Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Great places to entertain guests around Austin

After trekking through Austin landmarks like the Capitol and Zilker Park, where can you take guests for fun, outstanding views, and a distinctive flavor of Texas Hill Country?

Dine at a floating restaurant on Lake Travis.  You can boat over to The Gnarly Gar near Point Venture and park in marina slips provided for patrons. Kids love feeding the enormous catfish and ducks--they will eat whatever is left on your plate.  
Sunset on Lake Travis taken near the Gnarly Gar.
Photo by Beverly Burmeier
Dress is boat attire (swimsuit and cover-up). Menu items feature sandwiches, burgers, salads--the usual fare for a casual restaurant. Crinkly waves and gentle splashes provide soothing background music for relaxed summer dining, and live music is featured on weekends.

Viewing the skyline of Austin from Mount Bonnell is like seeing the city with a wide-angle lens.  Mt. Bonnell road heads west from Ranch Road 2222 on the north side of Hwy. 360. After winding through a residential area, there’s a small off-road parking area. Climb 99 steps to one of the highest spots in the city and look over the Pennebaker Bridge (also called 360 Bridge) on Lake Austin.

The summit, at 785 feet, boasts one of the best all-around perspectives of the city. Dawn and dusk especially offer breathtaking scenes. Bring bottle of wine to enjoy with the vista at this romantic spot.

View from shore of Pace Bend Park
Photo courtesy austinparks.org
For outdoor adventure, drive about 30 minutes to Pace Bend Park.  Take Hwy 71 west to FM 2322; turn right and drive to the park entrance.  Here, in 1200 acres of Texas Hill Country, you will find nine miles of  Lake Travis shoreline and two public boat ramps. 

The park features wide open sandy beaches with designated swim areas.  Secluded coves and scenic limestone cliffs attract visitors and inspire tenuous teens to jump into the water below, sometimes as far as 40 or 50 feet, depending on lake level.   Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails throughout the park provide additional adventure. 

Photos courtesy Salt Lick. com
If out-of-state visitors are awed by the Texan mystique, head to the Salt Lick.  This renowned barbecue restaurant will fulfill their fantasies about Texas cowpokes and the rest of us dudes. Take 290 west through Oak Hill and turn left on FM 1826 towards Driftwood.  Week-end nights often find a line of cars stretching far down the road waiting to be directed by a parking lot attendant sporting double pistols in his holster. What’s more authentic than a Texas sharpshooter rounding up the herd?

Guests enter the restaurant by an open pit where meat has been smoked since 1967. Savor traditional barbecue plates with all the trimmings while dining at wooden tables and benches.  Save room for homemade cobbler and pie after the heartier fare. Bring cash and your favorite adult beverage.
Read more travel stories at Striped Pot and Austin Adventure Travel

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