Not too long ago, we had the opportunity to take a quick trip to Austin, Texas on the same weekend as the Austin City Limits festival. The bad news: we had the kids in tow. Austin City Limits (ACL) is billed as an “End of the Summer” music festival which takes place in Zilker Park, the Central Park of Austin. Drawing acts from around the world, it ranks as one of the top music festivals in the nation. Being from Chicago, I had visions of Lallapalooza-size crowds and not the most kid-friendly atmosphere (i.e. drunks wandering the streets). However, despite its unofficially tag line to “Keep Austin Weird” we were pleasantly surprised to find lots of kid-friendly (and adult-interesting) activities.
We were lucky enough to stay with family in the area saving us both money and lending their local know-how to the trip, but if you aren’t that lucky, hotels are plentiful, but book in advance, especially if there is a festival in town. The downtown Austin area had all the major chain hotels while many boutique hotels can be found in South Austin.
The South Congress Area, located just past Lady Bird Lake, named for the former First Lady, is a great spot to get a flavor for the local people who are working hard to keep the unique, artsy vibe to one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. This area’s great mix of unique restaurants, boutiques, and independent shops kept not only the adults happy, but also the kids.
You can smell the leather of Allens Boots a store-front away and this huge store is filled with every type of cowboy boot imaginable, including ones emblazoned with the orange T of the University of Texas. Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, there are plenty of family-friendly eating options including Home Slice Pizza, where they give the kids pizza dough to play with while waiting for their food. Once you’ve filled up on pizza, be sure to check out the Big Top Candy Store, an old-school candy store filled with nostalgic, old time candy favorites and unique candy from Texas and beyond.
During the warmer months, the largest urban population of Mexican Free-Tailed bats hang out under the Ann Richard’s Bridge. Around dusk, these bats leave the bridge to feed for the evening. While normally this sounds like an area to avoid while 750,000 bats coming flying out of one spot, visitors and locals alike swarm to the spot to watch the bats take flight every night. You can take a boat tour which cruises Lady Bird Lake until they take off and then position themselves directly under the bridge (BTW, bats stink!) or watch from above on the bridge.
For history buffs, the Bob Bullock State History Museum is just a few blocks from the state capitol and tells the story of Texas from the Native Americans to today. Also scattered around the city are signs of the city’s revolutionary past, which laid the groundwork for this city’s independent spirit. Replicas of the “Come and Take It” cannon which figured prominently in the Texas war of independence from Mexico and the “Come and Take It” flag depicting the cannon, the Lone Star and slogan, appear all over the city’s shops and galleries.
While we never made it to the ACL grounds, there was plenty to keep us busy and enough to hope for another trip to Austin soon. The independent cowboy spirit mixed with an artist’s soul makes Austin the perfect place for everyone in your travel party. To book your trip to Austin or for more information, contact your favorite travel agent at Favorite Place Travel or call 404.409.4174.