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Austin, Texas Travel Guide
 
Last Updated: May-18-2015, Hits: 1,468, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Austin, Texas Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (65)
Restaurants (208)
Bars and Nightlife (81)
Attractions (47)
Services (24)
Maps (4)
Links (3)
Texas Travel Forum (1)
 
Location: North America
Geography: City
Vacation Type: Cosmopolitan
Popularity: Touristy
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Golfing, Nightlife, Food Destination, Boating, Cultural Attractions, Shopping, Spa & Wellness

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 885,400
Metro Population: 1,883,051
Land Area: 271.8 square miles
Elevation: 425-1000 feet
Country Dialing Code: 1
Area Code: 512 & 737
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: Central (CST) UTC-6/UTC-5 (Summer)
Current Time:

Introduction:
Austin is the capital of Texas, and is the second most populated state capital in the United States with about 880,000 people (non-metro area). Austin is the 4th largest city in Texas, but has a big town-small city feel. It is home to the University of Texas, and although Austin may have been a funky liberal college town in the past, it is all grown up now.

Austin is a vibrant and bustling city that maintains a community feel, and is a cultural oasis in the middle of a more conservative Texas. In Austin, the quality of life is important to it's inhabitants, and quality resonates all through the city in varying forms of food, crafts, music, and outdoor activities.

Geography:
Austin is located in Central Texas and occupies about 271 square miles. It is the southernmost capital of the contiguous 48 states and is the county seat of Travis County. The Colorado River runs through the city, and 3 man-made dams have created a series of small lakes that are popular recreation destinations. Right in town is Lady Bird Lake which offers 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Austin is interesting, because it is a geographical crossroads. It straddles the Balcones Fault, and to the east of the fault the city is flat with heavy clay soil. To the right of the fault, the city has rolling hills of limestone rock. I-35, a freeway that runs through Austin, is the geological and geographical border between the East and the Great Plains.

Austin's downtown area is located more or less in the center of the city on the northern banks of the Colorado River. Just to the north of downtown is The University of Texas at Austin. Just over the river (lake) to the south is the South Congress (SoCo) neighborhood, and this trendy area is riddled with bars and restaurants. Next door to the west is the South Lamar neighborhood that takes "Keeping Austin Weird" seriously with its artsy feel. The East Downtown neighborhood is even funkier with good food and nightlife options. Northern Austin is home to major shopping malls such as The Arboretum and The Domain, as well as high-tech company headquarters such as IBM, and Dell further north in Round Rock.

Brief History:
As early as 11,000 years ago, the Austin area was frequented by nomadic Native American tribes. In the 1830s, European settlers arrived in Central Texas. Texas settlers gained independence from Mexico, and in 1836, Texas became a republic. In 1837, the village of Waterloo was founded, and 2 years later was renamed Austin, and designated as the capital of Texas. The city is named after Stephen B. Austin, the "father" of Texas. He successfully colonized the region with over 300 families by advertising that a family could get 1280 acres at 12 and half cents per acre.

The capital was briefly moved between 1842-1846 by President Sam Houston who feared attacks by Mexican troops after they seized San Antonio. He moved the capital against the will of Austinites to Houston, and the city declined during this period.

In 1845, under the leadership of President Anson Jones, Texas joined the United States becoming the 28th state. In 1846, Austin was named as the capital of the state of Texas which it has remained since.

During the Civil War, Texas sided with the Confederates, although Travis County was largely against the effort.

Between 1880 and 1920, Austin's population tripled to nearly 35,000 people. The city continued to grow and the government focused on improving residential, education, and cultural functions which have largely shaped the city today.

People & Culture:
Austin is an eclectic blend of business and artistic types, and they are known for their welcoming and friendly spirit. It is worthy to note that the FBI ranked Austin as the second safest city in the United States. The famous motto in Austin is, "Keep Austin Weird", coined by a librarian calling in a pledge to a radio station show called "The Lounge Show" known for playing extremely eclectic music. When asked about why he pledged, he reportedly stated: "The show keeps Austin Weird". When he mentioned it to his wife, she thought it sounded like a slogan and ordered 1,000 bumper stickers, and the famous motto was born.

Today, it is a banner for keeping businesses local and spirit independent. Austinites proudly list the reasons they think their city earns this title with places like Hippie Hollow Park, a 100 acre clothing-optional public park on the shores of Lake Travis (It is the only clothes optional park in all of Texas). They have Roller Derby girls, and they have chicken shit bingo. They have a cathedral of junk, and they have a costume shop called, "Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds". They have a festival that celebrates Eeyore's birthday every year, and they have outstanding annual music festivals. Austin also has a yard art movement. "Yardists" decorate their yards all over town. Different tour companies give you a guided tour to the latest and greatest installations.

Austin has the world's largest urban bat colony with over 1.5 million Mexican Free Tail bats. They can be viewed during the spring-Fall evenings at the Congress Street Bridge.

Food & Nightlife:
Austin is an excellent food destination offering everything from upscale New American cuisine to amazing Texas BBQ to plenty of Tex-Mex joints. Austin is also a mecca of creative food trucks, and you can find inexpensive and tasty food anytime, anywhere. Unlike many other Texas destinations, the "farm-to-table", "eating local", or "whatever you want to call it" movement is alive and well here. It is no coincedence that Whole Foods started in Austin and is still headquartered there.

Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, so their nightlife is definitely happening. There are over 200 venues offering a variety of live shows, from hip hop to country and everything in between. 6th Street is a great destination due to it's densely packed plethora of bars, live music venues, tattoo parlors, and restaurants. It is known as the Bourbon Street of Austin. However, there are many places not on 6th street that are worth checking out. Imbibing is a big deal here, and so is patio culture - so virtually every restaurant and bar has a patio almost bigger than the indoors section. South by Southwest and Austin City Limits are revered music festivals that happen every summer in Austin, and although expensive, they are well worth attending.

Money & Costs:
You will find Austin to be a pretty reasonably priced destination in general, although it is more expensive than most of Texas. Beer and gas are less expensive than most places in the country. Hotel prices are by and large in the moderate range without too many options to either extreme. Dining offers a wider range with everything from inexpensive food carts to upscale dining.

There is an 8.25% sales tax in Austin at the time of this writing.

Like most cities in the U.S., banks, ATMs, and establishments that accept credit cards are plentiful. Tipping in restaurants follows the U.S. standard of 15%-20%.

Getting There & Around:
Austin Bergstrom International Airport is located to the southeast of downtown, and is only a 15 minute drive. It is serviced by most major airlines. Connections can also be made in the larger Dallas and Houston airports. Austin also serviced by Greyhound with a station on South Lamar. Megabus provides service from Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Autobus Americanos, Turimex Internacional, and Omnibus Mexicanos offer services to destinations in Mexico and some regional stops in the U.S. See the Services section of this guide for more informataion about the transportation options.

The table below shows the distances between Austin and nearby major cities.

City Miles
San Antonio 80
Waco 102
Houston 165
Corpus Christi 194
Dallas 195
Galveston 215

Austin is too sprawling and too hot to be considered a "walkable" city, unless you are visiting during the cooler months and limit yourself to a particular part of town (i.e. downtown). Otherwise, it is certainly in your best interest to have a car, or use public transportation/taxi services. If you rent a car, keep in mind that Austin has some toll roads, and your rental company may offer a toll road package. It is much less expensive to first find out if you will even need to use any toll roads during your stay, and then purchase a TxTag online.

Austin also has 2 car sharing services - Car2Go and ZipCar. Both services are pretty similar and allow you to use their website or app to locate a nearby available car. Book the car and then leave the it when you reach your destination, or you can hang on to it for more time. You can even book one for the day. If you relinquish the car, locate another nearby car for your return trip.

Austin, unfortunately, does not have great public transportation, however, it is improving. Capital Metro is Austin's public bus service which also offers "night owl" service to the entertainment districts late into the night. There is also the Capital MetroRail which runs from downtown to Leander in the north. It is unclear at this time whether this light rail service will be expanded in the future.

Another option is bicycle rentals. Although it won't get you from one end of the city to the other, it is a popular way to explore and enjoy some of Austin's many greenbelts and neighborhoods. There are a number of bike rental locations around the city.

Weather:
The climate of Austin is humid subtropical with hot summers, relatively mild Winters, and about 300 days of sunshine per year. Typically, Austin has long, hot summers with temperatures between 90-100 degrees. The winters are moderate to warm with some winter days in the 80's, and about 25 sub-freezing days per year. Most winter precipitation consists of light rain, and snow is very rare.

Because of the extremely hot and humid summers, the best times to visit are March-May and September-November. Keep in mind that these periods have the highest chances of thundershowers, but they usually don't last long.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Austin, Texas.


The table below shows the average weather averages for this region.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 62 65 72 80 87 92 96 97 91 82 71 63
Avg Low 42 45 51 59 67 72 74 75 69 61 51 42
Precipitation 2.20" 2.01" 2.76" 2.09" 4.37" 4.33" 1.89" 2.36" 2.99" 3.90" 2.95" 2.40"

Important Contacts:
  • Emergency - 911
  • Police (non-emergency) - 311 or (512) 974-2000
  • Directory Assistance - 411
Tips & Additional Information:
  • Austin is a rapidly growing city.
  • It is also one of the safest cities of its size in the country.
  • Austin can experience flash flooding during heavy rains. If you are driving and come across a washed out street, do not attempt to cross it.





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