Get lost in Austin

Locals and tourists enjoy the cold waters of Zilker Park's Barton Springs Pool. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

By Sarah Jennings, Reporter

Located only an hour-and-a-half south of Waco by way of I-35, Austin holds a high rank on any student’s Baylor bucket list.

“Austin is diverse, it’s fun and it’s quirky,” said Waco senior Anna Jane Riehl, who interned in Austin this summer. “Take a walk downtown and you’ll see everyone from businessmen and state government workers to college kids to hipster chic Austinites.”

For an out-of-state student or first-time visitor, planning a day trip to such a diverse city can be overwhelming. There are dozens of top 10 lists, but few take into account driving time and prices. This article seeks to provide an itinerary for students who want to check off touristy hotspots while also retaining a spunky, spontaneous theme to their Austin excursion.

1. Begin the day on Guadalupe Street, also known as The Drag, right next to the University of Texas. Breakfast at Kerbey Lane Café provides a good meeting place, although parking may be difficult. Pro-tip: park at the nearby Drifter Jack’s Hostel and walk to the café. Afterward, explore the shops or the UT campus. The University of Texas tower and surrounding campus is certainly worth a selfie. But remember: Sic Em Bears forever.

2. Next, head to Castle Hill Street for crazy, ever-changing graffiti and a beautiful view of Austin that includes the Texas Capitol. Only a few blocks away lies the largest Whole Foods Market, which is popular for its unusual foods and delicious samples. Garage parking is free beneath this huge grocery store. Depending on taste, students may choose to make Whole Foods a home base to explore such Austin stores as Waterloo Records, Amy’s Ice Cream or BookPeople.

3. It’s time to discover the great Austin outdoors now. People can choose from a variety of hiking and swimming areas like the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Zilker Park or the Boardwalk Trail on Lady Bird Lake.

Taken from an overlook off a Zilker Park trail, the Austin skyline is reflected in the waters of Town Lake. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

“I love Barton Springs. That’s probably my favorite memory of Austin,” said Houston senior Kelsey Petrie. “The water is freezing cold year-round. It’s really relaxing. There’s trees and people hanging out, yet it’s right in the center of the city. So you can still hang out in the city, but don’t have to drive very far to it.”

The Barton Springs Pool is located within Zilker Park, a 358-acre park within the city. This is the perfect location for a quick disc golf game, trails around Town Lake, kayaking and paddle boarding rentals, Zilker Botanical Gardens, and even nighttime entertainment. Riehl said she saw “Hairspray” this summer at the Zilker Hillside Theatre.

4. Start winding down on South Congress Avenue. This classic Austin spot is a one-stop shop for unique restaurants, shops and a view of the downtown skyline. Any street parking will do. This street was made for walking and window-shopping. Popular restaurants are Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Home Slice Pizza and Magnolia Café. Don’t miss Jo’s Coffee, home of the popular “I love you so much” mural.

5. Just before sunset, make sure to stake out a spot on the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin to watch the bats take off eastward over Lady Bird Lake. Hundreds of people gather over this bridge between March and October. Kayaking and paddle boarding below the bridge is also an option. Keep in mind, these are wild animals. They don’t always fly out at the scheduled time. Call the Bat Hot Line at (512) 327-9721 and plan to be there 30 minutes before that time. Free parking is best found on the South First Street Bridge and along Riverside Drive.

6. Close out the night with music. Venues are abundant, so the best way to find a free and intimate concert is to Google specific venue’s websites.

Traveling to the 360 Overlook obligates pictures after the short hike. Photo credit: Rebecca Flannery

A well-planned day trip can work in one distant attraction, too. Research the 360 Bridge Overlook, Mozart’s Coffee, The Oasis on Lake Travis or the Hamilton Pool Preserve to make the most of the drive.

Whatever happens during the week, know that Austin is a short drive down the highway waiting to be explored on the weekend.