Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting Austin

Austin, Texas, has long appealed to tourists thanks to its live music scene, award-winning restaurants and unique attractions. In recent years, it’s also become a top destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

While locals welcome the influx of tourists, they also can’t help but notice what visitors get wrong during their stays in the capital city. We asked people who live in Austin to share the various faux pas they’ve observed.

From missing out on the lake scene to choosing the wrong spot for tacos, here are 16 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Austin ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Being unprepared for the summer heat

“If you visit Austin in the summer, prepare for 100 degree days with humidity. … The best months to come are October through April if you want to avoid those hot days. There are ways to enjoy the heat if you do choose the summer months ― be outside in the mornings and evenings, slip in one of our bodies of water in the daytime, and lean into the food scene as they’re all air conditioned and many have cool systems on the patios!” ― Erin Ruoff, blogger at Hi Lovely

Going to Torchy’s for tacos

“While Torchy’s Tacos was born here in Austin, the city has so many more restaurants and food trucks that make incredible tacos. A few of my personal favorites are Cuantos, Discada, Veracruz, Nixta Taqueria and Paprika.” ― Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko

“I wish that tourists knew to seek out some of the unique Austin taco trucks, but most people just go to Torchy’s! Sure, Torchy’s has tasty tacos and queso, but it’s a national restaurant chain at this point. Most locals will point you to El Primo, Cuantos Tacos or Discada for some of the best tacos in Austin.” ― Kelsey Kennedy, blogger at So Much Life

Flocking to the Instagram-famous murals

“One mistake is taking a photo by the ‘I Love You So Much’ sign. OK, I know it is iconic, but there are so many other murals.” ― Rachel Thornton, blogger at Austin Foodsta

“Don’t just take a picture in front of the ‘I Love You So Much’ Jo’s Coffee mural or the Roadhouse Relics ‘Welcome to Austin’ mural. Do a little Googling and you’ll find some incredible murals to jump in on! We have great artists to share all over downtown and beyond.” ― Ruoff

Sticking to 6th Street

“Don’t only go to 6th Street! Yes, 6th Street is fun but there are other areas around town or a few blocks away to explore like West 6th, Rainey Street, 4th Street, East 6th and more.” ― DJ Hella Yella, DJ and nightlife coordinator

“One mistake people make is thinking the Austin party scene is solely 6th Street, which caters well to the ‘just turned 21 crowd’ and those looking to have a rowdy night. If you’re wanting something a little less raucous, head to East Austin for a Williamsburg feel. It’s culturally diverse and prides itself on supporting local businesses and creative expression. Enjoy a cocktail at Kitty Cohen’s, or catch a drag show on Sundays at Volstead. Show up hungry as the food on the east side is fantastic!” ― Larissa Lampitelli, fashion designer

Austin's skyline including the Congress Avenue bridge over Ladybird Lake.

Peter Tsai Photography – www.petertsaiphotography.com via Getty Images

Austin’s skyline including the Congress Avenue bridge over Ladybird Lake.

Missing the lake and hiking scenes

“Think Austin tourism is only South Congress to the Capitol? Think again. Head west for a splash. Rent a boat on Lake Austin or Lake Travis ― escape the heat and jump right into some of the most beautiful lakes! They are rock-bottom, so no nasty, muddy lakes here. The water is cold year-round, which makes for a perfect activity for summer visits. They also are building up their own unique food scenes so don’t just eat downtown ― explore the whole town if you can. And if Zilker Park is too busy, go off the beaten path for great hiking and hidden waterfalls. Pack a lunch from one of our local markets and explore the crazy amount of trails we have.” ― Ruoff

“Don’t miss out on paddleboarding for exercise at Barton Springs, pups included. After exercising, indulge in an amazing spa day at Lake Austin Spa Resort or the beautiful, soulful Miraval resort.” ― Jo Placencio, blogger at Peace Love Glam

Only visiting during festivals

“Don’t only visit during SXSW or Austin City Limits.To fully experience Austin you need to visit not during a major festival weekend.” ― DJ Hella Yella

Expecting purely Western vibes

“A mistake tourists make is wearing all Western attire and expecting to ride a horse.” ― Thornton

“Austinites are mostly casual dressers, yet we still look fashionably pulled together. We are a laid-back city: casual chic meets cool Western with a dash of hipster along with denim and graphic tees. Don’t get me wrong, we have special occasions and lavish events where you’ll see beautiful gowns and tuxedos. However, don’t be surprised if you see luxury ensembles paired with jeans and boots. … We love being Texans!” ― Michelle Washington, TV style expert and fashion stylist

Getting the wrong BBQ

“Standing in line for Franklin’s Barbecue is a mistake. Franklin’s is good, but there’s better BBQ you can get in town with a shorter wait time like the historic Sam’s Bar-B-Que.” ― DJ Hella Yella

“The food trucks have arguably the best food in Austin. Try LeRoy and Lewis for BBQ, Dee Dee for Thai food and Rosita’s for tacos.” ― Thornton

Forgetting to pack swimming attire

“Always bring swimming attire. Austin and the surrounding areas have so many incredible watering holes (swim, hang, explore) and they each are a little different from the other. And with 11 months out of the year being warm enough to swim, there’s never not a time to do it.” ― Travis Hallmark, photographer

Staying outside the city

“I recommend not staying anywhere that isn’t in town or fairly central (i.e., Round Rock or Buda). Traffic will get you, and you won’t get a lot of the local Austin that makes Austin Austin.” ― Shelby Sorrel, social media strategist and blogger

“Don’t stay where you have to take I-35 to go everywhere. Traffic in Austin is bad. Avoid I-35 as much as possible.” ― DJ Hella Yella

Missing out on local shopping

“The number-one mistake I see visitors making is missing out on visiting and shopping on South Congress. Shop at locally owned stores and boutiques like Texas staple apparel Allens Boots.” ― Placencio

Not making reservations

“One of the biggest mistakes I see tourists make is expecting to waltz into a hot-ticket Saturday dinner restaurant unannounced. The Austin food scene is HOT right now! If you want to go to a popular place like Sammie’s, Hestia or Suerte, make your reservation a month in advance.” ― Kennedy

“Make a reservation months in advance for Hamilton Pool.” ― Thornton

Expecting too much from The Oasis

“Eating at The Oasis can be a mistake. It has a great view, but the locals know this spot is overhyped and the food just isn’t that great.” ― Thornton

“If you like cheesy but fun, head to The Oasis for killer lake views. If you want to avoid the tourist vibes, try another lake restaurant ― same views, less crazy, better food. Try Shack 512, Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, Oasis Texas Brewing or County Line instead. Trust me, The Oasis view is great. The food, not so much.” ― Ruoff

Going to Barton Springs on the weekend

“Don’t go to Barton Springs on the weekend, if you can help it. It’s absolutely packed on a Saturday, but practically empty on a weekday morning.” ― Kennedy

Layering incorrectly

“Tourists make the mistake of wearing too many layers (or not enough) instead of carrying items for weather readiness. Austin has fluctuating weather. We may start off with a cool morning; by noon, the climate could range from pouring rain to blazing sun.” ― Washington

Not asking locals for recs

“When you arrive in the city, ask locals for coffee, booze, tacos and BBQ. There are plenty of lists on the internet, but people who live here know the spots beyond the attractions.” ― Hallmark

“Avoid the big-box review sites and find the local food bloggers in town ― follower numbers don’t matter here. They are your key to the best food in Austin. They’ll tell you where to go, when to go, who’s popping in and what to avoid.” ― Ruoff

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Comments are closed.