What do you think of when someone mentions Austin, Texas? Austin City Limits? South by Southwest? Slogans like, “Keep Austin Weird,” or, the city’s claim as the “Live Music Capital of the World?”
You may or may not be surprised to find out Austin, in addition to being one of the trendiest (for lack of a better word) cities in the country, is also a popular destination for business travelers.
Here’s what you need to know about the city before you head there for work duties.
Where to Go:
ABIA does its best to match the spirit of Austin, and any time spent here can feel like a mini-tour of the city.
|How to Get to Downtown Austin|
Murals, signs, and other displays throughout the city will tell you to keep Austin weird. So, do that, and stick to these other tips to make sure you’re fitting in.
The Austin boom hasn’t necessarily been good for the city’s transportation. The rail system is limited, and the streets are jammed during the work week. You can still get around, though, with these suggestions.
Do you need a car to get around here? The answer is probably no. People drive out of habit, but the increase in population—the city proper now how has more than 1 million people—has filled the roadways. If you’re only going from your hotel to meetings, you can skip the rental.
In past years, Austin has been at the center of ride-sharing controversies. You may have heard something about that. Uber and Lyft left the city but have since returned. For a local option, RideAustin is a nonprofit that allows you to round up your total, with the difference going to a charity of your choosing.
To combat its traffic issues, Austin has featured alternative forms of transportation. Pedicabs are popular, as are ride-share scooters and bikes, especially in downtown areas.
Like other Texas metropolises—Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio—Austin is huge geographically. That makes walking from site to site difficult. Having said that, if you’re confined to the downtown area, you’ll be just fine trekking. Bring those walking shoes.
CapMetro’s reputation precedes it. Most everyone in Austin will tell you to skip the bus and the MetroRail. However, it’s the cheapest method of transportation, and if you’re on a strict budget, it might be the way to go.
Well, you don't get to claim the title "Live Music Capital of the World" without backing it up. Legendary musical acts across all genres have come through Austin. Some even got their big breaks in the city.
There’s no shortage of luxury in downtown Austin, with each of these six hotels offering different experiences for business travelers based on their preferences.
With the flags of the United States and Texas hanging off its second-floor balcony, the Driskill welcomes you to old-time Austin. Everything about it feels historic, from its sweeping halls to the hide carpets to the nightly live music at the Driskill Bar. But there’s plenty for the modern business traveler here, too: complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, an executive business center, and a 24-hour fitness center that overlooks downtown Austin.
The Fairmont Austin is in the middle of everything. A few blocks north, you’ll find the Austin Convention Center, a few blocks south, the portion of the Colorado River the locals call Lady Bird Lake. With 1,048 rooms, there are plenty of comfort options. Many of them feature spectacular views of the aforementioned lake as well as downtown in the foreground, and the Texas State Capitol building in the distance. The rooftop pool, heated seasonally, is also the perfect relaxation point after a long day.
Time Out calls the JW Marriott, “Austin’s most business-friendly hotel,” and with good reason. An entire floor is dedicated to meeting spaces with AV capabilities. Guests will also enjoy the rooftop pool and convenience of a Starbucks in the lobby.
Step out of the Hilton Austin, and you’ll already be close to the action. The hotel is attached to the convention center and a short walking distance to popular downtown Austin spots, like 6th Street. And if you don’t leave the hotel, that’s fine, too. After all, there’s an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a fitness center to keep you active.
The Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt is the perfect place to change up your normal business routine. The pool deck features sweeping views of the Austin skyline, while live music in the restaurant adds a Texas soundtrack to dinner. You can also put away your phone when it comes time to leave for work and hop on one of the hotel bikes instead.
Business travelers who like to maintain a fitness regime on the road should consider booking a stay at the LINE Austin. The hotel is steps away from popular walking trails and, like the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt, offers complimentary bike rentals. There’s also a 24-hour fitness center and complimentary fitness classes.
It’s a challenge to explore a city when you’re there for work. However, these six locations will give you a uniquely Austin experience while providing perfect spaces to stay productive.
Nestled in a lovely blue building 3.5 miles north of downtown, MELD Coworking welcomes visitors to a more homey setting than they might be used to. Head to their website to grab a free day pass, and see what the coworking space is all about. You’ll get typical amenities like free coffee, beer, and snacks to go, with access to work stations.
How many coworking spaces serve cold brew on tap? That might be reason enough to head to Vessel, some six miles north of downtown Austin, off I-35. It’s a place where quirkiness meets productivity. You can get check it out for free by snagging a day pass off their website.
It may not offer free passes like Vessel or MELD, but TechSpace makes up for it with location and purpose. The fourth-floor offices are in the heart of downtown, and have an environment that mimics the vibrancy of the city. A day pass will run you $25.
If you need to get work done in a city with gorgeous outdoor spaces like Austin, why wouldn’t you want to work outside? Alta’s Cafe provides that opportunity, with outdoor seating and outlets. Set up with the Wi-Fi, knock out those emails, and take in the views of Lady Bird Lake and downtown.
As far as city libraries go, the Austin Central Library is certainly one of the coolest. It rises downtown on the river, a huge, modern building, with academic services on every floor.
You won’t have to venture far from downtown Austin to find a great happy hour. Here are six to check out as you unwind from work.
You can load up on comfort after work, if you so choose, at Better Half Coffee & Cocktails’ happy hour. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m, Tuesday through Friday, score $5 cheeseburgers, $3 beer, and $5 sangria. The deals continue 9 till close on the weekend, with $5 draft cocktails and $2 Pearl beers.
A 15-minute walk from the convention center, Licha’s Cantina delivers delicious Mexican favorites at a discounted price. The restaurant’s $5 happy hour menu—available Tuesday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m—features drinks like margaritas and mules and bites like quesadillas and sopecitos.
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden is popular at all times, but it’s a must-stop place for happy hour. Get $4 sausages, chili cheese fries, and more, while hanging out in the festive outdoor space, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the week.
The small plates at Irene’s happy hour (3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday) are just delightful. Try Irish nachos, pimento & saltines, or roasted beet hummus, each $2 off their normal price. For libations, enjoy $4 cocktails and $1 off draft beers. Keep your wallet in your pocket when you go for the popcorn: It’s free.
For those staying at the LINE Hotel, there’s no need to leave when it comes time for happy hour. The offerings are budget-friendly, with $2 Lone Star Light and Tecate, $4 snacks, and $6 cocktails. The deals run 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and till 10 p.m. on Thursdays.
Consider this an adult food court. Restaurants of all kinds fill the Fareground food hall, with each offering its own specials. At the Fareground Bar, you can get $4 select beers and $5 select wines. Save $2 off Contigo’s wings and green beans, or head to Dai Due Taqueria for discounted tacos.
From vegan options to authentic Texas barbeque, from Japanese cuisine to Mexican, Austin delivers flavors that are sure to please all travelers. Here are some must-visit spots:
You may hear Austin described as “in Texas but not of Texas” because of departures from characteristics that define its home state. That includes Mr. Natural, which dishes out vegetarian and vegan Mexican plates in East Austin, just a short drive from downtown. Get here for breakfast, a favorite among diners.
Moonshine serves some of the best comfort food in Austin, the mac and cheese in particular. Feast on local favorites like street corn queso as an appetizer before indulging on a pimento cheeseburger.
“The Soul” in English, El Alma lives up to that lofty name by delivering an authentic Tex-Mex experience in an Austin setting. Head up to the roofdeck, and sample Mexican favorites like queso, rellenos, and other popular offerings.
Franklin Barbecue is simply one of the most talked about barbeque joints in the country. That’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the food is legit. The bad news is that you will wait in long lines to get it, especially on the weekend. Sneak here for lunch during the week for the shortest path to succulent brisket.
In a food truck-dominated city, Veracruz All Natural stands above the rest. There are five locations across the city, each offering fresh tortillas with a variety of fillings. Stop here for breakfast tacos and a smoothie for a true local experience.
Japanese cuisine doesn’t get much better than Uchi. The restaurant flies in seafood from Japan daily and serves a full menu or sushi options in addition to traditional fare. This is also a great spot for vegetarians.
Austin is a city that’s inventing and reinventing itself on the fly. Its fitness programs match that energy. You’ll have no problem staying fit on the road at these calorie-burning spots.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or simply an avid runner, Austin can keep you on course. Join the Austin Runners Club, a nonprofit that meets every day for long runs throughout the city. The club even has pace leaders on Saturday mornings so no one feels left behind.
The Roy Butler Hike-And-Bike Trail encircles Lady Bird Lake, with multiple entrances in the surrounding area. Run a portion of the trail or rent a bike to log some miles before or after your work responsibilities.
Run by Stronghorn Fitness, Saturday Sweat Sessions are outdoor, community fitness classes open to the public. Check the calendar or Facebook group, bring a suggested donation of $5-$10, and be prepared for “sweaty hugs and high-fives.”
Stop by Sky Candy to be one step away from becoming “The Daring Young Man (or woman) on the Flying Trapeze.” While it might seem like a circus act, trapeze workouts strengthen one’s core. If nothing else, it’s a fun, different form of exercise to try. A drop-in class costs $30.
A quick look at the calendar page on Cherrywood Coffeehouse’s website will tell you it’s more than a cafe. You’ll find various live shows, music, and plays. You’ll also see yoga every day at 8 a.m. Head there in the morning, and stay for the great coffee afterward.
With its live music scene, outdoor spaces, and history, Austin is the perfect place to mix work and play. Here’s what your itinerary could look like if you take a bleisure day.
This is a bit of a conundrum. You should start your day with a breakfast taco, but if you’ve spent any extended time in Austin, you’ve likely had your fair share of tacos. Compromise by enjoying a delicious vegan breakfast taco from this Tex-Mex staple.
The Butler Park Pitch & Putt may have a claim as the most laidback golf course in the country. Green fees are $9 during the week, $11 on the weekend, and you can rent clubs for $1 each. Oh, and it’s BYOB, if you wanted to add a buzz to your game.
There’s a whole lot of Texans who believe you can’t capture the history of Texas in one building. Well, the Bullock State Texas History Museum tries. Opened in 2001, the museum tells the story of Texas, from Spanish settlement to independence to the oil boom to the modern age. It’s all here, just outside the University of Texas campus.
Any place that carries the nickname, “Dirty 6th,” is worth visiting, right? 6th Street is the legendary nightlife stretch of Austin, lined with bars, restaurants, and live music venues. You can’t not have a good time here.
You’ll get your fix of live music just by walking the streets of Austin, so no need to seek out any more performances. Instead, head to the Broken Spoke, a good old-fashioned dancehall that’s famous in country music circles.