5 Best Winter Break Destinations for UT Austin Students (2024)

Winter break at the University of Texas at Austin offers students a much-needed respite from their academic schedules. It's an ideal time for students to explore the city and take advantage of various activities and destinations on and near campus. These breaks make it possible for students to unwind and enjoy their surroundings without the pressure of classes and exams.

Finding the best places to visit during this time can help students maximize their break and create memorable experiences. Whether seeking relaxation or adventure, the options available cater to a wide array of interests. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, UT Austin students have numerous exciting places to explore during the winter break.

1) Barton Creek Greenbelt

The Barton Creek Greenbelt, one of Austin's prized natural spaces, offers UT Austin students an excellent winter break destination. Stretching 7.5 miles, it begins near Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park and extends to Camp Craft Road.

This greenbelt provides a variety of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming, rock climbing, and birdwatching. The diverse terrain ensures there's something for everyone.

Access points make it easy to explore. The primary trailhead is at 3755 S Capital of Texas Hwy, offering convenient parking. Noteworthy points along the trail include the Hill of Life, a challenging and popular section.

The Greenbelt's natural beauty is a significant draw. The trail runs along Barton Creek, providing scenic views and an immersive outdoor experience. Winter months offer a unique charm, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

2) Texas State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a prime destination for UT Austin students during winter break. It offers free 30-minute tours from Monday to Friday, which provide an excellent opportunity to learn about Texas history.

The Capitol's architecture is both grand and historically significant. Visitors can walk through historic halls, admire intricate details, and capture memorable photographs.

Tours are also available on weekends, albeit with a slightly adjusted schedule. Students can take the chance to explore the grounds and enjoy the well-kept gardens surrounding the building.

The Texas State Capitol, located in downtown Austin, is easily accessible and a great way to spend a day immersed in local culture and history.

3) Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art, located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, is a prime destination for art enthusiasts. It houses an extensive collection of over 21,000 works of art, ranging from ancient Greek pottery to contemporary pieces.

The museum's modern and inviting atmosphere provides a great escape from the winter chill. Visitors can explore different exhibitions featuring diverse artistic styles and historical periods. The well-curated displays make it an ideal place to absorb culture and inspiration.

The renovated connecting plaza between the two main buildings enhances the experience. It creates a cohesive space for visitors to enjoy outdoor installations as well. The museum's central location makes it easy to access via public transportation or rideshare.

With varying hours and occasional special events, it's a good idea to check the museum's schedule before planning a visit. The Blanton is not just for art aficionados; its educational programs and community activities make it engaging for students and families alike. Enjoying art during winter break provides not only a cultural experience but also an opportunity to unwind.

4) Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell, located in Covert Park, is one of Austin's most iconic spots. It stands 775 feet tall, providing stunning views of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline. The 102-step climb to the summit makes it accessible and enjoyable for all fitness levels.

Once at the top, visitors can explore the limestone paths leading to panoramic vistas. To the left, the view includes the Austin skyline, while turning right offers scenic sights of Lake Austin.

The park itself spans 5.1 acres, perfect for short hikes and nature walks. Early mornings and late afternoons are ideal to avoid crowds and capture the best light for photography.

Mount Bonnell's proximity to downtown Austin makes it a convenient escape from city life. Whether you're looking for a peaceful place to study or a great spot to take visiting friends and family, Mount Bonnell is a must-visit.

5) Zilker Botanical Garden

Zilker Botanical Garden spans 31 acres and offers a unique escape for UT Austin students during winter break. Located in Austin, Texas, the Garden showcases plants that flourish in arid southwestern climates.

The Garden is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM during fall and winter. Visitors should note that the Garden closes on major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Admission is reasonably priced, with free entry for children under age 2 and affordable rates for others. Non-resident youth and adults pay $4 and $8 respectively, making it accessible for students.

The Garden features various attractions including a charming butterfly garden and a collection of succulents and cacti. Seasonal events, like butterfly releases, add an extra element of delight.

With its well-maintained pathways and scenic spots, Zilker Botanical Garden offers a serene environment for relaxation and exploration. The diverse plant life provides an educational experience for those interested in botany and horticulture.

Climate Considerations

Winter in Austin, Texas, tends to be mild with pleasant average temperatures, making it an excellent time to explore the city. While snowfall is unusual, occasional cold snaps can occur.

Average Temperatures

Austin's winter months span December through February. Average high temperatures range from 60°F to 65°F (15°C to 18°C) during the day. Nighttime lows can dip to around 40°F (4°C). These mild daytime temperatures allow for comfortable outdoor activities, even in winter.

Austin's climate in winter is more temperate compared to many northern regions. The city's winter conditions appeal particularly to students seeking a break from intense academic schedules without the harsh cold.

Snowfall and Winter Weather

Snow in Austin is a rare event. The city averages less than an inch of snowfall per year. When snow does occur, it usually melts quickly due to the warm ground temperatures.

Instead of snow, Austin's winter weather often includes rain. Students should be prepared for wet conditions, especially in January, which is typically the wettest month of the season. The occasional cold snap may bring frost, so lightweight layers are recommended for fluctuating temperatures.

Travel Tips for Students

Planning a winter break trip can be exciting yet challenging for students. It's important to consider budget-friendly travel options and pack appropriately for the cold weather.

Budget-Friendly Travel Options

Students often need to keep costs low while exploring new destinations. Utilizing student discounts is crucial; many travel agencies, airlines, and hostels offer special rates for students. Booking flights well in advance can also save money.

Public transportation is an economical option for getting around once at the destination. For accommodation, hostels and budget hotels are affordable choices. Websites like Hostelworld and Couchsurfing can help find both budget-friendly and social lodging.

Traveling in groups can further reduce costs, as group discounts and shared expenses on accommodation and meals make travel more economical. Additionally, leveraging frequent flyer programs and credit card rewards for booking flights and stays can provide substantial savings.

Packing Essentials for Winter Travel

Packing for winter requires careful planning. Warm clothing is essential, including a waterproof jacket, thermal layers, and insulated boots. These items will keep you comfortable in cold and wet conditions.

Students should carry travel-sized toiletries to save space and ensure easy airport security checks. A small first-aid kit is also useful for minor injuries or illness.

A reusable water bottle can save money and reduce plastic waste. Portable chargers and extra batteries for electronics ensure all devices remain functional. Packing snacks and instant meals is practical for long travel days or when local cuisine isn't readily available.

By focusing on these budget and packing tips, students can ensure a smooth and enjoyable winter break trip.

Things to Do in Each Destination

Each location offers unique outdoor activities, rich cultural experiences, and delicious dining options that make them ideal winter break destinations for UT Austin students.

Outdoor Activities

San Diego: With temperatures in the 60s, students can enjoy activities like visiting the famous San Diego Zoo, hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, or surfing at Pacific Beach.

Clearwater, Florida: Experience warm December weather perfect for beach activities, dolphin watching tours, or paddleboarding in the calm gulf waters.

Lake Tahoe: Enjoy extensive skiing and snowboarding options at major resorts like Heavenly Mountain. Snowshoeing and snowmobiling are also popular winter activities in the scenic surroundings.

Anaheim-Disneyland: Besides Disneyland, students can explore trails in Yorba Regional Park or enjoy whale-watching cruises off the coast.

Hawaii - The Big Island: Engage in snorkeling and swimming at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Hike the trails of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or relax on Mauna Kea Beach.

Cultural Experiences

San Diego: Explore Balboa Park’s museums, visit the historic Old Town, or take a harbor tour to learn about the city’s maritime history.

Clearwater, Florida: Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin. Check out the local art scene at the Dunedin Fine Art Center or attend events at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Lake Tahoe: Discover Tahoe’s South Shore with visits to local galleries. Learn about Native American history at the Gatekeeper's Museum or take a scenic drive along Lake Tahoe’s perimeter.

Anaheim-Disneyland: Apart from Disneyland, explore Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center. Visit nearby Huntington Beach to see the International Surfing Museum or attend live performances at the House of Blues.

Hawaii - The Big Island: Tour historic Hilo Town, visit the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, or enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau to understand the island’s rich culture.

Food and Dining

San Diego: Indulge in fresh seafood at Point Loma Seafoods, try authentic Mexican tacos at Lucha Libre Taco Shop, or enjoy a farm-to-table experience at Urban Solace.

Clearwater, Florida: Savor seafood dishes at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, experience waterfront dining at Island Way Grill, or grab a Cuban sandwich at Lenny’s Restaurant.

Lake Tahoe: Dine at local favorites like Edgewood Restaurant. Enjoy American cuisine at The Lake House or sample craft beers at Cold Water Brewery and Grill.

Anaheim-Disneyland: Discover diverse dining at Downtown Disney District. Enjoy classic Italian at Anaheim White House or gourmet burgers at Umami Burger.

Hawaii - The Big Island: Taste local flavors at Merriman’s, feast on fresh poke at Suisan Fish Market, or indulge in island delicacies at Hawaiian Style Café.

5 Best Winter Break Destinations for UT Austin Students (2024)


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