Thanks to the city’s temperate weather, you’ll find plenty to do in Austin during the wintertime, both indoors and out. Here you can hike along forest trails, sip seasonal cocktails in a cozy lounge, explore a world-class museum and dine outdoors on a heated patio. Add these ideas to your Austin winter bucket list and go!
Cocktail at Cosmic Coffee + Beer. Credit Julia Keim.
1. Sip seasonal cocktails
Enjoy a boozy winter warmer on the patio at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, relax with a margarita in the cozy Native Bar & Cafe at Native Hostel, slide into a velvet booth at The Roosevelt Room (reservations suggested) and order a high-octane libation or try a mixed drink made with fortified wine at The Meteor.
2. Explore a museum
The University of Texas at Austin is home to an impressive collection of museums. The Blanton Museum of Art features the permanent exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Austin, a stone building with brilliant colored glass windows and a wood totem sculpture (advance tickets required). And the LBJ Presidential Library features inspiring exhibits on President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his beloved wife, Lady Bird Johnson (temporarily closed). Prefer to explore outside? Don't miss the Zilker Botanical Garden, a 28-acre oasis in the heart of Austin, with plenty of accessible winding pathways through themed gardens.
3. Run the Austin Marathon
Join the runners (or cheer from the sidelines) for the annual Austin Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K held on February 14, 2021. 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.
Credit Treaty Oak Distilling.
4. Visit a local distillery, winery or brewery
If you’re a whiskey lover, check out Still Austin Whiskey Co., a true grain-to-glass distillery where everything from mashing to barreling and bottling is done in-house. Treaty Oak Distillery in Dripping Springs offers panoramic Texas Hill Country views and tastings of their multiple whiskeys, gins and beers. 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. Although the taproom is temporarily closed, you can shop The Infinite Monkey Theorem’s wines online.
5. Dine on a heated patio
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 on the spacious patio at Hotel Vegas with live music, DJs, trivia and a full menu of comfort food and boozy beverages.
6. Go ice skating
In Downtown Austin, head over to the Whole Foods Market flagship store for Ice Skating on the Plaza (dates TBA). 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.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. Courtesy of Wild Basin Creative Research Center, St. Edward's University.
7. Explore urban 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. Edward's Park or the 227-acre Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, where you can hike through forested greenbelt trails (limited hours and capacity; reservations required).
8. Cozy up with wintery comfort food
Dive into a steaming bowl of ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya, dig into late-night steak frites in your own private cabana at Justine’s Brasserie (reservations required), nosh on Southern-style bites like crab cakes on the patio at Hillside Farmacy, and sample seasonally inspired cuisine at the award-winning Emmer & Rye, which offers nightly dim sum-style specials (reservations suggested).
9. Support local 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 annually features around 180 local bands playing free shows at venues around the city.
Jo's Coffee. Credit Julia Keim.
10. 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 enjoyed on the patio (reservations required). Pop by Jo's Coffee on South Congress as you work through your holiday shopping list in the neighborhood. Or, try the Japanese coffee drinks and toasts loaded with eggs, bacon and sausage at Sa-Tén Coffee & Eats. Find even more coffee shops here.
11. Visit a unique drive-in experience
Take your loved one on a private movie date at an Austin-area drive in. Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in showcases double features of indie films, cult classics and childhood favorites on the big screen. Just south of the city limits, Doc's Drive In Theatre presents films under the Texas sky with a bar and expansive menu of food and concessions. Experience a holiday light show from the comfort of your vehicle like Trail of Lights or the new Peppermint Parkway at Circuit of The Americas. Witness a drive-in performance hosted by Austin Opera during the Sarah & Ernest Butler Performance Series at the Blue Starlite Drive-In.
12. Tune in to a film festival
Watch some of the top international sci-fi flicks virtually during Other Worlds Austin, held December 1-6, 2020. The region’s only science fiction film festival screens a range of genres, including horror, drama and comedy.
Crux Climbing Center. Credit Merrick Ales.
13. Go climbing or bouldering
There are 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. Or, opt outside at spots in Reimers Ranch Park and the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
14. See a comedy show
See a virtual show by 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. Fallout Theater is currently offering virtual comedy classes only. 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 (limited capacity).
15. Take a spa day
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 treat yourself to a weekend stay at one of our nearby resorts.