Travel tips for Austin, TX?
June 18, 2008 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Headed to Austin TX with teenage sister...Suggestions for fun that doesn't include booze and/or 18+ shows?

We are headed to Emos and Red 7 for some music. Any other all-ages venues we could hit? As I will be with a high school girl, shopping is a must too- any cool not-to-miss shopping areas? Thanks!
posted by muxnaw to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Alamo Drafthouse. It's not just a movie theater.
posted by nushustu at 9:59 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I should note that it says 18 and up, but are a bit lax with that for the non-weird shows.

Also, go to the South Lamar or downtown venues, the Village if you're in a pinch. Under no circumstances should you go to the Lake Creek one, as it's a pretender.
posted by nushustu at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2008

South Congress and South First have lots of cool shops. Don't miss Waterloo Records and Bookpeople--they're across the street from each other at 6th and Lamar.
posted by Zebtron at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: The Drafthouse is not necessarily all-ages - you'll have to check. (They serve booze.)

South Congress is the hip shopping area, and the Drag may still be interesting, although it's a lot more mainstream than even a couple years ago. (Don't miss Toyjoy! Overstimulation ftw!)

My parents are always fascinated by the big Whole Foods on 6th - it's a good stop for lunch. The bit of Lamar just north of there has some cute shops, plus Bookpeople, Waterloo, and Cheapo if she's into books and/or music.

Music is harder, although there's plenty at non-bar locations - the Central Markets often have daytime gigs. When you get into town, pick up a Chronicle - that's the best place to find festivals, events, and stuff around town.

I know there are many of my fellow Austinites on the green, so I'll let them take it from here :)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: Barton Springs in Zilker Park!!! A MUST. It has many miles of hiking trails, plus this VERY AWESOME, huge natural pool to swim in.

South Congress, yes for shopping. If she's a history buff, check out the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.

If you want the best tex-mex around, head to Matt's Famous El Rancho. Or if soul food is more her style, check out Threadgill's (where you'll also find some great musical acts).

Round Rock has all the outlet malls, depending on your shopping tastes.

I may live in Portland, Oregon now, but all my family is in Austin. There are still some real gems in that there city.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:25 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

last time i was there i was told to check out a supposedly spectacular swarm of bats that flies out from under the Congress street bridge around dusk, of course i was too busy with booze and/or 18+ shows to actually go and see it, but a quick google search turned this up. looks pretty cool.
posted by bilgepump at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2008

I'm not much of a shopper, but my roommates love The Domain. It's nothing really unique to Austin, just your standard higher end shopping center. It's quite new, though so everything looks nice.
posted by Durin's Bane at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: It's a huge colony of Mexican free tail bats -- when building the bridge, the designers put in a series of grooves into the concrete (somehow enhancing the structural integrity of the bridge) and inadvertently made what I call 'bat condos'. This time of year they are flying early, you can see them when it's still plenty light -- huge clouds of bats pouring out from underneath the bridge and then headed east.

South Congress is great fun, for shopping and hanging out. Barton Springs is an Austin gem, as whimsicalnymph pointed out, it's pretty and it's cool water to swim in after stomping around town for hours; the water is going to seem cold, jump in and get kicking, you'll soon be used to it.

And you need not wait to get to Austin to get your hands on a copy of The Austin Chronicle -- you can go to their website and get a sense of what you might want to do before you even leave.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:45 AM on June 18, 2008

And you might want to rent some bikes -- Austin is a great bike town. Bicycle Sport Shop is a great place for renting bikes -- high quality bikes, quite reasonable rates. Tons of hike/bike trails that lead to fun places and biking is more fun than walking it if you're on a tight time schedule, or if you're not.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:55 AM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: To escape the tourist mob view of the bats, park (or pedi-cab) to Rainey and Cummings in east downtown and head back towards the hotels on the hike and bike trail. lots of nice open fields and places to sit, people/dog watch without the mess of TGI Friday's where most people watch the bats.

If you're adventurous, head east of 35 on 7th or caesar chavez (1st) and streets in between and try one of the many east Austin restaurants (Tex-Mex, vegetarian, cool bakeries, divey little bars). I say adventurous only because the restaurants don't have advertising budgets like Chuy's or Matt's ER so you're not likely to hear them recomended by your concierge, etc.

second barton springs

second LBJ library and the Capitol, unfort our Governer's mansion is in disrepair after a fire but worth a look. The Blanton art museum and the Bob Bullock History of Texas museum are relatively new, on 19th south of campus, very neat.

And you may not especially enjoy the Drag, but trust me when I say your teenage sister will LOVE it. Indulge her.
posted by williamms at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Completely agree about hitting Barton Springs. Guadalupe Avenue (the street across from the University, affectionately known as "The Drag") has some wonderful stores too like Toy Joy, Momoko (which also has bubble tea for a nice treat!), and some great vintage shops.

Round Rock has some great outlet shopping, as does a city south of Austin on I-5... the name of the city escapes me, but it's not too far of a drive and there are many, many stores.

Have fun! Austin is a wonderful city.
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: Please, please do not make anyone take the Segway tour of Austin.
I see those people and I die a little bit inside.

- Barton Springs definitely.
- The Alamo Drafthouse is all ages even though they serve booze. (The Draughthouse is a bar that is not related.) Eating pizza while watching a big screen movie can be really cool.
- I would disagree wholeheartedly about Matt's, but arguing taste is pointless. I would suggest going for Mex-Mex. I love Maria's Taco Xpress, but only for their Gorditas. I love Sazon in general, but their huitlacoche empanadas are great (if your sister is adventurous). I love Borrego de Oro for their birria. All three of those places are in South Austin. You can great great Mexican on the east side too. Plenty of resources on the web for choosing those, though feel free to email for my opinions on anything.
- If the sister likes meat, drive to Lockhart for the Barbecue. Go to Smitty's or Kreuz's. Nowhere else.
- If she likes hiking, try a short little jaunt down the Barton Creek Greenbelt. There is no water to swim, but it is cool to walk the creek beds. If you start from the access near Barton Springs pool, you can work up a sweat from walking, then hit the springs to cool down.
- For a longer outdoor experience, drive west to Pedernales Falls S.P. or Enchanted Rock S.P. One for the river, the other for the basalt uplift. Both pretty cool. Closer in is McKinney Falls, especially if she is into bouldering, but the greenbelt is good for that too.
If she likes shopping, I suggest South COngress and South First. East 2nd is really upscale and might be fun to wander and make fun of people. SoCo is a bit hip but the effects of money are showing. South 1st is harder to walk, narrower sidewalks, but the shops are funkier if more dispersed and you can stop at Freddie's Place to have some lemonade and partake in that quintessential teenage girl pasttime, pitching washers.
- Austin might be a good place to bike, but if you are new in town, stick to the trails. The drivers can be a might bit aggressive with cyclists, especially during commuting hours (6 am to 2 am).
- Walk through campus. Look for some of the remaining bullet holes. Make a reservation and climb the tower OF DEATH! Wander into randow buildings when you get hot and stroll around looking for exhibits. Some are pretty cool. There is the Blanton Art Museum on campus. It is right across the street from the Texas History museum if you decide you want to see a lot of bullshit about how great the state is. It's actually a lot of fun to wander around in to laugh at the people and the exhibits.
- Checkout the Chronicle's website for things to do. They are pretty comprehensive.
- I love Emo's if the right band is playing.
- Outlet shopping is along I-35. South is San Marcos area. Not my suggestion, but a clarity for above.
- Remember that even though summer is only days away, we have been in the hundreds for a while now. I almost drowned yesterday, in the shade, on my front porch, in my own sweat. But then, I am a fat sweaty pig and young ladies do not sweat, they perspire. Just drink lots of water so's you don't expire.
posted by Seamus at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

as does a city south of Austin on I-5... the name of the city escapes me, but it's not too far of a drive and there are many, many stores.

San Marcos -- not much of a shopper myself, but it's supposed to be the hotness for great shopping deals.

If you have the time and it's not terribly hot, you might also consider McKinney Falls State Park:

South Congress has been mentioned, but South Lamar also has some shopping places that you two might find fun and interesting.

I'll second or third checking out the Austin Chronicle for 18+ venues before arriving, but my short list would include: Opal Divine's on South Congress and the Dog & Duck downtown.
Have fun!
posted by lord_wolf at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2008

also as I recall Black Cat lounge on 6th near Brazos is all ages.
posted by williamms at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2008

Just popping in to agree with everything everyone else has said. I was in Austin last weekend and we did a lot of these things. Barton Springs is totally awesome and well worth it (especially since it's been so hot recently). Shopping on South Congress is really cool and there are a lot of quirky little shops. The Drafthouse is really fantastic and if you do find a show that's not age restricted, go for it. It'll be a lot of fun.

If your sister's into art, UT's Blanton Museum (largest university art museum in the US!) is actually very nice and I highly recommend it. It has really good architecture and a decent collection.

If you want the best tex-mex around, head to Matt's Famous El Rancho. Or if soul food is more her style, check out Threadgill's (where you'll also find some great musical acts).

When I was being recruited by UT in March, they took us to both of those places and I'd tend to second this. Threadgill's makes a mean chicken-fried steak, if that's your thing.
posted by malthas at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2008

Well of course you have to take your teenage sister to Hippy Hollow. Just don't tell your mom you were gawking at nekkid folks.

Not sure if it's considered hip these days (or ever, really), but The Oasis has a great view of the sunset over Lake Travis.

Mount Bonnell (halfway down page) is a short hike (mostly vertically), and has a great view of the whole area.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2008

The Black Cat is no more. Burned, I think. Both Hippy Hollow and The Oasis are pretty dang far from downtown Austin and not worth the drive imo -- Hippy Hollow was fun when it was hippies but anymore it's gawkers and players and not a fun place to get naked; The Oasis has terrible food at high prices, they are selling the sunset, admittedly a pretty place to see it.

Austins page on WikiTravel is okay, a good link to have to back up all the great info from all these great MeFites.

Austin is the capitol of Texas, and the capitol building was totally renovated about ten years ago, and it is beautiful and quite interesting -- the only state capitol building which is taller than the fed capitol building, built with marble from Marble Falls, about fifty or sixty miles west of Austin. You can see both houses of the state leg. upstairs and tons of probably tacky paintings depicting various Texan holy days and/or events such as the battle at San Jacinto, where Sam Houston (The Big Drunk was his name among the Indians he lived with here in Texas after leaving Tennessee shamed) and the boys stomped the dogshit out of Santa Anna and his army, captured Santa Anna, the victory which led to the country of Texas.

Not counting Comanche and Apache and Karankawa or any of the other native Americans who've ruled over various bits and pieces of the area now known as Texas, and who wouldn't have cared about flags anyways, Texas has endured through the flags of six different countries, thus the whole 'Six Flags' thing. Can you name the countries? You'll see the flags all nicely laid into the stonework cut into the floor of the state capitol building, nice mosaics.

Directly across the street from the capitol building you'll see a bitty park containing the foundations of the first buildings of The University of Texas.

Last. It's hot here. No, really -- hot. And humid. Wear light clothes, sandals, sunglasses, carry water bottles, keep an eye out for shade, and use it when you find it.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:09 PM on June 18, 2008

Best answer: Thank you everyone! We took most of your suggestions and had a great time in Austin. What an amazing city. (Salt Lick BBQ= best meal I've ever had).
posted by muxnaw at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2008

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