Travel Guide: Austin, Texas
Last month we traveled to one of our favorite cities: Austin, Texas. When we used to live in College Station, we were only about a 2-hour drive away so we would frequently visit to get our Whole Foods fix and enjoy the plethora of outdoor things to do in the Texas Hill Country.
That was back before 2012 and it had been over 5-years since our last visit so things have changed quite a bit since then. Austin has grown leaps and bounds but still manages to preserve its authentic culture and natural beauty. I was especially happy to see how much the plant-based movement has grown since our las visit. We were barely able to scratch the surface of all of the incredible vegan options!
Where We Stayed
Although there are a number of great hotels to choose from in Austin, we tend to lean towards vacation rentals as they have multiple sleeping spaces which we find to be he most ideal setup when traveling with our toddler. This particular Airbnb is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath above-garage apartment that is modern, comfortable, and conveniently located in the central part of Austin. We especially loved the quiet neighborhood and would definitely recommend this as an affordable option for small families.
Where We Played
Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail
Austin’s Hike & Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake is easily one of the best highlights of the city. Spanning a total of 10-miles, the trail loops the entire length of the lake and is well maintained throughout. We parked and rented bikes from Barton Springs Bike Rentals & Tours which is conveniently located across the street from the trail. They offer kid’s seats or trailers, as well as electric bikes if you want to extend your ride beyond the trail. Or, if you’re not up for biking, walking or running the trail is just as fun.
Kayak or SUP on Lady Bird Lake
We had plans to rent a tandem kayak one day during our trip but unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate. However, we have been kayaking on the lake in the past and it’s a great way to spend the day in Austin. For easy access, you can usually find parking at Zilker Park and walk to the Rowing Dock to get your kayak or stand up paddle board.
Also located in Zilker Park is one of Austin’s brightest gems, Barton Springs Pool. Covering nearly 3-acres, the pool is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, making it perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. The daily entree fee is $9 for non-residents.
If you happen to be there when it’s not quite hot enough for a full-on swim, the dog park directly next to the pool is the perfect area to wade in while you watch the pups play. It’s free of charge too!
Even though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Austin, there are actually a lot of great trails to explore nearby. During our most recent visit we did the Greenbelt Trail to Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls, however the falls were bone dry. I’m talking just rocks, not even a trickle!
This was the only trail we did because we were limited on time and the weather was only nice for a few days but here’s a few more I had on my list:
- Turkey Creek Trail (many creek crossings; dogs can be off-leash)
- Hill of Life (rocky steps & mostly uphill; fun place to swim)
- Red Bud Isle (leads to a big off-leash dog area as well)⠀
- Bull Creek Trail (out-and-back trail alongside a creek)
- Tom Hughes Park (on Lake Travis)
Alliance Children’s Park
We visited a total of 3 parks during our most recent visit and were blown away by how nice each one was. If you only have time for one of them, Alliance Children’s Park is brand new with a great view of Austin and a splash pad that little ones love.
Mueller Lake Park
Directly across from Thinkery (see below), this park is set around a beautiful lake featuring ducks, a playground, and open grassy areas that are perfect for a picnic. We enjoyed one of our (many) desserts alongside the lake and proceeded to get swarmed by ducks and pigeons, ha! But we loved strolling the paths here as it’s a great way to get your steps in.
Pease District Park
This park was walking distance from our Airbnb and is another great option to visit. We loved how green everything was and there is even a cute little food truck selling snow cones and coffee.
Here’s a few more parks that we didn’t have time to visit but hope to next time:
- Walnut Creek Metro Park (playground, trails and swimming pool)
- Covert Park at Mount Bonnell (hilltop park, great for watching the sunset over the city)
Similar to a children’s museum, Thinkery is designed to provide interactive exhibits that foster creative thinking and learning for children of all ages (up to 11 years). Be sure to call and see if you plan on visiting during a time when field trips are scheduled as we were bombarded with hoards of grade school children when we were there. They actually let us come back the next day so that we could avoid the crowds but it was still too busy to be able to enjoy everything they had to offer.
Exactly what it sounds like, Toybrary is like a library but for toys! Local members can pay a monthly fee to be able to come and check out toys as they please. I loved this concept and wish we had something similar in Athens.
In addition to checking out toys, they allow free play where you can pay a one-time drop-in fee which is what we did. Grant had a blast playing here and didn’t want to leave! I would say it is best for young children as the available toys and play space seem ideal for up to 4 or 5 years old.
Where We Ate
This food truck has a super hippie vibe and offers what I would consider more whole-food plant-based options. They are very passionate about sea moss, something I had never heard of before eating here. We tried a few of the tacos (the tempeh brisket with spelt tortilla was top notch) and the sea moss gel which was…interesting. Definitely not something I would order for the taste but the flavor was tolerable. It’s one of those things I would get again solely for the health benefits. ;)
A visit to Austin wouldn’t be complete without picking up a juice or a smoothie from JuiceLand. I tried their matcha latte which was good but I recommend skipping the coconut oil as it overpowered the matcha. We also went back for smoothie bowls after our bike ride which really hit the spot on a warm afternoon.
With two locations in Austin, Honest Mary’s is a fast-casual restaurant with build your own grain bowls. I love that they source ingredients from local farms and offer organic tofu as a protein option. I could see us eating there on the regular if we lived in Austin.
Located in the northern part of Austin, Big Nonna’s serves up some of the best vegan pizza and garlic knots I’ve ever had. With super creative toppings like beeteroni and a crispy crust that is utter perfection, it is definitely worth the 15-minute drive from downtown. Just a heads up: don’t expect them to have soft serve ice cream when you get there. It is listed on their website but it seems that they haven’t had it since Sweet Ritual went out of business in 2021. :/
This adorable vegan wine shop and deli specializes in gourmet vegan cheese. Swoon! They even encourage you to try samples of the cheese as they offer a monthly cheese club and deliver nationwide.
Everything we tried was incredible but the pimento cheese really stood out for me. My sandwich consisted of aged brie, crispy hand-cut pig-less bacon, caramelized onions, peppery arugula, and sweet fig jam on a local baguette. Chef’s kiss. 10/10 recommend.
Live music. Drinks. Burgers and chick’n sandwiches. What more could you ask for?
Sunny’s is definitely not the healthiest place to eat in Austin but indulging in one of their fried chick’n sandwiches is more than worth it. It could easily go toe-to-toe with a Chik-fil-A sandwich. So much flavor and the texture is perfection. Go get you some!
I’m going to go ahead and say these were the best vegan breakfast tacos we had in Austin. Brandon got the breakfast sandwich which was also banging. Oh, and the banana bread they sell there is off the charts good. Definitely worth a visit when you’re in Austin.
Directly next door to Tellus Joe, the Beer Plant offers a succinct but flavorful menu and a variety of creative beverages. I got the eggplant parmesan and a scrumptious cocktail that I thoroughly enjoyed. Overall a nice spot for a relaxing dinner.
Located in the heart of downtown (with two more locations coming), The Well gives off California vibes with it’s health conscious, paleo-inspired menu. Serving brunch, lunch and dinner you can come here for a nutritious meal any time of day. We opted for brunch and while there aren’t a ton of vegan options, what we did have was flavorful and filling.
Voted best vegan burrito, the Vegan Yacht is located inside of a vegan market and serves up delicious dishes like frito pie, chili dogs and vegan queso. Made with organic tempeh chili, the frito pie is must try, and you’ll be able to pick up goodies for dessert at the market.
We stop at Bouldin Creek Cafe every time we visit Austin because we love it so much! Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they have an inviting patio and serve up some of the best vegetarian eats in the city. Some of our favorites include the potato and leek omelet, grilled vegan blueberry cornbread, the B.L.T.A. and the vegan BBQ plate. But there are so many great options on the menu, you can’t go wrong.
Another spot we love to visit on repeat, Casa de Luz focuses on whole-food plant-based cafeteria-style meals in a tranquil garden setting. There is only one option on the menu which includes soup, salad, and a main plate featuring a variety of legumes, grains and vegetables. This allows them to serve wholesome organic food at an affordable price while also reducing food waste. It’s just a lovely, peaceful place and the food always leaves me feeling happy and nourished.
This bright and airy health-conscious cafe is a great stop for a plant-based brunch, lunch or dinner. We’ve been here several times and have enjoyed the variety of food and tasty drinks that they offer.
Although this cafe is located a bit far from downtown it is 110% worth the trip. The croissants are perfection and the kolaches absolutely blew me away. Plus, you have to try a kolache when you’re in Texas because it’s a thing there so why not go for an incredible vegan version?
I’m usually more of a soft serve ice cream kind of gal but this was some of the best scooped ice cream (errr..regular ice cream?) that I’ve ever had. The flavors were so creative and SO DELICIOUS. I’m still dreaming about it. Plus, in addition to ice cream, they have a nice selection of drool-worthy gluten-free baked goods. Gati is a must visit, whether you’re vegan or not.
After learning that Sweet Ritual had closed, I was on a mission to find vegan soft serve elsewhere in Austin. While this isn’t exactly soft serve, the texture is close enough and it was fun to try a different style of ice cream. Basically, you they take regular scoops of ice cream (they offer both dairy and dairy-free options) and process it with fruit to make a swirled ice cream that is sort of like a soft serve.
As someone who is matcha obsessed, it was only naturally that I had to see what this Magick Matcha truck was all about and I’m so glad I did. The menu is super fun and creative with plenty of different ways to enjoy your matcha. We tried the house specialty (the blue Magick Matcha) and the strawberry matcha (AKA the Pink Dream) and they were both scrumptious. I would go back here in a heartbeat!
Voo Doo has some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Period. The vegan options felt a little limited this time around but still so good and worth the indulgence.
While we didn’t get to visit the storefront, Zucchini Kill Bakery goods can be found in many of the vegan restaurants around the city. We picked up these vegan + GF cream coffins (think Twinkie) at Sunny’s Backyard and they were really good. Grant actually gobbled them up so fast I almost didn’t get a bite! ;)
Thanks for letting me share our trip to Austin with you! If you have any Austin favorites you’d like to share please leave them in the comments below. xoxo