As promised in my ~ Road Trip Ready! blog post, I am starting a new series, Around Houston and this first post of this series is going to be about the capital of Texas, Austin!!
Austin is about 2.5 hours from our place in Houston, and hence often our choice for a quick weekend getaway. Austin is on the eastern edge of Texas Hill Country. It is a lively town with lots to offer from claiming to be the “live music capital of the world” to being the home of University of Texas, this city also is the home to Formula 1’s Circuit of the Americas raceway. It offers abundant parks and lakes and is a popular destination for hiking, biking, swimming, boating and other outdoor activities.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. I would still suggest you Google things to do, and plan for yourself. Please feel free to use this as a guide. So without further ado, here we go-
Where to stay:
On our trips to Austin, we almost always stay at the Holiday Inn Austin-Town Lake (20 North Ih-35, Austin, TX 78701). This is centrally located hotel with standard comfortable rooms. Other good options can be around South Congress Ave.
Things to do (in no particular order):
– Texas State Capitol:
When the Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888, it was the seventh largest building in the world. Now, of course, it has been knocked way off that list, but the home of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor is still the sixth-tallest state capitol in the country and at 308-feet-tall, it is actually taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C!! Yup! Everything is bigger in Texas.
You can explore the building for free, seven days a week. Guided tours are available and can take about 30 minutes. Then you can walk around the Capitol grounds, and stop by the adjacent Bullock Museum, and learn about how Texas became what it is today. You can also do the self-guided tours. Check their website for the latest on their hours of operation.
– Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool:
Austin is full of sprawling green spaces and beautiful scenery, but no destination compares to the mecca of outdoor fun: Zilker Park. It is a huge park which comprises of 3 parts which include the spring-fed pool now known as Barton Springs. Spring and summer are the most happening times where the park is bustling with festivals, performances, and holiday celebrations. For locals, it’s an essential part of living the good life in Austin. Barton Springs Pool is consistently between 68-70 degrees. That does seem frigid, but what is a better cure in 100-degree weather than a dip in the springs!! It is the habitat for the endangered Barton Spring Salamander so be careful while swimming!
– Zilker Botanical Gardens:
Very pretty botanical gardens with many photo-ops. It features several independently maintained gardens, each of a particular focus – City of Austin’s Green Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, Hartman Prehistoric Garden, Herb and Fragrance Garden, Isamu Taniguchi Oriental Garden, Mabel Davis Rose Garden, Doug Blachly Butterfly Trail and Garden and Pioneer Village.
– Umlauf Sculpture Garden:
This is a museum and outdoor sculpture garden centered on the artistic works of American sculptor Charles Umlauf. Located adjacent to Austin’s Zilker Park, it’s a cool spot to stop at.
– McKinney Falls State Park:
You can camp, hike, mountain or road bike, geocache, go bouldering, and picnic. You can also fish and swim in Onion Creek. The best time to visit this state park is to view the fall colors! We haven’t been there yet and it’s on my list for this fall. Check it out: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls
– Lake Travis:
Usually we go boating here, but from what I have heard, it’s recently been closed to public for recreational boating, check online before planning to go.
– Oasis at Lake Travis:
This restaurant offers tex-mex cuisine with a spectacular view of Lake Travis, especially with breathtaking views of the sunset over Lake Travis. These guys are known as the “Sunset Capital of Texas” and trust me you won’t be disappointed. Outside the restaurant you have a lot of cutesy décor for photo-ops. They always have an ongoing sunset photo competition which might be of interest to those of you into photography!
– Lake Austin:
360 Bridge Overlook Point (5300 N Capital of Texas Hwy) has spectacular views, but be careful of the steep drops while taking pictures!
– Mozart’s Coffee Roasters:
This place is located at Lake Austin and offers finest gourmet coffees from around the world and also features a rich menu with the most delicious desserts ever! It provides a European style atmosphere with extraordinary lake views overlooking the hills on Lake Austin. Every Thursday through Sunday they have live music at the outdoor deck, surrounded by huge oak trees, overlooking the tranquil and scenic Lake Austin. Go while there is still sunlight so you can enjoy the views by the lake.
– Congress Avenue Bridge Bats:
From March to November, thousands of bats fly out from underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. This is the largest urban bat colony in North America. When they emerge in the evening during “bat season” it’s like a cloud flying toward the east!! I have yet to experience this myself, but I have heard it’s surreal! April–May there are a lot of good nights to catch the 750,000 bats exiting but by late July/early August, what is considered “peak season” you have the entire population of 1.5 million flying out to hunt. By November, the bats have begun to migrate since it starts getting cold, and the visibility is also low.
– 6th Street:
Sixth Street is a historic street and entertainment district located within the city’s urban core in downtown Austin. Many bars, clubs, music venues, and shopping destinations are located here and it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss especially if you haven’t attended university here in the US. I say this because if you have, you already know how to party crazy in which case 6th street is just like any another university town’s downtown party street. But if you plan to go, best to go kids free, in my opinion.
– Radha Madhav Dham (400 Barsana Rd, Austin, TX 78737):
This is a Hindu temple on the outskirts of Austin. Oldest Hindu temple in Texas, the temple is not only peaceful but very pretty as well. Almost often you can spot peacocks just walking around the lawns. A great photo-op! Their lawns and fountains also make for wonderful backdrop for pix. It’s a great window into what an Indian temple looks like, so do plan to visit even if you are not a Hindu!
Austin has a lot of wall murals which make for a fun stop to check out the punkiness of the city!
– Greetings from Austin Postcard: S 1st & Annie
– You’re My Butter Half: 2000 E MLK Jr Blvd
– HOPE Outdoor Gallery: 11th & Baylor
– Federico: 914 N Lamar
– 6th St Historic District: 6th & SB I-35 Access Rd –
– ’Til death do us part: Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress
– Austin, Texas: 3700 Guadalupe
– I love you so much: 1300 S Congress
Where to eat:
You have some of the regular fast food restaurants like Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Dominos and other regular chains to choose from, if trying new cuisines does not tickle your taste buds. Here are some of our favorite local restaurants:
– Lucky Robot (1303 S Congress Ave): Japanese restaurant with swings!!! Need I say more 🙂
– Hopdoddy (1400 S Congress Ave): Yummy burgers… but be ready for long lines!!
– Amy’s Ice cream (1301 S Congress Ave): Ice creams to die for… be ready for long lines!!
– Oasis on Lake Travis (6550 Comanche Trail): Mexican food with a spectacular view of Lake Travis, especially during sunsets.
– Mozart’s Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd): Brilliant café with a lovely view of the lake.
Nearby places (these will be individual blog posts under this new series of Around Houston, stay tuned!):
– San Antonio
– New Braunfels
– San Marcos
– Misc. counties in Texas Hill Country like Wimberley, Marble Falls, Dripping Springs, Kerrville, Bandera, Llano among others.
Now for my favorite part – Photo-dump!
Hope you enjoyed this post and are all set to pack your bags to go visit all that this fun city of Austin has to offer! Enjoy!!