Shoestring Jetsetter takes on….Austin, Texas!

All aboard!!!austin_mural

So from week to week and coast to coast we are going to be bringing you new in depth city guides for Jetsetting across the globe! We hope to give you some tips and tricks for traveling that can be accomplished on any budget.

Kicking off the Jetsetter tour, we welcome you to Austin, Texas!  We thought Austin was the most appropriate for our first travel feature guide, as Austin is the hometown of So we hope you enjoy this snapshot of the city and some of our favorite stops here in the crown jewel of Texas!

The Live Music Capital of the World, home of Tex-Mex, and all things “Keepin It Weird!” Austin, Texas is an eclectic city for the young and young at heart! If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, book your trip immediately…this city is electric! Don’t believe us…keep reading!

Austin has so much to experience from the great outdoors, featuring hills, lakes, and trails galore to the metropolitan scene full of great food, live music, and of course great shopping.  This city is alive and well with a young, healthy, and energetic vibe full of creativity and innovation. So, lets get started….

First thing first….when to visit?

There are some key times of the year to visit Austin depending on your interests, and since this is a biased article based on what WE LOVE, we are going to tell you the times of the year we love the most.

Spring Time in Austin...or as we like to call it “Patio Weather Time!”

March is a key time in Austin, as the city is starting to come alive after the end of winter and holiday rebound. The temperatures are perfectly spring like and the scene heats up as the SXSW Music, Interactive, and Film festivals swing into full gear!

If you are not familiar with SXSW (South by Southwest),it’s a showcase for new and emerging talent in the Interactive (media/technology space), Film, and Music industries.  Business’ are launched, careers started and talent found. Depending on your interests you can either buy a Platinum badge that allows you to attend all 14 days of events from Interactive to Music or you can buy a badge to only attend the portion that interests you such as the Music Showcases. It’s a great way to discover new bands, films, and interactive trends whatever your flavor.

While, you must have a badge to attend any official SXSW events or showcases, there are lots of unsanctioned SXSW events and showcases you can attend for FREE. Visit some of these sites and Facebook pages to find out about the free parties and showcases. SXSW party list, SXSW Baby blog, You must RSVP quick to most of the events as space is usually limited. Who knows you might even get lucky and get to rub elbows with the likes of Jay Z himself, who last year held a pop up show

with Mr. West.


Note to the wise….hotels book out up to 6 months in advance so this one might take a little bit of planning. Some great resources for booking hotels can be found on or try, or to name your own price hotels. You can also check out sites like Craigslist or (which is an Austin based company) and allows you to book homes, apts, etc. for rent. Also checking in with local realtors can be helpful as lots of Austin residents rent out rooms to their homes during the SXSW dates.

While we are on the subject of Hotels…here are some of our Austin favorites:

Hotel San Jose – located on Congress Ave right in the mix of all things Austin.

Austin Motel - aka the “Penis Motel” …no its not one of those rent by the hour type establishments….check out the sign and you’ll see where the name came from.


W Hotel Austin -  located in the trendy 2nd st. District w/lots of shopping and restaurants galore

Hotel St. Cecilia – swank boutique hotel nestled in a neighborhood off of S. Congress.

Four Seasons Austin -  Always a luxury, but not the most affordable if you are on a shoestring budget. Beautiful views of downtown and located right on Lady Bird Lake.

Driskill Hotel – the historic Driskill hotel built in 1886 is an Austin landmark. Located on 6th Street in Downtown you are within walking distance to some of the best dining and nightlife in town. Make sure to have brunch at the 1886 Café before you check out.

One last hotel booking tip…check out and from time to time to see if there are any Austin discounted hotel rates listed for your times of travel.


Ok, now back to our favorites times of the year….

May – Memorial Day Holiday!

The Memorial Day holiday marks the start of “summer, summer, summer time” in Texas! With its abundance of lakes and rivers to enjoy, this is a vacation destination for some fun in the sun! So booking a stay in Austin during this holiday is sure not to disappoint.

There are two main lakes in Austin, Lake Travis and Lake Austin. Lake Travis is a little bit of hike from the inner city, about 30-45 minutes outside of the Austin city limits, but well worth the drive for some amazing R&R for a holiday weekend! Some places to check out if venturing out that way. Lake Austin Spa & Resort  /  Lakeway Resort & Spa, and of course you can always get a group together and rent a house on the lake for the weekend via or


(Picture: Lake Austin)

If water sports are your thing….check out Just For Fun for boat rentals. While out on the lake you’ll most likely pay a visit to Carlos N Charlies on lake Travis for some live music and the party crowd...after a few cocktails lakeside you’ll be calling the place “Charlos and Carlies”, as I like to refer to it.  If you are in search of a more relaxing time at the lake, we suggest stopping in the Oasis restaurant for a great sunset on their huge deck and a margarita .


(Picture: The Oasis on Lake Travis)

For a more civilized dining experience check out Hudson’s on the Bend for some exotic game cuisine and vino.

If the city tends to be more your thing….we suggest the W Hotel for a swank/hip city adventure. You are smack in the middle of the “scene” with the 2nd St. District of shopping and dining right at your fingertips. The W Hotel also plays host venue to the new ACL Live music venue attached right to the hotel. ACL Live is the home to the famous ACL LIVE music tapings as well as a full scale concert venue holding about 3000 occupancy, so it’s a very intimate setting for great live music.  This past spring I had the pleasure of catching “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” live at the venue and it was one of the best performances I can recall.  So, catch a show, get a massage, hang at the pool, dine, and shop all in one block.


(Picture: Janet Jackson at ACL LIVE in Austin, Texas)

Late Summer/Early Fall

We are going to fast forward to the late summer, early fall time. As, the Texas Summer heat can be a bit of drag on the outdoor times in Austin, we don’t want your 1st experience in Austin making you think you have been misguided and landed in Abu Dhabi. We still love the city in the summer, but the Texas temps can be quite brutal on those who are not used to the Texas Summer scorchers…so we are going to skip to only the best times to enjoy all things in the city.

So, if you make a stop in late Summer-early Fall, you’ll be able to catch the ACL Music Festival .  ACL takes place in Zilker Park (central Austin) and brings together 3 days of some of the biggest headlining artists touring! See our above recommendations for hotel bookings and follow the same planning timeframe for our SXSW recommendations. This festival usually sells out as soon as it goes on sale, so plan ahead on this one if you want to snag a one or 3 day pass to play.  On sale dates usually hit around April, with the show going on between the August-October timeframe. Put this on your “bucket list” of things to do/see.


(Picture: ACL Fest - Austin, Texas)

So, that should give you some good indications of the best times of the year to visit around some pretty amazing events.

As you can tell, we are huge music fans here at LifeSushi. So, we must add a few music venues to our Austin “to do” list when you visit. They don’t call Austin the Live Music Capital of the World for nothin! With over 200 live music venues in the city, you can almost catch someone playing somewhere 24 hours a day. Viva Las Austin!

Here’s a list of music venues you can check into to see who you might catch while you are in town:

ACL LIVE – located at the W Hotel, this venue packs in some pretty big acts. With limited seating, there’s really not a bad seat in the house! Click the link to check out the lineup coming into town next.

Antone’s – From Stevie Ray Vaughn to B.B. King, this is a must stop for any music buff! The greats have all played this venue and it’s an experience all in itself. The first club to ever open on the now bustling 6th St. You might even be able to catch a night of Austin’s newest up an comer to the mainstream set, Mr. Gary Clark Jr… here to see what Alicia Keys has to say about Gary Clark Jr.  and click here to check out his new single “Bright Lights.”

Continental Club - located on the Congress Ave. strip, since it opened its doors in 1957, the Continental Club has been a place to see and be seen. Some of the best live music acts in town have and continue to play this Austin joint. Its standing room only, so make sure you get there early to catch your favorites.


(Picture: Continental Club - Austin, Texas)

Saxon Pub – favorites that frequent this pub are Bob Schneider, Dan Dyer , and from time to time you might even catch Mr. Willie Nelson himself. . Don’t miss these local favs as they play in regular rotation.

The Backyard – a revitalized outdoor venue in Austin that hosts mainstream favorites like Incubus and Arcade Fire . Combines everything we love about Austin..the outdoors, great music, and and free flowing beer!

Stubb’s – Another amazing venue in downtown Austin that books a steady rotation of must see bands from John Mayer to the Foo Fighters. You can’t go wrong making a stop at this Austin landmark.

To wrap it up we are going to give you are “hit list” of restaurants and shops that are a must while in Austin:

With so many culinary flavors in this city, its hard to pick just a few restaurants to stop in….here are some “must EATS!”

We are going to start with our recommendations for Tex-Mex as this is the Tex-Mex capital of the south.

Matt’s El Rancho - great spot for large or small groups…enjoy the great outdoor patio. A must order…the Bob Armstrong dip and the Tacos al Carbon! You are welcome!

Guero’s Taco Bar  – located on Congress Ave. Great spot to start the night before sliding down to Continental Club for live music! On the weekends you might catch some live music at their outdoor waiting area. Great Ritas…in case you haven’t noticed yet, we “heart” Margaritas!

Vivo’s  - eclectic spot in East Austin. Try the enchiladas verdes and a mango margarita! A nice little send off…don’t forget your after dinner rose ladies!

Fonda San Miguel – authentic interior Mexican cuisine with an upscale twist. A must stop for the Sunday brunch buffet! Reservations are suggested.

Hula Hut (on Lake Austin) – It doesn’t get any more “Austin” than this. Throw on the flip flops and head down to Lake Austin to enjoy an afternoon on the deck of Hula Hut on the water for some authentic tex mex and of course don’t skip…yes..the margaritas! Our fav….the shrimp tubular taco and the queso compuesto! OLE!


(Picture: Hula Hut - Austin, Texas)

This may sound bizarre, but Austin is also home to one of the most amazing sushi artists in the country….James Beard Award winner Tyson Cole calls Austin his home and is the mastermind behind Uchi & Uchiko. Whatever you do, make it a priority to stop into either Uchi or Uchiko while you are here. This is a must stop. They take limited reservation times, so log on and call ahead to book for a very special dining experience. Our recommendations…order one of everything and double up on the sake! Kung Pai!

Now, it wouldn’t be an appropriate stop through Texas without a little Texas BBQ experience and boy Austin has you covered. Helming from some of the most talented and dedicated pitmasters in the state, Austin is all a buzz with some of the most amazing BBQ joints around.

One of our favorite spots in Austin for BBQ goodness is Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Stiles Switch is lead by pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick who combines his skill and passion for Texas BBQ into a dining experience you are sure to write home about. Lance and the monster pit…aka “Megatron.”, get to wood smoking all your favorites daily at 3am so its ready and perfect for you when they open the doors at 11am. Talk about dedication!

sign-stiles_switch_low_res  brisket_-_stiles_switch_from_Thrillist

They also have an amazing selection of local Austin brews from the likes of 512, Independence,  Live Oak, and  Thirsty Planet.  Austin is becoming quite the scene for microbrews. You might want to add a brewery tour to your list of things to do while here as well. Check out Austin Beer Guide for more information on local brews and tours!

Our favorites at Stiles Switch BBQ are: Brisket (moist), Beef Shoulder Ribs, Switch Original sausage and the Jalapeño Cheddar, the Diablo Sandwich as well as the Smoked Turkey which is just about as juicy and smoky as they come! Don’t forget the sides….mac & cheese, corn casserole and the cole slaw are to die for. The deserts…oh yes the deserts, chocolate banana pudding and the peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream are tied for our favs! Are you full yet?


While you are dining, you can also get a little Austin landmark sight seeing in…as the Violet Crown Shopping Center where Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is located is the production filming hub for the late 1990s movie Dazed and Confused starring Matthew McConnoghay. Great food….great spot! “Alright, Alright!”

Last but not least…you gotta enjoy a great steak while in town. We are going to send you to our favorite place to “Get the Beef!” Austin Land & Cattle. A great hidden spot locals love. You might even rub elbows with a Texas Congressman or two, as this local steak house is also popular spot for the capital city’s political types. You can either dine in the dining room or in the bar area. They have an amazing happy hour from 5p-7pm that has a half price bar menu we cant get enough of. Try the Black and Blue salad…black angus steak atop a bleu cheese salad. Amazing! Also the fried mushrooms during the happy hour stint are a great way to fill the belly if you are partaking in a little cocktail hour. Make sure to try their Texas Martini.

Ranch 616 just off of West 6th St. is another great place for a slab o beef!  The atmosphere is one of our favorites in the city and the food phenomenal. Enjoy the Austin skyline by sitting on the patio or indoors in an eclectic decorative space with some Texas nostalgia.


(Picture: Ranch 616)

Our favorites here include the filet topped with crab/lobster or the twice divorced trout…you’ll love it trust us! Don’t forget the cocktails here as well. The Ranch Water is our fav…but be warned…you only need one to get this party started. That was our attempt at being responsible.


Once you finish up dinner at Ranch 616…stumble, er we mean stroll on over to West 6th St. to hit up some of Austin’s best nightlife….just a stone’s throw away is the Rattle Inn, live music venue or Star Bar for a relaxed cocktail. From there…..just let the wind blow you where it may! ..oh yes, make sure you cab it after the cocktails! (again, our attempt at being responsible).


On to the shopping:

Boutiques are where its at in this city. Some of the best areas for shopping:

2nd Street District

- Girl Next Door is a great boutique to hit up if you are looking for something snazzy for a night out on the town. Eliza Page for local jewelry finds, and a must stop is Teddies for Bettys for all things lacey and lovely. Make sure you "LIKE" Teddies for Bettys Facebook page. They post the best "tongue in cheek" quotes daily. Keep it up ladies! We love when a brand has a personality not just a rambling advertisment..these ladies get it!

Congress Ave.

- unique boutiques and restaurants line this main vein to Austin culture. Check out local jewelry designer, Kendra Scott boutique and By George for some hip funky finds.

Lamar Blvd. between 5th and 12th

- Check out the 2nd By George location for some higher end finds should your budget allow. If not, just stay away as its way too tempting to bust out that emergency credit card to spring for that new Chloe bag. “Don’t do it!”

- A must see..the flagship and headquarters of Whole Foods. 80,000 sq. ft. of just about everything you can imagine (just a great place to people watch and spend $50 on 3 items). No, really stop in and check it out…Austin is the home of Whole Foods in case ya didn’t know.

- HEM a great denim boutique

- Wildflower for great home finds specializing in organic fabrics

- And although it’s a chain we can’t get enough of Anthropologie at the corner of W. 6th and Lamar


Now, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what to do in Austin, Texas. While you are here or planning your trip. Email us and we’ll answer any questions or travel tips you might have directly.

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will get back to you! Just another “pay it forward” type mantra we like to live by here at LifeSushi!

Now, what are you waiting for??…get moving!






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