3 Ways to Get Outside in Austin This Fall

11/22/21  |  Carla Umlauf

One of the largest and most culturally rich cities in Texas, Austin is known for great food, great views, and keeping things weird.

One of the largest and most culturally rich cities in Texas, Austin is known for great food, great views, and keeping things weird. Austin is located in Central Texas and is home to lakes, rivers, and scenic waterways—all of which make an excellent backdrop for luxury real estate or a day out in the town.

Spend some time near the water

Barton Creek Greenbelt
is managed by the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department. The main attraction of Barton Creek Greenbelt is its many picturesque bodies of water.  A popular spot for adventure-loving locals, Barton Creek Greenbelt is used for recreational activities of all kinds year-round. When the rainfall is heavy enough, the creek rises to allow swimming, cliff diving, kayaking, and recreational tubing. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the park, Barton Creek Greenbelt offers caves to explore solo or on a guided tour. The hours of operation are typically 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.

Adults are invited to check out  Hippie Hollow Park—the only nude-friendly beach in Texas. The park features a steep and rocky shoreline with access to Lake Travis, and a “clothing is optional” policy. This is a popular spot amongst locals, and it’s important to note that while nudity is acceptable, lewd behavior is not. There are places to swim, but no lifeguards on duty—so exercise caution. No pets are allowed (with the exception of service animals). Swimmers are asked to exercise caution when near or in the water due to recent sightings of Zebra Mussels, an invasive species in Texas. The hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. If you want the tan without the tan lines, this is the place for you.

Lady Bird Lake is a river-like reservoir nestled on the Colorado River in Austin, with a surface area of about 416 acres. Currently, Lady Bird Lake is primarily used for recreation and flood control. The Austin Rowing Club offers a variety of rowing programs for youth and adult rowers, as well as kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals. EpicSUP and The Rowing Dock (located on the south shore of the lake) also offer kayak, canoe, and SUP rentals.


Take a trip to the park

Austin has no shortage of excellent green spaces to explore. St. Edward’s Park is an 80-acre park with dog-friendly trails, swimming, loads of lush greenery, small waterfalls, and ponds. St. Edwards also offers some fantastic mountain biking trails to explore.
McKinney Falls State Park is an excellent option in Austin for both camping and hiking. You can follow winding trails through the Hill County woods and explore the remains of a very old rock shelter, as well as camp, hike, bike, geocache, boulder, and picnic. Swimming and fishing is permitted in Onion Creek—but the waterway can flood after rainfall, so beware of the creek’s conditions before making a trip. There are 81 campsites in total, all with water and electric hookups. You can also rent one of six newly remodeled cabins.  Keep in mind that food, alcohol, glass, coolers, thermal bags, speakers or music in general, and Frisbees or any other sports balls are all restricted in the Upper and Lower falls areas of McKinney Falls State Park. Additionally, pets are not allowed in the water.  Visitors can also rent the group hall for a get-together, which has a full kitchen, an outdoor grill, and a seating area.
Zilker Park is largely considered Austin’s most-loved park. At 351 acres, this metropolitan park is home to a variety of recreational activities, facilities, and special events for families. There are three picnic sites and one shelter; a Zilker Playscape; a disc golf course; five volleyball courts open for reservation; the Zilker ClubHouse (open only for rentals); the Austin Nature and Science Center; the Barton Springs Pool; the McBeth Recreation Center; the Zilker Botanical Gardens; the Zilker Caretaker Cottage, and the Zilker Hillside Theatre.
Image credit: Felis Consulting

Visit some wildlife

Austin Zoo is a non-profit rescue zoo, located in West Austin. It’s an accredited zoo with accolades from the Zoological Association of America, with its mission being to help animals in need through rescue, conservation, and education. Austin Zoo currently occupies approximately 15 acres of land, with another 40 acres set aside for expansion.
If you prefer to see wildlife in its natural habitat, check out the Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve. Formerly named The Mayfield-Gutsch Estate, Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve is a historic college, garden, and nature preserve. It’s known for its beauty and serenity—with two acres of colorful cottage gardens, towering palm trees, brilliant peacocks, and delicate water lilies. Mayfield Preserve is the 21-acre natural area that surrounds the park, which contains walking trails and open wildlife habitats. The hours of operation are 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a garden open by reservation. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the state botanical garden and arboretum of Texas and features more than 900 species of native Texas plants in both gardened and natural settings. It’s home to several educational programs and events throughout the year. Most notably, the garden features bee-friendly plants, Central Texas Milkweeds, plants organized by Texas Ecoregion, Hummingbird Plants, Plants for Drought, and Wildflower Central. This is the perfect starting point if you are interested in wildflowers because it offers labeled displays of wildflowers and a multitude of photos. The hours of operation for the entire garden are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.

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