The Austin Guide to Fun!
Introduction by Craig Becker
This list of Fun Things To Do In Austin was originally
compiled by Andreas Speigl in February/March of 1993. Andreas has
since left Austin, and obsessive/compulsive that I am about
keeping lists of stuff, I couldn't bear for this one to just
disappear. So with Andreas' permission, I've taken over its care
Andreas didn't summarize who all contributed to this list
(according to him, there were 42 contributors), so (unlike the
Austin food lists), there is no "Contributors:"
section...sure hope no-one gets miffed if I add their suggestion
to the list but their name doesn't get mentioned.
As always, this list is a "work in progress", so if
you have any corrections, comments, updates, or especially new
recommendations, please send them to me at email@example.com.
Without further ado:
- If you have guests visiting during the summer, you must
show them Austin's urbin bat colony under the Congress
street bridge. The bats all fly out together from the
north side of the bridge around dusk during the summer.
It is really impressive. (but a bummer during the winter)
Buescher State Park (near Bastrop)
Bull Creek Park
- Bull Creek Park on 360 between 2222 and Spicewood Springs
Road. It has some nice, but relatively small waterfalls.
- Kyle Knight (12/18/94)
- Bull Creek Park has many great mountain bike trails.
Caves in Texas
Inner Space, Natural Bridge, Longhorn, Sonora Caverns, and
- Shelley Hatfield (7/25/95)
- Natural Bridge is very pretty and not far from Austin
(New Braunfels). For a [much] further drive to west
Texas, Sonora Caverns are really gorgeous. Some lovely
formations there indeed. Sonora is probably my favorite.
Longhorn Cavern and the Wonder Cave in San Marcos are
okay, but there really aren't many outstanding formations
in either one of them.
- About 30 minutes North of Fredricksburg is the second
largest outcropping of granite in the US. It rises about
500 ft in 1/8 mile. Nice park, trails, Beautiful view.
Carry a water jug up if you climb it. Lots of cactus,
deer, and armadillos to go with the scenery, and some
excellent rock climbing for the adventurous.
- March is a good time to do this sort of thing -- all of
the roadside flowers (bluebonnets, indian paintbrushes)
are starting to bloom.
- Sunsets: there's a westward-facing scenic overlook on the
trail to one of the primitive campgrounds that is perfect
for watching sunsets. It's almost worth timing your
- Sunrise: "a few years back a friend & I timed an
ER trip such that we could get up on the rock for
sunrise. I think that would have to go down as my fave
trip to ER..."
- Some say ER is like the stereotypical `Texas'.
- $5/car to park for the day.
- Robert Buckner (Date Unknown)
- Went there for the first time yesterday since childhood.
Unless you have a strong taste for danger, don't attempt
to climb the rock at night. It was moonless and my
friends and I scaled the rock and went down into the
caves. Something eerie about going into the rock with
only flashlights. Very dirty, very slippery, heart raced
a mile a minute. Coming down was even worse. We had no
sense of direction and jumped quite a few chasms above 30
foot drops to the ground. Dangerous, but cheaper than
- "Clothing Optional" bathing and sunworship. If
you're a nudist, this is the place to go (although there
are a few too many overt gawkers and perverts for my
- Anonymous (2/11/95)
- Bask your naked buns in the sun at Austin's finest public
nude beach. Below the Oasis. Admission is $5/car, so
bring all your friends! Proves that we're all pretty much
the same, once we get our clothes off.
- Scott McCusker (11/28/94)
- Very nice place... it's not too crowded most of the time.
There is an abundance of deer, and if you're friendly
enough they will eat right out of your hand! (no
guarentees, but I did it) The lake is big enough for a
little waterskiing as well. The place has a desert look
and feel, and several places with good views. Bring a
camera. It is also located about 10 miles from Burnet, so
you aren't _too_ far from society in case you forget
something (food?). The place has hook ups for trailers,
but I've always gone with just a tent. The
shower/bathroom facilities are far cleaner than most, and
there seems to be enough of them. There is a boat launch.
- It does get crowded on holidays, esp. July 4th.
- It is a pretty big ranch that is now a museum. Visitors
might want to see a "real" Texas ranch.
(buffalos, longhorns, etc.) Especially nice in the spring
when the wildflowers are in bloom.
- Shane Williams (1/23/95)
- Lost Maples State Park is two and a half hours from
Austin and about an hour south of Fredericksburg. It's a
good place to go backpacking (especially in the fall)
with around ten or fifteen miles of backcountry trails,
but for a day trip, E-Rock or a closer spot would be a
- This is rumoured to be a really nice place, and it's a
lot closer to Austin than Enchanted Rock.
- Be aware that it is very close to a sewage treatment
plant, and if the wind is wrong it can be pretty
- "McKinney Falls is nothing if you've ever been to
- A gentle climb up stone steps, to a knoll at the top with
picnic tables, from which you can see all of Austin.
Pretty for picnic.
- This is the place that was responsible for Austin being
selected as the capital of Texas. It has a great view of
Downtown Austin, Lake Austin, and the loop 360 bridge.
- You just go out W. 35th St. all the way past Mo-Pac (2222
W) until you get to Mt. Bonnell Road. Then turn right,
and you go up this really steep hill! The drive itself is
an adventure. When you get to the top, there is a park
where you can get out and look around. There is an
excellent view of Lake Austin to the west, and the Austin
skyline (including the UT Tower and the Capitol) back to
The Oasis for a wonderful sunset.
- Don't try to eat dinner at the Oasis. The food is awful.
Also be warned that on a Saturday when the weather turns
nice around 6pm or so the line'll stretch for several
- "But there *is* something nice about watching the
sunset from the patio of The Oasis while a bit dizzy from
- Alternative: Mt Bonnell, Barton Creek Mall(!)
Palmetto State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park
- It is about 1 hour from Austin and has some very nice
hiking places. It's about 50 miles from Austin and on the
way to the enchanted rock (about a 30-mile detour).
There's a swimming area, though I suspect it's pretty
crowded on weekends, so you may want to consider visiting
it on during the week. The falls are very impressive
after a big rain, and there are some pretty nice hiking
trails that parallel the river.
- A very serene place for a quite evening by the river.
- Town Lake is the thickening of the river through
downtown. rent a canoe, canoe into Barton Springs to see
all the wildlife.
West Cave Preserve (off Hwy. 71 toward Llano)
- Shelley Hatfield (7/25/95)
- This is very similar to Hamilton Pool in that it is in
the same river valley, and is a natural pool. However,
this preserve is about 20 times more breathtaking. The
pool lies under some caverns, over which flows a slow
waterfall, complete with ferns. It's a real slice of
Eden. To get there, you take one of the tours (every hour
or two hours on weekends only, until 4pm) through the
river valley. It's approximately a mile. Admission is
free, but any donations you can make are appreciated.
Wild Basin Nature Preserve (off Loop 360).
- In the Spring you should definitely drive up into the
hill country and see the wildflowers go ape. Just about
everything from here to Marble Falls, Burnett, and Llano
is full of color, and it ain't like being in Kansas
Windy Point at Lake Travis
- Good swimming and picnic area with lots of windsurfers.
Windy point is further down the same road that the Oasis
Zilker Park and the Botanical Gardens there
- Ride the little train, feed the ducks; also the Zilker
Garden Center, which is a beautifully landscaped and
terraced hillside with many points of interest and the
rose garden at the bottom. Austin Nature Center: (??same
as Bot.Gardens??) It has several indoor exhibits, several
nature trials, and a live animal exhibit.
Hiking along the Barton Creek Greenbelt
Laguna Gloria Art Museum (on the way to Mt
(Check with the Visitor Center for a self-guided walking tour)
- LBJ Library (Lyndon B. Johnson) often has interesting
- HRC (Harry Ramson Center) (21st and Guadalupe) to see
the/an original Gutenberg bible
Wineries and Breweries
- Austin is a relative newcomer in the wine business and
there are several wineries in the vicinity that offer
tours. The same goes for breweries. I doubt these will
compare to those in Germany, but Hill country wines are
supposed to be unique.
Austin is also known as a great music city with a lot of local
talent. Often called "alternative music" until they
become more nationally known, such bands can be found at the
Continental Club, the Lizard Lounge, and several other places.
Naturally, wandering 6th street is a good fall-back.
Don't miss an evening at the Split Rail on South Lamar, the
original country western music place in town, where everyone who
is anyone in country music once has played. don't eat the food
there though ... prepare to dance the Texas Two-Step and the
A weekend concert at Symphony Square,
the Austin Opery, Captain Tom's, or Gruene Hall (take IH35
towards San Marcus)
Antone's tends to have
the biggest names.
Iceskating: there is an icerink in Northcross Mall.
If your parents are into go-carts, they have a 60mph go-cart
track between San Marcos and Austin. I forget the name, but it is
just around Buda. Fun, but not for the faint of heart. [sorry,
I've been informed that this place na longer exists -ed]
Esther's Follys comedy show on 6th (but it might be too
locally and nationally oriented to be funny to folks from out of
Malibu Grand Prix
On I-35, just south of 183.
- Doug McLaren (11/17/94)
- They don't quite go 60mph, but they're a lot faster than
your average go cart, and a whole lot of fun. Last time I
went there (a few years ago) it cost like $2/lap to race,
so the cost can add up fast.
See separate restaraunt guides.
- Settled by German immigrants starting 1845. Museums.
There are several German restaraunts (none very
authentic, at least not Eiffel), shops, the Admiral
Nimitz museum (WWII stuff), and several 'Sunday Houses'
left from the late 1800's.
- Have lunch at the Altdorf (great Wurst)
- Everything's along the main street. (hwy 290)
- It is on Hwy 290 W about 80 miles. (1.5 hrs) (same way as
for the Salt Lick except you keep going on 290 instead of
turning into 1826) On the way there, stop in...
- Ron Boerger (2/6/95)
- A wonderful "German" town with quite a bit to
do. Many craft shops (including a maker of Mandolins
among other musical instruments!), some great bakeries
and German resturaunts, and of course open-air
biergardens! Fredericksburg also features many fine
B&B's and it's a great place to spend a few days.
Just up the road a piece is Enchanted Rock, too. My
fiancee and I love to head out to "our" B&B
in the Nimitz birthplace, which among other things
features a handcrafted 8' bathtub. :-)
- Unknown> Unknownhich is the birthplace of former U.S.
president Lyndon B.Johnson.
- There is also the LBJ farm further down the road. It has
a nice park for a picnic lunch as well. (see also 1.
- Also in Johnson city is some of the best jerky.
New Braunfels (on the way to San Antonio)
- Settled by Germans starting in 1845. The settlements were
organized by the Adelsverein. There are museums which you
might find interesting.
- Also, beautiful cave Natural Bridge Caverns (stalagtities
and stalagmites), and a safari-like drive through African
animals who come to your car to be fed (right next to the
Salado Texas (Texas history)
- About 1 hour north of here on I-35. It has shops and a
couple of very good restaurants, and shows what Texas was
like about 100-125 years ago. Salado was the only stage
coach stop between San Antonio and Fort Worth at the turn
of the century. Eat at the Stage Coach Inn.
Movie about The Alamo in the Imax Theater at the Riverwalk
Riverwalk through downtown.
The 5 Mission Churches:
- Drive down the Mission Trail leaving south out of
downtown. It's a well marked, roughly ten mile drive with
stops at the four other historic missions in San Antonio
(the Alamo being the fifth), as well as a two hundred
year old dam still in use. The missions all date from the
early 1700s, and are currently maintained as a National
Historical Park, complete with helpful leaflets and park
rangers with Smokey Bear hats. Fascinating architecture
and history, and rarely crowded. One of the Missions now
has a nature trail so you can get an idea of what the
land was like when the Spanish first decided to settle
there. One of the most impressive features of this park
is that these beautiful old buildings are still used by
the locals for services (something to keep in mind if
you're visiting on a Sunday).
Lone Star brewery museum
(along I35 south about 30 miles from Austin (exit 200))
- There is a tacky place called Wonder World. They have an
OK cave tour ( very wimpy though ).
- Factory Shop complex for shopping.
- Aquarena Springs. The shows are kitsch but the scenery is
pretty as are the fish.
Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountain National Park
- Both host some truly stunning scenery and bizarre
ecosystems, and are definitely worth the drive if you can
afford a four or five day trip.
- If you go to Guadalupe Mountains, take time to visit
nearby Carlsbad Caverns (just across the border in New
Mexico), since you don't find yourself out in that part
of the world all that often.
Big Thicket National Preserve (an hour east of
Houston (3-4 hours)
- The new NASA Space Center attraction. This now costs
about $10 per person, but has been developed by Disney. I
haven't been to the new, but the old had the actual
Mercury re-entry capsual complete with charred heat
shield and others as well.
- No comment ;-)
Padre Island National Seashore (half an hour
south of Corpus Christi)
UT's MacDonald Observatory
Yucatan or Belize (weekend flight)
When you visit the Capitol, be sure to stop by the tourist
info desk and ask for "one of those Texas Tourist
books", and some bumper stickers. The books have lots of
glossy pictures of tourist locations throughout Texas, and make
nice souveniers, especially for people visiting from out of the
Don't walk, run to your nearest bookstore and pick up the
Texas Monthly Guide to Austin and Hill Country. It has everything
remotely interesting to do between here and San Antonio.
Look in the phone book. In the middle (the color section),
they have a nice section on attractions in Austin. If you're
looking at things like entertainment/restaurants, look in the Chronicle---they
have a good list of what's happening each week.
Pick up just about any issue of the Austin Chronicle.
Call the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Pick up one of the Austin
books at any bookstore.
One of the big HEB's (e.g. 183 behind Aboretum) or Barton
Creek Mall may be impressive to foreigners. [my mom was real
impressed with the Simon David on Great Hills, and she's from
I usually take visitors to the North West suburban Austin for
the views and nice homes. (ie, take mopac north to Far West,
follow Far West to the west, keep following it when it turns, and
then just drive around a bit when it hits a T intersection on the
top of Cat Mountain.)
With about 168 movie screens, Austin has one screen for every
3000 people. Everyone in Austin could go to a movie every week or
ten days without filling the theatres.
We've also got a large number of theatres, ranging from UT
student efforts, through tiny houses of dedicated actors, to
venues for big touring companies.
The yearly ArmadilloCon
SF Convention (http://www.io.com/~shiva/fact/dillo) can be
- Ron Boerger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Joe Bowen (email@example.com)
- Robert Buckner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Earl Cooley III (email@example.com)
- Terry Dyke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Kyle Knight (email@example.com)
- Scott McCusker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Doug McLaren (email@example.com)
- Karen Sebastian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Thomas White (email@example.com)
- Shane Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)