Austin's Best Air-Conditioned Activities to Beat the Heat
Cool down with cryotherapy, ice skating, and more.
There are two types of summer people in Austin. The ones that embrace the heat (partying at Blues on the Green, tubing down the San Marcos River, and flip-flopping around food trucks) and the ones who suffer serious consequences each time Luna needs to go potty outside (heatstroke, swelling, offenses to fashion, etc). Most residents who don’t attend UT fall under category two, and it’s darn right miserable. We spend months on end blasting AC from our apartments, then as soon as the sun sets it's a mad dash to Trader Joe’s before it closes at 9 pm (why does it close so early?!). To make matters worse, the end of this sad routine is far from sight. With climate change doing its worst this year, things are unlikely to fall under three digits like they usually do come mid-September. Fortunately, there are a bunch of things to do in Austin inside that can cater to our sweaty mess—all cool, and most importantly, fun. Ready to beat the heat and break the apartment-to-grocery-shop summer cycle? Here are 14 fun indoor activities in Austin, Texas.
Try cryotherapy at Restore Hyper Wellness
The Austin-born wellness center’s got it all when it comes to cutting-edge health and wellness treatments including red light therapy, IV drips, compression therapy, and infrared saunas. But the perfect remedy for a sweaty summer is, of course, their signature cryotherapy treatment. For those who don’t know, cryotherapy is where you’re blasted with sub-freezing temperatures to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, and boost mood, energy, and sleep. Don’t worry, the blasting only lasts 2.5 minutes for first-timers, and you can even bring a friend to join in the fun. Step out and your body will be ready to fight the heat for the rest of the day.
Have the ultimate blockbuster experience at Alamo Drafthouse
Founded in 1997, Alamo Drafthouse isn’t just a turn up and watch a movie theater you go to only on rainy days, it’s a whole evening shebang (and therefore, a longer respite from the sun). The cinema’s flagship on South Lamar serves award-winning cuisine right to your seat, alongside cocktails and craft beer, and they have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who disrupts screenings with talking or texting. Right now, you can enjoy the latest first-runs from Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train to independent films like Everything Everywhere All at Once, plus special events as if you’re a Texan movie star—feasting in peace and AC.
Stuff your face (and more) at Fareground Food Hall
Austin’s first and best food hall is the ideal summer hangout, because you can counter hop and taste a rainbow of the city’s top chefs. Our faves are Little Wu (from the folks behind Wu Chow), serving Chinese dumplings and lamian noodle bowls; and Austin Rôtisserie, responsible for the juiciest chicken around. There’s also an indoor bar and coffee shop, stores, and events to keep you busy when you’re full.
Meander through the Mexic-Arte Museum
All the major museums in town have occasional free days, where Austin residents can go soak up some cold air and culture on the cheap. Our favorite is the Mexic-Arte Museum, which has been exposing Austinites to Chicanx arts, culture, and literature since 1984. There's free community admission here every Sunday, so you can explore their vast permanent collection of Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art, and check out the tail end of their exhibition celebrating the work of young Latinx artists.
Catch performing arts at the City Theatre Company or the ZACH Theatre
Cherrywood and South Lamar
Austin's one of the best places in the country to be a fan of independent theater, where you can sit in darkened comfort and allow yourself to be transported to a less brutally hot world—City Theatre Company is our top pick for plays, with tickets starting at just $15 (see their events page for options), while the ZACH Theatre is best for musical productions, like The Sound of Music.
Crack open a cold one at Independence Brewing Co.
There are many wonderful tasting rooms at Austin’s many wonderful independent breweries, where you can kick back with friends and soak up the air conditioning (with a few pints of cold suds for good measure), but our favorite is the space at Independence Brewing Co. If the prospect of its refreshing Hazy Pale Ale, or a taste of the floral and crisp cucumber mocktail isn’t enough of an enticement for you, the tasting room also features live music, informative tours, and themed food events throughout the summer.
Browse the shelves at BookPeople
If you’re a summer-sports-hating nerd like us, you probably have fond summer memories of hiding out in the air-conditioned young adult section of your local bookstore, reading a book from cover to cover. Meandering through Austin’s largest independent bookstore is a fun way to relive that experience, and with an excellent cafe on-site selling iced coffee and pastries, you can easily while away an afternoon deciding on your next beach read. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a day where it's hosting a reading, which brings big name authors to town and is always crowded with Austin literati, it’s worth sticking around.
Be a non-sweaty art critic at grayDUCK
Austin is better known for its music scene than visual arts culture, but with the influx of noteworthy galleries opening across the east side and beyond, that’s all changed. grayDUCK, which has been presenting the work of up-and-coming Austin artists since 2010, is a great place to start your exploration, especially since its cute bungalow of a gallery is air-conditioned—the porch is also equipped with a wall of refreshing misters, where you can cool down with friends and discuss the amazing work you just saw before you brave the heat on Cesar Chavez.
Have a blast from the past at Blazer Tag
Laser tag is a great way to pass a few cool, dark, and totally sun-free hours during the summer, and if you’re a laser tag fan living in Austin, you already know about Blazer Tag Adventure Center. If not, now’s a great time to check out that weird UFO-festooned building you always see from the freeway. There's a full menu of arcade snack classics to refuel you between matches, the private party rooms are BYOB, and Blazer Tag's open till late all week, which means you've basically got the entire "sun avoidance" package here.
Reach new heights at the Austin Bouldering Project
If you’re friends with any alt-fitness types, you’ll have been hearing a lot about bouldering, so why not try it out for yourself? The hyper-trendy Austin Bouldering Project offers free passes for member’s friends, so you can get in a workout on the cheap, working up a sweat in the pleasantly cool room that claims to be one of the largest bouldering gyms in America. Afterward, thank your friend with a walk around the corner to buy them a few pints at Hops and Grain, renowned for making well-crafted, eminently drinkable beers.
Cool down with karaoke at The Common Interest
North Shoal Creek
Karaoke can be a daunting prospect for some, but the idea of those dark, cold, windowless rooms is tempting enough to get even the shyest singers out of their shells this time of year. Austin has plenty of great options for private-room karaoke, but one of our most affordable favorites is The Common Interests, where on weekdays you and your most trusted friends can get a room for ‘buy one hour get one free’ and sing your little hearts out, fueled by ridiculously affordable $3 - 4 daily drink specials. Face it—you’d probably be at home trying to cool off by singing a few tunes in your freezing cold shower anyway.
Embrace your inner mallrat at The Domain
Sure, it might seem obvious, but with a wide array of high-end shopping and places to eat, including multiple ice cream options, there’s a reason The Domain's one of the most popular malls in town. Get a burger and a milkshake at Shake Shack if you’re feeling indulgent, frozen yogurt at Yogurt Planet if you’re being sensible, or walk over to the Museum of Ice Cream to discover a world of the sweet stuff, including more tastings than you can handle (don’t miss the mochi treats). And, of course, air conditioning is plentiful throughout the North Austin one-stop shop.
Enjoy wine-fueled comedy at ColdTowne Theater
Austin is home to a thriving stand-up scene. And, fortunately for us, all of the major theaters in town have air conditioning, so you won’t slide out of your seat laughing. ColdTowne Theater puts that promise right in its name, and on Thursday nights, at the perennially popular Improv and Frozen Wine series, it delivers big time. Ten dollars gets you a seat in a gloriously cold air-conditioned theater where you can watch some of Austin’s funniest comics create a never-before-seen, totally improvised show live on stage, and there’s also ice cream, beer, arcade games, and of course, frozen wine available.
Strap on some skates at Chaparral Ice
Austin isn’t exactly known for winter sports enthusiasts, but ice skating is a great way to cool down after a long, sweaty day in the Texas sun. Ice rinks have to be immaculately air-conditioned to keep their skating areas at an even freeze, and between that and the cool air radiating off the ice, you might even have to bust out the coat you wear for three hours in February every year. Chaparral Ice, a rink with public skate times every afternoon, is the perfect place to test out those dormant cold-weather skills.
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