Austin is a mixture of old hippies, high techies, nature lovers, artists and musicians. But most of them will agree that the following ten activities are among the most enjoyable the city has to offer.
Hit the Lake Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail The Hike and Bike Trail on Lake Lady Bird (formerly Town Lake), located on the south end of downtown, is a monument to Austin's dedication to fitness. Whether you jog, bike or just walk, there are a variety of routes you can take, going up to 10 miles in length. The trail is frequently improved and expanded and there is even a multi-million dollar pedestrian bridge to spare everyone the danger of getting out into traffic.
Swim at Barton Springs Located in the middle of Zilker Park, not far from downtown, Barton Springs provides a welcome relief from those punishing Texas summers. The pool here is 1,000 feet long and stays a refreshing 68 degrees.
Climb Mount Bonnell Since this limestone formation is 785 feet above sea level, the stair climb to the top is not for the dedicated couch potato. But the views of the Austin skyline, lakes and surrounding countryside are unparalleled.
First Thursday on South Congress There is a stretch of South Congress (called "SoCo" by recently-arrived hipsters) between Riverside and Oltorf which is filled with a mix of shops, bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, motels and apartments, both the cheap and funky and the chic and pricey. On the first Thursday of every month South Congress turns into a street festival. Businesses stay open until 10pm, musicians busk on the sidewalk, the air is thick with patchouli oil and the smells of cooking food and a good time is generally had by all.
Watch the Bats The Ann Richards Bridge (formerly Congress Avenue Bridge) connects downtown with South Austin. It is also the home to roughly 1,000,000 bats. Crowds gather in the summer at about 8:00 pm to watch the bats fly out from under the bridge in their nightly hunt for insects.
South By Southwest This convention, held every spring, focuses on the film, music and interactive worlds and brings together artists, techies and journalists to the city from all over the world. It also pumps a huge amount of money into the local economy. Many residents plunk down several hundred dollars to get passes to see their favorite shows or attend meetings and addresses.
Austin City Limits Music Festival One of the nation's most popular music festivals, this three-day event is held in Zilker Park every September and attracts tens of thousands of fans to hear a world-class line-up of over one hundred bands.
Party Downtown--Sixth Street/Red River/Warehouse District Austin's entertainment districts are located downtown, all within easy walking or staggering distance of each other. The famous Sixth Street is popular with college students and out-of-towners. Red River is favored by music fans. The Warehouse District caters to a slightly older, more prosperous crowd.
Alamo Drafthouse Sure it offers a full dinner menu and alcoholic beverages. Sure it has four locations. But it's the programming here that is to movie lovers what smack is to junkies: exploitation film nights, movie/food pairings, important sneak previews and speakers, director showcases, festivals, comedy, kids' shows, film marathons, sing-alongs--this local chain has it all.
Graze Whole Foods The Whole Foods supermarket chain is based in Austin and its 80,000 square-foot flagship store is a joy for the hard-core foodie. In addition to the great grocery selection, you can spend a profitable few hours eating at various separate stations and counters devoted to cheese, seafood, barbecue, pizza, juices, baked goods, Italian food, global cuisine, salads, noodles, candy, teas and coffees, soups, desserts, greens, sandwiches and much else besides. Eat inside or out on a terrace bisected by a man-made stream.