A few weeks ago a friend messaged for travel recommendations to Austin. Her friend was staying downtown on a trip in from Ohio, and looking for must-do things on his 24 hours in town. I realized as I compiled a list of special places for him to visit, most of them were in the Austin Coloring Book.
That was the beginning of the Austin Coloring Book Travel Guide. I may be biased, but the Austin Coloring Book doubles as an excellent list of places for first-timers and locals to enjoy again and again. If you're artsy, pack up the coloring book, some colored pencils, and color your way through, as you visit these local gems as well.
The Town Lake Trail is, for many people, the heart of Austin. The ten-mile trail that loops the Colorado River/ Town Lake, passes many of the spots in the Austin Coloring Book. First on the list is the Austin Boardwalk. The boardwalk is a 1.3 mile stretch of waterside elevated trail, along a south section of the river. If it were up to me, I'd recommend parking near Cidercade Austin.
Bring roller-blades, a bike, or some walking shoes. Head east on the boardwalk, snap photos of beautiful city-skyline views, soak up the sun, and enjoy the company of plenty of smiling dogs and Austinites. When the boardwalk ends, loop back around and return to Cidercade Austin for lunch, video games (if that's your flavor) and a mouth-watering selection of ciders, kombucha and wine on the waterfront patio.
COLORING SPOT: The Austin Trail Foundation sponsored beautiful benches for rest along the boardwalk. Designed and fabricated locally, these are the perfect spot to pull out your coloring supplies.
Much of the year in Austin is warm to hot, making water recreation options plentiful! Enjoy the town like a local. Hit up Lady Bird Lake on a kayak, canoe... or my personal favorite: A paddle board. I usually head west to the Rowing Dock, although there are plenty of rental places to choose from. On a beautiful weekend, the lake is full of happy people paddling up and down glittering waters.
If you have the budget to rent a board or boards for a few hours (and enough arm muscle), paddle east to the Four Seasons Hotel and shell out for a fancy desert/drink on Restaurant Ciclo's patio. No worries, they'll happily serve you in your swim clothes, but don't forget to tip! (Fun fact: I used to work at this restaurant when it was named Trio between 2011 and 2013.) If you're in a more low-key mood, just past the hotel is the Waller Creek Boathouse. Nab a sandwich and enjoy it on their waterfront patio: Alta's Cafe.
COLORING SPOT: I get it... you won't be bringing a coloring book onto the lake with you. But there are plenty of shaded, gorgeous scenic bench views along the trail that are begging to be your next coloring spot after you dry off from water time.
South Congress Avenue (or SoCo as affectionately coined by locals) is a vibrant Austin neighborhood that boasts some of the best food, drink, funky shopping, and people-watching in Austin. If you're here for work AND play, Jo's Coffee is an excellent place to set up for both. Grab espresso, a breakfast taco, and scope Austin characters pass by the eclectic patio.
If you're an Austin first-timer, snap a photo of the iconic "I Love You So Much" mural on the north facing wall. The legend goes one of the owners casually sprayed the message for her partner with the attention of painting over it. It became loved by the neighborhood, and remains a highly sought after photo spot to this day. My "I Love you So Much" sticker is an ode to this spot. After filling up and getting some work done at Jo's, enjoy vintage shops, local artists, book stores, and much more as you stroll down South Congress.
COLORING SPOT: After you're done working at Jo's, go across the street to Amy's Ice Creams. Get their iconic Mexican Vanilla, mashed up with your favorite ingredients. Color the Jo's Coffee Shop page of the Austin Coloring Book with the perfect view from Amy's patio tables.
Save the best for last. I'm not much of a "touristy-tourist." I largely prefer blending in with locals, rather than doing the stuff travelers do. That said, this is one tourist attraction everyone should do at least once.
Austin's South Congress bridge, just north of the iconic strip, is home to 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tail bats. Each evening between April and October, they come out at sunset for their nightly feeding. We took my 7 year old nephew this past Spring, and it was by far the highlight of his Austin visit.
My favorite viewing time is at the end of June. All the mother bats have had their babies, and the nightly show is at its peak. The best place to watch (in my opinion) is down-stream from the bridge behind the Four Seasons hotel along the trail. You can get a great sense of the size of the "bat cloud" from their patio lawn. That said, other popular options are watching from above on the bridge itself, booking a bat tour, or watching from the Austin American Statesmen Observatory point (extra points for the ice cream truck here says my nephew.)
COLORING SPOT: This coloring book page originated from a photo I took behind the Four Seasons Hotel on a make-shift dock that used to be in the water. I'm not sure the dock remains, but sitting along the trail and facing upstream to the bridge is one of my favorite views.