Well, will you look at that. A whole new season, and this time, it might involve less couch time.
With vaccinations in arms across Central Texas, you might be looking for things to do in Austin this summer. We’ve got you covered.
Here’s a roundup of notable arts and culture attractions, including new spots that you might not have checked out yet and a few old standbys. This isn’t everything that’s out there, of course; this is Austin. Stay up to date with the latest things to do at austin360.com.
Austin arts and recreation
Armadillo Den is for fun-seekers down south: The two-story entertainment complex featuring a bar, food trucks and live music opened late last year in South Austin near the Moontower Saloon.
Bishop Cidercade is all about drinks and games: The prime lakefront property once home to Joe’s Crab Shack is now a pinball and video game arcade that also has lots of cider on tap and housemade pizzas.
Bouldin Acres is party central: An indoor-outdoor space with food trucks, lawn games, pickleball courts, a bar and TVs.
Dreamland in Dripping Springs has it all: A 64-acre outdoor arts, entertainment and sports venue is serving up fun, games and music. Find mini golf, pickleball, a splash pad and lots of boozy drinks.
Wonderspaces is eye-popping art for today: If you remember the Hopscotch art experience that rolled through town in 2019, this is similar — large-scale, often interactive, always eye-popping art in a permanent walk-through space.
See the Sistine Chapel on the Forty Acres at new Hollywood backdrop exhibit: Following a recent show of hand-painted Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film backdrops, Texas Performing Arts will stage 18 more backdrops that comprise a nearly complete replica of the Sistine Chapel.
Revived show on women’s activism goes ‘On With the Fight’ at UT’s Briscoe Center: The exhibit, curated by Jill Morena and Sarah Sonner, originally opened in March 2020, timed to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which broadly gave most women the legal right to vote.
Esther’s Follies in Austin will reopen this summer for first time since 2020: The zeitgeist-targeting comedy show that’s kept the city in stitches downtown for 45 years will reopen for live performances on June 17. The comedy theater closed down in March 2020, right as the coronavirus pandemic hit the city’s entertainment scene. While closed, Esther’s Follies offered some online programming.
Zilker Summer Musical, ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ heads to Bee Cave’s Hill Country Galleria: The free show, which has appeared at the Beverly Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theatre in Central Austin for more than 60 years, moves out west and will play Thursday-Sunday — starting July 9 and running through Aug. 14.
Guitars have been around for 5,000 years? Explore the history and culture at Bullock Museum: “Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World” features more than 60 guitars, from examples of the instrument’s early ancestors to designs made famous by popular musicians.
Music in Austin
These Austin live music venues are reopening after long COVID-19 pandemic closures: As we wait for big tours to start again, the summer belongs mostly to the locals — which makes this a really good time to live in the Live Music Capital of the World. Here’s a rundown of opening dates and highlights at a few key Austin venues. Check with individual venues for safety protocols or capacity limitations that may be in place.
Austin City Limits Music Festival is in October: The iconic Zilker Park event is back this year in person, with headliners like George Strait, Stevie Nicks, Miley Cyrus, DaBaby, Billie Eilish, Rüfüs du Sol and Erykah Badu.
Austin outdoor venues offer an oasis in a time of pandemic purgatory: Not ready for the clubs yet? Take in an outdoor show in the open air at one of Austin’s venues.
Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Ryan Bingham and Yola to play Outlaw Music Fest: Austin’s 88-year-old living legend will finally return to the tour bus when the Outlaw Music Festival kicks off on Aug. 22 at Germania Insurance Amphitheater at the Circuit of the Americas.
Austin Symphony Orchestra free summer concerts in the park: The group will serenade music lovers with free outdoor concerts all summer long. The long-running concert series was called off last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now in its 18th season, it will return to the Long Center City Terrace for an 11-date run of Sunday shows.
Antone’s anniversary bash to include Jackie Venson: Austin rising star Jackie Venson will kick things off with a two-night weekend stand. Other shows booked for the run include Louisiana greats Walter “Wolfman” Washington, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Houston rapper Lil’ Keke and Chicago blues legend John Primer.
‘We have missed you so dang much!’ Austin bar Donn’s Depot reopens with limited capacity: The honky-tonk sounds live on. Converted from an old railroad stop, the former McNeil Depot has since developed a character and clientele not like any other hangout in town.
KOKEFest with Koe Wetzel, Clay Walker, Pat Green, more coming to Hutto in August: This year’s bill features Koe Wetzel, Clay Walker, Aaron Watson, Pat Green, Kevin Fowler, Read Southall Band, Josh Ward, Cody Canada & The Departed, Mike Ryan, Giovannie & The Hired Guns, Kylie Frey and Austin Meade.
Tribute to the Beatles, ’80s dance tunes all part of Zach Theatre’s summer concert series: Celebrate summer with an eight-weekend series of socially distanced outdoor concerts. The shows, programmed weekly on Thursday-Sunday, kick off June 10 with a two-week run of “Rockabilly Kings,” a revue of country rock jukebox classics like “Ring of Fire” and “All Shook Up.”
Movies in Austin
Check out one of Austin’s drive-in theaters: Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, a Mueller staple, now operates a downtown location and a Round Rock spot, too. Also, Ultimate Drive-In is now on the scene in East Austin.
Alamo Drafthouse is a homegrown chain: Dinner and a movie? Sounds good. All of Alamo Drafthouse’s Austin locations have reopened or will be open soon.
The arthouse cinemas are coming back: Downtown’s Violet Crown Cinema is already back to public screenings after closing last spring, and Austin Film Society’s AFS Cinema is currently planning a summer return. And it’s no indie, but don’t forget Regal Arbor!
Paramount Theatre’s Summer Classic Film Series returns: Per tradition, the film fun kicks off with “Casablanca,” and also as expected, the theater has programmed timely themes and pairings throughout.
ATX Television Festival keeps it couched: Austin’s annual celebration of the small screen will bring all kinds of fun to your home in June.
Outdoor activities in and around Austin
What you need to know about Barton Springs reservations this summer: The crown jewel pool of Austin’s parks is doing things a little differently this year. Plan your visit accordingly.
Here are the 12 best bird watching spots in Central Texas: Texas is a big place, which means we’ve got a lot of different kinds of feather friends flapping around these parts.
Go on a Central Texas bug hunt with these common insects: Insects are all around Central Texas by the millions, so it’s hard to narrow down to just a handful of common insects to be on the look out for.
Want to swim while social distancing this summer? Here are four day trip ideas.
12 splashy spots around Austin to put on your summer bucket list: From destination resorts and thrilling waterparks to serene swimming holes and refreshing rivers and lakes free of chlorine and crowds, kick off the season of sun and fun at these 12 spots where the water is well worth the trip. (Note: You’ll want to call ahead to each place to check their current hours during the pandemic.)
Local Austin shopping
Black Pearl Books is a grassroots success story:The popular online bookseller founded by Katrina Brooks has now set up a physical shop inside Ten Thousand Villages.
50 years of BookPeople stories: Austin’s largest indie bookseller is now a half-century old, and you’ll find whatever read you need.
LetterPress Play celebrates the crafter in us all: A retail shop where people can buy paper arts.
The Little Gay Shop was started in a shipping container: The temple of all things queer opened last year in a shipping container in East Austin. The store, which sells books, apparel and more, recently upgraded their space and now hosts a coffee cart, Stay While.
Music Lane gave South Congress a makeover: The South Austin development’s not quite new, but national brands have been arriving at the mixed-use project, like Equinox, Lululemon and Ray-Ban.
Le Garage Sale shopping extravaganza to return in August: The event brings local boutiques together with shoppers. Boutiques use it to get rid of things they haven’t been able to sell in their stores. Shoppers use it as a way to get deals.
More things to do in Austin
Have a date night that you can only have in Austin: So you’ve got a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Or just somebody you really like. Or you’re trying to freshen things up with your longtime partner. Regardless of what (or who) you fancy, this definitive list of great Austin date ideas is for you.
19 of the most haunted places in Austin: The Texas Capitol isn’t just spooky because of what the lawmakers get up to. Take a tour of the ghostiest spots around town.