Top budget travel picks: Chicago to Austin

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Looking for a trending new city to explore? Consider Austin, Texas, one of the fastest growing large cities in the country and U.S. News & World Report's #1 place to live in the U.S. for the past two years running.

The self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World" is home to many students, artists and musicians, along with a booming tech industry and a classic Texas barbecue and Tex-Mex food scene.

Despite its growth, Austin seeks to maintain its eccentric local vibe, with plenty of independent businesses and a strong commitment to the local environment. Austin hosts numerous festivals throughout the year and boasts more music venues per capita than any other city in the U.S. The list of local attractions also includes extensive theaters, museums and outdoor spaces like parks, lakes and waterways.

Fortunately, there are plenty of relatively inexpensive flights between Chicago and Austin, at least according to travel site Skyscanner.

Here's a list of flights, hotels, restaurants and local attractions in Austin to get you excited about your next excursion.

(Hoodline offers data-driven analysis of local happenings and trends across cities. Links included in the articles may earn Hoodline a commission on clicks and transactions. Prices and availability are subject to change.)

Cheapest Austin flights




The cheapest flights between Chicago and Austin are if you leave on Feb. 19 and return from Texas on Feb. 23. Spirit Airlines currently has tickets for $75, roundtrip.

There are also deals to be had later in February. If you fly out of Chicago on Feb. 25 and return from Austin on Feb. 27, Spirit Airlines can get you there and back for $104 roundtrip.

Top Austin hotels




Regarding where to stay, here are some of Austin's top-rated hotels, according to Skyscanner, that we selected based on price, proximity to things to do and customer satisfaction.

The Driskill - in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt (604 Brazos St.)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

If you're looking for an all-around top recommendation, consider The Driskill - in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt. The hotel has a 4.5-star rating on Skyscanner, and rooms are currently available for $129.

A landmark in downtown Austin, this legendary hotel was built in 1886 as the showplace for cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill and has since become synonymous with traditional Texas hospitality.

The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (1900 University Ave.)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

There's also the 4.8-star rated The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, which has rooms for $129/night.

Located on the south side of the University of Texas campus, the AT&T Education and Conference center offers luxury hotel amenities and full conference center facilities, including intimate meeting rooms with arena seating smart classroom technology.

The Hotel Ella (1900 Rio Grande)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

A pricer alternative is The Hotel Ella. The 4.8-star hotel has rooms for $199/night.

Featured Austin restaurants




If you're looking to snag a bite at one of Austin's many quality eateries, here are a few popular culinary destinations from Skyscanner's listings that will help keep you satiated.

Uchi (801 S. Lamar Blvd.)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

If you're looking for a local favorite, head to Uchi, which has an average of 4.9 stars out of 104 reviews on Skyscanner.

The restaurant combines local seasonal ingredients with an infinite spectrum of seafood from around the globe. Uchi invites diners to explore their gastronomic boundaries by pairing traditional Japanese offerings with new and refreshing flavors and textures.

"Amazing sushi," wrote visitor Katie. "It's up there against anything you'll have in San Francisco, New York City or elsewhere."

Hopdoddy Burger Bar (1400 S. Congress Ave.)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

Another popular dining destination is Hopdoddy Burger Bar, with 4.7 stars from 127 reviews.

"This place is popular so there may be a line, but it moves pretty fast and is totally worth it," wrote reviewer Wendy.

Home Slice Pizza (1415 S. Congress Ave.)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

Finally, there's Home Slice Pizza, an independent neighborhood pizza joint serving authentic New York-style pizza -- by the pie or by the slice.

"Whether you're into spinach pizza or the traditional cheese, this place is funky and fun," wrote Tiffany. "People watch while you wait for your slice."

Featured Austin attractions




Austin is also full of sites to visit and explore. Here are some popular attractions to round out your trip, again from Skyscanner's listings.

Barton Springs Pool (2201 Barton Springs Road)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

First up is Barton Springs Pool.

As one of Austin's finest attractions, Barton Springs Pool is the perfect outing for those hot Texas days. Maintaining a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit year round, you will enjoy a 100 percent natural swimming experience with no chlorine.

Zilker Metropolitan Park (2100 Barton Springs Road)

Zilker Metropolitan Park is another popular destination.

Patrons will enjoy a huge variety of activities at Zilker Park. You can check out the hiking and biking trails, picnic facilities, Zilker Botanical Garden, canoe rentals, soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, riverboat rides on Town Lake, concerts, festivals and even a miniature train.

Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail (Lady Bird Lake)
Photo: Trip by Skyscanner

Lastly, consider checking out Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail.

"A wonderful body of water in the center of the city," wrote visitor Nici. "Paddleboarding and kayaking are the most popular around Lady Bird Lake and I do suggest trying them at least once."
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