Even if you’re visiting Texas for the first time, you’re probably already acquainted with its reputation for being rather warm in the summer. While it’s not the hottest place on earth, or even in the USA, it gets pretty toasty in those summer months, with every day typically reaching above 37 degrees Celcius, many times above 40 degrees, and every night settling into a muggy, mosquito-filled 28-degree lull. Still, Austinites are used to the sweltering heat, and we’ve found some pretty fun ways to enjoy the summer outdoors. Grab your sunnies, flip-flops, and a water bottle, and check out these favourite Austin activities that are guaranteed to keep you cool.
Barton Springs pool
This public spring-fed pool should top your list for ways to cool off on a hot day. No matter how warm the day gets, the pool stays a steady 22°C, making it perfect for a chilly dip when you’re laying out. Locals love to bring a floatie and a towel and flop out on the grassy hills surrounding the spring. There are plenty of trees if you prefer the shade, and outside food and drinks aren’t allowed, so the grounds and pool are very clean. All-day entry is $8, and come in the morning if you can—the good spots really fill up fast after noon!
Tubing down the Guadalupe
Just south of Austin, near San Marcos or New Braunfels, you can hire tubes and float the Guadalupe or Comal Rivers. When the water levels are just right, you’ll find hundreds of people out on the river with their families and pets. Lots of people hire an extra tube and float drink coolers along with them; the atmosphere on the water is like a fun summer party, so prepare accordingly! Depending on the river you choose, you can float for just a couple hours, or the whole afternoon.
Located in New Braunfels, about an hour south of Austin, this water park is a serious day-long event, the holy grail of water slides, lazy rivers, and uphill water coasters. Schlitterbahn is huge, and you’ll spend the whole day wandering around the slides and attractions in your bare feet, toting a tube along. Unlike many other theme parks, Schlitterbahn has free parking, and you’re allowed to bring your own food and drinks inside (no alchohol, but you can get some inside the park at one of their swim-up bars). It’s family-friendly too, so if your little one can’t swim well, there are lazy rivers to float in, and plenty of fun splashy playgrounds to climb on. Learn more here.
Margaritas at the Oasis
Margaritas are a Texas favourite, so try to drink as many as you can stand when you visit. The Oasis is a sprawling restaurant and bar perched up on the hills surrounding Lake Travis. It commands an uninterrupted view of the sunset as well, and hundreds flock there every evening to get a patio seat and that iconic sunset photo. The margaritas are tasty and affordable, and in typical Texas fashion, you get free bottomless chips and salsa with your meal. They don’t take reservations, so come a little early if you want a patio seat during the dinner rush.
Blues on the Green
Once a month during the summer Zilker Park hosts a free evening concert, and these days thousands are flocking to hear some pretty big music names, like Jamestown Revival and Shakey Graves. Once again, fortune favours the prepared, so it’s best to come a couple hours early to reserve a good spot in view of the stage. Your time won’t be wasted though—Zilker Park is a beautiful expanse of green right next to downtown Austin, the perfect place to chill on a hot day. Stop by a Sonic for a ice-cold Route 44 Dr Pepper, bring a card game to play with your friends (and strangers, Austinites are a friendly bunch), and you’ll be relaxing to some fantastic tunes in no time.
Amy’s Ice Cream
Among the hundreds of eateries in Austin that serve up amazing treats in a unique atmosphere, Amy’s Ice Cream is one of the oldest and most iconic, and a trip to the Texas capital in summer would not be complete without a scoop or two of Amy’s delicious homemade ice cream. Whether you prefer something classic like Mexican vanilla, or something local and different, like their ice cream made with Shiner beer, you’ll definitely find a flavor you love. Amy’s Ice Cream employees are pretty skilled at their trade, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see them perform some tricks with your ice cream!
Standup Paddle Boarding on Lady Bird Lake
Originally called Town Lake, Lady Bird Lake is a lovely stretch of water in downtown Austin, and the perfect spot for some leisurely canoeing or kayaking, and if you’re feeling confident in your balance skills, there’s standup paddle boards for hire as well! Hire by the hour or all day, and get ready to view Austin’s skyline from the peace of the water. There aren’t motorised boats on the water, so it’s easy and safe to paddle around and take your time.
Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow
This Austin institution is famous for their snarky humour and eclectic dinner-and-a-movie venues, but they’ve long been branching out beyond cinema to put on some pretty great events (google ‘Jaws on the Water’ for details on a local favourite). Check their website for a list of events in the Austin area that include boat parties, festivals, performances, and more. Or just drop in for a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show—it’s a weekly thing, and audience participation and singalongs are highly encouraged.
By the time you’ve seen and done all the fun summer activites in and around Austin, you’ll be an old pro at weathering the heat, just like us tan and sweaty locals! Stay safe and stay hydrated, but definitely don’t stay indoors: there’s way too much going on outside in the sun!