Mike had business in Texas a few months ago and we decided to go out a few days before and spend some time in Austin – we had, for a time, considered moving out of New York and Austin was on the (very) short list of possible locations.
This is by no means a comprehensive itinerary – Austin is packed with so many things to do and see that would take weeks to accomplish. But with Noah in tow and life being what it is we’ve decided that it’s more realistic (and maybe even more fun) to do more, shorter trips over the year than one “mega” vacation. We get a taste of someplace new, aren’t gone for too-too long, and feel less overwhelmed with a little one in tow, knowing that we’ll be out of our normal routine for just a few days.
What we did…
Zilker Park If you have kids of any age, this is a must-do. Zilker Park is HUGE – so take a look at the web site when planning a visit. We spent the morning at the playground – it’s adorable, with musical instruments to play and a fire engine to climb. And it’s where you’ll find the “Zilker Zephyr” – a miniature train that runs the perimeter of the park and is perfect for little ones. Noah loved it and we rode it twice!
After lunch we returned, this time to the Austin Nature and Science Center. We loved it and spent the entire afternoon there. Indoor and outdoor exhibits encourage lots of touching and exploring, and there’s a made-for-kids Dino Pit – replete with fossils and “tools”. And it’s totally free, which blew my New York mind.
The Thinkery Having been to our share of children’s museums in the tri-state area, I can safely say that we are “experts” on this subject. The Thinkery was nothing we haven’t seen before on our many jaunts at home, but it was a wonderful place to spend the morning (and beat the heat).
Bats Under the Congress Avenue Bridge If you’re in Austin from March to November, be sure to plan one evening on the Congress Avenue Bridge. Over a million bats roost underneath, and when the sun sets they emerge – en mass – to search for food. It’s quite a sight, and something you’ll want to say you did on your visit (for more information on prime viewing spots and specific times, click here and here).
Shopping on South Congress Avenue Okay – this was a solo jaunt for me, while Mike and Noah went back to Zilker Park. But if you can fit in a few hours I recommend this strip for some good shopping. Vintage and antique shops galore, and a great place to pick up some locally-made, non-touristy gifts.
Peter Pan Mini Golf My kind of place – old and authentic. Around since the 40’s, it’s a perfect post-dinner activity for the littles and bigs.
Roadhouse Relics I originally read about this place on my friend Melanie’s blog (and I think it’s what confirmed my need to visit Austin). Sadly, it was closed when we went there, but we peeked in the windows and got a few pictures in front of the iconic “Greetings From Austin” mural.
What we ate….
We barely scratched the surface of amazing amazing food – and believe me, we tried. After a bit of crowd sourcing we narrowed down our choices to these places and they were all winners:
The Salt Lick Yummy ribs in an open-air setting – with a cute playground right out back.
Rudy’s More ribs. And creamed corn. And “sause”.
Chuy’s Over the top retro decor and fabulous Mexcian food. Get there early to avoid lines.
Gourdough’s This spot came up on almost every friend’s “must-eat” list (I tend to bring out the doughnut in people, what can I say?). Made to order doughnuts, served out of a shiny truck, the flavors alone make this worth a stop. Definitely some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Gourdough’s is conveniently located in a food truck park that also hosts some fantastic choices for lunch (top of my list? Dock and Roll).
And speaking of food trucks…..
Food Truck Parks I’ll admit I went a little bonkers for the food truck parks. There are dozens, scattered throughout the city, and something totally different from anything we have in New York. There’s just a great vibe and the food is fantastic – simple, creative and delicious. We were quite fond of The Picnic.
Amy’s Ice Cream in the Arboretum Amy’s is a local chain, with several locations. We chose this one, for the park “with the cows“. Noah got a kick out of climbing them, and it was a nice spot to break up the day.
Special thanks to these great sites/resources: