ACL Fest Avoidance Guide (Part 2): Day & Evening Excursions
The Austin City Limits Music Festival divides Austin into festivalgoers and avoiders. If you're among the latter, you can get away from the crowds and snarling center-city traffic by taking one of the day and evening outings suggested here from a variety of Austin Post contributors. For a longer trip, browse yesterday's weekend getaways avoidance guide.
Check out Part 1 of our guide for overnight trip suggestions.
Also see the related articles from our resident outdoor writer Stephanie Myers.
Take a Hill Country Discovery Drive
The rule right off the bat is to abandon any notion of a destination other than "back home at the end of the day." Just strike out from town into the Hill Country and explore. Try the smaller roads; when you come to an intersection, toss a coin, follow your gut instincts or take a wild guess on which way to turn. You are allowed and advised to buy a “Texas Atlas & Gazetteer,” a detailed and comprehensive book of maps that shows all the lesser highways, byways and back roads throughout the state, which can be bought at Whole Earth Provision Company and REI. The point is, however, to let whimsy, luck and fate be your guides and enjoy the fun and surprises of stumbling across scenic vistas and tiny towns, lil' stores, funky bars and roadhouses, yummy places to chow down and if you’re really fortunate maybe one of the old nine-pin bowling alleys and other gems and cool stuff that dot the lovely hills and vales around of Austin. The main tip here is to point your hood ornament anywhere to the west. – Rob Patterson
Have a Wine Old Time Touring Local Vinters
This weekend offers a perfect occasion to seek out some of the Texas Hill Country wineries while Austin gets taken over by ACL Fest. October is Texas Wine Month – marking the general end of the grape harvest – and there are lots of wine events and celebrations going on throughout the month in the hills west of town.
Start your day by driving west out U.S. Highway 290 toward Fredericksburg and getting a traditional German lunch in town (the red cabbage and spaetzl at Auslander Biergarten on Main St. is particularly good.) Then run over to the Visitor’s Center and pick up one of their many, many different maps of the Hill Country wineries.
An easy route with 11 wineries is the Wine Road 290 along U.S. 290 from east of Johnson City to just west of Fredericksburg. Sure, you can pick up a lot of Texas wines here in town at Specs, but many of the wineries have special vintages or releases that can only be bought on site, so make sure you ask when you get your tasting. William Chris Vineyards is one of the smaller wineries on the Wine Road, but also one of the best. Like many wineries, they have live music on Saturday nights.
If you want to get a bit more adventurous, there are plenty of wineries in little towns throughout the Hill Country. Comfort is a cute burg where you can pick up jalapeno wine at Comfort Cellars Winery or get a sweet merlot at Singing Waters. You’ll find the town's best wines up a short, scenic drive off the main drag through the hills at Bending Branch Winery. Even though white Texas wines are the most reliable, Bending Branch typically puts out outstanding smooth reds of unusual varietals such as Tannat and Souzao.
If you have a group, there are a few different services like Heart of Texas Wine Tours and Bluebonnet Wine Tours that will load you and your friends in a van so you can drink to your heart’s content without worrying about which one of you has to skip the tastings. And if your day trip during ACL Fest weekend gets you stirred up, October has the Texas Wine Month Trail, where for a mere 20 bucks you can take all month to visit 32 wineries in the Hill Country and get at least one free tasting at each. – Jackie Stone
Meander Like the Water Flows Down the Colorado River
Just 20 minutes east of Austin in the small community of Webberville is an unassuming place called Cook’s Canoes, owned by Neal Cook. They offer rentals of single-person kayaks and multi-person canoes and provide a pickup service that returns you to your launching point at the end of your trip. You can choose from several waypoints in which to enter and leave the river, so a trip can be just a few hours or last the entire day.
It’s amazing how your entire environment changes when you’re on the water. There’s often a gentle breeze sweeping along the smooth waters (there are few if any rapids on this part of the river). There is almost no development to mar the natural beauty, and a variety of waterfowl and a surfacing fish or two provide a soothing soundtrack.
If you drive out from Austin along MLK Blvd, Neal’s son, Syd, suggests you pick up some Donn’s BBQ for a picnic on Cook’s Island, the largest of several islands that you’ll see along the way. You can even camp out there overnight (bring some bug spray). He also recommends checking out the fall corn maze just a few miles up the road at Barton Hill Farms. - Cisco Gilliland
Head South to Snake, Rattle & Roll
If you’ve driven Interstate 35 to San Antonio you’ve seen it, likely been intrigued by the big sign on the west side of the highway that reads: Snake Farm. Maybe the slithering creatures give you the shivers and you’ve been reluctant to stop in... get over it. The place’s revised full name, Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo, tells you that it’s not just about serpents anymore. It’s home to some 500 various animals, from alligators and antelopes to birds of many feathers and so on, plus some Texas longhorns and a petting zoo. It also inspired a popular song from Texas roots singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard.
As you’re on the outskirts of New Braunfels, for dinner go with the Teutonic roots of the town’s settlers and dine on German food at Friesenhaus or Oma’s Haus. Then head over to Riley’s Tavern in nearby Hunter, which received the first beer license in Texas after prohibition was repealed. Playing on Saturday night is Jeff Hughes and Chaparral, the Austin band that got a new generation of cool kids dancing arm in arm to country music back in the late ‘80s and helped spark a local progressive and neo-trad C&W revival that continues apace today. Their well spun originals and covers of honky-tonk classics as well as such out-of-left-field surprises as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” will seduce even your two left feet out onto the dancefloor. – Rob Patterson
Get Lost for a Spa Day in the Pines
Pamper yourself at Spa Django at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort some 15 miles east of Austin off U.S. Highway 71, and revel in a variety of purifications, scrubs, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. They even have treatments for the guys like a golfer’s massage, cowboy manis and pedis and a “gentleman’s haircut.” Check out their specials and packages. And afterwards, all refreshed, purified and all looking good, enjoy dinner at one of the resort’s five restaurants capped by a snifter of brandy or cognac at the Scribes Club. - Rob Patterson
Soak Up Some Nearby Small-Town Texas
If you’ve never traveled the thirty or so minutes north of Austin on I-35 to Georgetown, the sleepy suburb is close enough to Austin that we can co-opt it for atmospheric purposes. the idyllic Victorian houses and restored downtown commercial buildings are lovely, and this weekend the town center becomes a festive fair for Second Saturday Market Day (Oct. 13). Austin, for all its awesomeness, has such a mysterious love of ‘50s style strip malls and aluminum siding that it sometimes feels a little pre-post-apocalyptic. In Georgetown, you can drive, bike or walk aroud its residential neighborhoods to check out the many charming old homes and visit its recently-restored neoclassical courthouse where the Ku Klux Klan were tried in the early 1920s and finally wound up doing some jail time. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the Blue Hole lagoon on the South San Gabriel River, stop by a wine bar, and enjoy a slow paced, lazy day in a pretty setting that feels a million miles away from the bustle of ACL Fest. – Chris-Rachael Oseland
As the town of Woodstock, NY is to New York City, and Topanga Canyon is to Los Angeles, so is Wimberley to Austin – an outpost in the hills that blends small-town life with artistic and bohemian touches. It’s a lovely hour-or-so leisurely drive southwest from Austin into the Hill Country. This weekend is the Second Saturday Gallery Trail (Oct. 13) that showcases nine art spaces and stores on or near the rustic town square. Not to be missed is Jacob’s Well, an artesian spring inside one of the largest underwater caves in the state from which thousands of gallons of water per minute flow to create Cypress Creek. Tours are at 10 a.m. every Saturday. Take a stroll along or picnic on the verdant banks of the creek. Then end your day with dinner and evening live music at Cypress Creek Cafe or Linda’s Fine Foods. – Rob Patterson
More in ACL 2012:
Check out our ACL Infected Zone map for Austin areas to avoid this weekend.
Take a peek behind the curtain at festivals past and present: "Mud, Sweat and Gears: Backstage at ACL"