Austin’s Coolest and Most Romantic Fall Date Ideas

Leaf time for romance.

Forget the Super Bowl, the World Series, and, dare we even say it, UT Football itself—the most important playoffs are well underway. It is officially cuffing season. As the temperatures decrease, and the holidays approach, it's time to narrow that Tinder pool of potentials into one winter winner. In order to do so, however, you’re going to need some dates that really tap into the pros and cons of every match. That’s where we come in. Whether you’re testing their ability to navigate the trail of life (while riding horseback), synch up to your rhythm (at a music festival), or destroy a plate of ribs, we’ve got every activity you need to find the lucky person that’ll become your MVP until the weather warms up.

Flickr/Joseph Gage
Flickr/Joseph Gage

Trot towards a relationship with a horseback ride

Various locations
While telling your date to “save a horse, ride a cowboy” may be creepy enough to get you permanently left on read, inviting them to go horseback riding is likely to produce a much more positive reaction. Put that impulsively purchased pair of vintage cowboy boots to actual use by saddling up for love, and hitting one of the trails in Austin, with bae and some (hopefully not) broncos. Maverick Horseback Riding offers experiences for sweethearts to court and canter in both North Austin and Lockhart including a private sunset ride, for those who want to crank the romance up to a gallop. Also conveniently located within the city limits is Lone Star Ranch, where you can not only treat your Texas rose to a horseback ride, but also flirt the day away at a variety of other activities the spot offers such as archery, fishing, and tomahawk throwing.

Lockhart City Park
If the best way to the heart is truly through the stomach, taking your date to Texas Monthly’s BBQ Fest is a surefire way to make them feel butterflies in their chest—and not just the kind related to heartburn. Taking place on November 5th and 6th, this picnic is a certified protein-palooza of brilliantly-smoked briskets. In fact, the event will feature food from a whopping 47 pit masters, all of whose top-notch grub has earned them a spot on publication’s prestigious list of best barbecue in the Lone Star State. Additionally, you and your honey can wash down all that meat with a selection of adult beverages available to purchase, as well as take breaks between pigging out to catch some of the Fest’s live music acts. Not to mention, for those who get clammy around their crush, the meat sweats are the perfect excuse to explain away any perspiration actually caused by dating anxiety.

Field of Light Austin
Field of Light Austin

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Why would you grab some get-to-know-you drinks at a standard bar when you could, instead, test their chat amidst a beautiful light display? Take your paramour to the Field of Light, the highly-anticipated installation from artist Bruce Munro, and get ready to bask in the glow of their growing infatuation. This surreal experience—which has taken over the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center—consists of a breath-taking display of over 28,000 solar-powered stems of light twinkling throughout 16-acres of nature. While there, you can purchase a variety of alcoholic drinks, as well as various charcuterie-board snacks that you can consume at one of the many picnic benches located along the exhibit’s trail. It’s more just a great photo op to soft launch your relationship on Instagram (although, it ain’t bad for that either)—it’s a truly magical visual experience. Pro-tip: get there past 8:30 pm for optimal night-to-light brightness ratio.

Various locations
If you don’t know whether or not you want to go on a second date by the time you two finish a bottle of cab, you probably never will. So take all the guesswork out of that follow-up text by clinking a couple of glasses at the much-loved annual Texas Wine Month Passport. This month-long fall tradition lets you take in the wonderful vistas of the gorgeous Hill Country (about an hour drive from Austin), while also taking in as many glasses of rosé as you can handle. Purchase a ticket and you will be able taste at up to four wineries per day over the course of the month, as well as receive exclusive discounts on bottle purchases.

Luck Ranch
There’s no other voice that pulls harder on a Texan’s emotional heartstrings than Lone Star legend, Willie Nelson. So, put your trust in the redhead stranger’s expertise by taking your beloved to Lucktoberfest, a three-day live music celebration held at the singer’s Luck Ranch. From October 28th through the 30th, it boasts a meticulously-curated line-up that will please even the most music-jaded darling. Night one kicks off with a Texas-sized bash, headlined by Paul Cauthen’s Big Velvet Revue and Los Lobos. Plan out sensational matching outfits for night two—a far-west cowboy-themed masquerade ball with performances from Orville Peck and Tanya Tucker, as well as a fashion show of ‘fits from Central Texas-based designers. Last but not least, the whole shindig concludes with a night of German-influenced entertainment including rounds of polka dancing and stein-holding competitions, all happening alongside music from such artists as Alex Meixner and Shinyribs.

Sow the seeds of romance by hitting a plant nursery

Various locations
By planning a date which takes you two to Austin’s various garden emporiums, you can test your sweethearts' ability to keep your love—and a snake plant—alive. Even those who lack a green thumb will enjoy walking the flora-laden aisles of the city’s various nurseries, each packed with a knowledgeable staff, ready to provide helpful tips should your plant-adverse crush decide to have another go at raising a burro’s tail. Start off at East Austin Succulents, where you can find individual cactuses and a variety of quirky pots to plant them in, as well as arrangements thoughtfully labeled with the amount of care they need. Right next door is Tillery St. Plant Company, where you can consider the landscape of your relationship’s future while strolling amongst the trees and flowers. Finally, hit up the urban oasis The Great Outdoors to enjoy its on-site waterfall, plentiful oak trees, and tropical greenhouse—an ideal setting to watch your feelings grow.

Ghost Pepper Glass
Ghost Pepper Glass

Ghost Pepper Glass
Bring a new meaning to the term “hot date” by taking that Tinder cutie to a glass-blowing class at East Austin studio, Ghost Pepper Glass. There, you can fuel the flames of attraction, while getting up close and personal with some actual flames, as the studio’s instructors help you create your very own paperweight, dish, or other small object. You two have the option of either taking one of their popular Taste of Glassblowing workshops, which occur regularly on Fridays and Saturdays, or springing for a private, and more in-depth, two-hour long lesson. Either way, after playing with the molten glass, you can end the night with a refreshing beer at Friends and Allie Brewing, located right next door—a perfect way to cool down your body temperature, but keep your affections burning.

Urban Axes (Austin)
Urban Axes (Austin)

Feel the rush with extreme activities

Various locations
Get your date’s heart to skip a beat— literally—by taking them on an out-of-the-ordinary adventure. While we don’t normally recommend mixing romance with sharp weapons, the one exception would be hitting up Urban Axes, where you and your cutie can take out some of that aggression about whose turn it was to do the dishes in a markedly healthy way. Even those who are skittish about their ability to chuck an axe will find comfort from the onsite Axeperts, there to guide you along your throwing journey. Challenge your date to see who can hit closest to the bullseye—afterward, loser buys drinks at nearby bar Kinda Tropical. Those looking for something equally daring should head to Uprise Circus, where they can fly through the sky in a personal trapeze class. This option won’t just leave you and your love on a physical high but an emotional one as well—tickets benefit Uprise Circus’ mission to provide outreach programming to disadvantaged and underserved children in Austin.

Little Trouble
Little Trouble | Photo courtesy of Little Trouble

Lockhart, TX
Escape Austin’s bachelor and bachelorette party crowds by making the 30-minute drive out to Lockhart. This small Texas town has long been known as a barbecue mecca—you and your date can strive for the triple crown by feasting at legendary spots Black’s, Smitty’s Market, and Kreuz Market all in the same day. If you aren’t into getting a serious case of the brisket sweats, check out Little Trouble instead. You can still get your meat fix via the mouth-watering grilled ribeye and be sure to sip on the Dolly, a quirky cocktail served in a mammary-themed glass worthy of the Queen of Country herself. Later, walk it all off by browsing the amazing antique stores just off the town square, as well as local favorite Bluebonnet Records, where the knowledgeable staff will help get your musical stylings in tip-top shape.

Doc's Drive In Theatre
Doc's Drive In Theatre

Catch a drive-in movie

Various locations
Get into spooky season the right way with a scary movie at the drive-in. With trucks of every shape and size bombarding the roads of Texas, you may as well put those spacious flatbeds to use. Pile lots of pillows and blankets in the back and park that big mac truck right in Doc’s Drive In Theatre or The Blue Starlite Drive-In. Check out fan favorites like The Shining or Beetlejuice, playing virtually every night of the week, all from the comfort of your private open-air lounge.

Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical Garden

South Austin
You know what they say—if it ain’t broke, don't fix it. The same can be said of this classic date idea. And, considering Austin is plentiful in both great food and greenspace, there’s no better wingman. With all the diverse takeout options available in South Austin and a beautiful view of the city skyline, Zilker Park is the ideal location to get your picnic on. Grab some burgers and milkshakes at Sandy’s Hamburgers before walking over or, if you really want to show off your food scene knowledge, you can pick up Loro’s brisket and cocktails in just a quick five-minute drive from the park.

Juan in a Million
Juan in a Million

Rate the city’s breakfast tacos

Various locations
Challenge your date to help you settle the ultimate question—which place in Austin has the best migas? Start your journey at Radio Coffee & Beer where you can pair a drink with the selection from the Veracruz taco truck. Save room though for the massive portions at your next stop, Juan in A Million on Austin’s East side. Finally, figure out if you're meant to be by going to both local chain rivals Torchy’s and Taco Deli. Be warned though: disagreement over which one is best might be a huge red flag for a future relationship. Looking for other great places to grab some date night grub? Check out our list of Austin’s most romantic restaurants.

Various locations
Test their Tinder profile’s claim that they “love the outdoors” by suggesting a hike through one of greater Austin’s lesser known, yet incredibly beautiful, trails. About an hour north in Belton is the Chalk Ridge Trail at Chalk Ridge Falls Park, where you'll get to both see a waterfall and cross a suspension bridge on a quick three mile jaunt. For those looking for a longer adventure, check out Crockett Garden Falls in Georgetown’s Cedar Breaks Park. Pack a lunch and bring your bathing suit for a six-mile trail that will lead you to the most gorgeous grotto you've ever seen for a well-deserved dip.

Peter Pan Mini-Golf
Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Bouldin Creek
To arrive at Peter Pan Mini-Golf and see the giant neon green T.Rex that adorns the front of the course, is to know this place goes way beyond the standard windmill hole-in-ones. Add on the collection of wacky acid-trip animals that decorate the green and a BYOB policy, and you have a great outdoor date on your hands. Beer isn’t the only thing you can BYO. While the place offers sanitized golf equipment to rent, those who would like to show off their clubs can bring them along.

The Buzz Mill
The Buzz Mill

West Austin
We all know what’s really important in any potential relationship. What does your pet think of them? Throw your date into the gauntlet by bringing your furry friend along with you, especially if said date has a dog of their own to join the party. Red Bud Isle, which sits on the right in the middle of the west side of Lady Bird Lake, is the perfect off-leash location for your meet-cute. Afterwards, the two of you and your pups can grab food and drinks at one of Austin’s many dog-friendly spots.

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Molly Moltzen is a Thrillist contributor.