Historic Landmarks With Killer Views
Putting Austin in perspective
By Shaundra Smith,
2:00PM, Wed. Jun. 15, 2016
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the saying goes. It’s all a matter of perspective, but one must admit, we can all see that Austin appeals to just about any eye. Passing through Austin via I-35 can give you ample time in traffic to look around, but the short stretch of highway quickly opens up to reveal the city’s depth and expansiveness.
Looking at the city from a different angle, one grasps that there’s more that lies beneath. Don’t be shy. Let’s look around. And, as you bring your own perspective to the table, here are some vantage points you might wish to explore for starters:
Give your glutes a workout and ascend a long, steep set of steps. Go ahead and throw your arms up, Rocky-style. Where are we, you ask? Mount Bonnell, is the name. This peak, which is named after George W. Bonnell who served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Texas Republic, leads to a small pavilion and brief rocky stretches of trail on either side, all lining Lake Travis. The panorama is breathtaking as you look out at the boats, kayakers, and million-dollar mansions speckled below. Warning: superiority complex may be a possible side-effect. Also, it’s a great spot for a picnic with friends or just some plain ‘ol solitude.
Now let’s walk back down the steps.
Next stop is ... no, we’re not at the Alamo (and we hope it wouldn’t be mistaken as such) but at the Elizabet Ney Museum. This is the former studio, Formosa, of Miss Ney, a 19th century German sculptor who both entertained and utilized notables as her subject matter. One even envisions a battle fort that’s magically tucked away in this residential neighborhood of Hyde Park and seems to visually convey her powerful art. She was indeed ahead of her time in an occupation deemed “inappropriate” for a woman, but she avidly pursued her work. Inside, you’ll find Ney’s spirit captured within the walls and in her remarkable clay portraits, trap doors, and even a teeny, tiny spiral staircase leading to the top of her tower where you can sit at her desk, look out of the surrounding windows and type. Step into her shoes for a moment. Donations are welcomed.
If you want more of stately view but still want to wear your Converse, head over to a building with massive presence in which all Downtown roads seem to lead to: The State Capitol building. Its natural magnetism pulls you into its majestic facade of sunset-red granite. Upon entering, it seems like a maze of hallways, but if you decide to take the guided tour (highly recommended), you’ll understand the order of things, architecturally and historically. The rotunda is a sight to see as you gaze upon the Great Seal below your feet and look up to a dome filled with dignified portraits of presidents of the Republic and state governors encircling the crowds. If you’re more of a self-guided person, don’t forget to check out the Senate chambers (the House chambers are closed for renovation) and the underground Capitol extension. You may come upon a brilliant view of the Goddess of Liberty at the very top.
So, I’m guessing you’ve worked up an appetite about now, so why not head over to Waller Creek? Named after Austin’s first mayor and city planner, Edwin Waller, it meanders all the way from North Austin to its base, or Waller Delta, by the Waller Creek Boathouse (74 Trinity) where you can start your day rafting, boating, or checking out the knot-ical (pun so intended) Hurlyburly installation by Orly Genger. If one follows it down Red River Street from the Boathouse, one will encounter the best and worst of Downtown Austin.
Finally, if you’re still sober, stretch out those legs one more time, and let’s make one quick trip while we’re here by Lady Bird Lake. Waller Creek empties here, and after lunch/dinner/breakfast, we can head to the Lamar Boulevard Bridge overlooking the lake via the connecting Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. This bridge is a World War II-era steel highway, and hell, just being here could lead you naturally wandering to a new place or even an old place to behold.
The 2016 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Convention takes place July 6-9 in Downtown Austin.