We love our hometown of Austin, Texas, also known as the “live music capital of the world.” From the world-famous BBQ joints and rows of fried food trailer foods to the debauchery of “Dirty 6th Street,” for many visitors, Austin may seem like a drunken Neverland for the young professional.
However, many Austinites (like your friends at The Natural Citizen) live a pretty healthy and balanced lifestyle. Of course, we love the occasional happy hour, waiting in line for BBQ while sipping locally crafted beers, and dancing until we drop at concerts. But, we work hard (and love it), we generally eat healthy, exercise and explore regularly, and find ways to balance out our fun, but not-so-healthy habits.
For visitors who want a little more to their Austin experience than fuzzy memories and a hangover (and yes, meat hangovers are realities), here are our top nine downtown Austin recommendations for the healthy traveler:
- Hit the Trail – Although named “Lady Bird Lake,” a river runs through the middle of Austin, and so much of our daily life revolves around it. There is a trail that runs for 10 miles around the lake with multiple bridges that enable you to cut your exploration to as little as one mile without backtracking. Walk, run or ride, at some points you’ll feel as if you’ve strayed far from civilization. Although, as long as it’s daylight, you’ll find the trail to be full of Austinites getting their exercise and a healthy dose of Vitamin D. The South side of the trail offers breathtaking views of our beautiful city. More info is available on The Trail Foundation website.
- Hit the Water – Explore Austin by water and you’ll earn unobstructed views of the skyline, or an all-access pass to the Congress Avenue Bats. There are many options to float your way through the city, keep in mind all of them require getting back to where you started (and although it’s a “lake”, it’s really a river and there is a current). You can rent a canoe, kayak or even a swan-shaped paddleboat, but our favorites are the stand up paddleboards (SUP) and waterbikes. If you’re feeling brave, give SUP a try at The Rowing Dock. If you wouldn’t consider yourself graceful or are not so privy to a potential fall in the water, then stick with the water bikes at Austin Water Bikes, which are especially great around dusk for prime-time bat watching.
- Get Juiced – With all your effort, you’re probably working up a terrible thirst and need a little boost of energy. Time to swing by JuiceLand for a fresh pressed juice or superfood smoothie. You can also find yummy organic treats and snack-sized salads in this amazing juicery. For the full experience, visit the original Barton Springs Road location and then follow it up with our next recommendation.
- Take a Dip – If you’re in Austin in the middle of summer, there is only one hope for you – Barton Springs Pool. One of the pride and joys of Austin, this three-acre man-made swimming pool is filled from a natural cold-water spring, which keeps the water at a chilly 68-70 degrees all year round. Sun bathe on the grassy hills that surround the pool until you just can’t take the heat anymore, and then plunge into the cold waters for the ultimate refreshment. Check out the hours of operation and rules here, note that food and drink are prohibited but swim tops are totally optional!
- Go Really Organic – So, if you are really sticking to the healthy and sober side of Austin, we absolutely have to recommend Casa de Luz. Located on the South side of Lady Bird Lake, this hidden oasis serves up an interesting experience along with 100% organic, vegan, gluten free, nutrient-rich meals all day long. The meals are a set menu, changing each day depending on the seasonal ingredients available. Learn more on the Casa de Luz website and Keep Austin Weird!
- Cycle the City – Rather than relying on Uber or fighting for parking, explore the city with an easy and convenient bicycle rental from Austin B Cycle. There are 40 stations across downtown, and you can rent and drop off in different locations. This is an especially great option for exploring the Lady Bird Lake trails or getting to a bar or restaurant across the city, and it’s totally affordable. Pricing, station map, and more information is available at the Austin B Cycle website.
- Rock your Yoga – The Austin yoga scene has exploded in the past few years and you can’t to throw a red radish without hitting a yoga studio (thank goodness!). Our favorite studio is Practice Yoga Austin, which offers ridiculously high quality donation yoga just east of I-35. Offering classes for all different skill levels and at all different hours of the day, you can’t afford to miss a truly Austin yoga experience. Get the details on their website here.
- Eat our Roots – We would be remiss if we skipped the store that started it all here in Austin and in many cities across the USA: Whole Foods Market. Located on Lamar St. between 5th and 6th is the expansive and glorious Whole Foods Market with the company’s global headquarters perched on top. In this mega natural foods superstore, you can explore aisle upon aisle of healthy foods, produce, supplements and prepared dishes. Hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, enjoy!
- Dance the Night Away – Just because you’re in a bar, doesn’t mean that you you’re being unhealthy. Dancing is great exercise! For the ultimate Austin experience, grab a cab or Uber and head South to The Broken Spoke for traditional live country music. You’ll learn to two-step from an old pro at what is one of the oldest honky tonks in Texas. Is salsa dancing more your thing? Try Gloria’s downtown after 10 p.m. on weekends. Don’t know how to two-step or salsa? Have no fear! If you’re flying solo and interested in learning, someone will teach you. If you’re coupled, just follow along and go with the flow. If you’re not feeling these options, just find a live concert somewhere on 6th street and sway along.
All right, it was hard to keep these healthy options narrowed down to just downtown, as there is so much more to do in our amazing city and across Central Texas. Happy adventuring, and please let us know if there are any additional tips from visitors or Austinites that we should add to the list!