This time last year was the beginning of a record-busting heat wave that gripped the state, with several cities experiencing fifty-plus days of consecutive 100-plus temperatures and an average summer temperature of 86.7 degrees in 2011. Spring rains cooled things off, but the first day of summer is still approaching and with it expect above-average temperatures, according to John Nielsen-Gammon, the state’s climatologist. While some people flee the oppressive heat and vacation in cooler climates in the North, there are ways to stay in state and keep cool.
Lake Austin Spa Resort (1705 South Quinlan Park Road, Austin, 512/372-7300, lakeaustin.com, three nights from $1,720/person), located 25 miles from the city’s downtown, faces a tree-covered cliff, nature’s version of vertical landscaping, which plunges into Lake Austin. It’s a convenient playground for cool water activities such as paddle-boarding, kayaking, or, if you’re less aerobically inclined, simply go swimming. Eat light meals prepared by chef Stéphane Beaucamp, who is currently using home grown summer vegetables such as squash, banana peppers, basil and heirloom tomatoes in refreshing dishes like salmon nicoise salad and grilled zucchini caprese sandwiches. Granite gravel pathways lined with rosemary, lavender and Mountain Laurel lead to the spa, where guests can receive treatments such as the skin quencher aloe body wrap, which hydrates and soothes sunburns.
Even the most finicky, temperamental teenager will be satisfied by one of the many activities at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa (600 La Torretta Boulevard, Montgomery, 936-448-4400, latorrettalakeresort.com, from $249), a 455-suite resort an hour north of Houston on Lake Conroe. The resort boasts a lazy river, a slick aqua park, and the teens-only Edge, a tech-focused lounge set up for remote control car races and Wii tournaments. Grownups get playtime, too: Book ahead to tee off on the 18-hole golf course designed by Jeffrey Blum, or opt for a different traditional relaxing ritual — massages and body treatments inspired by destinations around the world — at the 17,000-square-foot spa. Mom and Dad can also sip adult beverages at the resort’s modern-style piano bar, then head over to Prime restaurant for honey ancho rubbed pork loin or coffee dusted bison. The whole family will enjoy the summer dive-in movies series, where guests float on inner tubes in the resort pool as kid-friendly films flicker across a big screen.
Hiking may sound counterintuitive to staying cool, but temperatures drop at higher altitudes. Go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/gumo) in West Texas, which is home to the state’s highest peak at 8,751 feet. Michael Haynie, a park ranger, suggests hikers get an early start for the coolest weather and to avoid afternoon rains—though those may be a welcome treat. While the Guadalupe Peak Trail is the most popular ascent, Haynie also recommends the Bowl Trail, on the opposite side of the canyon, where Douglas firs and Southwestern white pine trees, not common in the area, grow. The nine-mile loop also opens up to a grassy mountain meadow where travelers will spot bluebell bellflowers and five-foot monument plants.
Get a workout while keeping cool by surfing in the Gulf of Mexico. The third coast is lined with board-friendly shores—the key word being friendly. “Surfers can be very territorial, but in Texas, people share the waters,” said Matt Thomson, who founded Wavecation.com, a company similar to HomeAway.com that lists surf-worthy accommodations ranging from Ritz-Carlton hotels and decked-out villas to eco-resorts and $8 camping accommodations. “On a summer day with good surf, it’s not uncommon to have hundreds of surfers in the water at Galveston,” said Thomson. He added that the area’s beach break waves are created by the sandbars, which form near the coast’s jetties and piers.
There is arguably no better way to spend a hot summer Saturday than by floating the river, and while the much-publicized “can ban” in New Braunfels changed the rules this year, it should be noted that toobers can still drink on the Comal—just bring your beverages in non-disposable containers (visit watertherules.com for more information). For those bent on bringing a beer cooler, drive out to the Guadalupe, Frio and San Marcos rivers, where the pastime of renting a tube just for your Igloo full of Icehouse remains the same. Or if you desire a more relaxed scene (minus the antics of booze-soaked students from local colleges) set out to Brinks Crossing in Center Point, Texas, located ten miles outside of Kerrville. Stock up on provisions and rent tubes at Dave’s Place (170 Center Point River Road, 830-634-3166, davesbackdoorpottery.com), which is located along the Guadalupe River. Once you’re nicely pruned, jump out for a picnic on the sandy shore.