Your Sober Guide to Having Fun in Austin Right Now
Spirit-free drinks doesn’t mean you can’t have a free-spirited, good time in Bat City.
We may be halfway through January but it’s never too late to put things right. Perhaps you went too hard over the holidays, knocking back liquor in the name of Santa? Well, now the decorations are down, it's time for a reset. Or maybe the whole of 2023 was a bit of a blur, and you hope the upcoming year pans out differently, with wellness, culture, and shopping in your crystal ball? Technically, the (Lunar) New Year begins February 10, so there’s still a good chance to hit a home run in 2024. Whatever your reasons, going teetotal is full of benefits. You’ll be healthier, enjoy quality experiences with loved ones, and save money. So much so that perhaps the end of the year might even see dreams of a European getaway or a condo closer to the trail realized. Want to wipe the slate clean and keep things that way? Then peruse our guide to the best sober activities in Austin.
Wellness Things to Do in Austin
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 Swift Fit Event’s 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.
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. Alternatively, bring the spa to you: Lush on West Sixth has all the ingredients for a pamper party (they even cater to bachelorette parties if you don’t want to booze along the rest of Sixth), including bath bombs, handmade soaps, and face masks so tasty you’ll want to eat them.
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?
Non-Alcoholic Food and Drink Things to Do in 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.
How do Brits manage to maintain composure after hours of gossip with the gals? 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. Austin English Tea Company is where to live your best Lady Whistledown life in a vintage British-style tea house, and Brentwood Social House also 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.
Wondering how much of your restaurant bill is usually made up of liquor? Now that you’re abstaining all will be revealed, and if you’re a typical Texan it’s likely to be a rather large chunk. Revel in the new price of dining out, and sample Austin’s greats, or theme your nights to Greece (Yamas Greek Kitchen + Bar), China/Singapore (Zoe Tong Modern Austin Chinese), and Mexico (Nômadé) with a night in the city’s hottest new openings. They should tide you over till you have enough dough for plane tickets.
Arts and Culture Things to Do in Austin
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 Harry Potter and Wicked. Meanwhile, the ZACH Theater brings together local talent on shows such as the original version of The Little Mermaid and The Prom, and Fever’s Candlelight Concerts are always beautifully produced, including a tribute to Adele in February. Tip: complain about the line for the bar during intervals and offer your company some candy instead. Crisis averted.
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.
Family-Friendly Things to Do in Austin
Adopt a Pet
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.
Inner Child Healing
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.
Shopping in Austin
Drinking is expensive stuff, especially in Austin ($23 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, The Little Gay Shop or Book People offers hours and hours of browsing and bonding time with a bestie. En route back downtown, stop at the fancy YETI flagship on Congress to stock up on tumblers for all those non-alcoholic beverages you’re gonna guzzle this year.