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Located along Honduras’ northwest coast, Pico Bonito National Park is a naturalist’s paradise (with miles of rain forest and more than 500 species of birds) and the boutique eco-lodge of the same name provides an accessible microcosm of the park’s sprawling beauty and biodiversity. Four hundred acres of lush, tropical vegetation, bookended by two rushing rivers, is the property’s main attraction, but additional luxuries, like five-star guest cabins, full-service restaurant and a bevy of activities, from onsite birding to snorkeling off the nearby Caribbean coast, make for a distinctly chic jungle experience.
iFLY is an international indoor skydiving company headquartered in Austin, just off Hwy. 183, and has flown people, ages 3 to 103, inside the safe enclosure of an indoor wind tunnel. The experience takes about an hour, but there are plenty of thrills packed into the modest time slot. A brief instructional class relays the proper flying form and how to communicate in the tunnel with simple hand signals before helmets, goggles and fly suits are slipped over flyers’ street clothes. Instructors then guide flyers, one by one, into the wind chamber—a custom 50-foot-high, glass-walled vertical tunnel—for one or two-minute intervals of fear-free flight. You can schedule an early-morning flight or stop by for a spur-of-the-moment surprise after dinner. They stay open until 10p.m.
This upscale diner in Old West Austin (just a couple of blocks from Whole Foods) is usually packed at brunch and lunch, but the best time to visit might be for a midnight snack. Local celebrity chef Andrew Curren creates mouthwatering classics, like chicken and waffles and a stellar corned beef "24 hash," and they're available to hungry patrons 24 hours a day. Late night meals are also the perfect time to sample some of their signature cocktails and selection of local beers on draft.
There's more and more high-quality pizza to be found in Austin nowadays, but it's hard to find a more popular spot than Home Slice. It's great for a sit-down meal for big families or groups of friends or just a quick slice to-go from their convenient walk-up location, located just next door to the main restaurant on South Congress Avenue. Family travelers shouldn't miss the annual Carnival O' Pizza (held every November), when the whole lot is festooned with colorful, thematic decorations for special events, like pizza tossing contests and moustache painting. (Note: Both locations are closed every Tuesday.)
This popular museum is set to reopen in December 2013 under a new name, "The Thinkery," in a brand new location in the East Austin Mueller development. The 40,000 square-foot space will introduce a bevy of exciting, new attractions, including an Innovator's Workshop, where kids can experiment hands-on with technology, Mexican-American artwork, and an interactive exhibit, entitled "Currents," all about the element of water.
Austin's ZACH Theatre is in its 80th season, but the new Topfer Theatre, a 26,000-square-foot space just south of Ladybird Lake, has kept the local arts institution on the cutting edge. The indoor lounges feature views of the Capitol and a large open-aired plaza sets the scene for special events, formal galas and monthly happenings, like the GLBT Wilde Party, held every third Thursday of every mainstage production. The pre-show soirees, complete with live music, cocktails and catered cuisine, have become a popular mainstay in the local gay and lesbian community.
Austin's first absinthe bar, specializes in over the fabled Green Fairy, with more than a dozen absinthe varieties and a lengthy "pre-Prohibition style" cocktail selection. The bartenders are experts, the decor is sophisticated and the dinner menu (changed daily) includes delicious "European comfort food," like veal sweetbreads and dumplings and roasted marrow french onion soup. It's a great place for a date, whether it's for a quick pre-dinner cocktail or indulgent all-night affair.
Lipstick24 is Austin's preeminent lesbian bar, but the downtown club has become a gathering place for everyone in the local LGBT community. Hang out in the casual outdoor patio, complete with an outdoor stage with weekly live music and entertainment. Lipstick also features a range of female-oriented artists, from roller derby performers and belly dancers to fashion designers and poets. Be sure to check their website for their upcoming schedule of events.
Hippie Hollow Park, a clothing-optional park just out of Austin on the shores of Lake Travis, is a lasting hallmark of the local Keep It Weird culture. And the scenic shores can be enjoyed by anyone. Visitors can make their visit as private or as public as they'd like. The park's acreage covers a significant span of lakeside terrain. So join a beach towel, start a party or just spend a quiet afternoon sunbathing alone with friends.