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One of Texas' most iconic dance halls is finally getting its due. For the first time in its 145-year-old history, Gruene Hall has been nominated as Best Club of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.

It's an honor that has been a long time coming. Built in 1878, the legendary venue bills itself as "the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas." Over the years, the honky tonk has hosted some of country music's most celebrated names, including Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Merle Haggard. It has also been an early testing ground for countless musicians. George Strait, Hal Ketchum, and Lyle Lovett are among the fresh-faced talent that kickstarted careers on Gruene's stage.

Throughout all those barn-burning performances, Gruene Hall has remained largely unchanged. Its original layout has been preserved, with side flaps for open-air dancing, a bar in the front, a small lighted stage in the back, and a huge outdoor garden. Today, visitors two-step under Gruene's tin roof seven days a week.

"We've been extremely fortunate to have so many cool things happen at the Hall, and being nominated for an ACM Award is another example of one of those unexpected things we get to be a part of," says Mary Jane Nalley, cofounder of Gruene Hall, via a release. "It's our first time being nominated, which is kind of crazy and super thrilling."

Other nominees for the award include Coyote Joe's in Charlotte, Grizzly Rose in Denver, Joe's on Weed Street in Chicago, and Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth. Notably, no Nashville venues made it to the shortlist.

The 58th Academy of Country Music Awards will be hosted by Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks on May 11 at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Gruene Hall, however, will be kept on pins and needles a little longer. The Industry Award winners will be announced at the Academy of Country Music Honors, a special event held in August at the hallowed Ryman Auditorium.

Photo by John Arano on Unsplash

Austin is the most expensive city in Texas for a night out, and 3rd priciest in the U.S.


Inflation isn’t the only thing bringing down the vibes (and the balance) of your bank account. A night out in Austin has always been pricey, but it has only become even more expensive in recent years.

In fact, it has become so costly that Austin is now the third most expensive city in the country for a night out. That’s according to a new study by price-monitoring website PriceListo.

The study looked at cost-of-living data from US cities with populations over 500,000 to discover the average prices of a cocktail, cab fare, bottle of wine, and a pint of beer. They also collaborated with hotel deal-finders Vio to determine the median price for a single-night stay in the city.

The overall cost for that late-night buzz adds up to $221.23, which is a pretty penny considering how expensive it is to live in the area. The median single-night price for a hotel stay in Austin will set you back $169.74, while the cost of a three-mile cab fare is $7.49. One cocktail at a downtown club costs an average of $13, while a bottle of good-quality red wine for the table is $16. If you cap off the night at a pub, a pint of beer is just $6. And if you need to eat some food to offset the impending hangover, a McDonald’s combo meal costs $9. All of that adds up to the third most expensive night out in the United States. Don't forget to close out your tabs.

Only two cities were slightly more expensive than Austin: San Diego (No. 1) and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 2). A night out in those two cities will cost $225.27 and $224.75, respectively.

How did other Texas cities fare? Better than Austin, that’s for sure. Houston is home to the No. 9 most expensive city for a night out with their overall cost adding up to $209.54. Dallas, on the other hand, ranked No. 24 with the most expensive price for a cocktail ($25) but the cheapest three-mile cab fare at $5.41.

The top 10 most expensive cities for a night out are:

  • No. 1: San Diego – $225.27
  • No. 2: Charlotte, North Carolina – $224.75
  • No. 3: Austin – $221.23
  • No. 4: Memphis, Tennessee – $216.25
  • No. 5: Columbus, Ohio – $212.47
  • No. 6: Boston – $211.16
  • No. 7: Seattle – $210.61
  • No. 8: Washington, D.C. – $210.39
  • No. 9: Houston – $209.54
  • No. 10: Tucson, Arizona – $203.39

Two Texas cities made it into the top 10 in a comparison of the most affordable cities: San Antonio (No. 2) and Fort Worth (No. 9). A night out in San Antonio has the second most affordable cost in the country at $134.56, only to be beaten by Las Vegas, whose night out costs $120.76. Fort Worth has the No. 9 most affordable price for a night out at $172.14.

The top 10 cities that are the most affordable for a night out include:

  • No. 1: Las Vegas – $120.76
  • No. 2: San Antonio – $134.56
  • No. 3: Oklahoma City – $136.98
  • No. 4: San Francisco – $142.94
  • No. 5: Fresno, California – $145.55
  • No. 6: Albuquerque – $157.47
  • No. 7: Jacksonville, Florida – $162.42
  • No. 8: Philadelphia – $168.74
  • No. 9: Fort Worth – $172.14
  • No. 10: Chicago – $173.81

The 7 best bars in Austin are stirring up community


What makes a truly great bar in 2023? In Austin, it takes more than a cutesy name and borrowed nostalgia. A parade of Johnny-come-latelies provide plenty of distraction, but ultimately, we return to the tried-and-true.

That's why readers will see so many familiar faces amongst the seven CultureMap Tastemaker Awards nominees for Bar of the Year. Only one has opened in the past year. In a city that often seems drunk on its own buzz, it's essential to support those places that will call guests a cab at the end of the night.

Join us in celebrating the spots that have set the bar in Bat City — and welcoming a newcomer to the fold. Only one winner will be crowned during our blowout May 11 party at Fair Market, but the city would be lost without all of them. Buy tickets now before they sell out.

Austin has lost much of its previous identity amongst a flurry of Hermès scarves and Patagonia vests. Neighborhood bars are needed now more than ever. One could rhapsodize at length about DrinkWell owner Jessica Sander's cocktail wizardry or how the burger still hits after all these years. But DrinkWell's je ne sais quoi lies in the sense of community, whether in driving the conversation towards healthier hospitality workplaces or simply greeting the regulars sidling up to the bar.

In Plain Sight
The younger sibling to underground speakeasy Here Nor There, this pocket bar gets its name from its street-level visibility. But that doesn't mean it's any easier to score a seat. With only eight barstools and a small standing area, the joint is packed from opening to close. What draws the guests isn't just the exclusivity or even the promenade of rainbow lights: Irish import Conor O'Reilly plays pied piper with Italian-style sippers that dazzle as brightly as the neon.

Kitty Cohen's
A nude Burt Reynolds reclines in the bathroom. Thrift store bric-a-brac crowds a wood-paneled wall. This East Austin patio bar practically wallows in its Palm Springs kitsch. Dive bars often get stuck in trucker hat grit. With an expressive cocktail menu of frozen favorites and lively originals, this one cleans house with the sweep of an Elizabeth Taylor kaftan.

Nickel City
When this East Austin bar arrived, Capital City nightlife was under the thrall of mustachioed mixologists. The Nickel City team took the piss out with a frozen Irish coffee in a Styrofoam cup. It's not that the cocktails here require a less exacting palate (a current selection employs shiitake mushrooms and seaweed), it just turns out that barcraft with a sense of humor is a hell of a lot more fun.

Small Victory
A vanguard in Austin's shift away from boisterous mega bars, Josh Loving's downtown hideaway has always provided adults sanctuary from the Sixth Street roar of "shots, shots, shots." Now approaching its 10th anniversary, the operation is a bona fide classic. Reserve a spot before an elegant dinner or revive the ancient lost art of the nightcap.

The Roosevelt Room
Sure, cocktail nerds can get an education by thumbing through a reprint of Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide, but we've always believed in practical learning. Patrons of this downtown bar can drink their way through decades of America's spirited obsessions, from graceful Boulevardiers to exuberant Cosmos. Lest one think a mortarboard is required for a night on the town, the bar team plays hooky with some eccentric new creations. Run the Jules could be served at the Mos Eisley Cantina.

The opening salvo of an Otoko omakase, this South Congress Avenue lounge specializes in Japanese whiskies and carefully crafted tipples. Though there is a focus on seasonal and rare ingredients, Watertrade prefers not to namedrop. Instead, it leans into the vibe. Do you feel "fizzy and playful" or "amazing and robust?" Laze in one of the low-slung chairs and let the staff do the rest.

DrinkWell Austin

DrinkWell is one of Austin's best neighborhood bars.

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32 places to eat near major Austin venues during SXSW 2023

all eating, no parking

Austin changes fast. During South by Southwest (SXSW), even seasoned Austinites end up in parts of town they never visit; we try to impress friends who are visiting, follow the music, and avoid the crowds.

The first thing to do, if "new" and "evolving" are your favorite keywords in finding a restaurant, is check CultureMap's weekly food news column for inspiration. Next, if prestige makes your mouth water, consider getting to know some of the culinary favorites and change-bringers nominated for our 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

Thankfully, Austin's food scene is dense enough that if planning ahead is not your thing, all you have to do is scroll down. Here are CultureMap's recommended restaurants near popular SXSW venues and neighborhoods.

3TEN Austin City Limits Live/Violet Crown Cinema (Downtown, 2nd Street)
Austin is at your fingertips from this very central downtown location, but things are going to be very busy. But if you're visiting Austin and want as many Mexican meals as possible, stop by ATX Cocina, only about two blocks away. This upscale "modern Mexican" restaurant offers a unique take on traditional, yet adventurous Mexican food — harder to find in other U.S. cities.
Also consider: Quick to-go bites from Royal Blue Grocery (0.1 miles); Neapolitan pizza and bistro fare at Numero28 (0.1 miles); rustic Italian food at Red Ash (0.2 miles); some of the city's best, finest Southern dining at Hestia (0.3 miles); high-quality tacos at Veracruz All Natural (0.3 miles); several options in one food hall at Fareground Austin (0.3 miles).

Coconut Club/Neon Grotto (Downtown, 4th Street)
This is Austin's gay district, with closer access to the party side of town and its often-expensive foodie offerings. There are plenty of bars to pop into for snacks, but a memorable meal can be found at French restaurant and absinthe barPéché on the same block. This is a traditional offering in a very nontraditional city. Visitors love the happy hour, which offers half-off some food items.
Also consider: a classy-casual hotel stop at Perfect Strangers (0.1 miles), Southwestern game at Lonesome Dove (0.2 miles).

Paramount Theater (Downtown, Congress Ave)
As visitors start getting closer to the Capitol, they'll start to see older cultural institutions and tourist-minded dining. The stately Driskill hotel right around the block is a must-see for travelers, and a revitalized dining room offers a new experience for longtime Austinites. The café and bakery next to the lobby will likely be packed for its posh brunch, but also offers to-go pastries and drinks.
Also consider: Eclectic, gorgeous cocktail bar Higher Ground (right across the street), underground theater vibes at Hideout Coffee House (0.1 miles).

Augustine/The Stay Put (Rainey Street)
This being one of the busiest areas not just at the festival, but daily in Austin, flexibility is key. In a perfect world, Geraldine's at the Hotel Van Zandt is the place to be, and the rooftop restaurant does accept reservations. The Southern menu is creative but low-key, and the calendar is always full of local talent. The bar inside is better than the pool bar, but you can easily carry drinks out.
Also consider: upscale dive bar entertainment at Electric Shuffle (0.2 miles or less), leader in fine dining Emmer & Rye (0.1 miles or less).

Cheer Up Charlie's/Empire Garage and Control Room/Mohawk/Stubb’s (Red River Cultural District)
This is one of the best areas in the city for venue hopping, and there are plenty of food trucks around. But if a sit-down, less divey meal is the goal, Moonshine Grill makes excellent Southern comfort food, including some of the city's best chicken and waffles. Not more than half a mile from most Red River venues, this restaurant will likely have a wait, but it's in a decent location to explore.
Also consider: A very close and simple solution at Stubb's BBQ (0.1 miles), great burgers at Casino El Camino (0.3 miles).

Alamo Lamar (South Lamar Area)
This one is easy — Alamo Drafthouse is known for a fantastically well-rounded experience, including meals and drinks. You could just stay put. But if dinner and a show need to happen at separate venues, Odd Duck is right across the street. This understated, upscale new American eatery is well-respected and relatively casual — it feels like a treat without dominating the day's plans.
Also consider:Great ramen at Ramen Tatsu-ya (0.2 miles), vibrant Asian barbecue at Loro (0.9 miles).

Hotel Vegas (East Austin)
More modern Mexican food? Yes, get used to it. Suerte is one of Austin's most respected restaurants among industry players, and it is a James Beard semi-finalist for its wine and beverage program. About a quarter of a mile down East 6th Street, this path brings foot traffic past several bars and one of the most exciting stretches of businesses outside of the usual downtown drags.
Also consider: cult-favorite crispiness at Spicy Boys Fried Chicken (0.2 miles), top-of-the-line sushi at Fukumoto (0.3 miles).

Continental Club/Hotel San José (South Congress)
The South Congress area is another that was literally built for wandering. It's just not a good place to save money. Might as well lean into the upscale vibes a third of a mile away at Vespaio, one of the area's oldest restaurants, and the one that taught it how to do Italian food. If you're in a more Mexican mood, its new sister restaurant, Chapulín Cantina, is a fabulous place to sip tequila.
Also consider: New Yorker-approved pizza at Home Slice (0.1 miles), the supremely-Austin Torchy's Tacos (0.5 miles).

Zach Theater (Zilker)
This area is busy at all times of day thanks to the surrounding recreational areas. Everything is a bit of a hike in this area, but El Alma, half a mile away, offers a great mix of quality and accessibility. There will probably be a wait, but the frozen margaritas are perfection, and the food is delicious. The deck feels very Austin and is usually available sooner than the air conditioned interior.
Also consider: expensive, but gorgeous views nearby at Nido (0.1 miles), very fun Tex-Mex digs at Chuy's (0.5 miles).

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

Go badgeless to the best free music showcases at SXSW 2023

Free at SXSW

No badge? No wristband? No problem – we’ve got you covered with some select SXSW parties that don’t require either. Take a look, and be sure to note which shows require an RSVP. We'll add shows as they come in, so check back here before you go.

Consider putting the money you saved on registration and entry toward tipping small bands. SXSW makes the largest chunk of many musician's income each year, especially if they're local.

Hotel Vegas and Volstead – March 10-14
While SXSW is a convenient time to see a ton of touring artists, it’s also a great chance to take in a lot of Austin-based acts, and the best place to do it in 2023 is at Hotel Vegas and Volstead this Friday, March 10 through Tuesday, March 14. These local-leaning events don’t require any sort of credential, and if you dip in and out of each of them, you’ll get to see a sizable portion of the great talent that our city has to offer.

  • Friday, March 10 – The Do512 Smoke Show with The Octopus Project, Being Dead, Me Nd Adam, and others. You can also expect a pop-up from KG BBQ, samples from Hometown Hero, comedians, and lots more. Free. Doors at 6pm.
  • Saturday, March 11 – SX Soundcheck Saturday with Golden Dawn Arkestra, Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band, Die Spitz, Deezie Brown, and more, as well as a full day’s worth of cumbia artists inside Hotel Vegas. Free until 7pm. Doors at noon.
  • Sunday, March 12 – Side One Track One vs Austin Town Hall with Darkbird, Night Cap, Caleb De Casper, Jane Leo, The Stacks, and plenty more on a bill that features nearly 30 local bands. Free. Doors at noon.
  • Monday, March 13 – Day one of Spring Break Boogie with A Giant Dog, Good Looks, Annabelle Chairlegs, Pleasure Venom, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, and a lot more. Free until 5pm. Doors at 1pm.
  • Tuesday, March 14 – Day two of Spring Break Boogie with Die Spitz, Nuclear Daisies, Daiistar, Sailor Poon, Shooks, and others. Free until 5pm. Doors at 1pm.

Marshall Hair of the Dog - March 14
One of the more appropriately named day parties of this year’s fest, Marshall Hair of the Dog, will go down at the Mohawk on Tuesday, March 14. Local psych stars The Black Angels will headline a show that also has Be Your Own Pet, Sunflower Bean, and others on the bill. The party starts at noon. RSVP at mohawkaustin.com.

Lost Weekend at Mohawk & Empire – March 15-16
Brooklyn Vegan and Resound’s Lost Weekend is back for its fifth go-round, and it’ll be happening at the Mohawk on Wednesday, March 15 and at Empire on Thursday, March 16. Artists performing include Indigo De Souza, Protomartyr, Kiwi Jr., Eshu Tune (Hannibal Buress), and a ton more. Free with RSVP. See the full lineups at brooklynvegan.com.

South X San José – March 15-19
From March 15-19, South X San José will be back for its 22nd year in the Hotel San José and Jo’s Coffee parking lot. This free event features local vendors and a stacked lineup of acts that includes The Heavy Heavy, The Lemon Twigs, The Nude Party, Sir Woman, and lots more. Gates are at noon each day. See the full lineups at bunkhousehotels.com.

Stereogum at Cheer Up Charlie’s – March 16
Longtime music blog Stereogum is set to host a free party at Cheer Up Charlie’s on Thursday, March 16. The lineup features a slew of great indie artists that the site has previously recommended, like Bartees Strange, Algiers, Strange Ranger, Coco & Clair Clair, and others. Starts at noon. RSVP at stereogum.com.

Dr. Martens at Clive Bar – March 16-17
Head to Clive Bar on March 16 and 17 for a pair of free parties put on by Dr. Martens. These events will not only feature performances from Danny Brown, Balming Tiger, Dream Wife, Enumclaw, and others, but there will also be free tattoos by local artists Nick Freidline and Michael Williams. Doors for both days are at 1pm. RSVP at drmartens.com.

Community Concerts at Auditorium Shores – March 16-18
The SXSW Community Concerts are once again returning to Auditorium Shores. The free event, which is taking place March 16-18, will have a Beer Garden, food trucks, and performances from the likes of Thao, The Zombies, a variety of local brass bands, and more. Get full details at sxsw.com.

Robyn-themed dance party adds Austin to tour after a decade of dancing

Show Us Love

Robyn fans in Austin are no longer relegated to dancing on their own. A decade-old dance party is finally making its way down south from Brooklyn, and it’s rounding up all the outsiders and misfits to revel in the sounds of the queen of pop. Adventure[s] presents This Party Is Killing You!: The Robyn Party on January 13 at Empire Control Room.

The premise is straightforward; on the surface, it’s a regular dance party based on the music of Swedish pop star Robyn, famous for euphoric tracks about heartbreak like “Dancing On My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend.” Tracks by other iconic artists especially celebrated in queer spaces — Lady Gaga, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Mariah Carey, among others — are sprinkled in.

But getting to Austin for the first time was complicated, despite it being one of the team’s most requested cities. The event was originally scheduled in July, rescheduled for a vague logistical issue, and recently moved from the Parish due to flooding. Still, the prevalence of Austin’s queer community and embrace of subculture are good indications that this party is bound for Southwestern glory.

DJs Russ Marshalek and Laura Hajek, two members of a group called Adventure[s] that hosts similar themed dance parties, say the whole thing started simply because they were “nerds” about music.

“This was right around the time of Body Talk. We wanted the opportunity to get our friends together and dance to Robyn,” says Marshalek. “At the time, she was keeping a super low profile, so it wasn't like there was a show that we could go to. So we put together the first Robyn party in the back room of a bar in Brooklyn. There were people lined up around the block to get in.”
Although it started in Robyn’s marked absence, by 2018, the party was an institution that the singer acknowledged, even performing at one of the events and recording it for a video love note to fans, Missing U.

Although the themed dance party would reasonably have some limitations (not that Robyn fans are particularly concerned with limitations), the relative lack of new releases is supplemented by dance mixes by new DJs rediscovering the artist’s increasingly timeless catalog. Adventure[s] has recently been starting the party with Robyn’s 2022 cover of Neneh Cherry’s 1988 hit “Buffalo Stance”; from there, the contour of the setlist depends on what kind of energy the crowd has. The DJs are happy to take requests, breathing new life into each party, even if it’s many of the same songs in a different order.

Hajek, formerly a costume stylist at Brooklyn’s legendary queer party venue House of Yes, says costumes give the party fuel beyond the music. Marshalek has three costume changes for every show. Guests are encouraged to dress in glitter and whatever feels exciting to dance in.

“If you're matching me you're going to be sweating, and crying, and screaming along,” says Marshalek. “So [the best outfit is] whatever you feel comfortable moving in, and that makes you feel really, really good.”

Although the party is new to Austin and welcomes newcomers with emphatically open arms, it has amassed a following, and some even travel to different cities to stay in touch with the magic and other revelers.

“This party is like such an inclusive and joyful expression of queerness and unity between pretty much anyone who is like an outsider or is a member of any kind of subculture,” says Hajek. “This is such a great way to have everybody feel embraced, and happy, and safe in one place. And it's a new year.”

Marshalek adds, “It's really a family, and I always like to say we're meeting a few-hundred of our new best friends every night.”

Adventure[s] presents This Party Is Killing You!: The Robyn Party on January 13 at 8 pm, at Empire Control Room. Tickets ($25.08 including fees) are available at seetickets.us.

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Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.