Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Austin, Texas! Perhaps there are folks who write odes to the beauty of Downtown Austin, but if there are, I do not know of them. I don’t think anyone would say that you need to visit the CBD in the capital city of Texas for its historical charm and beauty.
Nevertheless, while Austin might not have the tallest skyscrapers or the most famous landmarks, it more than makes up for it with amazing food, culture, friendly people, and most importantly FOOD! Come with me and we’ll spend a perfect 24 Hours in Austin eating our way through the best that Texas has to offer.
NB: Some of you might ask me why Austin’s famous bats are not part of this 24 hours in Austin itinerary. The answer is that I visited Austin in December and the bats are all away visiting their off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands at that time. So no bats for us!
24 Hours in Austin
Where to Stay?
There’s tons of places to stay in Austin because it’s a popular tourist attraction, a college city, and the capital of one of the largest states in the US. So you have plenty of options to choose from for your Austin in a day. But I choose to stay at the Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel.
This hotel has a great location right in the middle of downtown Austin, so you’re within walking distance of tons of bars and restaurants. However, the rooms were kept quiet, so I was able to sleep peacefully, no matter how noisy it got outside. There’s also a tasty restaurant on the property that serves the largest tortilla soup I have ever seen.
Click here to get a great rate on this hotel! Or if you’d rather explore, click here to see many excellent hotels available in Austin. This search engine will help you find the best places for your taste and budget so you can really enjoy your 24 hours in Austin.
24 Hours in Austin
Tools For Travel
- A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos all during your 24 hours in Austin
- The best travel guide to Austin.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will teach you how to get the most out of every trip–just like I do, traveling 16 weeks a year!
- Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel course–complete with a guide and videos–on sale for a very limited time.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a bachelorette party during your 24 hours in Austin.
24 Hours in Austin
Morning: Austin Brunch Bus Tour
If you’re anything like me, you won’t know exactly what a brunch bus tour is. I had never heard of one before coming to Austin. But I had booked a food tour that got canceled at the last minute, and this ended up being the best that was available.
And boy, am I glad that I gave the brunch bus tour a shot! Normally people who book the brunch bus tour are having some sort of party with their friends, since the bus is quite large and can seat many groups. Our guide said that it was rare for a solo person to come on the brunch bus, but anyone who does is, and this is a direct quote, “a badass”.
Don’t you want to be a badass bruncher too? Then just book the tour right here and get ready to join me for…
Approximately Top 5: Austin Brunch Tour
Our first stop was at the Ski Shores Cafe for that Texas classic, migas. These were breakfast tacos with tortilla mixed into the egg, and they are the perfect way to start your 24 hours in Austin.
These migas were not too spicy, even with a little sauce on top. Yes, you just get one miga to begin with, but never fear! There’s two other brunch food and drink stops on this tour, so you’ll definitely be full by the time we’re done, but you’ll still have room for dinner.
2) Cucumber + Booze
And since this is a bad ass brunch tour, we’ll be getting a drink with each breakfast stop. Our first beverage starts out deceptively light because it’s a cucumber sipper mixed with vodka. These were dangerously easy to drink, but fortunately there’s only one included with the price of the tour, so we couldn’t get wasted before the brunch bus had really begun.
In fact, with only three drinks on the tour and lots of food, I only felt pleasantly buzzed by the end, and had no trouble enjoying a fine art museum in the afternoon. However, plenty of other people on the tour brought extra drinks. At this point in the tour, a group of girls on a bachelorette party invited me to join them, and I made a whole bunch of friends that I will never see again.
3) Shakshuka Pizza
Our second stop was at a brewery called the Central Machine Works that has a gorgeous outdoor dining area for when it is sunny in Austin. (This often seems to be the case.) Our food here was the shakshuka pizza, which is based on a Middle Eastern breakfast dish.
I’ve eaten shakshuka before, and I wouldn’t say that this pizza reminded me much of the dish, except for the use of tomatoes and spices, because there were no eggs in it. I guess the feta cheese replaced the eggs? But it was still tasty, especially when washed down with…
This is a brewery, but instead of just getting beer here, we got pitchers of shandy, which is beer mixed with lemonade. The shandy was flowing freely, as were the vibes when we got back on the bus. Did I neglect to mention that the brunch bus has live musicians on it the entire time? And Austin is one of the live music capitals of the world, so you know this is going to be loads of fun.
Our final stop was at Austin Eastciders–yes, I spelled that correctly–for one of Texas’s most famous creations, the kolache. (You pronounce that koh-lah-chee.) This is basically a extra-pumped up sausage roll, Texas style, though they do make lots of kolache variations nowadays, including sweet ones.)
I also won a prize on the bus because I knew which country the kolache comes from. My prize was a big pair of plastic sunglasses, so don’t go pushing your bus mates aside to go win this prize. However, I shan’t spoil the kolache country of origin for you on this blog. If you want to snag those sweet sunnies, you need to spend a few seconds on Google and find the answer yourself.
Of course a place called Eastciders has tons of cider on tap, and you get to pick which one you want to try. There are approximately one grillion flavors, so I’m sure there’ll be something you like. I got the blood orange because it’s the most popular, and it was mildly tangy without being too sweet. Nothing’s sadder than a sugary cider, IMO.
24 Hour Treasure
My favorite moment on the brunch bus was when the band started playing “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes and everyone started singing along, which 100 percent betrayed the age of every single person on that bus. Like just playing that song and seeing who immediately starts singing along would be a more effective method of carding than checking ID.
24 Hours in Austin
Afternoon: Blanton Museum
Now we’ve fed our bellies, so it’s time to feed our minds! Feed your mind and the rest will follow, as the song says. It’s time to head to the Blanton Museum of Art, the museum attached to the University of Texas at Austin.
Since it is a university museum, it has an impressive and wide-ranging collection. There’s everything from European Old Dirty Masters to contemporary art installations involving pennies. Basically they have anything a clever little Texan might want to study.
You might need a little help focusing after that morning on the brunch bus, so I’m going to give you a little art history tour with…
Approximately Top 5: Blanton Museum
1) The Roping
As the Blanton is located in Texas, I was most interested in their collection of the art of the American Southwest. I was struck by this painting The Roping, by William Robinson Leigh. Like me, Leigh lived in Manhattan. Unlike me, he preferred the West and would travel out there regularly to sketch.
My favorite part of the painting is the way he gets the dust to look so real. I almost want to look away because I’m afraid the dust is going to hit me in the face, which is not a sensation I am used to having when looking at a painting.
This installation is definitely one of the more striking works at the Blanton. It’s by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles, and it combines images of money with images of death as a social commentary on the treatment of indigenous people at the hands of Jesuit missionaries.
I think this work is a clever political statement because I was drawn to it since I thought I would get to splash around in the money like Scrooge McDuck and swan about wrapping myself in black fabric. But instead I read the docent notes on the wall, and now I am aware of a tragic part of history. Very clever, Mr. Meireles, very clever.
3) Andy Warhol
The Blanton has a ton of 20th century art, and Andy Warhol is certainly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. I’ve seen a lot of Warhol in my day; I’ve even been to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. But I didn’t know that Warhol did a portrait of Ms. Farrah Fawcett like this.
But it shouldn’t be that surprising. I don’t think Andy Warhol ever met a celebrity he didn’t want to capture in his art.
4) Lady Hamilton
OK, I do want to introduce you to the Blanton’s collection of European art, but this portrait of Lady Emma Hamilton, painted by George Romney, is mostly interesting because of the subject of the portrait. Emma Hamilton was a great beauty and known for being involved with a number of important English gentlemen, most notably the great naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson.
However, Lady Hamilton was married to a big wig lord who was more than twice her age, and her behavior caused a great deal of scandal in English society. Though honestly, what didn’t cause a great deal of scandal in English society back in the 18th century? Using the wrong fork with your spotted dick could probably bring down Parliament in those days.
Also, apparently George Romney was also taken with Lady Hamilton’s beauty because he painted about 57 portraits of her. I think I’d get sick of looking at someone before I could finish painting 57 portraits of them, and I am included Matt Damon here.
5) Special Exhibit
It’s likely that there will be a special exhibit on when you spend your 24 hours in Austin, and I suggest checking it out. My favorite special exhibit at the Blanton was a show on photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who was part of the Black is Beautiful movement.
His portraits are all stunning, but my favorites were the album covers he did for the jazz albums done by the record label Blue Note. The artists look stunning and like real, approachable people, and isn’t that what we all what, ultimately?
24 Hours in Austin
Late Afternoon: Stroll and Explore
If you leave the museum when it closes around 5, you’ll still have a couple of hours in our 24 hours in Austin to kill before dinner. As usual, I recommend taking some time to explore! You won’t have time to go inside the dusty rose Texas Capital, but don’t miss taking a look at its exterior!
After that, why not head over to 6th Street, which is sometimes called the Bourbon St of Austin? You can shop or take in a movie at the Drafthouse. Just don’t eat much because we have a real treat coming up for dinner! I personally like to walk around and check out the entertainingly named bars.
Here’s one that has a sign of Gerald McRainey wearing muttonchops outside.
And here’s another with the best name for a bar I have ever heard: Volstead! (The Volstead Act is another name for the National Prohibition Act that made alcohol illegal in this country.)
When you’re done exploring, just head down to 2nd street and bring your best dancing boots!
24 Hours in Austin
Evening: Barley Swine
Tasting menus are sweeping the nation, and that includes Austin! So we’re heading on over to Barley Swine to experience the finest tasting menu in Austin.
If you’ve never experienced a tasting menu, just know that it comes with zero choices. You sit down to a meal and put yourself entirely in the chef’s hands. Think of it as dining at a friend’s house, if that friend were an amazing chef. The menu changes all the time, so you won’t get everything I feasted upon at Barley Swine. But I can at least give you a hint of what to expect.
Our first course was a refreshing crudo with melon–just perfect for the summer. Crudo is getting extremely popular with fancy restaurants nowadays, but my favorite part of the dish was the pickled watermelon rind. It added that perfect Texas twist.
Up next we had a butter basted halibut with a pecan dashi. A dashi is a kind of Japanese sauce, but I had never tried one with pecans before. Yet another Texas twist. My favorite thing about this dish is that it didn’t taste healthy, even one bit.
This dish, scrambled eggs with shiitake mushrooms, was an extra dish, but I’m glad I chose to order it. Nothing is as cozy as scrambled eggs, but the mushrooms and sherry gave it a perfect touch of elegance, and I do so love feeling like a Very Fancy Lady when I take myself out to dinner.
Here we have another fancy dish with a Texas twist! I’m beginning to sense a theme with this restaurant. This was a rich duck leg served with popcorn puree and peaches, which is a perfectly Southern way of getting that traditional sweetness in with the duck.
Well, it can’t be a fancy Texas dinner without ribeye, can it, Internet Stranger? That’s just science. We’d ordinarily have this steak with potatoes, but they gussied them up by serving the steak with an onion doughnut instead. (You can see this gorgeous confection at the top of the photo above, next to my wine glass.)
On to the Very Fancy Texas desserts! Normally at a tasting menu restaurant, you start with a light dessert and then go to something heavy. This dessert was made with sage and cantaloupe, which was in season on my most recent 24 hours in Austin.
Nothing says Texas like driving your doggies through the sage, am I right? But I’d guess those cowboys didn’t have access to a dessert this purdy, no how.
And for our richer dessert, we get to feast on Texas sheet cake and peaches! This twist comes from the use of poblano peppers! Very Texas, and I think more restaurants should experiment with spicy desserts. If you can’t take a risk during your 24 hours in Austin, when can you take one?
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Austin!
Are you ready to start booking your hotel for your 24 hours in Austin? Is Very Fancy Texas your new favorite kind of restaurant? And have you ever wanted to Scrooge McDuck into a work of art before? Email me at [email protected] and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Austin.
If you want to spend another 24 hours in Austin exploring Zilker Park, try this itinerary. If you can add 24 hours in San Antonio, add this itinerary. If you want a Texas Hill Country day trip, try this one.