Our picks to keep you having fun all summer long


When I was a kid, summer was a time of infinite possibilities. With the rigidity of the school year behind me, I felt free — even if Mom still made sure we did our chores and went to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour.

Summer was a time for trying new things: road trips to faraway spots on the map, learning to dive into a pool, eating my first Boston cream doughnut, running down a mountain in Colorado during a hail storm (I wouldn’t recommend that last one).

As adults, we don’t often get summer off. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have that feeling of summer excitement. It’s still a time for trying something new or reminding ourselves of the things we enjoy about the season.

Here, you’ll find our Austin360 staff bucket list — things we’re determined to do this summer. From fun in the sun to nights on the town, there’s a little something for everyone.

— Emily Quigley

See the sea turtles hatch

It’s not summer if I haven’t gone to the beach at least once. I’m rejuvenated every time I feel the salty ocean waves crashing around my feet, my freckled skin shiny with sunscreen. This year, though, I want to do something a little different and even more meaningful: I’m timing a trip to Padre Island around when the sea turtle nests hatch along the Texas coast. The sight of all those hardy little guys fighting their way to the sea — braving predators and the pushback of the ocean — seems like an inspiring metaphor for life I’ll carry with me long after they’ve made it back to those same shores and lay their own hatchlings.

Tour the city with family

Every two years or so, my extended family plans a reunion in one of the states where we live. This time, all 90 of us will descend on Austin, which means I’ve got the somewhat daunting — but very important — task of showing off the best of my city. While we’ve already planned a picnic at Zilker Park, a riverboat ride down Lady Bird Lake and myriad other activities, we’ll also have free time to explore. I want to take some of them to Hops & Grain for a beer, la Barbecue for lunch and Alta’s Cafe for a snack break. Maybe my neck of the woods for a hike and a swim at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

— Arianna Auber

Hike at dawn

Let’s face it — as soon as the sun rises, it gets hot. So almost every day, the dogs and I hike at dawn. Sometimes we cover quiet neighborhoods; at other times, area parks — though usually on the weekend, when traffic cools off, too. Our goal: Hit every Central Texas trail.

Time on the porch

Leafy trees and wide eaves shade our front porch, which is habitable year-round. There, we’ll read a newspaper, a magazine and a book chapter each day. Cool drinks after noon. The dogs and cat sometimes join us. Nibbles come from H-E-B, Central Market, Costco, Trader Joe’s and Farm to Market.

— Michael Barnes

Venture across Texas

Pam LeBlanc’s travel stories always point me to parts of Texas I can’t wait to get to. At the top of my road trip bucket list this summer are Palo Duro Canyon, Big Bend and Caddo Lake, whose swampy waters are singing a siren song to this canoe-loving Ozarkian.

See San Antonio

San Antonio is close enough to pop down for dinner, but I don’t get there enough. Matthew Odam’s story from last year about eating at Hot Joy, Cured and Restaurant Gwendolyn is still making me hungry for an overnighter down there. I, for one, never tire of the Riverwalk, so you’ll find me strolling there.

Take the kids someplace new

My kids have never been to a theme park in Texas, so I figure it’s about time to change that with a trip to Six Flags. But after a recent visit to Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Ark. — which they are still talking about — they might be just as excited to check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Who says we can’t do both?

Try some disc golf

If our mild weather continues, I’d like to hit up as many of the area’s disc golf courses as I can. I never keep score; it’s just an excuse to walk in the woods, and I typically only play a few courses that are somewhat close to my house. But after playing a most wondrous round at the Utopia Music Festival last summer, I don’t have many good excuses for not getting to Georgetown or Kyle to see what their courses are like.

— Addie Broyles

Kayak on Lady Bird Lake

Although I’ve lived in Austin for almost two years, I’ve never done the cliché-yet-obligatory activity of paddling down Lady Bird Lake. One warm summer morning, I plan to rent a kayak or paddleboard and go wherever the water takes me.

— Rachel Corbelli

Cool off in the outskirts

If you want to get out of town but don’t want to splurge on a weekend away, there are several wonderful spots to embrace summer less than an hour from Austin. Go for a dip at Blue Hole in Georgetown, then enjoy lunch at Louie Mueller BBQ in nearby Taylor. Other fun things to do while you’re out that way: take in a Round Rock Express game, grab a ring at Round Rock Donuts or take another dip at Rock ‘N River Family Aquatic Center inside the sprawling Old Settlers Park. Or head to Gruene, where you can stomp your boots to live music at Gruene Hall, snack on fresh fudge at the Gruene General Store or sip a margarita at the Gristmill, a quintessential summer spot.

Resort ready

The Austin outskirts are filled with excellent resorts, and they really shine in summer, when they pack their schedules with activities — think s’mores stations, outdoor movies, crafts by the pool — to please the entire family. Close-to-home options include the Omni Barton Creek Resort and the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines; a little farther out, near San Antonio, find the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country and La Cantera Hill Country Resort. Kids will love the novelty of a spending the night at a hotel, and parents will appreciate the easy access to spas, fine dining and well-crafted cocktails.

— Kristin Finan

Learn a new language

Ever since I wrote a story last summer about Austin’s growing Brazilian music scene, I’ve been obsessing about music sung in Portuguese, which has led me to wonder about all these wonderful lyrics I’m missing out on. This summer, you’ll find me listening to Portuguese for Spanish Speakers podcasts and hopefully taking a class as well. Then, it’s off to practice my skills in the fall with a trip to Portugal.

More local music

Spring and fall music festival seasons often shine a spotlight on national and international artists. But our local musicians need love, too, and summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the local acts who stay here to brave the heat. My plan is to make a list of all the local Latin music bands that I haven’t had a chance to check out yet and catch as many shows as possible.

— Nancy Flores

Get back on the wakeboard

At the very end of last summer, I finally got over my longtime fear of hitting the Texas Ski Ranch, conveniently located just 15 minutes from my house in New Braunfels. I don’t know what took me so long to brave the gigantic complex, but I finally did and had a great time learning to wakeboard (or rather to wakeboard for five seconds and then fall on my face) using the cable lake at the facility. I promised myself I’d be back this summer and take the time to perfect my technique. Usually my summer hangout is Schlitterbahn, but Texas Ski Ranch has a great set of friendly staffers who were kind to a middle-aged wakeboarding newbie. (texasskiranch.com)

Celebrate retro games

When the sun is blazing in late July, I know I’ll be indoors with my kids at the Classic Game Fest, the two-day celebration of retro video games at Palmer Events Center. Whether it’s Super NES tournament games or arcade cabinets like “The Simpsons” and “Dragon’s Lair,” it’s a good time to give kids an education on the history of video games with lots of visual aids. The event also includes speakers such as game developers Richard Garriott and Starr Long, as well as author Ernest Cline and live music inspired by video games. Early tickets are $15 for both July 25 and 26, and kids younger than 12 get in free with an adult. (classicgamefest.com)

— Omar L. Gallaga

Ride a cruiser bike

Something about climbing aboard my turquoise blue cruiser bike makes it instantly feel like summer. On my bucket list this year? Yanking on my wildest pair of yellow flowery board shorts and rounding up the neighbors — who also have cruiser bikes and board shorts — for a group pedal to a neighborhood restaurant. It helps that I live in Allandale, which has seen a boom in the number of hipster-cool eateries with outdoor seating, all within a few relatively flat miles of home. We’re taking over the ’hood!

Water ski at dawn

Nothing fires me up for a day at the office like an early morning water ski session on Lake Austin. At least once a week in warm weather, my husband and I tow our ski boat to Walsh Landing, drop it in the water just as the sun rises and take a few fast and furious slalom runs. When our quads are blown, we pause beneath Mount Bonnell, paddle around like wet pups for a few minutes, then head back to the dock, where I grab my bike out of the bed of his truck and pedal to work. I’m at my desk by 9 a.m.

— Pam LeBlanc

A first-time trip to float the river

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve spent eight summers in Austin and have floated nary a one of the nearby rivers. A lazy day spent on an inner tube taking in (probably too much) sun with a few close friends surrounded by dozens of other floaters beckons, and I plan to answer that call this summer.

Take the plunge — more quickly

I’ve spent many days by the waters of Barton Springs, basking on my towel on the grassy hillside, contemplating the brisk water. It takes me at least half an hour of contemplation to enter the pool, and I typically last about one minute. This summer, I’m going to brave the 68-degree waters as soon as I arrive and enjoy them at length as my body adjusts to the temperature.

Make my own ice pop

As a baker, summer comes with the downside of it being way too hot to crank up the oven for cookies, cake or pie. But sweets can be frozen, too, and this summer I will conquer the rather simple task of freezing my own ice pop in a variety of flavors to (possibly) share with my friends and enjoy poolside.

— Melissa Martinez

Go to a park

My summer bucket list is to make it to many of the Austin-area parks that Kristin Finan profiled earlier this year — I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lived in Austin my entire life and haven’t been to most of them. I’m planning on some early Saturday runs and hikes, before the 100-degree temperatures settle in. See our story on the parks at austin360.com/summer.

— Gabrielle Munoz

Swim in Hamilton Pool

I’ve never admitted this to friends, but I will admit it to thousands of readers: Despite all of my years in Austin, I’ve never gone swimming at Hamilton Pool. It’s shameful. It’s pitiful. I blame the warnings that the pool limits entry after reaching capacity. That’s a weak excuse. I will swim there this summer, as well as at many other swimming holes and states parks. (parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool)

Road trip to the beach

I always wish we lived closer to the beach. But the fact of the matter is it’s not that far. I am going to make the 250-mile drive to Port Aransas this summer and stay on the beach. I am stopping in Lockhart to eat barbecue on the way there and stopping in San Antonio to eat crispy tacos on the way back.

Night swimming at Barton Springs

I will spend more hot evenings enjoying night swims at Barton Springs Pool. I live about a mile from pool and going only a couple of times a summer for the free night swims (enter the west gate after 9 p.m.) is inexcusable. It’s a transportive experience and the perfect way to unwind from a hot summer day.

Hit the links

I will play golf at every municipal golf course in Austin. I will also play at Butler Park Pitch & Putt, something I have never done, despite being a regular golfer who has lived within a couple of miles of the place for more than a decade. I will also take my nephews to Peter Pan Mini-Golf.

I’m on a boat!

Despite fearing the lack of control and being tied to someone else’s schedule, I will spend an afternoon on a friend’s boat on Lake Travis — for the first time in more than half a decade

Dine outdoors

I will spend more time eating dinner on patios, both at Austin restaurants and friends’ houses.

— Matthew Odam

Take time to cook

With the kids having a more relaxed schedule, dinnertime isn’t such a rush. I’m going to try more some new recipes — taking advantage of the wonderful summer produce at my local farmers market — and also take time to teach our boys that they can cook something that doesn’t involve a microwave.

— Emily Quigley

Drive-in movie nights

I’ve always wanted to take my family to a drive-in movie at the Blue Starlite Drive-In. We’ll pack a picnic dinner, jump in our ’92 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, open the back end of the wayback and relax.

— Courtney Sebesta

Moonlit flashlight walks

Let’s face it; it’s really hot during the daytime. I plan on going for outdoor walks at night around the neighborhood with each kid separately. They get some exercise — after all, a summer of teenage couch potatoes is not good — and I get to find out what’s really going on in their lives. No electronics allowed.

Find a new cave to explore

We’ve been to Longhorn Cavern State Park, Inner Space Cavern, Cave Without a Name, Wonder World Park and Natural Bridge Caverns. We’ll be looking for a new cave this summer. It’s a perfect way to leave 100-degree heat behind and get some exercise. If you haven’t been to the ones we’ve been to, start with Inner Space and Wonder World first. Then try out the bigger ones. Our favorite: Cave Without a Name. You will get lost getting there, but that’s part of the fun. Read about our trip to these caves at austin360.com/summer.

Try out new restaurants

With no homework to do at night, summer opens up endless hours of evening time. Summer is the perfect time to try all those trendy restaurants we can’t go to on a school night and don’t dare on a crowded weekend. These will be adult-only evenings with no kids allowed. We’re thinking LaV, Blackbird & Henry, Swift’s Attic, Qui. Maybe we’ll even stand in line for Franklin Barbecue.

See a summer blockbuster

Bring on the popcorn. These movies aren’t Oscar-worthy, and we don’t care. We just want to have a good time as a family in the cool (yikes, bring the jacket) of a movie theater. We’re looking forward to “Jurassic World” (June 12), Inside Out (June 19), “Minions” (July 10), “Ant-Man” (July 17), “Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation” (July 31), and “Fantastic Four” (Aug. 7).

— Nicole Villalpando

Eat every flavor at Sno Beach

It’s been a goal since high school, but this is the year: I’m going to eat every flavor of snow cone at Sno Beach on Barton Springs Road. I usually settle into my horchata-and-cream groove by July, but fortune flavors the bold. I’m coming for you, Tiger’s Blood. (snobeachatx.com)

Keep my swimming in the neighborhood

Barton Springs isn’t the only game in town, you know. With pools like Rosewood and Givens in my East Austin vicinity, this is the year to wander only a few blocks over for my clumsy-yet-leisurely splashing.

Go to almost every Cinema East screening

Indie flicks on a giant outdoor screen on summer nights — the stuff that dreams and well-worth-it mosquito bites are made of. For a couple of bucks, this screening series held outside the French Legation is the best way to wind down a weekend. I, for one, will be buying some cheap gas-station wine and sprawling on the lawn for many flicks. (cinemaeastaustin.com)

Schlitterbahn-bahn-bahn

It’s not summer until I’ve burned my feet to cinders on my way to the Der Bahn Speed Slides. (schlitterbahn.com)

— Eric Webb


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