Are you really a local if you've never spent the weekend soaking up the hot summer sun and lounging on Lady Bird Lake? The pastime is so popular that if you find yourself cruising over one of the Lake's many bridges on a weekend, you're likely to see hundreds of people clumped together on the water in a formation locals call "Party Island."
With temperatures in the mid-90s this week, the Colorado River's cooling waters welcome paddleboarders, boaters and kayakers alike. Though it is well known that swimming is prohibited in Lady Bird Lake, nothing can stop partiers from perching on the shallow sandbar that leads into Barton Springs Pool—not even a global pandemic.
Like every sunny weekend, paddle boarders, kayakers, boaters, tubers and bridge-jumpers gathered at the intersection between Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake.
The lake is adjacent to the Lady Bird Lake Trail, which is also a busy recreation destination for runners, bikers and lovers of nature.
Jumping from the bridge is prohibited by the city, though you can see groups jumping off the bridge nearly every weekend.
Dozens of lake-goers gather to jump the bridge—performing flips and tricks into the water below.
Zach Melton, a 22-year-old DJ that goes by the name Maniac, lives in the Zilker Park area and jumped the bridge for the first time on Sunday. A Dallas native, Melton said he loves the nature, scenery and people that live in Austin. "I love the vibes of this city," Melton said.
The love of Lady Bird Lake transcends species—dogs can often be spotted enjoying the lake with their humans.
Or spot some other four-legged friends—Lady Bird Lake is an excellent area to turtle-watch.
People-watch long enough and you'll probably see a few people fall off their boards.
August is the hottest month of the year in Austin, so Lady Bird Lake season is in full swing. There's still time to enjoy the greenery and water sports that Austinites love so much.
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Summertime sure does fly by, doesn't it? It's time to jam-pack as many summer activities as you can while there is still about a month left before school starts up again and the grind gets going. Luckily, Austin is full of places to visit that will fill your season full of memories.
To get you started, check out some of these seasonably-fit museums, galleries and snacks.
Beyond Van Gogh, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Like the name suggests, Beyond Van Gogh Austin takes visitors deeper into the Dutch painter's work by surrounding them in his post-impressionist world. Aptly taking place at the Starry Night Pavilion at the Circuit of the Americas, this immersive exhibit allows Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces to be "freed from frames" as they are projected onto the walls and floors for guests to explore. Van Gogh's thoughts, dreams and words are set to a symphonic score to drive the narrative as you walk through the rooms, giving visitors insight into the tortured artist's swirly world. Adult tickets start at $46.99, children at $28.99 and it offers student and military discounts while the museum runs through Sept. 5.
Museum of Ice Cream, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace
The runaway hit from New York City has made its way to Austin, complete with a rainbow sprinkle pool, banana forest and bright-pink-everything exterior. The Museum of Ice Cream is a favorite of major celebrities—Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and the Kardashian Krew have all been spotted at the New York Location. The whimsical museum promises an undisclosed "Texas twist" at its new Austin location, which also has an on-brand café that serves Museum of Ice Cream original treats. You didn't think you'd leave without ice cream, did you? Tickets run $39 per person.
The Selfie Galleries, 3220 Amy Donovan Plaza
Looking for a place to get that perfect summer selfie? Look no further, because the newly-opened Selfie Galleries has 20 wildly decorated different rooms to roam through, capturing an unforgettable photo of yourself and your faves in each one. The backdrops were made so you can flex your creative muscle and make some documented memories at the same time. The gallery also hosts mixers for all age groups so you can meet local Austinites in a safe setting. Tickets start at $20 for an hour, $40 for two, depending on how many people you bring along.
Wonderspaces, 1205 Sheldon Cove
The self-proclaimed "new home for extraordinary art," Wonderspaces is an interactive art gallery like you've never experienced before. With rotating exhibits that you can touch, Instagram and ogle, the artwork is designed for everyone to create their own unique experience when visiting. Virtual reality, a house of mirrors, anonymous conversations and a dragon made of teabags are just a few of the wild installations that make this museum what it is—plus, you can enjoy some local brews at the Wonderspaces Bar. Adults can visit for $24, kids for $15 or you can get an annual pass for $99 and visit each new piece.
Milk Bar Bakery, delivery only
Maybe you want an experience without the outing. Thanks to ghost kitchens, the brainchild of Christina Tosi came all the way from The Big Apple to the Lone Star State. The well-celebrated Milk Bar Bakery is now available in Austin through third-party delivery only, meaning you can get the full line of milk bar cookies, bar pie, truffle crumb cakes and its famous layered birthday cakes through UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates only. If you haven't had these rich cookies yet, it's time to fire up that delivery app and get to ordering!
Soak up the rest of summer while you can!
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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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Swimming pools have plenty to offer in this relentless summer heat, but there's just something so Austin about swimming holes in Central Texas that keeps locals coming back for more.
From hideaways within city limits to Wimberley's famous bottomless well, here's a dozen swimming holes to dip into this summer.
What to know before you go
Most gear needed to go to a local swimming pool coincides with what's needed at swimming holes, but there are a few extra steps to take when you visit.
In general, you will need:
- Water shoes may come in handy if you're headed to a natural swimming hole but make sure you choose the right footwear if there's a hike beforehand.
- Plenty of water, as there usually isn't usually anywhere to grab a drink nearby
- Blankets, coolers, snacks and drinks for a casual picnic by the water
- Money, if you're headed somewhere that requires a pass
- Tubes/floats are always a fun addition at some swimming holes
- Look for places to grab a bite to eat before, especially if you're planning on staying a while. Barton Springs Pool has Zilker Cafe nearby, while the Spyglass access to Barton Creek is close to a Tacodeli.
- Check out the amenities of the small town you're headed to. Wimberley's historic square is stocked with famous restaurants, antiques and more, while Dripping Springs is known for its craft breweries.
- Make sure you grab a pass if you need it. Some offer free access, others require reservations beforehand.
- Plan your parking situation ahead of time. Some swimming holes are limited on parking, so leave early if you're headed to a popular spot.
- If you're planning on drinking or eating at the pool, make sure to check if alcohol, glass containers or other materials are allowed on site.
- Many of these locations aren't just swimming holes—if you're interested in more, check to see if the park offers rock climbing, boating, camping or other activities.
Barton Creek Greenbelt, multiple locations
The Barton Creek Greenbelt has plenty of access points and swimming holes throughout its miles of trails. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
The famed Barton Creek Greenbelt is pockmarked with swimming holes throughout its 12.68 miles of trails.
- Twin Falls is a popular destination for swimming, rope swings and a 40-foot-deep section perfect for doing your best diving tricks, which you can reach after a quick hike. There are many Greenbelt stopping points, so look up the "Barton Creek Greenbelt Trailhead" if this is your desired destination. Take a left on the Mopac Expy Frontage Road to find plenty of parking. It's about a half-mile walk, so prepare accordingly.
- Gus Fruh offers something for everyone—for those looking for a hike, the Main Access point is about 1.4 miles from the swimming hole, and popular rock climbing spots, including Urban Assault, sit nearby. For quick access, head to 2642 Barton Hills Dr. It's located in a residential neighborhood, so there may be limited parking.
- Campbell's Hole is a more off-the-grid option for Austinites. The swimming hole can be accessed two ways: via 1601 Spyglass Drive or 2010 Homedale Dr. (Barton Hills Elementary.) However, you can also hike to this less-trafficked spot from Gus Fruh or by way of Trail's Head.
- For those looking to conquer the wild, Trail's End/Sculpture Falls swimming hole is just a 1.25-mile walk from the Twin Falls access point and also accessible at 1710 Camp Craft Road. If you're not looking for a workout, beware that the half-mile stretch before reaching the falls is the steepest area of the Greenbelt.
Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd
Barton Springs Pool has been a favorite for Austinites for decades. (Barton Springs Pool/Facebook)
Barton Springs Pool has continued to turn heads in its decades of existence. According to the city of Austin, state legislators have made laws there, topless swimmers made waves in the 1970s and actor Robert Redford learned to swim at this site while visiting family.
The pool's rectangular shape and concrete edges mimic a man-made swimming pool, but it is actually fed by springs that keep temperatures near 70 degrees year round.
The pool is located in Zilker Park and attracts hundreds of visitors a day. Efforts made by nearby restaurant Zilker Cafe to bring alcohol on the premises recently failed, but the cafe is still open for a bite to eat just before or after taking a dip.
New lifeguards have joined the team, meaning residents will have access to the pool from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. for five days a week instead of four. Click here to buy a Barton Springs Pool pass.
Krause Springs, 404 Krause Springs, Spicewood
Krause Springs offers a man-made and natural pool on its preserve. (Krause Springs/Facebook)
This popular swimming and camping destination has been run by the Krause family for over 50 years. Much like Barton Springs Pool, the site offers a man-made pool fed by 68-degree water year round. It also features a natural watering hole and plenty of space for camping.
The springs are located in Spicewood, around 30 miles northwest of Austin, and are open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. every day.
Day passes for adults are $9 apiece, while overnight passes including tent and RV camping are $15 a night. For more information, click here.
Jacob's Well and more in Wimberley
Wimberley is the perfect summer getaway. With a downtown stocked with old-fashioned cafes, live music and unique goods, an H-E-B nearby and beautiful scenery everywhere you look, it's hard to be bored at the Hill Country hideaway.
Located about 45 minutes southwest of Austin, Wimberley has multiple swimming locations to choose from.
- Jacob's Well, 1699 Mt. Sharp Rd., is one of the most famous swimming holes in Texas, partially because of the mystery that lies underneath. The hole drops 140 feet down before funneling into several underwater caves, some of which have yet to be fully explored. The hole, which is the second-longest submerged cave in Texas, attracts thousands every year due to its vast depths, beautiful scenery and abundance of unique wildlife. The hole itself, which comes after a mile hike, is as small as it is deep, meaning reservations are scarce. Plan in advance if you wish to jump off the cliff into the water. Those not looking to swim can access the point without a reservation from 8 a.m-6 p.m. daily. Click here to reserve a spot.
- Blue Hole Swimming Area (100 Blue Hole Lane) is another classic go-to in Wimberley, equipped with a large lawn for picnicking, hiking trails and a high-flying rope swing. Book one of two daily time slots—or both—here.
- Cypress Falls (50 Marina Cir) is a private swimming hole complete with a nearby bar, lodging and more. Grab an $8 day pass here.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Road, Dripping Springs—partially closed
Dripping Springs' iconic natural swimming area is partially closed due to falling rocks caused by the winter storm. No swimming or hiking is allowed underneath the hole's natural overhang, although the park and beach nearby are still open.
While it may not be an ideal spot to cool off for the foreseeable future, locals can still enjoy hiking and outdoor excursions at the park. Book a reservation here.
McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
There's more than just a waterfall tucked within Austin city limits at McKinney Falls State Park. (McKinney Falls State Park/Facebook)
Tucked away in deep southeast Austin is McKinney Falls State Park, complete with a waterfall, fishing, hiking and camping destinations. The park, which sits within city limits, also has plenty of swimming spots along Onion Creek. Check out fees and more information here.
Cliff jumping at Pace Bend, 2805 Pace Bend Road North, Spicewood
While Pace Bend sits on Lake Travis, not a swimming hole, the site is perfect for thrill-seekers looking to spice up their summer. Besides cliffside camping, horseback riding, boating and hiking trails, the park's main attractions are the cliffs overlooking the lake. Cliffjumpers squeal in delight as they splash into the water from dizzying heights, and there's plenty of space to picnic or barbeque with thrilling cliffside views.
If you plan on going, leave your dog at home or out of the water: algae that can be harmful to dogs has been found on Lake Travis.
Day passes are $5 a person. Learn more about the park here.
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