Town Lake trail offers nature in the middle of the city

Town Lake in AustinThere are very few U.S. cities that offer residents a huge green oasis in the middle of the city.  Fortunately for us, Austin is one of them.

Town Lake (also known as Lady Bird Lake, or so I am told) and the associated Town Lake Trail offers Austinites and visitors walking and biking trails from just over a mile to almost 7.25 miles.  The trails are wide, and most of the route meanders along next to the lake (which looks like a small river to me, but hey, I’m not from around here!)  Wildlife is sparse, but there are swans, blackbirds and tons of butterflies.

Most of the path is shaded, which is critical given the summer temps around here.  Parking is hit or miss at several locations, but if one area is filled you’ll only have to go a short distance to the next on-street parking or off-street lot.  Most of it is free, too…another plus.

If you want to head out onto the water, there’s a boat rental here, offering canoes, kayaks and boards, plus lessons for the uninitiated.

There are lots of restaurants within a few minutes walk of the trail, so many people finish up their taste of nature with a taste of something more er, um cooked?

Pets are welcome and pretty much equal the number of people on the Town Lake Trail, but they must be on leashes and you must pick up their poop to avoid lake contamination. (Yes, there are trash cans, but bring your own bags.)  Off-road strollers do well here, although I have seen people with regular ones, too.

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Breathtaking Waterfront Views at The Oasis

The Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis in Texas

One of the hardest things about moving to Texas was leaving behind the ocean.  But when a friend recently visited, and we started looking around for some where special to take him, The Oasis was recommended.

Once we arrived, we understood why.  The views of Lake Travis from this uniquely designed restaurant are enough to (almost!) make a coastal native happy.

The Good Part…

The Oasis Restaurant was built with a series of seating balconies, one above another.  The result is a clear view of the lake from almost every seat outdoors. Well-placed heat lights make al fresco dining comfortable even during one of Austin’s rare winter chills, and they tell me that the large overhangs make it bearable in summer’s heat.

The Not So Great…

While the view is well worth the trip, the food unfortunately was only average.  Small portions and so-so preparation didn’t produce a meal worthy of the lofty setting. It was sadly unremarkable, more like what you would expect at mid-tier hotel restaurant than at a place with the most romantic setting in the Austin area.

And the Rest...

The official Oasis Restaurant is just a part of a larger complex of shops, pubs and other restaurants, so we do plan to return and try some of the others.  And maybe, just because the view is so amazing, we’ll even give the Oasis itself a second try.

Lots of Steps but the View From Mount Bonnell is Worth It!

Mount Bonnell Park Austin

Yes, there are over 100 steps to reach the viewing platform at Mount Bonnell.  But when you get to the top, you’ll forget all about that burn in your muscles — the view is simply breath-taking.

Look one way, and gaze out over the water (you know, that wet stuff Austin just doesn’t seem to have enough of!). Look another, a few steps down the path, and you have a clear view of the city skyline.  Turn the other way and walk for a minute or two, and beautiful waterfront homes are in sight.

This is a great place for a picnic (yes, there are tables and benches.) Or find a rock above the water and settle down to read, write, play guitar or just enjoy the view.  Pets on leashes are welcome, parking is free and abundant, and most days this beautiful site is free from crowds.

A word of caution…Parents will need to keep a firm grip on little ones…the edges are real and the drop is significant.