It’s the one-year anniversary of Austin’s citywide shutdown and, by now, most of you are probably crawling out of your skin and craving just a morsel of normalcy. While COVID still remains an ever-present threat, daily life is once again resuming and the city is slowly beginning to awaken after a year long siesta. Between the pandemic and the ice-pocalypse, it’s probably been a while since you’ve been on a date with your favorite city. So maybe it’s finally time to retire the accumulated collection of sweatpants and get to know Austin again – you know, before it gets too weird. Whether you’re looking for a perfect evening icebreaker or a casual daytime date, here are 7 COVID-safe ways to re-introduce yourself to Austin.
Perfect for the outdoorsy types who aren’t afraid to get dirt on their shoes, Pioneer Farms offers activities and adventures for all ages. This multi-cultural farm is a living history museum that offers a glimpse into 19th century agrarian life in central Texas and the Blackland Prairie. Depending on what time of year you go, there’s Easter Egg Hunting (with an adult and a kid version), bow and arrow marksmanship, ghost tours, country music nights, pioneer picnics and more! History buffs will love the 6 themed historic areas open for walking tours that range from an 1868 German emigrant farm to an 1841 Tonkawa encampment. And for the more hands-on adventurers, they even offer blacksmithing classes for the ultra rugged who want to channel their inner viking. With authentically attired volunteers and perfectly preserved historic sites, Pioneer Farms is a breath of fresh air and a quaint visit to a seemingly simpler bygone time. Check out a list of their current exhibitions here.
*It should be noted that masks are still required at this establishment.
Austin Panic Room
In case 2020 wasn’t stressful enough for you, Austin Panic Room provides plenty of suspense to keep you on your toes post-pandemic. This live-action escape room experience is not for the faint of heart – or those who take issue with closed spaces. With two locations in Austin and multiple escape room immersions, an hour inside and you’ll soon forget the real-world horrors that last year brought – if only temporarily. Stave off Cabin Fever when a fierce blizzard hits your secluded ski resort, uncover secret treasures inside a renowned recently-deceased artists’s gallery, break out of a high-security prison or lead a team of investigators in an underground abandoned subway rumored to be home to several notorious crime gangs. Whatever mystery strikes your fancy, Austin Panic Room has just the thing to quell your roving curiosity and challenge your problem-solving skills under pressure. Book your next big escape here.
For the first-person shooter fans and Fortnite followers, Battleground Ranch is a chance to experience the action of your favorite combat games IRL. This one-of-a-kind simulated manhunt brings first-person shooter video games to life with 5 acres of “battleground” to simulate dozens of game modes. IR technology improves shooting accuracy up to 700ft and boxes of ammo, weapons, armors and upgrades help players gain a competitive edge. Whether you’re looking for a live-action search and destroy or an all-out immersive Battle Royale with the gutsiest of players, Battleground Ranch is a fun, COVID-safe way to blow off some steam while you practice your tactical combat and weapon skills for your next COD campaign. And for an even more extreme experience, try Battleground Ranch’s all new Combat Archery game. This blood-pumping 5v5 elimination campaign inflicts some serious pain on your opponents with 28lb regulation bows armed with foam-tipped arrows. It goes without saying that bruised torsos and – for some – egos should be fully expected.
*Battleground Ranch practices COVID safety with masked staff and guests in enclosed areas, sanitized weapons and digital check-in.
Lone Star Riverboat
Austin is one of those magical places where you can find an excuse to drink on a boat just about any time of year. While jumping in a small space with a group of people may not seem like a good idea during a pandemic, with the right safety precautions you can have a boozy good time while you cruise right past all your worries. Lone Star Riverboat is one of Austin’s premier boat tour services for lake-bound leisure seekers of all ages. Whether you’re in the mood for a daytime tour of Austin’s gorgeous hillside or stargazing on still waters while you sip your beverage of choice, Lone Star Riverboat has a boat and a tour for every occasion. Watch the famous Congress bridge bats make their dusk departure from an unbeatable vantage or take in a glorious hill country sunset. Reservations are recommended and most cruises offer non-alcoholic beverages for cash or BYOB if you’re looking for something a little stronger. Check availability and buy tickets here.
*Lone Star Riverboat is taking all the necessary COVID precautions to keep patrons safe including sanitization of boats between use and required masks for staff and patrons.
For daredevils with an appetite for adrenaline, Xtreme Xperience is a chance to put yourself in the driver’s seat of some of the world’s most exotic supercars. Participating with racetracks all across the country including Driveway Austin, Xtreme Xperience brings the high-velocity world of racing to the masses in a safe and supervised environment. Go on the thrill ride of a lifetime with a Supercar Ride-Along driven by a professional driver or put the petal to the metal in one of your dream cars like the Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, McLaren 570S, Porsche 911 GT3, Nissan GT-R, Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody, 2020 Corvette Stingray Z51 and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. You can even experience the thrill of a real track race with the High Speed Ride Along, which takes you on 3 high-speed, heart-pounding laps around the racetrack. Whatever your Fast & Furious fantasy, Xtreme Xperience is one of the cheapest and most realistic ways to be Vin Diesel for a day!
Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
If you’re looking for a unique view of Austin’s lakeside – and you’re not afraid of heights – Lake Travis Zipline Adventures is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for all ages. Boasting the longest and fastest zipline in Texas, Lake Travis Zipline not only satisfies your need for speed but also your wanderlust. Zoom high above the trees, through lush green wilderness and over placid blue waters while you take in the bird’s-eye views that Lake Travis Zipline offers. This breathtaking and beautiful adventure is the perfect way to cure the cabin fever of being cooped up at home for months. For $129, you can take a whopping 3-hour guided tour of 5 unique ziplines then hang out all day at their exclusive lakefront property where you can picnic, play games or snooze the afternoon away in comfy hammocks. Price also includes all the necessary zipline equipment, boat transportation and bottled water throughout the tour, so all you have to bring is some sunscreen and your sense of wonder to this fun-filled, elevated excursion.
Drive n Drag
Proof that not even a pandemic can stop Austin from being weird, Drive n Drag is a great way to experience the wonderful world of drag from the safety of your car. And if you’re willing to drive a little outside Austin – Cedar Park, to be exact – then you won’t be disappointed by the glitz and glamour that awaits you! Hosted by Voss Events, Drive N Drag follows the incomparable Bianca Del Rio and the super queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race on their quest to save us all from the nightmare of 2020! Starring your favorite drag divas Noami Smalls, Asia O’Hara, Aquaria, Plastique Tiara, Kameron Michaels and Violet Chachki, Drive n Drag is Austin’s panacea for the perils that 2020 brought. This delightfully different drive-in date features jumbotron LED screens, concert quality light shows, Outdoor/FM sound and gourmet food trucks packed with local flavor. Space is limited and the lines can get pretty long so be sure to leave early if you want to be on time to this quirky car party.