September 10, 2018 | Photo Credit: Nicole Boddington
They say everything is bigger in Texas. In the state capital of Austin, this goes for music, film, sports, art and technology, all of which culminate at SXSW in March. Austin is one of the most diverse, creative, innovative cities in the country — and still one of the fastest-growing. It prides itself on being weird (after all, its motto is “Keep Austin Weird”), but we’d like to recognize it for being well.
In the fitness and wellness space, Austin is the HQ for Onnit, Camp Gladiator, 5 Star Nutrition and Outdoor Voices, to name a few. It’s also home to Lake Austin Spa Resort (named #6 Best Wellness Retreat in the World by Condé Nast Traveler) and will soon welcome Miraval Austin, opening this fall. Another reason to visit in the fall is Austin City Limits, a music festival held in October. While a typical evening in Austin is best spent two-stepping at The White Horse or sipping mezcal at Whisler’s, there are ways to be well in Austin, because we are big on balance.
Casa de Luz | This vegan café offers a holistic approach to nutrition and well being with a healing arts space for meditation and yoga and a center for integral studies on site. Just walking to the café along the garden path under a canopy of trees decreases your stress levels. Each full meal is $12 and includes a tea, soup, salad and entrée with grains, beans, greens and fermented foods. Dine al fresco to the sound of wind chimes and birds chirping while you “eat the rainbow” on your plate. 1701 Toomey Road.
Clark’s | Clark’s is a chic neighborhood spot that serves fresh raw oysters a la carte. We don’t need a scientific reason to love oysters, because they are delicious, but they are actually good for us, too: 16 grams of protein per six ounce serving and rich in vitamin C, B12, zinc, selenium and iron. Order a half dozen, and make a meal out of it by adding a side of oak grilled Brussels sprouts, Tuscan kale or roasted cauliflower. 1200 West 6th Street.
June’s All Day | A favorite brunch spot on South Congress for its creative French cuisine. Opt to sit outside on the patio for prime people watching. Start with the Favorite Juice (orange-carrot-ginger-espelette), and try the housemade granola with stone fruits, pine nuts, pecans, sesame and choice of milk or Greek yogurt. The snapper carpaccio is a bright choice with fermented citrus, avocado and tangerine. You can’t go wrong with the farm egg omelette with salad. 1722 South Congress Avenue.
The Launderette | Located in a former laundromat, The Launderette is our favorite place for vegetables. Here, they aren’t treated like a side item. You get big, hearty, meant-to-be-shared-family-style servings of grilled broccoli, sweet potatoes and whatever else is in season and on the menu. They also have great burgers, frites, cocktails and desserts like arugula basil cake and birthday cake ice cream sandwiches, but you didn’t hear that from us. 2115 Holly Street.
Flat Track Coffee | Two things we love: coffee and bikes. Flat Track combines the two as a coffee bar and bike shop. It’s sort of like if The Meteor Café (located in Little Rock, Arkansas) had a dirty hipster brother, it would be Flat Track Coffee. (Good news for Austin, The Meteor is landing this fall on South Congress.) 1619 East Cesar Chavez Street.
Jo’s Coffee | The photo op you’ve been waiting for: the “I love you so much” mural is on the side of Jo’s Coffee building. The coffee is okay, but the culture is where it’s at with events like the annual pet parade, walking tours like morning walks and ghost walks and live music. 1300 South Congress Avenue.
Juiceland | This is our favorite smoothie spot post-Camp Gladiator or after a swim at Barton Springs (see below). With several locations around town, we prefer the original one nestled in a rock house filled with funky art and hippy dippy décor. It just makes us happy! Go-to order: Moontower (almond milk, banana, cacao powder, brown rice protein and dates). Add maca. 1625 Barton Springs Road.
BFREE Yoga | All levels yoga classes, workshops and events, including tarot readings and energy baths. 3110 Guadalupe Street.
Camp Gladiator | A four week group fitness program, Camp Gladiator does allow drop ins, or at least they did when we contacted them ahead of time. Each 60 minute class is typically held outdoors with several locations around town and different trainers and times to choose from. On our first ever class, we met at an indoor space, instead of Zilker Park, due to rain. It was a good mix of older and younger participants, men and women. Our instructor Heron safely led us through a series of high intensity intervals offering progressions and regressions for each move. It was hard but left us feeling strong, proud, empowered and hungry. We went directly to Juiceland (see above) afterwards. Locations vary; check website.
Mellow Johnny’s | Since 2008, Mellow Johnny’s has been Austin’s premier bike shop and social scene for cyclists, including Lance Armstrong who co-owns the place. Show up on Saturday morning for a casual, no-drop group ride, which means you won’t get dropped from the pack for going too slowly. This ride is intended for beginners (15-30 miles at a 12-16 mph pace). For a pre-ride refreshment, meet at Juan Pelota Café, 30 minutes before start time. Check website for start time as it changes seasonally. 400 Nueces Street.
Barton Springs | The swimming hole of your dreams, Barton Springs is a favorite summer hot spot. And, in Texas, summer lasts into October. The water is spring fed, so it stays cold year round — the kind of cold that makes your heart beat fast. Instead of easing in, it’s best to stand in line with the kids and jump off the vintage diving board. You’ll definitely feel like a kid again. 2201 Barton Springs Road.
Lady Bird Lake | With its proximity to downtown and beautiful views of the city skyline, Lady Bird Lake is a popular place for canoeing, kayaking and SUP. Because no motorized boats are allowed, it’s a calm lake for leisurely paddling. There are eight access points. A convenient one is Zilker Park where you’ll find free parking. There are also boat rentals available there. In addition to being on the water, there is a 10-mile hiking and biking trail around the lake which connects to Zilker Park, Barton Springs and the Barton Creek greenbelt. For more info, visit the Austin Visitors Center at 602 East 4th Street.
Feathers Vintage Boutique | The best vintage shopping around, Feathers is a stop we always make in Austin. We love their collection of classics (denim, leather jackets and band tees), but there’s always something a little out there (fringed, ruched, embroidered or sequined) that takes us by surprise — and inevitably ends up coming home with us. Hey, vintage is good for the environment, right? Just doing our part to recycle and reuse. 1700 B South Congress Avenue. (Photo credit: FeathersBoutiqueVintage.com)
Kick Pleat | Carrying designers like Black Crane, Jesse Kamm and Rachel Comey, it’s a well-curated shop of modern, minimalist pieces for the closet we wish we had. 624 North Lamar.
Outdoor Voices | Founded by 29-year old Tyler Haney, Outdoor Voices is a brand of activewear for doing things recreationally. It’s not about competition; it’s about community. When you visit their shop, ask about upcoming activities. They host yoga in the park, group bike rides, hikes and jogs on a regular basis. Tag #doingthings in your Instagram posts. 606 Blanco Street. (Photo credit: OutdoorVoices.com)
STAG | This one’s for the boys. Stag Provisions for Men carries cool stuff for the cool dude in your life. Bring him a souvenir from your next girls trip, or buy that Malin + Goetz eucalyptus shower gel that you know you want to use for yourself. Pro tip: The Willie Nelson mural on the side of the building makes a good photo op. 1423 South Congress Avenue. (Photo credit: Muralist Joe Swec for Stag Provisions via StagProvisions.com.)
Austin Motel | Located on South Congress, you’ll know the Austin Motel for its famous sign with messages like, “So close yet so far out.” There are 41 bright, stylish guest rooms and suites, a swimming pool with retro red and white umbrellas and a boutique in the lobby. Weekend rates start at $275/night. 1220 South Congress Avenue.
Hotel St. Cecilia | A Bunkhouse property, Hotel St. Cecilia offers you privacy you won’t find anywhere else with only five rooms, six poolside bungalows and three studios. The secluded property with lounge, lush grounds and swimming pool (the photo op here is the iconic neon sign that reads: SOUL) are open only to hotel guests. A splurge, rates start at $750/night. 112 Academy Drive.
Hotel San Jose | Like Hotel St. Cecilia, Hotel San Jose is a Bunkhouse property. It’s clean, minimalist design is a welcome reprieve from the busy artsy Austin scene. You can chill here. Some of the fun amenities include the swimming pool, bike rentals, use of typewriters and Polaroid cameras and Jo’s Coffee (see above) delivered to your room. Jo’s is located in the parking lot of this hotel. Rates start at $300/night. Dogs are welcome for a $20/night fee with dog beds and dog bowls available at the front desk. 1316 South Congress Avenue.
South Congress Hotel | Also located on South Congress, as its name suggests, this hotel offers 71 guest rooms, 10 suites and two premier suites. We love the lobby bar. It’s a fun place for a happy hour cocktail or a date; it’s sophisticated but doesn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the smiley faces hanging above the bar. Weekend rates start at $399/night. 1603 South Congress Avenue.
Have another recommendation? Share it with us in the comments below…
Arkansas native Nicole Boddington is a writer and group personal trainer in Little Rock. She is the founder of Bodd Camp, which connects women through fitness, wellness and togetherness. Follow along @boddcamp on Instagram.