The holiday cheer has been packed away for another year and now it's back to the daily grind. Everyone is resolute to watch the waistline and the wallet, none of which sounds like much fun. Here's a quick guide to entertaining, inexpensively monthly outings in Austin to spread a little cheer through the year:
Stroll the 2nd Street District and see the variety of shops and restaurants that have transformed this section of downtown. The construction on Caesar Chavez has been completed making it much easier to drive around, as well as providing a lovely esplanade along Lady Bird Lake.
Tour the Capitol when the Texas legislature is in session. There are free tours offered daily and the grounds are a great place to walk around and see the many statues and fountains. Take a short walk over to eat at Scholz Garten where local politicians have hadhed out their differences for generations over a pint of beer and a plate of bratwurst.
Run (or walk) the 32nd Annual Statesman Capital 10,000 benefiting Meals on Wheels on March 29. The 6.2 mile race starts at Barton Springs Road and Congress Avenue and then finishes at Auditorium Shores, offering plenty of fun and entertainment along the way.
Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and discover the names of all the flowers that transform the Austin landscape every spring. There is a small admission fee to tour the grounds.
Check out one of the newer outdoor shopping venues at The Hill Country Galleria or The Domain. These unique shopping centers have the feel of walking down a village street and offer shops, restaurants and often free entertainment.
Discover why Austin is called the Live Music Capital by taking in a show at one of the clubs that helped create the Austin music scene. The Continental Club, Hole in the Wall, Saxon Pub or Antone's all offer that only-in-Austin experience. Entertainers and show times can be found in the Austin-American Statesman entertainment section every Thursday.
Cool off in one of the local swimming holes. Pack a picnic and head to Deep Eddy or the Barton Springs pool for the day.
Texas is known for great barbeque and the Salt Lick on FM 1826 in Driftwood is one of the reasons why. Thurman Roberts, Sr. And his wife Hisako started the Salt Lick Restaurant in 1969 on the ranch where he was born. It is worth the drive.
Hit the trails and enjoy the scenery along the 10.1 miles of the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail. This is one of the many things that makes Austin a terrific place to live. Recent improvements along the trail through Zilker Park should be completed by the fall.
Cheer on the nationally ranked University of Texas women's soccer team. A Friday night game at Mike A. Myers Stadium on campus is a fun family event that will not soon be forgotten.
Another part of Austin that has transformed over the last few years is the area of South Congress Avenue. Try First Thursday on South Congress, a monthly event where local merchants keep the doors open until 10 pm This is a great way to start the holiday shopping season.
Bring in the New Year with Austin's First Night celebration of the arts. This family-friendly event with a parade, live music and many unexpected wonders would be an unforgivable way to start 2010.