one of the top shops on South Congress Ave. Men, I hope you take some pointers before going out for the evening, and ladies, you will want to incorporate these men’s styles into your next look.
- South Congress Hotel
A new addition to the Congress Ave community, the South Congress Hotel is urban and lively. Its design style is warm and masculine, which sets it apart from many other hotels in the area. All the staff have a love of Austin and a love of engaging in chats with guests. Catch up with the latest Austin buzz and then rent a cruiser to get you around town. Once back at the hotel, grab lunch at Café No Sé and some sun poolside with a cocktail.
- Congress Avenue Bridge & Bats
It might seem like Congress Ave has a ton of shops, hotels, and restaurants, but in the middle of it all, another group of residents makes use of the prime real-estate. Underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge that separates the southern and northern neighborhoods of Congress Ave, there is one of the largest colonies of Mexican free-tail bats. During peak summer residence, the bat population often outnumbers Austin’s human population. Each evening as the sunsets, the bridge is lined with pedestrians waiting to watch the bats fly out for their evening meals. If you feel adventurous, join the kayakers down below.
But like any good Southerner, Austin knows how to clean up good with the last two classics on the list.
- Hotel Saint Cecilia
Hotel Saint Cecilia is the third Bunkhouse Group property to make the list (along with Hotel San José and Jo’s Coffee). Unlike the others, Hotel Saint Cecilia pays tribute to the ‘patron saint of music and poetry’ by offering an upscale hideaway just a few short blocks from Congress Ave that was made for rock and roll lovers. This is the sort of place where you can lounge in a gorgeous space, check-out some records at the front desk to pop onto the record player equipped in each room, and have moments completely for yourself. Hotel Saint Cecilia is for those times where you just need to make your own soundtrack to summer.
- The Driskill Hotel
Last on the list, but certainly not the least, is The Driskill Hotel. Picturesque and historical, The Driskill is close to the capital and to 6th Street. The hotel combines familiar Texas-ranch design with elegance and it is said to be haunted. Although once you step foot into the grand lobby, ascend the ballroom staircase, and delve into the bites at 1886 Café & Bakery, you might not want to leave either.