Skip the Streets, Hang Glide
A trip to a city like Austin can be the perfect chance to check something off your personal to-do list. Like going hang gliding! The high-flying thrills at Fly Texas makes the 45-mile drive to Luling a breeze. Make it a day trip. A half-day introductory hang gliding lesson includes a thorough briefing, training on their outdoor ground school and a total of five training runs. This is a real thrill! Locals can kick it up a notch and sign up for a Beginner Package, which includes 20 flights on the training hill and, in the end, Hang 1 Certification. All classes are taught by U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association-certified instructors.
Skip the Hotel Pool, Swim the Preserve
This is a Texas watering hole at its best. Hamilton Preserve is a natural pool, the product of underground erosion millennia ago. There’s a sweeping grotto and a waterfall that spills some 50 feet. The area is also home to lush forest and rare flora. Get here by taking a ¼-mile hike from the parking lot, which is run on a one-exit, one-enter policy. Hamilton Pool is about 30 miles west of Austin. The day fee is $15 for cars and $8 for pedestrians and cyclists, with discounts for military personnel and seniors. Check the Travis County Parks website for the latest pricing, as well as swimming conditions.
Skip the Bar, Sip at the Winery
Don’t limit your libation research to the spirits at any of the great downtown bars. Wine country is thriving near Austin, with the Hill Country wine trail stretching west from Austin to a variety of wonderful small towns. Driftwood is an easy day trip – 30 to 40 minutes from Austin. At Driftwood Estate Winery, you can sip on award-winning viognier while overlooking the vineyards below; at Duchman Family Winery, the stunning Mediterranean-inspired scenery is worth a visit. If you travel to Fredericksburg, where the burgeoning wine scene is helping to drive tourism up, make a night of it and stay at a B&B. Located 75 miles west of Austin, it’s “like being in a modern day Mayberry,” Ms. Georgianna says, “with wide sidewalks and historic brick buildings that are now home to art galleries, boutiques and local artisan shops.”
Skip the Golden Arches, Dine at the Truck
Volumes can be written about the flourishing food scene in Austin. Barbecue is an experience. Fusion is alive and well. And organic, locally sourced ingredients reign supreme. For a local, one thing’s for sure: “We DO NOT eat at chain restaurants in Austin,” adds Ms. Georgianna. “We have plenty of famous local chefs (including Paul Qui) and some amazing food trucks.” Those food trucks remain the way many locals enjoy a meal. Navigating the landscape – more than 1,000 are said to roam the city – can be overwhelming, but always rewarding. “There are new ones popping up weekly,” says Leslie Reeves, a business development manager out of Travelzoo’s downtown Austin office, and an Austin native. “It can be difficult during prime times -– lunch, dinner –- and Saturdays are most definitely the worst. If you want La BBQ, expect to wait 30 minutes during the week and up to two hours on the weekend. But don't worry, they offer complimentary beer for the trouble. And the food is worth the wait.”
Skip the Highway, Drive the Speedway
Located in Kyle, about 20 minutes south of Austin, the Central Texas Speedway can make for an exhilarating family outing. The high-powered go-carts here can reach speeds of up to 65 mph and the basic package allows you 10 laps around the oval, 3/8-mile track. You can upgrade, of course, and all-day passes are sold Fridays and Saturdays. Each race session includes classroom instruction and all your gear, headsock included.
Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features a bevy of local deals in Austin at http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/Austin/deals?tz_cs=HPV1.