No matter how far removed from school we are, by the time June rolls around many of us still yearn for a few months of freewheeling childlike fun. I still long for the summers I spent growing up in Austin, Texas. It provides all you’d expect of an epic summer experience, so please join me for a local’s tour featuring a few personal highlights in this week’s installment of #WhereToGoWednesday.
Austin deserves all the press and praise it gets for its world-famous music scene and the innate coolness that comes from being a high-tech hub, but there is far more to do than simply club hop and shop for skinny jeans in the heart of Texas. Here are a few tips for spending some summer vacation time in the town that we’d all like to keep weird.
On a Lake
Austin is an anomaly to people who think of the Lone Star state as one vast expanse of flat, dry land. Hilly and green, it’s blessed with a string of lakes that course through town, and on the water is the place to be during the summer. I spent every weekend on a boat as a kid, and even more time when I could finally drive the boat to waterski and hang out lakeside with friends. You should, too! Rent a boat on Lake Travis, a paddleboard on Lake Austin, or a canoe on Lake Bird Lake right in downtown.
In a Texas-Sized Pool
Speaking of water, the most famous pool in Austin is also one of its most refreshing. Barton Springs Pool, located within the downtown area’s 358-acre Zilker Park, is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and because it’s spring fed, stays a refreshing 68 degrees year round. Drawing an eclectic crowd, Barton Springs is almost as good for people watching as it is for swimming. Topless sunbathing is legal and although not as popular as it was in the psychedelic 70s, it’s still practiced by some visitors. Part of the pool has been left as natural limestone, so you can spot fish and sea plants while you swim laps in three acres of water.
Eat Mucho Mexican Food
Austin is a foodie’s dream, with everything from gourmet food trucks to five-star restaurants. But Mexican is the cuisine of the city – and it’s had a long time to perfect its take on south-of-the-border fare. Fonda San Miguel, which has been in business near my parents’ house since 1975, still sets the bar for interior Mexican food. Featuring classic regional recipes in a hacienda-style building, “Fonda” (as it’s called by locals) is a standout.
If you prefer a less-refined but no-less-delicious version of Tex-Mex, then Matt’s Famous El Rancho is as classic as it gets. It’s the only place my family used to go for Mexican food (especially after a day on the lake). Don’t miss the Bob Armstrong dip, a sinful combination of melted cheese, taco meat, and guacamole that is bliss when eaten with the crispy tortilla chips. YUM.
A Lotta Live Music
It’s a crime to visit Austin and not hear some music. The city might not have been the Live Music Capital of the World when I was growing up, but it was home of Outlaw Country and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I routinely went to shows by big names like Jerry Jeff Walker, Willy Nelson, and Joe Ely in high school (whatever happened to that fake ID?). While some of the venues are gone, you can still hear great artists at my old stomping grounds like Antone’s, Threadgill’s, and the Continental Club.
Thinking about Austin has me wanting to call my parents to check their calendars – they may be having guests soon! (If you aren’t lucky enough to have kin in town, you should check out the iconic and stately Driskill Hotel right on the famous Sixth Street.) Want to find your own perfect summer vacation spot? Just #tuneit!