It is officially getting close to my time to say farewell to my life in Austin. It truly has been a great experience for me to live in a new city and learn about it too. After living here for about a year and a half now I have become aware of many awesome attractions in the area. Here I document my experiences with them so you can enjoy them on your next trip to the ATX.
So when I first started writing this it was in fact close to when I was leaving. But every time I got close to finishing it up I would think of more places. So I’ve officially been gone from Austin for a few weeks now, but that does not change anything else about this post. I hope you enjoy learning about these attractions and find some that will work for you on your trip to Austin.
So now that I am in the depths of writing this I am deciding to combine this post with my kid friendly post. I was going to keep them separate, but many of the activities would be repeats. To denote which ones are kid friendly I am putting an * in front of the header. Please let me know if this does not make sense!
To be honest I did not do the go get crazy drunk on Dirty 6th Street thing. During football season I did get drunk on West 6th Street once. I drink, but not that often anymore. And my friends and I were going to do this before I left, but then COVID happened. So maybe next time I’m in town.
6th Street is one of the two famous places for bar-hopping in downtown Austin. There are two parts of 6th Street you will hear about. Dirty 6th and West 6th. Both have many bars, but one is much crazier than the other. Dirty 6th is where most people going out to party will be. It is a big attraction for many out of towners including those visiting for bachelor and bachelorette parties. On the weekends traffic is cut off and only pedestrians are allowed on Dirty 6th.
West 6th is a lot more chill and where I have spent more time due to the alumni bar being here. As well as participating in a Friends themed bar crawl here. West 6th is not nearly as busy, but still is fun. Below I list a few bars I have specifically visited. There are many many more, but these are just the ones I have personally spent time at.
Buford’s is a bar I visited and have fond memories of on West 6th. Buford’s is a huge two-story bar and nightclub on West 6th Street. I visited Buford’s with some friends from the alumni club after a Buckeye football game. We went to Buford’s and danced our booties off. Even getting up on the stage to show off our moves. I had so much fun, and it was something I needed for sure. I love dancing and I truly don’t do it enough. After that night I learned that Buford’s also was home to a Via 313 Pizza truck. Once I learned this every Buckeye football game I visited Buford’s for a gluten-free pizza during half-time. In the bar they had many TVs so I would wait for my pizza while watching whatever game was on. Thankfully the bouncer at Dogwood was cool and let me bring my pizza back into the bar. But it would not have been a problem if I had to eat it at Buford’s because I enjoy their vibe. If you are on West 6th and want to dance, or hang out I suggest Buford’s. But probably not til COVID is under control because they can fit a lot of people in there.
The Dogwood is where the Ohio State Alumni club screens Buckeye football and where I spent many Saturdays last fall. At the Dogwood they have an indoor and outdoor bar. In my experience neither was better than the other. You can usually watch and gauge how long service is at either. The Austin chapter of the alumni club seems to be rather large because most game days the bar was pretty full. One of the things the Dogwood is known for is its giant mimosas, which consist of a whole bottle of champagne, juice of choice, and a dogwood flower. I’m not a fan of champagne so I never ordered one of these, but know that they sell them a lot. As far as gluten-free food I never ate at Dogwood. Being a bar it seemed a bit risky in my opinion and so I would eat before, or go visit Whole Foods for a snack.
I have been to some other bars on West 6th Street, but that was a while ago. Each has their own vibe and crowd and you will just have to figure out which works for you. But to be honest it costs a lot to get drunk on 6th Street. The Friends bar crawl I attended would have been much more fun had I known how much I would need to feel any of it. Just be prepared to spend a good chunk of change if you want to actually drink on 6th Street. Or you could bring out your old college tricks and sneak some in, or pre-game, but don’t tell anyone I said that.
Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar
Pete’s is the only Dirty 6th bar I’ve spent a decent amount of time in. If you have never been to a dueling piano bar this one is worth it. The only other piano bar I’ve been to did not have many people the time I went. The crowd seems to be an important part of the dueling piano bar experience.
If you have never been to a dueling piano bar there are two pianos on stage. And the piano players play popular songs, and songs by request for tips. The night I went the energy was high and the place was packed. Everyone in the whole bar was singing and dancing and having a grand time. I think one of the things that makes this experience the most fun is that the musicians play all different genres and eras of music. Anybody could go into Pete’s and hear music they enjoy.
One notable thing about Pete’s is that there is a cover charge. This probably is not unusual on Dirty 6th. It is just not something I am used to. Most of my bar experiences are at college bars and they don’t charge covers usually. Despite having a cover charge I believe Pete’s is a worthwhile experience. You get to hear live music in the live music capital of the world and dance and enjoy a night out with your friends. It is a fun place without being completely crazy in my opinion. So check them out if you are on Dirty 6th.
Overall if you enjoy a fun night life 6th Street is worth a visit. Even if you only do it once. There are so many bars so you will for sure find somewhere you feel comfortable. As always be smart and safe and have fun.
*Alamo Draft House
The Alamo Draft House is a collection of locally owned and operated movie theaters. But like many things in Austin they are a bit weird. Each location has its own set of crazy decor in the hallways between the theaters. Of the locations I’ve been to the original location on South Lamar has the craziest decor.
Inside the theater servers attend to the theater goers for refreshments and snacks. They have a large menu of items for sale and a whole system set for placing orders. Most of the time when visiting an Alamo Draft House I got popcorn and a drink. One of the coolest things about the Alamo Draft House is the popcorn is unlimited and in real bowls. You can get it refilled as many times as you’d like. And who doesn’t love movie theater popcorn? Usually I was with my family members when visiting the theater. We’d get a few bowls and get them refilled as many times as we’d like throughout the movie.
Another cool thing about the Alamo Draft Houses is that they will often screen older movies or have movie events where specific movies will be screened that are not new.
If you are just visiting for a short time, I don’t know that I would suggest this if it is nice outside. But if you are a local, or it’s gross outside, this is a great option. It is kid friendly and did I mention the unlimited popcorn?
Many people now a days know about trampoline parks. They have been around for the last five years or so and have skyrocketed in popularity. There are many different companies that do trampoline parks, but Altitude is the one I personally visited in Austin. They have a location in south Austin that was located close to where I lived.
Altitude itself is a great trampoline park. They seem to keep everything clean, and orderly. They hold birthday parties and other events including preschool aged hours. This is the time I spent the most time here. When I first arrived in Austin I was nannying. The younger child I watched and I would go during these earlier hours during the week. They were often not very crowded, and there were not older kids around to knock the youngins down.
Overall I always had an enjoyable time at Altitude. Other than the trampolines they had dodgeball, basketball, foam pits and some arcade games. They also do have a concession stand. I personally never ordered anything from them, because we never stayed long enough to need to. But the option is there if you know you or you child is ‘starving’.
I am sure the other trampoline park companies are just as good as Altitude, and maybe closer to where you are. If that is the case, I don’t think you should go farther out of your way just to go to Altitude. But I am sure they would love your business if you did.
*Austin City Limits (ACL)
Austin City Limits is one of the biggest events in Austin and brings people from all over to the city. It is a multi-weekend music festival held in Zilker Park. I personally did not go to ACL while I was in town. At the point I needed to get tickets I did not have many friends yet and did not want to do it alone. I’m all for doing certain things alone, but this not so much.
From my friends who have been I have heard great stories. I hope to one day visit ACL and see some amazing artists live. But if you are interested in music and music festivals this will be a fun event for you. Just know that Austin itself can already be expensive to visit, and ACL weekends are even more expensive due to increased demand.
Kids are allowed and welcomed at ACL. There are performers and activities around ACL that are specifically designed for kids. And from a quick google search it seems that there are many blog posts about ACL with kids. If this is something you are interested in doing with your kids I would suggest checking those out.
*Austin Nature and Science Center
This is another one of the favorites from when I was nannying. The Austin Nature and Science Center is close to Zilker Park, even sharing a parking lot. So it is pretty close to downtown and is fun for all ages.
The main reason we would go visit the Austin Nature and Science Center was for the Dino Pit. They have a huge pit with dinosaur bones for the children to excavate. For myself and the kids this was a fun activity. They got to play in the sand and use different tools to try and find the dinosaur fossils. Obviously they are toy fossils, but the kids don’t have to know that. Along with the pit they also have some educational signage talking about fossils and dinosaurs which is fun too.
When we were at the Nature and Science Center we spent most of our time at the Dino Pit. But they also have some items on display in the welcome center. I’m not sure if that is exactly what they call it, but they have an employee that answers questions there, and there are bathrooms in that building as well.
So we always went just as a drop in kind of thing. It does not cost any money to visit the center, and we would visit in the mornings before it got too hot. They do host events, and also do school field trips if you are living in the area. I highly suggest this as an option for when you need to get out of the house, but are on a budget.
Barton Springs is one of my favorite places in Austin. If you did not know I grew up in the water. I swam on swim team on and off, worked as a lifeguard, and spent weekends at the lake with family. We got summer pool passes and that was what we did most of the summer growing up. So it is no surprise I love Barton Springs.
Barton Springs is a natural pool that is fed from underground springs and therefore stays a consistent temperature year round. The first time I visited Barton Springs I was enthralled because it looks like a real pool. It has a relatively rectangular shape with a shallow side and deep side. There are even diving boards. The differences between this pool and others is that it has no chlorine, and does have fish and other wildlife. The only downfall to this is the algae on the bottom of the pool. This is only a real problem at entry points so be careful when getting in and out of the pool.
During the normal season Barton Springs does have a fee associated. This fee is based on whether you are a resident of the city of Austin or not. In the main pool area dogs are not allowed unfortunately.
To avoid fees, and to allow their dogs into the water many locals go swimming and hang out downstream of Barton Springs. Here there are not as many great places to store your belongings, but it is incredibly fun. You get to see a lot of interesting things here. This is the part of the park I have visited most often because my friend has a dog. Last year we saw a group of people doing crazy slack lining tricks over the water. It was totally impressive.
Throughout the year there are some events held at Barton Springs. One of these includes the New Years Polar Plunge. I participated in this this past year and am glad I did. It was interesting because I heard that the idea of a polar plunge is to bring good luck for the new year. Obviously that did not work, more people needed to polar plunge in 2020. But I do find that interesting as I attended Ohio State and before it was banned, a rivalry week tradition was to jump into Mirror Lake. Ironically on New Years Day it was colder than it was the rest of the week. I did get in with my friend after eating a fantastic breakfast at Snooze.
I highly suggest taking some time to beat the heat at Barton Springs. It is fun for all ages and something you do not get to experience everywhere.
*Blue Lapis Light Show
This one of the coolest discoveries in Austin. And I hope that someone reads this and goes and seeks this organization out. Blue Lapis Light is a dance company in South Austin that specializes in aerial dance. It is amazing. And I only heard about it because one of the residents at the place I worked volunteered with them. He would get picked up and help with the lighting for some of their shows. And the way he talked about it, he was just so proud to do it.
So if you live in the area and want to take classes you could do that. I am super sad I was unable to get into a class before COVID. They have classes for all levels and even kids. If you feel like taking a class is not something for you, they do also have shows and performances throughout the city. I think these would be so awesome. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to visit while one of their groups was practicing one night. They were so graceful and all their movements were controlled. It reminded me how much I want to find a way back into dance.
Overall this organization seems like a great one. Although I cannot support them by taking their classes, I can continue talking about how cool they seem and hope that others seek them out.
Austin is relatively well known for being an outdoor adventure seeker kind of place. And it truly is. One big sport in the Austin area is bouldering and climbing. I participated in a bouldering meetup occasionally while I was here. I enjoyed the sport a lot because every one was so supportive. The people at the bouldering gym would cheer you on, or help you figure out your route even if you were not in their group. Bouldering for me was a fun way to challenge both my mind and body. I have been to both bouldering gyms in Austin. They are Austin Bouldering Project (ABP) and Crux Climbing Center. Both are gorgeous facilities and to the untrained eye like mine worked well for my needs. One thing is that Crux does have top rope climbing and auto belays whereas ABP does not. Another big consideration is location. Austin Bouldering Project is north of downtown and Crux is south of downtown. So if bouldering and climbing are something you are interested in I highly suggest giving it a go while in Austin. Maybe even find a meetup group that is going so you can meet some new people as well.
Brewery, Cideries, and Beer Gardens
Throughout Austin there are many places to buy alcohol other than a typical bar. I am not the most knowledgeable about all of these places as I did not visit many. But I know that many people enjoy trying new local beers and ciders while just chilling with friends. A few of the places I have visited and enjoyed my time include:
- Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (ABGB)
- Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden
- Radio Coffee and Beer
- Texas Keeper Cidery
The Bullock Museum is a museum dedicated to Texas history. While I was nannying I did take the boys to the Bullock Museum and honestly do not remember a lot of what I learned. Museums are great, and I’m learning that learning history is a good thing. But I almost never remember what I learn from a museum.
I do remember that we enjoyed ourselves. There were a decent amount of planes and ships which the boys were interested in. It was also around the time Toy Story 3 came out and there was an interactive activity for kids. This is why I decided to take them that day. They each got to make their own toy like from the Toy Story movie. And boy did they get creative. Kids imaginations are wild.
Personally I don’t think I would have ever gone to the Bullock Museum had I not been a nanny. Texas history is not something I’m too terribly interested in. But no shame if that is your thing, or if you have children that might be interested in the subject matter. They do have interactive activities for kids in the summer, which is always nice for parents or caregivers. And it is another thing to do to get out of the house, but still be inside in the hot summer months.
*Circuit of the Americas (COTA)
COTA is Austin’s own motorsport track. Located right outside of Austin they host many events throughout the year. I visited COTA on two occasions. The first being Bike MS 150 a multi-day cycling fundraiser for MS research, and a Bastille concert. But they also do car racing events and I believe Fourth of July fireworks and many others.
Both the events I attended at COTA I enjoyed. It is a nice outdoor event space. Currently due to COVID most of the events have been canceled at least for the remainder of the year. But in the future they have all their events listed on their website.
As far as for the concert venue it was nice. I went with some friends. The tickets were reasonably priced as was the parking. The parking lot was a bit of a walk from the entrance, but for able bodied people like myself it was not too bad. I cannot speak on accessible parking. The vendors all seemed awesome. Many of them were local to Austin, which I appreciated. I also appreciated that the vendor I bought from was able and willing to answer my questions and that I was able to get a safe snack. Overall I enjoyed the concert at COTA. I would attend other concerts at this venue for sure.
Esther Follies is one of those fun places I had never heard of until I was invited to a show. It was one of those times I really needed to get out of the house and I randomly texted a friend asking if she was doing anything. She invited me out with her friends saying they were going to see a show at Esther Follies. I am so glad I texted her that day. The show made me laugh more than I had in a long time.
Seeing the show at Esther Follies was an experience like I’d never had before. There is comedy, magic, singing and audience participation. Fun stuff right. One thing that makes Esther Follies different than other similar shows is that they not only use the stage but also the street outside. There is a huge window behind the stage and often times performers can be seen behind the window. Other times you can see onlookers wondering about the show. They can be pretty funny too.
The venue itself is almost as wild as the show. And honestly I do not know the right words to describe it justly. It is a fun place for sure, and if you’re a weirdo and aren’t having fun there is a bar. To be honest the only reason I could imagine any one not having fun here is if they are politically right leaning. Being in the heart of Austin this show is written for a more liberal audience for sure.
Currently due to COVID Esther Follies is not having in-person shows. Per their website they are offering comedy sketch videos with a small membership fee. When they are able to perform in front of you safely they usually have two performances per night on the weekend. So if you want to go crazy on 6th Street after you can. Or if you need to go to bed early you could do that too. Whatever floats your boat.
*Ice Skating at Whole Foods
Ice Skating at Whole Foods was one of the first things I did once moving to Austin. And I am so glad I did. Less than a week after I moved to Austin the Ohio State Alumni Club in Austin had an event at the Whole Foods ice skating rink. It was wild. I had never ice skated before on a roof. Like the Whole Foods is huge, and the roof is a space they use for different activities. There is a play ground, and some seating and in the winter an ice skating rink.
Ice Skating at Whole Foods is fun because it is a way to get out of the house during the colder months. The rink itself is not too big, so I would suggest trying to go during off times. Maybe a weekday morning if you are able, or whenever works for you and your friends and family.
I also just really love ice skating and so I think that is why I have enjoyed this pop up event so much. Even if you are not the best skater, or do not like skating they do have fun music playing. They also sell fun beverages as well including hot chocolate, tea, and wine if I remember correctly. So if you are not having fun, you can make it fun. And it is downtown, and I did not go downtown too often, so when I had the chance I took it. I enjoyed ice skating every time I visited and I hope you will too if you decide to check this out!
*Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
A good majority of the residents of Austin would consider themselves outdoors-y people. They enjoy being outside and participating in outdoor activity. One of the biggest tourist attraction around is kayaking and paddle boarding. There are kayak and paddle board rental shops all along the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake and it is fantastic. During my time in Austin I was able to rent kayaks and paddle boards a few times and had a blast each time.
The first time I went out I went with a Meetup Group. I was so excited because I thought the group would be mostly young people. And then it wasn’t. So that was a bit awkward as I was trying to meet people around my age and make friends. If you do not want to go with a group though you can always get individual rentals by the hour. Each shop has their own pricing, but generally they are about the same.
Other times I have gone with friends, and we have enjoyed our time together and in the water. Texas is so hot in the summer, that if you are not in or around the water somehow, you are probably staying inside.
Between kayaking and paddle boarding I think I enjoy paddle boarding better. It is a bit more of a challenge for me and I appreciate that at times. If I wanted a nice easy time on the water I would go for a kayak. I am definitely not a big fan of canoes because I like being in control. When you are on a canoe, which I’ve rented plenty of times elsewhere, you have to have a good partner. If you don’t it can be disappointing.
Lastly some of the companies that rent boards will also sell guided tour packages. This could be a fun way to see some of the sites while also enjoying the water. I never participated in one of these, but can definitely see the appeal. Especially if you were on a tight schedule and because of the tour could do both the things you wanted to do.
If you enjoy being on the water, this is a great option for you. You can see some sights you have never seen and move your body in an enjoyable way.
I think the best way to describe Main Events is an indoor theme park. They have different areas throughout a huge building with the sole purpose of entertainment. Main Events is located in north Austin off of Interstate 183. I visited Main Event the first time I was in Texas in 2017. Some of my coworkers and I took a day trip to Austin and visited Main Event.
Since looking up Main Event I have learned the Austin location is not the only one. There are locations elsewhere as well. If you have been to a Main Event before I imagine the experience would be pretty similar.
At the Austin location there is a bowling alley, rock climbing, laser tag, and a huge arcade. It truly was a fun place. My friends and I partook in many of the different activities offered because why not. They all sounded incredible fun, and we had a magnificent time.
Unfortunately due to it being so long ago I don’t remember price point. And to be honest everyone has their own budget, so that will be something you would want to look up online. Like many entertainment centers like this it is more of a once in a while thing in my opinion.
This is a fun place for any day that you do not want to spend outside. But do be aware that if you are not willing to hang outside, others might have the same idea and crowd the place up.
Mount Bonnell is a small park with a trail that overlooks the Colorado River. The view is spectacular, probably one of the best in Austin. I have had the opportunity to visit Mount Bonnell a few times, and each time was impressed by the view. The houses you can see are stunning, and the river is beautiful.
Visiting Mount Bonnell is something I would suggest for anyone that enjoys being outdoors. It is not a very rigorous trail, but there are stairs. Unfortunately this does mean it may be inaccessible to some. Something I am becoming more aware of having worked with the disabled population this last year. As far as for the kids, it should not be too much of a difficulty. The stairs are not crazy steep, there are just a lot. Many of the families I babysat for had done the hike with their young ones and never had any issues.
At the top there is a pavilion and in the park there are places to sit and rest. I enjoyed taking time while at Mount Bonnell to just revel in the beauty. So often we think that the U.S. isn’t as beautiful as other places. And really it is all about perspective. Some places are more beautiful than here and vice versa. But we should celebrate the beauty we see in others and in mother earth when we experience it.
In my opinion this is an Austin must. Especially if you enjoy being outdoors, but even if you don’t I think you would still enjoy a trip to Mount Bonnell.
*Mozart’s Light Display
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters is a locally well known coffee shop right on the Colorado River. In my opinion their coffee is not the greatest, but the location is awesome. They have indoor and outdoor seating and they hold different events throughout the year. The one I went to was the light display for winter holidays. In the light display no one religion was overrepresented, which I thought was pretty cool. The lights themselves were nice. They had a show with the lights blinking and changing to music which played every so often. They also had some live music the night I visited with my friends. To me it was odd because it was not cold. Most of my experiences with light displays I was freezing my booty off to see the lights in Ohio. So that was a nice change. The show itself did not cost anything, but they were selling coffee, hot chocolate and sweets. I enjoyed my time with my friends here. If you are in town when the display is up and want something other than going out on the town this is a great option. It is also a good option if you have kids.
Austin is a very artistic city. Throughout the city there are many famous murals that many people enjoy taking their pictures for the gram. I personally did not go visit any of the murals. I had hopes to, but never cared enough to go do it. And when my friends and I were hanging out that just was not what we wanted to do. We enjoyed being in the water somewhere, or playing with the dogs, or seeing a movie at the Alamo.
If you do plan on going and seeing the murals, just look up Austin murals. There are other bloggers who have posts on all the murals and the addresses associated. This can definitely be a fun activity for anyone of any age. And personally I think they can be very fun vacation photos.
My Gym is a children’s fitness center. When I was nannying the boys and I enjoyed visiting My Gym. They had a membership, which meant we were able to go as frequently as we liked. I appreciated My Gym a lot because the kids could expend a great amount of energy and enjoy themselves and not complain about the heat. And I myself had fun too. Every couple of weeks or so the equipment would be rearranged with new challenges for the kids. There was a balance bean, and hanging bars, and other kid friendly equipment to help build strength and have fun. It is also a great place for the kids to socialize with other kids their age and learn about interacting with others.
My Gym also does classes, and parents night out events. I do not have any details on those as I just went and did drop in hours. I am sure you can find all the information needed on their website. Also know that there are other children fitness centers like My Gym and I am sure they all are pretty similar. I only have experience with My Gym in Austin.
Rainey Street is another relatively famous place to go out in Austin. I did not ever go to Rainey Street while I was there, so can’t say much on the subject. I’ve heard great things about Rainey. To be fair I think it is more of a place locals go compared to 6th Street. They do have some famous bars and restaurants including Banger’s which are famous for their large alcoholic drinks. Understandably since everything is bigger in Texas. Rainey is close to downtown, but not in the center of downtown where 6th Street is.
South By Southwest
South By Southwest is another Austin event I did not attend. Despite that it is a huge event in the city and brings people from all over the world. It is a crazy event though. It is two weeks of live music, new ideas and technologies, and locals avoiding downtown. It is a professional event centered around creative works more than anything. They screen new movies, host live music and so so much more. It is definitely an experience I think could be very valuable to have if you work in certain industries. South by Southwest is an expensive event to attend. Many people volunteer many hours to have the price of admission waived. Because of all of this I did not attend. But if it something you are interested definitely check it out.
*Texas Sledding and Christmas Tree Lighting
Texas Sledding was an event like no event I’ve ever been to. Growing up in the Midwest I have seen snow, and been sledding plenty of times growing up. So it was getting close to December and my family member that I was living with was like you should go Texas Sledding with us. And I was a bit confused, as most people would be.
So she explained that Texas Sledding is when you find a grassy hill and ride down it on some cardboard. So I planned to go with them thinking this was going to be a small event. The church they attend is right next to the Capital Building and I was thinking it was a church event.
I was mistaken. This event had tons of people all over the Capital Building lawn with torn pieces of cardboard. There were people of all ages using cardboard sleds to ride down not so steep hills. I even rode down a few times and enjoyed myself.
It was so fun to see the idea of if there is a will there is a way. Sledding is a fun outdoor winter activity usually including snow. But if you do not have snow, well you can still go sledding, just by different means.
Along with the Texas Sledding they had a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, and some other activities around the Capital Building. It was a fun family event and something I will remember forever.
The Thinkery was one of my favorite places to go when I was nannying. I honestly probably enjoyed it more than the boys did. But that’s ok the nanny gets to have fun too. Or at least I liked to think so.
The Thinkery is a children’s interactive museum. They had many different exhibits, some that rotated as well as some that were static. Because it was interactive the kids could play, and learn at the same time. The family I nannied for had a membership and we would go pretty regularly.
I don’t want to go too much into detail about all of the exhibits we saw as by now they have most definitely changed. Some of the static exhibits had an airplane rocket where you pick and choose the parts of the plane to see which flies best. There is a whole indoor water feature that the kids love and get completely soaked by even when wearing smocks. They have toys and story time and so many activities to keep the children and the parents/adults entertained.
I highly suggest the Thinkery. I was always impressed with their exhibits and the kids enjoyed themselves most of the time too. We went fairly regularly because we had a membership, but this is also a fun once in a while thing. The exhibits do rotate, but only a few times a year. That is something to consider for sure. But it is nice because it is indoors so it is a great summer activity to beat the Austin heat.
*Trail of Lights
The Trail of Lights was such an Austin-y thing. It was weird and fun, and like no other light display I have ever seen. The Trail of Lights is held in Zilker Park in the winter. There is a literal trail through the park that the lights are on and you walk through it. There is a fee associated, but it is not too much. The biggest struggle is parking, but they do offer a shuttle option when you buy tickets. That is what my friend and I did. We went to dinner at Tarka, and then caught a shuttle from Toney Burger Stadium in South Austin.
The Trail of Lights was fun because it was different. It had sections that were representative of the winter holidays, but then there were aliens, and cartoon characters, and armadillos. Each section was different based on who sponsored that part of the trail. Visiting the Trail of Lights was a fun way to get out of the house and hang out with my friend before I went to visit my family for Christmas. I definitely suggest going and walking through the trail if you are in Austin in December.
Ax throwing has become a newly popular attraction all over. I had the opportunity to throw axes at Urban Axes with my friends and it was something. I personally was not the biggest fan. I enjoyed being with my friends and they were having a great time. I just kept thinking I could do this in a friends back yard for free. I also was not very good, and I am a pretty competitive person, so that may have had something to do with me not enjoying it as much as others.
Despite that it was good. They had an employee with you the whole time. The employee talked you through how to properly throw the ax so to limit the chances of you getting hurt. At Urban Axes it is BYOB so I brought a few ciders and we threw some axes for about an hour. They also had come up with some games that we played to make it somewhat competitive. If ax throwing is something you enjoy, or something you would like to try Urban Axes was a great place.
*Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical Garden is a specific part of Zilker Park. And although it is within the grouping of the park, it does have a small fee associated. I personally thought the fee was not too crazy, and was worth it for the experience.
Honestly I feel like I do not know how to describe the Botanical Garden. It is a beautifully thought out green space in the middle of a huge city. Seriously it is so close to the city, and if you did not know that you would be surprised to find it out. As someone who enjoys spending time outside, and experiencing nature I enjoyed visiting the Botanical Garden. The day I went it was actually kind of dreary, but that made it nice. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much in the heat of August. Overall it is a beautiful garden. For anyone that enjoys appreciating plants I highly suggest checking it out if you have the opportunity.
Zilker Park is a huge park in downtown Austin. It has many different components, which is awesome. Like Barton Springs mentioned above is technically part of Zilker Park. There is also a dog park area, picnic area, and disc golf too. No matter what outdoor activity you are into you can probably find a way to participate in it at Zilker.
I visited Zilker many times with my friend. She has three dogs now, but only one when we first met. So we usually hung out at the dog park area. Also pro-tip get friends with dogs, and then you can enjoy them and not deal with paying for them, or cleaning up after them. It is great. I love on my friend’s dogs and then leave.
But in Zilker you will see some random and cool things. Many people in Austin are into hula-hooping so I’ve seen people do that at the park. I’ve seen people doing couples yoga, which was wild. Overall it is a great park and I always enjoyed myself when I visited. I do highly suggest visiting Zilker while you are in Austin.
Zilker also has a train in the park called the Zilker Zephyr. The Zephyr is currently not running, but when it is it is a fun activity for the kiddos. The train starts near the entrance of Barton Springs and is probably a ten or fifteen minute ride. If you are already at the park and it is running I would get on and enjoy the ride.
There is so much that goes on in Zilker Park I could go on and on. The last event I want to point out is Zilker Hillside Theater. I personally did not get to attend any of the shows at Zilker Hillside Theater, but there are community shows presented in the park in the summer. If you enjoy theater and want a fun family friendly outdoor event check out the Zilker Hillside Theater.
Day Trips From Austin
So if you are visiting for awhile, or living in Austin and want to get away from the city here I have some fun ideas for a day trip.
Driftwood is a small town outside of Austin. My experiences with Driftwood start and stop at visiting the wineries. Driftwood has many wineries in the area and I have had the pleasure of visiting a few. Every time I have been to a winery in Driftwood I have been impressed. They are very nice places with great wine. I don’t know exactly who puts them on, but there are companies that do winery hopping trips and take you on a bus to the different wineries around town.
Going to Driftwood would be a fun option if you and your friends or family enjoy wine and wine tasting. It could be an enjoyable chill day away from the city.
Hamilton Pool is another natural pool and my goodness it is beautiful. I visited a few years back when I was in Texas for the summer with some of my coworkers and am sad I did not make it back. It is different than Barton Springs in that it is not shaped like a pool. One thing to note is that you have to do some hiking to get to the pool itself. This option may not be accessible to all, which is unfortunate because it is so beautiful. From what I remember the water was cool and refreshing. And there was a sort of beach area where people could leave their belongings.
There is a small fee associated with entry into the park. I do not remember exactly how much, it’s been a few years since I’ve been. But the fee was not ridiculous by any stretch or means of the imagination.
Hamilton Pool is a great option to get out of the city and get outside if that is something you enjoy. I highly suggest getting your friends together and making a day of visiting Hamilton Pool the next time you have a chance. You won’t regret it.
Lake LBJ named after president LBJ is about an hour from Austin. I visited Lake LBJ this summer with my family as we celebrated a quarantine birthday. It was a very nice lake. I am no lake expert, but despite a decent amount of people on the water it was pretty smooth water.
We rented a lakefront rental property and played in the water right outside the place. It was very nice because the rental came with a lot of amenities. Obviously these will be different depending on who you rent from. We also rented a jet ski for a day which was incredibly fun.
Due to not being able to request time off because of COVID I only got to spend the day here. But it was easily drivable from Austin. The rental was nice. I would imagine there are probably public swimming areas if you just wanted to go for the day as well. The water was a good temperature, and was deep. Lots of people were tubing and doing other water sports. If you want to get out of town and get on the water this could be a great option.
Lake Travis is probably the more well-known of the two lakes I’ve been to. It is about an hour outside of Austin, but that is not too terrible. When I visited Lake Travis I was at the house of acquaintance and my goodness it was beautiful. I cannot even imagine how expensive the houses on this lake are. It is a very nice area for sure.
There are lots of rental options on Lake Travis. You can rent houses, boats, jet-skis, pretty much anything you can imagine. The lake itself is huge and beautiful. I honestly did not get to stay long when I did visit. And we stayed up near the pool most of the time. Which is so weird to think about. I could have been in the lake, but we were super bougie and swam in the pool instead. But anyway I love lake days and will always suggest them. If you enjoy spending time on a lake doing lake things check Lake Travis out.
Salado is another small town relatively near Austin. Salado has many local shops which are so fun to walk around and visit. One notable shop in Salado that my family members and I love is Salado Glass. Salado Glass is a glass shop that hosts glass blowing workshops and events that sound so cool. This was unfortunately one of the things I wanted to do before leaving, but was unable to. They also sell their own creations and they are stunning. If you decide to go visit Salado definitely do not skip out on going to Salado Glass.
Waco is a very easy, but boring drive away from Austin. I wrote a whole post on it here if you would like to read more. It is a fun place to visit and has both touristy things as well as more low-key attractions.
These are some of the places and attractions I have experienced and enjoyed while living in Austin. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I believe it is a good start for planning a trip to Austin. I hope if you are reading this in preparation for a trip to Austin that you find some places that you will enjoy while visiting. Austin truly is an amazing city and I’ve enjoyed learning and exploring it over the last year and a half.
If you have any personal experiences with any of these places let me know in the comments. This way others can view your comments and learn about other peoples experience as well.