A weekend in Austin, Texas

Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.

Weekend in Austin, Texas, one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.

Trip tips: Highlights of Austin's downtown districts:

Second Street (between Congress Avenue and San Antonio Street): Home to 50 specialty shops and dining establishments; Austin Children's Museum and Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.

East Sixth Street: The seven-block National Register Historic District features the original Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, the Austin Visitor Center, eclectic shops, music venues and restaurants.

Congress Avenue: Another of downtown's three National Register Historic Districts between the Capitol and Lady Bird Lake. A center of shops, restaurants, museums and theaters.

West End: A popular retail district on the western edge of downtown at Sixth Street.

South Congress (SOCO): A half mile south of the Colorado River and home to many of Austin's hippest shops, the food trailer scene and the Continental Club, a famed live music venue.

Getting there: One-way rates from $119; nonstop Southwest Airlines.

RELATED: Austin things to do and attractions

Explore 

BUDGET

Stay: A new Sleep Inn & Suites Austin is minutes from downtown and close to famous music venues such as the Continental Club, Threadgill's, and Saxon Pub. Guests enjoy complimentary Social Hour Reception Monday-Thursday and a hot breakfast. Rates from $112. 8410 E. U.S. 290, Austin. 512-524-5400, www.sleepinnaustinnortheast.com.

Eat: Lunch regulars at the Texas Chili Parlor range from university students to state legislators (the Capitol is just up the street). This kitschy sports bar is noted for its chili (mild to XXX hot) and Tex-Mex and American dishes. Burgers, sandwiches, tacos, $3.50-$9; chili, $3.75-$7.40; and dinners up to $14. 1409 Lavaca St., Austin. 512-472-2828, www.txchiliparlor.com.

Experience: Enjoy a relaxing one-hour riverboat ride while learning about Austin's most unusual attraction — the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge. Over a million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the bridge at sunset. The captain of The Lone Star provides narration and insight. The 75-foot electric-powered double-decked paddle-wheeler features year-round comfort in the lower cabin and an open-air upper deck; $10 adults, $7 age 12 and under. 512-327-1388, www.lonestarriverboat.com.

MODERATE

Stay: Residence Inn Austin Downtown is a short walk from Sixth Street, an entertainment district with numerous regional dining options. On site is a marketplace for snacks, and in-suite features include kitchens, living areas and separate sleep areas. Rates from $189 include buffet breakfast and Tuesday-Thursday Manager's Reception. 300 E. Fourth St., Austin. 512-472-5553, www.hotelaustindowntown.com/residence.

Eat: It's Tiki time at Isla with the lively atmosphere of Ernest Hemingway's Cuba. Small plates of classic Caribbean-inspired fare from $7-$20; $15-$32 entrees. This Warehouse District restaurant is famous for its tropical cocktail concoctions. 208 W. Fourth St., Austin. 512-322-9921, www.islaaustin.com.

Experience: Take in Austin's rich history from atop an open-top double-decker hop-on/hop-off bus. Hear the tales from an informative tour guide — not an audio commentary. Hop off at one of the five stops for a museum or lunch break, then get back on when the bus comes back around. An all-day ticket (Thursday-Monday) is $35 adults; $25 age 12 and under. Austin Visitor Center at 602 E. Fourth St., Austin. 512-596-2925, www.doubledeckeraustin.com.

SPLURGE

Stay: The award-winning Heywood Hotel offers seven individually styled guest rooms with wood floors and some with private patios. Public spaces, decorated with artisan crafts, include an upstairs courtyard, and a front porch and patio. Guest amenities include concierge service, free coffee, Wi-Fi, loaner bikes, and parking. This modern boutique hotel is an easy walk to downtown, Sixth Street, and Lady Bird Lake. The Long Center for the Performing Arts is a seven-minute walk. Rates from $249-$409. 1609 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin. 512-271-5522, www.heywoodhotel.com.

Eat: How do you choose from the 700 active food trucks in Austin? Ride an air-conditioned executive bus and experience the top BBQ stops in the South, Downtown and East Side areas of the city on the Best of Austin Food Truck Bus Tour (every Saturday). In addition to the provided food, the three-hour tour includes a choice of local craft beers, cider, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. $75 per person. Pickup and drop off at Fifth and Guadalupe streets. 512-963-4545, www.austineatsfoodtours.com.

Experience: Austin has a national reputation for creating high-quality microbrews. Sample from three of the finest breweries on a five-hour tasting tour (age 21+ only). Brewery tours from $59 per person. Meet point: 61 Rainey St., Austin. 866-759-7375, www.atxcursions.com.