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Austin: 25 Things to Do in Texas' Coolest City

Darcie Connell

Austin, the Music Capital of the World, is a great place to rock out. It is also, in true Southern fashion, a great place to hang up your spurs for awhile.

Why? Because along with a seemingly endless procession of live music venues (more than anywhere else in the world) Austin recently received an influx of people looking for jobs, cheaper homes and a heck of a good time.

It is a city no one is from, but everyone feels at home.

View of Austin from 360 Bridge

View of Austin from the 360 Bridge

Below are 25 excellent things to do, see, eat and drink in and around Austin.

Eat Barbeque

Austin is known for the lip-smacking delicious BBQ and by far the best places are as follows:

  • Every weekend the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas has live music outside with picnic benches and fresh lemonade. It is also bring your own booze (BYOB). Be prepared for a long wait or phone in take out on your way and eat outside.
  • For a dry rub BBQ, head over to Smitty's or Kreuz Market in Lockhart. The BBQ in Lockhart is more traditional and you will feel like a local in no time.

Salt Lick BBQ

Salt Lick Barbecue

Go Wine Tasting

Yep, you heard right. Texas is surprisingly a large wine producer and there are beautiful wine regions just outside Austin on your way to Fredericksburg. Check out the Texaswinetrail.com for a list of wineries and events.

Happy Hour

By far the best happy hour in Austin is at Ruth's Chris Steak House. It is a little formal, but if you sit in the bar during happy hour, you can get half off appetizer and top shelf cocktails for $5. I am talking fully loaded martinis and crab stuffed mushrooms for like $5. You cannot go wrong. Happy hour is from 4:30 to 7pm Monday through Friday.

Take a Dip at Barton Springs

The Barton Springs Pool is a natural spring fed swimming hole that is a constant 68 degrees year round. The pool is located in Zilker Park and is open daily from 5am to 10pm, except Thursday when it is closed from 9am to 7pm.

2101 Barton Springs Rd.| Austin, TX 78704 | 512-476-9044

Laugh You're A** Off at a Comedy Club

Here are four great comedy clubs in the Austin area:

Go Bargain Hunting

The Austin Country Flea Market is a great place to pick up some neat new and old stuff. The massive market is located on highway 290, just three miles east of 183. No entrance fee.

The City Wide Garage Sale is an alternative to the flea market, but there is a $4 entrance fee (under 12 free). Meander through piles of antiques, memorabilia, and collectables at the City Coliseum on Saturday (10am-5pm) or Sunday (11am-5pm).

Buy Locally Made and Grown Treats at the Farmers' Market

The farmers' markets in Austin are excellent and vendors sell veggies, fruits, cheeses, eggs, meats, honey, breads, flowers, and sweet treats. 

If you do not feel like cooking, don't worry.  There are a number of food trucks that sell delicious eats for a reasonable price. 

Stroll the colorful booths, scarf down a meal, and listen to live music (Saturday only).

Visit sfcfarmersmarket.org for times and locations.

Drive out to Round Rock for the Artisan Stroll

Every month on the second Sunday (11am - 5pm), Round Rock hosts an Artisan Stroll (www.artisanstroll.com) where you can admire local artists work, chow down on tasty bites, or rock out to live music.  Admission is Free, but bring some money if you want to eat or buy artwork. 

Round Rock is about 45 minutes north of Austin.

Drive to Lake Travis for Skinny Dipping with Some Hippies

For the more adventurous, Hippie Hollow is a clothing optional swimming area on Lake Travis. If you dare, call (512) 473-9437 for more info.

Admire the Wildflowers

Every year from March to May, the Blue Bonnet - also the Texas state flower - lights the hill country in a beautiful shade of blue.   

Start your day at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center to learn about Texas's native plants.

Snap a Cityscape of Austin from Mt Bonnell

Mount Bonnell City Park is right along the Colorado River and offers the best views of Austin's cityscape because it is the highest point in Austin. Closing times vary throughout the year, so call ahead of time. And bring comfy shoes.

Admission is Free | (512) 477-7273

Catch a Movie and Sip Your Favorite Brew

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema features cult classics and new releases daily.

409 Colorado St | (512) 867-1839

Canoe the Colorado River near Zilker Park

The Zilker Park Boat Rentals are open 7 days a week 10am until dark (9am on weekends) and rent canoes, kayaks, standing board paddles, and other water crafts. 

2100 Barton Springs Road |  (512) 478-3852

Watch Thousands of Bats Fly from Congress Ave Bridge

March through April, thousands of Mexican Free-Tailed bats, the largest collection in North America, fly out from under the Congress Ave Bridge around dusk for feeding.  People line up all along the bridge to watch the event with cameras in hand.

To watch the bats from the river, sign up for the Lone Star Riverboat Cruise.  Be sure to make a reservation during the bat season. (512) 327-1388

Tube the Guadalupe River in the Summer

Starting around spring break, people tube, kayak, and raft down the gentle Guadalupe River. There are loads of tour companies to rent gear from that will drive you to a good drop off point and pick you up when you are finished. Most river floats take two to three hours and cost around $25-30 per person.

See the Government at Work at the Capitol Building

Austin Capitol BuildingAny trip to Austin is not complete without visiting the Texas State Capitol building.  They provide free access to the grounds and inside the building where you can see the Senate and House of Representatives rooms.  Pamphlets and free tours are provided. 

1100 North Congress | (512) 463-0063

Have an Art and Museum Day

Austin is loaded with art and music. Take your pick:

Shake Your Groove Thing

The Hancock Recreation Center located on 811 E. 41 St has dance performances and classes regularly throughout the week and on weekends including the Austin Ballroom Dancers, Austin Barn Dancers, and Austin International Folk Dancers.

Here are some other booty shaking opportunities:

Pretend You Are in the Circus

Trapeze Austin offers a two hour class that shows you the basics of the trapeze. Fulfill your childhood fantasies of flying through the air on a trapeze. Trapeze Austin is located at 15008 N. IH-35 Austin and 9501 Manchaca Rd. (512) 507-7920

Get Wet and Wild

Famed as one of the best water parks in the U.S., Schlitterbahn Waterpark is conveniently located about 45 minutes from Austin on the way to San Antonio in New Braunfels. There are over 65 acres of water park fun. (830) 620-4247

Watch the Manheim of Roller Derby

With names like Alison Chains, Bully Jean, and Pain N. Simple you know these Lonestar Rollergirls mean business. The girls score big and throw knockout punches at the Palmer Center. Visit www.txrd.com for more information.

Visit the Alamo and Walk the River in San Antonio

San Antonio is located just a quick one hour drive from Austin. The Alamo and River Walk is worth a day trip. Check out www.visitsanantonio.com for more information.

Get Tipsy on 6th Street

Austin is a college town with loads bars where you can take your pick. 6th Street is where all the action is from great happy hour deals to live music, there is always something going on. If the younger crowd is not your scene consider visiting 6th Street earlier in the evening and then heading to the Warehouse District for a slightly older crowd.

Hang out in Zilker Park

Zilker Park is huge.  You can walk for miles along the river, relax in a shady spot under a tree, or take your picture with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  If gardens are your thing, check out the Botanical Gardens in Zilker Park located on 30 acres in Austin. 

2220 Barton Springs Rd | 7am-8:30pm | (512) 477-8672

Zilker Park

Get More Ideas at the Visitor Center

Stop at the Austin Visitors Center for information on everything Austin.  They are located at the Austin Convention Center & Visitors Bureau on 209 E. 6th St. in Austin and are open Monday to Fridays 9am to 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 5:30pm.  (512) 478-0098

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.  For more information on Austin, check out the www.austin360.com

In 2011, Darcie Connell slow traveled Austin for six months. She is also the co-founder of Trekity.com, an inspirational travel site, and Travelbloggeracademy.com, a website solely for travel bloggers. Follow her on Twitter.

© Slow Travel, 2012

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