Austin mural

There's plenty to turn your lens on in Texas' quirky capital. Here, Four Seasons staffers tell us what to see, do, eat and shoot on your next Austin getaway, as well as the experiences photos can’t do justice to.

A Picture-Perfect Austin Tour – Plus What Your Phone Can’t Capture

We rounded up nine of the most #photogenic sights, as well as a hit list of have-to-be-there spots.

There’s no shortage of shareable moments to be had in Texas’ quirky capital. What with street murals, the ever-changing skyline and restaurants serving up fare as photogenic as it is delectable, many of the best snaps are within walking distance of Four Seasons Hotel Austin, which is even more camera-ready these days thanks to a recent renovation.

We tapped Four Seasons staffers for insider tips. Here, their recommendations on what to see, do, eat and shoot on your next Austin getaway – including a 1916 Italianate villa and the best bratwurst in town – as well as the experiences photos can’t do justice to.

1. South Congress Avenue

This pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare, just a stroll across Congress Bridge from
Four Seasons Austin, is full of insta-worthy spots. “From the funky murals to the street performers, there truly is nothing else like it,” says Assistant Guest Services Manager Blaire Roberts. While most gather – even stand in line – for photos in front of street art that reads “I love you so much,” we also love the “Willie for President” mural, a storey-high tribute to Willie Nelson, one of Austin’s favourite musicians, on the side of clothing boutique Stag Provisions. The capitol building and skyline, captured from a South Congress crosswalk, compose a stunner in square form.

Outside the Frame

South Congress is one of Austin’s top shopping streets. Here you’ll find ByGeorge, which carries top brands like Marni, Saint Laurent and Stone Island. Across the street, jeweller Kendra Scott, who got her start in the Lone Star State capital, displays her colourful baubles in a freshly opened flagship store with a café and an outdoor mural.

2. Central Library

There’s a lot more to snap than bookshelves at the new Central Library, a Lake Flato–designed building that’s already at the heart of Austin’s evolving identity. Newcomers stand in wonder –with camera phones at the ready – in the atrium, where gravity-defying bridges and staircases connecting the building’s six storeys conjure scenes from Hogwarts. Travelling with kids? Don’t miss readings in the children’s wing, which has a toy room and educational computer games.

Outside the Frame

“Stick around for lunch or a cocktail at the Cookbook Café,” says Executive Assistant Christine Bloemsma. The airy restaurant on the library’s second floor has floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor patio. The fun part: Every dish on the menu comes from the celebrated chefs’ cookbooks that can be borrowed from the library.

3. Lady Bird Lake

Whether you’re walking or jogging along the water’s edge, the hike and bike trail around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake – known to locals as Town Lake – is one of the best places to people-watch. While some of the waterway’s most photogenic spots are steps from Four Seasons Austin, the trail’s east side, expanded in 2014 to the tune of $26 million, sees fewer cameras. Its contemporary overwater boardwalks afford striking skyline views.

Outside the Frame

Want to get out on the water? Stop by Live Love Paddle, just south of the hike and bike trail’s boardwalk, to rent kayaks or Austin’s preferred mode of water-bound transport – stand-up paddleboards.

4. Clark’s Oyster Bar

A polished nautical theme is well executed throughout this neighbourhood restaurant. Waiters sport Taylor Stitch Oxfords and striped waist aprons, and the dinnerware is a replica of the U.S. Navy’s mess hall china. You’ll want to snap pictures of the oysters, flown in daily from both coasts, and even the bread plate – sourdough served with Maldon salt and slices of bright red radishes – before diving into the Gulf red fish, served with a smoked caper and paprika vinaigrette. Request a front terrace table, shaded by a striped yellow awning that bears the restaurant’s nautical coordinates.

Outside the Frame

Around the corner from Clark’s you’ll find the flagship for Outdoor Voices, an activewear brand that got its start here in Austin and now has shops in New York’s SoHo and Georgetown in DC. Browse leggings, running shorts and tops that look as fitting in a coffee shop as they do mid-marathon.

5. Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin

This adobe-style sanctuary at the Blanton Museum of Art, on the edge of the University of Texas at Austin campus, matches Houston’s Rothko Chapel in vision and civic significance. “It’s the only building Kelly ever designed, and it stands as the ultimate presentation of his love of light and colour,” says Hotel Concierge Steven Beasley. No two pictures of the serene interior space are alike thanks to contemporary stained-glass windows that reflect, glitter and silhouette, depending on the light and the weather.

Outside the Frame

Book and film lovers can’t miss a trip to the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, where drafts and manuscripts by writers such as James Joyce and Norman Mailer are preserved and exhibited. The centre is also home to a 1455 Gutenberg Bible.

6. Laguna Gloria

This 1916 Italianate villa is now an extension of the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA). The waterfront grounds are dotted with sculptures by the likes of Tom Friedman and Wangechi Mutu, many of which make a whimsical addition to any photo. “Don’t miss the guided tour about the original owner, Clara Driscoll,” says Assistant Guest Services Manager Blaire Roberts.

Outside the Frame

“While you’re in the area, take a drive up to another scenic spot, Mount Bonnell,” Roberts says. It’s a short hike to this Hill Country lookout, and you’ll be rewarded with views of the river and the growing downtown skyline.

7. Forever Bicycles

Pedal one of the Hotel’s complimentary cruiser bikes to document this installation, a towering piece by Ai Weiwei. “Something of an optical illusion, the 32-foot-high [9.75-metre] artwork includes nearly 1,200 bikes and is meant to represent a part of Weiwei’s everyday life and culture in China,” Concierge Elise Longueve says. To many Austinites, the work has an added meaning, honouring the city’s passionate bike culture.

Outside the Frame

Pop into Alta’s Café, just down the hill from Forever Bicycles, for a post-ride smoothie or glass of wine. The eatery’s expansive porch, a launch pad for crew teams, overlooks Lake Austin.

8. Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden

Housed in a pair of historic buildings, this popular beer and brat house has a snap-worthy backyard with social picnic tables under strings of twinkling lights. Beer aficionados will also appreciate the suds selection: “I always order a beer I haven’t tried before,” says Marcus Knox, who drives the Hotel’s house car. “There are more than a hundred on tap, so that’s not as hard as it sounds.”

Outside the Frame

Banger’s is located on Rainey Street, a popular neighbourhood for nightlife where residential bungalows have been converted into bars and restaurants. Start the night off with an old-fashioned at Half Step, just two doors down from Bangers.

9. The Austin Bats

Austin has the unusual distinction of being home to the largest urban bat population in North America. Over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the city’s central Congress Bridge, and flood out above an army of iPhones at dusk from March through November. You won’t be the only person posting a picture of this phenomenon, but you can avoid the crowds by jumping on an evening paddleboat tour and taking in the show from the water.

Outside the Frame

Head back to the Hotel for an cocktail en suite. Your bartender will roll in the property’s margarita cart and shake up your drink sofa-side. There’s no effort required on your part, but you do have to answer one important question: Salt, or no salt?

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