5 Things: A Local’s Guide to Austin, Texas

austin travel guide

In “5 Things,” we ask some of our favorite insiders in cities all over the world to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). Today, I’m thrilled to welcome back Jen Pinkston of The Effortless Chic, who is whisking us away to Austin, Texas. It’s a fitting escape on this first day of spring—especially while big swaths of the country are still stuck in winter’s clutches.

5 Things: Austin, TX
by Jen Pinkston

In a city that has grown by fifteen times the national average over the last decade, I’m the kind of rare bird that was actually born and raised here in Austin. Because of this, I can wax poetic about my hometown for hours! Sure, I moved away for a quick decade post-college, but the laid-back vibes, socially conscious mentality and, of course the tacos, lured me back once we had kids.

Austin regularly makes the lists of best places to live and visit and for good reason! There are many things to see and do here, especially with kids in tow. (I know I’m probably in the minority here, but that happens to be my favorite way to travel!)

Keep reading for all of my must-do picks for the capital city of Texas!

austin travel guide


This is a hard category! There are so many great restaurants in Austin.

The best breakfast tacos are at Veracruz. My preferred order is two migas tacos on corn, no cheese, add bacon. You can thank me later. There are a handful of locations around town and all of them are delicious!

Get lunch at Josephine House. This quaint restaurant resides in an old home in one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods. The food on the other hand is super fresh, healthy, and delicious. If you’re wanting something more eclectic, don’t miss Elizabeth Street Café for a perfect mix of Vietnamese and French cuisine.

In the mood for coffee? Head over to Merit and be sure to spring for one of their energy bars, too.

Still hungry? It’s never too early for barbecue, especially if it’s at Lambert’s!

Grab dinner at Uchi. Most people don’t associate Texas with sushi, but a meal at Uchi never disappoints! For a more kid-friendly option, head to Fresa’s on South First where there’s a big, open yard for kids to run free while you finish your margarita!

If you want more tips on great Austin food, I have a ton of Austin resources here on my site!

austin travel guide


Visit Flourish for the best plants, pots, jewelry and other items that you totally need in your home.

Head over to Sunroom for the most chic straw hats, gauzy dresses, and swimwear.

By George is the place to visit for the most on-trend designer pieces with a side of beautiful ceramics and home décor.

Alexa James will be the best baby shop you’ve ever visited. The kids play area is so good that I’ve been known to schedule play dates there and the clothes are the perfect edit of pretty special pieces and every day play items.

Whole Foods! This might sound like an unorthodox pick for a travel guide, but Austin is where Whole Foods started and the flagship store on 5th street is worth checking out. It has the most incredible section of clean beauty I’ve ever seen in person!

austin travel guide


The Blanton Museum is located on the University of Texas Austin campus (which is so beautiful in and of itself) and is also home to an incredible Ellsworth Kelly exhibit. We love taking the girls here!

The Austin Central Library is perhaps the most architecturally interesting modern library. There is an entire floor devoted to kids and teens with modern Eames sitting areas and vantage points of the entire city. Warning: You could spend hours here!

Deep Eddy is the oldest swimming pool in Texas and features a bathhouse built during the Depression era by the Works Progress Administration. The pool began as a swimming hole in the Colorado River, became a resort in the 1920s, and today is a popular swimming pool operated by the City of Austin. It’s fed by a hand-dug well and the temperature varies between 66 and 75 degrees throughout the summer—it’s brisk for sure! Also, because of this, it’s not chlorinated. There is a huge shallow section that gradually slopes into deeper water so it’s ideal for really young kids and especially mamas hanging out with babies. You can watch late night movies here in the summer, too.

Whether you’re trying to beat the heat or you catch Austin on a rainy day, The Thinkery, an indoor kids museum, is truly incredible and worth the visit. There are stem activities, a play kitchen, and plenty of things for ages twelve months all the way up through late elementary.

Check out the Austin Nature and Science Center. This is mostly outdoors so beware of visiting on an especially hot afternoon. The Dino Dig area is the highlight for Parker as well as the wildlife exhibits and fossil areas.

austin travel guide


The three hotels I love in Austin are The Carpenter Hotel, South Congress Hotel, and Hotel St. Cecilia. All three are within walking distance to great shops and restaurants, too!

austin travel guide


Austin is definitely a casual and super progressive city—anything goes here! Own your personal style and wear what makes you feel best.

An average summer uniform would be a pair of denim cut off shorts, a micro floral cotton top, and chunky sandals or sneakers with a bandana. Always check the weather before your trip. There’s an old saying that goes something to the effect of “If you don’t like the weather in Texas just stick around for an hour!” It’s always changing. Today was 76 degrees. Three days ago it was 26!

If you’re here in the summer, pack your mosquito spray and sunscreen and prepare for humidity!

Thank you, Jen! I’ve long wanted to visit Austin, and hope to get a chance to soon. If you’re a fan, what must-visit places would you add to this list? 

For more Austin tips, be sure to visit this section of Jen’s blog, The Effortless Chic. Her Instagram feed and Pinterest page are also bright, energetic snapshots into all things Austin and motherhood. You’ll be so glad you checked them out!

P.S. Here’s our 5 Things Guide to Austin from 2015 and here’s all of our 5 Things Guides. Also, with spring here, it’s a good time to re-visit Jen’s guide to styling brogues.

Thank you to Molly Coyne for her help with this series! “Pack” photo is courtesy of The Style Spy.

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