Sure, Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World and the city has a rep for being weird, but there’s more to one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Here’s an itinerary for a day’s worth of outdoor and foodie fun in the bat city.
7:00 A.M. Mount Bonnell & Mayfield Park
Go to Mount Bonnell in Covert Park about twenty minutes before sunrise. Mount Bonnell is considered the highest point within Austin City Limits, but don’t worry about breaking a sweat to reach its top. After you park, there’s only about 100 limestone stairs to hike up. Pro Tip: Use the Accuweather App to find out what time the sun will rise on the day you’re going.
Right after the sunrise, head over to Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve. It’s a 2-minute drive from Mount Bonnell. At the preserve you can spend a peaceful morning watching peacocks put their strut on in the garden. Fish swim about in various ponds throughout the garden. We were there in October, so we didn’t get to see the peacocks with their full plumage, but it was still a fun visit. Good to Know: No pets allowed.
11:00 A.M. (Or Way Earlier) Franklin's BBQ
Eat lunch at Franklin’s BBQ. Order the brisket. Yes, the ribs, turkey, and sausage are all delicious too, but order the brisket. I’ve loved brisket for 20-years and I’ve eaten many great briskets, but I don’t think I’ve ever had better than Franklin’s. It’s peppery and tender and falls apart just right. In regular times, prepare for a line. People have been known to start lining up as early as 8:00 A.M. for a taste of Franklin’s.
Due to the pandemic, when we visited, the dining room was closed and pre-orders were required. If you can, place your order a few days ahead. There’s a three-pound meat minimum on pre-orders, so you might want to bring friends, or a cooler along. It took us two days to finish our food. Even though it was fantastic on day one, the brisket tasted even better on day two (warmed in the oven).
2:00 PM SoCo and Amy's Ice Cream
Walk along South Congress, or SoCo as the locals call it. Then, cool down with Amy’s Ice Cream. Founded in Austin, Amy’s is considered an Austin ice cream institution for good reason – it’s super delicious. They have 350 flavors in rotation. Each location carries a small selection. Viva La Variety. We tried Ghost Face (Oreos, strawberries, and brownie bits in vanilla ice cream) and Pumpkin with KitKats mixed in. Both were heaven in a cup! There are several locations throughout the city, but we recommend going to the one on SoCo, because it puts you near the day’s next adventure. Take a post-ice-cream-eating stroll over to Lady Bird Lake. Play frisbee in the park, or walk the Lady Bird Lake Trail.
5:00 P.M. Sunset & Bat Watching Kayak Tour
You read that right. 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed bats call the underside of the Capital Avenue Bridge home between late March and October. It’s North America’s largest urban bat population and each evening, as the sun sets, they fly out from beneath the bridge to go on their nightly hunt. There are several ways to watch the bats, but for optimal watching and a bit of exercise, we recommend taking the Capital Cruises Sunset and Bat Watching Kayak Tour. Pro-Tip: They have secured lockers available, so you can bring a bag with a change of clothes for after the kayak cruise.
8:00 P.M. Dinner on Congress
Walk along Congress Avenue and find someplace to dine and drink like Corner Restaurant and Bar. It’s about a three-minute walk from the bridge. Try a Jalapeno Hibiscus Margarita or an Electric Jellyfish IPA and order up some modern Texas cuisine. Their menu is inspired by the five corners of Texas. We tried the House-Made Zucchini Cornbread, Roasted Squash & Farro Salad (chopped kale, pumpkin seed, pickled grape, miso sesame vinaigrette) with Grilled Chicken, and the Crispy Chicken Sandwich (jalapeno cheddar bun, tomato, avocado, queso campesino, pickled red onion, jalapeno aioli). All were delicious and satisfying.
What sort of things do you love exploring when you travel? We’d love to know! We’re in the middle of our Living in 12 Cities in 12 Months adventure, putting together videos on our channel to help fellow travelers.