Usually I have weeks (or months) to plan our vacations, but this time, I had a few days (and limited internet)! We took a spur-of-the-moment detour to Austin during our visit to Dallas.
Austin is definitely a great place to stop! We spent 1 full day in Austin (2 nights), which was enough time to see the main downtown area; however, there is so much more to see in “hill country” that I would recommend a few more nights out west.
Travel Dates: 19-21 July
- Lady Bird Lake Trail: Rated #2 on TripAdvisor, I was hoping this would be a perfect place to get our workout in while sightseeing, and I was right! (We’re training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so I was even more adamant that we could not skip a day.) Running 6 miles around this beautiful (and popular) trail was a perfect start to our first day in Austin. We parked in the Barton Springs parking lot, took the trail northeast passing the main downtown area, and then ran back on the opposite side of the river. It was a perfect location as we were able to enjoy the next item on our list, Barton Springs, to cool down!
- Barton Springs: Rated #5 on TripAdvisor, I wasn’t planning to stop by just for a swim, but we happened to park in the parking lot, we needed a shower after our run, and we didn’t have a hotel to go back to, so this was perfect! The springs are very cold (but ice baths are highly recommended after running). The swimming section is enclosed and well-maintained, so it costs a few dollars to enter. There were many locals and tourists enjoying the warm weather and refreshing water.
- La Barbecue: Time for lunch! Don’t wait for dinner if you want Texas BBQ, because they close once they sell out! We love barbecue (East Coast and Midwest BBQ), but hadn’t tried Texas BBQ yet. Our friend (who lives in Austin) recommended either Franklin’s or La Barbecue. While en route, I quickly googled both and found out Franklin’s was closed for the week (they were on vaca), so that made our decision easy, plus it was rated #3 on TripAdvisor (just after 2 seafood places, so not even comparable food). La Barbecue is a food truck located just east of the city. We waited about 45 minutes in a (hot) line, but it was worth the wait. The brisket was delicious, as was my “La Frito Loco” (pulled pork, chopped beef, chipotle slaw, black bean salad, frijtos, cheese and jalapenos). Yes, that’s part of my “macro-nutrient plan.” Ha!
(Side note: The people in front of us and behind us in line have been to Okinawa! The man in front was a police officer from eastern TX who had travelled to Okinawa when he was 24 years old because his dad was a pilot for United and he received free flights up to age 24, so he decided to check out Japan. The man behind us was a contractor from Hawaii who had visited White Beach!)
- LBJ Presidential Museum: Rated #3 on TripAdvisor, we enjoyed learning more about President Lyndon Baines Johnson at his library and museum. (And we found out that active duty military with five guests receive free admission this summer to all presidential libraries! Thank you!)
- Texas State Capitol Building: Rated #1 on TripAdvisor, we stopped by the Capitol and happened to catch a free tour. The visitor center has a museum; however, we had to rush to the last tour of the day (offered daily, typically every 20-30 minutes – see their website for more information). It was a quick 25-minute tour, but we learned some interesting facts. The door hinges throughout the building each weight 8 pounds! Also, the hinges and desks are original! I also liked the Texas star with “T E X A S” around the points in many locations throughout the building.
- Rainey Street Bars: For dinner and drinks, we met up with our high school friend. We enjoyed dinner at a Thai restaurant and then went to Rainey Street for a beer. Rainey Street is centrally located downtown near the river, and is definitely unique, featuring small houses renovated into bars. There is live entertainment nightly.
- Taco Deli Trunk – Yum! A great quick breakfast on the go.
- Lake Travis – A gorgeous lake with million dollar houses! We attempted to stop at The Oasis for breakfast, but they weren’t open yet. We still walked around and checked out the gorgeous views before heading to Houston!
Other Ideas If You Have More Time!
- Pedernales Falls State Park
- Hamilton Pool: Google this for amazing pictures! Unfortunately, you have to make reservations 1-2 months in advance.
- Franklin’s Barbecue: I mentioned earlier that we debated stopping here for lunch but they were on vacation. We’ve heard this is the best BBQ; however, there can be an 8-hour line! To avoid the line, apparently you can order online in advance, but they also require about 1-month advance notice!
- FYI: We tried Texas BBQ in Austin and Houston, and Austin was definitely better!
- Day Trips: If you’re road tripping around Texas, or just taking day trips from Austin, Fredericksburg (a German settlement west of Austin) and San Antonio (The Alamo) are both just 1.5 to 2 hours away!
What did you do near Austin that you think is a must?