Lifestyle

Stressed? Let the Most Beautiful Places in Austin Relax You

Find your happy place in these Zen spaces.

Austin Rowing Club
Austin Rowing Club
Austin Rowing Club

Life in Austin is only getting more stressful every year. New buildings and businesses bring with them sky-high rents and corporate drama. Then there’s the politics. And the heat. Oh, and the strange dating etiquette. All these are enough to make even the most chill of people go a little bit bonkers.

The remedy? Nature, of course. We’ve scoured the city to find all the most scenic escapes that induce Zen. Some are right downtown, others require a weekend’s commitment (go on, treat yourself) and some require a little restraint not to take out your cell phone (damn, IG). However long you need a moment to catch your breath, here’s where you can do it. Now say ahhh.

Downtown’s Lady Bird Lake reflections

There’s no need to venture far from your office or condo if you need a midday tech release, simply walk down to the shores of Ladybird Lake and take in the reflections of Austin’s skyline come lunch hour. SUPs and kayaks paddling along make for a repetitive yet soothing spout of people-watching. Watch them from Lamar Bridge, or even better, join them on the water. Austin Rowing Club has all the equipment you need available for rent.

Congress Avenue Bridge’s sunset bats

It’s not just tourists that appreciate Austin’s most famous bat colony-the spectacle is an evening ritual for many locals during the summer months too (it’s the only time some of us go outside). Head to Congress Avenue Bridge before dusk between late March and October to see thousands of Mexican Free-Tailed bats wake up and start their nightly feed like specks of magic dust in the sky. (Tip: the bats feed on mosquitoes, so no need to pack repellent here.)¬†

Miraval Austin Resort & Spa
Miraval Austin Resort & Spa
Miraval Austin Resort & Spa

Miraval Austin’s hammock-dotted trails, infinity pools overlooking Lake Travis, and resident horse stable

Every Austinite doing well knows the ultimate Zen escape is Miraval. The luxury resort and spa is perched on 220 acres of protected land, with pretty gardens, infinity pools, a stable for equine sessions, and a stunning Zen spa. Yes, this is a bit of a splurge, but when work’s got you in a twist, a weekend’s pampering just might be what the wellness doctor ordered. For those who don’t want to shell out on overnight accommodation, ResortPass offers day passes for you to switch off on its grounds with activities and food included in the package.

Brandon Seidel/Shutterstock
Brandon Seidel/Shutterstock
Brandon Seidel/Shutterstock

The Texas State Capitol

Even if you don’t agree with the decisions being made inside the Texas Capitol (and hell, who can blame you?), there’s no denying the beauty of the building and its sprawling green grounds, which are enjoyable from a visual standpoint whether you’re picnicking or‚Ķ um… picketing. Free tours are also available inside if you’re into interior beauty.

RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock
RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock
RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock

The Greenbelt

Want to get outdoors? Look no further than The Barton Creek Greenbelt’s 809 acres of wow-inducing trails, trees, hills, and swimming holes. All you need is your camera, your bathing suit, and maybe your red cups and cooler.

UT Turtle Pond
UT Turtle Pond
UT Turtle Pond

The Turtle Pond on the UT Campus

While the turtle pond serves as a relaxing spot to de-stress for students, for non-collegiate (i.e. old) Austinites, the wildlife alone is worth the visit. After all, like most things, it’s probably more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about cramming for a chemistry test. There are even more perks with being in the campus district including all the delicious cheap eats are close by (mmm¬†K-Bop).

Flickr/Katie Labor
Flickr/Katie Labor
Flickr/Katie Labor

The quaint buildings and shaded streets of Hyde Park

A neighborhood with a history spanning over 100 years, Hyde Park boasts homes ranging from huge Victorians to funky little bungalows, all of which combine with weird alleys, tucked-away parks, and towering trees for a truly unique, truly Austin experience. From a sightseeing perspective alone, these streets are worth wandering, and be sure to check out the Elisabet Ney Museum while you’re here, too.

Flickr/Iris
Flickr/Iris
Flickr/Iris

Barton Springs

At this charmingly retro-feeling natural spring, the water is perpetually 68 degrees, and the vibe is perpetually great. Whether you’re lying out on the lawn, floating in the water, or cannonballing off the diving board (those six year olds will be so impressed), there’s no arguing the fact that swimming pools don’t get more scenic than this.

Flickr/David Ingram
Flickr/David Ingram
Flickr/David Ingram

… and Barking Springs

Adjacent to Barton Springs sits this dog-friendly swimming hole, where you can enjoy the glorious setting (sans charge) while Luna cools off with an aquatic version of fetch with all the Barkin Creek goodies you just treated her to.

Flickr/Phil Roeder
Flickr/Phil Roeder
Flickr/Phil Roeder

The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden

Soak up some culture and sun simultaneously with a stroll through the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden, which boasts not only impressive works by Charles Umlauf but some pretty lush vegetation as well.

RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock
RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock
RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock

The view from Mt. Bonnell

Sunrise, sunset, and anytime in between. What we were just describing there are the best times to head up Mt. Bonnell (also known as Covert Park)-the highest point within the city limits-to enjoy a pretty amazing look at Austin. It’s totally worth the 106 steps, swear.

Flickr/Dave Wilson
Flickr/Dave Wilson
Flickr/Dave Wilson

Hamilton Pool

Though technically not located within Austin city limits, a visit to the lagoon-esque Hamilton Pool is definitely worth the drive and, typically, the long wait in line. This is one situation in which we suggest you do go chasing waterfalls. Note: the area around the pool to below the waterfall is currently closed due to falling rocks. Check the Travis County Parks website before going.

Flickr/Tnkntx
Flickr/Tnkntx
Flickr/Tnkntx

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Named for the former First Lady of the United States, the Center is focused on preserving the native plants of Texas and said plants are pretty easy on the eyes. We suggest you take an afternoon to swing by, stop, and smell the roses… or bluebonnets or whatever. We’re not botanists.

Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock
Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock
Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock

The Zilker Botanical Garden

Get your flower (and fern… probably ficus) fix at this not-so-secret garden, located right in the center of the city on Barton Springs Rd. Themed areas include a Taniguchi Japanese Garden with Koi-filled ponds, Hartman Prehistoric Garden, and Rose Garden.

my leap year/Shutterstock
my leap year/Shutterstock
my leap year/Shutterstock

The 360 bridge

Whether you’re crossing the Pennybacker Bridge (known as the 360 bridge) or admiring it from afar, this impressive architectural feat, when accompanied by the equally impressive natural scenery surrounding it, makes for a pretty great photo op. Be careful with the rocky path when you climb to get to the overlook. #Nofilter, obviously.

amadeustx / Shutterstock.com
amadeustx / Shutterstock.com
amadeustx / Shutterstock.com

Lake Travis at sunset

Austin isn’t lacking in the lake department, and since Travis is a little emptier come fall, your water options are better than ever. Head up to the hills (and maybe indulge your inner tourist, and appetite, with a visit to The Oasis or a spot of zip lining) to reap the full photogenic benefits of this beautiful spot.

Sam Sumpter is an Austin writer who is in no way trying to imply that the rest of Austin isn’t beautiful. Follow her at @Sam_Sumpta.

James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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