Everyone likes to change their surroundings; to move, to play, to experience places that take their breath away. Fortunately, there is no need to look (or drive) far out of Austin to encounter these types of places and experiences.
My friend/boy/whatever the hell you want to call someone you love spending time with/can’t get enough of human/alias John Smith/ you get the picture … came to play in all the adventure Austin has to offer. Yes, we spent an entire Sunday laying in bed watching the entire season of Fargo and eating chocolate, coffee and leftovers for breakfast. Yes, we drank too much wine and local beer. Yes, we did balance that out by doing tons of activities around Austin.
Last week was filled with so many laughs, bruises, margaritas, yoga poses, sunny days, rocks, hikes, and good food I thought my smile was going to stay stuck. And I want all your smiles to ‘stay stuck‘ too. So, I thought I would share this list incase you have a day or two to go explore this absolutely magical city and its surroundings.
Hamilton Pool is located about 45 minutes west of Austin. The 1/2 mile round trip trek to the lagoon is short and so sweet on the eyes. Gazing at the 3-story waterfall tumbling into a crystal blue, turquoise, and green lagoon is absolutely mesmerizing. It’s such a perfect place to have lunch, hang out, swim (depending on algae levels) and just people watch.
Location:24300 Hamilton Pool Rd. Dripping Spgs, TX 78620
Reimer’s Ranch is part of the Travis Country Park system located about 45 minutes west of Austin, about a 5 minute drive from Hamilton Pool. It’s $10 / vehicle for a day pass which buys you access to more than 210 routes sprawling along limestone walls. John used the Mountain Project App which was helpful in distinguishing difficulties of routes as well as where they were in the park. The Pedernales river runs alongside most of the climbs offering incredible vistas, and a beautiful place to dip in after a hard climb or hike.
The 45-minute drive south to Lockhart will take you into a different time period completely. Lockhart is historically known for its barbeque and four spots in particular are its claim to BBQ fame (Black’s Barbeque, Kreuz Market, Smitty’s, and and Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que).
We opted for Black’s because it said ‘Unfussy’ in its description and has been serving up cafeteria-like brisket, rubs, and links since 1932. Let’s just say, we were not disappointed nor hungry after our adventure to Black’s.
Black's Location: 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644
Eating through a city is essential, and Austin is the epitome of foodie heaven. The array of incredible food here is endless; from food truck digs at Lucy’s Little donuts on Rainey, to a sunny lunch at the flagship WholeFoods, to steaming hot bowls of authentic Pho at the Elizabeth Street Cafe on 1st street, to the dominating Tex-mex and margarita scene at La Alma, there is something for every palate.
Location: ALL OVER THE PLACE
This pink granite dome towering over the surrounding landscape is absolutely worth the 1.5-hour drive west of Austin. It is said to be almost 1 billion years old and one of the oldest exposed rocks in the United States. We went early morning (9 am) which meant we almost had the entire park to ourselves for the first hour we spent scrambling around the rock, searching for shrimp in the pools, and frolicking around the moon-like topography. A definite must-see if you’re in Texas territory.
Sunset on or near the water just feels different, especially after 2 dozen oysters and a few ice cold 512 IPA beers. There is nothing fancy about Abel’s on the Lake, but it’s laid back ambiance and lake-side setting make it a happening place to grab happy hour just as the sun goes down.
Photo Cred: Abel’s
Location: 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX
The Green Belt is a beautifully scenic area nestled on the outskirts of west Austin. It contains almost 13 miles of gorgeous trails for hiking, swimming, climbing, and mountain biking. There are multiple access points to drop in and play, but the hike into Sculpture Falls (pictured below) has to be my favorite so far.
Location: Multiple Starting Points but I used Gaines Creek & Twin Falls Access Point 3918 S Mopac Expy. (From 360, head south on the frontage road as if you’re entering Mopac, but stay on the frontage road. Just past the on-ramp, you’ll find the next Greenbelt access point. Look for parked cars on the right side of the road & entrance is close by!)
The HOPE outdoor graffiti gallery is another iconic Austin destination. The three-story walls are an ever-changing, living, and breathing display of art. Since 2011 artists, muralists, and community groups have been expressing themselves on these walls. Apart from the overwhelming amount of art, you will also get one of the best views in town of the Austin skyline!
Location: 1101 Baylor Street, Austin TX
Austin’s weather can be pretty crazy, and changes so quickly you won’t even know what hit you. For those rainy/gloomy days try one of these theatres for a uniquely Austin movie experience. The Violet Crown specializes in indie, documentary, and short films. Be sure to go hungry because there is a café/bar where you can order food and eat in the theatre.
The Alamo DraftHouse Cinema is another small movie venue with five locations around Austin to choose from. They are known for cold beer, hot movies, and delicious food. The coolest part is the custom pre-shows tailored to every movie genre. Eat, drink, watch, and be happy!
The Butler Pitch & Putt is located on the south side of the river and grants stunning views of the city . The course is incredly laid back (no formal golf attire required) and when we went, it felt like a stereotypical college frat arena – in the best way possible. Sunshine and blue skies, PBR’s in a styrofoam cooler, a couple of cigars, and 9 holes of golf. You can’t get much better than that.
Location: 201 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX 7870411.
The Austin Bouldering Project (ABP) is a brand spanking new bouldering gym on the east side of Austin. Think wide open spaces, clean lines, neon colored walls, and a whole lot of friendly faces. If you’ve never bouldered, its basically climbing without harnesses on walls with a nice squishy mat to break your fall beneath you. Sounds like fun right? Even better, the ABP is also an all-inclusive gym with a sauna, yoga room, upstairs study/hangout area, as well as a functional strength training area. The best part is the wide variety of people you will meet here – from incredible climbers to those just starting out, there is a place for everyone at the ABP!
Location: 979 Springdale Rd, Austin TX 78702 Suite #150
Austin is an epi-center of activity; from its lively food scene to its friendly people and incredible scenery – there is something for absolutely everyone. Whether you have 24 hours, a weekend, or if you live currently there, this list will kick start your Austin adventure. It’s definitely a ‘bucket-list’ city, and I know I have only scratched the surface of all it has to offer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂