Chill Places to Cool You Off

The summer heat is your enemy. Let these locales be your refuge.

If you’re visiting Austin from a town far away, there’s a chance that our version of summer is a bit more...intense than what you’re used to. Drinking plenty of water and finding some shade is all well and good, but you’re going to need more than that for true relief. Thankfully, we have you covered with our list of places to cool off.

Photos by John Anderson

Barton Springs Pool

2201 Barton Springs Rd.
Even if it’s a bit out of the way from Downtown, it’s impossible to make a list of best places to cool off without including Barton Springs. It’s the heart and soul of the city, drawing swimmers and sunbathers since the 19th century. Be prepared for a bit of a shock, though. The spring-fed pool remains a constant 68 degrees year-round!

Cedar Door

201 Brazos
If you would rather cool off without needing to shed clothing, you could wet your whistle with one of Austin’s signature cocktails, the Mexican martini. The Cedar Door claims to be the originators of the drink, but the jury is still out on that one. What we do know is that it’s conveniently located for a nice sit and sip.

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz

320 E. Sixth
Movie theatres are dark, cool boxes ideal for soaking up air conditioning, and the Alamo Drafthouse is the Rolls Royce of cinemas. Instead of annoying advertisements before the trailer roll, you get custom-made preshows. Instead of concession stands with overpriced soda and popcorn, waiters come to your seat to serve you beer, cocktails, and even serviceable meals. The location probably most convenient for those limited to walking, the Ritz on Sixth Street, is also home to many special screenings and series, such as Weird Wednesday (late-night exploitation movies and other oddities) and Master Pancake (think live-action Mystery Science Theater).

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second
Another contender for best movie theatre in Austin (and that’s saying something) is Violet Crown Cinema, which skews in a classier, more austere direction than the Alamo. Grab a glass of wine or a small plate offering from the bar in the lobby and make your way down to the theatre, which features cushy seats with ample space to truly get comfortable. Violet Crown’s repertoire leans heavily in the direction of art house, foreign, and indie films, so if you’re itching to see The Angry Birds Movie or whatever Marvel has most recently congealed out of money, leftover CG graphics, and nerd sweat, you’re probably out of luck.

Paramount Theatre

713 Congress
A trip to the Paramount Theatre is an entirely different kind of experience than what’s offered by the Alamo or the Violet Crown, an experience steeped in the grandeur and wonder of moviegoing past. The Paramount is a testament to what the audience expected a cinema to look and feel like when it was built in 1915 – a cavernous, palatial theatre complete with balconies and a tall, meticulously painted ceiling. You’re lucky enough to arrive during the Paramount’s Summer Classic Film Series, featuring themed double-features of beloved movies in 35mm, 70mm, and digital restorations.

Waterloo Records

600-A N. Lamar
If you’re feeling the heat and don’t mind a bit of ride, consider renting a B-cycle and heading out to North Lamar, where a cluster of chill(y) places awaits. Once you arrive, your first stop could be Waterloo Records. There’s no consensus on the best record store in Austin (audiophiles can be quite contrary), but Waterloo is the most famous with one of the largest selections. Perusing aisle upon aisle of new and used records is a great excuse to stay out of the sun, and Waterloo occasionally livens things up with free, in-store concerts. After you’ve had your fill of vinyl, you can head across the street to ...

Whole Foods Headquarters

525 N. Lamar
The gleaming, imposing tower that stands like a 2001-style monolith at the corner of North Lamar and 6th is the home of Whole Foods Headquarters. You might have Whole Foods in your neck of the woods, but the huge facility that houses their corporate headquarters is still recommended for a reprieve from the heat. Inside, you’ll find much more than just a dizzying selection of products that puts every other location of the grocery chain to shame. Dozens of food and drink vendors offer up respectable meals and snacks, and a massive craft beer cave awaits to bring your internal body temperature back down to below boiling. After you’re done here, it’s only a quick walk over to ...


603 N. Lamar
BookPeople is the largest independent book store in Texas, a labyrinthine temple to the written word. The three tome-laden floors have helpful staff pick suggestions, an exemplary graphic novel section, and all sorts of eclectic knickknacks, so you’re bound to find something that calls out to you. Continuing your air-conditioned tour, across the street is ...

Amy’s Ice Creams

1012 W. Sixth
Ice cream is the classic remedy for the summer heat, and Amy’s is the classic proprietor of ice cream in Austin. Since 1984, Amy’s has served a dizzying variety of rotating flavors, some even containing alcohol for those wanting a sweet buzz. Though it may not sound as exciting as many of the other exotic varieties on the menu, Amy’s Mexican vanilla is a mainstay for a reason and will cure you of the notion that vanilla is synonymous with boring.
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AAN, Barton Springs Pool, Cedar Door, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, Violet Crown Cinema, Paramount Theatre, Whole Foods Headquarters, Bookpeople, Waterloo Records, Amy's Ice Creams

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