5 Great Places In Austin To Take Visiting Family (Downtown Edition)
Every family is different, but here are five downtown Austin locations that should entertain your out-of-state visitors.
Most of us, whether we were born here or moved here from somewhere else, have family members who have never been to Texas before, much less Austin. When they do eventually come into town, we certainly want to make sure they see the best out city has to offer. Of course, every family is different - not everyone is going to be able to take their parents to, say, The Jackalope, for example, and not get weird looks from them.
My parents are from Ohio - middle class and somewhat conservative but certainly not boring and always willing to try something new. So, here are five places I took them downtown that they really enjoyed and still got a sense of what Austin is like.
The Capitol Building of Texas. Source.
The State Capitol - 1100 Congress Ave.
One of the cool things about Texas is that it has a history that is so much different from any other state. It used to be its own country, for crying out loud! So, while a tour of the Capitol building of, say, Vermont (no offense, Vermont) may not seem all that fascinating (although it very well could be for all I know), a tour of the Texas State Capitol is actually filled with all sorts of fascinating information.
The free tour takes you throughout the different parts of the building and the well-trained tour guides splice in tidbits of Texas history in with the descriptions of the different areas. I took my parents on the tour one October before Halloween, where the tour content was peppered with ghost stories and myths surrounding the capitol.
You may also consider following it up, if they're around, with one of the many horse drawn carriage rides that take you throughout town. They can be a little pricey but you and your guests may learn a lot about the city you didn't know before.
Frank - Hot Dogs and Cold Beer - 407 Colorado St.
While you're downtown, you'll probably want to get something to eat. There's certainly plenty of Austin-ish places to grab a bite, depending on the tastes of you an your family. If you have some picky eaters in your group but you still want something unique, you can't go wrong with Frank. With a slogan like "Hot Dogs, Cold Beer", you know what you're going to get. But there's also so much more.
First off, any kind of hot dog you can imagine, they can probably make for you. They also have a wide assortment of bacon-infused products. From items like bacon flavored cookies to bacon infused vodka, if they can shove bacon into it, they probably did.
On top of that, they're also reasonably priced so, no matter who picks up the check, it won't cost an arm and a leg.
The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Source.
The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz - 320 6th St.
We listed the Ritz location because it was downtown but, really, any of the locations in Austin would suffice. Austin's signature chain of movie theaters is certainly no stranger to the pages of Austin.com - or anyone else, really. However, if your visiting guests haven't had the opportunity to catch a flick at a Drafthouse, you owe it to them to take them at least once.
The best part of the Drafthouse, among the many great things about them, is that at any given theater in town there is something eventually playing for everyone of all tastes. If your guests love giant blockbusters in 3D, they'll be able to see them in the highest quality projection possible. Are they more the art house type? Do they love classic movies? Campy B-movies? Weird cinematic misfits? Check, check and check. Do they not even like movies? How about music? The Drafthouse frequently screens special "sing-along" events with Hollywood musicals and music videos from different decades past.
Add to that the lack of pre-movie ads (save for trailers and entertaining promotional spots for the theater itself), comfortable seats, a full food and drink menu that's delivered right to said seat and a strict "no talking/no texting/no showing-up-late" policy (unless it's a special event that allows that sort of thing) and you'll be able to treat them to a cinematic experience they'll never forget.
Pete's Dueling Piano Bar - 421 E. 6th St.
We have no idea who Pete is, but we like his piano bar.
If you've never been to a "dueling piano bar" before, the concept probably isn't that far off from when you're picturing. Seats and tables surround a stage with two pianos sitting end to end next to each other. Two performers take a piano each and play classic piano rock tunes while contributing humorous (depending on your definition of "humorous") banter in between.
Piano bars of this ilk tend to draw groups out on the town - like bachelorette or birthday parties. However, Pete's not only puts on a good show, but they know how to keep the rowdiness to a minimum.
Congress Street Bridge Bats - Congress St. Bridge by 1st and Congress
Austin in known for many, many things: Live music. Laid-back hipsters. Homeless transvestites that run for mayor. It's also known for being the home of the world's largest urban bat colony in the world. That colony resides in the heart of Downtown Austin, just underneath the Congress Street Bridge that crosses Lady Bird Lake. You owe it to yourself and your guests to watch this amazing natural phenomenon in person.
For the majority of the year, the Congress Street bat colony leaves the confines of it's bridge home at sundown to head out to hunt (in the winter months, they've generally migrated to Mexico). It's hard to explain just what it's like to see this in person, so maybe this YouTube video will give you an idea:
The winter holidays may not be the best time to take your guests to see the throng of flying mice but it's still something that every Austin visitor should see at least once.
Where are your favorite places to take visitors from out of town? Share them with us in the comments below!