Whether you have two weeks or two days to spend in Austin, this city is jam packed with amazing things to do. Of course the longer the trip the more you will be able to experience, but if it’s done right, a shorter trip can leave you feeling just as fulfilled.

As a Weekend Escape Artist, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton’s Travel MANager Program, my mission was to take full control of the travel plans so Sarah (my girlfriend) could sit back and enjoy the weekend… for once! I’m sure most of my male readers can agree that our significant others already do so much for us, and we should take the planning off their shoulders once in awhile and be a Travel MANager hero.

Read also: Calling the Austin Homewood Suites “Home” for the Weekend

Many people feel that a trip isn’t worth taking if they don’t have a certain amount of time to spend at their destination. However, this isn’t necessarily true. In our case, we had less than 36 hours in Austin, and that was surprisingly long enough to get a heaping taste of the city. Below you will find the 4 tips that I follow when visiting a city for the first time to ensure that I get a well-rounded experience – regardless of however long I have to spend there.

Get the Tourist Traps Out of the Way

6th Street, or how the locals refer to it, “The Dirty Sixth,” is definitely a place I recommend you visiting. It’s one of those touristy spots that you are either going to love or be happy you went once to get it out of the way. It has some of the best dive bars I’ve ever been to and the people watching is second to none. You can even spend your time outside of the bars munching on some street vendor food while you listen to the live music inside. Almost every bar has some sort of live music happening each night.

Some of Austin’s Dirty Sixth Spots to Visit:

Buffalo Billiards - Austin, Texas

Pete's Dueling Piano Bar - Austin, Texas

Do Something Unexpected

As I mentioned in my last Hilton Travel MANager (this will link to first post) article, I have never been to Austin when it wasn’t South by Southwest (SXSW), which in itself is its own beast. The entire town is filled with music, film and interactive professionals from all around the world, so you don’t quite see the real Austin the way the locals see it.

Two pleasant unexpected finds when researching things to do in Austin outside of 6th Street was the Panic Room and the bat sightseeing cruises.

Austin Panic Room

If you like puzzles with a side of teambuilding, then you will love the Austin Panic Room. Sarah and I joined up with another group to attempt to escape the ‘Cabin Fever’ room. Spoiler: We didn’t survive, but we had a blast! There are four different challenging scenarios to choose from that change every 6-8 months, so even if you’ve done all four you can still look forward to a room change in the coming months.

Austin Panic Room

Lone Star Riverboat Bat Cruise

Something I never knew Austin was known for was their estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats living under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Lone Star Riverboat provides a great sunset cruise that lasts about an hour. Like clock work, the massive colony of bats take flight in a ribbon formation and fly out from under the bridge and into the beautiful sunset sky.

Lone Star Riverboat Bat Cruise

Go Where the Locals Tell You

On every drive between the Homewood Suites to downtown Austin, we asked our drivers if they had any suggestions on where to spend our time, and the answers were unanimous; they all said we had to go to Rainey Street and Barton Springs.

Rainey Street

When being referred to Rainey Street, our drivers kept saying how it was the hidden gem for locals that wanted to escape from the craziness of The Dirty Sixth. This isn’t to say this street doesn’t get incredibly busy, but that the quality of bars and the drinks they serve are hands down of a higher caliber. It also doesn’t hurt that the buildings are gorgeously renovated historic homes built before 1934. Here were a few of Sarah’s and my favorites:

Bungalow Bar on Rainey Street - Austin, Texas

Lucille Patio Bar on Rainey Street - Austin, TX

Barton Springs

Locals look to swimming holes to keep cool on those notoriously hot Texas days. Barton Springs is a spring-fed pool that stays a chilly 65 degrees year-round. This pool is an excellent choice for anyone visiting Austin thanks to its downtown location. The Entrance fee is $3 for adults, $2 for ages 12-17, $1 for ages 11 and under and $1 for seniors.

Barton Springs Pool - Austin, Texas

Taste the Local Fare

This definitely goes hand in hand with asking the locals where you should be spending your time. We all know that no matter where you go, that place will always have a special food that it’s known for. In the case of Austin, it’s definitely barbecue. As for where to get said smokey treat(s) this is where the locals come back in. Tourist traps can be fine for some things, but to get a real taste of a city, you have to go where its inhabitants go. We asked around and here are the two favorites we kept hearing about:

La Barbecue BBQ - Austin, TX

La Barbecue BBQ - Austin, TX