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Austin City Trip

The Pennybacker Bridge connects the northern and southern areas of Austin, TX

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

AUSTIN TOUR DAY 3: BookPeople, Waterloo Records and SoCo

After all that outdoor adventuring in Day Two, you're ready for a little self indulgence. If you're looking for a more come-as-you-are joint, you'll find plenty of company at Magnolia Café. Their big-as-your-face buttermilk or gingerbread pancakes are best with added fruit. A hearty appetite will appreciate the Royal Toast: four triangles of French toast, two eggs, along with bacon, sausage or ham.

With a fully sated belly, it's time for some shopping. Fashionistas flock to Emeralds at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar for a sexy dress and a shoe selection to make Carrie Bradshaw swoon. Across the street, book buffs are drawn to BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas, with more than 200,000 titles as well as author readings and events daily. Back across the street is Waterloo Records, an independent music store widely regarded among the best in the country. The expert staff can give you a crash course in the local music scene, or you could browse the music-related bonanza of books, games and gizmos.

Inside Waterloo Records, a core part of the music scene in Austin,TX

If you've shopped your way to lunchtime, you're in luck. You can't miss the flagship store and world headquarters for Whole Foods Market, across the street from Waterloo Records. The 80,000-square-foot store has several mini-restaurants including sit-down areas for seafood, Italian, barbecue, sushi and the ever-popular international buffet. If the choices are overwhelming, you could always hop across the bridge to SoCo (South Congress), because that's where you should head for more shopping anyway. Options here include Hopdoddy, where the burger has gone gourmet with fancy sauces and unexpected toppings. There’s usually a long line, so if that's too crowded, try South Congress Café, a mod spot with homey, Cajun-influenced selections.

After your respite, explore the homegrown shops of SoCo, Austin's most talked about shopping district. Parts & Labour carries hip casual wear from local and Texas designers, and is likely the best bet for unique souvenirs that don't scream, "I bought a useless souvenir." Co-Star carries a “hyper-curated selection” of accessible fashion for women and men, from national and international designer labels to up-and-coming trendsetters. Uncommon Objects is the place for great antiques and oddities while Cream Vintage, New Bohemia and Feathers anchor the vintage market for clothes, décor and furnishings. Art lovers can browse and buy at Yard Dog Gallery, a fine representative of art that's colorful and edgy, and Mi Casa, with its seemingly endless offerings of Mexican folk art.

By now, you're ready for libations. Happy hour at the Continental Club features top-tier Austin bands for no cover, a major deal considering that it would cost between $10 and $20 to see the same musicians jam in other cities. Doc's Motorworks is more sports bar-oriented, but the wide open patio caters to everyone. The über hip courtyard at Hotel San José is the definitive locale for a chicer happy hour.

Come dinnertime, there's still no need to leave the SoCo district. Vespaio, a bustling, contemporary trattoria with an ever-changing menu, has been among Austin's most popular fine dining spots for more than 10 years. Alternatively, Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar garners attention with fresh catches, like the perfectly seared a la plancha. The side dish of green onion grits prepared in lobster stock is worth the trip alone.

The outdoor dining patio at Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar

Of course, SoCo doesn't have a monopoly on all things great in Austin. A few blocks over on South Lamar, Uchi is the place for matchless sushi and Japanese fusion fare from award-winning executive chef Tyson Cole. Just up the road, treat yourself to lamb's tongue with grilled pears and a beet salad with local chevre and red wine vinaigrette at Olivia.

For nightlife, we suggest you revert back to the day one itinerary. Even if you somehow made it to all the suggested live music venues, tonight is a whole new lineup at each one. And that pretty much sums up Austin. You could trace your exact steps each day you're here and still have a brand new experience each time. For such a laid back town, there's a whole lot of action in Austin.

* Images courtesy of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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