Out of all the things to add to my Austin bucket list, climbing Mount Bonnell should have been first.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
I lean against the rail. Only 20 more steps to go. Or 50.
It’s okay, Anshula. You can do this.
I press my foot forward. A shot of pain ripples through my heel. I can’t do this. So much for my mini-motivational speech.
“Remind me to put working out on my New Year’s Resolutions,” I gasp. “I feel like the wolf from the Three Little Pigs right now with all my huffing and puffing.”
I catch my breath. Mount Bonnell has always been at the top of my Austin bucket list. Beautiful views of the Colorado River dotted with gorgeous homes? Yes, please!
So why did I opt to wind down a day of hiking, jogging, and kayaking with climbing 99 stairs?
Good job, Anshula. Good job.
I attempt to take another step upwards. My legs feel like my homemade Jello – wibbly, wobbly, and a few seconds from collapsing inward.
I promise, I’m not completely lacking in the physical adeptness department. Just a little.
But it’s been a long day. And luckily, this is the last check on our crazy, outdoorsy Austin bucket list.
Stroll Through Zilker Park
All good mornings begin with a stroll through a park. And at over 300 acres, Zilker Metropolitan Park is the most popular local Austin bucket list hangout. The reigning king of Austin entertainment, Zilker is part event-venue and part recreation area.
Things To Do In Zilker Park (Add These To Your Austin Bucket List):
- Austin City Limits: Almost half a million people rock to this annual music festival.
- Zilker Botanical Gardens: From a rose garden to a succulent garden, this spread of flowers and shrubbery offers pretty views of Austin.
- Barton Springs Pool: A recreational pool filled with natural spring water. What’s not to love?
- Disc Golf Course: Join some locals and throw a disc at one of the targets.
Spray Paint At Graffiti Park
Edgy, grunge, and liberal, Graffiti Park is easily the most hipster Austin bucket list attraction. Located on a narrow street, lined with cars on both sides, Graffiti Park is surrounded by unkempt homes with messy lawns. Words are spray painted along the sidewalk, tar, and phone poles.
As we walk into Hope Outdoor Gallery, we meet a frenzy of colors blocked in pop art style icons. Hope Outdoor Gallery is a living, growing piece of art, constantly changing and evolving.
Most of the art is a layering of messages, one over the other. We are hopeful. I’m not a Mary Sue. Life is good.
Even though we notice a fair amount of lewd images and phrases, we’re not bothered. Tomorrow, someone will paint over it. Maybe, it will be an interpretation of the word beautiful. Maybe, it will be a cartoon-like sketch. Maybe, it will be a political commentary.
But, it will be different.
Graffiti Park Tips:
- Bring a camera: With all the colored nooks and corners, you’ll want to take dozens of pictures.
- Climb to the top: Somewhat of a slippery climb (especially after rain), the panoramic view of Austin makes the trip worth it.
- Don’t Spray Paint: Hope Outdoor Gallery is private property. The park is a community project meant to support aspiring artists. I was so disheartened when I saw dozens of people spray painting their names and Instagram handles over all the beautiful street art. You can paint, even as a tourist. But you have to register with HOPE.
Travel Tip: Hope Outdoor Gallery is moving locations sometime in 2019 so be sure to stay up-to-date on the right address.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden
I think we just found the best secret garden in Texas. Earlier, when we visited Austin and thought of gardens, we thought Zilker. And I completely understand. I mean, those are more along the lines of traditional botanical gardens. But tucked away in a small property within Zilker Metropolitan Park is Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.
Umlauf is filled with oh-so beautiful statues, some more questionable than others (but I might just be a little prudish). From renowned artist Charles Umlauf comes a series of bronze sculptures capturing intimate moments in human life. While the statues are somewhat abstract, they actually represent basic concepts – mother and child relationships, Greek stories, and the inherent nesting of religious elements.
And let’s just say, I’m absolutely in love with the wrought emotion enhanced by the bright, green natural frames.
Travel Tip: Bring a Student ID for $1 admission
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is the perfect place for slightly more active outdoorsy Austin bucket list items.
- Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding: Rent a paddle board from one of the nearby shops and hit the water.
- Fishing: Relax and try to catch some catfish or carp. I caught neither. But hey, you win some, you lose some.
- Hiking/Biking: Cycle along the Ann and Roy butler Hike and Bike trail.
Visit Austin 360
There are no stairs, here, just a mountainous rocky terrain. We begin a steep uphill climb, scrambling, holding onto the trees and branches.The landscape is rough, ungated and unbound.
But the sweeping views of the Pennybacker Bridge are incredible.
Our feet dangle off the edge of the cliff. As we look down, my fear of heights starts to kick in. Austin 360 is not for the faint of heart.
Next destination, please.
Travel Tip: Austin 360 is not an easy climb so be sure you wearing the right shoes. I was clenching my teeth the whole way through (mostly because I was wearing sandals that got destroyed pretty quickly).
Eat Under The Sun At Torchy’s Tacos
In the thick of a food truck lot is Torchy’s Tacos, the original stop in a vibrant Texas chain. The tacos served here are devilishly delightful, a mix of pale flour tortillas flush with fresh ingredients.
We order two tacos – the Brushfire and the Trailer Park.
The Brushfire is summer spilled into a wrap. In the center is a thin line of Caribbean-style chicken, spiced up with diablo sauce, a housemade fiery salsa that doubles in heat and flavor. Topped with cool-to-the-mouth chopped mangoes, the Brushfire is a rebel to the senses.
A fat and dirty taco, the Trailer Park is heaped in rough bits of fried chicken, green chiles, and lettuce. Topped over with a sloppy dressing of Poblano sauce and a handful of cheese, the Trailer Park is a classic messy eat.
We sit outside, pop open a drink, and enjoy our tacos in the open-air surroundings. Cheers, love.
UPDATE: The original Torchy’s food truck stop is now closed but there are several other locations in Austin.
Search For Peacocks In Mayfield Park
I’m a little intimidated by the peacock. Is that weird?
A part of me is worried that he’s out of my league. He cocks his head and swiftly moves away in agreement, distracted by a cute peahen.
I’ll wait for my photo-op.
Over twenty peafowl reside in Mayfield Estate, a quiet nature reserve. With a colonial era feel, the park stands as one the most unique Austin bucket list attractions. Peacocks freely roam the area, strutting down the sidewalk ramps, showing off their gorgeous feathers.
I think they missed the memo for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.
Climb Mount Bonnell
Out of all the things to add to our Austin bucket list, climbing Mount Bonnell should have been first.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
We’ve arrived at the top of the hill, exhausted. But we’ve ticked off some crazy, outdoorsy Austin bucket list items, from strolling through botanical gardens to clawing our way up the Austin 360 vantage point.
97. 98. 99.
We made it.
We move past the sitting area, and lean against the gate. The sun is slinking behind a sea of green.
What was I complaining about again? Beautiful views of the Colorado River dotted with gorgeous homes? Ridiculous. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the day.
Read More: Pack With Me: What To Pack For Austin
Did you enjoy this post on the best outdoorsy Austin bucket list items? What is on your Austin bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!