Once again, Texas’ famously warm weather is upon us which means it is time to get outside and enjoy it.
Nature in Central Texas is one of the biggest contributors to the magic and in the Lone Star State, there is a lot to see and do. From the only earthquake cave, to the oldest swimming pool, to the second-largest submerged cave in Texas, it can all be found in Austin or a few miles beyond.
Both near and (sort of) far, here are just a few of the outdoor marvels to enjoy nearby.
Built in 1915, Deep Eddy Pool is the oldest swimming pool in Texas. The pool gets its name from an eddy formed by a large boulder in the center and the concrete pool was built around it. The shallow end is currently closed until further notice but the pool is still open for lap swimming. Tickets are $5 for residents.
Whether you like to camp, backpack, hike, rock climb, geocache or stargaze, Enchanted Rock is an Austinite’s rite of passage. There are more than 11 miles to traverse, which you can explore with an interactive trails map, plus rock climbing instruction. Entrance fees are $8 for adults and no swimming or biking is allowed.
If you’re willing to make a day trip out of it, Jacob’s Well is an unforgettable natural pool experience. The second-largest submerged cave in Texas, you can gaze over the deep blue spot that stretches more than 140 feet deep and is fed by the Trinity Aquifer. Visitors brave enough might even try cliff diving into the abyss. Reservations are required for swimmers and tickets start at $5.
Opening May 14, Waterloo Adventures offers over two football field’s worth of floating waterpark activities, floating obstacles, beach games, lakeside lounges and lakeside views as far as the eye can see. Reservations are required and tickets are $63 per person.
Some of the most incredible panoramic views of the city are found at Mount Bonnell. Despite being one of the most scenic spots in the city, climbing to the peak is a very short hike and has plenty of seating at the top. Stay for awhile for a picnic or make the short trip west to the Pennybacker Bridge Trail to see it from the other side.
A hidden gem inside the nearly 8-mile Barton Creek Trail, Sculpture Falls is one of many sights to enjoy along your hike. Several small waterfalls will guide you to the much larger falls, where you can spread out on a beach towel and enjoy the cool of the pool that stays 70 degrees year-round.
Inside the famous Wonder World Park in San Marcos, a visit will take you inside the Balcones Fault Line Cave, which is reportedly the only real earthquake cave open to the public. Along the one-mile tour, visitors will see strata formations, fossilized prehistoric life and gigantic boulders suspended in time. Tickets start at $21.95 and include access to all Wonder World attractions.
Flyers are less satisfied with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport than a year ago, a new study shows.
Research firm J.D. Power placed ABIA at No. 15 on a list ranking overall customer satisfaction at large airports, a slip from last year’s spot at No. 7. Other Texas airports secured rankings ahead of Austin, with Dallas Love Field at third, Houston Hobby at eight, and San Antonio International Airport at ninth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth ranked eight in the "mega airport" category.
The study examined airports based on the following factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
On a 1,000-point scale, Austin-Bergstrom received 785 points this year compared to its score of 819 in 2021.
Passenger experiences at Austin-Bergstrom have been influenced by population growth in Central Texas, which has brought record traffic and longer wait times at TSA. And a recent power outage at Austin-Bergstrom caused flight delays. Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power., said that consumer satisfaction with flying has decreased overall.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Taylor said.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, commented on the ranking.
“We're grateful that AUS customers continue to rank our airport above average, especially during this year that saw air travel disruption here in Austin and across the globe as airports, airlines and the air travel industry continued navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” Grimmett said. “We look forward to delivering near-term and long-term improvements through our Journey With AUS program to improve the passenger experience.”
That program is slated to bring a new midfield concourse to increase gates and connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground connector tunnel.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.