Austin’s Urban Summer Adventures
Find a restaurant, rooftop or creative space to spend time with friends
Just because you’re stuck working in town this summer or not interested in traveling too far, there’s no excuse for letting boredom set in. There’s so much fun to find right here in Austin this time of year — at rooftop bars, lush garden patios with delicious food, pools to keep you cool, spas to keep you relaxed and opportunities to be inspired by amazing art. Make the most of your summer in the city with our recommendations below:
Best Outdoor Patios and Rooftop Bars
By Laurel Miller
A former rooftop parking lot has been transformed into one of Austin’s dreamiest downtown bars, with breezy Southern-boho vibes. The riverside patio is decked out with potted plants, rattan furniture, a wall of plush pastel banquettes and a ceiling festooned with peony-pink flags; the menu includes cheese, charcuterie, Mediterranean-inspired small plates and weekend brunch. Summery sips include wine, beer and cocktails like the Ladybird Spritz (rhubarb infusion, Cap Corse, Aperol, Cava).
There are still dive bars scattered among the condos and construction of the East Side, and this gritty, train track–adjacent outdoor watering hole is among them. The expansive, tree-canopied backyard has plenty of picnic tables, a low-key vibe and a surprisingly wide-ranging menu that includes brunch (cognac custard and date bread pudding French toast, shrimp and grits). There’s ample bicycle parking, and the clientele runs the gamut from old Austin (bikers, hippies, cowboys, students) to new (hipsters, makers, Silicon Valley refugees). Don’t forget to bring your dog and a lack of pretense.
One of the best spots in Austin to imbibe during the Violet Crown hour is on the terrace—on a bar stool or in the pool—at this stylish fourth-floor restaurant and bar. There’s also the option to escape the heat, dining indoors by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lady Bird Lake, but who are we kidding? One of the best things about summer in Austin is a cold drink on a hot night. Try one of the witty, seasonal offerings like the Texas Sunburn (Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Chareau aloe liqueur, Ancho Reyes, housemade grenadine and lemon).
If beer, badass bloody Marys, horseshoes, Southern fried fare and live music in the great outdoors are your idea of summer, this 5-year-old South Austin spot with the big backyard ticks all the boxes. Beloved by off-duty service industry folks and host to many a fundraiser and family-friendly event, the Little Darlin’ is a great place to unwind post-shift, catch an outdoor movie or while away a summer Sunday. P.S. Dogs—and cats, on harness—welcome.
The pandemic led husband-and-wife owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher to turn their intimate South Austin restaurant inside out, reinventing the backyard as an alfresco dining room shaded by 500-year-old live oaks garlanded with globe lights. While indoor dining won’t resume until autumn, the “Wine Garden” hasn’t lost its appeal, nor has the acclaimed wine list, which emphasizes a thoughtful selection of low-intervention wines. Pair a bottle (or two) with Lenoir’s signature “Hot Weather Food,” lighter fare highlighting Texas ingredients.
Best Nearby Spas
By Alex Reichek
You might not know that this big hotel right in the heart of downtown has a lovely spa that includes complimentary valet parking and access to a fitness center, WET Deck (pool), steam room and showers when you book an appointment. The hip art creates a different sort of spa experience and matches massage offerings like the Detox, meant to be booked after a long night out, or the Walk On, a full-body ashiatsu massage where the therapist uses her feet to walk on your back and dive into your muscles for a deeper, more-energy-balancing experience. It’s a great release.
The Mokara Spa has unique treatments such as the Chill CBD Massage, which uses CBD products to dissolve tension and target pain ] and inflammation. The Texas Sun Seeker facial is made for outdoorsy folk to help reverse the effects of sun damage and premature aging, featuring corrective botanical extracts and a vitamin C repair serum to help brighten skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The spa also has a private rooftop pool, lounge, sauna and indoor whirlpools for guests.
This resort is known for wellness, balance, being present and disconnecting from your phone or any outside distractions. You’ll see encouraging signs all around the campus like “Feel Your Feet on the Ground.” Indulge in nature and healing through curated activities like flower photography, floating meditation in the yoga barn, equine adventures, massages and therapist-led discussions to discover your inner calm or address grief and/or letting go. You can also book nutrition sessions, reiki, pranayamadina or crystal energy healing or sign up for a private “Just Cook for Me” dinner and watch the chef prepare several courses with perfect wine pairings.
This serene and beautiful waterfront spa makes you feel a world away, but it is just a quick water taxi, or 40-minute drive, from downtown. The calm and luscious grounds implode any feelings of stress or anxiety, and the views are a gorgeous match. After a day of all-inclusive private lake activities, yoga, boat cruises and healthy food, you’ll be living on a throne. Buy a day package for a quick fix, visit for an hour spa treatment, or spend the night in the newly renovated lakefront accommodations. Don’t miss the gardens, pedalboard water bike, massages or daily rotation of frozen yogurt.
Best Creative Adventures
By Laurel Miller
This full-service ceramics studio offers an array of workshops and events in partnership with local artists. From hand-building and one-time wheel work to six-week intensives, there’s something for every level, including open studio hours for experienced potters. In addition to an electric kiln, there are 10 wheels, a slab roller, an extruder, in-house glazing and hand tools. Memberships available.
This private social club and music hall located in a gloriously restored 1940s residence includes a downstairs bar and lounge, a shisha den, a restaurant, meeting rooms, a courtyard and a lumber shed turned gallery. New in the works are a pool, cabanas, a sauna and casitas for overnight stays. The programming will continue to emphasize local arts and culture, from music and makers to chef-led dinners, rotating exhibits, artisan markets and networking and business development events.
The new incarnation of the Castle Hill landmark is a 17.7-acre campus near the airport (incoming flights get an aerial view of the layout, which spells “HOPE”). Boasting an open-air cultural events center, an art park and a technology gallery, the ecologically minded facility includes the largest earthen-built structure in the history of the state: walls made of 40,000 earth blocks. Twelve reclaimed shipping containers house local artists, retailers and nonprofit offices, and the grounds are also home to the rebranded HOPE Farmers Market, now the HOPE Market for Sunday Programs.
The 14-acre “art in nature” campus along the shores of Lake Austin provides eye candy for all ages. Installations and exhibitions from renowned international and local artists, community events and programming, and classes at the Art School provide plenty to do—at a restful pace—during the sweaty dog days of summer. Wander the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, gardens and terraces or linger over iced coffee or a cheese board at the newest outlet of Rosedale’s Spread & Co. Laguna Gloria is an immersive outdoor experience that simultaneously soothes the soul.
Austin’s historic music venues are national treasures, but this alfresco experience allows you to hear live music in an entirely different way. Founders Will Taylor, a violinist and composer, and singer-instrumentalist Karen Mal collaborate with local musicians, including the likes of Redd Volkaert, to play intimate acoustic concerts at idyllic locales—dry creek beds, meadows—along the Barton Springs Greenbelt and other outdoor recreational areas. All you need to bring are walking shoes, a camp chair or blanket (picnic optional), and your ears; RSVP through the website required. The evening begins with a guided nature walk accompanied by Taylor playing a violin solo.