05/31/2012 07:22 am ET Updated Jul 31, 2012

Can't-Miss Austin: Summer 2012

Lots is happening in Austin, Texas between spring's South by Southwest and fall's Austin City Limits Festival. Whether you're a visitor, new Austinite or long-time resident, here are some things you shouldn't miss this summer if you want to keep cool, keep entertained and keep yourself happily fed and watered.

Keeping Cool
Barton Springs
Nothing beats a day at Austin's Barton Springs when the temperature climbs. The spring-fed pool, the heart and soul of Austin for a hundred years, stays at around 70 degrees year round. Robert Redford learned to swim here; Owen Wilson swims here now. Sunbathers cover the hills in various stages of undress -- this is also the heart of laid-back, it's-all-good Austin. No food, no alcohol and no liquids except in a reusable container. The park is open 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, except Thursday, when the pool is closed for cleaning. Refreshments available on site -- enjoy something off the grille -- or bring your own to enjoy on the picnic tables outside the fence.

The Paramount Theatre Summer Classic Film Series
When it's hot outside, it's cold, dark and cool inside the historic Paramount Theatre. Built as a vaudeville venue in 1915, the Paramount is an incredible piece of pop culture on its own, and every summer it hosts classic films on the big screen. Come for the Hitchcock series (you haven't lived until you've seen "North by Northwest" on the big screen) or romantic comedy or James Bond or movie musicals; stay for adult refreshments, thoughtful commentary and a kindred audience in this film-loving community.

The Driskill Hotel Bar
Built in 1886, The Driskill is downtown's anchor, home to LBJ's victory parties, weddings by the score and great drinks and music. In the cool and beautifully decorated bar, enjoy a margarita, a dirty martini made with Austin's Tito's Vodka or a cold beer while listening to musicians like Patricia Griffin, a regular at the bar's grand piano for over a decade, and alt-country artist Dave Insley.

Keeping Entertained
Blues on the Green
Blues on the Green is in its 22nd year of providing free music in Zilker Park every other Wednesday all summer long. Join tens of thousands of your closest friends for a beautiful summer evening under the stars. This summer, Blues on the Green features artists like Marcia Ball, the BoDeans and Ben Kweller. Bring blankets, lawn chairs, dogs (on leashes) and kids, who will love the freedom to run and play. You can purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages from local restaurants. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Continental Club
If you haven't been to South Congress, you haven't been to Austin, and the Continental Club in SoCo is one of Austin's best and longest-running local music venues. I'm partial to Wednesday nights when Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry play, but also watch for Austin legends like Western swing-master Dale Watson, rocker Alejandro Escovedo and the sultry Toni Price, onstage Tuesday nights for 18 years. Order a Shiner or three, scoot a boot if you've a mind to or just listen to some of America's best music in an authentic Austin setting.

Nutty Brown Cafe
A great dive west of town, you can go to the Nutty Brown for chicken fried steak or for the outdoor weekend concerts. It's kid-friendly, since there's lots of room to roam, and you can hear everything from the great Beatles cover band The Eggmen to bluesy Carolyn Wonderland to -- every 4th of July -- local legend Bob Schneider and his holiday music festival. Food and drinks both available at the venue; think about going for dinner and staying for the music.

Keeping Fed
Justine's Brasserie
Only a couple of years ago, Justine's was just a great idea in the minds of its creators. Now it's one of the hippest and best restaurants in Austin. Over on the east side in a funky old house, you can sit inside where it's noisy, but if a breeze is blowing, take it outside. The food -- solid versions of great French food like duck confit, charcuterie plates and maybe the best scallops I've ever eaten -- complement the see-and-be-seen atmosphere. Great wine list, great cocktails and fun and knowledgeable servers close the deal.

Torchy's Tacos
This year's winner in the Austin Chronicle's food issue for best taco, Torchy's epitomizes the food truck revolution in Austin. Great chefs are serving great food in trailers instead of brick and mortar restaurants, and Torchy's is a terrific example. Begun in a trailer on S. First, the restaurant now has locations all over town. Try the green chile, fried avocado or Democrat (barbecued beef) tacos. Look for good beans and a good beer selection, too.

Yes, Uchiko is one of the hottet restaurants in town, and Executive Chef Paul Qui did just win on "Top Chef." But both of those things happened for a reason -- in this city where amazing things are happening with food, amazing things happen in Uchiko's kitchen. A great selection of chilled and warm sakes, thoughtful waitstaff and wondrous dishes like wagyu beef and brussel sprouts -- brussel sprouts! -- you would kill for make this a foodie's ultimate destination.