- August 25, 2014

17 Ways To Have A Blast In North Austin


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Some people in Austin think the lands north of US 290 and RM 2222 are dull and uneventful. Some south Austinites even deride the north as another city entirely.

To some of these folks, north Austin is the place to live if you can’t handle the “real” Austin vibe native to 6th Street, South Congress, and Guadalupe. While it’s true that there are no world-renowned music festivals held in north Austin, and the characteristic Austin “weirdness” does run a bit thin the farther north you travel, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a blast after driving past downtown.

To those ends, here’s 17 activities that prove north Austin is worth exploring! Not all of these are exclusively north Austin experiences, but that doesn’t make them any less great.

Have a barbecue feast at The Salt Lick or County Line

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The Salt Lick’s mighty grill. Photo: Flickr user Anthony Quintano, creative commons licensed

Like every good Texan, you probably dream of pork ribs, brisket, and coleslaw—or you at least catch yourself drooling over them now and then. There’s no better place to scarf down a melt-in-your-mouth barbecue feast than in the Texas Hill Country and North Austin is no exception. County Line BBQ on the Lake and Round Rock’s Salt Lick are two of North Austin’s most popular barbecue haunts.

The Salt Lick: 3350 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665. 512-386-1044. Open Sun-Thurs 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

County Line BBQ (on the Lake): 5204 Ranch Rd 2222. 512-346-3664. Open Sun-Mon 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tues-Thurs 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

Sip java at Genuine Joe, Circa 13, or Cuppa Austin

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Mmmmm coffeeeee. Photo: Flickr user Jeremy Keith, creative commons licensed

North Austin has its very own array of quirky coffeehouses. Genuine Joe and Epoch Coffee – Circa 13 are located on W Anderson within half a mile of one another, while Cuppa Austin infuses the community along W Parmer with mocha-y cheer. At Genuine Joe, order a Java Rocket or Bananarama for a tastebud explosion. Circa 13 boasts a wide range of wonderful teas, pizzas, and more, but it’s their high-quality coffee that will make you feel like royalty. If you’re in the mood to mix things up, head to Cuppa Austin and try their new “Cafe Fizz” coffee, or order an affogato for an espresso-drowned ice cream delight.

Genuine Joe: 2001 W Anderson Ln. 512-220-1576. Open Mon-Fri 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat-Sun 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Live music on Saturdays 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., open mic on first Thursdays 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

Epoch Coffee – Circa 13: 2700 W Anderson Ln. 512-351-9731. Open daily 7 a.m. to midnight (kitchen 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with various extended hours). Website.

Cuppa Austin: 9925 W Parmer Ln. 512-382-6729. Open Mon 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tues-Fri 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Website

Climb like a monkey at Austin Rock Gym

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A man climbing at an indoor rock gym. Photo: Flickr user Aimee Custis, creative commons licensed

The delight of Austin climbers everywhere, the insanely popular Austin Rock Gym in South Austin has a lesser-known North Austin counterpart. Located on N Lamar, the North Austin Rock Gym is all about bouldering, which is a fancy term for the act of climbing short inverted walls without ropes and harnesses. Once you get over your fear of falling—the mats are soft, promise!—bouldering can provide an excellent full-body workout.

8300 N. Lamar, Suite B102. 512-416-9299. Open Mon-Fri 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Website.

Enjoy the great outdoors

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Walnut Creek is a popular spot for mountain bikers. Photo: Flickr user Bruce Turner, creative commons licensed

One of the major perks of living on the outskirts of a huge metropolis is having more opportunities to enjoy nature. If you’re looking to spend a day outside, try exploring the Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt along N Capital of Texas Hwy or heading up to Lake Georgetown to enjoy the 28-mile San Gabriel River (Goldwater Loop) hike and bike trail through protected wilderness.

Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt: 6958 Old Spicewood Springs Rd or 7806 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. 512-477-1566. Open daily sunrise to sunset. More information.

Lake Georgetown: 500 Lake Overlook Dr, Georgetown, TX 78633. 512-930-5253. Open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. More information.

Cool off at Blue Hole

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A young swimmer enjoying the cool water. Photo: Flickr user Ryan Shaneberger, creative commons licensed

No, not the Blue Hole in Wimberley—we’re talking about the swim-friendly lagoon in Georgetown. North Austin’s own Blue Hole is a part of the south fork of the San Gabriel River. Many a daring (*cough* intoxicated) soul has been fined for jumping into the pool from the tempting 30-foot limestone cliffs that border one side of the swimming hole, so just stick to swimming and wading unless you’re ready to shell out some cash to good old WilCo.

Blue Hole Park, 2nd Ave and Rock St, Georgetown, TX, 78626. 512-930-3595. Open sunrise to sunset. Free. More information.

Nom an organic pie at Promise Pizza

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Promize Pizza in Round Rock. Photo: Rebecca L. Bennett, Brave Bird Photography

You know what they say: when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… it better be organic! Promise Pizza is a fantastic pizza company with two locations throughout North Austin: one on AW Grimes Blvd in Round Rock and the other on Research Blvd in Great Hills. Thanks to Promise’s commitment to using only organic and natural ingredients, you won’t find a pizza anywhere that’s easier on your stomach or more pleasurable for your taste buds. Vegan and gluten-free patrons welcome! 

Round Rock: 1500 S A.W. Grimes Blvd, #410, Round Rock, TX 78664. 512-674-2642. Open Mon-Thurs 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri-Sat 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sun 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Prior Austin.com coverage. Website

Great Hills: 10225 Research Blvd, #110. 512-345-7592. Open Mon-Thurs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri-Sat 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sun 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

Make it an Alamo Drafthouse night

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Alamo Drafthouse’s sign. Photo: Flickr user Bruce Turner, creative commons licensed

If you’re a movie mood, Alamo Drafthouse is the way to go, people. Where else can you watch old school cartoons and classic short films in a cushy seat that you reserved online two weeks ago, all whilst enjoying a cool adult beverage? And that’s even before your feature film actually starts!

Lakeline: 14028 U.S. 183. 512-861-7070. Anderson: 2700 W Anderson Ln. 512-861-7030. Showtimes vary. General admission after 6 p.m. $10.50 ($13.50 for 3D), matinees $7.75 ($11.25 3D) with discounts for children 11 and under, seniors, college students, military personnel, Austin Film Society and Austin Film Festival members. Website.

Watch the bats beneath the McNeil/I-35 bridge

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McNeil Rd & I-35 overpass bridge. Photo: Rebecca L. Bennett, Brave Bird Photography

Just before sunset, park your vehicle at NAPA Auto Parts and stroll over to the I-35 overpass bridge on McNeil Rd to see something amazing. The only thing better is going to Batfest on the South Congress bridge.

601 N I-35 Frontage Rd, Round Rock, TX 78664. Free. Prior Austin.com coverageMore information.

Drive down Hairy Man Road at night

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There’s actually an annual Hairy Man Festival in Round Rock. Photo: Flickr user JD Hancock, creative commons licensed

There’s a road in Round Rock that’s creepier than most. It’s not any particular element in the landscape that chills North Austinites to their very bones. No, it’s the legend of a crazed hermit who attacks anyone foolhardy enough to stray into his territory after dark. Hairy Man is his name, for he is said to be covered head-to-toe in coarse, dark hair. Could Round Rock have its very own Bigfoot? That remains to be seen…

Hairy Man Rd starts on Sam Bass Rd and parallels Brushy Creek west all the way to Walsh Dr, where it turns and leaves the creek behind. More information.

Cheer your heart out at Dell Diamond

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Round Rock Express home games are held at Dell Diamond. Photo: Flickr user Jeff Kramer, creative commons licensed

Believe it or not, Round Rock has its own Triple-A minor league baseball team called the Round Rock Express. The team practices and plays home games at the Dell Diamond on US 79 (also called Palm Valley Blvd). Tickets are reasonably priced and games are usually fairly lively, with record attendance being 13,475 for a game against the New Orleans Zephyrs in 2006. When baseball takes a break, Dell Diamond is a favorite venue pick for North Austin concerts, expos, and festivals.

3400 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665. 512-255-2255. Game times and dates vary. Ticket prices range from $7-30 based on seating selection. Website.

Defy gravity at iFLY Austin. 

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iFly Austin. Photo: Flickr user Shannon, creative commons licensed

iFLY is an indoor skydiving facility that has been helping Austinites’ high-flying dreams come true since 2013. The facility’s 14-foot 1600 horsepower wind tunnel apparently mimics that whole free falling through space and time feeling without actually dropping brave souls hundreds of feet through the air at terminal velocity. No parachutes required!

13265 N Hwy 183. 512-774-4359. Rates vary based on experience level and desired number of flights. Website.

Buy stuff at the Arboretum, Lakeline Mall, or the Domain

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The Domain shopping center. Photo: Flickr user Peter French, creative commons licensed

Never let it be said that North Austin doesn’t have amazing shopping opportunities. The Arboretum, the Domain, and Lakeline Mall house enough stores, food vendors, and fun activities to keep you busy for weeks!

The Arboretum: 10000 Research Blvd. 512-338-4755. WebsiteLakeline Mall: 11200 Lakeline Mall Dr, Cedar Park, TX 78613. 512-257-8500. WebsiteThe Domain: 11410 Century Oaks Terrace. 512-873-8099. Website. All three malls open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sun 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Take on the water slides and adventure course at Hawaiian Falls

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A goggled boy swims with a floatie. Photo: Flickr user Emran Kassim, creative commons licensed

Schlitterbahn schmitterbahn! Okay, maybe that’s taking things a little too far. Schlitterbahn New Braunfels is awesome and a lot of folks think of it as the best water park in the world. However, Pflugerville’s brand new Hawaiian Falls water park has two advantages over Schlitterbahn: (1) Hawaiian Falls is quite a bit closer in proximity to Austin, and (2) Hawaiian Falls features a sizable adventure course, complete with a zip line, 45 low to high ropes course challenges, a 36-foot rock wall,  a 30-foot rope ladder climb, and a seven-story free fall!

18500 N SH 130 SVRD SB, Pflugerville, TX 78660. 512-270-6967. Ticket prices vary based on age and other factors. Website.

Journey to the center of the earth at Inner Space Cavern

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Inner Space Cavern. Photo: Flickr user tony, creative commons licensed

If you’re out painting the town in North Austin, you might as well strap on a headlamp and explore Inner Space Cavern. See, once upon a time in 1963, highway crews were drilling holes to scout out the best location to build I-35. When a drill bit suddenly disappeared into what seemed like a bottomless void, the Texas Speleological Society (aka. cave people) did some exploring and now curious top-dwellers like you can explore 1.2 miles of Austin’s underground! Just don’t touch anything or you’re going to jail, fool.

4200 S I-35 Frontage Rd, Georgetown, TX 78626. 512-931-2283. Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tour prices vary based on age and desired tour. Website.

Treat yourself to a Torchy’s taco

torchy's tacos democrat republican independent breakfast damn good trailer

Torchy’s Tacos. Photo: Flickr user Steve Terrell, creative commons licensed

Austin does many things well and tacos are definitely one of them. If you haven’t gorged yourself on a “damn good” Democrat, Republican, or Independent taco at Torchy’s, then it’s high time to STOP THE MADNESS AND GET YOUR TACO ON!

Round Rock: 2150 E Palm Valley Blvd, #100, Round Rock, TX 78664. 512-381-0173. Cedar Park: 1468 E Whitestone Blvd, Cedar Park, TX 78613. 512-337-097. Anderson Mill: 11521 Ranch Rd 620, N #1000. 512-381-8226. Spicewood: 4211 Spicewood Springs Rd. 512-291-7277. All four locations open Mon-Thurs 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sat 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sun 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

Try to conquer the ‘Texas-sized doughnut’ at Round Rock Doughnut

round rock donuts world famous kolaches texas sized glazed chocolate cream filled

A man enjoying a “Texas Sized Round Rock Donut” at the office. Photo: Flickr user Roy Niswanger, creative commons licensed

Here in Round Rock, we’ve got world famous donuts and other nommy baked goods that are well worth waiting in line for. Order absolutely anything on the menu and prepare to be thoroughly wowed. You’ll no doubt enjoy the $6 “Texas-sized donut”—it’s a glazed or chocolate-covered monster donut the size of your face. Then there’s the cake donuts—applesauce and blueberry and chocolate, how could you resist?—and the ever-wonderful bavarian cream-filled eclairs. If your tastes run more classic, order the company’s famous glazed donuts or a good ol’ apple fritter.

106 W Liberty, Round Rock, TX 78664. 512-255-3629. Open Mon-Fri 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sun 6:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Website

Let a Top Notch burger make your day

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Top Notch’s classic sinage. Photo: Flickr user Gino, creative commons licensed

This classic local burger joint has been grilling patties since 1971 and for good reason: they serve mouthwatering charcoal-grilled hamburgers and their fried chicken is to die for. Even better: Top Notch was featured in the 1993 film, “Dazed and Confused.” As famous Austinite Matthew McConaughey says, “alright, alright, alright!

7525 Burnet Rd. 512-452-2181. Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website.

Well, there you have it, folks! Now you know of at least 19 ways to explore north Austin and get to know a new area of the great city that we all love so well. Let us know which activities you tried and whether they were a hit or a miss on our Twitter or Facebook page!
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Featured photo: Flickr user Roy Niswanger, creative commons licensed.

Story photos (unless otherwise noted): Rebecca L. Bennett, Brave Bird Photography.