I love that our city makes filling time on the weekends effortless, but sometimes we all need to hit the pause button. An escape from the hustle and bustle is a must if we want to keep up with all Austin has to offer.
But since leaving the city on I-35 can take a whole day, we need to look for ways to change our perspective within Austin city limits. Fortunately, escape is closer than you might think.
#1 Escape to a Secret Garden: Mayfield Park
The veritable wonderland of Mayfield Park lies just west of MoPac, at the dead-end of a road shared with Laguna Gloria and Westwood Country Club. Originally a private estate, the 23 acres of flower gardens, walking trails and small ponds serve as a peaceful respite from the outside world.
As you walk along the cobbled paths, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “Secret Garden.” Except you won’t have to worry about seeing ghosts or contracting cholera. Peacocks stand watch all around Mayfield Park as though they own the place. It feels truly magical.
So if you’re tired of the bustle of the city and want to feel like you’ve been dropped into your favorite English children’s book, make your way over to Mayfield Park.
3505 West 35th St. – Website
#2 Escape into Your Mind: Austin Shambhala Meditation Center
I often find that in order to escape, I have to declutter my mind. This is a feat in itself, but the mission of Austin Shambhala is to make it possible. Even if you’ve never meditated a moment in your life, or have written it off as sitting crosslegged on the floor chanting unintelligible mantras, I suggest you head south and give the road to enlightenment a shot.
The center offers a variety of ways to ease into meditation and mindfulness. On Sunday, you can attend a free public class to dip your toe in without opening your wallet. There is walking meditation around the grounds for the ever-restless. And for the truest of Austinites, Shambhala offers meditation groups that meet for drinks after experimenting with escape from racing thoughts.
1702 South 5th St. – Website
#3 Escape to Wonderland: Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum
Umlauf Sculpture Garden, just across from Zilker Park, serves as a habitat for dancing bronze maidens and gleaming hippos. Whenever I visit the garden, I feel like I’ve entered the fairytale forests I used to dream up as a kid. It’s a shady oasis that makes me forget about the buzzing cars and skyline of cranes right outside.
For those who enjoy museums, but hate walking around cold, white-walled rooms, head to the open air sanctuary of this sculpture garden. You’ll experience the life-like creations of local sculptor Charles Umlauf as you round a tranquil pond under the cover of tall mossy trees.
If just looking isn’t your thing, check out the garden’s website for information on special events, yoga classes and craft days.
605 Robert E Lee Road – Website
#4 Escape to a Farm: Urban Roots
I have a friend who compares the experience of shopping in a certain big box supermarket to that of spending time at the DMV. When you’ve had it with florescent aisles and waiting in line, go to the source. Urban Roots is one of many urban farms on the outskirts of our glorious city.
This prosperous patch of land earns extra brownie points because, not only does it grow amazing food, but it also grows incredible youth leaders. With the help of a smattering of “grown ups,” high school interns learn the ins and outs of operating an urban farm. They grow the produce, help to harvest it and sell it at local markets, all while educating volunteers who come to get their hands dirty.
If your nails are looking a little too clean and you want to return to your roots, or at least the roots of the food you eat, head to Urban Roots for a visit or to volunteer.
2921 East 17th St. – Website
#5 Escape to the Sea: Mongers Market and Kitchen
As a desert rat from Tucson, Arizona, it’s still a novelty for me to drive over the river everyday and see a body of water. But if you prefer a different type of nautical adventure, go to the eastside where Mongers Market and Kitchen opened in March 2015 to bring the sea to table scene to Austin.
The dining room is decked out in sea shells and the ocean’s shades of blue. Plates feature fish, oysters, clams and mussels fresh from the gulf. I recommend you stop by for a romantic evening or Sunday brunch on their patio. Try floating away on a plate of fried oyster chilaquiles, surrounded by a sea of housemade sangria. You can also dive into the smoked fish dip, followed by an incredible show of fish and grits with a cloud of poached egg on top.
You’ll be so impressed that returning to the sea might become a weekly event.
2401 East Cesar Chavez St. – Website
#6 Escape the Gym: Yoga with Adriene
Ready for a namaste-cation from your usual workout routine? If you wish you could workout in your underwear, away from prying eyes, meet Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene.
This local Yogi has a goofy, but welcoming take on yoga. Her YouTube channel is chock-full of flows and foundational practice videos aimed to help you “find what feels good.” So go home, roll out the mat, put on some comfy clothes or no clothes at all, and let Adriene take the lead.
#7 Escape Dry Land: Peaceful Paddle on the Lake
The first time I went kayaking, it was a bit of disaster. I paddled in circles, conveniently ran into an oncoming crew team and almost flipped my boat. Not one to be immediately discouraged, the next time I went to the Rowing Dock on Townlake I tried my hand at stand-up paddle boarding. I wasn’t about to start downward dogging on the board, but at least I could keep my balance and go in a straight line.
I found that the rhythm of pushing my paddle through the dark water as it lapped against my feet was meditative. With the skyline ahead of me and the tree-bedecked shoreline alongside, I was in my own little world.
When you ever have free time on the weekdays, when the lake is especially tranquil, head down to the Rowing Dock or one of the other many paddle board and kayak rental spots along the water. I suggest paddle boarding as a relaxing escape from dry land, but you may have better luck with kayaking than this girl!
2418 Stratford Drive – Website
We all need a break every once in awhile. The wonderful thing about Austin is that it offers just as many escapes as it does entertainment. Keep it weird, stay in the city and enjoy your adventure away from it all.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite escape within Austin City Limits?