The visionaries behind this classic Eastside bungalow renovation have created a viable, desirable, and affordable boutique hotel east of I-35. Seven rooms teeter on that thin line between streamlined mid-century crispness and cozy, East Austin slack. Dare we say "Get in on this thoughtfully designed ground floor" before this place really takes off? Oh, and there are upstairs rooms, too. Weekday rates range from $179 to $279; weekend rates vary.
For those who never knew Austin before its new-millennium skyline era, the Hilton near the Austin Convention Center is a mammoth bookend, blending in with the ever-evolving scenery. But in 2004, when this giant opened, it was a game-changer, both in stature and in amenities. That's still true today. Its rich menu of spa options from the Sixth Street Soother reflexology and facial treatment to the Star of Texas Couples Massage is sure to make it a mood-changer, too.
The bank of windows in the common area serves up a lovely and modestly priced slice of Lady Bird Lake. Here at HI-Austin, the culture and cost are rucksack ready – so much so that our readers voted it Austin's "Most Affordable" accommodations in 2010. Dorm beds, $25-28 per person. Private room, $63. Some modest fees apply.
In 2011, our team of critics awarded this jump-aroo zoo a "Best of Austin" Critics Pick for "Most Likely To Cause Squeals, Then ZZZs." Truly, after a few hours in this trampoline city, you and the kids won't want to "bounce" as in leave, but bounce as in pounce and flounce. $10 per person, first hour, ages 8 and older. Discounts are available for multiple hours, weekdays, families, and children younger than 5.
The lovingly curated grounds inspire change, the vistas are simply inspiring, and the staff is one of the friendliest in the biz. This 10-time "Best of Austin" Readers Poll winner has amassed so many international accolades (Zagat, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure) that it could rest on its laurels, but it doesn't. It constantly innovates and shakes things up. This summer, the programming offerings include Quench!, a series featuring sea-inspired dishes and fitness challenges fit for an Olympian (or someone who's about to feel like one). Book a two-night stay and the second person pays half, or book a two-night stay and get a third night free.
Shoot across 250 or 2000 feet of the rippled mirror surface of Lake Travis just like James Bond, Wonder Woman, or Batman, yo. A variety of packages can be outfitted to suit your group. Check online for info on one of its special Full Moon Zipline Tours. Reservations required. $98 includes all equipment, boat transportation, a light snack, and private beach access.
The higher the hair, the closer to gawd? Not exactly. These hairs apparent are classy beyond belief – totally customized works of art, not your typical blend-in-like-it's-your-own-hair wigs (although, they have a great selection of those as well). And while tress proprietress Allyson Garro outwigs a growing percentage of our local burlesque and performative show queen culture, she keeps it real with reasonable price points and, for the commitment-phobic, fantabulous wig parties: two to three hours of lid-popping makeover fun for gals and guys and everyone along the spectrum, with exciting options like the Fun Loving Photos photo booth add-on and parting gifts for all. Basic wig party packages range from $280 to 480; add-ons available.
Talk about your room with a view. The Sheraton's faceted zigzag design creates more than just four corner suites per floor, affording some magical sights, especially of our rosy Texas State Capitol. The ground-floor and uniquely indoor-outdoor pool is another great feature to round out this affordable staycation. Special summer packages and rates available online.
For those self-awakenings that dig a little deeper than, “Gee, I think I’ll cut back to just light beer this week!” – strap on a harness, sling across this vertical climbing gauntlet, and set your new bar at an all time high. Named to evoke the merits of surefooting, the Pricky Pear Challenge Course was designed in conjunction with Outward Bound to suit a range of skill levels with vertical climbing elements – from the Cob Web rope ladder, across the Raider Bridge, the Flying V, and Double Trouble, to the soaring climax: 250 feet of tree-kissing zipline. So if you generally don’t see yourself as the “fly through the air with the greatest of ease” sort, fret not, and take the leap. Slip into some sturdy rigging and in the care of affable adventure guides Cortnie Jones and Joshua Krilov for the upward-bound trek of your life. Ultimately, it’s all about trust – in yourself.
Discovered back in the early Sixties when the Texas Highway Department was drilling for core samples, this example of Mother Earth's gracious womb rests right under I-35 and offers amateur spelunkers a view of the Balcones Fault, up close and personal. Adults, $19.95; children ages 4-12, $11.95; children ages 3 and younger, free. Group rates and extended tour rates available.
Performance artist Tiana Hux has the sweetest and realest alter ego: as caring nanny and kids' party entertainer. She'll bring her patented intelligence, wit, and childlike wonder in one of many forms: pirate, princess, or Mary Poppins, to name a few. She caters to ages 3-11 and can customize your shindig for groups of 10-12 children, with various activities in a variety of package deals and assorted add-on options. Kids know when make-believe is real, and Tiana is as real as rain. Two-hour parties begin at $200 with a variety of add-ons available.
Put some spurs on your inner renegade. From grin-inducing pony encounters for the kids to full-on yeehaw off-roading (ummm... on four hooves) at McKinney Roughs, Bastrop's Lost Pines Resort does not horse around. $35-175
We have a feeling that the "K" in K1 stands for "kart" and not "kiddie," as these 20 horsepower electric minimuscle machines will keep both the young and young at heart stoked till the chequered-flag finish – all indoors and up to an aorta-pumping 45 mph. We said young-at-heart, not faint of heart! Annual license, $6; 12- and 14-lap races, $20. Multiple race and weekday discounts available.
Last year's blistering drought and horrific wildfires almost laid waste to our jaunty neighbor to the east. Neighbors and park workers united to protect as much of this blessed treasure as possible, and she is now reopened for all to enjoy. Read about the efforts to save the Depression-era cabins in the woods in "Suddenly Last Summer," above. Adults, $4; children younger than 12, free. Cabins, $80-200, nightly.
Oooh, keep on rain-dancin', Austin – it really seems to be working. Especially in light of last year's drought, our 2011 weather outlook so far seems more friendly for fireworks season. Come this Fourth of July – and the two weeks preceding it – the "buy one, get a million free" fireworks stands start to get busy just outside our city limits. Check this website for a map pinpointing locations, and check out its Hwy. 71 superstore just east of Austin Bergstrom International Airport, June 24-July 4 (and for the winter holidays, Dec. 20-Jan. 2). Retail prices vary. Custom shows ($500-10,000) for special events available.
Go for the award-winning Wolf Dancer Golf Club, the whoopty-doo waterslides, the Live at Lost Pines music series, or to melt your day away at Spa Django, but stay for the s'mores. Yup. Every night, Lost Pines sparks up a resort-sized campfire to toast a few under the big night sky.
When going to the fireworks stand just isn't enough bang for your buckos, these custom special FX wizards can really get your party poppin'. According to their website, they'll do "weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, corporate events, festivals, films, grand openings, indoor displays, private parties, resort celebrations, reunions, school events, theater productions, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, sweet 16 parties, quinceñeras, and of course, July 4th and New Years Eve." What? No pyro for Pi Day? Contact for quotes.
It's fun to sit in the garden and watch the chefs come out and pluck herbs for the evening's meal. What's more fun is having them show you their secrets – though healthy, organic, locally sourced food is no secret. Come learn with the pros. Fridays, Saturdays, or by appointment.
Schlitterbahn No matter where you turn or burn in Texas these days, there is a Schlitterbahn within schlitting distance. And all three of the Texas parks have rolled out new features, like the limbs of the gorgeous live oaks that drape the original park: New Braunfels launched The Falls, the longest waterpark ride on the planet ever. It stretches over 3,600 feet in a 25-minute ride loop on which visitors can shuttle between the Surfenberg and Warneke Pavillion (née The Rapids) sections of the property. The western U-turn of the Falls arcs under the balcony of the new Treehaus luxury resort (see "Haus Party," above). Galveston's indoor waterpark gussied up her outdoors with the expansion of the cabanas, ample thatched huts that can be reserved by small groups for the day for a modest fee. South Padre Island's Schlitterbahn is also growing its luxury accommodations with a new seaside hotel. Last week, the slippery empire opened its first out-of-Texas park in Kansas City, Kansas. And closer to home, there's the exciting news of a ground-breaking in Cedar Park in the works. We schlitt you not. Adult admission (12-54 years old), $47.99; children (3-11), $37.99; seniors (55 and older), $37.99. Group rates, multiday and season pass discounts are available. Resort accommodation package deals are available online.
We awarded this New Braunfels outfitter (located near the Comal River, Hinman Island Park, the Prince Solms Tube Chute, and Schlitterbahn) "Best River Shuttle" in 2008, and it still provides door-to-door service for your group all along the I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin. Daily tube rental, $10-17. Contact for group rates and door-to-door shuttle service.
You can choose your own "Proud Mary" adventure on the magnificent Guad: Nice and easy... or nice and rough. And depending on the day and time, it can be as lazy and pristine as those first few moments on the river in Deliverance or as raucous as – well, we hope not the climax of Deliverance. Burt Reynolds not included.
The Krause family has held this piece of sheer Texas swimming-hole heaven in their care for over 50 years. It's easy to imagine leprechauns or elves creeping out from behind the craggy rocks and mossy ferns to take a turn on the rope swing over the icy, spring-fed pool. Adults, $7; children 4-11, $5; under 4, free. Camping: RV site, $14; primitive: adults, $14; children, $6.
If your mom delivered you via water birth, prepare for some serious flashbacks. For the rest of us, imagine a mermaid intensive or an Esther Williams reincarnation. At the very least, it's the best thing you can do while wearing a nose plug. Delivered here at Travaasa by certified therapist Laura Syrgley, at its best, Watsu is unique and tender underwater massage therapy, a potentially transformative experience. $135 add-on