Nondignitary to visit Austin, seeks amusments both confounding and wonderous.
June 2, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for things to do in Austin, TX from July 3rd-8th. Any suggestions?

I'm visiting a old friend in Austin in early July and I'm looking for things to do beside standing around and muttering, "Christ, it's hot." People, some actual Texans, tell me Austin is a great city but they don't live there anymore and my friend is new to the area.

Ideas don't need to be kid friendly but should not be raunchy as we will have college kids with us. I'd be most interested in opportunities for photography, short hikes, live music, local brews, museums, art, and vegetarian food. Anything weird is welcome.

Bonus points for identifying vegetarian restaurants that aren't owned by the Supreme Master. I like my weird local, not global.

Thanks. And before you ask, yes I'll consider organizing a meet-up if anyone can pick a location and if there is at least a few people willing to show up.
posted by chairface to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't make specific recommendations, but you'll have no trouble finding vegetarian options in Austin. Most places you go will have non-salad options.

Off the top of my head for a short hike, I recommend Wild Basin, which is out on the far west side (360). Bring water, hats, and go in the late afternoon or early morning.

I'll come back later with some more recommendations once I have a chance to scrounge calendarwise.
posted by immlass at 11:45 AM on June 2, 2010

Swim at Barton Springs to get out of the heat. Hamilton Pool and Krause Springs are also good, but not right in town. For veg food, eat at Mother's. East Side Cafe isn't totally veg but usually has good veg options. Short hikes and photography - Mt. Bonnell, or Wild Basin. Not much on photography but the greenbelt can be a good hike, and if you're lucky it will have some water (but I doubt it will by then.) The "Our Body" exhibit will still be at the UT campus (in the Starck museum) and I highly recommend it if you're not opposed to looking at a bunch of dead people. Aslo, check out all the previous threads on Austin.
posted by sanko at 11:49 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: I'll check out previous Austin threads too but I asked hoping for any tips on stuff happening during that week like music, theater, or art exhibits.
posted by chairface at 12:02 PM on June 2, 2010

Veggie eats (these are particular spots, but pretty much any place you go will have good veggie options):

Veggie Heaven
Mother's Cafe & Garden
Kerbey Lane
Mr. Natural
Eastside Cafe

Cool stuff to do:

Hike to the top of Mount Bonnell (short hike)
Go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Or the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens (very very cool)
Go to the State Capitol Building (and grounds -- great place for taking pictures)
Ditto on Barton Springs.
Or go out to Lake Travis.

Check the Austin Chronicle for music, art, and other events going on that weekend.
posted by devinemissk at 12:03 PM on June 2, 2010

Ack! Borked a couple of links.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden


Veggie Heaven
posted by devinemissk at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2010

Go kayaking on Ladybird Lake, or walk/run/bike around it.
Go cliff jumping at Lake Travis (or swim, or rent a boat, or scuba).
Visit the Shiner Bock brewery.
Do the Texas Hill Country Wineries tour.
Midnight Rodeo or Broken Spoke for country dancing.
See the bats on Congress Ave.
Visit 6th Street on a Fri/Sat night.
Go tubing on the Comal or Guadalupe.
Walk around "the drag" and/or South Congress.
Visit the Capitol and UT.
Take a Segway tour downtown.
posted by CallMeWhiskers at 12:09 PM on June 2, 2010

Willie Nelson's Picnic is July 4th at the Backyard.
posted by sanko at 12:15 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've nothing against Wild Basin, but the Barton Creek Greenbelt will give you a lot of hiking right in the city. It's my favorite thing about Austin. The water levels drop in the summer but there will be plenty of places to wade or just sit in the falls in July. Though sometimes you will hear traffic noise (true at Wild Basin too), it is more like wilderness than a walk in the park, go to Lady Bird Lake for that.
posted by Some1 at 12:24 PM on June 2, 2010

live music

Go to the Cactus Cafe before it closes!

As a vegetarian, I'll second devinemissk's recommendations of Eastside Cafe, Mother's, and Kerbey Lane (the original location, on the street of the same name). Another restaurant I like for its food and atmosphere is El Chile; it doesn't have a lot of vegetarian options, but there are enough and they're clearly marked.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:39 PM on June 2, 2010

For some reason there's a strange degree of antipathy against them (some people don't like their barbecue, I guess) but I think that Uncle Billy's makes a damn fine beer. It's pretty close to Barton Springs (mentioned above), which is a really nice place to go for a swim.

If you're specifically into locally brewed beers, though not necessarily from a brewpub, Independence, (512), and Live Oak beers are all brewed in Austin. Real Ale is brewed in nearby Blanco and Shiner is brewed in, well, Shiner.

(A good place to go to get those beers that's weird and has tasty vegetarian food is the Whip In.)

As for art, there's the Austin Museum of Art downtown, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center on the UT Campus, and hey, there might even be an AMoDA Digital Showcase while you're in town, which could be cool. I've wanted to try to go for a while, now.

Other museums include the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and various other museums (including the LBJ museum, etc.) on campus -- there are a lot.

I could go on for a while, but the one thing I will definitely recommend to pretty much anyone that comes to Austin is going to see a special show at one of the Alamo Drafthouses. If they're doing a Master Pancake theater (basically live Mystery Science Theater 3000 with lots of different kinds of movies), be sure to check it out -- it's really funny, and while it's definitely not family friendly it probably won't be that raunchy.
posted by malthas at 12:42 PM on June 2, 2010

Oh, Master Pancake. I've loved their schtick since the very beginning (before MST3K sued them, even before they started doing big budget movies,). Yes, yes, yes, agreed.
posted by devinemissk at 12:53 PM on June 2, 2010

The Blanton is free on Thursdays and is amazing.

The Tour de France starts on the 3rd. Many bike shops in town (including Mellow Johnny's, which is owned by Lance) have daily viewing parties with kegs on occasion. A couch, a beer, a big TV, and a chilled out bike shop. It's a neat way to kill some time if you're into that kinda thing.

Seeing the bats come out is actually pretty damn amazing. It's something that never gets old for me. There are four great ways to watch: from a canoe (you can rent them at Zilker but I think they're supposed to be back by dusk), from the lawn of the Austin American Statesman (lots of room, bring a drink and some tacos), from the sidewalk of the bridge (situate yourself under one of the street lights, so that when it gets dark you can look over the railing and see them flying in and out of the cool), and from the north side of the lake on a dock that's behind the hotels there (about 250ft east of Congress).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:26 PM on June 2, 2010

Good food with a veggie selection: Magnolia Cafe and Kerby Lane, Asti Trattoria.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2010

I haven't seen Amy's Ice Cream mentioned above. Must-eat for the hot summer. Also in the UT area for dessert is Polka Dots cupcakes. Delicious!

Kick back and relax with some coffee in the morning or evening at Mozart's Cafe by the lake.

Probably repeating others above for good vegetarian eats:
Kerbey Lane Cafe, Magnolia Cafe, Chuy's, Trudy's, Taco Deli.
posted by thewildgreen at 2:32 PM on June 2, 2010

I wanted to pop in and recommend NOT going to the Texas History Museum downtown. If you need to get out of the heat, that's one thing, but the museum itself presents a very skewed view of Texas history. I was really disappointed that there's virtually no mention of Hispanic settlers or native Americans, at least when I was there. The other museums around are great.

If you have a car, you might consider a day trip to San Antonio to visit the Riverwalk and the McNay and city art museums. You could even do the mission trail south of the city, apart from the Alamo. San Antonio is about 1 and 1/2 hours away, less depending on the traffic.

Halfway between San Antonio and Austin is Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels. It's built into the river and incorporates the landscape into the park in other ways. It's far better than the typical water park.

I went to college in Austin and I'm a native Texan many generations back. It's going to be really hot whatever you do. Enjoy!
posted by vincele at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2010

Go to Sculpture Falls. You'll walk past Twin Falls on the way, but don't be tempted. Sculpture Falls is perfect when it's got water. Shallows for kiddies and a nice deep end for adults. Bring snacks and booze or water.
posted by ejoey at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2010

You should also eat at both Taco Deli and Torchy's Tacos and decide for yourself which is the best taco in Austin.
posted by ejoey at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips everyone.
posted by chairface at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2010

You know, I was going to recommend Twin Falls, but thought it might be a bit of a tough sell for visitors. However, if you're up for it, I definitely recommend (or Sculpture Falls, whichever). Bring a cooler with water, soda, maybe beer, and sandwiches, and park yourselves for several hours. I've spent many a delightful afternoon doing just that.

If you go out to Lake Travis, I'll recommend Windy Point as a good spot if you just want to lounge, do some lazy swimming, that sort of thing. Take advantage of the water -- a year ago, all of these spots were bone dry.
posted by devinemissk at 2:58 PM on June 2, 2010

I was really disappointed that there's virtually no mention of Hispanic settlers or native Americans, at least when I was there. The other museums around are great.

The whole first floor (of three) is dedicated to this.
posted by Durin's Bane at 3:38 PM on June 2, 2010

Can't believe no one has yet recommended Casa de Luzfor organic vegan macrobiotic food, served in a really great place -- my favorite restaurant in town.

And it might seem sortof hokey but taking a tour of the state capital building is fun and you'll learn a lot about Texas.

Last -- if you love art and aren't afraid to travel an hour, one of the best kept secrets in the world is that San Antone has two world class art collections, the San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum. The McNey is housed in a great old estate, really nice, and SAMoA is housed in an old Lone Star beer distillery, and is major cool. The SAMoA has an amazing collection, lots of Central American art, a great antiquities collection, enough contemporary art to keep your eyes spinning and your heart singing, enough impressionism to make you feel peace, and on and on and on; don't miss the statuary room, high ceilings, beautiful light, deep silences. They have a nice bust of Marcus Aurelius, one of my heroes, sometimes I'll sit there in front of it in that quiet, think of the things he's written, and how he lived - fun.

If you are interested in very high quality Tex Mex Health Food (!!!), check out Adelante Mexican restaurant. Stumbled upon it by accident on a visit to the museums there in SA (it's very close to the Mc Ney museum) and it is great; they use only high quality ingredients that the owners select (and often take a hand in cooking), it's clean, you leave there happy, knowing you've just eaten great Texas comfort food but not trashed your body by eating the greazy-sleazy junk that most Tex Mex joints put out there.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:46 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thai Fresh is great, local, and carefully labels their food vegetarian or gluten-free, etc.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:33 PM on June 2, 2010

I'm coming back to report that other than Willie at the Backyard, I don't see anything much interesting on the concert calendar that isn't already sold out. (Edward Sharpe isn't my cuppa so I would have missed that one.)

I strongly second or third or whatever the McNay if you want to drive the hour or so down to San Antonio, and the Schlitterbahn if you like water parks.

If you're interested in doing the bats, there are bat cruises that cost $10 or less per person; you watch the bats come out over the water and get a little river tour of downtown. We've done this with family members and it's quite nice.
posted by immlass at 4:37 PM on June 2, 2010

Schlitterbahn is awesome but it's going to be a freaking zoo over July 4 weekend. (Although, to be fair, a lot of the water stuff will be crowded over July 4 weekend).

Since I just realized you're going to be there July 4, if you don't already have plans to do this (or other plans), please go to Auditorium Shores for the Austin Symphony July 4 Concert & Fireworks. We went every year when we lived in Austin and it was always just a blast. My favorite part is when the symphony plays the 1812 overture with actual cannon fire -- and they do it every year. It's a really unique and fun way to enjoy the 4th and fireworks.
posted by devinemissk at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2010

Every time I go I check out Toy Joy, on Guadalupe near the university. Very cool toys for kids & grownups. Also, for photography (and air conditioning), there is the state capitol. You can tour almost all of it, and go up fairly high in the rotunda.
posted by Jane Austen at 9:11 PM on June 2, 2010

Twin Falls was dry as a bone when I visited, but this year has been relatively wet here so far so you'd probably have better luck. Maybe try McKinney Falls in addition or instead? The Shoal Creek greenbelt also has some interesting views if you like nature+architecture juxtaposition in your photographs. Definitely visit the Zilker botanical gardens if you have time. In San Antonio the zoo and sunken gardens are interesting.

Canoeing/kayaking on town lake is loads of fun if it's cool enough, but this is unlikely to be the case in July. Rent an electric boat (you can get them with a nice catered dinner) or get a seat on one of the tour boats if you want to see the bats from the water.
posted by roystgnr at 9:33 PM on June 2, 2010

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