A Tourist in Your Hometown
Photography by Weston Carls
City Running Tours Austin
With a slogan like, “Sweat and Sightsee Simultaneously,” how can you go wrong?
In 2011, Lee Ackerley was just 22 years old when he moved to Austin and organized the Austin arm of City Running Tours. A native Texan, IRONMAN athlete and history buff, Ackerley fueled all of his passions while satisfying another love—meeting and talking to people.
In the last five years, his Austin running tours have expanded in both number and destinations to include creative routes like a 5K brewery tour to Hops and Grain, a historical downtown tour, greenbelt runs and 10K jaunt through UT campus and Hyde Park that ends at Black Star Co-op.
In typical Austin fashion, sometimes the zanier idea, the better. “I get a lot of freedom to have fun with the tours I create here because Austin really is so different than other cities,” said Ackerley. “Even on conference calls, guides in other cities will laugh at some of my ideas because they know they would only work here.”
Case in point: The Drinking Duathlon that incorporates a 5K downtown run followed by a spin on the PubCrawler. Only in Austin.
That's the beauty of our town. Locals love it as much as tourists. In fact, while most tour companies rely primarily on tourist business, Austin tours are booked with over 50 percent locals. A run by the Capitol, Stevie Ray Vaughan statue and the Governor’s mansion followed by a pitcher of local beer? Sign us up! Some of us may do that every day, but we're often too busy looking at our Garmin splits to stop and and give thanks to those who created what we now cherish.
City Running Tours Austin can accommodate groups of all sizes including corporate team building gigs, bachelorette parties, business travelers, birthdays, and even private running sessions. Of course, clients can take one of the many existing group tours that are designed to show runners of all levels a great time—with a little ‘Austin-ized’ history thrown in for good measure.
While Ackerley loves focusing on the creative tours, he's also passionate about helping others. Future projects include working with addicts in recovery and elementary schools to help bridge the gap between fitness and history.
To check out the upcoming tour calendar or book a group, visit cityrunningtours.com/austin/
Velo Views Bike Tours
Sure, you can take a destination tour via bus or train, but for a fitness enthusiast, the idea of admiring a landscape sitting idly behind a moving window going 60 mph is almost torturous. Cycling and travel buffs understand that the best way to soak in a picturesque mountain, a hillside of grapevines, or a rainbow of fall foliage is by pedaling right through them. Why would you simply look at a landscape when you can be a part of it?
That's the vision behind Velo Views Bike Tours, founded in Austin in 2012 by Shannon Burke. His now wife, Celeste, was the first to introduce him to adventure cycling and, needless to say, he loved the breathtaking (literally and figuratively) experience. As a former municipal planner for the cities of Austin, Round Rock and Lakeway, logistics are his thing, so he eventually took over the details of his own multi-day trips with friends.
Lo and behold, as it happens, his knack for details and a newfound passion for cycling morphed into his lifestyle career that's been growing steadily ever since.
The philosophy of Velo Views Bike Tours is simple. “We provide a highly-customized and fully supported experience with the best routes, accommodations, and dining,” said Burke. “Our biggest priority is giving our cyclists the complete experience from start to finish and we want to make the bike vacation more accessible to cyclist of all levels.” To that end, the guides don't just send riders on their way each day with a bottle of water and a map. Every ride is a fully supported, no-drop adventure. All meals, hotels and local experiences are also included, and the tour maximum of eight riders ensures a high personal level of attention and support.
For Austinites who want their adventure cycling fix outside of the city limits, Velo Views has an alluring array of five-day, all-inclusive destination bike vacations that include the Colorado Rockies, Fall Wine Tours, and Appalachian Mountain rides through Virginia, a Kentucky Horse Country Ride and Carolina Fall Foliage Tours. Many of these tours book well in advance because of the intimate nature. In fact, almost 75 percent of their business are repeat customers who have had such a great time on previous trips. As Burke recounted: “We had a guy come on a trip by himself from New Jersey and he told us that he arrived as a stranger and left as a family member. There's no better testimonial and that sentiment exemplifies exactly what we are trying to do by keeping the tours small and customized.”
One of the most unique offerings of Velo Views for both locals and tourists alike are the West Texas Bike Vacations to Big Bend and Fort Davis, the mini-retreats to the Hill Country and even single day trip guided rides out to the wineries and parks of Johnson City and Fredericksburg. These mini-respites allow even the most casual cyclist to soak in the beautiful sights and landscapes that Central and West Texas have on display. The best part? The van and guide are with you at all times so all you have to worry about is enjoying the view that surrounds you.
Although Burke and his wife are relocating to Chattanooga this spring, they will continue to lead the bike vacations around the country while expanding their services and clientele on the East Coast. Local competitive cyclist and business owner, Dan Pedroza, will run the entire Texas branch of Velo View Bike Tours. The timing is serendipitous because it allows Velo Views Bike Tours to expand their services, with both the amount of tours and even the types of tours offered. Because of his diverse cycling background, Pedroza is working on bike trips out of Central Texas that will include both mountain bike rides and guided gravel grinders. They are both also excited about the possibility of putting together multi-sport and triathlon training camps.
“Small Groups. Short Trips. Big Experiences.”