Best Places to Cool Off in Austin

No matter the time of year, there’s an absolute abundance of swimming options in Austin. This is not only a great situation for those who want to stay in shape with aquatic activities, but sometimes it can be downright necessary to escape the heat in our summers!

Sure, we might be more accustomed to hotter temperatures than those who live in colder climates, but we all know hot summer days in town can be oppressive when the temps start to creep up too much.

When they do, you will want to know the best places in Austin to cool off – that is, if you don’t already have your own favorite pool or splash pad.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of various options you might want to choose.

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Why Swimming (and Other Aquatic Activities)

Before we get into our list, let’s start with a real quick look as to some of the reasons why swimming—and other aquatic endeavors—can be beneficial for your lower limbs.

Of course, swimming is a total-body workout, and you can find countless resources explaining how it contributes to your overall health and well-being. We want to take just a little time to highlight why feet and ankles benefit from it as well.

As a starting point, swimming is a low-impact activity – one we fully endorse incorporating if you cross-train to avoid overexerting your lower limbs.

Now, running tends to be quite popular and is a wonderful form of exercise, but it does place quite a bit of physical pressure on your feet and ankles. In fact, a landing step endures up to four times your bodyweight in force upon striking the ground. Our bodies are designed to handle the force loads reasonably well, but it is still best practice not to overdo it.

Accordingly, cross-training is a smart approach for your fitness routine. Plus, in addition to reducing the amount of physical strain on your lower limbs, it contributes to even greater overall health and wellbeing.

What this all means is that you should mix in low-impact exercises if you are a runner. Swap out a couple of running days for ones where you cycle, practice yoga, or head to one of our local pools and swim some laps.

The low-impact nature of swimming and other aquatic exercises means this might be something we recommend for those who have diabetes and are following the diabetic foot care plan we’ve created together (to keep feet safe, healthy, and lower the risk of serious medical complications). That said, being in the water for too long can make you susceptible to skin damage – so consult with us and your primary care physician first.

Swimming can reduce physical strain on feet, potentially play a role in diabetic foot care, and also provide relief if you are suffering from edema in the lower limbs.

Edema is a condition wherein body fluids start to pool in feet and ankles. There are various reasons this might happen, including pregnancy.

When you are in a pool, gentle pressure is applied from the outside (by the water). This helps to force fluids further up the body, thereby reducing the swelling. Swollen ankles and feet can make wearing shoes rather uncomfortable, so you may be able to find some sweet relief—and improved physical conditioning—by spending time in aquatic activities.

Being Smart About Skin Protection When Swimming

Skin CareWhile swimming has an array of physical benefits—improved cardiovascular conditioning, burning excess calories, toning muscles, increased flexibility and range of motion, etc.—there are related health threats you need to be mindful of – sunburns and skin cancer.

Obviously, this is only applicable for outdoor pools, splash pads, and natural swimming areas, but make sure you wear an appropriate sunscreen when spending extended periods in the sun (even if you’re in water).

Protecting yourself against the sun’s harsh UV light rays is essential for reducing your risk of becoming burnt and/or developing melanoma.

Most people will usually think to apply sunscreen to their arms, legs, torso, back, head, and neck, but too many forget about the tops of their feet. Remember, any area of skin can become burnt – and your feet are no exception. So take a moment to cover them with sunscreen as well.

Top Austin Pools, Splash Pads, and Places to Keep Cool

Without further ado, here are some of the best places in town for swimming, splashing, and enjoying a reprieve from intensely hot Austin days:

Big Stacy Pool. This free, public pool is a great option if you live in South Austin. Even though you are looking to escape the heat, you won’t mind the fact the pool is naturally heated by spring-fed water (which is still considerably cooler than air temps exceeding triple digits). There are lanes for lap swimming, lifeguards on duty, and both shallow and deep ends, but shade is limited – so make sure you bring your sunscreen!

Upper and Lower McKinney Falls. McKinney Falls State Park in Southeast Austin boasts over 700 acres of hiking trails and camping spots, but don’t look past its water features! In fact, The Travel Channel has previously named McKinney Falls as one of the top-10 swimming holes in the entire nation. Before you head out there for a dip, make sure to check with the Austin Parks and Recreation website for closures (since rains can sometimes make natural swimming areas unsanitary and/or unsafe). Also, be aware there are no lifeguards on duty at these locations.

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Dick Nichols Pool. This outdoor aquatic facility is ideal for the whole family. It features lanes for family members who want to swim laps, along with a fenced-in kiddie pool for children. Kids also love the waterscape outside the pool featuring a dolphin that “spits” water. The shallow and deep ends are divided, and admission is free.

Deep Eddy Pool. An Austin favorite, this large pool is spring-fed. Unlike with Big Stacy Pool, the water can be a bit on the chilly side of the spectrum (often ranging between 65-75 degrees) – which makes it perfect for cooling off on a sweltering day. The bottom and sides are concrete, and the pool features both lap lanes and a beach entrance in separate areas. There are lifeguards on duty, so this can be a great option if you have children.

Krause Springs. You and your family have plenty of options when you head west through Hill Country and end up at Krause Springs in Spicewood. This lush area features two pools for swimming, along with 32 springs. There are other options in this lush wonderland—like the butterfly garden kids (and “kids at heart”) love exploring—so you might want to camp for a full experience.

Quarry Splash Pad. Located in Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, this splash pad (opening in May) might cost a modest entrance fee ($2/person), but the price of admission is definitely worth it if you are trying to keep children cool and comfortable during hotter days. If you are planning on making a trip to the Quarry Splash Pad, you will probably want to arrive early – picnic tables and grassy areas for blankets are “first come, first serve.” (This is especially important to note if you want to get a spot in the shade!)

Cedar Park Community Pools. The Quarry Splash Pad is a nice option, but it’s not the only one in the area! Milburn, Buttercup Creek, and Veterans Memorial Pools are all in the general vicinity. Given that the splash pad can get a bit crowded—especially in mornings—you may want to file these away as viable Plan B’s.

Secret Beach. The name is terrible—who really thinks this beach is a “secret” anymore?—but you can find much-needed relief from the heat when you visit this spot in the Roy G. Guerrero Metropolitan Park. If you’re into tubing, make sure to schedule some time so you can leisurely float down the river with some of your closest friends!

Barton Springs. No matter if we’re talking about Barton Springs Pool, Campbell’s Hole, or Barton Creek, this refreshing sanctuary in the middle of the city has several outstanding options for beating the heat:

  • Barton Springs Pool – The most popular swimming spot in Austin is great for getting in a few laps or just laying out in the sun.
  • Campbell’s Hole – This natural body of water on the Greenbelt is a local treasure. Located just a few minutes from downtown, this can be a great place to take a dip (but make sure you talk to your kids about water safety first!).
  • Barton Creek – You can find various areas that are ideal for swimming in the creek, especially east of the Loop 360 access point and along the Gus Fruh trail. There are also shallow spots where children can wade and splash.

These are just several of the many options in the greater Austin community. For a comprehensive list of city pools and information regarding hours, admission, etc., check out the city website here.

Enjoy the Austin Summer with Optimal Foot Health

Clearly, there are numerous ways to enjoy our Austin community – even when temperatures really start to climb and you need to cool off!

Unfortunately, foot and ankle problems take away your options. Foot pain limits the number of activities you can (or want to) do, and an issue like fungal toenails means you likely will not want to be seen barefoot or wearing sandals.

Don’t let these problems hold you back! Instead, come see Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists and have our expert medical team provide the treatment you need.

Optimal foot health is your key to doing the things you want to do, so contact us today by calling (512) 328-8900. If you’d prefer, you can connect with our Austin podiatrist practice via our online form right now.

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
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Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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