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Web Extra: The Austin Experience


More worthy experiences


In the July issue, Matt Joyce, Jill Lawless, and Lori Moffatt delve into three different versions of an Austin staycation. Here are a few of the many, many worthwhile attractions, restaurants, and activities that were left on the cutting-room floor—and with a city as interesting as Austin, there are still hundreds of things that we’ve yet to explore.  We’ll add to this story in the coming weeks, so drop us a line to let us know what we’ve missed, and also check out Art Director Jane Wu’s blog on her take on the city. 

Deep Eddy Pool—This man-made, spring-fed swimming pool in Eilers Park (popular with lap-swimmers nearly year-round) hosts Splash Movies in the summer, starting this year with Grease on July 6. For a complete listing (including movie ratings), go to their website. —JBL

The University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers gardens and trails for exploration year round, and special kids’ events like Nature Nights, which take place this year on June 13, 20, 27 and July 11, 18, and 25. Families can enjoy expert-led nature hikes, interactive presentations, and nature crafting.  —JBL

Stay tuned for news on the new home of the Austin Children’s Museum, scheduled to open this year at Mueller’s Town Center. The 40,000-square-foot facility will feature outdoor spaces and hands-on exhibits for ages 0-11, including an “Innovators’ Workshop” (with science, engineering, and art activities), natural science programs in “Our Backyard,” and healthy living displays in “Let’s Grow.”  Find updates on their website. —JBL

Wine bars around the city abound, and some of our favorites include Vino Vino on Guadalupe (cold A/C, dim lighting, knowledgeable sommeliers, and knockout food), Housewine at 408 Josephine, near Barton Springs Road and Lamar (wine-tasting classes, patio seating, great happy hours), and Uncorked at 7th and I-35 (an amazingly serene patio overlooking the interstate, plus carefully selected wines and a small food menu). —LM

Comparing the Austin Zoo, at 10807 Rawhide Trail, to a facility like the Dallas Zoo or the San Antonio Zoo, is kind of like comparing apples to oranges. The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary provides a home to hundreds of rescued animals ranging from tortoises to tigers, many of whom came from less-then-desirable previous homes. —LM

Con Olio, a balsamic vinegar and olive oil “tasting bar” and shop, with two locations (in the 2nd Street District and in the Arboretum, in north Austin) offers dozens of varieties of amazingly flavorful vinegars and complex olive oils. Classes here($20) introduce participants to the differences between typical grocery-store products and artisan vinegars and oils, and shed light on the health benefits of the vinegars, in particular.

Says co-owner Jeff Conarko, “Olive oil should taste and smell fresh, like it just came from a tree, and vinegar should taste sweet, smooth, and thick. Our concept at Con’ Olio is that we import the best oils and vinegars, but we also encourage people to taste them, to sip them, to appreciate them. I hear this from new customers a lot: ‘You want me taste olive oil? I don’t want to do that without bread!’ Or ‘What? You want me to sip vinegar like wine?’ But then they do, and they have their eyes opened.” —LM

Museums near or on the UT campus include the always-enlightening Harry Ransom Center (books, letters, photographs, drawings, and other literary ephemera, including a rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible), the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (which also houses the city’s only IMAX theater), the Blanton Museum of Art, whose collection of permanent works includes hundreds of noteworthy pieces by American, Latin American, and European artists; and the recently remodeled LBJ Library and Museum, which is dedicated to telling the story of Texas natives Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. —LM

Mount Bonnell, a high lookout alongside Lake Austin in the western part of town, affords panoramic views of the surrounding hills—and an aerobic workout, to boot. At 3800 Mt. Bonnell Road.—LM

Chinatown Shopping Center, at 10901 N. Lamar, boasts the city’s densest concentration of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants, bakeries, and shops, anchored by Austin’s largest Asian grocery store, MT Supermarket. I love going to MT for crazy greens, unusual fruits, and condiments from around the world. MT also has a huge selection of housewares, ranging from monstrous plastic bowls for preparing noodles for a crowd, rice cookers, pretty sake sets, and all manner of ladles, spoons, strainers, and other interesting items.

Other interesting shops in Chinatown Center include a Chinese herbalist (the dried ginger here is terrific); a salon dedicated solely (pun intended) to Chinese foot massage; a dessert and sandwich shop called Short n’ Sweet (try the durian yogurt if you’re feeling adventuresome—it smells like a locker room but tastes delicious); two banh mi shops called Lily’s Sandwich and the Baguette House; a Korean barbecue place called the Korean Grill (go with a group and cook your meal at a tabletop grill); and a highly regarded Vietnamese noodle place called Pho Saigon. —LM

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