PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Austin

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  • College town that is known as Texas’ liberal “hippie” city and a tech hub
  • Fastest growing major U.S. city
  • Popular and diverse live music scene
  • The best-named city in the country 😉

Metro population: 2.1 million (#31 in U.S.)

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Mostly sunny with some rain year round. Warm winter and hot spring, summer, and fall.

Austin residents have been known to say “I don’t live in Texas;  I live in Austin” – a reflection of the city’s unique and quite progressive character in the heart of a red state. Situated in Central Texas’ rolling hills, Austin has plenty of nature to enjoy along with its highly-rated live music and food scenes.

Photo: Texas State Capitol

Where To Go in Austin

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A peacock at Mayfield Park

Mayfield Park: This public park sits on on the grounds of a beautiful historic home and has dozens of peacocks wandering around for you to enjoy. Free. 3505 West 35th Street, West Austin. (512) 974-6700

Mt. Bonnell: A short 0.3 mile uphill walk takes you to the top of this peak which is the highest point in Austin and has sweeping views of the Colorado River and the Austin area. Free. 3800 Mount Bonnell Road, West Austin. (512) 974-6700

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Colorado River from Mt. Bonnell

Hippie Hollow Park: The only clothing-optional park in Texas, this peaceful park 25 minutes outside of Austin sits on the edge of Lake Travis in the gorgeous foothills. Popular among all ages. $15 per car admission. 7000 Comanche Trail. (512) 854-7275

Barton Springs Pool: A three acre public swimming area in the center of Austin that’s filled entirely with natural spring water and surrounded by beautiful greenery. $8 per person admission. 2201 Barton Springs Road, Zilker. (512) 867-3080

Congress Avenue Bridge: For a truly unforgettable experience, stand on this bridge around 8pm to watch hundreds of bats fly out to begin their nightly tour of the town. Free. 100 South Congress Avenue, Downtown.

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Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake: Trails run the length of both sides of this peaceful lake just below Downtown Austin which is really just a wide portion of the Colorado River; you can also rent a kayak or paddleboat. 74 Trinity Street, Downtown. (512) 809-8916

Texas State Capitol: This cream-colored building was completed in 1888 and has a very impressive rotunda. Open daily to the public, free tours available. Free. 1100 Congress Avenue, Downtown. (512) 463-4630

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Texas State Capitol rotunda

University of Texas, Austin: Nicknamed the Forty Acres, this college campus has tons of aesthetically pleasing historic buildings with signature red roofs. Take a walk through the campus on your own or join a complimentary visitor tour. Free. 110 Inner Campus Drive, Central Austin. (512) 471-3434

Austin Cheap Eats

Austin restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Torchy’s Tacos: You just may have the best taco of your life at this wildly popular chain which began in Austin and is starting to expand across the Southwest. There are dozens upon dozens of options, including several mouth-watering breakfast tacos. 1822 South Congress Avenue, Downtown. (512) 916-9025

La Barbeque: You can’t leave Austin without trying a food truck and this one has some of the best BBQ in the city. They’re most famous for their brisket. Email your order at least a day ahead of time or plan to wait in line. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 1906 East Cesar Chavez Street, Holly. (512) 605-9696

Juan in a Million: This hole-in-the-wall Tex Mex eatery has huge portions, a big breakfast menu, and their famous Don Juan taco, consisting of potato, egg, bacon, and cheese. 2300 East Cesar Chavez Street, Holly. (512) 472-3872

Bouldin Creek Cafe: This vegetarian eatery with tons of vegan options has a variety of tasty bowls, sandwiches, and Southwestern dishes at low prices. 1900 South 1st Street, South Austin. (512) 416-1601

Tacodeli: There’s tons of fun taco creations to choose from at this fast casual taco joint, including plenty of hearty vegetarian options. 4200 North Lamar Boulevard, Rosedale. (512) 419-1900. Click here for other locations.

Austin Nightlife

Austin bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city  B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time  C) Beautiful decor or view

Austin’s bars and clubs are primarily located in the Downtown area and are centered around the infamous “Dirty Sixth,” a section of 6th Avenue filled to the brim with bars and debauchery.

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Dirty Sixth

Chuggin’ Monkey: A upbeat dive bar with pool tables, games, ample seating, and a large outdoor area. Nightly live music. 219 East 6th Street, Downtown. (512) 476-5015

Maggie Mae’s: This Austin institution has been hosting live music and lively crowds since 1978. The rooftop patio is adorably decorated and has great views of Downtown. 323 East 6th Street, Downtown. (512) 487-8541

Rain on 4th: Probably the largest gay bar in Austin, Rain on 4th has a dancefloor, several bars, and a large backyard patio. 217 West 4th Street, Downtown. (512) 494-1150

Shakespeare’s Ale House: This casual bar has a large rooftop patio with sweeping views of the city and nightly specials, including a $5.50 Long Island pitcher (!!) on Fridays. 314 East 6th Street, Downtown. (512) 472-1666

Oilcan Harry’s: A popular gay bar with daily specials, a Dueling DJ night on Fridays, and a small dancefloor. 211 West 4th Street, Downtown. (512) 320-8823

Nearby Side Trips from Austin

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Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool: One of Texas’ most beautiful natural wonders, this green swimming hole below a huge dome is a tranquil escape from the city only 45 minutes away. $15 admission.

San Antonio: You’ll have to go beyond the iconic Alamo and RiverWalk to experience the true character of this city 1 hour south of Austin which has been heavily influenced by its large Latino(a) population. Read more.

Houston: One of the country’s largest cities 3 hours to the east, Houston’s growth has been accelerated by its position as a hub of the country’s oil industry, but its diverse population is shaping it into a more cosmopolitan city. Read more.

Dallas: You might be shocked to find out that Dallas’ metropolitan area is the 4th largest in the country and its immense size offers a variety of opportunities for sightseeing in this very urban city that’s managed to retain a lot of its cowboy character. 3 hours north of Austin. Read more.

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