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A day on the river: Your guide to tubing in Central Texas

Grab some friends, bring some drinks and enjoy a long float on one of the rivers in this guide. (Comal Tubes/Instagram)

Floating the river is a beloved summer tradition in Texas—and maybe an unfamiliar one if you've recently relocated to Austin.

Here's everything you need to know, from a rundown of area rivers to a guide of BYO items.


River guide 

San Marcos River

The most popular tubing destination, the spring-fed San Marcos River stays a cool 72 degrees all year round and cuts through downtown San Marcos and the Texas State University campus. About 30 miles away from Austin, it draws floaters of all ages, from families with young kids to millennials ready to day drink. You can make advance reservations to rent tubes at Lions Club Tube Rental ($16), Texas State Tubes ($25) or Don's Fish Camp ($24), shuttle ride included.

Comal River

The Comal River in New Braunfels, about 50 miles from Austin, is the shortest navigable river in Texas. Similar to the San Marcos River, it's spring-fed and 72 degrees all year round, offering a cool respite on hot summer days. There is one fast section—a man-made chute that diverts floaters around the dam—but it is family-friendly and offers easy access to area attractions, including music venue Gruene Hall and water park Schlitterbahn. You can rent tubes from Texas Tubes ($25) and make advance reservations at Comal Tubes ($25), Landa Falls ($25) and Rockin' R ($23), shuttle ride included.

Guadalupe River

If you want to party, head to the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, approximately 50 miles away from Austin. The most popular stretch is the Horseshoe loop, which takes around two hours to float, but there are other, longer routes. For a more family-friendly float, you can access the river at Guadalupe River State Park, which prohibits alcohol. You can rent tubes from Tube Haus ($17) and make reservations at Shanty River Center ($20), Whitewater Springs ($24) and River Sport Tubes ($20), shuttle included.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

This local alternative offers a more relaxed float than the "big three" rivers—and a faster commute. There are no tube rentals, so you'll need to bring your own. Alcohol is not permitted on the river. Popular access points include the Loop 360 Access, which offers a two- to three-hour float down to Barton Springs, as well as swimming holes such as Twin Falls, Sculpture Falls and Gus Fruh (no tube needed at swimming holes).

What to bring 

Floating requires being prepared while also traveling light. Some essentials:

  • A mask, as some rental spots require them
  • Water shoes—the uglier the better (no flip flops!)
  • Sunscreen (don't forget your knees!)
  • Water to stay hydrated
  • A stocked cooler (and some extra money to pay for a cooler tube)
  • Something to hold your ID and money, such as a zip-lock bag or waterproof pouch

There are also some things you should leave behind:

  • Your phone and other valuables, which could end up on the riverbed
  • Styrofoam and glass

Post-float plans 

Floating is exhausting. Plan on stopping for barbecue or tacos afterward to replenish your energy—or bring snacks along—and taking a nap once home.

Popular

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

‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”