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Exploring Austin
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Thank God For Weekends

Exploring Austin

December 2006

This weekend was off to Austin to hit some of the sites, review Lone Star RV Park, stay at a friends ranch, and golf at Lakeway.

We stayed in Lone Star RV Park which is about 10 miles south of Austin on IH 35. This park sets the standard for what private parks should aspire to become. It's clean, has excellent sites, cute log cabins, lots of nice amenities, and is close to downtown Austin. You can read the review of Lone Star RV Park in the Texas Outside Parks section.

After dinner on Friday at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill (good food and atmosphere) we headed over to Austin's Warehouse District. The Warehouse district is an upscale cousin to 6th street and the majority of the fun spots are located between Congress and Guadalupe and 3rd and 5th street. The Warehouse district is trendier, more expensive, and caters to an older crowd than Austin's other hot spot, 6th street. What makes the Warehouse District fun is the variety of music (rock to jazz), bars (Irish pubs to sports bars), and restaurants (tapas to spaghetti). If the weather is nice, have a drink at the roof top patio above Spaghetti Warehouse. Our favorite watering hole is O'Riellys Irish Pub - they always have cold beer and a fun crowd. Try the tapas at Malaga for dinner or to satisfy that midnight craving. Click here for a map of the area.

Saturday morning we spent a few hours at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum which is a must for anyone with some time to kill or anyone remotely interested in Texas History. This relatively new museum has an Imax theater, Texas Spirit Theater, museum store, and three floors of Texas history exhibits. You can start on the bottom floor and wind you way clockwise on each subsequent floor and experience the history of Texas from the 1600's to present. What's nice about this museum is the variety of exhibits and mediums used to convey the history of the Lone Star State. You will experience life size exhibits, movies, touch screen displays, slide shows, narratives, and more - very well done. Entrance pricing is $3 to $5.50 plus the cost of the Imax and/or Texas Spirit Theater.

Here are just a few of the facts about Texas that I learned during the visit to the museum:

  • 1528 the indians occupied Galveston
  • 1690 the Spanish built the first mission, Mission San Francisco, in what is now Houston
  • 1821 the Mexican government allowed immigrants from the US to settle in what was then known as Tejas (south central Texas today)
  • 1836 Texas had it's first election and Sam Houston was elected with 5119 votes
  • 1888 the State capital was completed
  • 1894 oil was discovered in Corsicana
  • 1898 the State of Texas sold, granted or reserved all public land
  • during the Civil War, Texas cotton became the great prize of the war because it was more valuable ($.60 a pound) than cash and it was used to buy military supplies
  • 1901 the Spindletop oil well shot oil 100 feet in the air which began a new era for Texas
  • 1903 Texas produced 99% of the US rice crop
  • up until 1930 pine was the State's chief manufacturing activity
  • 1940 Texas was the number 2 producer of quick silver (mercury) for vapor lamps, insecticides, and thermometers
  • 1969 Texas and Houston gained recognition when Niel Armstrong said "Houston the Eagle has landed"
  • 2000 Texas became the second largest populated state at 22 million people, second only to California

After saturating our brain with history, it was time to get back to basics at the Austin Children's Museum. This museum is geared for toddlers to 10 year olds and designed to be both educational and fun. The staff is very outgoing, helpful, and wants to make each kids visit a learning experience. You kids under 10 will enjoy this much more than the Bob Bullock Museum.


After spending the majority of the day at museums, we were ready to start partying and headed over to 6th street. You haven't experienced Austin until you have visited 6th Street at least once. At times 6th street seems like a mini New Orleans - the street is closed to traffic and packed with a wide variety of characters looking for fun and it really starts jumping around 12 pm when all the college students are ready to party. Both sides of 6th street are lined with bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, and other off-the-wall shops. The restaurants vary from Mexican, to pizza, to casual French cuisine. If you have the time, here is a fun circuit to follow:

  • show a little class and start (or end) with a drink at the Driskill Hotel which is an Austin landmark and was established in 1886
  • then head to Iron Cactus and sip one of their award winning margaritas on the roof top patio
  • appetizers or dinner at the award winning fixed price Chez Nous for casual French cuisine
  • now you're ready for some music - poke your head in one of the rock bars, karaoke bars, or one of our favorites, Pete's Dueling Piano Bar until you find the band that meets your taste
  • if you didn't make reservations earlier, then see if you can get tickets to one of the shows at Ester's Follies (or just stand outside the front window and you and the actors may become part of the show) to experience some biting hilarious satire
  • end the evening by heading for high ground and the roof top bar at Blind Pig for a good view of the party and action in the street

Some of our other favorites near 6th street include: Stubb's BBQ (ok food but a great outdoor venue with live bands) and Iron Works BBQ (their ribs, either pork or beef, are some of the best in Texas - don't feed the turtles from their patio). It can be difficult to find a parking spot near the action, so we will usually park a few blocks away from 6th street and bike along Waller Creek and around 6th street.

Some other fun things to do in near downtown Austin that we love to enjoy include:

  • Zilker Park for a ride on the Zilker Zephyr miniature train, or rent a canoe and paddle Town Lake, or enjoy the hike and bike trails, or picnicking and play disc golf, or go for a swim in Barton Springs Pool -- after all of that you're going to be hungry so walk or bike east on Barton Springs road to Chuys (great margaritas and Mexican food) or Shady Groove (good food, excellent patio, and great music)
  • Bike or hike around Town Lake
  • Golf at any of the great Austin courses -- see our favorites by clicking here
  • watch up to 1.5 million bats head out for dinner on the Congress street bridge
  • ride bikes around the Capital and the University of Texas
  • shop the South Congress (known as So Co) area, stop at the quaint Hotel San Jose for a drink, eat Mexican food at Guero's, and end up at the Continental Club for some good country music
  • check out Hills Cafe (try the chicken fried steak) and the Broken Spoke also have excellent country music venues

Saturday night and Sunday morning we staying at a friends 1600 acre ranch in the Austin hill country about 15 miles north west of Austin. What a beautiful spread with two magnificent houses with outstanding views, two swimming pools, a stream and pond, outdoor pavilion, and tennis court. A hunting party left at 5:00 AM to see if they could bag a big buck from this wildlife managed ranch (those of us expecting venison for breakfast had to settle for eggs and sausage!) while the rest of us chilled in the hot tube.

After four wheeling around the ranch, we headed over to Lakeway to play Live Oak Golf Course. Live Oak is one of three Lakeway courses, Yaupon and The Hills (private) are the other two. Live Oak is a good track and we rated it 7.5 stars. Yaupon is a Texas Outside Favorite. You can read the review of Yaupon and Live Oak and find other Austin golf courses in the Golfing Section of Texas Outside.

In summary, Austin is one of our favorite Texas cities because of the wide variety of things to see and do including:

  • great restaurants - you can anything you want and a lot of the restaurants have outstanding patios for outside dinning
  • scenic beauty - you can't beat the Austin hill country, the majestic views, and celebrities multi million dollar homes - try the Oasis at sunset high on a bluff over looking Lake Travis to get a feel for the hill country
  • outstanding music (Austin is the Music Capital of Texas) - some of our favorites for county music include: Broken Spoke, Hills Cafe, Backyard, Continental Club, and Stubbs
  • great lakes - hike or bike around Town Lake, boat Lake Travis (take in the party cove and Carlos & Charlies) or Lake Austin (dinner and drinks at Hula Hut and music at Ski Shores)
  • excellent golf courses (2 Austin courses are in the Texas Outside Top Ten) - try River Place, Falconhead, or Yaupon at Lakeway
  • nearby campgrounds - Emma Long on Lake Austin, McKinney Falls, Austin Lone Star RV Park, or McKinney State Park - you can read reviews of each in the Texas Outside Parks Section
  • excellent bike paths and frisbee golf courses - try Barton Creek Greenbelt and Pease Park

What a fun, lively, and weird city! Make sure you spend some time there before you leave Texas. Visit Texas Outside's Discover Texas and Guide to Austin to learn more on hotels, restaurants, night life, golf courses, and much more.

Live.Play.Enjoy...Get Outdoors and Play in Austin