Austin has been known as the live music capital of the world, as a tech hub, for SXSW, and of course, as the hippie haven in the middle of Texas. Folks from around the world come to experience what the City with the Violet Crown has to offer. But ask any local what makes Austin so great and they’ll tell you it’s a city that has outdoor living.
Warm weather, the 300+ days of sunshine a year allow for year-round patio bars and outdoor music venues, and events, making Austin a fantastic city for both the urban and the outdoor life. Even in the middle of downtown, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, and spring-fed pools are only minutes away on a bike — or even walking-distance from downtown.
OneRooftop reached out to Austin filmmaker, Jake O’Hare, to share his local knowledge and recommendations for the best ways to enjoy the outdoors around his favorite city.
Wanna know the best part? They are all within biking distance!
Austin is one of the most bike-friendly cities in America. Don’t have a bike on your vacation? No problem! Renting one is easy. You can even try B-cycle, the on-street bike-rental startup. On bike or on foot, take a jaunt down Austin’s hike-and-bike trail, the forested pedestrian artery of downtown running along Lady Bird Lake. Check out the brand new boardwalk on the southeast side of the town.
Seriously. Go outside!
If you’re looking to beat the heat, there are tons of kayak and paddleboard rentals along the hike-and-bike trail on Lady Bird Lake. Here, you can perfectly reach the intersection of Austin’s outdoors and urban life. Enjoy paddling the lake in the shadows of Austin’s high rises, or make your way into the forested Barton Creek inlet, which leads to Barton Springs.
Barton Springs is a must during the Texas summer (basically April through October). Many consider it to be the heart of the city, a place where locals come to cool off and relax. The turquoise blue spring jets out of the Edward’s Aquifer, delivering fresh, cool water to the park’s sloped green. Even if you don’t like swimming, it’s absolutely worth coming by and dipping your feet in.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, head down the trail nearby into the Barton Creek Greenbelt. You’ll find the more secluded Gus Fruh pool and spots for cliff jumping!
South Congress, Austin’s best known eclectic shopping and eating district, is just a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown. The line for Hop Doddy’s Burgers may snake around the corner, but it’s worth the wait. Sway has fantastic Thai food, and Elizabeth Street puts a French spin on Vietnamese cuisine. There are also plenty of Austin’s famed trailer parks in the neighborhood.If you’re looking for a good ol’ pair of cowboy boots, head to none other than Allen’s. They actually will last a lifetime. Take a peak into Uncommon Oddities and Lucy in Disguise costume shop and get a taste of Austin’s weird side. It’s a bit of a trek but the cathedral of junk is not far either (make sure to call for reservations in advance).
So there is “outside” and there is “out there” — guess which one Austin prefers?
Ok well, really, Austin loves both. We could write a whole book on the nightlife. The Texas capital has a host of activities for all different ages. Looking for a movie to escape the heat? The Alamo Drafthouse is an experience unlike any other movie theater. It’s a theater that genuinely loves film and isn’t afraid to show it.
There’s real food (and booze) while watching your flick. Special events such as the live comedy of Master Pancake Theater, and sing/quote-along features happen every week.
It goes without saying that music is kind of a huge draw to the Live Music Capital of the World. Truly, it’s everywhere you look. Showlistaustin is the best site to use to look for particular bands playing on any night of the week. New indie bands often play in the Red River district. If it’s a nice night, step over to Stubbs, the Mohawk or Cheer-Up Charlie’s for fun outdoor venues. Antone’s is great for the blues and the White Horse is for country.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more traditionally Texan, head to the famous Broken Spoke and try your feet at the Texas-two step. Don’t worry if you don’t know how — lessons offered every evening. If clubbing is more of your jam, head to Barbarellas for sweet beats and cheap treats.
Austin has four central bar districts. Each has its own vibe. Dirty Sixth is, well, crowded and dirty. On weekends, the street is blocked off for the hordes of pedestrian traffic. If you’re down on Rainey Street, Lucille’s and the Blackheart offer fun patio atmospheres. West Sixth is the “yuppier” side of sixth street and meanwhile East Sixth is the chilled out hipster side. There are all sort of bars for every sort of vibe! Many of these bars have food trailers pulled up to their patios if you’re craving some gourmet drunchies. I seriously recommend East Side Kings behind the Liberty Bar. Seriously.
Austin’s a great place to visit for both the young and the old with a whole host of activities for the young, the old, the outdoorsy, or the urban inclined. The locals will welcome you with open arms. They only ask you keep our city weird ☺.