Explore Local: Austin, Texas

The beauty of travel is seeing new places, experiencing new things, meeting new people… That feeling of wanderlust is buried deep in our souls! But here’s the thing – you don’t have to go far to fill your cup. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones close to home.

We’re excited to launch a new series here on the RVshare blog called Explore Local. Each week, we’ll feature a location with places to visit and things to do that will help you get the most out of your journey.

Why We Love to Travel

So why do we love to travel in the first place? Well, we’ve already said that a huge appeal is the new-ness a place has to offer. Getting to experience cultures that are different from our own or eating cuisine that is not what we’re used to are amazing ways to grow as individuals and learn about others. Seeing how other people live helps us keep an open mind and even gather inspiration to bring back into our daily lives.

Travel is also a great way to get away from the day-to-day. Breaking up our routines with a fun trip definitely recharges the batteries and helps prevent us from getting burnt out. 

But again – you don’t have to go far from home to get this perspective! 

Benefits of Traveling Locally

While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:

    • More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
    • Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel. 
    • Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
    • Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
    • More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.

Explore Local: Austin, Texas

Our first local spotlight is Austin, Texas! This guide is perfect for those living in or near Austin who want to get to know the city even more. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Austin, this is the guide for you!

*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.

Onion Creek in McKinney State Park

State Parks in Austin, Texas

McKinney Falls State Park – Austin, TX

If you’re in the Austin area, you’re likely already familiar with McKinney Falls State Park. But just because you’ve visited before doesn’t mean you won’t experience it in a new way! McKinney Falls offers a great place to retreat. Check out an Austin RV rental for your trip!

Best Hiking Trails in Austin

Hike & bike – There are nearly 9 miles of trails to hike and bike at this park. There are even paved trails, perfect for strollers, such as the 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail.

Fish & swim – Listen to the rush of falls at Onion Creek or hop in for a dip to cool off! Bring your fishing pole to cast off in Onion or Williamson creeks. 

Check out this post for more great State Parks near Austin!

Lady Bird Lake in Austin

Lady Bird Lake

While not a state park, Lady Bird Lake is definitely another must-see park. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is definitely one of the top hiking trails in Austin. The trail is over 10 miles long and makes a complete circuit around Lady Bird Lake. 

You must hit up the boardwalk while you’re there! Technically, part of the Ann and Roy Butler trial, the boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake offers a beautiful scenic view of Austin. Be sure to stick around at sunset to see the popular and unforgettable display of bats. Between March and November, they hide out under the Congress Avenue bridge and take flight each evening.

Lake Activities in Austin

Of course, going to Lady Bird Lake, you’ll want to participate in some lake activities! Visitors of this park can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing. You can also stand up paddleboard or take a river cruise at Lady Bird!

Bats at Lady Bird Lake
Painted Bunting bird

Wildlife in Austin, TX

Austin Bird Watching 

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Austin today, we have the perfect answer for you: bird watching. Hear us out because if you haven’t gone bird watching before, it’s pretty cool! Bird watching is a great way to spend time outdoors mindfully and learn more about the wildlife in your area. It’s also something that you can do without leaving the house or at least venturing too far from home. We have a full bird watching guide here. While bird watching in Austin, keep your eye out for a Painted Bunting, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, and more!

Purple Martin bird

City of Austin Plant Guide

Another activity that is great for getting outdoors while also practicing social distancing is learning about local plants. There are so many beautiful plants that are native to Austin. How cool would it be to be able to identify them? Check out our plant identification guide!

Bluebonnet flowers

Restaurants

One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food. During coronavirus, we can’t go out to eat and get the full restaurant experience, but we can still order take-out and support our favorite eateries. These Austin hot spots are a great place to start!

  • Franklin Barbecue: Just as the name suggests, Franklin Barbecue is where you can get amazing BBQ. They even sell their delicious sauce by the bottle, so be sure to pick up your favorite flavor!
  • Torchy’s Tacos: Head to Torchy’s for tacos (obviously!) but salads, too! Also, you can pick up some ingredients for at-home margaritas to round out your meal.
  • Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden: Find delicious homemade sausage and meats at Banger’s. You can order to-go now and head back post-COVID with your pup!
  • Via 313: In the mood for pizza? Check out Via 313 – their rectangle pizza has been a local favorite for years.
Photo credit: Jo’s Coffee c/o Dogs Around Austin
  • Jo’s Coffee: While you’re picking up a coffee, getting your photo at Jo’s Coffee is a must while in Austin, even if you live there full time. 
  • Loro: Loro is an Asian smokehouse with lots of unique dishes for every palette! 
  • Fresa’s: Fresa’s may specialize in chicken, but they have tons of wood-grilled meats and other treats that are a must-stop for all.
  • Hopdoddy: If you’re craving burgers, you have to check out Hopdoddy Burger Bar. They also have vegan and chicken options available.
  • Lucky Robot: Lucky Robot is the first sustainable sushi restaurant in all of Texas! Enjoy your roll knowing the fish has been caught responsibly.
Photo credit: El Arroyo
  • El Arroyo: El Arroyo is not just a pretty sign! From great Mexican food and margs to-go, everyone loves El Arroyo.
  • Ramen Tatsuya: What’s more comforting than a bowl of ramen? Head to Ramen Tatsuya for bowls that can be made to your liking.
  • Amy’s Ice Cream: Fun, colorful, and inviting not only describes Amy’s Ice Cream but the other sweet treats you’ll find here, too!
  • Kerbey Lane: Kerby Lane is a go-to for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! With delicious options for every meal, a must for everyone in Austin to try.
  • Magnolia Cafe: Another must-try for every meal of the day is Magnolia Cafe. From breakfast to burgers, definitely a favorite spot for Austin locals.

Local Insider Tips From Darren Griffin:

Spokesman

There’s a whole creative movement happening on St. Elmo: There are new breweries, music studios, budding businesses, and, of course, coffee shops. Spokesman cleverly binds coffee, beer, and oftentimes live music into one cohesive space. It’s a massive spot where seating is never an issue and the Wi-Fi is always strong. Plus, if you find yourself working from day to night, they make the transition seamless with a full food menu and an assortment of freshly brewed beer. Much of the development in this area predates the highly anticipated 2020 opening of St. Elmo Public Market, just one block west on South Congress Avenue. Get familiar with this area now. It’s about to blow.

Hoover’s Cooking

For my money, nothing exemplifies Southern food in Austin quite like Hoover’s. It’s the type of food your grandmother used to make on Sunday after church. The restaurant bears a homey feel with courteous waitstaff and chefs who’ve been preparing soul food all their lives. From pork chops to chicken-fried steak and everything in between, Hoover’s doesn’t miss a beat. Throw some candied yams and macaroni and cheese next to that fried goodness to make your meal complete. You might fall asleep shortly after, but it’ll be worth it.

Food Activities in Austin

While of course, the number one way to enjoy food is to get a great meal, one of the fun things to do in Austin, Texas is to make an activity around food and drink! From tastings to cooking classes, here are some activities that are fun for families, friends, and even team building! Some of these have limited offerings during coronavirus closures, but like other suggestions on this list, keep these in mind for the future!

Coffee Tasting

Learn about the kinds of flavor notes from different kinds of coffee. Coffee lovers and admirers can all get something out of these tastings!

Cocktail Class

Ever want to learn how to make amazing cocktails at home? This mixology class from Gustology is perfect for you! 

Beer Tour

Brew tours are a must for any city, and Austin is no exception! Grab your friends and go on a tour once Austin starts to open back up! Do 512 gathered up the best brew tours in Austin to get you started. 

Food Tour

Heading out on a food tour is an awesome way to try several different restaurants in one night! Austin Eats Food Tours has tours for whatever you’re craving – brunch, BBQ, food trucks, and more!

Cooking Class

Cooking classes are great for birthdays and team building events! Check out these amazing cooking classes in Austin:

Texas State Capitol Building

Fun Things to Do in Austin, Texas

Food and outdoor activities aside, Austin is bursting with so much to see and do. From educational opportunities to getting active to finding the perfect places to shop, we have you covered!

Culture

Bullock Museum 

To learn more about the great state of Texas, head to the Bullock Museum. There is also an iMax Theater that plays a lot of Texas-themed movies. While they are closed due to COVID-19, you can explore many offerings online.

Capitol Building 

The Capitol Building has many exhibits to experience – many you can explore online while it’s temporarily closed to visitors. When you can visit in person, be sure to take a tour of the Capitol and spend time in the surrounding grounds as well.

Austin Art Walk

There are so many cool murals all around the city of Austin. This walking tour guides you through Austin’s largest concentrations of public art. Starting in East Austin, you’ll be guided through 1.2 miles of awesome murals, street art, or graffiti.

Local Insider Tips From Darren Griffin:

Austin Motel

Some pools are destinations, so you need to be there on certain days to optimize your experience. Sundays are for the Austin Motel pool: You’ll find an abundance of locals, great music, and food in every direction. The motel is connected to Joann’s, a contemporary diner stylized in a retrofitted mold. Their Endless Sundays events take place from 3-6 p.m. and feature drink specials and local DJs.

Music 

Music Crawl 

You’ve heard of bar crawls, we shared food and beer tours above, but what about music? This company leads tours through all the best music spots in Austin! The tours are led by an Austin musician who will take you to multiple shows in one night.

Dance Classes

Want a fun way to learn something new and get a good workout in? Take a dance class! You can even start today, as some of the studios below are offering online classes. This can also be a family activity, as the studios below offer kids classes as well.

Image credit: The Paper + Craft Pantry

Shops

For cute home goods, paper supplies, plants, and more support Austin-owned small businesses! There are many to patron throughout the city, but here are just a few to start with!

Home

Pet

  • Barkin Creek:  homemade dog food, grooming, and more
  • Healthy Pet: pet supplies, nutritional counseling, and more

Plant

Image credit: Practice Yoga Austin

Yoga Studios & Gyms

Most of the studios below offer their amazing classes online during coronavirus, so you can still work out with your favorite instructors from home!

Image credit: Miraval Austin

Spas & Resorts

Experience a retreat without leaving the city at these relaxing spas!

Miraval Austin Wellness Resort

Their mission is to “inspire a life in balance through mindfulness”. At Miraval, you can rest and restore, but it’s more than a spa. Here, you can enjoy many fun outdoor activities like an obstacle course, horseback riding, and learn about sustainable farming.

Lake Austin Spa Resort

Another beautiful place to recharge your batteries is at Lake Austin Spa Resort. Right on the water, you can enjoy pampering at the spa or participate in some of the other activities provided, like group yoga and fitness classes. There are also many lake events and activities to take advantage of during your time there.

Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas

Day Trips Near Austin

This guide just scratches the surface of all there is to explore Austin, but there are some pretty cool places to see outside of the city as well!

Magnolia Market – Waco, Texas

Just an hour and a half north of Austin is Waco, Texas, and a must-stop here is Magnolia Market at the Silos. Shop for a while before taking a break on the lawn. Magnolia Market was started by our favorite Fixer Upper couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, who still own and operate the market today. In fact, there are a handful of other Magnolia properties that are worth a visit while you’re there, like their bakery and restaurant.

Roam Ranch – Fredericksburg, Texas

Another hour and a half trip from Austin can be to Fredericksburg, Texas. Here you will find Roam Ranch, a farm that uses regenerative farming techniques to raise their livestock. Guests are welcome to tour and learn about the farm, as well as see how the animals are cared for and how the meat is procured.

National Parks in Texas Near Austin

While there aren’t any National Parks super close to Austin, there are two that are within driving distance for a weekend trip or longer! Pick up an RV or camper rental in Austin, and make the drive to Big Bend National Park or Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Austin that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Austin? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.

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