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Grotto’s Travel Guide to Austin

Published:
February 22, 2024
February 5, 2024
Looking for things to do in Austin? Check out these tips to maximize your time there.

With its rolling hills and live music, Austin is known as the shining gem of Texas — being the home of the Texas Longhorns helps, too. If you’re looking for some good Texas BBQ or Tex-Mex, this is the city for you. The city’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” so make sure to bring all the personality you have because this city demands it.

Know before you go

Texas is known for its milder winters, but what we lack in winter horror, we make up for with excruciating summers. It hits the triple digits as early as May and this goes on until the end of October, so if you are wanting to spend time outdoors in the summer, plan a lot of water-based activities such as paddle-boarding to stay cool. 

Another alternative is to visit Texas during the spring months or to take a trip during November-December when the temperatures have cooled down, the leaves have changed into fall hues, and the weather is cool enough to wear a coat but warm enough that you can survive without one.

The last thing that I’d note is that unlike a lot of big cities, Austin’s public transportation is not the most reliable — so plan accordingly. You might have to spend quite a bit on rideshare apps here. There are options to take the buses that run east to west and north to south, but it’s a very limited part of downtown that has these options. If you are wanting to venture into northern Austin or even the hilly parts, you will need a car.

Take it from a local

Everybody knows about Zilker Park, but if you want a closer view of the downtown skyline for your picnic, the place to go to is Auditorium Shores. It sits on the Lady Bird Lake hiking trail, close to the Central Austin Public Library (which also has stunning views of the city). Grab your favorite Austin fast food (more on that later), bring a picnic blanket, and enjoy Auditorium Shores.

If you are planning to hike Mount Bonnell, I recommend going around sunrise to avoid the larger crowds of people. You’ll be able to take in the city and all it has to offer without worrying about people getting in your photos or large crowds in the summer heat.

Lastly, if you want University of Texas merchandise, head over to a thrift store to score the same clothing items for a significantly cheaper price.

Must see

One of the best parts about the city of Austin is how scenic the views are, no matter where you go, but an absolute must-see is the Marian Shrine of Our Lady Schoenstatt.

It sits in the hills of Austin and is the perfect spot to go for quiet prayer or reflection. Mass is held outside every Sunday at 11 am. There are also Rosary walking trails that surround the Shrine where you can meditate on the mysteries before or after Mass while gazing at the beauty that surrounds you.

The Schoenstatt movement began in 1914 and its aim is to integrate the Catholic faith with the modern lives that people within the Church live. There is a heavy emphasis on looking toward the Blessed Mother Mary on how to live out a Christ-centered life.

If you get lucky and happen to visit when there is a covenant lunch, you can stay after Mass for a meal and get to meet some of the Austin locals who have made the Shrine their home. You will not only experience the physical beauty of the Shrine but also the warmth of the people.

Need to try

Tex-Mex and barbecue are staples of the Austin diet. For your Tex-Mex fix, head over to Cabo Bob’s for a casual lunch where you’ll have your choice between burritos, tacos, or rice bowls. All of the ingredients are fresh, and you will be thinking about this place long after your trip is over. For a more formal setting, Matt’s El Rancho provides this type of atmosphere in South Lamar — just make sure to book your reservation ahead of time. Rounding out the Tex-Mex is El Alma which sits near Auditorium Shores, and in addition to the food, there are beautiful skyline views of the city.

For barbecue, head over to Terry Black’s Barbecue — brisket, sausage, and potato salad galore! In Texas, we like to keep our stomachs as full as our hearts. If you’re feeling more adventurous, head over to Franklin’s which is known for long wait times, but locals like to wake up early, start camping out with friends as early as 6 a.m., and come out with the satisfaction of telling people whether or not the wait time was worth it!

Rounding off the meals, consider grabbing a bite from P. Terry’s to get a taste of local Austin fast food— either as your first food stop before you’ve settled into the city or as your last meal on your way out. 

As far as desserts, you can never go wrong with ice cream in the capital of Texas. Whether it’s Amy’s or Lick Ice Cream, there will be something that appeals to your taste. From beet to lavender-flavored ice cream, it’s all here. Not feeling ice cream? Gourdough’s is a dessert place filled with hearty donuts. After all, everything is bigger in Texas.

Finally, if you’re looking to grab a drink and want some city life ambience, head over to Codependent Cocktails for the best espresso martinis and get ready to dance the night away! Austin is also known for its nightlife so visit sixth (whether dirty, east or west) and you will not go home disappointed.

Make the most of your experience

One of the things that makes Austin unlike any other city in Texas is the nature that resides within the city so to take advantage of the nice spring (or fall) weather, take a nice stroll on the Lady Bird Lake Hiking Trail that spans nine miles stretching from Riverside all the way to Zilker. This is a great way to get in some exercise during the trip, but it’s also a perfect place to take photos. If you want to go on an actual hike, check out the Greenbelt Hiking Trail near downtown.

From there, I recommend going to South Congress which is made up of a variety of shops, eateries, and murals. It is the perfect place for a midday stroll. Make sure to keep an eye out for the “you’re the yee to my haw” mural and the iconic “I love you so much” wall by Jo’s Coffee. While you’re at it, grab a drink from Jo’s Coffee as you explore this cute little part of Austin. 

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin is a must-see. It is an outdoor coffee shop that overlooks the lake and is reminiscent of the dock where Haley and Nathan studied from One Tree Hill. In December, Mozart’s has its annual iconic lights show, but any other time of the year is still magical. This place is a can’t miss!

Finally, Austin is known for its live music and the University of Texas so if you really want to experience Austin life (and traffic) to its full potential, grab a one-day ticket for one of the Austin City Light Music Festival weekends and time it with a Longhorn football game. You’ll experience one of the country’s most iconic music festivals while also getting some college football in. Make sure to pack those burnt orange outfits.

This city wouldn’t be what it is without the spirit of the University of Texas so pack those bags, throw those horns up, and keep Austin weird.

Creators:
Patricia Valderrama
Published:
February 22, 2024
February 5, 2024
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