Photo: Sarah Vaughn
Austin is the center of all things Texas. With it’s location in the heart of the Lone Star State, it just so happens that Austin is the gateway to the beloved Texas Hill Country, home to some of the most beautiful outdoor landscapes in the South. Add to that a thriving music scene, patio bars, swimming holes, delicious food, and awesome weather, it’s clear to see Austin is a city that should be high on anyone’s must-visit list. This article will serve as a guide for a whirlwind of 72 hours full of outdoors, food, and nightlife in ATX.
What better way to start off your weekend right than by spending some time basking in the sunshine. Central Texas happens to be a swimming hole mecca, and visiting Austin without taking a little dip into one just wouldn’t give you the full experience. One of the most scenic is Hamilton Pool, a collapsed grotto that was rediscovered in the 1880’s and is home to a beautiful 50 foot waterfall. A weekday visit will give you the chance of less crowds and more of this natural oasis all to yourself.
If you happen to be visiting in the cooler months, you can still visit Hamilton Pool as it is open year-round, just maybe not for swimming. Another option could be hitting the trails at Pace Bend on Lake Travis. With 15 miles of mountain bike trails and a skills obstacle course, it’s ranked as some of the best riding you can find in the state. Additionally the park is a popular destination for cyclists as well who like to take scenic rides along the perimeter of the peninsula.
Afterwards, head back into town and stop by Shady Grove near Zilker Park. Here you can relax in the comfy, shaded outdoor seating, grab an order of chips and queso along with some beers, and start getting amped for the next day.
Saturdays in Austin are amazingly fun and meant to be taken full advantage of. Plan for an early start and hit up Jo’s Coffee on SoCo (South Congress) to get your caffeine fix and some breakfast tacos. Don’t forget the people watching and tourist fave: snapping a photo in front of the “I love you so much” wall graffiti.
Now that you are fueled for the day, time to explore to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, or simply referred to as the Greenbelt by locals. It is within the Greenbelt that a short 2 mile hike will land you at Sculpture Falls. Yes, another swimming hole…but as mentioned before, Austin is very well known for these and for good reason - they are the best. Sculpture Falls is a dog and beverage friendly paradise so be sure to pack some Shiners in your bag as you can easily spend the better part of your day here just chilling out and relaxing.
Once you decide to make the trek back up to the start of the trailhead, grab a quick burger and milkshake at local joint, P. Terry’s. While there are a couple different locations in Austin, the one located on Barton Springs Road dishes out the best vibes with patio seating and a retro-like location.
With a better part of the day down, it’s time to explore the city a bit. South Congress is a great place to explore with numerous local shops and restaurants. Stop into the store Parts & Labour to see a wonderful array of goods designed by local Texans. And what would a visit to the Live Music Capital of the World be without seeing some of the nightlife? Although many locals like to avoid it, taking a stroll down the heart of 6th Street aka Dirty 6th is a must, at least once. Live music can be heard jammin’ out through most bars. The Blind Pig and Jackalope are a few favorites to try out.
Photo: Sarah Vaughn
There’s also Rainey Street, which has great bars, such as Banger’s, which boasts a giant beer garden and over 100 beers on draft, or of course South Congress. Needless to say, Austin still offers plenty more neighborhoods with awesome nightlife scenes. Feel free to ask locals what they would recommend while you are there! Don’t head to bed without getting a late night fix, yet another thing Austin is well known for. Some of the best are Home Slice if you are craving some pizza, the famous VooDoo Doughnuts now with a new location in Austin, or essentially any of the food trucks you happen to come across. Then time to rest up for day 3 tomorrow!
Rise and shine for day 3 full of Texas Hill Country fun. If your night out on the Dirty 6th has left you feeling lazy, not to worry, there is much to do without expending too much energy. First, get some breakfast to gain a little bit of life back. For a nice sit down spot, head downtown to the Iron Cactus for an all-you-can-eat delicious brunch. If you want your food a little bit quicker, check out Paperboy food truck for amazing breakfast sandwiches that’ll hit the spot.
Now that you have satisfied that hunger, look to Zilker Park as a great option for a lazy, yet relaxing and enjoyable Sunday. Pack up some essentials and rent a kayak or stand up paddle board to wade around Lady Bird Lake. You’ll have great views of the city of Austin and be among the different varieties of wildlife that call this section of the Colorado River home.
If you are really feeling lazy, head to Barton Springs Pool also located in Zilker Park and considered to be one of the top destinations in Austin. This pool is very unique as it is naturally spring-fed with crystal clear waters and average temperatures of 68-70 degrees. Find yourself in an abundance of grassy and shady spots to lay out and sunbathe, or just people watch to make for a great last day to your weekend.
Now, on the other hand, if you wake up Sunday and are feeling adventurous I would recommend to you one last swimming hole located just outside of Austin, Jacob’s Well. Known to be a cool hangout and cliff jumping spot, this well also happens to be spring-fed from the same source as Barton Springs Pool and offers the same chilly water temps year round. The well itself is an underground cave that is still unknown as to how deep it actually extends. Looking like something from out of this world, the seemingly endless black hole can look a little intimidating, and is in fact one of the most dangerous underwater cave diving spots in the world (scuba diving here is outlawed). Don’t let that deter you from taking a jump in and enjoying this super unique spot, just make sure to leave the scuba gear at home!
Hopefully y’all enjoyed this all-encompassing guide to one of the coolest cities on the planet. With plenty of outdoor hiking, biking, swimming, and kayaking options in addition to the culture, food, and nightlife, Austin has much to offer to anyone who visits. So make the most of your 72 hours here and remember…keep Austin weird.
Cover photo: Sarah Vaughn
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.