For my birthday this year, I decided to take a solo trip to Austin, Texas. I’ve been wanting to take a solo trip for a while and chose Austin because it’s warmer than Chicago, and obviously the food.
I got to Austin on Thursday evening and when I got to my room at the Fairmont Austin, my best friend who works for Fairmont left me birthday donuts from Good Things and yummy iced coffee from Heyday! She’s the best! I also got a sweet birthday note from the Fairmont staff! My room had a nice view of the hotel pool and Rainey Street.
The night I got in I didn’t have time to explore much, so I walked down to 6th Street and had my Austin initiation dinner at Easy Tiger. If you go, you have to get the handmade garlic sausage on a pretzel bun. So good! I also got potato salad and Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap. I always love trying local brews and this one was delicious!
Day 2 – My birthday!
Friday was my actual birthday, and what better way to celebrate than starting the day off with the best barbecue ever? Dubbed the best bbq in the country and visited by Anthony Bourdain, it was a no-brainer that I had to check out Franklin BBQ. I got the brisket (THE best), ribs, and sausage and yes it was worth waiting in line for 2 1/2 hours in unseasonably cold 45-degree weather. (Shout out to the guys in line that gave me a blanket to wear while we waited. I definitely did not prepare for it to be so cold in Texas!) I also tried Austin Eastcider’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Cider and it was so good! Franklin has different bbq sauces on the table for you to try. My favorite was the Texas style, but they also have an espresso one which is…interesting. I didn’t hate it, but it was just a coffee aftertaste which I didn’t really want while eating meat. haha
I got to Franklin at 9am and got my food around 12:30pm. Everyone said the line was shorter than normal because of the weather. I think the line starts forming around 7am. When I left around 1pm there were still people waiting in line. Franklin closes when they sell out and which is around 2pm.
Later that day, I wanted to head to South Congress but needed to find some hot coffee to keep myself warm while wandering outside. I got the oat milk latte from Jo’s (home of the I love you so much mural) and it was so good!
One of the most popular murals in Austin is the Greeting’s from Austin mural. I had another tourist take my photo and I’m standing so weird, but whatever. It’s the only photo I got of myself the whole trip.
Anyway, the mural is on the Roadhouse Relics Art Gallery building. When I tried to go in the gallery it was locked, but the owner, Todd, saw me waving at his dog, Henry, through the window and let me in. haha Todd is the creator of all the vintage style neon signs you see on the website and throughout the gallery. I talked with him for a little bit – he’s so nice! – and he let me check out the backyard where the trailer and his collection of signs are set up.
After I left Roadhouse Relics, I kept walking down S First St. and found some donuts…because of course I did. I grabbed a coffee and strawberry shortcake donut at Gourdough’s cute airstream trailer (seriously, there are food trucks everywhere in Austin). Then I went back to my hotel to rest up and get ready for a fun night out on 6th street for my birthday.
If you’re not part of Girls Love Travel, you need to join their facebook group! I did a few months back and it’s such a great community of women sharing travel tips and encouraging others to explore. I posted in the group that I was headed to Austin and was looking for a buddy to hang out with at the bars. This sweet girl, Sara, reached out to me and took me to her favorite bars on and around 6th. My favorite was Barbarella. They have ’80s night on Fridays (super fitting for this ’80s baby) and in the back, there’s an outdoor stage with a DJ playing ’90s and ’00s pop and R&B. I met so many great people that night. Definitely a birthday to remember!
I do not recommend doing the bar crawl through Eventbrite. It’s where you buy a wristband, then go to a few bars and get deals on drinks. But, when we were going to the bars, no one looked at our wristbands and the drinks were the same price for everyone. Such a scam. There are drinks specials until about 11pm and the bars close at 2am.
6th street gets a little crazy – they block off the street so you’re free to wander through from bar to bar. I was a little annoyed at all the guys trying to grab girls to come into the bar for a “free” drink.
Day 3 – Saturday
The next morning, er, afternoon, I got up and went back to South Congress. I didn’t see much the day before because it was so cold, so I wanted to go back and see the rest. I had THE BEST brunch at Perla’s. If you’ve been to The Hampton Social, it has a similar cute nautical vibe. I had oysters, a bloody mary, and a lobster eggwhite frittata.
Here are some other places I checked out while on SoCo:
The Tiny Texas Embassy (grabbed a souvenir vintage Austin sticker here!)
Heritage Boot (super cute shop with intricately designed cowboy boots)
Home Slice Pizza (didn’t get the pizza but I heard it’s great. There was a huge line. Also home to the Mr Roger’s mural)
Stag – provisions for men (great gifts for men. home to Willie for President mural)
Tom’s Roasting Co. (coffee AND shoes? yes please. got an iced Mexican mocha here and it was delicious)
Hey Cupcake Airstream
Magnolia Cafe South
Parts & Labour (great spot for cute souvenir’s that aren’t tacky. they also have a ton of great smelling candles from local makers! bought a t-shirt here)
Torchy’s Tacos. Oh, Torchy’s. The best chicken fajita taco, guacamole, and street corn (elote). I also love the coke in bottles. There was a line to get in and it made sense because it’s so good.
HOPE Outdoor Gallery
If you haven’t heard of HOPE Outdoor Gallery, you NEED to check it out. It’s going to be demolished in January of 2019 so you don’t have much time. I’m so glad one of the locals suggested it to me. It’s a massive outdoor paint pack located in downtown Austin with beautiful views of the city. People from all over and all different skill levels bring paint and leave their mark on this huge concrete canvas. My favorite thing was seeing families painting together. There was a man with his young daughter spray painting a wall and her with her mask and hat and gloves was just so cute. There were also photographers doing shoots with models, so it really brings everyone together. I’m so sad it’s being torn down, but I’m glad I was able to see it.
Rainey Street is a must-see in downtown Austin. One of the coolest strips of bars I’ve ever seen. Back when the interstate was being built, the homes on Rainey were abandoned and became dilapidated. The city was afraid of the area becoming super commercial, so the neighborhood was added to the historic register and the homes on Rainey were remodeled into bars and restaurants. So when you’re bar hopping on Rainey, it’s like you’re going trick or treating for alcohol. haha
There are also a ton of food trucks with great drunk food. It’s like if someone just opened their backyard for people to park and make delicious food which I’m all about. I grabbed some fresh mini donuts from Little Lucy’s and lobster bites and fries from Happy Lobster.
Other places on Rainey to check out:
Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden
Day 4 – Sunday – chill day
My final full day in Austin started with a massage at the Fairmont spa. I got a deep tissue massage and it was amazing, to say the least. They have a hot tub area with a nice view of downtown Austin. Then I hung out in the sauna for a bit before heading downstairs to their all-you-can-eat brunch. The theme of this trip seemed to be “eat all of the things.” Fairmont’s brunch was so good – it’s $35 for a buffet + a menu for you to order freshly made items like french toast, chicken and waffles, brisket breakfast tacos, eggs benedict, oysters, and shrimp. $2 mimosas and $4 bloodys are a must as well.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing and then took a walk downtown to check out the capitol building. I also tried riding one of those rental Bird scooters and almost ate concrete in front of a bunch of people so that was cool too.
I’ve never experienced hotel room service before, so I decided to treat myself to dinner and dessert. I ordered the seafood paella and pistachio cheesecake and was blown away! I would eat this every day for the rest of my life if I could.
I was also sent some prosecco by my best friend to help celebrate my birthday. So sweet!
Day 5 – Welcome home
I was welcomed back to Chicago with a jaw-dropping view of the skyline. I love this city, but Austin has my heart as well. I could totally see myself moving down there one day.
Below, I’ll add some other spots that people suggested that I just didn’t get a chance to check out. Hopefully, this guide helps you plan your next solo trip to Austin!
Other things to do in Austin:
Zilker Park / Barton Springs – beautiful park with giant natural spring swimming pool
St Cecilia Hotel
Elizabeth Street Cafe
Launderette – lunch
Lambert’s BBQ – upscale
La Barbecue – food truck
Veracruz – taco food truck
Café No Se
She’s Not Here
June’s All Day
Emmer & Rye
Clark’s Oyster Bar
Summer Moon Cafe
Radio Coffee Bar
Amy’s Ice Cream
If you have any other tips or must-see places in Austin, comment below!