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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When Mark Coffey moved to Austin in 1986, it was the land of Stevie Ray Vaughan shows, MTV and new opportunities.
Now, it may be the land of limited housing, property tax hikes and California license plates—but many are still choosing to stay for remnants of that old-school charm.
Austinites love to lament the loss of “Old Austin”—they’ve been saying it since 1884. And with one-bedroom rents up 112%, home appraisal rates up 56% and the cost of living on a seemingly endless upward trend, it's hard not to see Austin's past through rose-tinted lenses.
But even in money-stretching times like these, some Austinites are taking a break from their usual complaints to remind themselves why they choose to stay.
Mark Coffey has stayed in Austin for decades due to its uniqueness, inclusivity and community. (Mark Coffey)
As a near-original Austinite, Mark Coffey didn't have too much trouble buying a house or finding a job with pension benefits at a local utility service decades ago. Still, he said he's stayed in Austin for more than financial security.
"Despite the cost of living, the brutal heat and traffic... I think the trade-off is that Austin has always kind of had that sense of possibility," Coffey told Austonia. "Of all the cities in Texas, it's been the most open to change and future possibilities and I don't think that's ever completely lost."
Austin's unique spirit has attracted like-minded small-town Texas kids looking for community. Gabriel Rodriguez, who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, moved to Austin a few years ago after graduating from Texas State University and still hasn't become bored with the vibrant live music scene.
Gabriel Rodriguez, who has experience as a musician has found a home in Austin's live music scene and with Austin FC. (Gabriel Rodriguez)
"The big thing to me was the music," Rodriguez said. "That's what made me want to move to Austin in the first place... I grew up in a place that didn't have that."
Coffey, Rodriguez and many others have also found the Austin spirit with Austin FC, the city's first major league sports team, and its vibrant and community-minded fanbase.
Reason for being in love: Austin FC.
— Micky Ruñoz (@HighMs66) June 7, 2022
"Austin FC has come around and it's caused both old and new Austinite to kind of rally around something that like, yeah, this is our club, but it's also a statement about the kind of community we want to be," Coffey said.
For others, like Michelle Sanchez, Austin is home for many reasons—namely, a famed food scene, family and plenty of outdoor activities.
Proud, Austinite. I love Zilker (all the greenbelts), people for the most part are friendly, soccer, the food, and the fact that my family lives here. <3 I have thought about leaving once my contract is up.
— Michelle Sánchez (@MichelleS_tv) June 7, 2022
In a Reddit post that saw nearly 800 comments, dozens of users pointed to outdoor activities—from Barton Creek's Greenbelt swimming holes to paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake and trails dotting the city's outskirts. Others said that despite its flaws, they've never found anywhere better.
"Austin doesn't do anything spectacularly, but does more things adequately than most anywhere I can think of," user boyyhowdy said.
However, for some, those "adequacies" still aren't enough to stay.
Over austin too. I resigned a (sub)lease for a super small studio that’s 40% lower than the average 1 bedroom in Austin. This will be my last year in Austin, so I’m staying to save money then move to a city with actual public transit and ditching my car.
— amanduh (taylor's version) (@hey_amanduhh) June 7, 2022
Rodriguez said he's thought of leaving too. But whenever he thinks too long about the city's flaws, he finds solace in Austin's live music venues, including his favorite, Moody Theater. Coffey, meanwhile, recommends longtime spots like Continental Club, the Broken Spoke or even South Congress for a quick "old Austin" fix.
And with housing prices showing signs of slowing down and longtime haunts like Austin's longest-standing grocery store opening back up, there still may be time to reignite a romance with what "Keeps Austin Weird."
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The cost of living in Austin may be on an upswing but just because you might have less money in your pockets doesn’t mean you have to compromise your lifestyle.
With gas prices rising above $4 per gallon, rents rising 25-40% and reports showing that Austinites pay more in household bills than any other Texas city, you may find yourself with less cheddar than you’re used to this time of year.
Aside from cutting back on spending, thrifting is a great way to stretch your dollar a little bit further. The average American spends $1,700 on clothes annually, of which 85% percent ends up in landfills, making secondhand shopping a greener, more affordable and nearly equally fashionable option.
These local secondhand emporiums sell most daily goods for a fraction of the price if you don’t mind a little wear.
Best antiques: Uncommon Objects, 1602 Fortview Rd.
You won’t find any clothing at Uncommon Objects but you will find oodles of objects from yesteryear to bring into your home. The store has been peddling items from “your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids” since 1991, connecting Austinites with relics from the past. The items inside start at just a few dollars but range due to the great variety. Many of these items have passed through multiple hands–it doesn’t get greener than that!
Best for finding clothes on a budget: Texas Thrift, 5319 N Interstate Hwy 35
This enormous North Austin warehouse is packed with so many racks of secondhand clothing that it would be nearly impossible to go through them all in one visit. You’re probably not going to find a Gucci tracksuit or Christian Louboutins while you roam the racks but you’re almost certain to leave with at least one new-to-you article of clothing that fits your style for less than $10.
Best for fashionable finds: Uptown Cheapskate, multiple locations
Though it may be a bit more expensive than the run-of-the-mill thrift shop, Uptown Cheapskate is filled with gently used, name-brand clothing for a fraction of the new price. Uptown both buys and sells clothing released in boutiques within the last two years, meaning you’ll find brands like Free People, Zara, Nike and Patagonia in almost mint condition. Austonia reporter Claire Partain scored a pair of Steve Madden's last week for less than $15.
Best variety: Far Out Home Fittings, 1500 W Ben White Blvd.
With a full “Funkyard” out back, antiques, oddities, furniture, jewelry and knick knacks are Far Out Home Fittings’ specialty. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for something specific but if you’re open to a rummaging adventure, you’re likely to find something you didn't know you needed from furniture to jewelry to musical instruments. Our favorite Far Out finds: $5 gold chains, a vintage hand-crank whisk and long-forgotten lettering from signage.
Craft supplies: Austin Creative Reuse, 2005 Wheless Ln.
‘Waste not, want not’ would be a good tagline for Austin Creative Reuse, where you can find partially used art supplies that would have been thrown away otherwise. Looking to make your own clothes? ACR has shelves upon shelves of fabric and yarn for mostly less than a dollar per yard. Accessories? There are beads and thread aplenty. Scrap paper, paint, mosaics, magnets, zippers, glitter, findings in bulk and workshops to teach you how to be your craftiest self.
Furniture: Salvation Army, multiple locations
If you’re a fan of TikTok, you’ve probably wanted to try your hand at upcycling—repurposing objects in a way that makes it just as or more valuable than the original—at least once or twice and Salvation Army is the place to start. This store has everything: clothing, shoes, accessories, electronics, art and pieces of furniture that are begging to be made pretty again through a little TLC.
Vintage and variety fashion: Pavement, multiple locations
Racks on racks of modern and vintage mixed clothing await at Pavement, which is known for its legendary fill-a-bag sales. Meanwhile, its shoe and accessory walls are almost as spacious as its selection of clothing while maintaining a balance between current fashion and styles of yore. Clothing at Pavement isn’t the most affordable, but it will still bring you in lower than most prices at vintage and new clothing stores.