11 Fun Things to Do in Austin During Dry January

All the best sober activities in ATX.

Go too hard over the holidays? January to the rescue. In Austin, traditionally everything is centered around drinking—sports games, rooftop pools, Tex-Mex dinners, live music… You name it. Where there’s a gathering, there’s booze. But just as there are more and more vegans populating the city, the teetotalers are also rising, and ATX has more than a few sober tricks up her tattooed sleeve to satisfy those who want to do their bodies some good without compromising on a good time. That’s right—you can totally have a splash, without a drop of liquor. Leave the wine at home, gift that bottle of whiskey to your always-drunk neighbor, and prepare to experience the money-saving wonders of sober fun this January. You may even love it so much that you quit booze the rest of this year.

"I Love You So Much" Wall
Flytographer in Austin | Photo courtesy of Flytographer in Austin

Check off all ATX’s most Instagrammed spots

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January in Austin means sunshine without sweat. With that glowing alcohol-free bod what better way to celebrate than with an about-town photo shoot to keep your IG, FB, Tik Tok, and Tinder profile stocked with fresh content to see through the (not-so-flattering) months? Hike up Mount Bonnell, drag lover to some murals, or look cute eating barbecue, and if you really want to go all-out then switch the iPhone for a Flytographer (a.k.a. rent a professional ATX pap just like the influencers do).

Person Petting Dog
Austin Pets Alive | Photo courtesy of Austin Pets Alive

Make four-legged friends

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While many two-legged pals will pressure you into “just one drink,” you know that won’t be the case in the company of furry friends who offer just as much (if not more) good times. Spend January volunteering at Austin Pets Alive!, dog-sitting for your friends, or at an ethical Texan Ranch. We love Blue Hills, a sanctuary for animals rescued mainly from the hunting trade (like one-horned deer and orphaned giraffes). You’ll have fun and help keep them safe.

Peter Pan Mini Golf
Photo by James Wong

Play like you’re a big kid

Various locations
Remember when you were a tween and fun was routinely enjoyed with a packet of salty chips, some OJ, and the Spice Girls? Get happy like it’s 1997. Peter Pan’s Mini Golf has been a family tradition since 1948 but you don’t need to have kids in the party to join in (we didn’t!), and neither do you at the Museum of Ice Cream, where you can pretend it’s all about the ice cream and not the big slides at all. Or how about keeping it simple. Fly a kite at Zilker Park, host a board games party on your rooftop, or bake a cake from scratch. The possibilities are endless, and you might find a lot of joy in the little things.

Spill the tea over actual tea

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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 Driskill’s long-running afternoon tea service, which books out months in advance, is where to live your best Lady Whistledown life, while Brentwood Social House offers a relaxed three-tiered experience for hours of catch-up. Don’t forget Austin’s best coffee shops also brew a mighty tea for drop-in experiences.

Be distracted by live performances

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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 Pretty Woman and Aladdin. Meanwhile, the ZACH Theater brings together local talent on shows such as Cinderella which starts January 25, 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.

Splash in a real watering hole

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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 12-person pedal boat cruise, which gives you a workout (hey, sexy legs); 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 (if you can handle the cold), and because you’ll all take turns driving, no detouring to the breweries, okay?

Switch bar hopping for museum hopping

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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, 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.

Records at Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records | Photo courtesy of Waterloo Records

Go shopping with all the money you save

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Drinking is expensive stuff, especially in Austin ($22 for a margarita at Aba? Oh, hell no, sober friends). You’ll save megabucks just by drinking free and glorious water, which 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.

People on Lake
Lake Austin Spa Resort | Photo courtesy of 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 SpaMiraval 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.

Sans Bar | Photo courtesy of 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.

Partake in group exercise

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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 (again, depending on your cold tolerance)—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.

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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.