We'll always associate that sleazy Paul Simon song with our junior high bicentennial summer of 1976. That was the last big summer spent at neighbor Eek Kee's pool, a tradition our small gang of girls enjoyed since Eek's mom put it in years earlier. ... more
Local radio stations provided the soundtrack. We all knew the Top 40 forward and backward, backstroking to Elton John, singing underwater "guess what song?" versions of the Jackson 5, faking stripteases to the Partridge Family (do not ask), and air-guitaring to BTO, CCR, and ELO. The very adult and risque "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" made for another great game: We'd try to outdo each other with our own rhyme schemes (usually referencing something filthy or illegal) and scream them out loud right before cannonballing Shamu splooshes with our tiny preteen butts. The summer of '76 was to be our last hurrah, the last summer before everything went high-school twisted.
We're lucky Americans. Even in crappy economies we've got parks and pools and leisure time and lots of free things to do. Here is "50 Ways to Greet Your Summer" – some free, some not; some cool, some hot; some spontaneous, some that require a plan; some in-town, some out; some lazy, some crazy. We hope these spark big ideas for you.
What will be your summer cannonballing soundtrack? The new Ben Folds? Beyoncé? Daft Punk? Queens of the Stone Age? Future Bible Heroes? Grab a swimsuit, cure your tan, pick a song, and go make your own splooshy future memories. Enjoy! – Kate X Messer
Neha Aziz, Katherine Bridgeman, Andy Campbell, David Estlund, Jordan Gass-Pooré, Nina Hernandez, Nathan Jackson, Andrea Kinnison, Kate X Messer, Lisa Montierth, Lucia Murguia, and Terry Woodroffe
Who doesn't love a good find? This sprawling mercado exceeds the scope of even the most seasoned thrift, secondhand, and vintage shopper. Be it parakeets, fresh produce, electronics, swords, or tiny mariachi suits for tiny mariachis, you can pretty much find everything you never knew you wanted, all here. And once you've covered the over 300 vendors in this enormous space, you can munch on fried delicacies (funnel cakes, fried Oreos, corndogs, etc.) and enjoy live Tejano jams. Or just take a second lap; with the sensory overload, you'll probably need it. $1 per car.
For starters, may we recommend the five-mile trip between Little Webberville Park and Big Webberville Park? See the Colorado River like you've never seen it before, and at put-in, enjoy the hospitality of one Neal Cook, the charming fella who owns the little slice of East-of-Austin heaven that houses his 30-boat fleet and all the knowledge he's packed in about the town and the river that runs through it. $40 per day per canoe; $30 per day per kayak. Overnight trips, $50 per canoe, $35 per kayak. Custom trip and boat shuttle rates by request.
Retail is coming back to the Dirty Sixth district. The Hatbox is a Sixth Street staple. This mod haberdashery is right across from the Driskill. Dandy's moved in from South Austin to E. Fifth with its fancypants spat boots and bowler derbies, while King's Road Vintage is the literal new kid (as of SXSW) on the block, made up of a few enterprising SoCo dealers with great taste. We didn't see any NKOTB gear, but there was this amazing 90210 lunchbox that surely someone can't live without. Explore some of the other options we've included below and make a day of it. Forget the mall, Paul.
Whether your path be banked (Texas Roller Derby) or flat-track (Texas Rollergirls), you'll be yeehawin' and yahooin' for eight-wheeled queens with names like LuAnn Splatter and Nicki Ticki Timebomb, wearing outfits like whoa!, and chewing up track like hungry wildcats. The summer is chock full of bouts, so pick a side, or go see 'em all. $15 at the door, with a variety of deals online for both leagues.
There are really two ways to go about the Texas State Capitol: Wander around the rotunda, gazing idly at the portraits "self-guided," or catch a docent, take a Capitol tour, and chow down on some serious Texan knowledge. Did you know the star at the top of the Capitol dome is 8 feet long from point to point? You probably know that every governor of Texas has been honored with a portrait, but did you know there are only seven spots left on the walls? That could be an issue, since Rick Perry's hair is rumored to have had its own sitting. Free, fast moving, and informative, these 30-45-minute tours enhance the experience for even the most seasoned lege lovers. Free
The sights, the sounds, the smells, the freedom: There's no better way to immerse yourself in the Austin experience, let alone get fit and reduce the old carbon footprint, than on a bike. Whether you're exploring the bike-friendliest city in Texas for the first time, thinking about joining the legion of Austin cyclists for a social ride, or just avoiding the snarls of traffic, rent some wheels and join the party! Try a single-speed beater from Windmill or one of Rocket Bikes battery-assisted electric beauts for a little extra oomph on those Hill Country butt-busters or to keep your cool on sultry days. Prices and packages vary between shops.
Native Austinites are well-acquainted with the shiny terrazzo floors of the Bullock Texas History Museum from many a school field trip, but no matter how many times we've been, the changing exhibits bring something new to the table. The latest, "Women Shaping Texas," plops visitors down into a 19th century sitting room, where women were expected to spend most of their time. Wander through the rooms learning about women nurses, athletes, and politicians. We went a little crazy over Ann Richards' 1991 inaugural outfit. There is a story for just about everyone, here, and the last chance for "Women" is May 19. Starting July 13, check out "Texas Furniture From Ima Hogg's Winedale Collection."
It's the food that nourishes the soul – or that monster inside your stomach that screams, "Feed me now!" These prophets of smoked meat have mastered the alchemy of smoke and barbecue. Known far and wide as a Hill Country "must," this hog (and cow) haven is revered for its world-famous "Big Chop" pork chop, brisket, and prime rib tended to with love and care by good ole boys in cowboy boots. This is no fancy place; in fact, you're likely to be sitting on one of the long picnic tables next to strangers who may become friends (or at least politely pass the condiments). So grab a bench and get on your grub, bub, at one of the joints that puts Central Texas on the barbecue map.
Some people say Dr Pepper has a medicinal taste – and they might be right. The drink was pioneered as a cure for a host of ailments. Truly a treasure of Waco, this palace of pop features exhibitions both informative and fun about the concoction that takes 23 flavors and turns it into a Texas treasure. We stay for upwards of an hour watching the Dr Pepper commercials of yesteryear, thereby getting a lesson in the history of advertising (watch the snark creep into post-"Be a Pepper" ad campaigns of the late Nineties). At the end of your fizzy excursion, be sure to get your soda jerked (by hand! It’s chaste, we swear!), and you’ll understand why the locals insist on pure cane sugar over that other stuff. Taste the 23 flavs, Dave. $8; seniors, $6; students and kids, $5
Triple digit weather portends long lines of customers for any of Austin’s purveyors of ice (see feature, p.45). The tank-topped teen will make your friend a dreamsicle, while you devour the syrupy sweetness of tiger’s blood. Mmhmmm, tiger’s blood! Of course, you could always go all post-T-ball game on that shizz, and get a suicide, the mélange of flavors only a child’s palate can handle. Once you’ve made your way through most of the ‘cone, scooping out the sweet bottom of the barrel, you’ll find you’re already high as a glucose kite. LETSGORIDEBIKES! Sip on some ice, Bryce.
Pulling into New Braunfels' "town square," the first thing apparent is that it is actually a circle. The next mind-blower is that it has (pay attention city of Austin) free parking. The next strong impression is that there seems to be a concerted effort to retain the character of the town's many eras of architecture, impressively dodging the nostalgic whitewash trip. The Faust Hotel, for example, just around the circle on South Seguin, reps mightily for its 1920s era heyday, while somehow managing to be both completely modern, yet not feeling like a dadgummed movie set. All of this ambience suits the healthy social scene that gathers there to enjoy the on-premise craft brewery. OK. Our bad. We only come down to ride your waterslides. Holy moly, New Braunfels, where have you been all our lives?
Fayette County residents know their Shakespeare – or at least they should as UT’s College of Liberal Arts rounds into its 43rd summer of Bard-in-a-barn performances. Four plays run in rep this season, The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, Henry IV (Part I), and Doctor Faustus (actually by Marlowe). Let us break that down for you: a storm conjured by a maligned Duke, a rom-com of mistaken identities, war-time political intrigue, and a deal with the devil. We know it sounds like the Texas Lege on a good day, but in this case, it’s just pretend. It’s just pretend. It’s just pretend. Hie thee to hell, Raquel. $10; $5, students
Looking back on a lifetime of Texas summers, some of the best adventures of youth weren’t spent poolside. Many memories were made traveling time and space in a slew of novels. The Austin Library system remains on the forefront of imagination wrangling with its summer programming for kids of all ages. From "Books and Babies," where the Itsy Bitsy Spider holds court, to "NBTween," for the not-yet eyerolling preteen, there’s a program and location a stone’s throw from everywhere. Have a teen in the house? Keep an eye out for the "Wrath of Cons," the APL’s series of mini-cons with everything from cosplay to surviving the zombie apocalypse. Raising a future scribe? The three-week creative writing program is the perfect fit for your little Shakespeare-to-be. And don't forget mom and dad: The "Book Your Summer" program is all about adults, fit for getting away in the air-conditioned comfort of home. Now, that’s a staycation worth writing home about.
Set forth thy preadolescents into this controlled chaos, which has more than earned its 2006 "Best of Austin" for “Most Perfect Pandemonium.” Come early and stay late for (pause) (inhale) water-squirting bumper boats and spinning tea cups, for the laser tag floor and miniature golf course. Come for go-carts big and small, batting cages, and a rock-climbing wall. Wander through rows of arcade games, and witness miniature terror at the “Little Shot” accelerated drop, all while gorging on unlimited pizza, sweets, and soda. Oh, and there’s beer. Parents, bring a good book, get your money’s worth, and let thy children be children; it doesn’t last long – especially the under 40-inch special.
"Going commando" means a very different thing to adults than it does to a child. While both implications are disquieting, who doesn't love a dimly lit maze where children are trained to train target sites on you? Well, if you answered "Me!," there is a new attraction that might make you less anxious about setting foot in a place like Blazer Tag. Blazer's new Sky Trail puts you 20 feet up in a glowing, black-lit challenge course that would make the Tron Guy wet his pants. YouTube that, Pat. $8.50 per person per game and per person per Sky Trail trek.
Your mini-Indiana Jones will "dig" this Jurassic spot. Little explorers can while away the time excavating dinosaur fossils in the roomy and shaded discovery pit. Buckets and pint-sized shovels are provided, as are well-placed fossils. And the ingenious blue whale skeleton sprinkler-scape doubles as a way to wash off the sand and cool off the kiddos. Set the day’s theme to discovery, and let the little ones’ curiosity take your expedition team back in time.
Here’s your kid: “My iPod broke.” Here’s you: “Let’s ruminate on a time when iPods weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of culture.” Congrats, you’ve just stumbled upon an opportune time to throw asunder anything connected to the vast network of underground tubes (aka the Interwebs), and load you and yours into a minivan bound straight for Pioneer Farms. Get dirty at the smithy, see a real stagecoach, show your children what pioneer kids slept on (mattresses filled with dried leaves, natch), ride a derned horse, and learn the difference between a Tonkawa and a Texian. Not just for Webelos, Joe.
If Terrence Malick made a movie about the Texas-German experience, it would begin with 19th century German immigrants whispering inner monologues over a montage sequence about the founding of New Braunfels, Texas. The movie would end with the whooshing, impressionistic sounds and sights of Schlitterbahn. Terrence, don't do it! But, hey, just because we kid, doesn't mean we don't love the 'Bahn. We do. Too much. We wish we were there right now. Schlitterbahn is a tone poem to summer; a German-Texan gestalt predicated on the universal desire to slather on the SPF, get in an inner tube, and sliiiiiide. In the 'Bahn's mighty, sprawling arms, all are welcome, all are equal. Those who remember the Schlitter of yesteryear will marvel at how things change, and yet somehow stay the same. Increase your park-time by making a weekend trip of it, and stay in one of the 'Bahn's many fab resorts – those who sleep over get park access one hour early. Squee! $48.99 general admission, $45.99, kids and seniors; discount packages and season pass pricing available
In our terrifying and uncertain world, there’s nothing quite like a hint of danger to work through some existential dread and primal fear. That’s why we’re so grateful for the organized chaos and simulated risks at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. With the addition of the new Iron Rattler rollercoaster – a hybrid of classic wooden and steel rails that produces inversions defying both technologies – expect an even bigger dose of faux danger and real titillation to use for our perverse immersion therapy. Also, the kids seem to like it. $64.99, $44.99 online in advance; season pass and group rates available
Two stories of interactive, educational fun make for the best air-conditioned, family-friendly entertainment. Everything at the museum has been carefully vetted for maximum education and discovery. The baby area is the perfect place for the littlest ones to explore and practice crawling. There’s a room where golf balls meet the magic of physics. An engineering workshop upstairs keeps little hands busy, while "Think.Do.Make" exhibit has displays to demonstrate the laws of gravity. This summer, there are four half- to full-day camps to choose from, including the local favorite summer technology camps. Baby Bloomers, Cub Club, and Woodcrafting 101 round out this local gem’s fantastic programming. This is the last summer to enjoy ACM's Downtown digs before their big move to Mueller!
Book the sitter, plan your route, and make sure you have the number of a few good cabs. Let's use East Sixth as an example: Start with a vintage buzz courtesy of an unusual traditional cocktail at East Side Showroom, swing wide for a beer at the Yellow Jacket Social Club, get a craft concoction and slow dance with a stranger at the Volstead, take a break at Rio Rita, and end shooting whiskey with Dennis at the White Horse. You can create similar adventures on North Burnet: Billy's, Ginny's, Lala's, and the Poodle Dog; or on South Lamar: the Gibson, the Saxon, the Black Sheep, the Aviary. Hell, set up four tables in your backyard and invite your besties. Just don't drink alone. That's a schlub crawl.
We could have a lot of tacky fun with this blurb but instead wish to wax on about the general badassery of BO-founder and formidable trainer Natasha Bajic. Have you see her guns? AK-40-heavens. Her rails are like freakin' rebar, and her abs like … screw the washboard, they're like an industrial strength cheese grater, should you have some hard stuff from Parma the size of a Volkswagen you need cut down to size. And that's what this Special Forces Army vet will do to you if you allow her and her able crew to work their spinning, twerking, savage workout on you. Harden that body, Toddy. Single, 5-, 10-, and 20-class pass and private lessons available, starting at $75/hr, with significant discounts for bulk purchase
Grab your fishnets, fedoras, and sliding shoes (since we all have those in our closets, right?) when you want to move to something a little less Sixth Street-y and something a little bit more saboroso and la(tin)scivious. You'll be dancing pegadito 'til your kicks are soleless. Push yourself into an esquina de expresion (that means "corner of expression") of Argentine Tango among other forms, including Zumba, yoga, and salsa. They feature Noche de Tango every second Saturday of the month. It's a great excuse to hold your lover (or some hot person) close to you for a night of romantic, sensuous dance form. $15 a class; $100 a month for unlimited classes.
Come on, everybody knows fishing is better naked. Hell, everything is better naked! Luckily, Texas’ only public clothing-optional park is just down the road on Lake Travis. Go ahead, pull your boat up to the shore, take your clothes off, and get some full body sun. Forget those tan lines. Bring a blanket and a book, and let it all hang loosey goosey. Ah, imagine the breeze on your buns as you hike through the mile-long natural trail, peeking at the native endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler bird, whose home sits above the hollow (or will it peek at you?). Forget nightly skinny-dipping, though. Hippie Hollow closes the gates at 8pm every night, but opens again at 9am. Leave the dogs and kids under 18 at home. (Eh, they probably wouldn’t want to go anyway.) $12 per day pass per car
Located on the fourth floor of the iconic W Hotel, the WET Deck is home to a long, luxurious pool and spectacular Downtown views, both beyond and inside the walls. This is no lap pool. The deepest it goes is four feet, so the operative word here is "lounge." We can't imagine you'll want a break from floating on your back and taking in the eye candy, but if you do, head over to the WET Bar to enjoy craft cocktails and snacks, where "local" and "organic" chill and mix. Should you desire a more exclusive VIP vibe, the WET Deck also offers private cabanas and Kasbahs for rent. Enjoy complimentary goodies like robes, sunscreen, and flip-flops, plus access to a flat-screen TV and private lounge area. Depending on the day, the WET Deck is Austin's well-heeled beach, a veritable see-and-be-seen scene. Locals and guests of the W's Away Spa are allowed access, and outside guests can obtain day passes. On other days, you may have the entire exotic spread to yourself, a great way to soak up some vitamin D while catching up on your summer reading list. Mon.-Thu., $25 day passes include parking
Not just for hormone-fueled teenagers, but a full-contact sport open to anyone, at any age. Feel moved by the view overlooking the 360 bridge? Make out! Happily satisfied by the très intime patio candlelight dinner you shared with your boo? Make out! Curious about that abandoned mini-golf course you drive by every day? Pack a flashlight and … uh-huh … make out! Some people recoil at PDA, preferring their expressions of love to be cordoned to the private sphere. Boo on them, we say. Call it what you will; snogging by any other name is just as sweet. Stick out your tongue, Hung.
Take dating to the next level, literally: 1,000 feet up, up, up for a bird's-eye view of the magnificent Texas sunset. In addition to the pro flying the darn thing, the main chopper used by Austin Helicopter, a sweet li'l bird named Raven, can hold up to three. So grab your boo and a third wheel (or better yet, a photographer) and give a surprise that will not soon be forgotten. The only drawback is the potential tussle over who gets to sit up front with the pilot. $800 per hour and other tour packages
It’s summertime in the city, kittens, and you know what that means – despicable raging hormones. In order to cope with your shameful urges, you have two options: You can go shut yourself in the cool dark of the glamorous Paramount and wistfully soldier through Casablanca as you cry into your can of Heineken (see feature, p.50). Or you could find a pal, head to the Blue Starlite Drive-In, and get handsy in the backseat while you watch Roger Rabbit.
It's true, most other sports in Texas squint in the bright Friday night lights of our beloved football, but our national pastime is no scrub. The diamond that hosts the Round Rock Express is right in our own backyard. Relax as the sun sets and the towers and stars illuminate the night. Baseball fans will love the convenience and the low ticket prices. Even a casual sports fan can enjoy an evening among friends, munching on a Nolan Ryan burger with a draft beer, cheering on our homeboys. Upgraded with new premium seating, left-center field video board and hand rails, the Dell is a great way to spend a balmy summer evening. Tickets start at $12 in advance.
To those of us growing accustomed to Austin's desperate need to fill in every crack in the Downtown landscape, a trip up to Cedar Park can be an exercise in spaciousness. The town's mega-event center appears to the jaundiced, snarky city eye to just rise up out of a meadow in the middle of nowhere. Home to the Cedar Park Rodeo (in June) and the Texas Stars Hockey team, the center also hosts touring family events (Disney on Ice happens the weekend this issue hits the stands) and national rock bands. Check the schedule for details on the upcoming June 2 show with popmeisters the Postal Service and Ra Ra Riot.
If you need a reminder that Austin is nestled amongst the most beautiful vistas in our fair state, engorge your retinas on one of many (and we mean many) dining terraces at the “Sunset Capital of Texas.” Remember to bring your dancing shoes and stick around after the sun goes down, but please consider your neighbors and refrain from impromptu outbursts of Garth Brooks, Maria Muldaur, or Oasis, unless, of course, you've rented one of their many (and we mean many) special event rooms for such an occasion.
Shake off your cool affect, your “seen it all," your saturation point, your city streets. The Whitewater is the kind of place that will help you remember why you love live music. This beautiful New Braunfels venue-on-the-water, so close to Central Texas' beloved Canyon Lake, hosts a diverse range of musical acts, like the Spazmatics, Kendrick Lamar, and Pat Green, all summer long, where concert goers will dance under Cypress trees, breathe fresh air, and maybe sneak off for a late-night skinny dip. It’s only a short drive out of town, but a show at the Whitewater is a refreshing and instant cure for Austin over-stimulation. From single-digit general admission to Skybox seating in the hundreds.
Beginning June 4, ABIA will have new direct service to Baja. AirTran flights will operate Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, departing Austin-Bergstrom at 11:25am, arriving at Los Cabos International at 12:45pm (local time). Just please don't tell Sammy Hagar.
Fun fact: Hot Springs is the childhood home of 42nd President William Jefferson Clinton. But this little Arkansas city has more to brag about than Bathhouse Row and Bill Clinton. Hot Springs boasts a fine-arts community and breathtaking natural scenery. In fact, Hot Springs National Park is the oldest Federal Reserve. Just an hour north is way-gay-friendly Eureka Springs, the first and only city in the state to endorse domestic partnerships. This open-armed acceptance of all things Friends of Dorothy is reflected all across the small Victorian getaway (the town's gay web guide recommends 18 accommodations that are specifically gay-owned or -friendly).
"The ushers are sniffing (Eau-de-cologning), The seats are seductive (Celibate sitting), Pretty girls digging (Prettier women…)" OK, good. It's not just us. Trains are sexy. They lurch, they surge, they choogle and churn. And they get you where you want to go. Long distance? Go Amtrak, as American as any other beloved yet all-too-oft forgotten infrastructural tradition. Go to Dallas for fewer clams than you'd imagine. Or book one of those crazy coast-to-coast tours. Old school? Nothing beats the Austin Steam Train's Hill Country Flyer. Short trek? Get on the first leg of Capital Metro's Red Line MetroRail. And for a state that frankly does its best to derail public transportation: Texas has a lot of railroad museums. The two we love best? New Braunfels and Galveston. Go ride the rail, Gail. Prices vary per line. GRR Museum, $7 with discounts for seniors and kids; NBRR Museum, free.
Oh, Austin, you have no oil money! Which is why we go to Houston for the plethora of black-gold-funded culture kunsthauses. There are the staples: the encyclopedic Museum of Fine Arts, the hard geometry of the Contemporary Art Museum, and the human-scaled Menil (where you could wax cosmic about the Rothko Chapel, or do a dance in Dan Flavin’s Robie Hall). We also pay a visit to any number of Houston galleries (like former Austin staple, Art Palace). Of course, if art ain’t your thing, you can always sit in wonder in the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Just don’t touch the feeding sponges. Gross. Hey, we just got an idea for a performance art piece, Sharice.
For 30 bones you can pay your way in and stay all day at Dallas’ Korean-style bathhouse. Hop from a dry heat sauna to an herb-infused whirlpool in mere seconds. Or lounge away in one of the priceless theme rooms – our fave is the woo-woo healing energy of the yellow-soil crystal room. Whether you’re there to sweat it out or recline by the pool, you’ll leave a wet noodle. $30 per 24 hours, with add-ons for spa services
People complain that Marfa’s been taken over by hipsters – fair enough. Once a slow-going West Texas town, Marfa has undergone radical change as art enthusiasts young and old flock to the spot made famous by resident minimalist Donald Judd. Now the town boasts schmancy hotels, one of the best art bookstores in the nation, loads of galleries, and a number of great places to nosh. One time we happened upon a Main Street space bedecked with three gigantic Andy Warhol Last Supper paintings; to say the combination of desert heat and Pop art proved to be a religious experience would be a blasphemous understatement. But that’s quotidian reality in Marfa. Tip: You’ll want to save a day and night for the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis – art on a cosmic scale, yo.
Already beloved by travelers across the United States, sweet MegaBus has come Austin’s way. What with their free wi-fi and a second-story window view, this line makes bus travel the very latest new-old mode of transportation. And that’s not even the best part: We found Austin-Houston trips in June with the totally obnoxious pricetag of $1. One freakin' dollar! Do it just because you’re bored. And impulsive. $1 up
Mixologists, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and dedicated dilettantes take heed: The birthplace of the cocktail hosts an annual five-day conference (July 17-21, 2013) that promises to transform your craft into art. With seminars on diverse topics such as “Fun with Hydrocolloids,” “Paleococktails,” and “The Dark Ages: Mixology 1967-1988,” we're confident you'll leave abuzz with new ideas. Savor the local flavor with daily excursions and dinners, and check out the stiff competition for the 2013 Spirited Awards. Pro note: For better recall, expectorate (most of) the samples. $40-85, individual events; $141-625, package deals
The best way to endure a Texas summer? Stay as wet as possible. The warm waters, accessible shoreline, abundant fishing, and all the local beach culture of the Gulf are within a day's ride. South Padre Island offers more than spring break shenanigans; in off-season this resort town can feel like a private paradise. Corpus Christi has an aquarium, the USS Lexington, and god bless 'em, the Selena statue, while Port Aransas/Rockport are perfect quiet getaways for two, as long as you don't drop anchor next to some celebrity's den. The phrase “party like a rock star” applies to more than, well, rock stars, but hey, maybe that's your bag, too. Galveston brings a touch of everything – history, cruise ships, great nightlife, and interestingly, a vibrant gay scene, and while we can't guarantee it, we'll just say the town has a knack for serendipity, so expect the unexpected.
Aquarena Center was once the site of scantily-clad mermaids (sorry, dad) and swimming swine (sorry, Ralph) in its original incarnation as a roadside attraction. But the magic lives on in the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, where Texas State students, faculty, and staff continue to amaze the public with archaeological findings that contribute to the unique history of the city and state. Visitors are still welcome to take a peak at the underwater world of the center's surrounding Spring Lake via glass-bottom boat. Nothing says "family vacation" like catching a glimpse of a whiskered Channel catfish or pig-nosed soft-shell turtle. Free; glass-bottom boat tours: adults, $9; seniors, $7.50; kids 4-15, $6, kids 3 and under, free.
Cruisin’ is made for love! Or bat-watching, or partying with a few of your favorite Longhorns, or getting hypnotized. Whatever you want to do (or have done to you) on Lady Bird Lake, Capital Cruises has the all-electric or people-powered watercraft you’ll need to get it done. Whether it’s romancing under a bat-speckled sunset on a tour boat, or entertaining friends and alumni on your own burnt-orange Duffy, Capital Cruises will keep you afloat. Over on the Eastside, Kimery Duda and her Expedition School hold down the lake's first stand-up paddleboard school which now puts out at Robert T. Martinez. The school also hosts surfing jaunts to the coast, as well. Across town, near Zilker Park, just downstream from Barton Springs Swimming Pool, resides Austin's vaunted Zilker Park Boat Rentals, where lovers and wooers and kids and grandpas have been launching into the lake for a couple of generations. If you can do it in Austin, you can probably do it on the water – except get a tattoo. Which is totally a bad idea. $15-65/hr average for personal watercraft, $10 sightseeing cruises. Call for package rates.
From Burnet to Boerne, from state park to roadside attraction, portals to our Texas underground await. An otherworldly trip into one of our local caves is the perfectly immersible natural experience. Plus, it’s probably very prudent to familiarize yourself with our region’s cavern system: Where else are you going to station your base camp when civilization collapses? $16-20 with discounts for seniors and kids
You've got pluck! Not to mention an iron nerve and guts of steel! Only thrilling educational adventures set in picturesque Lake Travis locations, where breathtaking beauty and heart-pounding thrills coexist will do for you, rugged citizen. Your zip-line adventure awaits. So strap in, grin through the wedgie, grab onto the pole, and aaaaaaaiiiiiiii!!! $75-95 per person, per zip
We don’t mean to creep, honestly, but frequenting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake keeps us entertained for hours. There’s that bo-hunk rockin’ gym shorts bypassed by a senior citizen bedecked in a windbreaker and neon sun-visor. Spirit of the Trail, we invoke thee! Dogs slobber on lakewater-laden tennis balls, and packs of besties recount their latest triumphs and heartbreaks. Take your favorite bevvie and plop yer booty down: Watch, listen and learn.
Both Forbes and Shape magazines have placed Austin in the top 10 of fittest cities. It's no wonder. Austinites do like a good hike; even the sluggish among us can't resist hitting the Green Belt on occasion. But even the once-uncharted can become a bit too familiar if taken regularly. Thankfully, just 20 minutes east of town is McKinney Roughs in Cedar Creek where one can get pleasantly lost on a tangle of trails that wind across 1,100 acres down to the Colorado River. After a hardy hike, learn a little bit about the Texas nature you've just explored at the Visitor's Center, which features a number of live scaly critters on display. $4 per person (discounts for seniors, etc.)
Austin is not short on shade; we're not talking about the drag queen kind, but honest-to-goodness shade. Even though there's plenty of canopy cover, it's still sweltering. Enter the yurt, an ingenious semi-nomadic structure developed centuries ago in Central Asia. Originally intended for colder climes, the yurt structure has been adapted by modern prefab yurt companies like Pacific Yurts to fit our more triple-digit context. Francesca Hernandez, local massage therapist, ex-Satan's Cheerleader, and haute landscape architect, recently erected her own round-house in three days (aided by several of her nearest and dearest). She even obliged us, kindly, and wrote this haiku about her new shelter:
Wind and weather kept at bay
Cricket songs slip in
Endless campout: childhood's dream
Snaps, Hernandez, snaps!$4,600-10,000
There is something gloriously Texan about a place where you can waterski without a boat. Celebrate the “can-do” spirit of the Lone Star State at this 70-acre monument to action sports excitement while having your corpus dragged across a manmade lake by an overhead line. They even offer an official "Wake Class" through nearby Texas State University and summer camps for kids. In addition to wakeboarding and waterskiing with a cable tow, Texas Ski Ranch offers a climbing wall, a skate park, a trampoline park (where they feature weekly dodgeball), and a strategically placed Wahoo’s Fish Taco. Very clever, Ski Ranch.
Let the eagle soar/like she’s never soared before/from rocky coast (of Lake Buchanan) to golden shore/let the mighty eagle soar revel in scenic vistas, including the nesting ground of our national birdy, the American Bald Eagle. $25 cruise, $36 includes dinner