How to survive cold, depressing midwest Wisconsin winters…leave for a month 😂 Seriously though, between international trips getting canceled (thanks, COVID) and feeling trapped insides when it’s below zero and gloomy outside…my husband and I decided to road trip down to Texas for the month of February and stay in a tiny house. Since we both work from home, it was a no-brainer. Best. decision. EVER! And I can’t wait to tell you allllll about our experience and my absolute favorite places!
This post covers:
- Tiny Home Living
- Yummy Healthy-ish Restaurants
- Best Coffee Shops
- Breweries & Wineries
- Sweets & Desserts
- Beauty & Shopping
- Outdoor Activities & Hiking
Keep Austin Weird 🤘
This was my second time visiting Austin. It’s truly such a special place. And even though the city has about 950,000 residents, it really doesn’t feel like it’s a huge city which is why I love it. It’s pretty spread out and aside from the immediate downtown area, there aren’t a ton of giant skyscrapers; there’s a lot of greenery too. You can be on bustling South Congress Avenue and then take a two-minute walk and be in a quiet neighborhood. Since I previously visited about four years ago, there are definitely more developments, buildings, and residencies. But I was happy to see that a lot of it still felt the same and kept its charm.
When I think of Austin, these words come to mind: Quirky, vibrant, weird, fresh, and relaxed. So, time to share some of my favorite places I discovered along the way.
Related post: “Organically Becca’s Milwaukee City Guide: My Fave Spots!”
Tiny Home Living in Austin, Texas
I think tiny houses are just SO precious. I always try to stay in one when vacationing because you don’t NEED a ton of room when you’re just visiting temporarily. And it’s just nice to live minimally because it forces you to be organized and intentional with what you bring. I packed about a week’s worth of clothes and was a #ProudOutfitRepeater during the trip. Austin is usually 50-75℉ during the winter so I brought a small variety of clothes and layers. (Aside from the freak winter snow storm Uri…but I don’t wanna talk about that!)
We looked around at a lot of tiny homes in the area and ultimately decided to book this one in Spicewood:
We were incredibly happy with it overall! We choose it for a couple of reasons, but mainly it’s cheaper to stay on the outskirts of Austin instead of in the middle of the city. Since we booked for a whole month, you get a slightly reduced rate, and it came to about $70 a night after fees.
- Beautiful, clean, and modern (it didn’t feel too cramped either)
- Dog friendly! We brought our pup Dexter, and there was even a grassy area outside for him to run around (not fenced in) 🐶
- It felt private and secluded
- Great amenities! There was basically a full kitchen (fridge, stove, dishwasher, pots/pans, etc.) as well as a washer/dryer combo
- Decent closet space
- My favorite surprise was a CHICKEN COOP next to the home. We were told we could go and grab some fresh eggs whenever we wanted 🐓
- Reverse osmosis water filter built into the sink
- Felt like an upscale neighborhood
- Close to breweries and wineries with beautiful hill country views
- Outdoor firepit and seating area
- Very helpful and responsive hosts! There are three other buildings on the property (hosts live on-site) but it was quiet and they kept their distance
- 15 minute drive to Whole Foods for groceries; we tried to make meals at home instead of eating out all the time!
- Too far from downtown Austin! I loved the privacy and space that comes with staying on the outskirts of town, but it was about 25 miles (40-minute drive) to South Congress
- The bathroom felt tight and cramped
- No recycling available
- No dining table or space to sit down and eat; we had to eat on the couch! The hosts did provide a folding table that’s tucked away but it’s a nuisance to always set it up.
The last time I visited Austin, I stayed in this Travis Heights Flat and it was pretty nice. If you’re looking for something closer to town, it was walkable to SoCo!
Yummy Healthy-ish Restaurants in Austin
Let me make this clear: when I am on vacation, I do NOT follow a strict or healthy, organic diet (#UnorganicallyBecca is my alter ego). I mean, that’s the best part of traveling is eating all the delicious, local food! Sure, I try to find healthier spots here and there (#balance) but overall, everything listed here is a toss-up. Either way, I feel like as long as you’re not eating at big chain restaurants, you’re already better off.
Clay Pit: Contemporary Indian cuisine in downtown Austin. We got this for takeout one night and it was sooooo scrumptious. Try the Butter Chicken and Samosas!
East Side Pies: Known for their gluten free thin crust 🍕 We got the Lu’ which is a Hawaiian pizza. They use ingredients from local farms and make everything fresh. They have a few locations around town. Mouth-watering!
Flower Child: This is a popular chain but super healthy. You can find them at The Domain. They make everything from scratch with fresh ingredients and you can find options for vegetarian, vegan, paleo, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free, etc. Try the Winter Kale Brussels salad, gluten free Mac n’ Cheese, or a Steak bowl!
Franklin BBQ: You HAVE to get barbecue when visiting Texas, duh! This is one of the most popular in Austin and the lines can get super long (but you can schedule curbside pickup now). Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering just thinking about the smoked brisket and pulled pork. A classic! Visit Franklin’s in East Austin.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar: A few locations around the city but we found them on South Congress. If you want a juicy burger, this is the place! They have options for gluten free buns, grass-fed, or vegan burgers 🍔
Juiceland: Lots of locations around town! They make fresh cold-pressed juices and smoothies and use some organic ingredients. I recommend the Bam Bam, Wundershowzen, or Vegetable Collective smoothies.
Odd Duck: A perfect spot for a date night! I LOVED this restaurant (it’s on Lamar Blvd). It’s sustainable, locally-sourced, and farm-to-table. They offer small plates and shareables and are really conscious if you have food allergies. Their menu rotates but we got the pork chop with a kimchi tamale, beet salad, and a carrot cake cookie. YUM. They also have some fun cocktails like a draft Paloma with salty foam.
Paperboy: A great breakfast or brunch spot in East Austin! Try the migas or maple sausage biscuit sandwich.
Picnik: You’ve probably seen this brand in stores like Whole Foods. They have both a trailer and a sit-down cafe downtown. Their entire menu is gluten free, soy free, and peanut free. It’s healthy comfort food. They are known for their butter coffees but, to be honest, it tasted a little funny to me. But the Harvest Hash and Coconut Lime Bone Broth were SO delightful!
Salt & Time: A butcher shop and market with fresh cut meats from sustainable Texas ranches 🥩 We got a plethora of goodies including some bacon which tasted ah-mazing.
Salty Sow: An American gastropub in downtown Austin that serves contemporary farmhouse fare with locally-sourced, farm-to-table ingredients. Another option for a date night!
Sway: A modern Thai restaurant in Westlake with lots of gluten free options. The brussels sprouts and beef fried rice were top-notch!
Velvet Taco: This is a small chain across the United States but everything tasted incredibly fresh. Their tacos were fabulous and I recommend the Korean BBQ, Chicken Tikka, or Fish & Chips taco! 🌮 They have gluten free and vegetarian options. I liked these better than Torchy’s and Tacodeli which are other popular taco spots nearby. They have two Austin locations.
Best Coffee Shops in Austin
So you guys know that I am a total coffee snob! One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to find all of the best coffee shops. Austin does not disappoint ☕️
Civil Goat Coffee: This was my favorite coffee shop! They have two locations but I visited the Cuernavaca Roastery multiple times. First of all, they have an on-site goat named Butters and he is so stinkin’ cute! Pro tip: He usually makes an appearance later during the afternoons. But also, the offerings are delicious and the coffee is sourced from sustainable farms. I recommend the nitro cold brew or an iced oat milk latte. They also have amazing açaí bowls made fresh 🐐
Fleet Coffee Co.: A little gem in East Austin and my second favorite. The shop is tiny and currently, during COVID, they just have a walk-up window. I recommend their seasonal cortado called The Ritual; when I went it was oreo-infused and SUCH a treat! Their iced oat milk latte with butterscotch is also tasty.
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters: So the coffee here is pretty good (I got a plain cold brew), but what REALLY makes this place special is the view. It’s right on Lake Austin and most of their seating is outdoors on the patio. Make sure you go on a warm day to enjoy the scenery!
Summer Moon Coffee: A must-go if you want a sweet treat! They have a ton of locations around Austin. They use organic beans and a unique wood-fired roasting process. They are also known for their Moon Milk which is essentially sweet cream. Warning…it is VERY sweet! I loved their cold brew with a splash of moon milk, or they also have a nitro moon which is nitro cold brew with moon milk. Yum! My husband is not a coffee fan, so he got the Matcha Moon and Horchata Chai!
Other noteworthy coffee shops: Greater Goods Coffee Co. (get the Fronks latte which uses a locally-made organic cashew-almond milk blend), Hot L Coffee (their signature Ladybird latte is fabulous), Jo’s Coffee (the Iced Turbo is yummy but if you prefer something less sweet then try the Belgian Bomber), Mañana, Medici, Merit Coffee Co., and Patika.
Breweries & Wineries in Austin
El Gaucho Winery: Beautiful hill country views in Spicewood, with wines from their vineyard in Argentina 🍷
Fitzhugh Brewing: In Dripping Springs. Such a cute spot and very family-friendly. They have a large outdoor space with picnic tables to kick back and relax.
Frontyard Brewing: Also in Spicewood. This place is so cool! It’s mostly outdoors with a big yard with activities like pickleball and bag toss (lots of kids running around). They also have food trucks and a separate winery spot. Definitely a fun place to come on a nice day for a cold beer!
Jester King Brewery: This is a brewery, farm, and event hall out in hill country. They have some funky fruity beers. Come here on a nice day to kick back and relax with friends.
Oasis Texas Brewing Company: You can’t beat the view here! It sits above the Colorado River on a high bluff 🍺 They are a taproom but also have food. I loved it here so much. I suggest trying to go when the sun is setting!
Salt & Time Natural Wine Shop: You know I am all about natural wines! This shop specializes in natural options and the staff is really helpful for giving you tips for what to try. I picked up a Rosé and it hit the spot. They are in East Austin next to the butcher shop.
Sweets & Desserts in Austin
Bougie’s Donuts & Coffee: I CANNOT resist a good donut 🍩 Bougie’s is located in Sunset Valley and rated the number one donut place in Austin and I would have to agree. DELICIOUS. They offer some unique flavors and even have gluten free donuts (I think you have to pre-order those though!). They are more gourmet than your traditional donuts. Make sure to get there early before they sell out. Other donut shops nearby: Round Rock (these are classic, light, and airy; the lines can get really long), Gourdough’s (these are HUGE and loaded with toppings), and VooDoo (the experience is cool but, to be honest, the donuts are overrated for me).
Lick Honest Ice Creams: Mmmm! They have multiple shops around town. They use locally-sourced ingredients and grass-fed dairy and never use artificial colors, flavors, high fructose corn syrup, or preservatives. For sure try the goat cheese/thyme/honey ice cream flavor. You can also get vegan flavors 🍦
Beauty & Shopping in Austin
Allbirds: A sustainable shoe brand that uses wool and recycled materials. You can visit their store on South Congress. Jon picked up some new sneakers and I’m totally jealous 👟
Aloe Skin + Body: A holistic medispa in Westlake that uses natural products. I went for their signature Aloe Facial and it was INCREDIBLE. It was an hour-long and they did the works; my skin felt sooooooo great afterward. They also offer other services like dermaplaning and sugar waxing.
Lovejay Beauty: A holistic beauty bar in East Austin that sells clean makeup and skincare products. Sadly, it was temporarily closed when I visited, but it seems lovely.
Sassy Miss Waxy: A very eclectic little waxing boutique. It’s in East Austin and it’s kind of weird because it basically is inside someone’s house in a neighborhood. But Fiona did a lovely job (I got my legs sugar waxed with a natural paste!) and I had a great experience.
TOMS: You’re probably familiar with this one-for-one shoe brand! They have a shop on South Congress and it also has a cafe inside. Try the horchata cold brew!
W3ll People Studio: I love this clean beauty brand, so I was excited to visit their studio in person. It’s located at The Domain. It was curbside pickup only when I went, but from the outside, it looked really cute and I think they carry some other clean beauty brands too!
Outdoor Activities & Hiking in Austin
Bee Creek: This was our off-the-beaten-path top-secret swimming spot! If you’re up for an adventure, this is so fun. It was a few minutes from our AirBnb and recommended by our host. You can walk along the creek because it’s technically considered public land, just be careful not to go into people’s yards or they might get angry! The water is so crisp and clean (our pup Dexter loved swimming in it!). We went on hot days for a refreshing dip 🏊♀️
Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake: So fun 🛶 We rented a tandem kayak for an hour and gently rowed around the lake. You get an awesome view of the downtown skyline AND an arm workout. You can also rent paddleboards, canoes, or pedal kayaks here.
Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Trail: A breezy walk along the lake! This can also get kind of busy. It’s a 3-mile loop and easy to access if you’re already walking downtown or around South Congress.
Pace Bend Park: If you’re looking for a quieter hike! This is out in Spicewood and $5 per person to enter. But so beautiful. There are coves and cliffs along the river (you can cliff dive if you’re brave) and shaded trails too. It has about 11 miles of trails.
Pedernales Falls State Park: 30 miles west of Austin. Lots of hiking and biking trails and room to roam around. There is a river that’s known for flash floods so be careful on rainy days! It’s $6 per person to enter for a day.
Pennybacker Bridge Overlook: You can park on the side of the road and it’s less than five minutes to climb to the top. It’s a really awesome view of the bridge, the Colorado River, and Austin in general! Totally Instagrammable too 😉
River Place Nature Trail: This can get really crowded on the weekends. It’s $10 per person too. But it’s an escape from the city bustle and really feels like you’re out in the country. It’s 5.5 miles total, out and back. And there’s a decent incline so you get a good workout!
Rough Hollow Lakeside Trail: A 5-mile trail that is mostly shaded. This was pretty close to our AirBnb and near Lakeway so we went often! It was never too busy.
Zilker Park: A huge park in downtown Austin! This one is usually busy but there’s lots of room to move around. Check out Lou Neff Point for a city skyline view or take a dip in Barton Springs Pool.
Have you ever visited Austin? If so, what are your favorite places to go in town? I hope this guide was helpful. I definitely will be making another trip to Austin…if not permanently! 🤭 (a girl can dream, right?)