This time of year always fills me to the brim with contentment that has nothing to do with puffy vests or Ugg boots. Let’s be clear. I’ll take tamales over pumpkin-spiced lattes any day. The reason I love this season is because it was autumn in Austin when my husband and I began to knit our relationship together. It was Halloween night after all when I first met his sons – me dressed as Garth from “Wayne’s World,” no less.
We waltzed right into winter with our Austin bucket list in tow. During those magical months of courtship, we shared lots of new local experiences and we continue to seek unique ways to spend time together. Psychology tells us that couples who play together stay together. And research shows that long-term love is often cultivated in novel, engaging or even challenging activities together.
Case in point… Here are 10 unique dates to consider in Austin:
Shoot some guns – This might not be your thing. It sure as heck wasn’t mine. And I think that’s why I agreed to try something different when my new boyfriend who’d never shot a gun in his life looked at me with curiosity in his eyes and said, “Let’s go shoot some guns.” I’ll never forget that afternoon at Red’s Range – and although my sensitive ears probably won’t allow me to do it again – that paper target was certainly one for record, er, scrap book.
Sample some trailers – The Graj Mahal hosted our first date back when it was a little-known Indian food truck. Since then, the two of us have spent some serious quality time waiting in line to eat things. There was ravioli Bolognese at Regal Ravioli, migas at Veracruz All Natural and Detroit-style pizza from VIA 313. Give one of those a try or check out some of these Austin food trailers for delicious spots where you can sample the snacks and squeeze in some overdue conversation.
Laugh your face off – The folks at Alamo Drafthouse have a knack for exceptional programming. Aside from movie quote-a-longs and sing-a-longs, one of the theater’s finest offerings is Master Pancake Theater, a movie paired with live comedy. Films like “Labyrinth” and “Robocop” are subjected to good-natured ridicule by a rotating troupe of local comics – and it’s all served up with food and drinks at your seat. A major date night highlight for us was witnessing Master Pancake’s “Hanksgiving” special, a reverent roast of Tom Hanks’ hits and misses.
Walk it out – Lady Bird Lake boasts a bustling boardwalk featuring over 300 piers and 7 viewing areas along 7,250 feet through downtown Austin. We enjoyed the skyline on a leisurely Sunday afternoon hike, but the boardwalk is open from 5 a.m. to midnight every day so you can choose when it’s most convenient to take your sweetheart for a stroll.
Take in a show – The mister reminded me I won the husband lottery when he surprised me with season tickets to Broadway in Austin for my birthday this year. Whether you’re a first-time “Phantom” fan or you’re going on performance No. 5 of “Wicked,” these off-Broadway productions at Bass Concert Hall are always impressive – and they certainly provide an excuse for a little pre-theater dinner date.
Get cooking – Sharpen your knife skills at the Central Market cooking school. Literally. Slice and dice your way through the basics together or level up with all kinds of culinary workshops, like sushi-, risotto- or pizza-making. You know what they say about the way to a man (read: woman’s) heart.
Fest it up – If you’ve spent a little bit of time in Austin, you know how much Central Texas loves its festivals. And with good reason: It’s a terrific way to spend the day with your significant other. Mr. Wonderful and I have shared sausage on a stick at Wurstfest; enjoyed live music at Austin City Limits Festival; made a tradition of taking our kids to Barton Hill Farms Fall Festival and Corn Maze; eaten our weight in brisket at the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival; and hunted for good reads at the Texas Book Festival to name a few. Find your favorite Austin festival and explore together.
Get your groove on – Fancy feet? Two left feet? Cold feet? Take a chance and jump in with both feet at one of Austin’s dance studios or dance halls. Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Broken Spoke hosts some pretty lively two-step lessons, as Mr. Wonderful and I can attest. Up your dance game with a ballroom workshop or East Coast Swing lessons at Austin Uptown Dance, or do the hustle, Foxtrot or Lindy hop at Go Dance. Even if you step all over each other, at least you’ll have a good story to tell.