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Walking down Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, it's easy to hear why the Texas capital declares itself "The Live Music Capital of the World." With its many live music venues (more per capita than other music cities like Los Angeles or Nashville), temperate climate, lush parks, and hilly terrain, Austin holds a special place in the hearts of many.
In addition to the young folks drawn to Austin to pursue their music careers or follow their favorite band, Austin is also home to the University of Texas at Austin, the fifth largest university in the USA with nearly 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 16,500 faculty and staff.
Austin was listed second in the Best Big City category of "Best Places to Live" by Money magazine in 2006, and the "Greenest City in America" by MSN in 2007 ("Greenest" referring to a commitment to sustainable living).
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Downtown Austin music scene revolves around the many nightclubs on 6th Street running east from Congress street toward Red River Street, which tend to draw young crowds. An older crowd can be found in the Warehouse district centered along 4th street, running west from Congress. In addition, there a few gay bars along 4th street as well.
The University of Texas is located north of the downtown core, and the large campus provides a nice place for a stroll. The most famous building on campus is the Main Building with its 27-story tower topped by four 12-foot wide clocks and a 56-bell carillon, the largest in Texas. Designed by architect Paul Cret, the tower is a symbol of the university and a landmark visible from most places on the campus and from most locations throughout the city. UT, as it is known, is also home to some excellent collegiate sports teams, with football and basketball leading the pack. The area to the west of the University along Guadalupe Street is known as "The Drag" and has a number of restaurants and stores catering to students.
The Texas State Capitol at Congress and 11th, Originally designed by Elijah E. Myers, it was constructed from 1882–88 under the direction of civil engineer Lindsay Walker, and a $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The Capitol Visitors Center is located at 112 East 11th Street (southeast corner of the Capitol grounds). Self-guided tours of the Capitol and Grounds are available during business hours. Self-guided tour literature is also available in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. The English version can be downloaded from the State Government's website.
The Congress Avenue Bridge houses the world's largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats. Starting in late February, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge's expansion and contraction zones as well as in long horizontal grooves running the length of the bridge's underside, an environment ideally suited for raising their young. Every evening around sunset, the bats emerge in search of insects, an exit visible on weather radar. Watching the bat emergence is an event that is popular with locals and tourists, with more than 100,000 viewers per year.
The largest collection of art in Central Texas is housed in the Blanton Museum of Art, located at the intersection of Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The museum's permanent collection of more than 18,000 works is recognized for its European paintings, an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art. The museum is part of the University of Texas at Austin, so students and faculty, as well as museum members, enjoy free admission. Admission fees for all other visitors range from US$3 to $7; admission on Thursdays is free for everyone. The museum is closed Mondays.
The Austin Zoo is a non-profit rescue zoo and animal sanctuary located in Austin, Texas. Housing over 300 animals belonging to over 100 species, the zoo is located in the Oak Hill neighborhood just north of US Highway 290.
South by Southwest festival actually are 3 festivals in one - a music festival, a film festival and a new media festival. For those outside of those industries, however, the big draws are the chance to see live music and new films. The festival is usually in March, with 2008 dates running from March 7 through March 16. More information can be found at South by Southwest's offical site
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is an annual three-day music and art festival in Austin, Texas's Zilker Park. The Festival brings together more than 130 bands on eight stages, including rock, country, folk, indie, Americana, hip-hop, reggae, and bluegrass, and attracts a crowd of about 65,000 visitors each day. The festival runs the last two weeks of September.
In general, Central Texas has a temperate climate with mild winters. However, summers can get hot and stay hot for weeks on end. Temperatures can easily hit 40 °C or a little more from June to August (absolute high is 44.4 °C). On average though temperatures are between 32 °C and 35 °C during the day and 20-23 °C at night. Winters are from December to February with average highs of 16-18 °C and lows of 4-7 °C, though temperatures have been known to drop below -15 °C in some colder years!
|Avg Max||14.9 °C||17.4 °C||22.2 °C||26.3 °C||29.3 °C||32.8 °C||35 °C||35.3 °C||32.5 °C||27.8 °C||22.1 °C||16.7 °C|
|Avg Min||3.7 °C||5.6 °C||10.6 °C||15.4 °C||19.2 °C||21.9 °C||23.3 °C||23.3 °C||21 °C||15.6 °C||9.9 °C||5.1 °C|
|Rainfall||43.4 mm||55.1 mm||47.5 mm||65 mm||121.4 mm||94.5 mm||51.8 mm||52.1 mm||83.8 mm||87.1 mm||60.2 mm||47.8 mm|
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Austin's airport is Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (IATA code AUS), located 5 miles (8 kilometres) southeast of the city. It only serves US cities, though there are seasonal flights (December to April) to/from Cancun.
The approximate cost of a taxi from the airport to downtown is $20 - $30 depending on traffic conditions, and should take 20 minutes. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) operates "Airport Flyer" bus services to and from the University of Texas main campus, stopping in Downtown Austin each way. A bus to downtown is available at a cost of $0.50, and also takes approximately 20-30 minutes. Check the schedules online.
Amtrak runs service to Austin on the The Texas Eagle route. The Texas Eagle is a 1,306-mile (2,102 kilometres) passenger train route that runs daily between Chicago, Illinois, and San Antonio, Texas. Details on schedule and pricing can be found at the Amtrak website. The station is at 250 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX, at 3rd street, west of the downtown.
Interstate 35 runs north-south through the city and connects Austin to San Antonio to the south, and Waco, Temple, Dallas, and Fort Worth to the north. US Highway 290 traverses the city from west to east, and leads to Houston to the east and Fort Stockton and El Paso (via Interstate 10) to the west.
Austin is served by Greyhound bus service. The terminal is located at the intersection of E. Koenig Lane and Middle Fiskville Road, on the southeast side of Highland Mall. Several moderately-priced hotels are within walking distance of the terminal, though it should be noted that the terminal is several miles north of the city center (downtown). Downtown as well as other destinations may be reached by taking the city bus, which is run by Capital Metro.
An interactive map can be found at Map Network.
Austin is easy to navigate by car. Parking is free virtually everywhere except in downtown and around the university.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Capital Metro runs public buses in Austin. The website has a trip planner. Base bus fare is $0.50, though some buses require additional fares. The trip planner will outline the cost of the trip.
Generally, the feasibility of seeing Austin by foot depends largely on the weather
For those content to see only downtown Austin and who are in good shape, exploring most of the downtown area on foot is possible. There are many attractions within a 1-2 mile walk from most downtown hotels. Just be prepared for potentially oppressive heat during the summer months.
The University of Texas area, just north of downtown, is also very pedestrian friendly, and in fact can be a difficult place to get around by car (very hard to find a parking spot).
Though there are some exceptions, most of downtown Austin is reasonably bike friendly. There is a high concentration of cyclists in the city, and many trails around town.
Austin is hilly to the west but generally mildly sloping toward the river in the center of town. There are bike lanes on most major streets. Biking is a great way to get around year round and the weather is usually agreeable from mid-October to mid-April.
Austin has many high-end, destination restaurants, but it also has many high-quality, unique, and inexpensive restaurants where the locals eat, drink, and socialize every day (all day). It's a town built for living in, and the affordable, excellent restaurants show it. Just so you know you're in Texas, Austin has a large number of places serving Texas Barbeque and Tex-Mex; many of them are venerable, famous, and exceptionally good eating.
Austin is vegetarian-friendly, and many restaurants have a good selection to choose from. Most supermarkets such as HEB, Fiesta and Randall's offer inexpensive prepared food.
Austin is coffee mad. The coffeehouse culture is strong and growing here in Austin, and you can hear poetry and live music at quite a few of these places, as well as getting light eats. Coffeehouses are where the liberal heart of Austin beats for all to see. Free wireless Internet connections are very common (and available at many other businesses as well).
Note that many hotels sell out for Austin festivals, particularly South By Southwest. Book well ahead for anything downtown.
|Hostelling International Austin||2200 S. Lakeshore Blvd. 78741||Hostel||89|
|AAE Austin's Travelodge||6200 Middle Fiskville Road Austin||Hotel||-|
|Austin North Red Roof||8210North Interregional Hwy 35||Hotel||-|
|Americas Best Value Inn-Temple/North||915 N. General Bruce Drive||Hotel||-|
|Motel 6 Austin South - Airport||2707 Interregional Highway South Austin||HOTEL||-|
|Motel 6 Austin Central - North||8010 I-35 North Austin||Hotel||-|
|Firehouse Hostel||605 Brazos Street||HOSTEL||-|
© All Rights Reserved GregW
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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