Peer into the Abyss with These Stellar Stargazing Spots in and Around Austin

From the darkest nooks in Austin to light pollution-free parks outside of the city, here's where to gaze into the galaxy.

Courtesy of UT Austin
Courtesy of UT Austin
Courtesy of UT Austin

As the famous song goes, “The stars at night are big and bright / Deep in the heart of Texas.” And if you’ve ever clapped along to that tune beneath a Lone Star moon, you know how true those lyrics are. Resplendent with wide-open spaces and dark skies, our state boasts some of the best spots in the country to stargaze and take in the constellations. With the famous space spectacle, the Perseid meteor shower, set to peak during the early hours of August 13, there’s no better time to bust out the stargazing binoculars. And, just like your own personal North Star, our guide is here to direct you to Austin’s prime places for charting celestial bodies.

Stargazing Spots in Austin

The city’s ever-growing population, and the plethora of construction that comes with it, doesn’t make for ideal stargazing conditions. Like most urban centers, Austin is fairly dense with light pollution which impedes a clear view of the cosmos. However, there are some local options for when you don’t feel like traveling out of your usual orbit.

Courtesy of UT Austin
Courtesy of UT Austin
Courtesy of UT Austin

University of Texas, Austin

Multiple nights a week, the astronomy department at the University of Texas hosts Star Parties. At these free events, which go down on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, you can combat the skyline congestion by staring through the powerful lenses of UT’s telescopes.

Austin Community College, Round Rock

Austin Community College also hosts their own Star Parties, albeit on a less frequent basis. Around three or four times a year, their Round Rock campus opens their observation deck, and its multiple telescopes, for everyone to get a free peek at the planets.

Stargazing Spots Just Outside of Austin

For those serious about their galaxy gazing, a car ride to one of the renowned starry spots outside the city will be well worth the gas. Before you hit the road, load your trunk with camping chairs, pack some snacks, and download a sky map app to make the most of your adventure.

Blanco State Park

Obviously, state parks are optimal areas for scanning the universe above. One of the closest options would be Blanco State Park, which is about an hour drive from Austin. With the park located on the banks of the spring-fed Blanco River, you can spend the day dipping in the water, and the night looking at the Big Dipper.
Distance: 50 miles

Inks Lake State Park

Inks Lake State Park is also a 60-minute ride away. There, you can take a starry stroll through Inks Lake’s nine-miles worth of hiking trails.
Distance: 67 miles

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Two hours out of the city is an essential, bucket-list spot for every Texan: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The site’s pink granite dome is a sight all by itself, but its official designation as an International Dark Sky Park guarantees equally magnificent views when the sun sets.
Distance: 96 miles

South Llano River State Park

Another place which carries the International Dark Sky Park seal of approval is South Llano River State Park. Clocking in at a solid three-hour drive from Austin, it is a little further out than most. However, your time in the car will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Milky Way.
Distance: 146 miles


If the tent-pitching and Tevas-wearing scene is not your vibe, there’s other alternatives that won’t have you straying too far from civilization. Only 25-minutes away, the nearby city of Elgin is a beloved haven for cosmic enthusiasts. You can park anywhere among their fields of farmland and catch a pretty planetoid panorama, but locals will tell you the best views are found by the stretch along Highway 95.
Distance: 26 miles

Lake Travis

While Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis may be better known as a mecca for bachelor party barges, it is also a stunning place to stargaze post-day drinking. Take a boat out there at night, and you’ll find the rave music replaced by the tranquil silence of the celestial sky. And, for a true retreat, drive for a little over an hour to the Canyon of the Eagle Resort. The luxury hotel in Hill Country counts an actual observatory among their many amenities. Guests can book a session to peer into outer space through one of their high-end telescopes, guided by their staff astronomer.
Distance: 20 milesWant more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Molly Moltzen is a writer living in Austin, TX. You can find her on Instagram at @molsquared.


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 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 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

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

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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