Whether you’re an Austinite that knows how to keep a secret and already loves these spots or you’re a newbie in search of new adventures, these local gems are scattered across the city just waiting to be found! We’re sharing some of Austin’s best-kept secrets below!
SPEAK LIKE A LOCAL
First things first, here are a few tips for understanding the locals.
Austinite – Austin natives are not Austonians or Austiners. Always, and only, use the term Austinite.
Guadalupe – The street is pronounced GWA-da-LOOP the “e” is silent.
Keep Austin Weird – Austin’s theme and motto, celebrating Austin’s creative spirit and small-town roots.
Mopac – The Mopac Expressway is usually identified on street signs and road maps as LOOP 1. It is nicknamed for the Missouri Pacific Railroad that runs alongside it.
SoCo – The area along South Congress Avenue between the river and Ben White, with a thriving community of restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels.
The Drag – The strip of Guadalupe Street directly west of The University of Texas campus is commonly called “The Drag”.
Town Lake – This body of water located in downtown Austin has been renamed Lady Bird Lake, but Austinites will still refer to it as Town Lake.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Below are the can’t-miss dishes that everyone talks about. Each one is worth a visit on their own!
Avocado Margarita at Curra’s Grill – Known for their authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine, Curra’s has gained a following from its delicious yet odd-sounding margarita. It has been described as one part milkshake, one part guacamole, and one part tequila goodness.
Biscuits at Olamie – After years of being a secret item, the famous fluffy biscuits at Olamaie, which come with honey butter, have earned their rightful place on the menu.
Bob Armstrong Dip at Matt’s El Rancho – Named after local politician, Bob Armstrong, this dip is a delicious combination of queso, guacamole, and taco meat.
Brisket from Franklin Barbecue – Austin’s most talked-about and craved dish, Aaron Franklin’s magically delicious brisket has come to define the city across the country and world. Insider Tip: Avoid the line by placing an advanced pickup order online.
Cinnamon Roll from Nate’s Baked Goods – The gluten-free cinnamon roll with cinnamon glaze, at this cozy central Austin coffee shop, makes waking up in the morning just a little bit sweeter. Insider Tip: Order ahead for a full batch of their frozen take-and-bake cinnamon rolls.
Chocolate Chip Cookies at Tiny Boxwoods – These crisp-edged and gooey-centered cookies at this Bryker Woods eatery are best served warm with a glass of milk and will never disappoint! Insider Tip: You can also buy some frozen cookie dough to bake their cookies in your own oven!
Migas Tacos at Cisco’s – An Austin institution made from a recipe that hasn’t changed since the 1950s: eggs, cheese, and vegetables served with refried beans and your choice of tortillas or biscuits. Insider Tip: Get the biscuits!
Omakase at Toshokan – Hidden in plain sight, within the popular eastside venue Native Hostel and Bar, this 14-course omakase sushi speakeasy serves only six diners at a time. Insider Tip: Reservations to Toshokan are released on the first of the month, usually at midnight. Be ready, they go fast!
KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD LIKE A LOCAL
Keeping Austin Weird is a way of life. Here are some activities to experience the city’s unique culture.
Alamo Drafthouse – By movie lovers, for movie lovers! From quoting along with your favorite movies to dressing up in costumes, enjoy these very Austin movie screenings. Insider Tip: Make sure to visit one of their Master Pancake Theater screenings where they pair questionable movies with live comedy.
Blue Starlite Mini Drive-In – What’s better than watching a movie under the stars? This boutique drive-in theater is for the next generation of movie lovers with programming all year long.
Broken Spoke – If you want to do the Texas two-step, this is the place to go. This dance hall is internationally known as an authentic honky-tonk with live music and boot-scootin’. Insider Tip: Head to the dance hall early for dance lessons with Terri White on Wednesday – Saturday from 8-9 PM.
Chicken Sh** Bingo – It is exactly what it sounds like. Join in on this Sunday tradition at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon with drinking and country music.
Pinballz Arcade – Play your heart out at Pinballz Arcade which offers a huge assortment of classic and new arcade gameplay. Insider Tip: Pinballz Arcade is also BYOB!
SHOP LIKE A LOCAL
In Austin, we love embracing our local businesses. Check out these shops for some unique finds.
ATX Rugs – Offering a curated selection of one-of-a-kind Turkish rugs. Insider Tip: Be sure to follow their social media for their rug show announcements.
Austin Flower Co. – This wholesale plant and flower store offers diverse blooms and always has plenty to choose from in their cooler.
BookPeople – The leading independent bookstore in Texas whose goal is to build a community bound together by books. Insider Tip: They offer many book clubs that cover a variety of genres, from kids’ books to classic fiction to mystery – and just about everything in between!
Hearth & Soul – A carefully selected collection of simple, modern, and classic items perfect for yourself, your home, or someone important in your life. Insider Tip: From live music to shop-and-sips, join this Tarrytown shop for a variety of virtual and in-person events.
Howler Brothers – From buttons to patches to patterns to pockets, Howler Brothers designs everything they make in Austin – a place that provides daily inspiration with its vibrant and diverse creative culture.
The Renner Project – Get ready to be inspired at this 5,000-square-foot store and studio offering high-style twentieth-century modern, vintage, and antique pieces curated and presented in a series of constantly changing roomscapes.
Take Heart – East Austin boutique that values the energy and craftsmanship put into items created by small businesses and artists.
Tecovas – With each pair of boots crafted in over 200 handmade steps, these high-quality boots are timeless in their design making them never go out of style.
PLAY LIKE A LOCAL
Even the youngest among us (and the young at heart) can enjoy Austin. Here are some great activities geared toward kids.
Pease Park – Offering the quintessential “urban park” experience with a new interactive water feature, a Treehouse Observation Pod, a nature play area, a new playground, and a brand new basketball court. Insider Tip: From Squirrel Fest to toddler yoga, Pease Park hosts various free events.
Peter Pan Mini Golf – Operating since 1948, this family attraction features a variety of characters, obstacles, and surprises on two 18-hole courses. Insider Tip: Feel free to bring a cooler, just no glass containers!
Pioneer Farms – An authentic living-history experience aimed to preserve and interpret the Lone Star State’s storied history and diverse culture. Insider Tip: For an adrenaline rush, book one of their guided ghost tours that happens every third Saturday of the month.
Thinkery: Children’s Museum – An evolution of the Austin Children’s Museum, Thinkery is Austin’s home for “why” and “how.” It’s a place where science and families play side by side.
Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center – Tucked away just 30 miles from downtown Austin, this 76-acre non-profit nature preserve features guided hikes, an enchanting fern-lined dripping spring, a waterfall, and more. Insider Tip: Discover what goes on during the night at Westcave Preserve by booking a night tour!
Wonderspaces – Featuring 12 immersive, interactive, and conversation-provoking installations created by artists from all over the world. Wonderspaces is appropriate for everyone and all ages are encouraged to attend!
ZACH Theatre – The home for creativity in Austin, ZACH Theatre creates exceptional theatre experiences that inspire and engage the Austin community. Insider Tip: Come experience everyone’s favorite cat in their current production of Cat in the Hat until April 23rd.
ENJOY NIGHTLIFE LIKE A LOCAL
There is lots to do in Austin no matter the time of day. Check out just a few of the great night spots around town.
Donn’s Depot – It’s a dance hall. It’s a honky tonk. It’s a piano bar… even a wedding chapel. Generations of people have twirled to live music six days a week ranging from country to funk to rock and roll. Insider Tip: Mark your calendars for Thursday nights to see Donn Adelaman, the owner, play with his band.
Elephant Room – In the heart of old downtown Austin, sidle down a few steps into this underground bar and breathe in jazz. Insider Tip: Go Sunday through Thursday, when the bar is less crowded.
The Garage – An unassuming bar crafting inventive cocktails located in, you guessed it – a parking garage. Insider Tip: Once in the parking garage, keep following the path upwards until you stumble upon the entrance of the bar. Reservations are encouraged!
Justine’s Brasserie – Whether you dining inside the rich, velvet-draped interior or on the darkly lit patio, be sure to indulge in all of their offerings such as steaks, snails, and classic creme brûlée. Insider Tip: This is the place to go to late at night as they are open until 2 AM on weekends.
Kerby Lane Cafe – Austin’s favorite 24/7 diner known for its expansive diner menu full of pancakes, breakfast dishes, sandwiches, queso, and late-night dining. Insider tip: Get the gingerbread pancakes!
The Roosevelt Room – Located in the heart of downtown Austin’s Warehouse District, The Roosevelt Room has an expansive craft cocktails list and a satisfying food menu. Insider Tip: Sit at the bar to watch the bartenders work their magic. Also, if you’re hungry, get the grilled cheese!
GET OUTDOORS LIKE A LOCAL
With an average of 228 sunny days per year, Austin offers a multitude of ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Circuit of the Americas – Do you have a need for speed? Set in the rolling hills outside of Austin, COTA hosts some of the biggest names in racing and action sports. Insider Tip: Join cyclers of all levels for Bike Night, a fun-filled biking adventure on their Formula 1 track. After dark, the fun continues with a tailgate.
Community Cinema & Amphitheater – Where film, family, and fun come together! Located in the Community First! Village countryside, this outdoor cinema, and the amphitheater has become a Friday night favorite.
LBJ Wildflower Center – Stop and smell the flowers! Explore the native plants of Texas while birdwatching on miles of wildflower-rimmed trails. Insider Tip: Try their Date Night Package for their current Field of Light exhibit which includes two tickets, a charcuterie board from The Austin Epicure, drink tickets, and more.
SUP ATX: Paddleboarding – Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, it doesn’t matter! Depart from the Texas Rowing Center and begin your journey down the Colorado River. Insider Tip: No reservations are needed, just show up!
UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum – Celebrating the work of Charles Umlauf, this museum displays over 50 sculptures across a tranquil 6-acre garden near Barton Springs. Insider Tip: They offer “family days” each month that are filled with sculpture searches, a craft, and free admission for visitors of all ages!
Waterloo Park – Eleven acres of lush green space in the heart of downtown featuring hike-and-bike trails, stunning Hill Country Gardens, welcoming gathering spaces, and of course, the 5,000-capacity Moody Amphitheater. Insider Tip: From self-care Sundays to kid’s storytime, the park offers various free events and classes throughout each month.