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Exploring Austin

Best Day Trips and Weekend Getaways from Austin

There’s no shortage of places to go and things to do within Austin city limits but now and then, a day trip or weekend getaway is exactly what you need. It helps you not only appreciate what else Central Texas has to offer but also enjoy Austin and your neighborhood. Fortunately, Austin is not in short supply of beautiful scenery, historic small towns, and unforgettable activities in the surrounding areas. And the best part, almost all are less than an hour away by car.

Austinities are spoiled with delicious food, a plethora of local breweries and watering holes, and places with historical and cultural significance, but to truly understand Austin and central Texas, you have to venture outward. So grab your significant other, a group of friends, or even your spouse and children and head out of town to one of these fun-filled locations.

Food Tour in Lockhart

Although Lockhart has always had its finger on the pulse of iconic and delicious Texas barbeque, it’s recently become a hipster haven thanks to a recent wave of young and artistic people moving out of Austin in search of a cheaper lifestyle. Now is the perfect time to take a day trip out of the Capital City to Lockhart, just 26 miles southeast of downtown. Yes, everyone’s heard of Franklin Barbeque, but who wants to spend five-plus hours waiting in line when you can drive to Lockhart, grab some tasty smoked meat from a few local spots, walk around the town, and drive back to Austin in the time it would take you to get a single bite of food at Franklin? From brisket to sausage and pork ribs, classic spots like Smitty’s Market, Kreuz Market, and Black’s Barbeque never disappoint. If barbeque isn’t your thing, the square is also filling up with other restaurants like Loop & Lil’s pizzeria or the Lockhart Bistro, as well as cozy coffee shops and bakeries like Chaparral Coffee, and even watering holes like Caracara Brewing Company and the upscale cocktail lounges like the Pearl.

Steam Train Tour

Whether you’re longing for simpler times or want a small taste of adventure, the Austin Steam Train Association has plenty of tours that promise to perfectly blend the past and present. Just 22 miles outside of Austin, the Austin Steam Trains give you a chance to hop on a train and skip town like an outlaw, go on a beer/wine tour, or even take part in a murder mystery train ride. Choose between the Bertram Flyer or Hill Country Flyer and watch the rolling hills and lush landscape of the Hill Country roll by from the comfort of a train car for an experience you’ll never forget. Austin Steam Trains are also perfect for families and kids of all ages thanks to the kid-friendly ride on a Big Adventures Tour with Thomas the Train.

Wimberley and Gruene

While it may not be a secret to most people in the central Texas area, the Hill Country provides people of all ages with beautiful scenery and a long to-do list. Fredericksburg and Johnson City get a lot of love, but Wimberley and Gruene can be just as magical without the crowds. In Gruene, start the day by floating the Comal River in nearby New Braunfels before heading to The Gristmill for delicious food, cold beer, and even better views of the river. Then go check out Texas’ oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall, for a show and to show off your two-stepping skills.

In Wimberley, take your pick at a few different wine tours and tastings or feed your adventurous side and glide through the air on a Wimberley Zipline adventure. With bird’s eye views of the Hill Country, nearby canyons, and the Wimberley Valley, you can take your pick of zip lines ranging from 150 feet to 900 feet in length for an experience you’ll never forget.

Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock

With great shopping, a historic downtown, delicious beer and wine, juicy peaches, and even the “Texas German” dialect, Fredericksburg is a great destination for people of all ages. As soon as spring gives way to summer, food stands begin popping up all around Austin selling Fredericksburg peaches, and for a good reason. But nothing beats picking the real thing. Jensche Orchard lets you and your group get the full experience by selecting your own peaches. Afterward, head to town to do some shopping before taking a break to get your fill of schnitzel, strudel, and other German delicacies at Rathskeller.

One of the most beautiful and regularly Instagrammed places outside Austin is Enchanted Rock, and luckily it’s just down the road from Fredericksburg. While camping spots fill up fast and are incredibly hard to lock down, a day trip to hike to the top is a great option to test your physical strength and stamina. Hike the park’s most famous path, Summit Trail, for breathtaking scenery and rock formations. Along with hiking and rock climbing, it’s also an excellent spot for a picnic with family and friends before heading back to town.

About Domain Realty

At Domain Realty, we love and know Austin real estate because we live here, and we’ve made this city our home. There are many reasons why Austin is an amazing place to live, and we’re here to tell you about them. From apartments to condos or homes, we want to help you find a place that’s perfect for you. To get started on finding a place you can finally call home, contact us today by calling (512) 872-4211 and speak to a qualified real estate professional.

Best Places to Go with Kids in Austin

Exploring Austin is so much fun for curious and energetic kids of all ages. There are so many exciting things to see and do, all within a short drive from any part of the city. With the activities available, school holidays, vacations, and weekends will pass quickly but will last forever as memories. Plan a day trip to one place and then perhaps a picnic at another. Austinites know how unpredictable the weather can be at any time of year, but there are plenty of activities, indoor and out, for sunny or rainy days.

Peter Pan Mini Golf

This has been a South Austin institution since 1946 for a reason; it is pure fun! The kids will get to play golf around whales, pirates, and even dinosaurs. With two 18-hole courses you are bound to work up an appetite, so bring a picnic or a cooler. It is also a perfect destination for parties, just call in advance to rent the space. Even better is that they will be responsible for the clean-up, and the kids will be entertained for hours. Getting the kids away from their video games and letting them hit a bucket of balls gets them on their feet and interacting with their peers. Peter Pan Mini Golf is the perfect place to go on a sunny Austin day.

The Butler District Park

On a hot day, this hilltop park on the south side of Lady Bird Lake, near the Long Center, has a splash pad that is perfect for the kids to run through to cool off. The park is less crowded than Zilker Park or Auditorium Shores, and there are off-leash dog areas nearby, so bring your kid’s four-legged best friend. You will find many places to grab a bite within the nearby Barton Springs restaurant row. Sandy’s Frozen Custard is down the street so be sure make it a drive through stop on the way home and grab an old-fashioned Austin treat.

Ai Weiwei Forever Bicycles

This art installation is located on the water near the intersection of Caesar Chavez Street and Red River Street, on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. It puts a nice spin on bikes that your children will not soon forget. It is a temporary exhibition that will disappear in November 2018, so add it to your bucket list or lose this once-in-a-lifetime chance forever. There are bathrooms at the coffee house next to it, and many places for the kids to run around. Have them bring their kites to fly over the lake. It is a lovely place for a picnic, and while you can’t touch the bikes, don’t forget your camera to capture these lifelong memories. You will be glad that you found this hidden gem of an exhibit.

The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary

This unique sanctuary only houses animals that have been rescued from private homes or places where wildlife is not suitable. The zoo is small enough to see in about an hour and has a petting zoo with friendly goats and giant tortoises for the kids to interact with. Their rehab center is invaluable for animals, and it offers many enrichment activities. They also host fun events on the weekends that are family friendly. Some of the animals paint, so check out their art, which is also for sale.

Mueller Lake Park

A 30-acre park surrounding a six-acre lake, this beautiful space is conveniently located downtown. The kids will love the room to run, and there is a five-mile path that wiggles and winds its way through the park, great for your furry friends that need some exercise too. Feeding the ducks and fishing (catch and release) is encouraged. There is a fenced-in playground area with jungle gyms and whimsical sculptures that your kids won’t want to leave. There are also plenty of restaurants nearby in the Mueller shopping area that help you end the day with a delicious meal.

Jumpoline Park

It can be hard to have your kids get their energy out during bad weather, but with a fun indoor play space, Jumpoline Park can help. It features several rooms with wall-to-wall trampolines, an indoor dodgeball area, a bouncy basketball court, and a freestyle area where the entire family can do somersaults and practice their dance moves. The kids will come home exhausted and ready for bed.

The State Capitol

The Austin state capitol building is free and full of surprises. It is actually quite versatile and is a fun adventure on sunny or rainy days. The grounds of the building are lovely, and picnics are encouraged. There are free guided tours and a large underground section that has a very affordable cafeteria. The building is impressive with many rooms to explore. The Texas Legislature only meets every two years, so check the schedule if you are interested in seeing how the government operates up close. It is an educational experience that will not soon be forgotten.

Inner Space Caverns

If you are ready for your kids to have a true adventure but the weather is too hot or wet, go underground with this great Texas treasure. It was discovered accidentally by the Texas Highway’s core drilling team in 1963 after sitting there quietly for over 10,000 years. There are cathedral-sized rooms where hundreds of thousands of visitors are left speechless by the natural beauty. There is an outdoor playground, a mining area, and a gift shop with a fossil display. No strollers, food, drinks, wheelchairs, candy, or gum are allowed and you’ll want to wear your walking shoes as the paths are all natural and some bumps and uneven spots remain. It is perfect for the hot days of summer as it is a constant 72 degrees with 98% humidity inside the cave, so it feels more like 80 degrees. Between the walking and the temperature, you will stay cool and the kids will love being underground.

Austin is a very family-oriented city with many activities and events happening on a regular basis. For more information regarding family-friendly events, be sure to check out the 365 Things to Do in Austin blog or venture downtown and ask the locals. Even if there are no events going on the weekend you are planning your family adventure, there are always parks, restaurants, and museums that are open to the public year-round. With so much to do, the only problem will be choosing where to go.

Top Romantic Spots in Austin

While it may not have the reputation and notoriety of Paris or Venice, Austin is a fantastic city to be in love in thanks to its intimate restaurants, scenic overlooks, and beautiful weather. This makes impromptu picnics or bike rides with your loved one a weekly occurrence. Whether you’re married, in a long-term relationship, or looking for romance, Austin is flush with romantic spots and attractions perfect for Valentine’s Day and any other day of the year. No matter how long you’ve lived in Austin, there’s an inherent feeling of love from all corners of the city thanks to the people but also to the number of spots all over town that act as the perfect backdrop for a romantic day or night out. You just have to know where to look.

From sipping drinks in one of the city’s speakeasies to paddle boarding on the lake and learning to two-step at the Broken Spoke, there’s something about this city that inspires love. It’s no wonder a 2017 poll from NBC News had Austin ranked as the sixth best city in the United States for single people looking to fall in love. The fact is, Austin is much more fun when you can enjoy all it has to offer alongside someone else. So whether you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day spot or a place for date night, here are some of the most romantic places Austin has to offer.

Scenic Views at Mount Bonnell

You don’t have to be in Austin long before hearing about Mount Bonnell (3800 Mt. Bonnell Rd.), and for a good reason. With its beautiful panoramic views of the city overlooking Lake Austin, it’s one of the oldest tourist attractions in town and the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with that special someone.

After a short hike—don’t worry, there are stairs and you don’t need hiking boots—you’ll find a breathtaking vantage point with the Hill Country to the west and the Austin skyline to the southeast that’s sure to inspire romantic feelings. While you most definitely won’t be alone, there’s plenty of room for you and your loved one to hide away and sit and enjoy the scenic overlook. You can even bring dinner and have a picnic at the highest point in Austin. If cooking isn’t your thing, stop at Central Market or any other nearby restaurant to grab food and a bottle of wine to go.

Lovebird Mural Tour

Among the extensive collection of street art peppered throughout the city are many romantic and sentimental murals that act as the perfect backdrop for you and your loved ones Valentine’s Day or date night selfie. From locals to tourists it’s hard to miss these now iconic pieces of Austin street art meant to inspire and spread love to everyone who stops to view them.

Some of the most popular murals for couples of all ages every day of the year include:

“I love you so much” – Located on the north-facing wall of Jo’s Coffee on South Congress (1300 S. Congress), this is by far the most well known and most visited romantic mural in town. Originally painted as a spontaneous love letter to the owner of Jo’s Coffee from her then-girlfriend, it has become a beacon of love and romantic backdrop for countless engagement photos, proposals, and selfies.

“You’re My Butter Half” – Located on the United Way for Greater Austin Building (2000 E MLK Blvd) this is another popular and cute photo opportunity that is sure to put a smile on you and your partner’s face.

“Till Death Do Us Part” – This one has multiple locations (one at E. 7th and Waller and the other downtown on the side of the Mexic-Arte Museum) and is a hauntingly beautiful creation of those marriage vows we’ve all heard or said.

Start at the “I love you so much” mural, grab a coffee at Jo’s for the caffeine boost and see how many you can visit and take photos in front of for a different and adventurous date.

Sunset at 360 Bridge

If Mount Bonnell seems a little too touristy or crowded, you and your loved one can take in the beautiful Austin sunset atop a bluff overlooking Lake Austin and the Pennybacker Bridge. The views here at sunset are incredible and produce some “hashtag no filter” photos that are sure to impress anyone.

While it’s still only a 10-minute hike, it’s a bit more adventurous and rocky than Mount Bonnell, so we recommend wearing comfortable and sturdy shoes. To get to it, head south on Loop 360, and just before you reach the Pennybacker Bridge, you’ll see cars parked in the gravel area on the northwest side of the bridge and an unofficial trail leading to the top.

Romantic Restaurants and Bars

There’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Austin for every type of cuisine imaginable, but there are some that stand out when it comes to romance and having a special night with your spouse or significant other. At Domain Realty we love:

Justine’s Brasserie – Inspired by France and of course the “City of Love,” Justine’s is the perfect place for delicious food while sitting across from your loved one. Complete with red walls, flickering candles, and music from a record player, you almost forget you’re not along the banks of the Seine.

Uchi or Uchiko – Considered by many as the best restaurants in town, either place offers the best sushi and modern Japanese cuisine that’s sure to impress a first date or celebrate an anniversary.

Vespaio – No list of romantic restaurants is complete without a small, casual Italian place. Located on South Congress, Vespaio has a cozy atmosphere with an extensive wine list and delicious traditional Italian dishes to split with that special someone.

At Domain Realty, we want you and your loved one to fall in love with our city the way we have. Whether you’re looking for a new house or your first one in Austin, we take pride in helping couples find the perfect place to call home so they can enjoy these romantic spots for years to come. Call us today at (512) 872-4211 and speak with an Austin real estate professional.

Parks and Open Spaces to Visit in Austin

It’s no secret that Austin has tons of restaurants, bars, music venues, and other places to visit and spend time indoors. From local mainstays and culinary institutions to trendy new eateries with young and exciting chefs, we all have our favorite recommendations when it comes to eating and drinking indoors in the comfort of air conditioning. But that’s only half of Austin’s magic, and to discover the whole story, you have to leave the confines of walls and roofs and head outdoors.

With an average of 228 sunny days in Austin every year, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Austinite who doesn’t take advantage of the beautiful weather by spending as much time as possible outdoors. And whether you’re picnicking under a shady oak tree at Zilker Park, hiking or biking at the Greenbelt, or going for a stroll with your significant other and canine friend, Austin’s parks and outdoor areas have something for everyone.

So where do you start? If you’re new to town or don’t think of yourself as the outdoor type, finding out where local parks and outdoor areas are, as well as what they have to offer is the first step. There are a lot of options and hearing various recommendations from friends or co-workers could leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. And with outdoor activity offerings for people of all athletic ability and levels of fearlessness, you don’t have to be an expert rock climber or REI-sponsored outdoorsmen to revel in the outdoor beauty of Austin, Texas. With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite spots in the city but don’t be afraid to find some of your own. Most neighborhoods have a local park or beautiful open field within walking distance.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Arguably the most famous park in the city, Zilker Park isn’t just the location of the two-weekend Austin City Limits music festival. It’s also the perfect spot to soak up the sun and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon with your friends, family, and dogs. Sprawling across 351 acres just southwest of downtown, you’ll find locals and tourists participating in every type of activity imaginable from sand volleyball and soccer to yoga and slacklining under the canopy of the Austin skyline. Bring a frisbee, picnic basket, and your dogs and see how the locals spend a weekend afternoon.

Barton Springs Pool

Right across the street from Zilker Park is one of Austin’s most famous attractions and arguably the heart of the city—Barton Springs Pool. Naturally fed from underground springs, this three-acre pool maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees making it the perfect place to soak up some sun laying on the hill and then cooling off during the hot spring and summer months. With over 800,000 annual visitors, the pool attracts people of all ages and all walks of life from families teaching their children to swimmers, snorkelers, and free-spirits keeping weird Austin alive and weird.

The Greenbelt

If Barton Springs Pool is Austin’s most well-known and iconic watering hole the Barton Springs Greenbelt is the oasis for locals. Not only as an escape from the blistering heat but also as an official meeting place for Austinites of all ages. That’s because there’s not an official entrance or parking lot. Instead, it’s a 12-mile stretch of hike and bike trails and swimming spots with random entrances, and everyone seems to have their favorite. From the Spyglass entrance adjacent to the local favorite Tacodeli to the Lost Creek trail that leads to the sound of waterfalls, music, dogs barking, and dozens of people enjoying life, the Greenbelt may not be the city’s best-kept secret any longer. However, it is still the perfect outdoor space.

Auditorium Shores at Lady Bird Lake

If you want an outdoor space in the heart of downtown with the ever-growing and picture-perfect city skyline all around you, look no further than Auditorium Shores. At all hours, you’ll find people jogging along the winding trail on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, playing a game of frisbee, flying a kite, or spending time on the water in a kayak or paddleboard. There’s also a great open area for your dogs to roam freely. Often the site of a multitude concerts all year long, visitors can also pay their respects to one of the city’s most iconic musicians by visiting the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial statue located on the hike and bike trail along the south bank of the lake. We aren’t promising anything, but there’s always a chance you may stumble upon a local celebrity like Matthew McConaughey or Lance Armstrong.

Mueller Lake Park

There’s no shortage of great outdoor spaces around downtown and along Loop-360 but there are also beautiful and relaxing parks all over the city, including one of the coolest areas in town, Mueller. Near the newest Alamo Drafthouse and popular Austin Children’s Museum (The Thinkery), the 30-acre Mueller Lake Park has a 6.5-acre lake, loop trail, open-air amphitheater and stage, interactive playscape, and public art space. This park is perfect for a quiet sunset walk with your dogs or to join dozens of workout enthusiasts for a variety of bootcamps or yoga classes on the banks of the lake. Along with a variety of monthly events for the entire community like outdoor concerts with visiting food trucks, there’s also a local farmer’s market every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.

With so many outdoor areas to enjoy throughout the city it’s impossible to not fall in love with Austin. And whether you’re into biking, hiking, or lazy strolls with your dog and loved one, there are dozens of local parks in every neighborhood in town. At Domain Realty, we love this city and we know where to find you a home close to any of these beautiful outdoor spaces. To get started with your home buying or selling process, contact us today at (512) 872-4211.

How to Buy a Home in Austin Without Overpaying

In a city like Austin where the median single-family home price continues to climb year over year while inventory remains relatively flat, buying a home you love and can afford is no small task. The median single-family home price in Austin rose to $367,701 in February, a 12.2 percent increase from the previous year. And while that’s great news for sellers, it puts more of a strain on buyers saving up for the home of their dreams. And the market doesn’t appear to be slowing down. After being named the number one city to live in the U.S. for the second year in a row by U.S. News and World Reports, the housing market is expected to be as competitive as ever over the next few years thanks to an increase in demand and a low number of available homes. For first-time homebuyers, this can be the perfect storm for overpaying for a home.

According to research, first-time home buyers typically spend on average $2,200, or 0.79 percent, more for their homes than experienced buyers. And while that doesn’t seem like a lot of money compared to the overall cost of the house, it can make a big difference in not going over your budget. The reason people are susceptible to overpaying for a home in a popular market is it can be tough to exercise discipline and stick to your budget. Keeping a level head and not being swayed by the frenzy of the market isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you’ve been looking for months and are growing impatient. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you don’t overpay for a home, even in a hot market like Austin.

Avoid Open Houses

Many potential home buyers, especially first-time buyers, are under the impression that the only way you can view a house is by attending as many open houses as possible on a Saturday or Sunday. These showings aren’t mandatory and can lead to overpaying. The purpose of an open house is for the seller to get as many people interested in the property as possible, but the very nature of an open house makes buyers more competitive and more likely to overpay. Hearing a seller drop a line like, “there’s another couple here who’s interested,” can cause even the most frugal of people to up their offer price without thinking twice. Instead of attending open houses, ask for a private showing by speaking with your real estate agent so you can view the home without any distractions or over-the-top stagings that make the home look more desirable.

Patience is a Virtue

Good things come to those who wait and the same can be said for buying a home. Looking for and buying a home is a huge decision and when the process gets compressed into one or two weekends, financial mistakes happen. Ideally, you should spend months looking for a home to avoid overpaying. By staying patient and keeping a level head throughout the search, you can maintain control of the process as opposed to becoming reactive and desperate. Of course, there are some instances such as moving to a new city or going through a divorce that may affect one’s timeline. However, for many homebuyers, staying patient will help you avoid buyers remorse from overpaying or purchasing a home in an area you didn’t research or know anything about.

Part of staying patient and maintaining control is avoiding buyer fatigue. In a competitive market like Austin, potential buyers may spend months looking at homes, make multiple offers, and still come up empty. After a while, the homebuying process can leave you feeling exhausted and dejected, and that can put you at serious risk of overpaying. Whether you’ve lost two or three bidding wars with another buyer or didn’t get an offer in quick enough, buyer fatigue can lead to increasing your budget and overpaying. Consulting with an experienced real estate agent is important during this period. He or she can help you stay calm and also work to find you more options in up and coming areas you may not have considered.

Stay in Control of Your Emotions

As humans, we’re conditioned to put a lot of pressure and emotion into big life decisions and larger purchases. From our first car to our first paycheck, these milestones are signs of growing up and becoming an adult. The same happens when buying a home. It’s an emotional process, and first-time home buyers can especially be susceptible to letting their hearts and not their heads drive their decisions. Falling in love with a home early in the buying process and the excitement of seeing oneself moving in and decorating it can increase the chance of overlooking potential negatives and inevitably overpaying. If you feel yourself becoming attached to a home, make a pros and cons list for different properties, or bring along a parent or friend who can objectively assess the home. In the end, as a homebuyer, you have to be willing to stick to your budget and walk away, even if it hurts.

Contact Domain Realty Today

Buying a home is a big decision that can affect your life for years to come. And while we know it can be an exciting and emotional process, it’s important to do your research, stay patient, and work with an experienced real estate agent who can help you every step of the way. At Domain Realty, our agents excel at helping Austinites find their perfect home. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to upgrade, contact an experienced Austin real estate agent today by calling Domain Realty at (512) 872-4211.