As temperatures drop, it gets easier and easier to choose to spend your free time piled under blankets and binging that new true crime show. And, while we would never deny you the latest limited series, we are here to remind you that there are still plenty of things to take advantage of around Austin for the next few months. Whether you’re looking for activities that have a seasonal twist, want to get out in nature, try some new flavors, or straight up celebrate a traditional Sunday Funday by drinking the day away, there’s an option here for you. So change out of those sweatpants you’ve been rocking for the past few days, put a pause on that Netflix queue, and get out there!
Barton Creek Greenbelt, Bull Creek Greenbelt Free Get your hiking shoes on! The City of Austin reopened the Barton Creek and Bull Creek Greenbelts to visitors in August after shutting down the trail system earlier in the summer due to overcrowding. Entry is available by reservation only, so make sure to visit the website and select an open time slot before you plan your trip. With 12 miles of gorgeous hiking trails, creek beds, and waterfalls, the Greenbelt is a must-visit for every Austinite.
Chaparral Ice $ While in Austin we may not have the type of weather that allows us to glide on frozen ponds Charlie Brown-style, there are still options available for those who want to lace up their skates. North Austin’s Chaparral Ice is open daily for public skating so you can go and get your Michelle Kwan on. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids five-years-old and younger, and $5 to rent skates-be sure to make a reservation in advance online though.
Fredericksburg, TX – Various Locations $$-$$$$ For a long weekend or just an adventurous day trip, consider a visit to Texas’ very own version of Napa Valley-Fredericksburg. It’s about a two hour drive from Austin to the acres of orchards that populate this area, and just the sheer amount of different wineries that have set up shop will cause any vino-lover’s heart to pump with excitement. Be sure to check out Becker Vineyards, whose beautiful estate and lavender fields add some background to your Bordeaux, and the Fat Ass Ranch & Winery, which may not only have the best name but also the best frozen sangria you’ve ever tasted. Note, though, that both are operating at limited capacity and require online reservations.
Watch a movie (safely) at the drive-in
Blue Starlite Drive-In & Doc’s Drive-In Theatre $$-$$$ Austin is a city of film fanatics-which means that even COVID can’t keep its residents from enjoying a flick and some popcorn. Take in all the joy of the silver screen from the comfort (and appropriate social distance) of your own car at one of the area’s many drive-ins. Two of our favorites are Blue Starlite, which has locations around the city and in Round Rock, and Doc’s, which is located a short, 30-minute drive away in Buda. Both places have a calendar stacked with classic favorites, like “The Fifth Element” and “Labyrinth,” as well as fairly-new movies, like “Tenet.”
Warm up with hot food and cocktails
Various locations $-$$$ Anyone who has lived in Texas knows there is only a limited pocket of time in the year where warm-weather food and drinks can be consumed in public without someone thinking you are legally insane. Well, those “winter” months have arrived, and it is time to take advantage of the options springing up around the city! Grab some soup, like the poblano corn chowder, at local institution Soup Peddler, hit up Michi for some delicious ramen, or go for the pho at Thanh Ni. If you want the extra warming power of booze, stop by Kinda Tropical for their mezcal-spiked Oaxacan Hot Chocolate or Contigo for their take on the Hot Toddy.
See some live music (really!)
Various locations $-$$$ Even though COVID may have altered how we see shows for the near future, it can’t keep the Capital of Live Music down. There are still many places around the city to groove on down to some tunes-albeit, in a safe, CDC-complaint way. Two-step to some bluegrass at Sagebrush, catch the best of the local scene at The Far Out Lounge, or discover your new favorite tracks at Hotel Vegas. That’s not to forget the city’s trademark venue, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, which may be opened with limited capacity, but has a calendar lineup of performances which guarantees unlimited good times.
Hunt for some vintage treasure
Various locations $-$$$ Put those holiday bonuses to excellent use by indulging in some local, sustainably-minded shopping at the many vintage shops around Austin. Dig through the racks of Pavement Vintage to find some single-stitch gems or let the curated choices of Charm School Vintage make you look effortlessly fashionable. If you’re looking to revamp your living space for the New Year, great furniture and decor finds can be unearthed at Room Service Vintage or Uncommon Objects.
Take a drive out to Hill Country for beer and BBQ
Jester King Brewery & The Salt Lick BBQ $$-$$$ When you get tired of the urban landscape, refresh your eyes and spirits with a trip out to Hill Country. It may only be 45 minutes away, but the long vistas and dramatically beautiful sunsets will make you forget all those emails you have sitting in your inbox. Start in the early afternoon by making reservations at Jester King Brewery, where you can sip on their section of sour beers in the breezy, winter sunshine. Then grab dinner at nearby Salt Lick, whose legendary BBQ has constantly ranked them as one of the best places to grub down on some brisket in the country.
Various locations $ Since the weather has finally cooled down, there’s no better feeling than enjoying Texas’ natural beauty and sleeping under the stars. Reserve a spot online to camp out this fall at one of Texas Hill Country’s beautiful state parks. McKinney Falls State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, Inks Lake State Park, and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area are just a few parks just a quick drive away from downtown Austin.
South Congress Avenue bridge Free “The bats!” are one of Austin’s simplest tourist attractions. Head down to the South Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin at the end of the day and pick a spot either on top of the bridge, or below on the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail — careful to stand six feet apart from other groups — and wait until dusk for the bats to emerge. About 1.5 million bats live underneath the bridge in what is the world’s largest bat colony.
Mt. Bonnell Free Challenge yourself to jog, bike, or walk through the gorgeous neighborhood on Scenic Drive to Covert Park and the top of Mt. Bonnell. The 775-foot peak is considered the highest point in Austin and looks over Lake Travis and the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the pavilion at sunset for a unique date night.
Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail Free The 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake is key to the city’s reputation as an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca. Located in the heart of downtown Austin, the trail has multiple access points for runners, bikers, rollerbladers, and hikers to traverse a route of their choosing.
Lady Bird Lake $-$$$ Whether your preferred vehicle of choice is a paddle board, kayak, canoe, or inner tube, there’s plenty of buoyancy to be found on Lady Bird Lake. Bundle on up, pop on your shades and enjoy a few peaceful hours of serenity on the lake. Check local listings for rental outlet availability.
Playing tour guide around Austin requires a versatile ride. The 2020 Acura ILX can handle a run to pick up the country’s best BBQ just as well as a trek to watch the sunset from the edge of town.
Various locations $-$$$ If there’s one upside to quarantine life, it’s that you can try Aaron Franklin’s famous barbecue without staking out your spot in line at 6am Franklin BBQ has gone to a reservation-only system for selling their world-famous brisket. For even more options, check out our full guide to Austin BBQ here. Make sure to check with individual restaurants for adjusted hours and take-out/delivery options due to COVID-19.
Various locations $-$$$ Perhaps the only food more famous in Austin than barbecue are our world-class taco offerings. Whether you’re a breakfast taco connoisseur or prefer to mix-and-match tacos with happy hour margaritas, Veracruz, Tacodeli, and Torchy’s are amongst the classics. Check out our full guide to local Mexican restaurants here. Make sure to check with individual restaurants for adjusted hours and take-out/delivery options due to COVID-19.
Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $ The University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of Art recently reopened in August after closing for most of the spring and summer due to the pandemic. Don’t miss Ellsworth Kelly’s iconic Austin, a 2,715-square foot stone building with gorgeous glass-colored rainbow windows.
Virtual Free Austin’s very own DJ Mel drew hundreds of thousands of viewers to his impromptu Facebook livestream set after SXSW was canceled. Now, the tastemaker is taking to the tunes every Saturday night from 6 to 10pm for a family-friendly dance party. Set up your speakers, move your furniture, and get ready to bust a move.Sign up here for our daily Austin email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
In the midst of all the SXSW chaos, it helps to remember that there’s a rainbow at the festival’s end-that is, the hangover-blessing we’ve been granted of having St. Patrick’s Day 2023 fall on a Friday. Whether you attribute this small win to the Gregorian calendar or the luck of the Irish, it’s sure to amp up the already liver-damaging activities associated with this cultural celebration. However, Éire is more than just leprechauns and Colin Farrell-it’s a breathtaking land full of warm, welcoming, and good-hearted people. Fortunately, there’s a way you can get a taste of the Republic’s spirit, and a dark stout, at the same time by hitting up one of Austin’s various Irish pubs. From cozy, intimate spaces decked out like small taverns in Cobh, to modern dives with all the party energy of Temple Bar, our list has the best spots in the city to “erin go bragh” all out on March 17.
With a giant model of a beer tap literally decorating their front door, you can’t miss B.D Riley’s, nor doubt that this East Austin hang is a spot to down some serious brewskis. And its name, and perfect pours of Guinness, aren’t the only aspects they draw from the Emerald Isle-the entire pub itself was actually designed and built in Dundalk, Ireland, and shipped over for assembly in Bat City. Such authentic decor calls for equally authentic sounds, therefore, on St. Patrick’s Day, B.D. Riley’s will feature an all-day, four-artist bill of live, trad-inspired music. So, while you may not start the day knowing all the words to “The Galway Girl,” you are bound to sing along by last call.
Having only opened this past December, Kelly’s is the new kid with a brogue on the block. Occupying the space which formerly housed tapas restaurant Winebelly, this pub had big shoes to fill for South Austin barflies, but quickly won them over with an impressive whiskey selection and friendly atmosphere. A big reason behind the real deal Éire vibes can, most likely, be chalked up to the fact that one of Kelly’s owners was actually born and bred in Ireland-and the dedication to delivering a true-to-life experience is evident in everything from the shepherd’s pie to the witty bartenders. For St. Patrick’s Day, they are getting the party started early with live music and an opening time of 8 am.
While The Domain may boast more bars than you can shake a shamrock at, there’s only one spot in the North Austin entertainment behemoth that can be properly called an Irish pub: Jack & Ginger’s. Start off the night with selecting a tasting flight from their over 82 beers on tap, then, move onto shots poured straight from their Irish Whiskey Tours-after loosening up with a round or two, you might just find yourself with the gift of gab. And, before snapping a selfie over Jack & Ginger’s see-through glass floor, balance out that buzz with food offerings like a giant soft pretzel or a round of fried pickles.
Here’s a spot that visibly radiates with Irish pride-at Foxy’s, the glow of green beams out from the bar’s lighted panels, and across their chandelier made of Jameson bottles. When it comes to cups and chow, their commitment to the theme continues-the use of the word,”proper,” in the pub’s name alone indicates you’re in for a heavy pour of the standards. Consequently, the taps are abundant with essential Irish sips, including Guinness, Magners, and Smithwick’s. With Lone Star on draft, there’s also a nod to Texas tradition as well. But don’t fear if you’re bored of beer-Foxy’s variety of whiskey-based cocktails will let you switch it up (and still keep it Celtic). March 17 will find them celebrating with live music, whiskey tastings, and swag giveaways.
Compared to a flight to Dublin, the 30-minute drive to Round Rock’s Cork & Barrel is much more convenient-not to mention, won’t require waiting in a TSA line. A mix between a modern Austin beer garden and a historical Irish pub, this spot’s spacious interior and expansive outdoor patio guarantees there will be enough room for the whole crew to cheer “sláinte.” And, their microbrewery’s signature beers are the ideal drinks to do such a toast with. The menu of specially crafted drafts includes a blueberry wheat, an Irish red ale, and a vanilla stout. This St. Patrick’s Day also marks Cork & Barrel’s two-year anniversary, and they are throwing down for the double-celebration with live music, yard games, Irish food specials, and plentiful amounts of green beer and Irish Car Bombs.