In December 2006, my family and I got a chance to explore Austin, Texas. We took the weekend off to hit some of our favorite Austin sites, review Lone Star RV Park, stay at a friend’s ranch, and golf at Lakeway.

First, we stayed in Lone Star RV Park, which is about 10 miles south of Austin on Interstate 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.

Austin’s Warehouse District

Austin Warehouse District

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 trendier, more expensive, and caters to an older crowd than Austin’s other hot spot, 6th street. It’s an upscale cousin to 6th street and the majority of the fun spots are located between Congress and Guadalupe and 3rd and 5th streets.

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’Reillys 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.

Austin Warehouse District

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

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.

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

This relatively new museum has an Imax theater, Texas Spirit Theater, museum store, and three floors of Texas history exhibits. At the museum, you can start on the bottom floor and wind your way clockwise on each subsequent floor while experiencing 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. And it’s all very well done. Entrance pricing is $3 to $5.50 plus the cost of the Imax and/or Texas Spirit Theater.

Fun Facts I Learned at the Texas State History Museum

If you find learning fun, I highly recommend the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. These are just a few of the facts about Texas I learned at the museum:

  • In 1528, Indians occupied Galveston
  • In 1690, the Spanish built the first mission, Mission San Francisco, in what is now Houston
  • In 1821, the Mexican government allowed immigrants from the US to settle in what was then known as Tejas (south central Texas today)
  • In 1836, Texas had its first election when Sam Houston won with 5,119 votes
  • In 1888, the Texas state capital was completed
  • In 1894, oil was discovered in Corsicana
  • In 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 was used to buy military supplies
  • In 1901, the Spindletop oil well shot oil 100 feet into the air, thrusting Texas into a new era
  • In 1903, Texas produced 99 percent of US rice crop
  • Until 1930, pine was the state’s chief manufacturing activity
  • In 1940, Texas was the number 2 producer of quick silver (mercury) for vapor lamps, insecticides, and thermometers
  • In 1969, Texas and Houston gained recognition when Neil Armstrong said “Houston, the Eagle has landed”
  • In 2000, Texas became the second largest populated state at 22 million people
Texas state capital

Austin Children’s Museum

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 and children up to 10 years old. The museum was designed to be both educational and fun. The staff is outgoing, helpful, and wants to make each kid’s visit a learning experience. Kids under 10 will enjoy this much more than the Bob Bullock Museum.

Austin's children's museum
Austin's children's museum

6th Street Is Ready When You Are

After spending the majority of the day at museums, we were ready to party. For that reason, we headed to 6th Street.

6th Street in Austin

You haven’t experienced Austin until you’ve 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.

This iconic Austin avenue really starts jumping around 12 pm when all the college students are ready to party. Restaurants, bars, tattoo parlors, and other off-the-wall shops line both sides of 6th Street. 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 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 Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar (one of our favorites) until you find the band that meets your taste;
  • UIf you didn’t make reservations earlier, see if you can get tickets to one of the shows at Ester’s Follies. Their shows feature biting hilarious satire. If you really want to have fun, stand outside the front window and you and the actors may become part of the show.
  • 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.
6th Street Austin
6th Street Austin

Some of our other favorites near 6th Street include Stubb’s BBQ (okay 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, but don’t feed the turtles from their patio).

It can be difficult to find a parking spot near the action, so we usually park a few blocks away from 6th Street and bike along Waller Creek. That way, we can skirt around 6th Street.

Other Fun Weekend Activities Near Downtown Austin

Some other fun things to do near downtown Austin include:

  • Zilker Park for a ride on the Zilker Eagle.
  • Rent a canoe and paddle Town Lake, or enjoy the hike and bike trails.
  • Go on a picnic and play disc golf, or go for a swim in Barton Springs Pool. After 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, Both have excellent country music venues.

Saturday night and Sunday morning, we stayed at a friend’s 1600-acre ranch in the Austin hill country about 15 miles north west of Austin. What a beautiful spread with two magnificent houses and outstanding views! They had two swimming pools, a stream and pond, outdoor pavilion, and a 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.

activities near downtown austin
more activities near downtown austin

Golfing in Austin, Texas

After four wheeling around the ranch, we headed over to Lakeway to play the 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 reviews 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. Attractions include:

  • Great restaurants – You can eat anything you want and a lot of the restaurants have outstanding patios for outside dining.
  • Scenic beauty – You can’t beat the Austin hill country, the majestic views, and celebrity multi-million dollar homes. Try the Oasis at sunset high on a bluff overlooking Lake Travis to get a feel for the hill country.
  • Outstanding music (Austin is the Music Capital of Texas) – Some of our country music favorites 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.
  • 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 in Austin before you leave Texas. Visit Texas Outside’s Discover Texas and Guide to Austin to learn more about hotels, restaurants, night life, golf courses, and much more.

Mike Sharp
Author: Mike Sharp

I have a passion for travel and outdoor activities, and now I'm enjoying retired life. I will continue my traveling, golfing, boating, and enjoying life all across the great state of Texas.

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