Your daily dose of Austin
Smartphone image
×
Make your inbox more Austin.
Local news and fun, every day 6am.
McKinney Falls
Karen Brooks Harper

Most people wore masks—or bandanas—at McKinney Falls on the first day the state parks reopened. (Karen Brooks Harper)

Callie Rocha, 23, wanted to hit the rocks early.

Rocha, of Austin, woke up near dawn, packed up her climbing gear, and headed out to McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin to be the first one to climb the boulders after the parks reopened on Monday.

Did she do it for the bragging rights? To be No. 1? Not especially.


"Nobody's been touching them," the out-of-work restaurant employee said. "I thought I'd be the first one to touch those rocks without any germs on them."

She doubts she'll return until the threat of COVID-19 has passed because she figures more germy hands may land on them in short order.

She may be right. Visitors flocked on Monday to McKinney Falls, among the first of Texas' 89 state parks to reopen, per the governor's Friday order, after they were shut down mid-March due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Just over a dozen are still closed but could open later in the summer, parks officials said.

In Central Texas, parks that are reopening include Pedernales Falls, Possum Kingdom, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Longhorn Cavern, Lockhart State Park, Lake Whitney, Mineral Wells, Inks Lake, Garner, Blanco and Bastrop state parks.

Some limitations apply: Visitors are required to wear face masks, avoid large groups, and maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others. No overnight camping is being allowed yet—day use only.

At McKinney the swings were removed from the swing set to discourage use of the playground, which was off-limits. Roads to campsites were closed. Visitors were required to pre-register and then pick up their car permits stuck onto a kiosk just inside the grounds.

A park official greeted visitors and waved them through, eyes twinkling above a homemade decorative mask.

"Great to have y'all back!" she said cheerfully.

By lunchtime, there was a short line of cars waiting to get inside, the parking lots were half full, and visitors—nearly all of them wearing masks—dotted the falls, the picnic areas, the fishing pools and the swimming holes in sunny 80-degree weather.

"It was busier (than a normal Monday) due to people wanting to be outside," said Stephanie Salinas Garcia, public information officer for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a multi-phased plan to reopen the Texas economy after weeks of social-distancing measures—and the parks were the first to come back online.

"We've been stir-crazy," said Tom Web, who traveled from New Braunfels with his wife, Beth, to hike the park. "Just cooped up in our house. We like to hike and get outdoors."

Austin veterinarian Frank Schuman, his wife Natalie, their three children ages 2-15, and aunt Marina Villarreal, headed to the falls to swim and get away from homeschooling doldrums.

One drawback: Masks in the heat.

"I'm hoping I don't break out," Natalie Schuman said.


The scene at McKinney Falls State Park today

Popular

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway