What to do in Austin for 2 days?
July 7, 2005 12:50 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I (and kids) will be in Austin for 2 or 3 days in August (19th - 21st). What are the activities/events/places/restaurants we should be sure not to miss?

It's made our short list of possible relocation sites, and wee're trying to take the pulse of the place. I know it's impossible to cram everything into 72 hours, but it would be nice to get as broad a sample as possible. Also, any recomendations about a nice place (quirky, non-chain, with pool) to stay would be welcome.
posted by Irontom to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely spend a day out on Lake Travis - rent a boat or just walk around, have lunch or dinner out at the Oasis (it was damaged in a fire in June but has since reopened in part).

In Austin - you'll definitely want to walk around down on Fourth/Sixth streets in the evening/night on Friday or Saturday ... you'll hear live music coming from the bars and restaurants (Sullivan's Ringside and Shady Grove have two very different types of musical entertainment during dinner, but I'm not sure of the establishments will let you in with kids as it gets late). You can also watch the bats fly under the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset. Sidenote: My favorite upscale downtown restaurant: Eddie V's.

During the day, there's Zilker Park or the Barton Springs Pool (both fun with kids), lunch at the Hula Hut, shopping in the Arboretum ...

I think the Citysearch guide is a great source (I live here, and I still use it!!). Have fun!
posted by roundrock at 1:09 PM on July 7, 2005

Ditto on Barton Springs and/or Zilker. Really, most places in the Greenbelt are nice, it's quite a great feature of the city. South Congress (SoCo, if you're really cool) has become quite the funky shopping/dining area.

Really, though, I find it hard to make recommendations without knowing what kind of stuff you dis/like. There are many great restaurants, shops, and parks, at least one great university (hook 'em!), the capitol building, and on and on. roundrock's suggestions are all spot on, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by abingham at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2005

I recommend the Alamo Drafthouse, especially if there's a Mr. Sinus show going (looks like their calendar is not made up for that timeframe yet). Not sure if kids can get in -- I think probably not. Also there's the Austin Children's Museum downtown... kind of a small operation but not a bad way to kill an hour.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:43 PM on July 7, 2005

Also one cheap diner with local flair that we've enjoyed is Magnolia Cafe. Pretty diverse menu.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2005

I visited Austin for the first time last spring, and had a great time exploring the Whole Foods Market. Being that you're from NoVA, you may have already been to one, but Austin has the original Whole Foods, so it's HUGE and has lots of yummy food.
posted by geeky at 1:56 PM on July 7, 2005

Go to Chuy's!

God, I miss their tomatillo salsa.
posted by MsMolly at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2005

Response by poster: It's not so much what we like, as trying to get a taste of what the city likes. Like I said, there's no way to really do it in 2 or 3 days, but we're trying to get a feel for the character/soul of the place.

Example, here in northern Virginia, my impression of the character is that we're wound pretty tightly. The traffic is insane, "what do you do" is the lead question at parties, people's lives are so overwhelmingly busy they don't have much in the way of downtime. I'm not sure how much of that a visitor would pick up in the course of a weekend, but that's the kind of thing we're trying to sample.
posted by Irontom at 2:24 PM on July 7, 2005

Make sure to see the bats emerge from the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:44 PM on July 7, 2005

It's already been hot as hell this summer, so in peak August heat you'll likely just want to get into some water as soon as possible. Barton Springs is an (obviously) spring-fed, constant cool temperature treasure, and in Zilker Park near downtown. I've been hanging out at Windy Point ever since I was a kid; note that you want "Bob Wentz Park" rather than the privately-owned park in order to get access to the water. Walking the Town Lake hike and bike trail downtown will give you a sense of the Austin zeitgeist; wonderful sunsets from the pedestrian bridge. I've not seen the bats but have waited a couple of times for them and gotten bored and left; YMMV.

UT won't be in regular session but the Drag (Guadalupe between Martin Luther King St. and 29th) and such places as Spider House and the nearby Toy Joy are examples of good old Austin weirdness (it's my old neighborhood, so I'm partial). Walking up Congress Ave. from Town Lake to the Capitol on a given week day lunch hour reveals a good mix of Austinites, from slick lawyers and lobbyists to the homeless and maybe even Leslie, the local thong-wearing transvestite (though I've not seem her around so much lately).

I second SoCo (South Congress) but once you get very far away from downtown it turns into typical car culture. You might enjoy a drive up Loop 360 through the western hills and the 360 Bridge over Lake Austin.

I've not done a Duck Tour but the people on them seem to be having fun. The freebie weekly Austin Chronicle is a good resource for entertainment and other things to do; cruise the local daily's web site for summer entertainment guides.

Lots to do but remember, it's going to be HOT! Enjoy!
posted by rleamon at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2005

Austin has the original Whole Foods, so it's HUGE and has lots of yummy food.

The original Whole Foods is long gone, but Austin does have a flagship-like store which is ginormous. Personally, I prefer Central Market, which is also quite large and cool.

Definitely check out the previous questions tagged Austin for more restaurant ideas... I'm not going to repeat them here.

You want a quirky place to stay? Doesn't get quirkier than the Austin Motel on South Congress. Conveniently located near Terra Toys, an awesome toy store.

How old are your kids? I'm going to assume they're young enough that they won't be interested in punk rock (but it will be there when they're older).

If you're trying to get a feel for what the city and its people are like for kids (rather than just soaking up attractions), I think Zilker Park is the right idea. Ride the miniature train there with the kids. Visit Barton Springs (a cool 68 degrees F year round). Walk a little around the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail. But it's hot there in August (as I'm sure it is in VA)! Stay hydrated.

In the university area, go to the top of the UT Tower (limited hours, check in advance), and then drop for a visit a visit to Toy Joy, Amy's Ice Creams, and Central Market. Take a walk through Pease Park. After an afternoon like that, I think I would have been begging my parents to move to Austin when I was a kid.

The Capitol is also fun, but it won't really give you much of a feel for the Austin you'll experience (although you should go while the lege is in session sometime—quite a different experience). Do it when you get here. Same with the State History Museum.

The Austin Chronicle's Calendar section always has great recommendations for the day.

I grew up in Austin, so the above includes of my favorite memories (others are no longer possible, alas). It's a great place to grow up in if you're in a good school (which is primarily determined by which area you live in).
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on July 7, 2005

I asked the same question once and received a lot of great responses.
posted by caddis at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2005

I'll 3rd, 4th or 5th Barton Springs. I visited Austin for the first time last August and ended up there in the late eve via my awesome hosts. Had to go back the next day.

It's a kind of beautiful public use park, a carefully treated bit of nature from ye olde progressive days. I wonder if something like it is even possible anymore.

Be sure to tell the Gov. "Adios Mofo" for us.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 4:35 PM on July 7, 2005

Barton Springs is cool to see, even if you don't swim. The BBQ and music joints are the best parts about Austin, IMHO, but they don't always swing with kids. They don't call it the live music capitol for nothing. The bats were a bust when we were there; every night is different I guess, but the Texas State Museum at the Capitol had a Davy Crocket exhibit that my kids loved.
posted by caddis at 5:16 PM on July 7, 2005

Yeah, the bat bridge is pretty cool.
posted by plinth at 6:19 PM on July 7, 2005

PROMISE me you'll go swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

Go to the Broken Spoke and see whatever band is playing there. I highly recommend seeing some homegrown country (at the Broken Spoke or anywhere): I have taken visitors to see Dale Watson or the Derailers and they always love it. Then again, you have kids in tow, so nightlife might not be an option?

The Segway Tour and the Duck Tour both seem like fun.

The kids (and you) will definitely dig the bats. You can get boat rides under the bridge for a privileged view, I think.

The Austin Motel is the only quirky non-chain lodging I can think of, and it's in getting-a-feel-for-Austin central.

Yes, your kids will pee their pants over Toy Joy on Guadalupe & 29th. Don't go to the ice cream place across the street from there though -- go to Amy's. If you're a music collector, Antone's Records is nearby.
posted by kmel at 7:10 PM on July 7, 2005

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