Where to Go on a Date in Austin This Summer
Get back out there.
Get those Tinder fingers ready, cause cuffing season is officially over and it’s high time for summer romance. Unfortunately, summer in Austin also means temperatures of 100-plus pretty much every day, so instead of melting your love interest’s heart, you can easily have them melting like a puddle if you choose the wrong activity. Never fear though—we’ve got your back with a bounty of seasonal date ideas that will have you sporting heart-eye emojis whether you’re dealing with a long term affair or an initial meet-cute. Either way, you can rest assured your summer lovin’ is sure to be a blast.
Treat your sweetheart to something sweet
There’s no better way to cool down a steamy romance than with an icy treat. Give in full-tilt to the old-fashioned summer vibes and opt for the classic warm day indulgence: ice cream. And since this is Austin, you know that the ice cream here is keeping it as “weird” and unique as possible. Head to Gati for the excellently named Ice Cream Dog, a Thai-inflected delight that merges coconut sticky rice with your choice of three different ice cream flavors and a hearth dose of candied pecans. Over at DipDipDip, dive into unexpected flavors with Shroom of Doom, a caramel-chocolate-shiitake ice cream ladled with sherry sauce, hazelnuts, and fried parsnips. Looking for something more standard? There’s always Amy’s Ice Creams, where traditional scoops channel your inner child in style.
Take a day trip to Lockhart
With travel back in action, it seems like Austin is busier than ever. Escape the 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.
Bull & Bowl
There’s a lot of downsides to traditional bowling: Lanes that reek of old cigarette smoke, the impossibility of getting a clean strike without bumpers, and, chief among them, nasty old bowling shoes (because, gross). Luckily, the recently opened restaurant and gameapalooza, Bull & Bowl, is here to change all your perceptions of Lebowski’s favorite game. Bull & Bowl offers Austin’s first duckpin bowling alley, which is like the traditional game but with a smaller ball, shorter lanes, and, if we haven’t already mentioned it enough, no shoe rental. Plus, with big screen TVs stationed above each lane, you can convince your date to roll one out even when the big game is on. When you get tired of bowling, there’s also a mechanical bull, pool tables, and a variety of arcade games to keep the competition pumping—not to mention a full food and drink menu puts the stereotypical mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders routine to shame.
Forgo the typical (i.e. boring) happy hour meet-up and treat your date to a different kind of drinking experience at Desert Door distillery, located just a 30-minute drive outside of Austin in Driftwood. Sotol, the agave-based spirit produced onsite, boasts a brighter, grassier flavor profile than its cousins, tequila and mezcal and Desert Door is the perfect place to wet your whistle. The experts in their tasting room (which is dog-friendly!) will introduce you and that Hinge cutie to the two varieties they make and how to pair them. Add a food truck with heightened farm-to-table grub (think: spinach and chard dip) served amid the distillery’s gorgeous wildflower-strewn expanse, and you and your date are bound to feel the buzz.
Sushi | Bar
After a year-and-a-half of Netflix and take-out, it’s time to turn the romance dial all the way up. Pamper your honey with a decadent 17-course tasting menu at stunning Austin newcomer Sushi | Bar. The intimate space, which only hosts three seatings each night, puts you right there in front of the chefs while they prepare a lineup of expertly constructed and incredibly delicious bites, omakase-style. From Japanese Yellowtail with sweet corn pudding and sourdough breadcrumbs to a buttery, citrus-spiked bluefin tuna, you’ll want to jump for joy with each new plate—not to mention each new sake pairing courtesy of an onsite sake somm.
Catch a drive-in movie
With trucks of every shape and size barraging 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 Goonies or Beetlejuice, playing virtually every night of the week, all from the comfort of your private open-air lounge.
Tap into your animal instincts
Show your date you’re the next Steve Irwin by taking them on a drive-through zoo visit at The Exotic Resort in Johnson City. There, you can roll through the zoo in the socially distanced comfort of your car while feeding animals, like antelopes, ostriches, and buffalos, that come right up to your vehicle’s window. We recommend you buy tickets, as well as pre-buy bags of feed, ahead of time on The Exotic Resort’s website—especially if you are planning on visiting during the weekend when the park is busiest.
Hit the breweriesVarious locations
Take “let’s grab drinks” one-step further by going straight to the source of the libations themselves—one of Austin’s local breweries. East side favorites Central Machine Works, Celis Brewery, and Hops & Grain not only have delicious drinks, but also spacious outdoor space so you can get to know each other without the threat of indoor germs. If you’re organized enough to plan ahead, make a reservation to take your date to Jester King in Hill Country, which specializes in sour beers—with seating available in such scenic locations as a vineyard and a pasture, you can guarantee both beauty and brews.
Rent a private movie theaterAlamo Drafthouse
For long-term loves celebrating an anniversary, or those just willing to shell out some extra bucks to really impress their date, take in your own personal screening at the Alamo Drafthouse. Yes, that’s right—one huge movie theater to yourselves, with a full menu of food and drinks to order from while you enjoy your film. The Alamo Drafthouse does make you choose a movie from a pre-selected list to watch but, with everything from romantic classics like “Casablanca” to horror classics like “The Thing,” to choose from, you are bound to have a much easier time deciding on what to watch than you do when browsing Netflix.
Have a picnic in the parkSouth 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 with the added factors of, you know, a national pandemic, grabbing some grub and hitting the park has never been a better (or safer) bet. 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’re more of a foodie, you can pickup Loro’s brisket and cocktails in just a quick five-minute drive from the park.
Embark on a DIY tiki tour
Conjur all the vibes of a tropical vacation with none of the TSA-induced waiting by setting off on your own tiki bar crawl throughout the city. Kick things off with a classic Mai Tai at Pool Burger, then head to Wu Chow for the pineapple- and tequila-spiked Green Dragon. Finish off at Nickel City, where you can choose from three levels of Painkillers based on how strong you’d like your nightcap (depending on how the date’s going, we won’t judge you if you head straight for a suped-up level three).
Throw your own pottery
Take a page out of Swayze’s book and snuggle up behind the week at one of Austin Pottery’s adult classes. They offer one-time wheel throwing classes, as well as hand-building ones for those less inclined to Ghost it up. Not to worry if your only experience with clay goes back to your Play-Doh days—both classes are ideal for beginners. Note: COVID restrictions have limited capacity, so be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time.
Ride the bike trailsVarious locations
Roll off into the sunset together at one of Austin’s many gorgeous bike trails—like the Southern Walnut Creek Trail in the East or the Ann and Roy Butler Trail which hugs the banks of Lady Bird Lake. If you don’t own your own bike, you can rent one through Barton Springs Bike Rental—they even have tandems for the true love birds. If you’re less nature-inclined, rent one of the city’s Metrobikes and tour the landmark locations of Downtown, such as the Capital or the Willie Nelson statue.
Play your heart out at the arcadeVarious locations
There’s nothing like the nostalgia of playing Pac-Man, mixed with the adult ability to have a beer while doing so. A tried-and-true Austin staple, The Original Pinballz Arcade, allows you to do just that—enjoy their huge selection of games, including their room of vintage pinball machines, in a space that is BYOB-friendly. A newer edition to the scene in South Austin, Cidercade, boasts unlimited play, pizza, and, as the name suggests, a plentiful offering of cider on tap.
Explore outdoor artVarious locations
Show off how cultured you are by taking your date to one of Austin’s outdoor art museums. At the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, you can take in the work of renowned American sculptor Charles Umlaut while walking through the lush greenery which blankets every step of the space. In West Austin, there’s Laguna Gloria which features pieces by contemporary artists on the grounds of a 1916 villa that sits on the shore of Lake Austin.
Rate the city’s breakfast tacos
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.
Get off the beaten trailVarious 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—all in the space of three miles. 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.
Go mini-golfing at Peter PanBouldin 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 to this the further collection of wacky acid-trip animals that decorate the green and a BYOB atmosphere, and you have a great outdoor date on your hands. Be sure to bring a mask and while they have sanitized golf equipment, for those who would like to prevent further contact by bringing their own, that is also allowed.
Peruse a farmers market
Kill two birds by turning grocery shopping into a breezy summer date at any one of Austin’s fantastic weekend farmers markets. On Saturday, from 9 am to 1 pm, head to the Barton Creek Farmers Market at the Barton Creek Square mall, where you and your prized partner can grab fresh tomatoes and bell peppers from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. The Texas Farmer’s Market at Mueller, which runs from 10 am to 2 pm, is the Sunday favorite—be sure to grab a fresh sourdough loaf from Texas French Bread while you’re there.
Take a boat ride for twoVarious locations
For those who want to reenact their own version of the “Jack, I’m flying!” scene from “Titanic,” just rent a boat, via Boatsetter, to cruise one of the Austin area’s many lakes. There’s a variety of options and locations available—whether you want a romantic sunset sailing cruise on Lake Travis, or an epic adventure wake-boarding over the waves on Lake Austin. All are available to book online and, for those who may be aquatically challenged, also have the option to include your very own captain for the day.
Take your dogs with youWest Austin
We all know what’s really important in any potential relationship: What does your pet think of them? Throw them right in by bringing your furry friend along with you, especially if they have 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. Bring beer for your date and treats for their dog—you want to be sure to make a good first impression.