I recently had lunch with a relative newcomer to Austin. As we chatted, I mentioned many places in and around Austin and was greeted with a blank stare. I realized he had no idea to what I was referring. With over 100 people moving into Austin, Texas each and every DAY, I’m sure there are thousands of people, at this point, who don’t know about all the gems Austin has to offer.
I became an Austinite on New Year’s Eve, 1980 and I’ve have plenty of time to explore. I’ve also witnessed lots, and I do mean massive amounts, of changes around Austin.
So here’s my top 30 list of fun times around the Capitol City:
- State Capitol Tour – 1100 Congress Avenue (free)
- 6th Street – Austin’s answer to New Orlean’s Bourbon Street (free – moderate $)
- Mt. Bonnell – Climb to the top and have a picnic with awesome views. 3800 Mt. Bonnell Road (free)
- Esther’s Follies – Modern day vaudeville will have you laughing until you cry. 525 E. 6th Street (moderate $)
- Town Lake / Lady Bird Lake – Walk the shores, canoe, kayak, but don’t swim. This is actually the Colorado River. Downtown. (free-inexpensive)
- SoCo – Experience the hipster part of town with unique shops, restaurants and more. South Congress Avenue (free-pricey)
- Lake Travis – Beat the heat with a day on the lake waterskiing, boating, swimming or floating. Northwest of town – Drive out 2222. (free-pricey)
- Mansfield Dam Park – The southern dam of Lake Travis (which is really the Colorado River). 4370 Mansfield Dam Park – off 620 (Moderate)
- Bull Creek Park – A pretty and refreshing place to hike and feel like you’re out of the city 6701 Lakewood Drive (free)
- Rodeo – Happening NOW! March 12- 26. 9100 Decker Lake Road (head east on 290 from 35) $8 for day pass ($5 for kids).
- Circuit of Americas Speedway – Events year round. 9201 Circuit of Americas Blvd. (head south on 183 from 71 (SE of town) (Prices vary)
- The Tavern – A local favorite sports and hang-out pub. Corner of 12th & Lamar. (inexpensive)
- Oasis – Despite being burnt to the ground June 1, 2005, the Oasis, with it’s awe-inspiring view of sunsets over Lake Travis, has risen. 6550 Comanche Trail (Moderate)
- Zilker Park – Fly a kit, play soccer or volleyball, have a picnic, stroll through botanical gardens, and see dinosaur bones. It’s all here at Zilker Park. 2100 Barton Springs Road (free)
- Barton Creek Pool – Another great way to beat Austin’s heat is diving into the refreshing 68-degree waters of the 3-acre Barton Creek Pool – a natural pool fed by underground springs. 2100 Barton Springs Road (inexpensive)
- Windy Point – Now that the lake is full again, get out the windjammers and head to Windy Point! A favored placed by locals for scuba diving as well. 6506 Bob Wentz Park Rd (entry fee)
- Hippy Hollow – Like to walk around in the buff? This is the only clothing optional park in the state of Texas. Located near the Oasis on the shores of Lake Travis. (entry fee)
- The Backyard – Come for the music, eat, drink, and be merry. 13801 Bee Caves Road
- Austin Zoo – All animals in this zoo have been rescued and rehabilitated and this is their forever home. It’s a highly educational adventure and located in a beautiful setting. A great inexpensive way to spend the day. 10808 Rawhide Trail ($8-$11)
- Texas State Cemetery – The final resting place of state governors and others since 1851. 909 Navasota St (free)
- The Drag – Guadalupe Street along the edge of UT is referred to as “the drag” by locals. It began as stores for students to get books, t-shirts, etc. and has evolved into UT’s version of 6th Street. Guadlupe Street between 29th and 15th Streets. (free – moderate, depends on what/where you visit)
- UT – Home to more than 51,000 students. So why’s it so hard to get accepted if you’re an Austinite? Hmmm. Bordered by IH-35 to east, MLK to South, Guadalupe to West and 29th Street to North. (free to walk, if you can get on campus)
- Hyde Park Grill – A favored place by locals for a meal located in Hyde Park. 4206 Duval (moderate)
- Manor Downs – Austin’s horseracing track. Manor Downs is Texas’ oldest quarter-horse racetrack and is located about 10 miles east of Austin near Manor. 9200 Hill in Manor (follow 290 east from Austin). CLOSED at this time.
- Bluebonnet Cafe (Marble Falls) – If you love pies, you have got to experience this 80 year tradition! They don’t take credit cards, so bring your checkbooks or cash. 211 US-281, Marble Falls (inexpensive)
- Hill Country Flyer – Here’s your chance to ride an old fashioned steam train through the hill country of Texas and experience a Texas outlaw gunfight. A day you’ll always remember. Other options available as well. 401 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park TX 78613(moderate).
- Georgetown Square – It’s like stepping into the 1880’s. Unique shops and restaurants surround the historial Williamsom County capitol. Head north on 35 from Austin to Highway 29 in Georgetown, go right…and follow signs.
- Bob Bullock Museum – Learn the history of Texas, see an IMAX show, and much more. You’ll need an entire day to experience it all! 1800 Congress. (inexpensive)
- Nutty Brown Cafe – A favorite local hangout. Eat inside or out. Live music, Macaws in the trees. Dance under the stars. Very unique.12225 Hwy. 290 West. (Inexpensive – moderate)
- Angel’s Icehouse – A pretty drive west of Austin to experience the hill country, good food, full bar and live music. 21815 Texas 71, Spicewood (inexpensive-moderate)
And there you have it, my top 30 things to check out in/near Austin. And, this is just the beginning. There’s a whole lot more. Enjoy!