Memorial Day Weekend always symbolizes the start to summer for me, because nothing says “hey summer, welcome to town” like a nice, long three-day weekend. However, since I started that whole job-thing, I sort-of traded in my “lounge-by-the-pool-all-day, read-a-good-book, drink-a-beer, do-what-ever-I-want” attitude for a 9-6 workday that seems eerily similar to the other 9 months of my year. Even so, I try to maintain as much of that summer spirit as possible, and engage in some of my favorite summertime activities, if only to remind myself that no matter how old I am or what stage I am in life, I can still take advantage of all that summer has to offer.
In honor of one of my favorite seasons (a close second to Spring, ONLY because of the outrageous temperatures), I thought I’d share some of my must-do summertime activities, in and around Austin.
1. Take a dip in Barton Springs – With temperatures breaking triple digits, nothing helps keep you cool on those grueling summer days like a refreshing dip in Barton Springs. Fed from an underground spring, Barton Springs maintains a water temperature of 68° all year round, making it a perfect place to pass those seemingly unbearable summer days. Grab some friends, a good book, and A LOT of sunscreen and make a day of it. [2201 Barton Springs Rd; $3 entry fee]
2. Enjoy SnoBeach – A day in the sun typically calls for a cool treat, and SnoBeach Snow Cones always hit the spot. I don’t know what it is about SnoBeach, but their snow cones are unlike any I’ve ever had before. The ice is shaved, not crushed, and literally melts in your mouth, and the variety of flavors is just awesome (my favorite is the Silver Fox, mixed with Raspberry Daquiri). Plus, have you ever been anywhere that lets you add cream or caramel to a snow cone? If not, you’re missing out. [801 Barton Springs Rd; snow cones start at $2.50]
3. Chill Out at the Ice Cream Festival – Scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17, the 7th Annual Austin Ice Cream Festival brings many of Austin’s favorite ice cream shops to one spot, for a day filled with music, fun, and lots of sugary confections. I went a few years ago, and had a great time, but if you ask me, you really can’t go wrong when ice cream is involved. [Fiesta Gardens; $10]
4. Heat Up with the Hot Sauce Festival – As if your summer wasn’t hot enough already, the 23rd Annual Hot Sauce Festival seeks to kick it up a notch or two. Set for August 25, the Hot Sauce Festival boasts some of the best salsas and hot sauces around (both homemade and restaurant created) in their hot sauce competition. I love the Hot Sauce Festival and definitely recommend it. A word of caution, this festival is certainly not for the faint of palette – things can get really spicy. [Fiesta Gardens; Free admission w/ three non-perishable food items]
5. Visit the Shiner Brewery – Ever since I turned 21, beer just screams summer to me. When that summer heat just seems too hot to bear, the crisp taste of a cold beer helps ease the misery, and Texas is home to numerous killer breweries. My favorite is the Spoetzel Brewery out in Shiner, Texas (about 45 minutes outside Austin). I would certainly not consider myself a beer connoisseur, but touring the factory and getting to try all the samples is a fun time for anyone. If you make it out to Shiner, be sure to try their summer seasonal – Ruby Redbird – it’s the best beer they have by far! [603 East Brewery Street; Tours around $20]
6. Attend a Round Rock Express Game – I’m a big baseball fan, and growing up, attending Houston Astros games was a huge part of my summers. Austin may not be home to any major league teams, but we’ve got some pretty awesome minor league talent just down the road in Round Rock. I’ve never been to a Round Rock Express game, but I plan to this summer because I hear they’re a ton of fun and tickets are really affordable. The best part about summer baseball games are the post-game fireworks that accompany most weekend games. [Dell Diamond; ticket prices vary]
7. Watch the Bats on S. Congress Bridge – If you’ve ever visited Austin, you’ve likely been told that you have to watch the bats on the S. Congress Bridge. Sounds weird to visitors, but Austin is actually home to one of the largest populations of Mexican free-tailed bats (more than 750,000) who emerge from underneath the South Congress Bridge every night around sunset. It’s truly an awesome sight to see. Problem is, the bats migrate throughout the year, so visitors oftentimes miss the view if they’re not visiting between March and September (June and July are the best months). If you’ve got some free time this summer, head over to the bridge around 8-8:30 and check out this awesome scene.
8. Tube the Comal River – Just outside of Austin, in San Marcos, you’ll find an entire chain of rivers just waiting for you to ride them. Tubing the river, whether it be the Guadalupe or the Comal, makes for a great afternoon activity with friends. Just pack up a cooler full of drinks and snacks, and head down the road for a relaxing afternoon of sun and water. Afterwards, stop by historic Gruene, Texas for some steaks at the Gristmill and a little country dancing at the famous Gruene Hall.
9. Jam Out at Blues on the Green – Every year, local station KGSR puts on summer concert series Blues on the Green every other Wednesday at Zilker Park. Known as Austin’s largest free concert series, Blues on the Green showcases some of Austin’s favorite musical talent – performers this year include The Wheeler Brothers (June 12), Bob Schneider (July 10) and Shakey Graves (July 24). To stay up-to-date with all this year’s Blues on the Green information, text “BLUES” to 29217. [Zilker Park, Free]
10. Kick Back with Movies in the Park – After a long day in the hot, summer sun, who wouldn’t want to spend the evening watching classic movies under the Texas night sky? Now you can, thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse and Austin Parks Foundation’s Movies in the Park. With movies like Rocky, Ghostbusters and The Hunger Games, Movies in the Park is a great event for all families, couples and friends. [Republic Square Park, Free]
Keep in mind, this list is only a short list of things that I like to do during my summers in Austin, but the list of Austin activities is so, so much longer. Austin Monthly has a great list of 113 Fun Things To Do This Summer in their May issue, so if you’re looking for a more extensive list, I strongly suggest you take a look there.
Now I want to know from you, readers – what are your favorite Austin activities? Let me know in the comments sections below.