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Experience Austin Like A Local: Your Ultimate Guide to Nature, Food, and Fun

In the swirling dust of my rearview mirror, I see the skyline of Austin, Texas, the city I've called home for the past two and a half years. It's a city that has touched me with its character, shaped my journey, and inspired a deep sense of belonging. I have sought its hidden gems, savored its iconic flavors, sun baked under its wide Texas sky, and experienced the diversity of its heart.

As I prepare to venture onto new paths, I can't help but feel compelled to pay forward the myriad experiences this city has bestowed upon me. This is why I've meticulously curated this comprehensive guide—an ode to my time in Austin—dedicated to enabling you to experience the city just as I have: as a local.

Here, you'll not only find an exhaustive list of my favorite spots in Austin but also a free, downloadable quick guide itinerary to ensure you relish the city in its true essence. This is not just a tourist's check-list; it's a deep dive into the heart of Austin as someone who knows and loves the city dearly.

Image of Lili standing in front of colorful murals painted on walls in Austin
Murals are the colorful backdrop of every neighborhood in Austin

A Culinary Journey through Austin: From Dawn till Dusk

One of my greatest passions in life, and a cornerstone of Movement Calling, is the exploration of food and flavors. Being a vegetarian in a city renowned for its meaty feasts could have been a challenge. But Austin, in its eclectic charm, cateres an abundance of diverse and delectable options for consious eaters. From nourishing smoothies to late-night cravings, the city never disappoints for all foodies to enjoy.

Morning Rituals

In Austin, the day begins with a touch of local flavor, and you have three delightful options to kickstart your morning.

Option 1 is a revitalizing juice or smoothie from homegrown gems Soup Peddler or JuiceLand, two local favorites renowned for their wholesome concoctions. Not just your average juice bars, these spots serve thick, nutrient-dense beverages designed to energize your day and nourish your body from the inside out.

Refreshing smoothies from Juiceland, perfect for Austin's warm climate

If it's a hearty breakfast you're after, Option 2 is your go-to: breakfast tacos at Joe's or Royal Blue. These aren't just any tacos - they're an iconic love letter to Austin's culinary spirit, packed with flavor and wrapped in tradition.

And last but not least, Option 3 is for the coffee connoisseurs. If your morning doesn't start until you've had that first sip of coffee, make your way to Desnudo Coffee. They serve a brew that's both robust and nuanced, the perfect pick-me-up as you start your day. Immerse yourself in these morning rituals amidst the vibrant hum of Austin, and you'll feel like a true local.

Mid-day Bites

Austin's culinary scene truly shines in its embrace of diverse cuisines. Revel in the city's love for Tex-Mex at Velvet Taco and Torchy's Taco, both famous for their innovative and delectable taco varieties. For a plant-based twist on this classic, head over to The Vegan Nom, a beloved food truck offering vegan-friendly tacos that even carnivores rave about. Don't forget to try the innovative tacos at Nixta Taqueria and the mouth-watering selection at De Nada, both places you'll find me at on any given day.

A taste adventure with Velvet Taco's innovative tacos and Vegan Nom's plant-based offerings

Health enthusiasts are well-catered for in Austin. Visit Casa de Luz for a set menu that changes daily, offering macrobiotic, ayurvedic meals that are as nourishing as they are delicious. Rebel Cheese is a haven for artisanal vegan cheese boards and plant-based deli sandwiches

A gourmet vegan experience at Rebel Cheese and authentic plant-based meals at Casa De Luz

No guide to Austin would be complete without mentioning barbecue. Although I'm vegetarian, my partner Waseem is a regular at KGBBQ, La Barbeque, and Rolling Smoke. He swears by their slow-cooked meats, which are tender, flavorful, and smoked to perfection. Austin's barbecue scene is renowned, and these two places are the top spots according to my trusted source.

Evening Eats

As the day transitions into night, Austin's culinary scene comes alive. Kemuri Tatsu-ya, an innovative Izakaya-style restaurant, combines Texas smokehouse with Japanese cuisine to produce an unforgettable dining experience. For a taste of Italy, visit Il Brutto, known for its fresh pasta and Neapolitan pizzas. For Mediterranean flavors, Aba is a must-visit, with its delightful array of flavorful dips, spreads, and deliciously charred kebabs. Suerte and Hestia, with their well-crafted menus and vibrant atmospheres, round up my list of favorite late-night eateries.

A feast for the senses at Hestia, Il Bruto, and Aba

Every eatery on this list encapsulates a piece of Austin's soul and serves it on a platter. These establishments are renowned for their well-crafted menus that offer a range of dishes that are as innovative as they are delicious. With a vibrant atmosphere that captures the spirit of Austin's night scene, each of these spots are worth reserving a table at to savor the best of what Austin's culinary scene has to offer.

Austin's City Beats: Must-Do Activities

Beyond its culinary delights, Austin is a city of unique experiences waiting to be explored.

When Austin's heat hits its peak, there's no better place to cool off than the natural spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Nestled within Zilker Park, it's a local favorite and a great spot to soak up some Austin vibes while floating in the refreshing water.

Barton Springs bustling with sunbathers and swimmers under a clear blue sky
A sunny day at Barton Springs, the perfect spot for a refreshing swim

The Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk presents a serene space for walks amidst picturesque views. This 10-mile trail loop is adored by locals and tourists alike, offering an escape from the city's hustle and bustle without having to leave Austin's heart. Here, you can jog, walk, or bike while observing the cityscape, the glistening lake, and the variety of wildlife that call this habitat home.

The tranquil Lady Bird Lake, a popular spot for walking and paddleboarding

If you're up for a bit more action, rent a paddleboard or kayak and glide across Lady Bird Lake. The calm waters make it a perfect activity for beginners and experienced paddleboarders alike.

Image of Lili kayaking on the calm waters of Lady Bird Lake
Lili kayaking on Lady Bird Lake

A day out in Austin is incomplete without visiting Zilker Park. Pack a picnic, throw around a frisbee, or simply lounge around in this expansive green space.

Take a walk from Congress to South Congress to explore the SoCo shopping scene. It's filled with a mix of eclectic boutiques, vintage shops, and trendy eateries, making it a vibrant and essential part of the Austin experience.

Exploring Austin's iconic landmarks: The Texas Congress building and the bustling SoCo shopping street

As dusk descends, get a glimpse of Austin's quirky side by watching the world's largest urban bat colony take flight from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. This unique spectacle happens every evening from late March to early fall, as 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats leave their roost in search of food. It's a sight that encapsulates Austin's harmony with nature and its endearing eccentricities.

Lastly, end your evening experiencing Austin's lively music and stand-up comedy scene at its many live performance venues. Known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," the city is a hotbed for a wide range of music and open mic performances. No Austin visit is complete without immersing in its soulful music and laughter-filled comedy shows, echoing the city's vibrant and playful spirit.

Lili and Waseem soaking up the energetic vibe at an evening concert

Each of these unique experiences allows you to truly live Austin, offering distinctive ways to connect with the city's vibrant culture and rich natural landscapes. Here, you don't just visit— you immerse, savor, and become a part of the city's rhythm.

Active Austin: Your Fitness Hotspots

Now, let's dive into the heart of Austin's bustling fitness culture, for this wouldn't be a Movement Calling guide without it! If you're an exercise enthusiast, you're in for a treat. Whether you're a devout yoga practitioner or an adrenaline-chasing fitness buff, Austin has a workout haven tailor-made for you

First up, my all-around favorite gym: Squatch Fitness. With its warm, inviting atmosphere and lively community, it's not only the perfect place to work up a sweat but also an excellent spot to meet fellow fitness lovers.

Now, if you’re looking for something truly unique, Lift ATX is a must-visit. Stripped of frills but bursting with a raw, palpable energy, it's earned a spot in the hearts of Austin's fitness community, and the quirky nickname 'the jail gym'. It's hard not to fall in love with its no-nonsense, all-business approach to fitness.

Yogis, your calling awaits. Whether you're seeking physical challenge, mental calm, or spiritual growth, Austin's yoga and wellness scene is as diverse and dynamic as the city itself. CorePowerYoga, my sanctuary, challenges and uplifts with its dynamic YogaSculpt classes. Practice Yoga is an oasis of tranquility nestled away from the urban hustle, offering a restorative retreat for your mind, body, and soul. 3rd Eye Lounge, an integrative health sanctuary, enriches your wellness journey with an extremely diverse offering of body and mind classes.

RIDE Indoor Cycling is not just a fitness studio, it's a party on wheels. Packed with infectious energy, motivating instructors, and music that gets your blood pumping, every class is a joyous celebration of fitness and fun.

Finally, for the outdoor walkers, joggers, and bikers, there’s no better place than the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail. With a picturesque path tracing the shimmering Lady Bird Lake, it's the city's finest outdoor trail.

Experiencing the beauty of Austin's outdoors at the Roy and Ann Butler trail

Each of these spots contributes to Austin's diverse fitness scene, offering something unique for every kind of workout lover. Embrace Austin’s fitness spirit and try these places out - your body and mind will thank you!

Around Austin: Half-Day Escapes within an Hour's Reach

Sometimes, the greatest adventures are found beyond the city’s hustle and bustle. Less than an hour's drive from Austin, you'll discover an array of natural treasures that offer a refreshing change of pace.

For the hikers and creek bashers, out there, a half-day trip to Sculpture Falls is in order. Tucked away in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, this secluded waterfall rewards your hiking efforts with serene surroundings and the calming lullaby of cascading water.

Image of Lili standing at a vantage point above Austin's lush Greenbelt
Lili taking in the breathtaking views from Austin's Greenbelt

There's no better way to enjoy the Texas outdoors than by immersing yourself in the cool, spring-fed waters of Krause Springs in Spicewood. With waterfall, rope swing, butterfly gardens, and even a man-made pool, this privately-owned oasis warrants a dedicated day to leisurely explore its tranquil beauty.

The captivating Krause Springs waterfall and natural pool, a true gem of nature

If you can get the coveted reservation, dedicate a part of your trip to experiencing the breathtaking spectacle of Hamilton Pool Preserve. This naturally formed pool with a 50-foot waterfall is a testament to the unexpected surprises nature has in store. The jade-green water under the glistening sun promises a day of relaxation and awe-inspiring views.

When the Texas heat gets really impressive, you can escape the heat by going underground. Delve into the hidden subterranean world at Inner Space Cavern. A spectacle of Mother Nature's artwork etched into limestone over millennia, this underground marvel in Georgetown offers a guided tour you won't soon forget. Your adventure amidst ancient stalactites and stalagmites will have you in awe of the mysteries that lie beneath our feet.

Exploring the mesmerizing limestone cave at Inner Space Cavern

And of course, a trip to Austin's outskirts would be incomplete without a visit to Lake Travis. Whether you're into boating, visiting the shops and resturants, or simply unwinding by the water, setting aside a day for this reservoir on the Colorado River is a must. Watching the sun set over the lake's vast expanse is a soul-soothing experience to round off your day.

The azure waters of Lake Travis offer plenty of fun activities on and off the water

Each of these destinations deserves a dedicated half-day visit to truly appreciate what they offer. So, why wait? Start planning your Austin outskirts escapade now!

Your Austin Adventure, Your Way

As I sit here on the eve of my last day in Austin, it feels bittersweet. This city has been my home, my playground, and my inspiration for the past 2.5 years. Austin has filled my days with delicious food, vibrant workouts, urban adventures, and endless memories. It's the place where Movement Calling truly came to life, and now, it's time for me to pass the torch to you.

Throughout these years, I've discovered hidden gems, local favorites, and secret spots that make this city such an incredible place. It's in these experiences, in every bite, every trail, every sunrise and sunset over the Texas landscape, that I have built the essence of Movement Calling.

And that's what this guide is about. I've poured my Austin experiences into this ultimate guide, a culmination of my time in this vibrant city, to help you make your own memories here. From tantalizing food scenes to invigorating workout spots, peaceful parks to bustling urban trails, you'll experience Austin through my eyes, and hopefully, find your own love for this city.

This is my farewell to Austin, a city that has brought so much joy into my life. As I embark on my next adventure, I leave you with this guide, a tribute to my time here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Austin is rapidly changing, growing, and reinventing itself. That's part of what makes it such a vibrant and exciting place to be. For the latest recommendations and updates, be sure to check my Out Of Office profile. I continually update it with new findings and experiences, ensuring you always have the freshest, most authentic insights into Austin's life.

Safe travels, and remember, your adventure is a story waiting to be written. I can't wait to hear about your experiences. Share them in the comments below or through email, so we can keep the spirit of Austin alive, together. Here's to the adventures that await you in this beautiful city!

Happy Austin Exploring!




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