When Archer M. Huntington donated 4,000 acres of land to The University of Texas at Austin, it was no surprise that the husband to renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington stipulated it be used to support an art museum. Today, The Blanton Museum of Art—named Best Museum in the Austin Chronicle's 2012 Best of Austin Readers' Poll—honors Archer's request by providing access to more than 17,000 works and a variety of rotating exhibitions. The museum's collection of prints, paintings, and sculptures comprises more than 4,000 pieces from America and 1,800 from Latin America, and it even includes the Suida-Manning Collection—a group of 230 paintings and 400 drawings by Baroque and Renaissance masters that was much sought after by other museums, according to Frommer's. With these pieces as backdrop, the museum hosts Third Thursday events such as artist talks and Yoga in the Galleries, the latter of which finds instructors twisting sculptures into poses that will be easier on their spines.
According to his bio, Stunt Ranch owner Steve Wolf specializes in "professional training for people who like to play with matches and run with scissors." Or at least, how to look like they're playing with matches and running with scissors. Throughout his 25 years in television and film production, Steve developed an affinity for stunt work and special effects, supplying his expertise to shows such as MTV's Call to Greatness and feature films such as Hustle & Flow. Still active in the industry, Steve also shares his passion for throwing spectacle-laden events through heading up multiple enterprises that include Special FX Int'l, Stunt Ranch—which also encompasses paintball and an all-ages stunt camp—and Science in the Movies. Through these companies, Steve's experienced team of special effects professionals is able to stage professional fireworks shows, train people in creating controlled explosions, and applying special-effects makeup to help zombies look human again.
After 22 years in the air force, Water 2 Wine–founder John McFadden established his first custom winery in San Antonio seven years ago. Already the business has spread as far as Milwaukee to the north and Denver to the west, bringing the country's vinophiles more than 100 wines, each of which are fermented on site and available for tastings every day. Those who want to get more involved in the crafting process may sign up to make their own wine and steep themselves in each step of the operation, from selecting the grape varieties, beginning the fermentation process, withstanding a wait of about 45 days, and finally christening their creation by smashing a tiny boat against the bottle. All custom-made wines are plastered with personalized labels made from one of Water 2 Wine’s templates or images that customers design from the ground up.
Each night, about a half-hour before sunset, one of Capital Cruises' double-decker boats launches out onto Lady Bird Lake. Austin's skyline peeks its head over the tree-lined banks as the vessel floats toward the Congress Avenue Bridge. Once there, passengers watch the sun drop below the horizon and paint a streak of burnt orange across the sky in an action that seems to bring the bridge to life. Here, at one of the largest urban bat colonies on the continent, thousands of bats take flight and soar into the sky.
These bat tours are just one way Capital Cruises explores Lady Bird Lake. The crown jewel of its fleet, a 75-foot yacht, sets the stage for floating wedding parties and specialty cruises such as the Riverboat Gambler. During these trips, passengers play roulette and nibble fajitas, pasta, and barbecue catered by the Hyatt Regency hotel. Additionally, Capital Cruises' staff lets customers chart their own adventures with rentals of standup paddleboards, swan-shaped pedal boats, and 21-foot electric Duffy boats.
On sweltering summer days, the San Marcos River becomes a cooling respite for hundreds of tubers thanks to Don's Fish Camp. The shop rents tubes with coolers and sells supplies such as sunscreen and waterproof cameras for tubers to take onto the water. When not floating with a brew in hand, tubers can barbecue and picnic along the banks flush with trees and shrubbery.
The rec area accommodates those who aren’t ready to go home at the end of day by allowing guests to pitch a tent and camp under the stars to the sound of rushing water and largemouth bass that just won't shut up. To give these visitors a scenic place to tube and party, Don's team cleans up the riverbanks daily and requests guests bring no glass or styrofoam on the premises.
Bel Canto Farms owner Suzanne Warmack has been enamored of equestrian sports since she took her first horseback ride at 18 months of age, more than 40 years ago. Now, in a facility where two dressage arenas, a derby field, and a 75-foot round pen segment the grounds, she leads a team of three regular instructors whose combined experience in teaching and showing surpasses 60 years. Since the facility is also outfitted for full boarding and pasture boarding, horse owners who lack stables or whose stables have been overrun by iguana flash mobs can house their steeds there, selecting one of three stall sizes equipped with a constant supply of hay and water and fans in summer.