As coronavirus concerns mounted this spring, we saw the cancellation of large events and the closure of parks and public areas across the state. But now that Central Texas is starting to reopen, there are plenty of outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy — while still observing social distancing.
When choosing fun summer activities, look for wide open spaces that leave plenty of room between groups. And for events that charge admission, look for activities that sell advance tickets so they can prevent overcrowding.
Need help getting started? Try these 10 things to do outdoors this summer in Central Texas.
- Hike McKinney Roughs Nature Park
While there’s plenty of hiking within Austin, some of the local parks in the city get awfully crowded on the weekends. And that’s not good for social distancing.
Just a 25 mile drive from downtown, McKinney Roughs Nature Park lets you escape the city. This well-maintained park on the Colorado River has miles of trails in a quiet, scenic setting. Most trails aren’t difficult, so even kids will be able to manage a short hike.
There’s also a zipline on the property through Zip Lost Pines. Hike in the morning, take a lunch break, and spend the afternoon soaring through the trees.
- Climb Enchanted Rock
Enchanted Rock State Nature Area is one of the wonders of Central Texas. The pink granite dome gently rises into the sky, providing a vigorous hike for kids and adults. Since there’s no trail to follow for the climb, hikers can spread out to leave plenty of room between parties. From the top, you can see Hill Country views for miles in all directions.
If you don’t want to summit the hill, there are also shaded, sparsely populated trails around the base of the rock.
All park visitors must buy passes in advance so the park service can limit the number of visitors. Groups must have five members or fewer, and masks are recommended.
- Explore native plants at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Just south of downtown Austin is a quiet retreat with over 900 species of native trees, grasses, and Texas wildflowers. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center features acres of walking trails on mostly flat ground, which makes easy access for young and old.
Follow the 1 mile path through the Texas Arboretum to see art installations and kids’ play areas along the way. Visit the Family Garden for a shrub maze, a grotto with a waterfall, and a flowing creek. Then climb to the top of the watchtower in the Central Complex to take in the views of the whole property.
The center currently requires online reservations so they can manage the number of visitors per day.
- Catch a movie at Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
The Austin and Round Rock locations of this mini drive-in let visitors enjoy the fun of the movies while staying separated from others. Both theaters play family-friendly classics like Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, The Goonies, and Indiana Jones.
The theater has implemented some social distancing measures for the summer 2020 season. Guests must be in the car at all times (except bathroom visits), so no sitting in truck beds or open hatchbacks. And windows must stay closed unless visitors are wearing a mask.
- Go prehistoric at Dinosaur Park
If you have dinosaur-obsessed kiddos, a visit to Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek is a must. This outdoor exhibit features full-size dinosaur recreations that show how big these beasts really were. The biggest dino on display is the 123 foot long diplodocus, the longest dinosaur that ever lived.
After walking through the exhibits, kids can enjoy the Fossil Dig area, and there’s room for picnics as well. Dinosaur Park is reservation-only for now, and all visitors must wear a face mask in the indoor areas.
- Tour Texas wine country
The Texas Wine Trail features dozens of wineries where friends and family can meet to sip and enjoy the scenery. For non wine-drinkers, this part of Texas is also awash in breweries and distilleries.
Since you’ll be sitting outside, look for wineries with plenty of shaded outdoor space. And be sure to check out any winery, brewery, or distillery websites in advance to confirm hours and reservation policies during COVID-19 restrictions!
- Visit the tropics at Palmetto State Park
Located just an hour from both Austin and San Antonio, this unique park is the only tropical botanical area in Texas. Groups of five or fewer can swim, fish, tube, canoe, hike, or bike through the jungle-like expanse of dwarf palmettos and red buckeye trees.
Like most state parks, visitors to Palmetto State Park must make reservations in advance, and masks are encouraged.
- Center yourself with outdoor yoga
A compact yoga studio is the last place most people want to be this summer. But Wild Heart Yoga in West Lake Hills has a tree-lined yoga deck where practitioners can say their ohms in the outdoors.
Public classes are available, or you can get a group of friends together to reserve a private outdoor yoga class.
- Walk on water with stand-up paddle boarding
Interspersed among all the kayaks and canoes on Lady Bird Lake, you can see people who seem to be standing on the water. They’re stand-up paddle boarding! This pastime has exploded in popularity recently, with several companies offering board rentals and classes.
Each paddle board is for one person, making it easy to stay at least 6 feet from others while enjoying the lake. Check out SUP ATX or Austin Paddle Shack to get started.
- Swim at Blue Hole
Some watering spots are still seeing major crowds in spite of COVID-19 concerns. So when you’re looking for a place to cool off, choose one with a reservation system to avoid the congestion.
WImberley’s Blue Hole does online booking for visits to its 75 degree blue waters. Cypress trees overhead shade the swimmers, and the overhanging limbs are hung with several rope swings. There’s also a big lawn for picnics or resting when the kids have worn themselves out.
Outdoor Activities in Texas
There’s plenty to do outside in Texas, even while we observe social distancing. As always in this heat, don’t forget plenty of water and sunblock. Grab a hat and the bug spray, and make sure to throw enough masks for everyone into your day bag!