Summer Fun: Cold, Dark Holes to Crawl Into

Escape the Texas sun in these underground getaways

Inner Space Cavern (courtesy:

From the long days of blast furnace-like heat and thick, sticky humidity to the unrelenting assault of mosquitoes and fire ants, the curse of summer falls upon Texas as an annual cosmic punishment for our collective sins. Our only respite is to crawl deep into the bosom of Mother Earth, away from the sun’s hateful gaze, where summer holds no sway.

These cold, dark holes in the ground shall be your refuge from the coming inferno.

Longhorn Caverns and Inner Space Cavern

The most obvious holes to crawl into are the ones that have been around for millions of years. Underground rivers flowing through Central Texas’ solid limestone interior have carved a Swiss cheese-like network of caves and caverns, many of which are available for public tours. The most prominent of these is Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet, a 60-mile drive from Austin. For something a little closer to home, there’s also Inner Space Cavern, a privately owned cave system in nearby Georgetown. Both feature stunning rock formations, an approximately 80-minute guided tour, and a climate consistently at a merciful 70 degrees.

Root Cellar

One surefire way to escape from the harsh glare of summer is to find a place where the sun don’t shine, and then drink until you forget the sun was there to begin with. Unfortunately, this is too dangerous of a proposition for a natural cave or cavern (too many pits), which is why some enterprising Texans have set up underground venues specifically tailored for imbibing. For beer lovers, there’s the Root Cellar, a quaint cafe and restaurant located in the basement of the historic Donalson Building in downtown San Marcos. Besides the well-regarded food options, the Cellar features a barrel room where their own in-house, seasonal microbrews are produced, perfect for sitting and drinking in the shadows.

La Condesa’s Flour House

For those in the mood for cocktails with friends in a dungeon-chic atmosphere, seek out the Flour House below La Condesa Mexican Restaurant. Originally created in 1860 by a German immigrant hoping to open Austin’s first brewery, the underground space was paved over and forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1999. Nowadays, the old basement can be reserved for private and group dining and drinking.

Calais Winery

If you’re willing to go a little bit farther off the beaten path, the tiny Hill Country town of Hye is home to Calais Winery, boasting a wine cellar dug into the side of a hill. The narrow, windowless, wood-paneled chamber full of oaken barrels serves as a tasting room for Calais’ French-inspired wines. As you swirl, waft, and sip the afternoon away, you can rest easy knowing that summer’s scorching tendrils cannot ensnare you here.

Texas Union Bowling Alley

The bowling alley in the basement of the Texas Student Union on campus has long been a haven for bored and restless UT students, but many are not aware that the general public can join in on the subterranean action. Lit only by the cool, neon glow of black lights and subjected to the full blast of the AC, it’s the type of place where empty beer glasses can quickly multiply as minutes melt into hours. Just make sure you keep some sense of what time it is, as the alley has recently started closing to non-students after midnight.

Elephant Room

On Congress Avenue, the aorta in the sweltering heart of Austin, there is a neon sign and an unassuming flight of stairs leading down. This is a portal to another world – a hipper, mellower world, where trumpets and saxophones groove through the heat of the night, and the beer and wine never stop flowing. It’s like going back in time to the cooler parts of the first half of the 20th century, but without all the social repression and obligatory hats. Actually, this is a jazz club, so you should count on some hats.

The Austin Chronicle’s Summer Fun issue is on stands now.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Summer Fun 2017
Eastside Vibes: Come Experience the Culture
Eastside Vibes: Come Experience the Culture
Celebrations, food joints, & moves to make on the Eastside this summer

Montinique Monroe, May 24, 2017

Six Ways to Have a Nostalgic Austin Summer
Six Ways to Have a Nostalgic Austin Summer
Travel back to a simpler time

Will McCarthy, May 23, 2017

More by Tucker Whatley
SXSW Panel Recap: Diversity in Video Games: Hard Talk for Change
SXSW Panel Recap: Diversity in Video Games: Hard Talk for Change
YouTube exec dodges direct questions about tackling online extremism

March 20, 2019

SXSW Recap: Bozoma Saint John
Recap: Bozoma Saint John
The marketing trailblazer's keynote on authenticity in branding

March 20, 2019


Summer Fun 2017, Longhorn Caverns, Inner Space Caverns, Root Cellar, La Condesa, Calais Winery, Texas Student Union Bowling Alley, Elephant Room

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle