A Super Fun Guide to Sober October in Austin

Good times and good company, without the hangover.

It’s a hard-knock life for teetotalers in Texas. Down here, most of our social activities are centered around drinking, and even when they’re not, the people around us manage to sneak in a tipple or three regardless. Who can blame them? When temperatures hover close to triple digits half the year, a cool, refreshing drink is seldom far from thought (and because every Austinite owns a cooler or lives near a Tex-Mex restaurant, it's seldom far from sight too). The best way for a Texan to abstain—sober activities, since good times don’t always need to involve tequila. If you’re thinking of quitting liquor permanently or just for Sober October, we have some tried and tested situations that’ll ring in your friends and give you social interaction without the blinding hangover. Some switch out the strong stuff, some simply distract your alcoholic pals, and some are so fun, you’ll wonder why you ever needed wine in your life. Here’s how to have a swell time you’ll actually remember.

Spill the tea over actual tea

Various locations
Ever wondered how the Brits managed to maintain composure after hours of gossip with the gals? That’s because they do it over tea (you know, the drink made of water and leaves), not cocktails in dive bars—well, at least on Bridgerton they do. In Austin, you too can get all the latest from your gaggle of pals without a drop of vodka passing your lips. The Four Seasons Hotel Austin recently launched A-Tea-X in the Live Oak Bar, complete with finger sandwiches, mini cakes, and pots of tea for $62, and of course, there’s The Driskill’s long-running afternoon tea service, which books out months in advance. Lady Whistledown never could do her job under the influence.

Be distracted by live performances

Various locations
The best thing about a musical or play is that nobody can hit the bar like they can at a concert. The Bass Concert Hall is your source for the finest traveling shows, with an upcoming roster that includes the Blue Man Group, Chicago, Pretty Woman, and Aladdin. Meanwhile, the ZACH Theater brings together local talent on shows such as Cinderella and Head Over Heels, and Fever’s Candlelight Concerts are always beautifully produced. Tip: complain about the line for the bar during intervals and offer your company some candy instead. Crisis averted.

Lake Austin Spa Resort
Lake Austin Spa Resort

Make spa days a regular thing

West Austin
Sobriety and wellness go hand-in-hand, so instead of dropping hundreds of dollars at bars and clubs, why not splash the cash on some soothing treatments instead? Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa, Miraval Austin, and Lake Austin Spa Resort all offer day passes, are set among the gorgeous rolling hill country or lakeside, and are guaranteed to keep you on the green juice.

Splash in a real watering hole

Various locations
Give the watering hole back its original meaning and take to the lake. Austin is blessed with multiple choices and copious amounts of splash fun to be had. There’s Lake Travis, which you can ride the state’s longest and fastest zipline over; Lake Travis trickles to Lake Austin, best enjoyed on a rented boat, like Viator’s BYOB Sunset Boat Tour which puts you in charge of the refreshments; and downtown’s Ladybird Lake (technically a river) where you can explore by canoe or paddleboard. Got a car? Hit Austin’s best swimming holes, and because you’ll all take turns driving, no detouring to the breweries, okay?

Sans Bar
Sans Bar

Or go down the mocktail route when at human watering holes

East Austin
You don’t have to get buzzed just because everyone else is. Thankfully at Sans Bar there’s no temptation—it’s Austin’s only fully non-alcoholic bar. Here you’ll find a huge selection of zero-proof cocktails plus non-alcoholic beers and spirits. Sans is open every Friday, but if your mocktail night falls on one of the other six nights of the week, take a look at our mocktail guide for alternative options.

Switch bar hopping for museum hopping

Various locations
Fun with friends needn’t be a nocturnal affair. Why not hit the museums during the day—you’ll catch up and fuel up on coffee in the museum cafes instead of drowning your sorrows. Start at the Texas Capitol, then work your way through the LBJ Presidential Library, The Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the Harry Ransom Center, all within walking distance of each other by UT. If you’re downtown, perhaps make the Mexic-Arte Museum, The Jones Center, and the Museum of the Weird your culture trip trio, or why not drive further out to the Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria—remember, you don’t have to worry about drunk driving.

Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records

Go shopping with all the money you save

Various locations
Drinking is expensive stuff, especially in Austin ($22 for a margarita at Aba? Oh, hell no!). You’ll save megabucks just by drinking free and glorious water, and that translates to armfuls of merchandise at our city’s worthy small businesses. We’re big fans of Nina Berenato Jewelry (and so are Beyonce and Angelina Jolie, who have been spotted wearing the ATX designer’s creations), but a visit to Waterloo Records or Book People offers hours and hours of browsing and bonding time with a bestie.

Blow off some steam at a game

Domain and UT
Let loose and release all that pent-up tension at a game, instead of on dirty Sixth Street. You’ll be able to function the next day. Choose to don green and black at the Q2 Stadium for Austin FC, or join the students over at UT’s Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium for the Longhorns. The soda and Tacodeli will keep your energy levels up, and hopefully, so will the game.

Partake in group exercise

Various locations
Drinking with your friends will make you sluggish and bloated, while exercising with them will leave you energized and toned. And who doesn’t want that? From joining workout classes at Barry’s on 2nd, Barre 3 in Seaholm, or free yoga at Fareground, to getting out in nature with a run on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and swimming in Barton Springs—you’ll feel fantastic, totally justify the post-event meal, and have adopted a cheaper, better-for-you-all habit. Sobriety never looked better. Neither did your abs.

James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.