One inch off the asphalt, roaring by at 65 mph. Because On Track Xperience houses a fleet of NasKarts powered by Honda engines, this kind of wind-in-your-hair action is possible. Helmets, of course, keep wind out of hair, though, while drivers 16 and older zip around Thunderhill Raceway's banked oval track. Each race burns up 10 laps and lasts about five minutes. Those looking to master their lap times can attend speed school and learn the ins and outs from a former pro racer and trainer. And those interested in a little competition can join eight-week racing leagues. Groups can also navigate the oval circuit for birthdays or corporate events that can accommodate up to 400 for team-building racing events where winners are showered in a business-card tickertape parade.
Patrons descend upon the Buda Beer and Polka Fest to set eardrums in motion with lively accordion music and indulge taste buds in delectable German eats. Visitors roam the park imbibing in traditional German revelry as they fill their bellies with authentic cuisine such as schweinshaxe—the Bavarian-favorite roasted ham hock—or apfelküchle—a succulent dessert of fried apple cakes. An expansive pavilion shelters the stage from rainy weather and the sun's piercing gaze as traditional dancers do the hula to polka bands' spirited Bavarian oompah beats churned out in 2/4 time. In addition to German-inspired entertainment, such as arts and crafts, a gut-busting sausage-eating competition challenges visitors' stomach capacity and the sexiest-fräulein-costume contest encourages guests to don tantalizing lederhosen get-ups or ankle-revealing burlap sacks to impress the panel of judges.
The culinary authors at Trattoria Lisina publish a menu listing an array of country-style Italian cuisine. An appetizer of fried calamari fritti, speckled with flour, semolina, and spices, ambles across taste buds with accomplices of pepperoni aioli and spicy tomato sauce ($10). The spaghetti carbonara, prepared with pancetta, egg, garlic, and Romano cheese, lends a noodly texture to cuisine quests ($12). An entree of costolette di agnello alla griglia plates locally acquired, grass-fed lamb chops grilled on oak and pecan with a balsamic glaze and mashed potatoes ($28). The capesante al Giovanni unites pan-seared scallops with sautéed spinach, creamy polenta, and a hickory-and-herb-smoked tomato puree ($23).
Emblazoned with patriotic red, white, and blue, Lone Star Riverboat's vessels churn through Lady Bird Lake, floating alongside towering cypress trees and the city's skyline. Meanwhile, the captain's booming voice narrates each tour and details the steamy romances of the area's local waterfowl.
However, the company's aquatic excursions aren't just restricted to sightseeing. Their largest ship, The Lone Star, boasts two decks and a 150-person capacity. Aboard the ship, DJs spin tunes and caterers serve barbecue for special events such as weddings. On Friday nights, patrons board The Lone Star for moonlight cruises, taking in scenic views of the Austin skyline.
Lone Star Riverboat's enthusiasm for the water extends to environmental preservation. According to its website, the company owns the largest all-electric paddle wheeler in the country. It also donates a portion of its gross sales to the Austin area's park system and provides afterschool activities for at-risk fish.
As a young chef just starting out, Jason Tallent had cooked his way up the ladder, working directly under James Beard Foundation Award–winning chefs. After moving to Austin, he took the reins on the 34th Street Café, designing a farm-to-table menu of upscale New American comfort food. He and his team layer hormone-free meats and local, organic veggies to revamp beloved lunch sandwiches such as the BLT, Reuben, or ham and swiss. During the dinner rush, the menu throws on its formal wear for dishes such as crispy risotto with truffle cheese or panko-crusted chicken picatta drizzled with beurre blanc and sprinkled with capers. Affable owner Eddie Bernal keeps the restaurant’s laser-like focus on serving ethical, delicious café cuisine, while high ceilings and a spacious dining room offer guests plenty of room to relax during lunch, dinner, or Twister matches that determine who’s picking up the tab.
Serving central Texas for more than 25 years, Bridal Extravaganza simplifies shopping for brides and grooms by collecting more than 250 vendors under one roof. The booths of experienced wedding professionals lure in couples to sample their wares, from planners showing off their color-coded to-do lists to caterers doling out tastes of cakes, dinner dishes, and champagne. Fashion shows give onlookers a taste of the latest dress fashions for brides and bridesmaids and the latest developments in the world of cummerbunds for grooms. By the day's end, lucky ticket holders win prizes for a free wedding gown, bridal pictures, and cash. Each bride who attends the Bridal Extravaganza will receive $500 in free Bridal Bucks to spend on select exhibitors or a fairy godmother.