With at least two months of extremely summer high temperatures ahead, Austinites in search of respite may find it in the form of a hotel pool day pass.
Although pricier than a day at Barton Springs or Deep Eddy pools, day passes often come with perks, such as free parking and the option to drink poolside. Here are 13 local hotels where you can cool down:
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sun., $20 Mon.-Thurs and $40 Fri.-Sun., reservations required
The South Congress mainstay offers passes for three-hour blocks at its iconic kidney-shaped pool. There's a pool bar, and kids under 5 can join in for free. There are also adult night swim passes available for a discounted price.
10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., $25, reservations required
This chic South Austin hotel, just down the street from Barton Springs, offers four-hour pool passes on weekdays, with access to the full hotel menu, shade for summer reading and buckets of beer.
Colton House Hotel
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sun., $20, reservations required
This brand new boutique hotel on South Congress offers daytime pool passes, parking and towel service included. Kids under 2 are free. There's also a coffee and cocktail bar, Simona's.
East Austin Hotel
12-4 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 12-4 p.m. Sun., $40, reservations required
Nestled along East Sixth Street, this hotel offers a hidden escape, with complimentary parking and poolside food and drink service for four-hour reservation holders. Kids under 5 are free.
6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., $150-$600, reservations required
Austinites can reserve a cabana at this luxury downtown hotel's rooftop pool and enjoy unique perks, like an automated sunscreen kiosk, complimentary Evian facial spritzes and chilled towels. Cabanas come outfitted with a 50-inch television and provide great skyline views.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Thurs and Sun., $25, reservations required
This historic boutique hotel in West Campus offers daytime pool passes, with access to the hotel restaurant, Goodall's.
12-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., $40 for day pass, $100 for daybed, $200 for cabana, reservations required
This downtown pool features the Edge Pool, four floors above Congress Avenue and marked with a Texas state outline. Locals can reserve cabanas or book a spa treatment, which comes with free pool access Monday through Thursday.
Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt
11 a.m.-sundown Mon.-Sun., $38 for day pass, $100-$500 for cabanas, reservations required
High above Rainey Street, this hotel pool offers choice views of Lady Bird Lake, complimentary sunscreen and rentable cabanas that can fit groups of up to 12 people.
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., $40, reservations required
This instantly recognizable hotel offers half- and full-day passes to its heated salt water infinity pool, which overlooks the Congress Avenue bridge and Lady Bird Lake. Complimentary parking and access to the hotel's Veracruz walk-up window included.
Omni Austin Hotel Downtown
9 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sun., $35, reservations required
This downtown hotel's rooftop pool is another hidden gem, with complimentary parking and food and drink service available.
South Congress Hotel
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., $30, reservations required
Surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking South Congress Avenue, this rooftop pool pass comes with free parking and access to the hotel restaurant, Cafe No Sé.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. $30, reservations required
This hotel wet deck, high above downtown, offers pool access, rental cabanas, tanning shelves and a pair of outdoor showers to rinse off at the end of the day.
The Westin Austin
1-9 p.m. Mon.-Sun, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun., $40 for two reserved lounge chairs, $70 for daybed, $200-$300 for cabana, reservations required
This downtown hotel pool pass comes with reserved poolside lounge chairs and access to Azul, the tallest hotel rooftop bar in the city.
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.