If all the time you have is one day in Austin, Texas, you can have a fun-filled day.

While attending a conference in Austin, I had a free afternoon to do a little exploring on my own in downtown Austin.

Starting with a walk to the Texas State Capitol, I first came upon, the expansive park surrounding the Capitol building. It is dotted with monuments and plaques commemorating Texas history and the heroes revered by Texans to this day. The building, which is a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, is the sixth tallest Capitol building in the U.S. and taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. 

I skipped a visit inside the building, but with a full day devoted to seeing the sights, I would have taken the time.

Next up and only a few blocks away is the Mexican Museum of Art. It is a small museum featuring contemporary art of urban and rural Mexico with some unique expressions. I especially found fascinating the art depicting life in a dozen or so Mexican states offering a glimpse of the cultural diversity within Mexico.

Throughout the downtown area on many streets, I saw segways and e-bikes free for use. For a speedy way to move around town, it sure saves you from having tired feet.

With a day to roam Austin, I would recommend taking a kayak out on Lady Bird Lake, a section of the Colorado River which flows through the middle of the city.. Rentals are $15.00 an hour and there are also tandems, paddle boards and canoes.  You can take a guided tour or go out alone. From the water you have an unique perspective of the city and skyline. Paddle under the Congress Bridge to see the famous bat colony that has made the underside of the bridge their home.

By now, you have a built up an appetite. Why not a food tour? There are many variations of food tours. Walking tours, tours by pedicab, or by bus with a country band on board. Some are two hours in length. Others are three hours visiting Texas barbecue joints, food trucks, and  small ethnic eateries. Have some chicken and waffles, beef brisket or banana-wrapped tamales with churros and ice cream on the side,

Anyone thirsty? There are at least a dozen breweries in the downtown area. and nearby neighborhoods, many featuring award-winning craft beers. Stroll down East 6th Street to find a few such as Zilker Brewing, Lazarus Brewing and Hops & Grain Brewing. 

On the west side of I-35 is West 6th Street, known as Dirty 6th, home to several blocks of bars, cantinas, and entertainment venues, many housed in historic buildings. Architecture enthusiasts will love strolling this area. I found this area to be a great place for people-watching, as the street is the hangout for a cast of a colorful characters. Music pours into the street from the tequila bars, speakeasys and reggae acts.

I enjoy wine but there was not time to head out to the Texas Hill Country, a famous wine growing region not far from Austin.No problem. Hill Country wineries brought their wines to downtown Austin. I stopped at Texas Reds and White Tasting Room on Red River Street. I was delighted to see a lengthy list from more than a dozen wineries in the Hill Country.. The wine making tradition in Texas dates back to the Spanish missions of the 17th century. Some of my favorites I tasted included a tempranillo and sangiovese blend in the reds and a viognier in the whites.

To end the day, I had to go to 2nd Street another entertainment district of downtown Austin. 2nd Street is a mile long avenue filled with shops, trendy boutiques, cafes, alfresco dining, restaurants of every cuisine, and live music. There are champagne and wine bars, Steakhouses, Italian, French. and Mexican restaurants, burger pubs, and low-cal eateries. The atmosphere ranges from upscale to come-as-you are. With so much to choose, I went with Italian. 

What a great way to end a day (afternoon for me) in Austin. 

John Werner

As a 45 year veteran of the travel industry and the President of MAST Travel Network since 2002, John’s career has included 14 years as a travel agency owner. He has served in various capacities on the Board of the Midwest Chapter of ASTA including Treasurer and Vice President. John has also held several positions on the Board of Directors for MAST including Vice Chairman and Board Chairman during the years he owned Travel Group International, a MAST member during the 1990s.