- Kristin Finan American-Statesman Staff
Who needs limos, generic boxes of chocolate and Barry White when you could have pedicabs, Lammes Candies’ Longhorns and Willie Nelson?
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and if you’re looking for uniquely Austin date ideas, look no further. No matter how you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend or who you plan to spend it with, there’s something for everyone in our city. Here are five ideas.
If you’re into urban adventure
Austinites love adventure, and there’s no place better to test your limits than at one of the new bouldering gyms that have made their way to town in recent years. At the 22,000-square-foot Crux Climbing Gym in South Austin, you can reach new heights together as you boulder or rope-climb your way to the top. The gym is open daily, and a one-day pass is usually $17 without gear, $22 with gear rental — but if you go on Valentine’s Day, it’s two for $20 starting at 6 p.m.
Once you’re officially exhausted, unwind down the street in the tasting room at the Infinite Monkey Theorem urban winery, which makes its delicious wines “in a back alley city warehouse” rather than a vineyard. Even though this is actually Infinite Monkey’s second location — the first is in Denver — it has a distinctively Austin vibe thanks to its bright murals, multitude of board games and vintage radios and typewriters that decorate the space. It’s open every day but Mondays; on Valentine’s Day, women receive 20 percent off their tabs. They’ll also have yoga at 6:30 p.m., trivia at 7:45 p.m. and Thai dishes from Pranom Thai popup for $8 a plate.
Need to grab flowers on the way? Swing by Ben White Florist just down the street for a uniquely local bouquet.
If you’re going out with the girls
No guy? No problem. Grab your best girlfriends and head to the Second Street District for a fabulous “Galentine’s Day” celebration.
Start at the Away Spa at the W Austin Hotel, which is eager to honor its single customers with February packages such as the Johnny & Amber (Nighty Night massage with A-List facial) and the T-Swift and Calvin (Over the Hills and Far Away body treatment with Revive pedicure). Book a spa service Monday-Thursday and receive free access to the Wet Deck and fitness center; Texas residents who book on these days will also receive 30 percent off their services (excluding packages). Recently divorced? Show proof of your divorce within the last year and the spa will give you a $100 gift card.
Sufficiently relaxed and rejuvenated? Settle in for dinner at La Condesa, the upscale Mexican joint that “feels plucked from the leafy streets of cosmopolitan Mexico City,” according to Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam, who adds that it serves the best margarita in town. Menu items include ceviche, Texas snapper tacos and grilled sweetbreads.
Wrap the night up with a show at 3Ten, the little sister to ACL Live that aims to showcase emerging and local artists. Upcoming shows include A-Town Getdown (Feb. 10), Love and Happiness: The Nightowls Present Al Green (Feb. 14) and a Mardi Gras Hurrah (Feb. 16).
If you’re stuck with the kids
Babysitter cancelled at the last minute? Why not make it a family date?
Start at Peter Pan Mini Golf, which has been an Austin institution at the corner of Barton Springs and South Lamar since the 1940s and offers two 18-hole golf courses sprinkled with memorable obstacles including a whale, a mill, a towering T-rex and even Peter Pan himself. It’s open daily until 11 p.m. or later; cash only.
By now everyone has worked up an appetite, so cruise down Barton Springs Road to another Austin institution, Shady Grove, where adults will love the cool breezes and cooler cocktails under the shade of the pecan grove and kids will love trekking to the Airstream trailer that’s been converted into a bathroom. Menu items include nachos smothered in vegetable chili, flat iron steak salad, Truckstop meatloaf and the Hatch green chile burrito.
Round out your day with some art appreciation across the street at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, which, in addition to being a lovely place to roam anytime, has incorporated a variety of fun children’s programming. Family Day is held on the second Sunday of each month and allows visitors to explore the collection, make arts and crafts, practice yoga, watch sculpture demos and enjoy live music, all for free. This month’s Family Day will be Feb. 12 from noon-4 p.m. and will be bird-themed.
If you’re newly dating
Too early to tell if your relationship is strike material or headed for the gutter? Feel it out with a game or two at Dart Bowl, ugly matching shoes and all.
“You get your exercise, and you can drink and eat and bowl and relax,” said manager Shannon Powell at Austin’s Dart Bowl, which opens daily at 9 a.m. She added that there is also now a Lazer Maze Challenge attraction where you can “channel your inner spy.”
Hungry but don’t want to splurge on dinner? It might not sound romantic, but the Cafe at Dart Bowl is actually famous for its cheese enchiladas. Other menu items include a Spanish omelet, double-meat cheeseburger and a chicken-fillet-and-bacon sandwich. There’s also a full bar.
Date going well? End the evening with coffee and dessert at Thunderbird Coffee, 1401 Koenig Lane.
If you only have a lunch break available
Sure, it may not be as romantic as a lingering late-night date, but if you only have an hour free at lunch, you can still spend some quality time together.
Start by getting a workout while also taking in Austin’s beauty during a 30-minute cruise around Lady Bird Lake on a water bike, basically a combination of a kayak and a bicycle. (Austin Water Bikes also offers sunset bat-watching rentals March-October.)
Then, stop into the Barton Springs JuiceLand location for a quick liquid lunch in the form of a Golden Glow (orange, golden beet, turmeric and bee pollen) or a Paradise Found (fresh pineapple juice, banana, mango, guayusa, kelp, ginger and lime). An afternoon that’s good for your your body and your relationship? Can’t beat it.