While just about everybody who knows Austin knows it as a party town (with all the festivals and big events why wouldn't they right?) I have come to know Austin as a place where there are are experiences to be had for people of all moods and speeds. After all, man cannot live on happy hours and music festivals alone. To that end I have found a few spots around town where the chilling is, well, thrilling! Places where you can hang, catch your breath, take in the vibe and enjoy a lighter side to Austin. This post features a few of those chill spots and even if you're a long-time Austinite (one of the few of course!) I bet that you'll discover something new.
Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
Just east of South Lamar Blvd. on the south side of Lady Bird Lake you'll find a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Lady Bird Lake. This is the preferred way to cross the lake at Lamar Blvd. due to the narrow sidewalks on the well trafficked Lamar Blvd. bridge. That's okay because the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is plenty wide and offers great views of the art deco bridge (to the west), downtown Austin (to the east) and, of course, the action on Lady Bird Lake. The views are impressive day or night, and with a great view of the western sky this is one of the premier spots in Austin to chill and enjoy sunset.
Hope Outdoor Gallery
Also known as Castle Hill or The Graffiti Park, Hope Outdoor Gallery is probably the most unique place you'll ever visit in Austin. The guts of a condo that was razed in the 1980s have been transformed into a thriving and (most importantly) totally legal outdoor graffiti gallery. You'll see plenty of what looks like run of the mill graffiti at the multi-level site, but you'll also find superior murals that range from the whimsical to the mind blowing. It's hard to explain so you must go out there and see it for yourself. While the place is loaded with action (visitors and artists alike) on holidays and weekends my favorite chill spots on site are on the well shaded benches on the ground level or the flat area at the very top, which offers a killer view of the sky, the Texas Capitol and downtown Austin.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
For those times when you want to just get away from it all you will want to get to know the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Just a few minutes walk from downtown Austin (follow the rail tracks in Zilker Park to the trail head) the greenbelt offers access to Barton Creek, where you can swim, canoe or wade depending on the time of year (water levels vary greatly) and many miles of hiking trails that vary from flat easy walks to outright cliffs. Some of the views from the higher points along the greenbelt are fantastic. Once you get into the greenbelt you'll be very surprised how serene and secluded it feels while you're so close to downtown Austin.
On Treadwell Street, just west of South Lamar Blvd and behind Alamo Drafthouse and Cinema, lies a quiet alley that has been subtly transformed into a magical place. A barista at a local coffee house told me about it and I was very intrigued. The alley features a sea life oriented mural on the ground, a nice canopy of trees for shade, long sections of fence painted with whimsical designs and lots of little surprises along the fence and up in the trees. All of this makes Fairy Alley one of the more unique and relaxing places to visit in Austin.
Texas State Capitol Grounds
The Texas State Capitol at Congress Ave and 11th St. in downtown Austin is an impressive building that serves as the backdrop for many big Austin events. The grounds that surround the building are equally impressive with plenty of shade trees, green grass, gentle rolling hills and a number of interesting monuments. On the weekends you'll see families strolling through, students biking on the way to or from the UT Austin campus (which is just to the north of the capitol) and even wedding parties taking photos with the capitol as a backdrop. In addition to all of that I think the best photos of the capitol's impressive rotunda can be taken from the close proximity of the lovely grounds.
Margaret Moser Plaza
I stumbled upon Margaret Moser Plaza while attempting to navigate all the construction in the area as I walked from Congress Ave. across to Lamar Blvd. Right near W. 3rd St. and Nueces, adjacent to Austin Music Hall is the little plaza ringed with tall palm trees that features nighttime lighting, a few benches and a large pop art installation. The plaza, named after a legendary Austin music writer, seems to be a contradiction in itself because as peaceful as it is the plaza is adjacent to the massive Austin 360 condominium building and is also right next to the hive of construction activity just to the west in the old Seaholm Power Plant area. The plaza is there though, acting like something of an oasis for weary travelers making their way from the east to the west side of downtown.
Zilker Boardwalk Trail
The Zilker Park hike and bike trail along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake has been Austin's premier spot for outdoor activities for many years. But until a couple of years ago the trail stopped just east of Congress Ave. due to, well, the lake! Enter a new-ish boardwalk that connects Zilker Park to Lakeshore Park in East Austin. The 1.2 mile boardwalk makes getting over to the east side from Zilker Park a snap while offering fantastic views of the lake and downtown Austin in the process. One of the best times to stroll the boardwalk is just before sunset. Not only do you get to enjoy the cooling air but as the sun sets during bat season if you're walking west you can catch a great view of the bats making their nightly migration in search of food.
I hope that you've found a few new places to hang in Austin via this post. If there are other spots that are your favorite chill spots please drop me a line cause I'd love to check them out. Until then, I hope you enjoy all that Austin has to offer!