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I'm wondering about this for my final visit, the end of May.
What are your favorite suggestions for scenic drives within the city?
For sheer beauty...hills, nice homes, etc?
We'll have an investor with us and I'd like to show him some nice areas.
On my last trip it seemed everywhere I went I was agog with the beauty, but I want to make sure I know where I'm going.
I can't wait-we are less than a month from being there for good.
I dreamed of Whole Foods last night...?
Your dreams of the main Whole Foods market are worthy of interrupting your sleep, I assure you. From there, head west, cross Mopac, and explore that neighborhood thoroughly. I don't know how specific you want to get with recommendations, but in general you can't go wrong with the zone between Lake Austin, Mopac (AKA Loop 1), and Spicewood Springs Rd.
Also, the most exceptionally expensive and gorgeous neighborhood in all of Austin is Pemberton Heights. Whole Foods is only a mile away, at most, from that area. Take Lamar Blvd. north from Whole Foods, and Pemberton is going to be on a hill to your left between 15th and 29th St. It's hard to explain how to navigate your way through there, so I suggest you just follow your hunches and BE CAREFUL because you'll have to cross a couple of very busy roads and the roads are designed to create traffic accidents here.
Another nice drive is Shoal Creek Blvd/Rd/St (whatever it's called) --- it runs north-south between Mopac and Burnett. There's also a nice north-south drive on the west side of Mopac, Balcones Drive.
If you have a chance to explore south of the river/lake in central Austin, then you must check out Travis Heights. But you have to explore. The main roads want to take you away from the best parts of that area. Follow the road less travelled and you will discover the wonders of the greatest neighborhood imaginable if you're into beauty, greenery, architecture and funk all combined.
If you like the more conservative McMansion side of life, then I hope you don't move to Austin, nothing personal against you. We're being inundated with that type of development and it's ruining the original character of a quirky and gorgeous oasis in a nation that churns out malls, freeways and ostentatious displays of wealth as if there was anything of value to such artifacts of this transient aspect of post-industrial living. Seek the unusual side of things, enjoy the trees and the creeks and the yard art in the funky neighborhoods. And remember, life is slower here --- your waitperson might stand and chat with you a bit rather than rushing to get your order filled, and that's part of the charm of living here which is quickly being lost to the impatience of wealthy migrants from New York and California.
So you've been to the well-known big places. The view from the Oasis is nice but the food sucks. Chuy's is amusing and fun but has marginal food. There are much better Tex-Mex and Interior-Mex restaurants that you'll learn about.
Make sure to go to a First Thursday (the first Thursday night of every month, on South Congress Ave.) and spend an hour or two soaking up the vibe.
If you like ethnic foods, check out Thai Tara on Sixth St. --- it's not great for atmosphere but it has an amazingly innovative menu, yummy food, and reasonable prices. There are so many recommendations to make, and I'm way behind in my knowledge of this town because I've been a shut-in for most of the past 3 years.
There are so many scenic routes, it's difficult to recommend one. What is it you'd like to do with your investor? Show him/her neighborhoods, get lunch or something?
I'd say the most scenic drive in Austin, considering natural beauty, terrain, and some pretty houses/buildings, would be 2222 west of Mopac. Pick up your investor at the airport or hotel, and head out to 2222 and Mopac. I've listed a potential loop below, might be a very nice drive if you have a little time.
- Take 2222 west to 360. Twisty, nice limestone cliffs, high-end neighborhoods (Cat Mountain, Northwest Hills, Cliff over lake Austin).
- If your investor hasn't been to Austin before, you might want to go ahead and continue on 2222 to 620 and just beyond, to Oasis Bluff (there is a new upscale development on the hill there, Villa Montana or something) and take him to the Oasis... but if he's been to Austin, he's probably already done that. So maybe stop on 2222 just before 360 and go to the County Line. Good BBQ and you can sit right next to the water. But there are many, many dining opportunities if you go this whole route.
- Take 360 south from 2222... You'll pass another great neighborhood (The Courtyard), then Pennybacker bridge (360 Bridge)... keep going south on 360 till you hit Bee Caves road. You'll pass the upscale neighborhoods of Davenport, Rob Roy, etc. There is also the Wild Basin preserve, and scenic overlook along the way. If you want to make it a LONG drive, you could go west on Bee Caves and explore that area... maybe check out the Barton Creek neighborhood and country club (awesome if your investor likes golf). Otherwise, go east on Bee Caves back toward town.
- After going east about 6 miles on Bee Caves, you'll hit Mopac. Go under the highway and continue north on the access road. It becomes Barton Springs road, and you'll drive right through Zilker park. You may want to stop and check out Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Park, town lake trail, the sculpture garden (south side) or botanical gardens (north side).
- From Barton Springs Rd, if you want to see some really nice houses, you could take Stratford Drive north... may get lost, though, so bring a map.
- Continuing east along Barton Springs road, there is another nice restaurant row (Chuys, Shady Grove, etc) as you start getting back into the central part of the city. Then you could take Congress South, and stop by the shops and things along that road (More restaurants: Guero's and Vespaio are worthy of any guest). Then head back north on Congress to the hotel (assuming you are staying downtown)... The drive north on Congress towards downtown in another view you won't want to miss.
Take Enfield Rd/15th Street West until you dead end into Lake Austin Blvd.
Turn Right. You will now be on Scenic Drive. Some street names will change at the very beginning of the drive (Cherry Ln, Rockmoor Ave, etc.), but if you stay committed to keeping the car driving North and always taking the turns left, towards Lake Austin, you will return to Scenic Drive.
Continue on Scenic until you reach Pecos St. Turn left (North) on Pecos and then left on 35th.
Turn right on Balcones Drive and enjoy some more mansions. Continue up the hill until you reach the stop at Mt. Bonnell Drive. Turn left and you will dead-end into Mt. Bonnell Park.
Get out of the car and walk the park. Here you will have a western view of many expensive homes (including Michael Dell's estate) and an eastern view of downtown.
At this point, continue North on Mt. Bonnell Rd and eventually dead-end into 2222.
Turn left on 2222 and work your way down to Loop 360.
Left (South) on 360. Proceed across "The Bridge" (note the Austin Country Club front nine to the left), and turn left at the light on Westlake Drive.
Enjoy Westlake Drive, until you end up at a three way stop at Red Bud Trail.
Turn left on Red Bud, and you will again have a worthwhile view of the city and some hilltop mansions off Stratford Drive. Continue on Redbud and you will arrive at the Emmit Shelton Bridge. There is a very pretty park on the right that is worth a visit. Continuing on past the bridge, you will dead-end into Lake Austin Blvd.
Turn left on Lake Austin Blvd. Quickly to the left will be Chuy's Hula Hut that offers a good scenic deck to sit back and reflect upon the previous tour. If stopping doesn't interest you, drive a few hundred feet and you will be back to the beginning of the tour at Enfield road.
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