Austin on Foot
I love that Austin is such a walkable city. The city planners, many years ago, set the city on a course that would draw people back to its downtown area. Today you'll find condominiums all across the city, restaurants and bars are everywhere, and interspersed throughout are green spaces. The contrast to the flatlined downtown I encountered 30 years ago is enormous!
During our visit to Austin over the Thanksgiving weekend, I thought it might be fun to see if it was possible to plan a circular walking route around the city. The route began at the Radisson on Congress Avenue and took us north toward the State Capitol. Measured in gross square footage, it's the largest of all the state capitols - a fact unlikely to surprise anyone. We decided to step inside the Capitol to see the beautiful dome at the center of the building, after which we continued up the broad stairs to the senate chamber on the second floor. Despite its rather ascetic demeanor, the Capitol is absolutely worth a visit.
After leaving the Capitol, we walked east to Waterloo Park, which is completely closed off while the city improves the park. This was such a disappointment and necessitated some follow-up research. The good news is that the work is being done in order to link the University of Texas to Lady Bird Lake and to ensure that the area will no longer be prone to flooding. Unfortunately, the park renovations won't be completed until 2018, while the pathway may take a decade, but it will certainly contribute to Austin's attractiveness.
For anyone interested, the attached link will take you to a very interesting article on the work being done along Waller Creek. Because the article describes a broad and all-encompassing strategy toward city planning, it should be of interest to most readers. http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2015-11-13/waller-creek-comes-to-life/
Our walk around the city at that point was not as pleasant as hoped for. Waller Creek looked to have experienced flooding damage and all the hospital construction in the area made it feel like we were transversing an urban desert. Things finally looked up once we arrived at the UT campus, which has some very nice public spaces. We continued north, up The Drag, stopped at Texas French Bread for a cup of coffee and continued west on W. 29th Street, on our way to N. Lamar Boulevard and the entrance to Pease District Park. Here we found another of Austin's treasures, and another beautiful creek to walk alongside.
When we reached the end of the park, it seemed a good time to stop for a late lunch at The Grove Wine Bar on W. 6th Street before continuing on to Lady Bird Lake. As a side note, Lady Bird Lake used to be known as Town Lake up until 2007. As you walk around the city, you'll still see signs pointing you toward Town Lake, which could be confusing if you don't know that they're one and the same.
Just to the east of the Lamar Blvd. bridge, Austin has built a new walking and biking bridge across the lake, which makes crossing to the southern side of the lake much safer and also provides some really nice views across the city. You'll find benches along the bridge as well as landscaping. Further west, underneath the Mopac Expressway, there's another walking bridge, which means that you can park the car and go for a circular walk rather than having to return along the same route.
I briefly entertained the idea that we might continue west along the lake so we could stop at the Zilker Botanical Garden. I've been there several times and always head straight for the Japanese Garden. A quick glance at my pedometer explained my dwindling interest in further exploration. Having trekked 10 miles to circumnavigate the city, we chose the shortest route back to the hotel.