Public Space (Third Places) in Austin, TX
February 11, 2016 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Where can I spend an idle hour or two at midday within a mile of downtown Austin, TX? I am interested in both indoor and outdoor spaces where it is possible to spend an hour working on my laptop, reading a book, etc. I am especially interested in privately owned public spaces, but public is good too.

Bonus points for being especially interesting, aesthetically pleasing or comfortable, or little-known privately owned public spaces (e.g. a hotel lobby where people are welcome to hang out, a plaza or garden designed as a space where office workers can eat their lunches, the mezzanine area of a large skyscraper, a secret cafe tucked away on the third floor of a skyscraper, etc.)

This is a map of similar spaces in San Francisco, where most large-scale projects must include such spaces: In libertarian, planning-averse Texas, common space is harder to find.
posted by sleepy psychonaut to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Driskill Hotel lobby.
posted by mikecable at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Where downtown? Is any of the UT campus within your one-mile range?
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:36 AM on February 11, 2016

Best answer: I can't think of a reason why you couldn't sit in the Capitol rotunda or on the grounds.
posted by hrj at 6:40 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Where? Within a one-mile radius of the convention center, I suppose. UT is a little far north.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 6:57 AM on February 11, 2016

Yes, the grounds of the Capitol are absolutely lovely, and if you live here, your taxes pay for them, so you might as well enjoy them. Keep your eyes peeled, as there are known to be a few albino (or at least lutino) squirrels on the grounds!

The downtown public library (Guadalupe and 9th?) has some nice spots on the third floor next to windows to hang out for as long as you want.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:45 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're not too far from Republic Square, on Guadalupe between 5th and 6th. You're also right by town lake, which has nice spots all along the northern shore (head toward the Four Seasons).
posted by Gilbert at 7:48 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cafe Mundi is gone, but Yellowjackets Social Club, which is in the same space, definitely has that tucked-away vibe, with indoor and outdoor space.
posted by adamrice at 8:27 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wasn't sure if these places had to be free?

I'm a big fan of Waterloo Park which has some big spaces but then eases off towards abandoned looking as you get to its ends. UT Austin Library had (still do? not sure) a great place where you could sit among a ton of giant card catalogs. The Ransom Center has a Reading Room that is open and cool. Texas Memorial Museum has places to sit w/ laptops (but is not free) and has a snake in a jar. LBJ Library is free on President's Day (if you are going soon) otherwise not cheap but has great places to hang out. Mexican American Cultural Center is free, I've only been there for events but it's lovely and must have interior spaces. There are also a lot of rooftop pools at various hotels, not sure how accessible they all are, I remember sitting outside of this one and enjoying the view. Because of SXSW there aren't many totally unkown places but there are some boutique-y ones like Hotel St Cecila's poolside dining and the back patio at Hotel San Jose.

All that said, my favorite of all the places I've been in Austin is Whip In which is sort of part store, part music club and part cafe where you can get a bowl of goat meat. Not on the beaten path so maybe not the right answer for you but wirth the trip.
posted by jessamyn at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Almost exactly hitting your limit is the Faulk central library. I always liked spending time there.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Brew and Brew is just east of I-35 on 5th, I believe. It's a nice coffeeshop with craft beers. Definitely got the laptop working vibe.
posted by monologish at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are open to cafes/bars/restaurants -- I'd definitely head east --- Yellow Jacket, Brew and Brew as mentioned. Cenote is nice as well. There's also Alta's Cafe which has outdoor seating on the lake on Trinity.
posted by hrj at 10:56 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Halcyon on 4th - if you go in the early evening (6ish) you get to see all the staff from the gay bars come in and get caffeinated before their shifts. Great peoplewatching (and decent food/drink, too.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Capitol grounds
Anywhere along the river on the hike and bike trail between 35 and Lamar
Easy Tiger at 6th and Sabine
Whole Foods rooftop at 5th and Lamar
posted by bradf at 1:51 PM on February 11, 2016

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