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12 Best Outdoor Activities in Austin

Austin Insider Guides
by Chris Lowrey May 28, 2017

AUSTIN has good weather almost year-round and there’s no shortage of great outdoor adventures in and near the city.

1. Take a hike.

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The Barton Creek Greenbelt is 13 miles of trails outside of downtown Austin. There are several entrances to the Greenbelt, but my favorite is by Tacodeli on Spyglass Drive. Hike, then enjoy delicious breakfast or lunch tacos afterwards. Take a swimsuit on your hike, since there are plenty of creek spots to jump in and cool off.

2. Grab some BBQ.

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My top three Austin bbq places each have varying wait times — from 30 minutes to five hours plus. Turn waiting into tailgating by grabbing a cooler of beer and some chairs. Each of these bbq places open at 11 AM.

  • Franklin’s: Definitely the most famous of the three. On the weekend, the line can take 4-5 hours (or more). Don’t show up any later than 9 AM.
  • La BBQ: Show up an hour before opening and you will likely wait 1-2 hours. They offer free beer on the weekend.
  • Micklethwait Craft Meats: I’ve never had to wait more than 45 minutes in line and their bbq is terrific. On Saturdays, they offer free local beer.

3. Take a quick swim.

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Barton Springs is a spring-fed pool located in Zilker Park that maintains a stable 68 degrees temperature. If you don’t feel like jumping into the icy waters, two hills rise on each side where you can lie out in the sun.

4. Visit a brewery

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There are many breweries in and around Austin. 30 minutes west of town is Jester King, a large brewery known for sour beers. It has communal, outdoor seating and is a great place to spend the afternoon. Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza is nearby and offers hand-crafted pizzas and wine and beer (not sours).

5. Visit a natural spring just outside of town.

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30 miles west of Austin is Krause Springs, a privately-owned camping and swimming site. Drive out for an afternoon to hang in the water, drink some beers, and jump off their rope swing. The drive from Austin is beautiful and if you’re still looking for BBQ, stop at Opie’s in nearby Spicewood.

6. Hike up to great views.

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Mount Bonnell is less than 15 minutes from downtown and right along the Colorado River. The Peak is almost 800 feet above sea level (high for Austin). Hike about 100 steps up a limestone staircase to the top where you’ll find big views of Austin and the Texas Hill Country and great sunset viewing.

7. Relax at a swimming hole.

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Hamilton Pool is a natural pool partly shaded by a large limestone overhang. Be sure to make a reservation online, at least a week or two in advance.

8. Wander around the lake.

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The Butler Hike and Bike Trail surrounds Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, with over 10 miles of easily-accessible and well-maintained trails for runners, walkers, and bikers. After working up a sweat, take the trails to Barton Springs or grab a drink on nearby South Congress. Hotel San Jose is a quiet spot on South Congress that has a great patio for drinks.

9. Get out on the water.

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Year round, there are people on Lady Bird Lake in kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. You can rent any of the three at an hourly rate of $10-25 (depends on the day and type of rental). Explore beautiful alcoves shaded by oak and cypress trees and/or take in awesome views while floating along on the wide-open flat water.

10. Float the river.

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Floating the river is a must in the Texas summer. Drive an hour south of Austin to the Guadalupe River in the old-world German town of New Braunfels. Rent tubes (Tube Haus is a good option for $17 a day), grab a cooler of beer, and float for 2-3 hours down the river. The Guadalupe is definitely the party river, so if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, try out the Comal River a few miles away.

11. Check out the Graffiti Park.

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The Graffiti Park at Castle Hills is worth stopping by in downtown Austin. The park is an old 3-story building foundation converted to an outdoor graffiti art gallery, with ever-changing art and impressive, often weird, murals. Afterwards, wander over to nearby Clarksville for coffee at Cafe Medici or a milkshake at Nau’s Enfield Drug.

12. Stop at a beer garden.


At the end of your explorations, stop by one of the many huge outdoor patios for a drink. Go to Bangers where you can grab a beer, bratwurst, and watch live polka music on Saturdays. If south of the river, drop by the ABGB for house-brewed beer and pizza on a sprawling patio. And if you’re near campus, Scholz Garten has a great German beer garden that fills up after UT football games.

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