The Ultimate Trail to Tavern 3-Day Weekend in Austin

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Known for its live music, tacos, and outdoor recreation, Austin does many things well. On a nice day, which is pretty standard in Texas Hill Country, Austinites know how to spend a full day that’s equal parts exploration, exertion, discovery and indulgence.

Austin has countless options for ways to spend your days in the outdoors, be it on trails or patios, but do as the locals do and opt for both. Here’s our three-day itinerary pairing the best of Austin’s trails and taverns. Live like a local for a weekend, and even get out of town for a day. Either way, you really can’t go wrong in Austin.

Day One

The boutique Heywood Hotel is within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and nightlife.The boutique Heywood Hotel is within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and nightlife. vjlawson2001

No visit to Austin is complete without a visit to one of its many greenbelts. Kick off your trip at Barton Creek Greenbelt — 13 miles of winding trails along Barton Creek, through lush green forest, over protruding root systems and past red rock walls. If you’re visiting in hotter months, start your day early to avoid the heat that comes with a Texas Summer.

Pick up the trail at Twin Falls for a particularly great hike now that Barton Creek is once again flowing. The trailhead is at 360 and Mopac, just a couple miles from downtown, with a parking lot for easy accessibility. The trailhead lies at mile 4.75 of Barton Creek Greenbelt, with Twin Falls just a half mile down trail. You can also get to Sculpture Falls at mile 6.25. This is an out-and-back hike, so take on as much (or as little) distance as you’d like, though we recommend visiting both falls before turning back.

Once you’ve gotten your trail fix, an old school Austin establishment called Dry Creek Cafe & Boat Dock is calling your name. The cash-only bar has neither a boat dock nor a cafe, but it’s full of old Austin charm, characters, cheap beers, and a good ol’ country jukebox. The best part? The patio overlooking Austin’s Mount Bonnell.

As for dinner, head past Mount Bonnell (a great place to watch the sunset), before stopping by Laguna Gloria and Mayfield Park to see the beautiful live oak trees, peacocks, and gardens that are on the grounds. Then, grab a seat at nearby Draught House Pub & Brewery, showcasing a vast selection of local Austin brews and the city’s best food trucks, including Best Wurst on Mondays and Quality Seafood on Tuesdays. Insider’s tip: There are free brats every Saturday at 4 p.m.

When you’re ready to call it a night, get cozy at one of Austin’s most quaint local hotels: Heywood Hotel. Located on Cesar Chavez on Austin’s East Side, staying at Heywood gives you the opportunity to explore a different side of Austin before and after your daily field trips (if you feel so inclined). Boutique indeed, the hotel has just seven rooms in an old house that pair old Austin bungalow charm with minimalistic, but still well-dressed touches like artwork by local artists. And, it’s within walking distance of some of Austin’s most celebrated businesses.

Day Two

Breakfast at Mi Madre’s is a must.Breakfast at Mi Madre’s is a must. Matthew C. Wright

Today you’ll take advantage of one of Austin’s many waterways and partake in an old-school tradition: a trip down the Lower Colorado River. Whether you prefer a canoe or a kayak, you can rent one from Cook’s Canoes, an old-fashioned canoe livery situated on the Lower Colorado in Webberville, Texas, about 25 minutes east of Austin.

But first, breakfast tacos. Since you’re staying on the East Side, head to Mi Madre’s Restaurant** **on Manor Road for some of the best breakfast tacos in the city, all served on housemade tortillas. We recommend going a la carte, so take your pick and fuel up for a day on the water. You can’t go wrong with a #6 (potato and egg) or a #15 (carnitas, avocado, and cilantro).

From there, you’ll head toward Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which becomes FM 969 before arriving in Webberville at the livery. Like the days of yore, the old men who run the livery will load you into a yellow school bus, take you up river and let you paddle your way back. Opt for the 7 or 11-mile route that’ll give you a quiet, easy ride down a wide section of river, hugged by giant trees, green shoreline, and the occasional sand bar that makes for a good breaking point.

When you make it back to the landing point, swing by Live Oak Brewery in nearby Del Valle, which is about a twenty-minute ride back toward Austin. Find a seat within the rows of picnic tables under the live oaks and kick back with a house-made beer. They’ve got everything ranging from year-round, seasonal, and limited edition beers. Live Oak Brewery also hosts local food trucks so you’ll have the opportunity to sample some of Austin’s most well-known mobile cuisines. And, if you feel up for another brewery,Zilker Brewing Company is just a few blocks from Heywood Hotel and offers some of the best locally made beer in some of the best-designed cans.

Day Three, In-Town Option

The spring-fed Barton Springs are an Austin hot spot on a warm day.The spring-fed Barton Springs are an Austin hot spot on a warm day. Lars Plougmann

Before embarking on the day’s adventure, swing by Austin’s acclaimed Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin Boulevard. The long-time Austin establishment has one of the best patios in the city, incredible house-made coffee, and a wide selection of muffins, pastries and cheesecakes, always made in house.

From there, you’ll take on a section of trail in the heart of Austin. Ten miles of hiking and biking trails, known as the Ann and Roy Butler Trails, course through downtown Austin, edging along Lady Bird Lake and connecting Austin landmarks the entire way. Hop on the trail on the south side of the South 1st Bridge, heading west toward** **Zilker Park. This lakeside section is incredibly lush, shaded by giant trees, and runs parallel to some of Austin’s famous Barton Springs Road restaurants and bars.

Enjoy a leisurely two-mile walk along the lake to Zilker Park. Once arriving at the park, you can throw a blanket down and soak up the sun, toss a frisbee, or take a dip in the spring-fed Barton Springs , which is one of Austin’s most famous landmarks.

In the afternoon, head over to Rainey Street, which is one of Austin’s most celebrated neighborhoods. Once a residential neighborhood, the street is now a charming strip of old houses turned bars and restaurants. Grab an outdoor table at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, which has one of the best patios in the city and is a great place to cozy up after a day spent outdoors. Banger’s specializes in authentic German sausages and pints on pints on pints.

Day Three, Out-of-Town Option

The Jester King Brewery is well known for it’s sour beers.The Jester King Brewery is well known for it’s sour beers. Jester King Brewery

While Austin has much to offer within its city limits, locals frequent parks and waterside escapes outside the city, too. After all, Texas Hill Country is famous for its swimming holes. A local favorite is Krause Springs, which is about 40 minutes outside of town in Spicewood, Texas. Since you’ll be heading outside of town, plan to leave Austin in the morning and to spend high noon at the springs.

As you enter the 115-acre plot of land, you’re first greeted with a butterfly garden that just begs for a stroll. The property is registered on the National Register of Historic Places, so the entire place has a quirky vibe. There are 32 individual springs to enjoy, and you’ll find locals sprawled out on towels, swimming, and enjoying the shade of the towering cypress trees. Find real estate on one of the giant, water-smoothed rocks, lay out a towels and some snacks and let the day float by.

Head back toward Austin before sunset, but first stopping by Jester King Brewery for one of the brewery’s famous sour beers. Rows of picnic tables are lined up beneath gnarly live oak trees with antique chandeliers hanging from their curly limbs. Kick back in the shade of the tree and prepare for a wild sunset over the country horizon. As for dinner, order a salad and made-from-scratch pizza from Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, which shares the property with Jester King. And, perhaps, opt for another round of sour brews. Note: Both Jester King Brewery & Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza are *only *open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

If you find yourself up for one last nightcap, we suggest a rendezvous at Whisler’s. Also on East 6th, the eccentric bar features a fantastic backyard, creative cocktails and an interesting atmosphere… antique mirrors, an old bathtub, and a mezcal bar upstairs. But be forewarned: The oranges are dusted with crushed crickets *not *sugar. We speak from experience.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

Featured image provided by Johannes Schneemann

Not All Pumpkins Get Carved: Best Pumpkin Ales Under $10

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We like beer – all kinds of beer: lagers, porters, stouts, IPAs, hefeweizens… and even pumpkin ale. Or should we say especially pumpkin ale! Maybe it’s the cinnamon or maybe it’s the sugar rush, but nothing gets us in the spirit like a frothy pumpkin ale and a handful of chocolate covered pretzels. With a sophisticated palate and very complex criteria (Is it under $10 for a six-pack? Does it have a cool label?) we snagged a selection of pumpkin ales from the local grocery store and set up a tasting in the office. Some ales squashed the competition while others left us a little woozy in the gourd. But don’t take our word for it, celebrate Halloween (and the end of daylight savings!) with a six-pack of pumpkins. If you need a few suggestions, here’s what we sampled: 

Pumpkin Ale, Saranac Brewery ($5, 32oz growler)
Fun fact about pumpkin ale: It was the first beer brewed in the US, brewed by a patriot named George Washington. So it’s only fitting that one of America’s oldest breweries is keeping the tradition alive and well. Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale is a classic blend of cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger. And 3,000 lbs of mashed pumpkin. It’s bubbly and festive and comes in a growler – so you know you’re in for some fun even before you crack it open.

Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Brewing ($9.50)
Sometimes you CAN judge a book by it’s cover. We picked up Pumpkinhead because of its killer headless horseman logo (and it has roots in Maine, just like us), and were pleasantly surprised by the equally killer beer inside. A light beer that tastes like a pumpkin pie, this crisp beer will sneak up on you (9% ABV). Strong cinnamon flavors with a sweet finish mean you’ll want to revisit this one after the tasting. Just keep your head on.

Fall Hornin, Anderson Valley Brewing Company ($8)
With a sweet Halloween-y logo and the convenience of a can, Fall Hornin had bonus points right off the bat. Malty, nutty and just a hint of hops, this pumpkin ale was more ale-y than pumpkiny. No major dissenters, but not a huge standout either. Easy to drink and great with corn nuts. And did we mention that it comes in a can?

Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Half Moon Bay Brewing Co ($5, 22oz bottle)
A crowd favorite, this craft beer is bottled pumpkin pie. It smells like a Thanksgiving kitchen and tastes like a pecan pumpkin pie. In fact, if we didn’t know any better we’d think this was brewed and barreled in an actual pumpkin… nope, just made with more than 600 pounds of locally grown and roasted Sugar Pie pumpkins in Northern California. It’s a little on the pricey side, but there’s a lot of bang for your buck in this amber ale. Trust us, it’s a little slice of heaven.

KBC Pumpkin Ale, Kennebunkport Brewing Company ($6)
Ok, KBC Pumpkin Ale isn’t winning any awards for “Best Pumpkin Flavor” any time soon, but that’s a good thing in some people’s books. Crisp and spritely, this light beer isn’t overly flavored but still has a little seasonal zip to it. And at $1 per beer, you can’t beat the price.

Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale, Mendocino Brewing Company ($7.50)
Carmel in color and in taste, the Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale is another beer that gets points for a subtle pumpkin flavor. In fact, it’s more on the chocolatey side. But after a few pumpkin spice samples, the coco is a welcome flavor. A nice hoppy finish tickles our fancy and reminds us that the “ale” component in pumpkin ale is still going strong.

Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider, ACE Cider ($3, 22oz bottle) 
If you can’t wait for the holidays to eat a pumpkin pie, then let the Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider tide you over. But be forewarned, this baby is sweet. Tasting like a liquified apple cider donut, we don’t know how pumpkiny this pumpkin cider is, but we aren’t complaining. Strong notes of cinnamon and champagne-like bubbles complement the apple cider base, and if you drink enough you’ll probably taste a few pumpkins too.

Not a bad Monday at the office, but we’re sure we missed some good ones. Tell us your favorite pumpkin beer – ’tis the season! 

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