Fair grounds at Fareground food hall in downtown Austin


Twice last week I visited buzzed-about Fareground food hall on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, killing time before shows at the Paramount Theater. I’ve yet to see Fareground in the daytime, but at night the softly lit landscaping and plaza sure are enticing. (The stairs and outer plaza seating could actually use a little more light, for safety and usability.)

Looking down into the sunken plaza from street level, you view a hillside planted with Texas dwarf palmetto, sedge, and other low-maintenance, shade-tolerant natives. Stairs and a zigzagging ramp lead you toward a perforated white arbor sheltering a few dining tables.


The shade arbor floats over the outdoor dining area like a paper airplane wing. Daniel Woodroffe of Studio DWG, the landscape architect for the project, commented on one of my Instagram pics that the shade structure is called Nimbus.


Nearby, in the center of the plaza, stands a light sculpture consisting of 12 tall rods, which Daniel called Cloudscape. He said it “atomizes water into actual clouds that are choreographed into a show with light.” According to Studio DWG’s website, “Cloudscape, the iconic water feature at the center of the project, is powered by AC-condensation harvested from the tower.” Both times I visited, Cloudscape only shifted color slightly, from violet to purple, with no cloud-like formations that I could detect. Does it happen at certain times, I wonder? I’d like to see it.


Being a garden geek, I didn’t take a single picture inside the beautiful food hall itself. But I admired the contemporary seating options in the plaza and on the hillside, where turquoise Acapulco wire chairs are gathered around portable round-top tables. The lawn is faux, which is a smart choice for this dry-shade hillside that will see tons of foot traffic and butt lounging.


A wintry tree — a redbud, by the looks of it — awaits spring’s greening touch.


But overall the grounds look green and lush, in spite of our unusually cold winter. On the chilly nights when I visited, only a few hardy diners were sitting on the patio. Everyone else was packed into the indoor seating. But soon enough Fareground’s plaza and hillside lawn will be filled with happily noshing Austinites and visitors.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin this May 3rd-6th! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2018 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The twinkliest town in the Hill Country


If you want to see trees made of light and a charmingly illuminated main square, go visit Johnson City, a small town of 2,000 residents, located about an hour west of Austin. Every December they turn their town into a beautiful spectacle of light — called Lights Spectacular — and it’s all completely free and free of traffic jams.


We finally escaped a monster traffic jam near downtown Austin during Wednesday rush hour, and from there it was an easy drive with Texas-style Christmas tunes playing on Sun Radio. Ever heard Kacey Musgraves’s “A Willie Nice Christmas”?: May we all get higher than the angel on the top of the tree.

Ahem.


The most incredible display is at Pedernales Electric Co-op, where 1.2 million LED lights transform dozens of mature live oaks around their headquarters into branching, dazzling nebulae. Photos cannot convey how magical it is.


Being live oaks, the trees still have all their leathery leaves, which faintly reflect the lights, creating a cloud-like halo above the sinuous trunks.


And ah, those trunks and branches and limbs of light! Each one is picked out in exquisite detail through masses of lights. Larger lights thread through the leafy canopies above.


Kids run around under the lights, couples hold hands, and families gaze upward, their faces illuminated by the arboreal glow.


After walking around the co-op to view all the trees, we strolled a couple of blocks over to the town square to admire the waterfall effect of lights hanging from the Blanco County Courthouse.


On the courthouse lawn a reindeer paddock contains Santa’s herd until Christmas Eve.


The surrounding businesses get in on the action too.


Lots of lights and plenty of small-town charm.


Maybe some of these are residential homes?


I love this one.


This house has its own tree of light.


Back at the co-op, a light-adorned tractor was pulling hayriders around, and a food truck offered cups of hot chocolate. A guy playing a guitar sang Christmas carols under the trees.


This place will take the stress out of your holiday.


And as Kacey sings in her Willie song:

I hope you have a really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas
And Willie Happy New Year too
Have a Willie happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad-ukkah
A Willie happy Kwanzaa ’cause it’s all the same
A Mele Kalikimaka, hey
Whatever way you wanna say
Just have yourself a
Really, really, really
A really, really Willie nice Christmas

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Austin shines brightly at Trail of Lights and Zilker Tree


Five years have slipped by since we’ve walked Austin’s beloved holiday light display at Zilker Park called Trail of Lights. When our kids were little we went every year, and our last visit was in 2012, but this year it was just me and my husband keeping the family tradition alive. And it is still magical, silly dinosaur displays and all, mainly because of the park’s majestic trees, themselves transformed into brightly lit, many-armed holiday creatures.


Colored green, pink, orange, and blue, Zilker’s pecans and oaks glow festively along the trail.


Photo-op stages are set up here and there, like this one resembling Austin’s Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360, with a view of Zilker Christmas Tree beyond.


A Ferris wheel and carousel have been added since we last attended, adding a carnival festivity.


The colorful trees seem to embrace the rides too.


Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned carousel?


Well, maybe that one boy. (But I bet he secretly loves it too.)


It was cold, and we didn’t ride. But I enjoyed the colorful scene.


It would be hard to pick a favorite color tree.


Maybe red?


A glowing blue tree messed with my cell phone camera, but I kind of like the effect.


A serape-wearing, jackalope-riding cowboy delivering toys makes a Texas-style version of Santa Claus.


From the Trail of Lights we walked across Barton Springs Road to see the Zilker Holiday Tree, an Austin tradition for 51 years.


Standing 155 feet tall and anchored by a Moon Tower, this tree of light rises high above the trees in Zilker Park and can be seen glowing from afar against the backdrop of downtown Austin.


But just looking is no good. You have to stand under the lights and spin. When you’re dizzy and laughing, you’ll know you’ve done it right.

1, 2, 3 — SPIN!

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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