If you take a drive just 20-ish miles west on Highway 71 out of Austin, you’ll reach one of the most picturesque spots in the entire state: Hamilton Pool Preserve. The swimming hole has been a popular spot for Austin residents and tourists alike since the ’60s, but was actually formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed.
Now part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the preserve is home to many rare and endangered species of plant and animals, including the golden-cheeked warbler bird and plants like canyon mock-orange and the chatter-box orchid. Visitors to the park are asked to be mindful of the efforts to preserve this natural wonder.
The natural pool and creek are natural, left untreated and pure for your swimming pleasure. The swimming area is surrounded by a tiny beach at one end and a massive, horseshoe-shaped limestone cliff around the rest. There’s even a waterfall opposite the beach, a much Instagrammed locale at the preserve. Because everything is natural, swimming at Hamilton Pool is sometimes off-limits due to high levels of bacteria. Updates are available every morning at 9 a.m. by calling 512-264-2740.
Unfortunately, as is customary, the “secret” of Hamilton Pool was unearthed in recent years, correlating with both the large growth in population and the influx of tourism as a result of the innumerable festivals and conferences inside city limits. Wait times to even enter the park reached into multiple-hours on weekends and particularly nice days, with a large majority of late-arrivers being turned away because the preserve had hit capacity.
To combat this, a couple of years ago the Travis County Parks Department implemented a reservation system for the busy season. A reservation is required if you want to visit the pool between now and October 31, 2018—and that goes for each and every day of the week.
To make your reservation, click here. But before you do, please note the following super important fine print:
“You make your reservation online by paying $11 with a credit card. You will also pay $15 per vehicle in cash for an entrance permit when you arrive at the preserve. Credit cards are not accepted when you arrive at the preserve. Bring cash.
You can bring only one vehicle with each reservation. You can bring no more than 8 people with each reservation.
Your reservation receipt will be emailed to you very shortly after you make the reservation.
Come explore one of Austin’s most beautiful treasures with your best friend! It’s Dog Day at Zilker Botanical Garden! The Garden is actually dog friendly every day, but this is an extra special day where the Garden is all about pups! Well-socialized, well-behaved dogs on leash are welcome, but they must remain on leash at all times. And, of course, dog owners are responsible for their dogs’ behavior… and for scooping up after them.
Here’s what you can expect:
• An adorable photo op with your dog,
• Learn about dog-friendly opportunities in Austin Parks and responsible pet etiquette that helps keep our Parks safe for all!
• Doggedly good amenities and things to dig into!
Dog bowls and cooling off stations will be available around the Garden and anyone with a dog will receive a doggie bag with a dog treat, pooper scooper bag, and a stylish bandana for your favorite canine!
Dear cat people, we know dog people get a lot of attention in ATX, but let’s not worry about them today—because here’s an event that’s all about YOU! And your cat, of course. Because you really really love your cat. POP Cats is a two-day convention celebrating adorable felines, art, and pop culture and it’s heading our way Aug. 25 – 26. Mark your calendars, buy your tickets, tell your cat. Do what you need to do. POP Cats debuted last year at the Miami Airport Convention Center and the city was never the same.
After a successful inaugural event, the founders decided to expand the event to two days and explored the country for a perfect POP Cats 2018 location. They ultimately chose Austin because of the city’s adoration of its pet population and its vibrant creative community.
The meow-tastic press release describes the event as a “fun, immersive feline universe where humans can shop, learn, adopt, play, and connect with the spirited cat community.” What could possibly be better?
They’ll be music, entertainment, a play space for cats and their owners, and a curated line-up of feline experts and influencers. Plus cat-loving artists and vendors from Texas and around the world. They are all coming together to celebrate the splendor of cats and the humans that love them.
Austin Humane Society will be there with adorable kitties looking for their forever home. Austin’s own internet-famous tuxie cat, Turbo-Two Legs will be onsite with his mom, Chelsey Schmidt, to highlight the benefits of adopting disabled and special needs kitties.
Buy your tickets here!Onsite food, refreshments, and “cat-tails” will be available. Onsite parking is $8.
Can I bring my cat?
Yes! Cats are totally welcome! They must be current on their vaccinations (bring their records!). The also have to be on a harness or in a crate while walking the event. Only one cat allowed per group. Dogs are not allowed for obvious reasons—no exceptions.
When: Sat., Aug. 25 – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. & Sun., Aug. 26 – 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tonight at the glorious Central Library, the Austin Symphony quartet will perform pieces from or inspired by Latin America. If you haven’t visited this temple to books and civilized society, then this is a fabulous occasion to see it for yourself. The Austin Public Library and the Austin Symphony and will host two other quartet performances this year on September 6 and November 1.
Central Concerts bring musicians and the community together for free live performances at the Central Library.
Free and open to the public!
When: Today, June 11th
Time: 7 – 8 p.m.
Demonstration Area (1st floor)
710 W. César Chávez St.
It had been several years since we’d been out to Horseshoe Bay Resort, and as soon as we turned in off the highway, we were both asking ourselves why it had taken us so long to come back. This golf and vacation destination, located about an hour west of Austin, has a somewhat tropical feel to it that at times feels a bit more like South Florida than Central Texas. Vacation vibes were immediately in full swing.
The landscaping definitely plays a huge part in the allure of this place. From the moment you enter the resort, it appears that every flower and every palm tree is part of a grand design. We were also fortunate enough to visit in late spring when everything was in full bloom.
For this trip, we decided to stay in one of the villas, rather than the main tower. We were still only a short walk to the front desk, restaurants, and other amenities, but with the luxury of having what felt like our own town home—complete with kitchen, family room, and a parking spot right by the front door. The villas are also pet-friendly, which was the main selling point for us because we wanted to bring the pup.
After settling in (and a trip to the bar), we headed straight for the real bermuda grass miniature golf course, which was one of our favorite memories from the previous trip. The 18-hole, par 72 course is complete with sand traps and other obstacles, and is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls, ponds, and rose gardens. We have a standing rule that the loser has to buy post-round drinks, which is a tradition that I highly recommend for anyone (over 21) that plays here.
To claim my free drink, we wandered into the Whitewater 360 Sports Club, which is conveniently located right next to the mini golf course. This place had been remodeled since the last time we were here, and now hosts a full bar with 360 degrees of flat-screen TVs. We decided to order a pizza and watch the NBA Western Conference Finals, which was a perfect way to end the evening.
In the morning we took the dog for a walk around the resort (have I mentioned the beautiful landscaping?) before heading over to the tower for breakfast at Lantana. They offer an extensive buffet that looked great, but we both opted for made-to-order options off the breakfast menu.
I asked for a cup of coffee for the road and we hopped on the resort shuttle for an early tee time at one of four golf courses at Horseshoe Bay. Today we were playing Slick Rock, possibly the median of the four courses from a difficulty perspective, depending on who you ask. It’s home to the “Million Dollar Hole,” which includes a waterfall feature that you drive your cart across.
And that was that. We were unfortunately only able to spend less than 24-hours at the resort this time around. Not nearly enough time to hit the pool, the impressive spa, the other two golf courses, or rent jet-skis on Lake LBJ like we did on our last trip! But, we hear they just opened a waterfront bar, which has our name all over it, and their Ram Rock course recently reopened after extensive remodels; as if we needed more reasons to visit again.
It’s already way too hot in Austin to do anything but eat ice cream. So now we have the only festival that matters—the 12th Annual Austin Ice Cream Festival!
Coming Saturday, June 23, 2018 to Fiesta Gardens, this super sweet event has two parts, and two very different flavors. Here’s the scoop …
Part one is all about daytime fun for the whole family with samples from over a dozen local, regional, and national brands to tickle your taste buds. They’ll also have crazy contests, yard games, live music, rock wall climbing, and a dunk tank.
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (ZIP ticket holders may enter early at 9 a.m.)
Children six and under receive free entry to the festival.
When it’s time for the kids to go home and eat a vegetable or two, the After Dark party will begin. Grown-up types can soak in summer under the stars with performances by Lee Fields & The Expressions, Tameca Jones, and DJ Mel—all while enjoying frozen treats, boozy frozen cocktails, savory eats from food trucks, and fun and games all night long!
6 – 10 p.m. for the general public (with ZIP guests entering early at 5:30 p.m.).
If you want that VIP treatment, purchase early. There is a limited number of ZIP passes!
Click here to learn more and get your tickets for either option. It’s an ice cream festival—what more could you possibly need to know?
Near the McKinney Roughs Nature Park and situated along the Colorado River, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines provides a wide variety of experiences to enjoy the Texas wilderness.
Throughout the summer months the resort will feature river activities including kayaking and rafting trips, as well as river float excursions and air boat rides that depart directly from the resort.
Guests can also enjoy the resort’s onsite Crooked River Water Park. The water park features everything from an active pool with a volleyball net and sandy beach for building sand castles to a lazy river, a two-story water slide, and a splash pad for children. It also includes an adults-only section with a relaxing pool and whirlpool. Throughout the summer, the Crooked River Water Park will feature family pool parties with a live DJ, pool games, and activities.
Guests also get the opportunity to meet and interact with its live-in mascots, including two Texas longhorns, miniature horses, and alpacas. There are also regular falconry shows by Sky Kings, an organization that is dedicated to the education and preservation of wildlife. The demonstrations feature free-flying birds such as hawks, owls, and falcons and wildlife expert discussing each bird’s traits and natural abilities.
Guests can also explore the Loblolly Pine region with guided horseback rides, explore more than 18-miles of hike and bike trails, or soar over the McKinney Roughs Nature Park with excursions to the Zip Lost Pines ziplining adventure.
Additionally, local residents can now enjoy “Daycation” opportunities to Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. The resort recently partnered with ResortPass.com to provide general, spa, and golf day pass options. The general day pass includes access to the resort’s water park, access to poolside food and drink service during the summer months, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Rates for the general day pass begin at $35 for adults and $18 for children.
Spa Django, named after the famed gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, is also offering a spa day pass for locals. The passes get you full access to the spa’s facilities and amenities, including the spa’s outdoor pool and patio, which overlooks the resort’s pond and provides scenic views of the Wolfdancer Golf Course. You can also spend time in the spa’s eucalyptus steam rooms, dry saunas, hot tubs, relaxation lounges, and state-of-the-art fitness center. The spa passes are $40 per person.
The day passes to the resort’s Wolfdancer Golf Club are $75 and include a round of 18 holes as well as unlimited access to the full-scale practice facilities, which include a 13-acre driving range with target greens, a short game area, two chipping greens and bunkers, a practice putting green, a golf cart rental, and warm-up range balls.
Additionally, local residents have access to membership programs at Spa Django and Wolfdancer Golf Club. The golf club provides individual, family, and corporate membership opportunities in which locals can received special guest rates for tee times, complimentary guest passes, special rates on private golf instruction, as well as discounts at the resort’s food and beverage outlets and services and products at Spa Django. Memberships at Spa Django include unlimited access to the spa’s facilities during business hours, 24-hour access to the spa’s fitness center, monthly specials and promotions, discounts at the resort’s food and beverage outlets, and more.
The Zilker Summer Musical is a beloved Austin tradition, and this year the production is celebrating its 60th season! For a whopping 60 years, they’ve been putting on first-rate Broadway musicals at the park’s Hillside Theatre to audiences packed with families taking it all the magic for free. To celebrate this big anniversary, this summer the company is bringing us the Elvis-themed All Shook Up, which features the legendary singer’s top hits. The show opens on July 16, but if you can’t make the premiere, you’ll have 25 other chances this summer, every Thursday through Sunday until August 18.
Click here for all the details, including donor preview parties and insider access to the show.
A few pro tips for the uninitiated: Get there a couple of hours early to secure your spot with a blanket and some low-backed chairs, then go for a swim in Barton Springs! You’ll be so glad you did. It’s like natural air conditioning that lasts throughout the show. And pack a big picnic—everyone gets snacky at this thing.
When: Thursdays – Sundays through August 18th
Time: 8:15 p.m. (There are two acts, with a quick intermission!)
Hat Creek Burger Company got its start in a food truck on 6th Street in Austin, TX, in 2008. Founder, Drew Gressett, never intended for the burger concept to turn into a family-friendly restaurant; however, as years passed, and he started a family of his own, his dream morphed into creating a place for the whole family to have fun. With 11 locations spread across both Austin and Dallas and 12 more planned for the next year in cities including San Marcos, Allen, Waco, Temple, Houston, and San Antonio, Hat Creek Burger Company aims to be the family-friendly restaurant for families across all of Texas.
What makes Hat Creek a family destination? For starters, each location has a unique playscape for the kids to run free. This is the perfect solution for parents looking for a place to enjoy a hot meal and not have to worry about keeping the kids entertained. The outdoor patio is the perfect place for parents to relax and have conversation while being able to keep an eye on their children. When starting the building process, Hat Creek’s first questions is always “where is the playground going to go?”
At its start, Hat Creek’s menu only featured burgers, but now the restaurant offers a wide variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Opening at 7 am, customers can stop by or hit up the drive-thru to grab the breakfast of their choice. For those parents on-the-go, they have plenty of hot meals to help make those hectic mornings a little less stressful. Its breakfast tacos, platters and sandwiches are all “build it yourself.” Hat Creek’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are all made with integrity featuring ingredients from local suppliers.
All items are made-to-order, so mom and dad can custom order for those picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions. Hat Creek offers Paleo and gluten free options, as well. Hat Creek’s menu has something for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for a juicy burger (they offer a Skinny version on lettuce instead of the bun, too), a salad, or a sandwich, their menu fits with a ton of lifestyles.
Sticking with its family-friendly promise, Hat Creek also offers half-off burgers every Tuesday for their Family Nights from 5 p.m. until close (9 p.m.). Every Thursday it also has $1 draft beer and wine for adults who might be looking to kick back and enjoy a cold one with friends or get an early start to their weekend.
At Hat Creek, each restaurant is built with mom, dad and child in mind. As a father, Drew’s vision for Hat Creek is to continue to provide a place for parents to have fun alongside their children, while providing fellowship and burgers to everyone who comes in contact with them. Whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, let Hat Creek handle dinner and do the dishes.
While planning a power-bonding group activity for my co-workers recently, I was struggling with the decidedly un-cool nature of the options. A pub on wheels? No thanks. A Segway tour? They’d never forgive me. Or trust falls? Oh God, no. I didn’t want to embarrass these people, I wanted to have a fun with them!
Thankfully, because of this very site, I came across Your Biker Gang, which bills itself as one of the funnest things to do in Austin. This company helps you create your own motorcycle gang, but subs in fat-tired electric minibikes for the motorcycles, which are so much safer and completely glee-inducing.
I can tell you now that when I surprised my beloved colleagues with this outing, I became, for that brief shining moment, the hero of our office. When we arrived at their headquarters in West Austin, our little gang of nine were outfitted with helmets and bandanas by our fearless leader and road captain, Cope. We also had what’s called a “sweeper,” a super nice guy who held up the tail end of the crew and kept us all very very safe.
After a quick tutorial and training on the bikes in a parking lot, we were out on the open road, with Cope blasting classic biker gang tunes from a giant speaker on his bike. I immediately wanted to buy one of these bikes and I still do. It’s a little intimidating at first, but once you learn to trust this speedy little machine and lean into your turns (top speed is 20 mph) you become one with the bike and basically feel like you can do anything. Anything! Like riding in Downtown Austin traffic.
As someone who has grown up in this city, and takes its beauty for granted on a daily basis, I can tell you that this is an amazing way to see Austin. As we biked over the pedestrian bridge on Lady Bird Lake, through Zilker Park, and along Waller Creek, I fell in love with this place all over again. The wind was blowing our hair back, people were looking at our crew with total envy, and Cope was doing stunts at the front like a badass. We were the happiest Hell’s Angels you ever did see.
If you need an activity to entertain a crew, whether they are family, friends, coworkers, or total strangers, Your Biker Gang will be a hit, I promise. They will customize the tour for your group so you can get history and trivia and see the big sights like murals, statues, the UT campus, and more. Or—if you are locals like us—you can just have a joyride and stop for tacos on the way. These bikes are easy to ride and the concept is as feel-good as it gets.
It’s time to jump on your electric hog and get lost for a while. Be a group-activity-planning hero for once. The road is calling!