Bound for Austin. Any Suggestions?

The last few years our immediate family has followed a new holiday tradition. Instead of buying each other gifts, the four of us take a trip together. Past trips have been to New Orleans, South Carolina, and Washington DC.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

This tradition has several advantages. For one thing, it allows me to  greatly cut down on Christmas shopping, an activity I find almost as enjoyable as multiple wasp stings. Also, it’s much easier to achieve quality AND quantity time with our twenty-something sons, who otherwise insist on spending time with people of their own age. And Lord knows how much longer they’ll be willing to do this with us.

This year we’re going to Austin, Texas, where we’ll be staying at a rented house. We’ll be there for about a week.

We haven’t worked out a detailed itinerary, but already on the list are the following:

  • Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Hope there is a decent amount of stuff in bloom.
  • Zilker Botanic Garden.
  • Texas State Capitol. I am a bit of a connoisseur of state and provincial capitol buildings.
  • State History Museum.
  • Barbecue. We have many, many suggestions of places to go, so this one will keep us busy.
texas state capitol
Texas State Capitol

Judy may want to do some stuff related to art, music, or shopping, but we’ll see. Can’t do everything, you know.

We’re hoping the weather will cooperate. Austin is normally about 60 degrees (F) in December, but weather has been unusually frigid across the country in recent days.

Anyhow, for those of you who know Austin, we’d like to hear your suggestions. If you had a week, what would you do?

48 Comments on “Bound for Austin. Any Suggestions?

  1. This is a fantastic tradition! And yes shopping for the holidays is not high on my list either which would explain why I haven’t finished! I hope you enjoy this time with your boys… Your list looks wonderful! I have never been to Austin but everyone I know just raves about the live music. Here is hoping you get to see some blooms away from the snow here!!!

  2. Why, yes, I do know Austin since I live here. Ha! Weather can be instantly variable this time of year, so bring layers. We did have several hard killing freezes already, so the gardens will not be at their best (and will likely be filled with browned perennials since most of us wait until spring — mid-February — to cut back), but I expect they’ll look pretty green to your northern eyes. I wouldn’t look for much to be blooming though, since we’re not frost free like SoCal.

    Definitely do go to the Wildflower Center — and call ahead of time to be sure of their holiday hours. I thought they used to close between Xmas and New Year’s, but I just peeked at their website and didn’t see anything about it. Zilker Park is worth a stroll, though woefully underfunded for maintenance purposes. Check out the Prehistoric and Japanese Gardens — they’re the best. Visit The Natural Gardener nursery and explore their extensive display gardens and fun gift shop.

    Do see the Capitol and the Texas History Museum — both are interesting and fun. Consider taking a Segway tour of the downtown area. Plan for a stroll around Lady Bird Lake’s Hike-and-Bike Trail. Go for a spin under the Zilker Christmas Tree (if you can go after Xmas the traffic will be much, much lighter; it’s up until New Year’s Eve). Take an afternoon to stroll up and down South Congress Avenue for eclectic, only-in-Austin shops and great people watching. Stop for a drink at the bar at Austin-cool Hotel San Jose. Another night, for a completely different experience, go to the cattle-baron-era hotel The Driskill and have a drink in the upstairs bar. And do the tourist thing and go watch the sunset at the Oasis on Lake Travis. Located just outside of town on a cliffside overlooking the lake, there are tiers of decks where people have a drink and toast the sunset (skip the food though).

    Go to Hula Hut if the weather’s nice and sit outside. Same with Shady Grove. Outdoor patio dining is huge in Austin. So are food trucks; ask around for good locations, as the big one on S. Congress recently had to move. Drive out to the Salt Lick in nearby Driftwood (BYOB and pay with cash) for authentic Texas BBQ. If you’re into live music you’ll have a million choices. Check out the Chronicle’s listings each week. Another fun thing to do if the weather’s decent is go to Top Golf and hit a few balls from the comfy lounges. My teenage son loves it, you don’t have to know how to golf (think bowling alley but for golf), and the food is quite good too. Go on a weekday morning btw 9 am and noon to avoid the crowds and enjoy a cheaper hourly rate.

    San Antonio River Walk is worth a day trip, plus you might be able to squeeze in a visit to that city’s Botanical Garden, which is quite nice. For another fun outing, especially on a weekend, drive to Gruene (pronounced Green) and stroll around the small town’s shops (there aren’t many) and stop for a beer and to watch live music at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. The restaurant behind Gruene Hall, the Grist Mill, is decent for lunch or dinner, with amazing deck views of the Guadalupe River.

    There are lots of beautiful nature excursions in the area: Pedernales Falls and Hamilton Pool are excellent. In town, climb the steps to see the view from Mt. Bonnell, supposedly the highest point in Austin.

    I hope you and your family have a great visit! Austin is a fun, casual, laid-back town and very friendly.

  3. Isn’t Austin where there are thousands of bats that roost under a bridge that come out at dusk. I’ve heard this is quite a sight wherever it is.

  4. What a great tradition! We lived in Austin area 7 years ago and I agree with all that is mentioned above….especially Salt Lick. I still have cravings for their brisket! Another place worth visiting is the Umlauf sculpture garden and museum. Enjoy your visit and time with family!

  5. I haven’t been to Austin, but really like the idea of holidays, rather than endless trips to shops. Enjoy your trip, sounds good fun.

  6. What a great idea to take a family trip when staying near the chimney waiting for Santa to arrive isn’t relevant yet. I love it! Our family was in Austin many years ago and to be honest the only thing I remember is the gigantic colony of bats we saw – fascinating. We were in KC in October and stored up on good barbecue so for sure enjoy some great burnt ends. 🙂 Happy holidays.

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  8. Wow, Pam’s suggestions make me want to plan my own trip down there! Definately get some brisket and you may want to look into a nighttime stroll of the sixth street area. Bars, restaurants, live music, shops…. They close the street down for the weekend crowds, but there’s plenty during the week too. I remember many a night on the strip 🙂

  9. I went for work once and didn’t get to do any of the fun things listed above. Nice idea to share time together at Christmas with family. Enjoy.

  10. Enjoy! I’ve never been there, but it’s on the bucket list. Looks like you have a lot of suggestions. What a great idea for your family!

  11. I have a similar list in the UK but we have to dance around a bit because of the weather. Next up for us is a visit to our oldest national park in the beautiful Peak District.

  12. That’s a tremendously good idea! I’m not a friend of this xmas madness either and think it’s wise to spend quality time instead of buying things one doesn’t need in a pathetic effort to support the economy. Enjoy it!

  13. I have no further suggestions beyond what you’ve planned and what others have offered, but Austin is a terrific city and I’m sure you and the family will have a wonderful holiday there. Taking trips to interesting places is such a terrific tradition. Happy holidays to you. .0

  14. What ever you decide to do Jason – enjoy! I hope you and the family have a wonderful holiday. This is such a good idea – now if only my family could do this it would be ideal. Will be looking forward to reading about your trip.

  15. Last year we did a similar thing with our 3 sons, who live in different areas of the country. We all had a great time, but the logistics made it difficult to repeat this year. I have to admit I am happy for a traditional Christmas this year, but I still dream of all 5 of us heading off to Alaska, though that would have to be in the summertime!

  16. I was just talking to my husband about how I want to do this in the future…perhaps we can start with one family trip or part family trip…we are nomadic and are strewn all over the country so it is hard for my family to get together…great tradition and fabulous location. Merry Christmas.

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