Adventure Guide 2013: Austin

Because Austin is growing so quickly, 2013 is the year to explore all that Austin offers – before the trails are as crowded as the flagship Whole Foods downtown. For nearly a decade, the city itself has been attracting more people than it can seem to keep up with. Austin ranked first on Forbes’ list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities for the second year in a row in 2012. But while the city is struggling to keep up with the tremendous boom, and indoor space still seems relatively limited (demonstrated by the many packed coffee houses, music venues, bars and office and apartment buildings), there’s plenty of outdoor space to go around in Austin.

Austin’s adventurous reputation owes much to its weather. With the exception of the smoldering mid-summer afternoons, Austin’s climate is perfect for outdoor adventure year-round. The community of Austin also prides itself on the myriad adventure activities available, and the locals relish in the ability to quickly drop what they’re doing and find a nearby adventure.

And there’s plenty of adventure to go around. Whether you’re interested in caving, climbing, hiking, swimming, paddling or tubing, Austin has a unique geography that’s perfect for the multitalented outdoors enthusiast. Use this guide to help discover it.

Hotels

Heywood Hotel: The Heywood Hotel is one of Austin’s newest boutique hotels. Located in the center of the growing and creative East Austin, the Heywood is within walking distance of great bars, music venues, restaurants, shopping and downtown. While you’re in the neighborhood, try my favorite Bloody Mary from Rio Rita. The Heywood also includes free bike rentals, so grab a bike and head on out to your day of adventure. From $169.
heywoodhotel.com1609 East Cesar Chavez Street

Hotel San Jose: Hotel San Jose isn’t new in town – it was built in 1939. But the hotel is still a staple in Austin. Open-aired rooms are further enriched by cool amenities at Hotel San Jose, like a music and video library, a community typewriter and Polaroid cameras, and the open policy on animals. So if you’re planning to take your canine best friend on a hiking tour of Hill Country or need a bike to round out your adventure in Austin, you might want to stay here. This area of Austin is a perfect launching pad for everything from nightlife and food trucks to Lady Bird Lake and its many adventurous activities. While in the SoCo area, take a journey back in time with a stop into the eclectic vintage store Uncommon Objects. From $185.
sanjosehotel.com 1316 South Congress Avenue

McKinney Falls State Park: The McKinney Falls State Park camping grounds certainly aren’t a hotel, but they’re worth mentioning in this adventure guide. The park is beautifully equipped for all kinds of adventures. Hiking and bike trails loop through the grounds. Expansive rock formations dot the area, providing a decent basis for rock climbing. Or you can cliff dive right off one of those formations and into one of the surrounding natural pools. Campsites have water, electric, restrooms and picnic tables. From $15.
tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/mckinney-falls 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway


Eat and Drink

24 Diner: Great cocktails, wine and beer are just afterthoughts at a place like 24 Diner, where you can get delicious and upscale diner food at any time of the day or night – which isn’t exactly common in the city of Austin. Hit up 24 Diner for a big breakfast before you begin your day of adventure or after you’ve worn yourself out and just need a strong drink and some comfort food. Make a steep trek through a semi-hidden graffiti display by checking out the Castle Hill graffiti while you’re in the neighborhood.
24diner.com
600 North Lamar Boulevard

East Side Show Room: East Side Show Room is kind of an adventure in and of itself. The cuisine showcases local ingredients in a gourmet, heavily French style and the bar brings traditional cocktails together with fresh, innovative concoctions.
eastsideshowroom.com
1100 East 6th Street

Hillside Farmacy: Hillside Farmacy isn’t even a year old yet and the place is usually crowded. With actual pharmacy relics in tow, this trendy little restaurant is open 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. and is equally great for brunch or dinner. The drinks are great and the food is part southern comfort, part New American. There’s even an old, upright piano in the back room. While you’re in the area, learn a thing or two about wine from the guys at East End Wines.
hillsidefarmacy.com 1209 East 11th Street

Adventure Activities

Barton Springs: Barton Springs, a chilly spring-fed, man-made pool across the way from Zilker Park, is a famous Austin landmark for a reason. It’s refreshing, big, and well worth the $3 entrance fee. Go ahead, try to swim laps here. For no money at all, fewer people, less oversight and a bit more of an adventure, you can also swim in the creek just beyond the Barton Springs fence – if you’re facing the entrance to the official springs, the unofficial springs are to the left of the fence.
http://austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool 2201 Barton Springs Road

Secret Beach: For a laid-back adventure filled with river-swimming and surrounding woods for hiking, check out Secret Beach, just beyond Roy G. Guerrero Park and before the Colorado River Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a sandy beach and perfect for sunbathing after your swim. The water rises late afternoon when the dam is opened, so go a little later in the day if you want more water in your adventure. Note that this beach, as well as nearly all other natural water sources in Texas, is subject to drought-induced low levels.
http://www.gadling.com/2012/04/03/journey-to-secret-beach/

Barton Creek Greenbelt: Austin is landlocked, so you have to rely on the dammed up Colorado River (Lady Bird Lake, which offers stand-up padding), Barton Creek and other creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes for water adventures in the area. The BCG is shorthand for an incredible stretch of preserved land that winds its way through the city of Austin. While the creek flows through the BCG, the steep slopes that surround it are go-to spots in Austin for rock climbing, hiking and biking. And since the creek is always nearby, there’s always a swimming hole.
http://www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=206 3755-B Capital of Texas Highway

Get Around

Getting around Austin isn’t always easy if you don’t have a car. As an aid, look into Car2Go, a shared car service that allows you to rent cars by the minute, hour or day and leave them wherever you choose within the city for 38 cents a minute.

Biking is a popular method of transportation in Austin, with a strong bike culture and special lanes on many roads. Several companies, including Barton Springs Bike Rentals and Austin Bike Tours and Rentals will rent bikes to visitors from $22.50 per day. Pedicabs and taxis are also quite common in the downtown area for localized transportation. In addition, Capital Metro provides the MetroRail, an expanding train service that connects outer and east Austin to downtown, while Capital Metro buses go all over town. A single ride on the bus is $1, but you can get a day pass for $2.

From Austin-Bergstrom Airport, take the Austin SuperShuttle or a taxi into town for the quickest commute. You can also take the Capital Metro bus from the airport into town.

Adventure Tip

Although this might seem obvious to you now, make sure to wear protective shoes when exploring Austin’s outdoors. Thorns, burrs, rattlesnakes, fire ants and plenty of other harsh conditions and risks exist outside in Texas. You can wear sandals to Secret Beach and Barton Creek, but wear sturdier shoes when exploring the Greenbelt and McKinney State Falls. While it doesn’t hurt to take extra precaution, it can definitely hurt to not. One thing I learned while living in Texas is that people down there wear cowboy boots for a reason.


[Photo credit: Flickr users austinevan (top) and Steve Snodgrass]

Events Worth Planning A Trip Around In 2013

Have you ever landed in a place to find out you arrived just after the town’s can’t-miss event of the year? Well, hopefully that won’t happen again this year. Gadling bloggers racked their brains to make sure our readers don’t overlook the best parties to be had throughout the world in 2013. Below are more than 60 music festivals, cultural events, pilgrimages and celebrations you should consider adding to your travel calendar this year – trust us, we’ve been there.

Above image: Throughout Asia, Lunar New Year is celebrated with lantern festivals, the most spectacular of which is possibly Pingxi. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

Kumbh Mela, a 55-day festival in India, is expected to draw more than 100 million people in 2013. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

January
January 7–27: Sundance Film Festival (Park City, Utah)
January 10–February 26: Kumbh Mela (Allahabad, India)
January 21: Presidential Inauguration (Washington, DC)
January 26–February 12: Carnival of Venice (Venice, Italy)
January 26–February 13: Battle of the Oranges (Ivrea, Italy)
During Busójárás in Hungary, visitors can expect folk music, masquerading, parades and dancing. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
February
February 3: Super Bowl XLVII (New Orleans, Louisiana)
February 5–11: Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo, Japan)
February 7–12: Busójárás (Mohács, Hungary)
February 10: Chinese New Year/Tet (Worldwide)
February 9–12: Rio Carnival (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
February 12: Mardi Gras (Worldwide)
February 14: Pingxi Lantern Festival (Taipei, Taiwan)
February 24: Lunar New Year (Worldwide)


Several cities in India and Nepal increase tourist volume during Holi, when people enjoy spring’s vibrant colors. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
March
March 1-14: Omizutori (Nara, Japan)
March 8–17: South by Southwest (Austin, Texas)
March 20–April 14: Cherry Blossom Festival (Washington, DC)
March 27: Holi (Worldwide, especially India & Nepal)


Many Dutch people wear orange – the national color – and sell their secondhand items in a “free market” during Koninginnendag, a national holiday in the Netherlands. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
April
April 12–14 & April 19–21: Coachella (Indio, California)
April 11-14: Masters Golf Tournament (Augusta, Georgia)
April 13–15: Songkran Water Festival (Thailand)
April 17–28: TriBeCa Film Festival (New York, New York)
April 25–28: 5Point Film Festival (Carbondale, Colorado)
April 30: Koninginnendag or Queen’s Day (Netherlands)


Up to 50 men work together to carry their church’s patron saint around the main square in Cusco, Peru during Corpus Christi. [Photo credit: Blogger Libby Zay]
May
May 4: Kentucky Derby (Louisville, Kentucky)
May 15–16: Festival de Cannes (Cannes, France)
May 20: Corpus Christi (Worldwide)
May 23–26: Art Basel (Hong Kong)
May 24–27: Mountainfilm Film Festival (Telluride, Colorado)
May 25-28: Sasquatch Festival (Quincy, Washington)
May 26: Indianapolis 500 (Speedway, Indiana)

2013 marks the 100th anniversary for the Tour de France. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

June
June 13–16: Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tennessee)
June 13–16: Art Basel (Basel, Switzerland)
June 14–16: Food & Wine Classic (Aspen, Colorado)
June 21: St. John’s Night (Poznan, Poland)
June 24: Inti Raymi (Cusco, Peru)
June 28–30: Comfest (Columbus, Ohio)
June 29–July 21: Tour de France (France)

The annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Visit Istanbul, Turkey, at this time and see a festival-like atmosphere when pious Muslims break their fasts with lively iftar feasts at night. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
July
July 6–14: San Fermin Festival (Pamplona, Spain)
July 9–August 2: Ramadan (Worldwide)
July 12–14: Pitchfork (Chicago, Illinois)
July 17: Gion Festival Parade (Kyoto, Japan)
July 18–21: International Comic Con (San Diego, California)
July 19–22: Artscape (Baltimore, Maryland)
July 24–28: Fete de Bayonne (Bayonne, France)

Festival-goers get their picture taken at a photo booth during Foo Fest, an arts and culture festival held annually in Providence, Rhode Island. [Photo credit: Flickr user AS220]
August
August 2–4: Lollapalooza (Chicago, Illinois)
August 10: Foo Fest (Providence, Rhode Island)
August 26–September 2: Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)
August 31–September 2: Bumbershoot (Seattle, Washington)


More than six million people head to Munich, Germany, for beer-related festivities during the 16-day Oktoberfest. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]
September
September 5–15: Toronto International Film Festival (Toronto, Canada)
September 13–15: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival (Telluride, Colorado)
September 21–October 6: Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)

Around 750 hot air balloons are launched during the nine-day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. [Photo credit: Flickr user Randy Pertiet]

October
October 4–6 & 11–13: Austin City Limits (Austin, Texas)
October 5–13: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
October 10–14: United States Sailboat Show (Annapolis, Maryland)


During Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), family and friends get together to remember loved ones they have lost. Although practiced throughout Mexico, many festivals take place in the United States, such as this festival at La Villita in San Antonio, Texas. [Photo credit: Blogger Libby Zay]
November
November 1–2: Dia de los Muertos (Worldwide, especially Mexico)
November 3: Diwali (Worldwide)
November 8–10: Fun Fun Fun Fest (Austin, Texas)
November 11: Cologne Carnival (Cologne, Germany)
November 28: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York, New York)
TBA: Punkin Chunkin (Long Neck, Delaware)

The colorful holiday of Junkanoo is the most elaborate festivals of the Bahamian islands. [Photo credit: Flickr user MissChatter]
December
December 2–3: Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu City, Japan)
December 5–8: Art Basel (Miami, Florida)
December 26–January 1: Junkanoo (Bahamas)

So, what did we miss? Let us know what travel-worthy events you’re thinking about journeying to in the coming year in the comments below.

New York City: Getting Back To Where You Once Belonged

The city of New York City exists strongly. Within New York, the smallest sounds are amplified as they break through the barriers of thin drywall. The coastal weather can be bitter, biting and unforgiving and still, the easiest way to get around New York is by foot and, in effect, immersed in the unchangeable climate. Even the most basic interactions occur more frequently in New York and tailing behind them are the trivial and yet infuriating conflicts that complicate daily life. The minutiae of life is a swift dagger, taking whole days hostage at the hand of an unfriendly DMV employee – I once broke down sobbing at the DMV on 34th street in Manhattan after an employee had repeatedly accused me of forging a signature for my vehicle registration all afternoon. She pointed out an apparent discrepancy in the loop of the letter ‘D’ and called me a liar, and then eventually said something mean about my mother. I didn’t move away from New York because of her, of course. I moved away because of all of it. I was tired of fighting for my own oxygen; I was tired of fighting battles I felt never should have been started to begin with – even if the battle was as trite as My Long Skirt vs. The Torrential Downpour.

The idea that other people in other cities, albeit smaller cities, were enjoying more fulfilling lives had been haunting me. A fantasy had been unraveling in my head for years of the yard and hammock and dog I could have in another city and I couldn’t shake it. Other people were paying less in rent. Other people had sunshine most days of the year while my core was being whittled away by “The Best City In The World.” Learning about H.A.A.M. in Austin, Texas, a healthcare program that provides medical services to area musicians, was the last straw for me. On top of all other New York stresses, I was playing the freelancer-without-healthcare lottery. I packed up my 1996 Honda Accord and drove south for four days, finally landing in Austin, Texas.

%Gallery-169276%I promptly moved into a charming three-bedroom house with an expansive, private back yard. I signed up for H.A.A.M. and began going to the doctor, dentist, chiropractor and therapist. I made a lot of friends and got married. I became the proud mother of two dogs and I took them hiking and swimming regularly. I overdosed on Vitamin D during the day and saw a lot of live music at night. I paid less for just about everything and saved my money. But despite having tackled and conquered so many goals that I felt would guide me toward truer happiness, I’d been battling an internal war since the moment I arrived.

Optimism blanketed my experience in Austin at first. I was living the life I had told myself I wanted and, even if I had to lie through my grinding teeth, I was determined to enjoy it. Despite my greatest efforts, something was missing. I could say that the “something” was this or that, that it was the electricity, anonymity, intensity, creativity or autonomy, but these are all subjective qualifiers, containing as much falsehood as truth. What I was really missing while living in Austin was much more basic and primal than any intellectual or abstract rendering of what a city like New York does or doesn’t offer. What I missed most was what I’d left behind – the chaos, the conversation, the cold chill of winter and the relationships forged under such conditions. What I was missing was my home.

Although I didn’t grow up in New York, it was the only home I had ever known. I was naive and young when I first arrived at age 18 and the city had powerfully shaped me. I hated it and loved it, like most New Yorkers, but I identified with its insanity and pulse – I felt as though the city and I were moving at the same pace, quickly and manically approaching each day. With each new street corner that staged a lifelong memory, my psyche had become more entangled with New York, and thus, less separable than I’d ever realized before living someplace else. But this seemed incongruous to me with my insatiable longing for new scenery, with my work as a travel writer. If I couldn’t easily pull down a new backdrop with a new landscape and a new context and carry on without missing a beat, then what business did I have feigning an adventurous spirit? But now that I’m living in New York again, with a yard and hammock and dogs no less, I recall the words of a friend’s father when he learned that I wanted to leave the city a year before I actually did.

“Everyone needs a home. You leave, you travel, you learn, but home is the place you come back to.”

At the time, I dismissed his words because home is supposed to be where the heart is and I believed my heart was everywhere. What I didn’t account for were the tiers of the heart; the difference between the comforting core and the fleeting nature of curiosity. The stakes and circumstances are different for everyone, but one thing is certain: nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the warm inner swell of, for better or for worse, getting back to where you once belonged.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Airports Add Free Power For Electronics, Vehicles

free powerUsing free power to charge electronic devices before boarding a flight is a popular activity. Airlines and airports know that and are adding more charging stations all the time. The same goes for electric vehicle travelers who might drive to the airport. As more environmentally friendly cars hit the streets, airports are adding charging stations for them too, also a complimentary service.

“Delta’s addition of power stations at airport gates has been cited by PCWorld magazine as an important aspect of travel and improving the customer experience,” said Wayne Aaron, Vice President, Marketing Programs and Distribution Strategy at Delta Airlines in a Travel Daily News article this week.

Delta is adding at least two power stations per gate power in 12 additional U.S. cities before the end of the year including Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Denver; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Houston Intercontinental; Kansas City, Missouri; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Orleans; Ontario, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Syracuse, New York.

“Customers today are savvy travelers who bring their smartphones, computers and tablets with them,” says Aaron. “Providing a power source they can use before they get on a long flight helps them do what they need to do in the air, whether for work or pleasure.”Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations are becoming more plentiful too. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is typical of airports with charging stations where spaces are reserved for electric vehicles only. Each station is capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously with 240V connectors. There is no fee to use the stations, but regular parking rates apply.

ChargePoint is the largest online charging network in the world, connecting drivers to charging stations in more than 14 countries. ChargePoint service plans are compatible with charging stations from any manufacturer and yes, they have an app to find stations close by, make, view and cancel reservations. As they pass through security, at the gate or in the air with their Wi-Fi connected devices, users can view charging stats while their car charges and get notification when fully charged.




[Flickr photo by gillyberlin]

Photo Of The Day: Austin Graffiti

This photo of Austin’s East Side captures several things I love about Austin all at once. This photo captures the train rushing by, reflecting the graffiti in its windows. The vibrant graffiti to the left is the kind of graffiti dispersed all over East Austin, but this East 5th building is a graffiti staple. The glow of sunset is saturating everything within the photograph, the same way it does every early evening. Moonlight Towers are historical Austin landmarks and there’s one standing on the horizon of this photo. And finally, just one of the many motivated artists on the East Side is standing in the middle of it all, Laquinton Wagner. This photo was taken by Ben Britz. If you have a photo you’d like to submit as Photo of the Day, submit it to the Gadling Flickr Pool.Tour Austin, Texas