Safe Spaces in Austin

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in Digital Issue V. 

When life feels hard or unfair, we all need a place to run to. In Austin, we are blessed with a myriad of options of spaces that feel inviting and safe.


For so many of us, the mere fact that we are living in Austin is a happy thought — so enjoying the city and its green landscapes are enough to remind us of why we’re here. Whether it’s strolling down Congress Avenue and taking in the city skyline or wandering through one of Austin’s many bike trails, we all have a spot that we go to feel safe when life is tough. Here are some of the ORANGE ATX staff’s safe spaces in Austin.

Pleasant Valley Road — Tess Cagle

My favorite motto for myself whenever I am in a terrible mood is “when in a funk, go for a walk.” I came across the riverfront off Pleasant Valley Road and Riverside as I was driving a new route to school one day. It’s the kind of place that makes you do a double take (which is kind of dangerous when driving) because it comes out of nowhere and is absolutely breathtaking. The riverfront has a great walking trail and a gorgeous view of downtown. It has all the great qualities that popular parks in Austin, like Zilker, but without the crowds. The river has grown to be my happy place — some of my most inspirational moments in college have happened there. I’m partially convinced that place is magical, and I hope anyone who ventures to that spot on the East side feels the same. I mean, how can you possibly go wrong with a place that has the word “pleasant” in its name, anyway?

Photo by Tess Cagle

Photo by Tess Cagle

Shoal Creek — Kassidy Curry

Whenever I have a lot on my mind, I like to walk from my place in West Campus to Shoal Creek on Lamar Boulevard. Depending on my mood, I’ll make a Spotify playlist, catch up on one of my favorite podcasts or unplug and listen to the world around me. Shoal Creek has become one of my favorite places because despite being so close to campus and downtown, it feels far away. Plus, I have a variety of places to walk to and things to see. I can either walk alongside the busyness of Lamar Boulevard or on the quiet of the trail. I also have the option to go towards Pease Park and downtown or up further into some of the quieter neighborhoods. There are plenty of scenic areas to stop and sit on the trail as well. My favorite spot is near 34th Street, where there is a calm, open area with stone benches surrounding a big oak tree. A bonus is that Shoal Creek also seems to be a favorite spot for dog-walkers, and seeing all of the happy dogs running around gives me an instant mood boost. Shoal Creek is an easy place for me to get away and enjoy some nature.

Barton Springs Road to The Colorado River — Jacqueline Ramos

As an Austinite, I love spending time outdoors and in the sun on any day of the week. This is especially true when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life. To forget about my deadlines for a couple of hours, I first go down to Barton Springs Road with my friends. On Barton Springs, you can find Sandy’s Hamburgers where they serve the best frozen custard in town. Their traditional vanilla, strawberry and chocolate flavors give me the tasty distraction I need. After our indulgence, we walk across the street to Butler Park where you can find Doug Sahm Hill. Doug Sahm Hill is my favorite part of Austin because it has the best view of the city skyline. It doesn’t matter that I have sat on that hill hundreds of times over the last 12 years, I still fall in love with the view it gives me of my hometown. I am filled with nostalgia and memories from elementary school trips to awkward high school dates and the time my friends and I sat upon the hill at 2 a.m. during our orientation at The University of Texas at Austin. To end our day, we like to canoe down Lady Bird Lake. Something about being rocked from side to side while dipping my fingers in the water calms me down and helps me recharge for what I have ahead. The area is such a familiar place to me that it will always make me feel at ease.

Photo by Jacqueline Ramos

Photo by Jacqueline Ramos

Lake Hills Park — Cierra Smith

One of the most beautiful and relaxing places in Austin for me is a little neighborhood park  called Lake Hills. Though it’s a bit of a drive from the UT campus, it makes up for it in gorgeous views of the lake from its boat dock, a basketball court and a sand volleyball pit. There are always people of all ages enjoying the view, and dogs can be seen running around or jumping into the water. On a nice day, a jump into the lake feels fantastic, while other times my friends and I have gone there to play late-night basketball games. Just getting near the water and laying on the court while looking up at the stars is incredibly refreshing, and I can forget about due dates and demands for a little while. It’ll always be one of my favorite spots.

Congress Ave — Zoya Zia

Photo by Zoya Zia

Photo by Zoya Zia

When stress and uncertainty stare down at me with little remorse, I take walks. My favorite place is Congress Avenue, specifically by the State Capitol. Inspired by the sweet stench of political discourse, I people-watch. Some have picnics on the grassy lawn in front of the Capitol, while others take their dogs on adventures. Cafes, restaurants and museums line the streets. As people go to and fro, I spend a few moments breathing in fresh air. Inspired by Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle from “Parks and Recreation,” I take an oath to treat myself. Sometimes I nap, other times I splurge on overpriced drinks and all-you-can-eat pasta. If I can, I stick around until the evening. Skyscrapers are the perfect backdrop to a Texas sunset, demonstrating that even in a hectic lifestyle, there is always time to marvel at nature. Although I don’t always want to be around people, I am surprisingly at ease among the hustle and bustle on Congress Avenue. Nature and city collide, and the opportunities to treat myself are endless.

Roberts Piano Lounge — Jenan Taha

Though I am new to Austin and haven’t quite found my relaxation oasis, I have discovered a secluded spot on campus that allows me to be alone and forget about my woes. Whenever I feel frazzled and want to run away from my responsibilities, I like to stop by the Roberts piano lounge, located deep in the basement of Roberts Hall on UT’s campus. Playing musical instruments, especially piano, has always helped me cope with schoolwork stress, so having a piano all to myself is pretty convenient. The lounge is far removed from the rest of the dorm, allowing me to cathartically smash down on those piano keys as loud as I want without annoying residents. At a university with tens of thousands of other students, it is comforting to have a space where I can be completely alone.