Have you ever found yourself at the south end of Lamar, perplexed at the inexplicable change in scenery, suddenly surrounded by trees, walking trails and wider streets? Yeah, me too. Chances are, you have come upon the city of Sunset Valley. This tiny, eclectic city within a city is sandwiched between Westgate, Brodie Lane and Jones Road.
For those who have found themselves wondering what unexpected Bermuda Triangle of gravel trails, wide roads and tree-canopied streets they have come upon, fear not! This one-square-mile city south of downtown Austin packs a punch as a satisfying destination for a laundry list of adventures.
Sunset Valley hosts a well-established, weekly farmers’ market with cultivated parks, open spaces and conservation zones. And I haven’t even mentioned the bustling shopping centers and Toney Burger Activity Center where, on any given Friday during football season, high school sports enthusiasts swarm in droves.
This township pulls its weight, contributing to the rich Central Texas culture and ecosystem. Sunset Valley is a ecological bubble, where you can still watch deer graze as the sun rises, know your police officers by first name and feel the slower pace of small town life. And it’s all right in the heart of Austin.
History of the City of Sunset Valley
Incorporated in 1954, Sunset Valley laid roots as a suburban residential outcropping, building ranch houses and other new homes on large acre lots, just south of Austin. Slowly, as the Capitol City grew, so did Sunset Valley. By the 1970s, Austin had thoroughly surrounded the tiny township. To the residents’ dismay, the city also built Toney Burger, a promising athletic complex that abutted Sunset Valley’s boundaries.
Continuing to blossom, Sunset Valley has made strategic city planning decisions that have led to a robust residential community and destination shopping centers, with gorgeous hiking trails and open spaces sandwiched between the two. With a growing town of over 300 people, a city council, mayor, police and public works departments, and a town hall, Sunset Valley is a well-defined niche within a square mile of southwest Austin.
If you’re new to Sunset Valley, here are three stops you should make as you get to the know the area.
#1 Toney Burger Activity Center and Stadium
If you’ve ever watched a high school football game, attended a graduation or have kids who attend an Austin-area school, chances are you’ve been to Toney Burger. This multi-purpose stadium was a staple through my South Austin childhood. Not only is it the go-to spot for high school sports, but the giant, mostly empty parking lot is the perfect spot to learn how to drive, with plenty of open space to get comfortable behind the wheel.
3200 Jones Road
#2 Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market
In a genius move on the part of Sunset Valley and Sustainable Food Center, the weekly, year-round Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market is reason enough to check out this one-of-a-kind town. Hosted in the spacious Toney Burger parking lot every Saturday morning (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), stroll through aisles of vegetables while sipping Texas Coffee Trader’s dark roast. You can do your grocery shopping and check out local artists at the adjacent Artisan Market.
3200 Jones Road
#3 Indian Grass Prairie Preserve and Gaines Greenbelt
While it’s easy to plug into Sunset Valley via shopping centers and the farmers’ market, I recommend experiencing the quiet calm of this square-mile small town on a hike through one of its gorgeous, well-maintained trails. Park your car at City Hall and hike through fields of wildflowers, exploring the Williamson Creek watershed conservation area.
As an alternative, you can break into the Gaines Creek Greenbelt on the north side of Sunset Valley. Exit off the frontage road of Mopac for a lush, centering experience. Connecting to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, this stretch of open space is home to the Golden Cheeked Warbler and Gaines Creek, a tributary of Barton Creek. It’s easy to get lost in the quiet stillness of this protected area, smack in the middle of South Austin.
3918 S. Mopac Expressway
Now that you know Sunset Valley is there, I hope you’ll get out and explore.
@kristinmleigh wants to know:
What’s your favorite thing to do in Sunset Valley?