As Austinites head into a long Labor Day weekend—in which we honor the contributions of American workers by taking a much-needed Monday off work—typical celebrations may be a bit stymied by social distancing and rules against large gatherings.
But even though that big annual barbecue or Sunday night bash (because in Austin, that's probably a Thing) may not be going on as planned, there are plenty of fun, safe ways to spend time getting some fresh air and relaxation during this holiday.
With the weather forecast calling for scattered rain and mild(ish) temps ranging from the 70s to the mid-90s, it's a great time to get outside and have some fun on your extra day off.
Here are some of our favorite ideas.
Enjoy a flashback to simpler times with a drive-in movie at Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, which is featuring a "Labor Daze" lineup of two '80s favorites: Ferris Beuller's Day Off and The Princess Bride.
Located in the Mueller neighborhood, Blue Starlite offers a socially distanced way to get out of the house and watch some classics with your favorite passengers. Be a righteous dude and take in a flick as you wish—under the stars.
From the city's website: "A mini version of traditional auto cinemas, Blue Starlite often features two films per night, with the option to add a vintage drive-in speaker and old-fashioned concessions to the package. The Blue Starlite is Austin's one and only Drive-In Movie theater."
Patio time(Charlie L. Harper III)
Hit up one of Austin's stellar patio dining areas for some al fresco drinks and noshes, with no need to rush back to work, head home early or worry about hangovers.
Do some people-watching at Graj Mahal, take in the Lake Austin vista and some Polynesian Tex-Mex at Hula Hut or hang out on the rooftop of 77 Degrees at the Domain, where this rooftop oasis in Rock Rose section of the Domain, offering exotic cocktails, small plates, cushy seating, fans with misters and views of the action below.
Hit the trail3. We're a great city for bikes(The City of Austin)
Take a long bike ride, or a long stroll, on the Walnut Creek Trail System, with more than 10 miles of car-free, stress-free, tree-lined trails stretching from North Austin through downtown. Monday promises sunshine, and the paved trail has plenty of room for social distancing. So get on your bike and ride!
Watch the bats
Mexican free-tail bats in the Austin skylinelive.staticflickr.com
Check out the world's largest urban bat colony on the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset, as we are right in the middle of the best season for watching the city's 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats pour out into the evening to find food.
The spectacular sight never gets old, attracting visitors to the bridge and to kayaks and tubes on Ladybird Lake below. Don't forget to bring your mask and social distance if you're watching it from Congress, but you can also find gorgeous and secluded viewing spots from anywhere along the banks of the lake—or from the boardwalk.
Reserve a spot in the cool waters of Blue Hole
The Blue Hole Swimming Area
The City of Wimberley
About 45 minutes south of Austin near Wimberley, you'll find the cool relaxation of the Blue Hole, located just outside of Wimberley. The 126-acre park includes 4.5 miles of trails, picnic areas, a community pavilion, playscape, basketball court, sand volleyball court, amphitheater and the shady Blue Hole Swimming Area, which stays 75 degrees all year round. Reservations are required for swimming, so make your reservation online here.
Take a Black Austin tour
Take a deep dive in Austin history with a Black Austin tour, developed by Native Austinite and PhD student Javier Wallace, whose roots in Austin go back some 200 years.
From Wallace's post on the city's website: "Black Austin Tours ensures that Black histories, experiences and contributions are included in Austin's story. Black Austin Tours Founder and Guide, Javier Wallace, provides both in-person and virtual experiences that tell the hard truths, including those about some of our most visited places like Barton Springs, Zilker Park and the Texas State Capitol Building. He does this to hold the city accountable and ensure that visitors have a better understanding of the city and the sites and spaces they are visiting while here."
Build a board gameThe Academy of Games
Don't feel like sweating and want to learn something new? Start learning how to build a board game with a free introductory session at The Academy of Games. Fun for kids and adults, these two-hour sessions can last for one intro or several weeks - your call!
From the website: "Designing a game is a launching pad for countless other skills, and a great way to develop socially. Things that would be frustrating or boring become interesting and engaging when they are part of a game you play with others."
Wait - a break from the frustrating and boring? Sign us up!
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Orange and burnt orange will merge as I-35 neighbors UTSA take on the University of Texas in Austin at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The two UT affiliates will clash for the first time at the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, but the party is sure to be felt all around town.
Whether at a tailgate or watch party, here are the best ways to enjoy the gameday experience:
Texas Tailgarten at Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd.
UT's biggest and longest-running tailgate will be back in action at Scholz Biergarten on Saturday. Since 1866, they've brought the brews, food and Longhorn celebrations to Austinites of all crests and creeds, and they're not stopping now.
Official times for the UTSA watch party will be posted tomorrow on their Facebook.
Longhorn City Limits at the LBJ Lawn, 4801 La Crosse Avenue
The Longhorns' free alternative to Austin City Limits will see live performances from Misterwives and Jane Leo starting at 3 p.m. on the LBJ lawn. Presented by Still Austin Whiskey, the event will include whiskey and Tito's cocktails on tap, Stubb's BBQ and live football coverage before a Silent Disco post-game party.
Watch party at the Still Austin Whiskey Co. Tasting Room, 440 East Saint Elmo Road
Enjoy a Horns Up frozen cocktail and a premier game watching experience at Still Austin Whiskey's Tasting Room each gameday. Come a little early for a taste of their fifth anniversary party starting at 1 p.m. as well.
The Tavern, 922 W 12th St
With 30 TV's and a longtime history as a hub for football fans, The Tavern is one of Austin's premier sports bars. The bar offers beers, burgers and football events each weekend, so be sure to check out their Facebook for this weekend's event details.
Lavaca Street Bar, 405 Lavaca St
Downtown Austin sports bar Lavaca Street Bar claims to be a "UT Football headquarters." Home of the Turf N' Surf Po Boy, the bar offers sandwiches, beer and other gameday fare.
Little Woodrow's, 5425 Burnet Rd
One of four Little Woodrow's in town, the sports bar's Burnet location has become the Longhorn headquarters. Hook 'em at Woodrow's each game day with beer bucket specials and an extensive indoor/outdoor game watching experience.
SAM Services Tailgate Party, 161 E 16th St.
Just as they do each week, SAM Services will provide barbecue, brews and TVs for the game at 161 E 16th St. on Saturday. A $5 donation is recommended, and make sure to bring your own chair.
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Austinites love our local brews, wines and spirits.
And if you’ve ever cracked open a cold beer or sipped a hard seltzer and marveled at its quintessentially Austin can, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered the work of 31-year-old Sam O’Brien and his Austin-based design studio, SAMPLE.
“Austin is just such a unique place that these brands have one thing in common -- they want to tout their Austin roots,” said O’Brien, who moved here from New York when he was a toddler after his dad, acclaimed photographer Michael O’Brien, visited the city on assignment and fell in love with it. “I’ve been an Austin resident for 28 years and it kind of automatically comes through in my work. Some of it is intentional for the brand, but some of it is my personality coming through.”
Launched two years ago, O’Brien’s SAMPLE is responsible for the looks of local food and beverage brands such as Zilker Brewing Company, Cisco’s Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Ranch Rider Spirits and Austin 101 Light Whiskey as well as beloved local businesses such as Criquet Shirts and Chubbies. (Fun fact: SAMPLE’s officemates, FugginHuggin, seemingly have the other half of Austin’s alcohol market covered, designing for brands such as Twisted X Brewing Co. and Hi Sign Brewing.)
From the hats O’Brien designed for Cisco’s that state, simply, “Migas” – a nod to one of the Austin institution’s signature dishes – to the festive merch he created for University of Texas football player Bijan Robinson’s new Dijon mustard brand, time and time again he encapsulates the city’s quirky, upbeat vibe. Perhaps most notable, however, is his work for Zilker Brewing Company, whose eye-catching cans incorporate a perfectly balanced blend of bright colors and throwback aesthetics.
“Our brand is centered around a retro-modern vibe that can be tricky to pull off at times but has been a natural fit for Sam since our first project together,” said Patrick Clark, co-founder of Zilker Brewing Company. “He designed a collaboration can for us several years ago that was so on-brand it eventually inspired the refresh of our core beer line-up.”
O’Brien, who attended Baylor University and interned and worked at Austin’s McGarrah Jessee before starting his own firm, said his early collaboration with Zilker Brewing was “every designer’s dream.”
“It was the first account that made me realize that SAMPLE was possible,” he said. “It was awesome, not only for the creative opportunities and beer labels we got to design and are still designing, but also my office is right down the street from them and I get the perks of free beer. You couldn’t really ask for more as an Austin-based designer.
O’Brien said in the future he’d love to add businesses like Howler Bros., Patagonia and heritage beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch to his client roster. Mostly, though, he simply wants to help spotlight and amplify Austin culture through his designs.
“The underlying spirit of Austin still exists, and it’s up to the native Austinites and the true Austinites to keep that,” he said. “Cisco’s, for example, who we’ve done work for, is the oldest Tex-Mex place in Austin. When I do work for them, it’s like we want to honor that heritage and that history and celebrate that. We’re able to keep the spirit alive through our work.”