We have all heard of it, everyone is moving there, songs are written about it… Austin, Texas!
Over Thanksgiving my family and I went to Austin. I have a cousin who lives there and he can’t rave more about what a wonderful city it is! With two kids, 5 and 7 years old, we were looking for a good balance of sightseeing and family-friendly activities.
The Hotel: Westin – Downtown Austin
We stayed at the Westin in downtown Austin. The location of the hotel was central to many of the the places we planned to visit. Being a Starwood member with Westin allowed us to upgrade our room to a suite for a comfortable stay in a new city.
I recommend renting a car when you visit…unlike other cities, like New York or DC, a lot of this city is best accessed by cars or ride-share services. Majority of the things we saw were a driving-distance away.
For those of you who have read my previous travel diaries, you’ll notice I like to recommend my favorite vegetarian spots.
The Eats: Uchi and Counter Culture
Uchi was a fantastic spot for both food and ambiance. Don’t be fooled by its label as a sushi restaurant, chef Tyson Cole whips up many delicious vegetarian dishes. Uchi’s dishes come both in the form of sushi and others variations! My personal favorite was the nasu sushi…..I’m still dreaming about it! This dish was a succulent eggplant dish that literally melts in your mouth. This restaurant is not necessarily family-friendly but our kids enjoyed themselves nonetheless.
Another restaurant I would recommend is Counter Culture. We came upon this restaurant on our drive back from the grotto (which I will touch on later). It was a small vegan restaurant with a quaint feel. The food was absolutely fantastic — they were able to mimic regular restaurant food with vegan replacements….it’s always a great feeling to know you can eat everything on a menu! Unlike Uchi, this was a much more causal spot. Don’t leave without trying their nachos!
A MUST stop is Lake Travis. While I didn’t find the vegetarian food at the Oasis to be all that great, the views were simply breathtaking! We had a family sunset dinner on their outdoor terrace which made for a beautiful family memory…I would highly recommend this stop if you have time!
Family Friendly Activities
Because we were with our kids, we enjoyed doing a variation family friendly activities. Some that stood out were the bat cruise, canoeing Lady Bird Lake and paying a visit to Westcave Canyon and the Grotto.
The bat tour takes you beneath the bridge that is home to thousands of bats. If you take the sunset tour, as we did, you can see hundreds of them flying in and out. Needless to say, both adults and kids delighted to see the hustle of nature as it integrates with man-made architecture. As city dwellers we don’t get a lot of time to connect with the great outdoors so this made for a fun stop!
We took the kids canoeing at Lady Bird Lake – which is a clean and crystal clear body of water. The kids loved spotting turtles and fish all in their natural habitats. My husband and I spent most of our time doing the rowing, but the kids loved pitching in every now and again. Not a bad workout, honestly!
Finally we went to Westcave Canyon. They provide guided tours to the infamous “Grotto” (pictured below). This beautiful natural occurrence made for a beautiful sight and great teachable moment for our kids. Our guide was knowledgeable and respectful about nature, serving as a role model for our children. The hike there was easy enough for a 5 year old and the end result….seeing the Grotto, was the cherry on top! A must-visit, but make sure you call and book in advance!
“Keep Austin Weird” is a common phrase throughout the city. This is likely in reference to its diverse array of activities and food, enough to entertain populations from children to adults. I would venture to add “Keep Austin awesome!”
I would highly recommend this beautiful city for a great family trip! See where else we have wandered here.