Thanks to the city’s temperate weather, during the wintertime you’ll find plenty to do in Austin both indoors and out. Here you can hike along forest trails, ice skate at the Whole Foods flagship store, catch a film festival and dine outdoors on a heated patio. Add these ideas to your Austin winter bucket list and go!
Stay Gold. Credit Geoff Duncan.
1. Sip on a seasonal cocktail.
Enjoy a boozy winter warmer on the patio at Stay Gold, sneak behind the bookcase that doubles as a secret door at Firehouse Lounge for a craft cocktail, slide into a velvet booth at The Roosevelt Room and order a high-octane libation or try a mixed drink made with fortified wine at The Meteor.
2. Stay indoors and explore a museum.
The University of Texas at Austin is home to an impressive collection of museums, including the Blanton Museum of Art (featuring the permanent exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Austin, a stone building with brilliant colored glass windows and a wood totem sculpture), the Harry Ransom Center (housing cultural archives that include the Watergate papers) and the LBJ Presidential Library (featuring inspiring exhibits on President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his beloved wife, Lady Bird Johnson).
3. Visit a local distillery, winery or brewery.
If you’re a whiskey lover, check out Still Austin Whiskey Co. (located at The Yard), a true grain-to-glass distillery where everything from mashing to barreling and bottling is done in-house. Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery and Tasting Room in Dripping Springs offers panoramic Texas Hill Country views and tastings of their flavored vodkas. Stop by The Brewtorium, a friendly neighborhood brewpub featuring award-winning handcrafted beer and modern pub grub designed to complement the house brews. At The Infinite Monkey Theorem, take a winery tour to taste selections of bottled, kegged and canned wines made from grapes grown in the High Plains of Texas.
4. Run the Austin Marathon.
Join the runners (or cheer from the sidelines) for the annual Austin Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K held on February 16, 2020. Marathoners take over the streets of Austin, running past iconic landmarks like the UT Tower and Lady Bird Lake, ending at a festive finish line featuring a rocking band and beer garden.
5. Dine alfresco (yes, you can eat outdoors here in the winter!).
Austin is all about alfresco dining, and wintertime is no different. Dig into classic American fare on the heated patio at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill. Nosh on ranch-style bar food around the cozy fire pit at Contigo. Soak in the tropical vibe at Grizzelda’s, where you can post up on the heated patio with Mexican food and mezcal cocktails. Or cozy up to the poolside fireplace with snacks and spirits at The Pool Deck atop the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. Courtesy of Wild Basin Creative Research Center, St. Edward's University.
6. Explore our hiking trails.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt boasts almost 13 miles of trails, and is one of the top-rated hiking spots in Texas. Barton Creek passes both Sculpture and Twin Falls (with steep cliffs that are great for climbing) and snakes through a dense forest. Or hike the leafy 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which skirts along shimmering waters and has picturesque views of Austin’s skyline. Experience a lush hidden escape within the city limits at the quiet St. Edwards Park or the 227-acre Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, where you can hike through forested greenbelt trails.
7. Cozy up with wintery comfort food.
Dive into a steaming bowl of ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya, dig into late-night steak frites under the romantic winter tent at Justine’s Brasserie, nosh on Southern-style bites like crab cakes at Hillside Farmacy, and sample seasonally inspired cuisine at the award-winning Emmer & Rye, which offers nightly dim sum specials.
8. Listen to live music during Free Week.
Shake off those post-holiday blues at Red River Cultural District’s Free Week, during the first week of January. The week-long celebration of local music will feature 180+ local bands playing free shows at 20+ venues around the city.
9. Go ice skating rink at Whole Foods.
In Downtown Austin, head over to the Whole Foods Market flagship store for Ice Skating on the Plaza. Afterwards, stop in to the store to do some holiday shopping for your foodie friends and family, or enjoy a glass of wine (or cocoa!) from the bar and food court.
10. Enjoy a film festival.
See some of the best music videos from around the world at the Austin Music Video Festival, which also features awards, parties, panels and workshops at various venues around town from December 10-14, 2019. Watch some of the top international sci-fi flicks during Other Worlds Austin, held December 5-8, 2019 at Galaxy Highland 10 Theatre. The region’s only science fiction film festival screens a range of genres, including horror, drama and comedy.
Crux Climbing Center. Credit Merrick Ales.
11. Visit an indoor climbing or bouldering gym.
There’s no worries about the weather when you take your climbing indoors. Get a serious workout at the Austin Bouldering Project, the world’s largest bouldering gym, featuring 250 rotating configurations across 50,000 square feet. Or head over to Crux Climbing Center, where everyone from newbies to experienced climbers find a challenge with bouldering and rope climbing activities.
12. Warm up with a coffee.
Come for the fantastic joe and craft cocktails at Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, but stay for the all-day cafe fare, including breakfast sandwiches and chicken-fried steak. Or try the Japanese coffee drinks and toasts loaded with eggs, bacon and sausage at Sa-Tén Coffee & Eats.
13. Get your game on indoors.
Try your hand at more than 20 different arcade games or set up a friendly ping-pong showdown (winner gets a pickle shot!) at Kung Fu Saloon, located in the Rock Rose district at Domain NORTHSIDE. Or play at Punch Bowl Social, at The Domain, where the grown-up fun includes bowling, a VR lounge, video games and private karaoke. Staying downtown? The Escape Game Austin offers an immersive, 60-minute adventure with twists, turns, and jaw-dropping surprises around every corner.
14. See a comedy show.
See a show at Esther's Follies, which has been amusing locals for more than 40 years and specializes in political satire, comedy sketches, Vegas-style magic and hilarious musical numbers. Fallout Theater is 100% comedian owned and operated, and presents sketch, stand-up and improv comedy shows by new and seasoned comedians, in addition to comedy festivals. Or catch a big-name comedian on stage at the Paramount Theatre, a century-old performance venue and movie theater located in the heart of Downtown Austin.
15. Relax at a local spa or resort.
Treat yourself to some quality time at a local spa, where you can rejuvenate and get away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Start fresh with a facial from Milk + Honey Spa in the 2ND Street District, lounge in the comfy armchairs during a pedicure at Lacquer luxury nail studio or find your balance with a signature massage at the Fairmont Spa.