2015 AFM Best Of Editor's Picks

By Gretchen Goswitz – December 1, 2015

Best Guide to Austin Living

365 Things to Do in Austin

I consider the 365 Things blog and Instagram account (@365thingsaustin) to be the Austin equivalent of Oprah. With over 100,000 followers on Instagram, I’m assured that I’m not alone in my fondness for their content. Don’t believe me? Scroll through their feed. You could be deathly allergic to cats but their Pet of the Week post will have you considering a kitten adoption from the Austin Animal Center. It could be 8 a.m. and one of their sushi posts will have you yearning for a raw fish breakfast. They hit all the best restaurants, happy hours, shows and events. Plus, the frequent cityscape photos will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, while thinking to yourself, “I’m so lucky I live in Austin.”

We asked the experts at 365 Things to Do in Austin where to go for the best photo opportunities in the city. They delivered, and even threw in some pro tips:

The Boardwalk on Town Lake (Lady Bird): You can explore this photo opp on bike or foot. The new boardwalk, completed in 2014, yields some amazing views of our growing city and ever changing skyline. My favorite portion of the Boardwalk is the first quarter-mile where you enter when the trail ends heading east towards 35. During fall mornings you can get the most breathtaking sunrises followed by even more incredible sunsets.  


The HOPE Art Wall: File this one under “never gets old.” This is one of those Austin gems that really showcases what the city is all about. It’s one of the largest graffiti walls in Austin, full of life, character and charm. Plus, it’s never the same as artists are always adding new works of art. 
The story goes that it was a condo project that lost funding before it really took off, so the foundation is still there. Graffiti artists have made the once grey concrete an amusement park of color and art. You can explore all different levels, but don’t forget to climb to the top and enjoy the view of downtown from the top.  


The 360 Overlook: This is an easy trek to the top. Just a short trail ascends where you’ll find yourself nearly on top of the 360 bridge with a view of the Lake Austin, Austin Country Club, all the way to downtown. 

This is a popular destination for sunset watching, engagements and photo sessions. 

Park where it says “No Parking on Row” (eastbound on 360 just before the bridge).

Mount Bonnell: This was a place people gathered for photos long before Instagram. Mount Bonnell is one of Austin’s oldest touring attractions, dating back to the 1850s and is the highest point in Austin city limits reaching 785 feet tall. The 102 steps (give or take) lead to one of the most spectacular views of the city. You can see the University of Texas, downtown, the Capitol, and the 360 bridge. We recommend making it out there to watch the sun rise or set.


The UT Tower: This one is a two for one deal. The Tower is one of the easiest things to snap a photo of when you’re walking by or stuck in traffic. Bonus points for when it’s lit up burnt orange. 

Now the real treat is paying the six dollars and going to the top. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but trust me, that phrase does not do it justice. It’s so peaceful and relaxing at the top, not to mention the most incredible 360-degree view of our favorite city. 

The sunset tour is spectacular because you’re able to see the sunset to the West and the lights coming up over downtown to the South. 
You MUST make a reservation, but each time I have done it I was able to call on the day of the tour.


Best Restaurant

Thai Fresh

Nutrition is such a complex subject, and it doesn’t help that we’re constantly being informed that we need to change our diets for one reason or another. One day we’re abiding by the food pyramid, and the next we’re told that we ought to start adding butter to our coffee. I’ve always believed that everyone’s body thrives off a different diet, so speaking broadly and giving nutritional advice is tricky. 

That being said, I found it interesting that the top three picks for “Best Healthy Restaurant” were all vegetarian/vegan spots. On behalf of the omnivores, I have chosen Thai Fresh due to their flavorful dishes, gluten-free options and the importance they place on sustainable and responsible practices by using nearby resources. They use fresh vegetables from nearby farms such as Johnson's Backyard Garden and serve grass-fed beef from Bastrop and most meats are raised free of antibiotics and hormones.


Best Newcomer

OrangeTheory Fitness

In early 2015, Austin welcomed the Orangetheory franchise to the fitness scene. This one-hour workout is well-rounded, balanced by an interval training regimen dedicated to cardio and strength. Each person is given a heart-rate monitor that syncs to a few screens inside Orangetheory’s workout room. Throughout the workout, you can look at these screens to ensure that you’re in the right heart-rate zone or fat-burn zone. I love that this part of Orangetheory’s program allows you to be in control and better understand how to train effectively. I’m also a data geek, so I appreciate the post-workout e-mail Orangetheory sends you with a comprehensive report of how hard you worked and how many calories you burned (typically ranging anywhere between 500 and 1000!).


Best Way to Treat Yo’Self

Hiatus Spa + Retreat

I’m all about the “work hard, play hard” mentality. But if a healthy lifestyle is rested in the philosophy of balance, it’s necessary to slow down sometimes. My favorite place to unwind is at Hiatus Spa + Retreat. It’s centrally located with free and easy parking. I’d recommend trying one of the full-body retreats so you can experience the vichy shower (it’s life changing). Everything on the menu is relaxing and sensual, but there is one negative: leaving.


Best Incentive to Start Running

Austin Beer Run Club

The Austin Beer Run Club meets every Wednesday at Uncle Billy’s on Barton Springs Rd. The group runs a 5K and then recovers with a beer and social hour. For those who are of a less competitive nature, you'll fit right in. It's a casual environment, and has been said to be an especially great event for new Austin residents wanting to meet people and get a feel for what this city is about: fun and fitness.


Best Fitness Compeition


Not to toot our own horn, but…the AFM FITTEST is the city's only fitness event that tests speed, precison, agility, endurance and power. Whether you're wanting to see how you match up against other athletic Austinites, or you want to try something new, this event is something to look forward to every year.


Favorite Fitness Philanthropist

Caprice Richards

“I know not everyone is going to connect with me, and that’s okay. I just hope that they find something workout-wise or instructor-wise, that they do look forward to doing and that can change their life in a happy, positive way on the inside. I just think there is so much out there—there’s something for everybody.”



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