About amber gugino

Amber Gugino loves living downtown and has been an active board member of the The Shore Condo Owners Association, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and member of the Junior League of Austin. She adores her dog, Blog, and she learns something new about downtown Austin every day.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lady Bird Lake Water Rentals

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lady Bird Lake Water Rentals

Lady Bird Lake, formerly known as Town Lake, is one of the Austin’s crown jewels. Year round, save for the scorching 100-plus heat days, the lake is a great place for locals, transplants and visitors to recreate.  One of the best ways to experience the water is by boat – canoe, kayak, pedal boat or  standup paddle board (abbreviated as “SUP”).

Since Aquafest, powered motor boats are forbidden on Lady Bird Lake, with exceptions for small electric motors.

SUP on Lady Bird Lake

SUP on Lady Bird Lake

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the top spots to rent canoes, kayaks, SUP boards and water bikes (if you’re one of these boathouses and have a special offer, let us know).

Before we get into it, a quick word about what to bring with you if it is your first time out

  • Sunscreen. (Cancer is no joke. Aaaand peeling skin isn’t sexy – take it from a pale red-head who has learned the hard way.)
  • Hat. (If you look like a freak, fly your freak flag proudly. State Troopers wear cowboy hats for a reason.)
  • Sunglasses. (Buy some cheapies that you won’t mind losing if you tip.)
  • Water-bottle. (For the beverage of your choosing if it is opaque and insulated)
  • Ziplock baggie for your phone. (You’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re not freaking about it.)
  • A valid Government Issued Photo ID or Driver license. (Required for rental.)
  • A credit card in the same name as the ID. (Required for rental.)

A word of warning: canoes are way easier to master than kayaks, which go off course really easy in a two-person setup.  If you’re prone to frustration or fights with whomever you’re going out there with, I’d stay away from kayaks.  Seriously, even Maverick and Goose would get frustrated with each other trying to paddle those things straight.

Sup Atx Paddle Board Rentals  (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: Open all daylight hours, seven days a week.
  • Fleet: SUP boards
  • Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $15 per hour.
  • Where: The published address 1541 W Cesar Chavez St, but the actual location is 2100 Stephen F. Austin Dr. (Best bet by car is to get there early and park under the Mopac bridge, or elsewhere along Stephen F Austin Drive and walk there along the lake trail.)
  • Phone: 512-467-7799

EpicSUP Standup Paddle Board & Kayak Rentals (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: 9 a.m to 7 p.m., seven days a week
  • Fleet: Single/Double kayaks, SUP boards
  • Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $15 per hour.
  • Where: 2200 S Lakeshore Blvd. (There location is behind the HI-USA Hostel. Best bet by car is to take advantage of public parking at 505 Barton Springs Road, and walk over.)
  • Phone: 512-423-4885

Congress Avenue Kayaks  (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 :30 p.m. (last rental goes out at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Fleet: Single/Double kayaks, SUP boards
  • Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $20 per hour.
  • Where: 74 Trinity St, Austin, TX 78701 (Best bet buy car is metered parking at the MACC and walk there the trail.)
  • Phone:  512-809-8916

Live Love Paddle (formerly Paddle Zen)  (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: Thursday to Monday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday: Noon to 5:30 p.m.; closed Wednesday.
  • Fleet: Single/Double kayaks, SUP boards, Canoes, NuCanoes
  • Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $15 per hour.
  • Where: 1610 E Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78741 (Office is located next to Radio Shack in ground floor of the AMLI Southshore building on Lady Bird Lake. Best bet by car is to use the surface/garage parking there.)
  • Phone: 512-804-2122

Austin Water Bikes  (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: Monday to Thursday, Noon to 6 p.m.; Friday – Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Fleet: water bikes
  • Price: $22/hour (check website for tours and other costs)
  • Where: 208 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704 (Located behind the Hyatt. Best bet by car is to take advantage of public parking at 505 Barton Springs Road, and walk over.)
  • Phone: 512-200-6555 

Texas Rowing Center (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: 6 a.m. to “dusk”; seven days a week
  • Fleet: Fleet: Single/Double/Triple kayaks, SUP boards, Canoes
  • Price: Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $15 per hour.
  • Where: 1541 W Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78703 (Best bet buy car is metered parking at the MACC and walk there the trail.)
  • Phone: 512-467-7799

Rowing Dock (Click for pricing)

  • Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.; seven days a week
  • Fleet: Fleet: Single/Double/kayaks, SUP boards, Canoes
  • Price: Weekday SUP rate benchmark: $15 per hour.
  • Where: 2418 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746 (Apparently, National Treasure 3 stars Nicolas Cage trying to find the place, so here are the company’s tips.)
  • Phone: 512-459-0999

~Amber

kayak

austin lifestyle downtown - lady bird lake

Downtown Austin News Bites

Downtown Austin News Bites

Fareground Austin Making Progress

Fareground Austin – Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

The renovation / remodel of the plaza in front of 111 Congress Avenue, being branded as Fareground Austin,  has been underway since last year, and things seem to chugging right along. The project has received loads of press in all the major news outlets and recently unveiled new renderings and announced an operator of the restaurant concepts that will be housed there.

Fareground Austin has utilized local talent for many aspects of the project, including dwg, Michael Hsu Architecture, lookthinkmake, and ELM Restaurant Group, among others.

Parkway Properties took full ownership of 111 Congress and San Jacinto Center last year and both properties have received / are receiving exterior improvements.

New Co-Working Space at San Jacinto Center

Rendering courtesy of Techspace's Facebook Page

Techspace coworking in downtown Austin

Another big player in the co-working vertical comes to the CBD.  We’ve written about other spaces before, and TechSpace seems to fit right in with the crowd, offering 28,0000 sf of flex co-working in a modern setting – perfect for small business enterprise.

New Juice Shop at 603 Brazos

Juicing _ Flickr - Photo Sharing

Courtesy Flickr: bertholf, https://goo.gl/zr4y0a

A permit is currently under review for a new juice shop to take over 820 sf of ground floor space at 603 Brazos (across from The Driskill and also referred to as 200 E 6th).  The concept will be named Jugo.  No other information as of now, but we’re definitely in support of the general concept!

Application Filed for Demolition of Austin City Music Hall

third-and-shoal-downtown-austin-real-estate

Third + Shoal tower to replace Austin Music Hall

It’s looking to be imminent: Austin Music Hall is out, and Third + Shoal is in.  The demolition permit was filed a couple of weeks ago, and is still pending, but Third + Shoal is pushing forward and putting out some nice marketing.  Check out the “preview book” by clicking on the image above.

Rainey Street District Gets Dry-Cleaning Service

one-click-cleaners-rainey-downtown-austin

New downtown Austin dry cleaner

As Rainey continues to grow, so do the neighborhood services options!  Recently, a neighborhood dry-cleaning service opened, One-Click Cleaners.  Welcome to the neighborhood, One-Click Cleaners, and we’re looking forward to seeing more resident-centric operators come to Rainey!

L’Estelle and Rainey’s Evolution

L’Estelle and Rainey’s Evolution

As far as Rainey bars go, I really like The Drafting Room at 88 1/2 Rainey.  Located on a plot of land right behind The Shore Condos in downtown Austin‘s Rainey Street District, and owned by inveterate downtown-er and Architect Craig Nasso since 1994 (read: WAY before Rainey Street was “cool”), the lot has evolved with the neighborhood and transformed what was an already a lovely home and office into two delightful, separate but intertwined (both are owned by Craig and Holly), pursuits of food and drink.

L’Estelle’s story on it’s website is actually much more eloquently written – check it out here.

If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s my favorite excerpt:

The architect of L’Estelle, then 26 years old, drove down Rainey Street in 1994 and spotted a little piece of “half-lot” that was merely a patch of dirt.  The fact that this lot was on a street named Rainey was especially of interest since his mother’s maiden name was Estele Rainey.  He bought it, nurtured it, planted every tree and bush and designed a plan for a long life on this little lot.  Twenty years ago, he built the back house as a live work office and decided to wait to build a front house when he could design it with a wife if he got married one day.

The architect eventually got married, but during that period, Rainey Street changed from a residential historic neighborhood into a bustling night life district. So the architect changed plans but held sensitively to his dream.  He designed and built a front house with his wife which would serve as a kitchen for the people and he converted his office into a quaint beer and wine bar – now the Drafting Room.  Together, they open their yard and their hospitality to all who enter, offering a real and authentic connection to the district, its history, and the comfort casual style of gathering under the stars with good drinks, food, and folks.  L’Estelle pays respect to their mother, Estele Rainey, the best cook in the family who serves as the advisor and contributor of many homestyle recipes for the preserves and sweets offered in the kitchen.

88 1/2 Rainey, Circa late 2012

88 1/2 Rainey, Circa late 2012

There’s truly a lot to love when it comes to what Craig and his wife Holly have carefully, tenderly created.  Their story is unique and their tie to the neighborhood is genuine; the architecture (and, hence, the vibe) is elegant, modern and comfortable; but, most importantly, the wine is great and the food is TO DIE FOR.

Bottom line: Go there.  You won’t regret it. And say hi to Holly and Craig when you visit; they are almost always there making sure things are running right.

p.s. – They are open for Sunday Brunch, too! Starts at 11am…

Drafting Room Facebook | L’estelle Facebook

Want a trip down memory lane?  Check out our 2012 Mega Post on Rainey with pics of what the street looked like not but 5 years ago…

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Co-working in downtown Austin has arrived, and competition is delivering flexible work spaces that are incredible.

WeWork is set to expand through to two additional floors (close to 1,000 new desks) in their current building right around the time of the opening of the 25,000 square foot Galvanize space in the Seaholm development.  Capital Factory, the original downtown Austin co-working/incubator/accelerator concept, is a major player in the market, as well.

Those large concepts look impressive, but aren’t a fit for everyone looking for a quieter space to be productive.  The result is that there are new co-working concepts leveraging smaller spaces in historic buildings.

As I walk into the space on the top floor of the Sampson Building on Congress Avenue, I am immediately struck by the quiet – audibly and visually.  The lack of distraction, hectic bustle, and co-working “flair” sets a much different tone than what I’m used to seeing in the other downtown Austin concepts (wework and galvanize), and the atmosphere is just one of the ways Open-Source Co-Working is trying to set itself apart from its larger competitors.

I’m a sucker for a historic building.  The patina and beauty that comes from being in a building like the [Read more…]

7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

“Dude, I’ve got these ideas, so many ideas burnin’ through my skull…”

Living in downtown Austin is great and like anything else, over time, you begin to form ideas on what could really make it better.  Not all of these are my original ideas – but they are all notions that I would support.

1) Downtown Austin Needs A General Store

We need a friggin’ Target, not another boutique doggy day care!

We’ve written about both of these things before, and it seems like quite a few folks are hopping on the urban Target concept (Target Express) bandwagon.

Target Express

Rendering of a Target Express concept – which is geared toward city dwellers

2) Building Spirit

The Grand Illumination in Richmond Virginia

It would be cool to see downtown Austin condo buildings unite for certain holidays (or for other specific reasons / causes).  One idea that I’ve seen floating around is allowing units within the buildings to decorate their respective balconies for the winter holidays, and perhaps do a neighborhood wide contest. Politics aside, it would be wonderful to see a coordinated effort to get people into the general spirit.

photo by Jessica Kilma

photo by Jessica Kilma

Halloween is also a wonderful opportunity for residents of downtown Austin condos to invite families within the community and otherwise to enjoy traditional trick-or-treating. The Shore, in coordination with DANA, has participated in a small scale version of this with much success (Although, I’m a bit biased, as this is an effort that I personally started).  Honestly, I’m not sure who gets more from this particular event, the families or the residents.

3) Ice Cream Truck with a Downtown Route

This kid went to the Rick Perry school of eating.

I would LOVE for downtown to have a traditional ice cream truck that regularly drives around the neighborhood (and perhaps have a route with specific stops so people could plan their ice cream indulgence).

There’s a stationary stand that just popped up next to Downtown Burgers on Cesar Chavez across from the Austin Convention Center, but it’s just not quite the same.

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

4) Boat Taxis / Gondolas to Cross Ladybird Lake

This isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

Before the 20th century, getting from downtown Austin to the South bank of the colorado river was done largely by… ferries!  It’s true, and you can see a historic plaque telling you about it on the hike & bike trail as you pass the Four Seasons hotel.

Bring it back!  Sure would make it fun to check out the hot spots on the South Austin.

5) Swimming in Ladybird Lake

lady-bird-lake-1

And, while we’re talking about the lake, I want to be able to swim in it, gosh dangit!  Full Kramer style.

Sure, it’s filled with trash, old steel rebar, and dog poo.  Those are solvable problems! Every few years Lake Austin is allowed to drain in order to clean up the duck weed.  So, what’s stopping this from happening on Lady Bird Lake and then get volunteers to remove debris?

KUT recently wrote an article explaining why it’s illegal to swim in the lake, and it’s chock full of great information.  The article, however, lacked any proposed solutions that would make the lake swimmable. 🙁

6) Non-terrifying Public Restrooms (Pay Per Use) like the Germans have

pay-toilet-europe

One of my favorite things about Germany is the preponderance of pay restrooms in public spaces (like rail stations, malls, etc).  McClean is among the most well-known of these types of facilities, and they are great. These restrooms require a very small fee (about $0.50) for use, and had attendants.  The restrooms were sparkling.  McClean’s motto is “clean, safe, and served” and that is 100% accurate in my experience.

I want some of these in public spaces downtown – like, real bad.  I am often petrified to use public restrooms in downtown Austin, and I can’t be the only one.

Recently, we discussed a new alley activation movement, and our friend and contributor Fred Schmidt highlighted the need for good, safe, public restrooms.  Seems like this idea could help make that a reality.

7) Personalized Mural Art for Condo Building Parking Spaces

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This one is a little out of left-field – but I just think it would be oh-so-cool.

With all the pretty new buildings popping up in downtown – the fact of the matter is that their corresponding garage spaces remain ugly – particularly on the “inside.”  Wouldn’t it be neat if each condo owner had the opportunity to work with an HOA approved artist to paint a personalized (within HOA set guidelines) mural in their parking space?  If a lot of owners got on board – it would absolutely TRANSFORM the ugliest parts of the condo buildings downtown into something unique, funky, and amazing.  Not to mention how it would be a wonderful opportunity to support local art in a truly cool way.

Some buildings are starting to get on board with general murals in their garages in “common” garage spaces (like entries and elevator bays – see above slideshow for a couple of Austin examples) but this would be an amazing extension of that effort in my opinion.  Many urban cities have been doing similar concepts for years – the concept I’m describing would be a slightly different version of what’s already being done (and, for the record, I would support these concepts, too!).

What ideas do you have for downtown Austin?