The easiest course is staying on at the Fling hotel so you can walk or cab/rideshare to nearby destinations. Another option, especially if you're planning to rent a car to explore a little farther afield, is to switch post-Fling to a hotel outside of downtown. For example, the charming Lone Star Court, located in the Domain mixed-use development in North Austin, is today showing rates of $179-189 for the days after the Fling. I've done it both ways myself -- staying put or switching hotels -- and it really just comes down to what works for your budget and what you plan to see during your extra days.
But the real question is, how will you choose what to see? Austin has so much going on -- the music scene; beautiful parks, trails, spring-fed swimming holes, and lakes; museums for art lovers and history buffs; and the cultural dynamism that happens in a city composed of hippies and hipsters, artists and musicians, high-tech entrepreneurs, 50K university students, and a seasonal swarm of state capital workers and politicians -- and we're located right on the edge of the picturesque Hill Country, where roadsides bloom with wildflowers and towns settled by German and Czech immigrants beckon tourists looking for laid-back and friendly Texas charm.
Here are my top picks for local attractions and fun day trips.
Good eats: Find our friend Sheryl's distinctively Austin restaurant picks here. And here are our downtown restaurant recommendations.
|Shops on South Congress|
watch them emerge each night in a black cloud and begin their nightly mosquito- and moth-hunting. You can watch them at sundown from the west side of the bridge or below along Lady Bird Lake, or take a bat-watching cruise to watch from the water.
Esther's Follies: Need a good laugh? Catch a live show at Esther's Follies, a mix of modern-vaudeville musical numbers, political satire, and hilarious (and a little naughty) magic acts. The theater faces a wall of windows overlooking 6th Street, pulling passersby into the acts. Sit at the front and you'll likely get pulled in too. Make a reservation to be sure of getting a seat, and go enjoy this beloved Austin theater troupe.
Texas Capitol: The domed Texas Capitol building is an Austin icon, and whatever your politics it's a cool place to visit if you enjoy history and architecture. Tours are free.
|Texas State Capitol|
LBJ Presidential Library: President Lyndon B. Johnson's history is preserved at the LBJ Presidential Library near the UT campus, just north of downtown.
Blanton Museum of Art: The Blanton is one of the largest university art museums in the country. Located north of downtown on the UT campus. Closed on Mondays.
Go Play Outside, Nature Lovers
|Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake|
Barton Springs Pool: This marvelous, 3-acre, spring-fed swimming pool is the heart and soul of Austin. Locals flock to Barton Springs Pool all summer to cool off in the 68-degree non-chlorinated water, but even in winter (when the water feels warmer than the air) dedicated swimmers will be out there doing laps. Go dip your toes just to say you did, or bring your suit and go for a refreshing swim. Closed for cleaning on Thursdays.
|Mount Bonnell view of Lake Austin|
Mount Bonnell: You'll need a car to get here, but the view from Mt. Bonnell is worth it. Tucked in a cliffside neighborhood of high-end homes with killer views is a parking area at the base of a long set of stairs up the hillside. At the top you'll enjoy a sweeping view of Lake Austin and the iconic Pennybacker Bridge.
Hamilton Pool: One of the most beautiful hiking/swimming spots in the Austin area is at a collapsed grotto called Hamilton Pool, about an hour west of Austin. A 50-foot airy waterfall spills over the lip of the gigantic collapsed cave ceiling into a circular pool, which is open to swimmers, conditions permitting. It's a fairly easy hike around the pool and also out to the Pedernales River. Because of overcrowding, in the warmer months (like May) you'll need a reservation to enter, so plan ahead and reserve well in advance.
See Texas! A Day-Tripper's Guide
|Wildseed Farms poppy field|
Vineyards and wine-tasting rooms line the route, and just before you reach Fredericksburg, you'll see Wildseed Farms on your right. Stop to photograph their wildflower farm fields and check out their nursery and retail store while you're there. You can easily spend a couple of hours in Fredericksburg exploring the main street shops and restaurants. At the town's National Museum of the Pacific War, established in the boyhood home of Admiral Nimitz, you'll find a Zen-style Japanese Garden of Peace. If you have time, push on about 20 minutes north on RR 965 to see Enchanted Rock, an enormous pink granite dome rising above scrubby ranch land.
|Antique Rose Emporium|
|Garden at Magnolia Market|
Go South: Remember the Alamo! History lovers as well as garden lovers will find plenty to do in San Antonio, about an hour and a half south of downtown Austin. Head south on I-35 to visit San Antonio Botanical Garden, the Alamo, the famous River Walk, and Pearl, a fun and beautifully landscaped mixed-use site with shopping and restaurants built around the old Pearl Brewery. On the way there or back, detour to tiny Gruene (pronounced Green) for old-fashioned Texas charm with a handful of unique shops, wine tasting rooms, the Gristmill restaurant, and an authentic dance hall where -- if you're lucky -- a Texas swing band will be playing.
|Hibiscus at San Antonio Botanical Garden|