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Texas State Capitol Building

Texas State Capitol Building

© GregW

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[1], and the "Greenest City in America" by MSN in 2007 ("Greenest" referring to a commitment to sustainable living)[2].




Dirty Dog Bar, Austin, Texas

Dirty Dog Bar, Austin, Texas

© GregW

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.



Sights and Activities

The Texas State Capitol

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.

Congress Avenue Bridge

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 Blanton Museum of Art

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.

Other Sights and Activities

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.



Events and Festivals

South by Southwest

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

Austin City Limits Music Festival

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.


  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.


  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.




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 Max14.9 °C17.4 °C22.2 °C26.3 °C29.3 °C32.8 °C35 °C35.3 °C32.5 °C27.8 °C22.1 °C16.7 °C
Avg Min3.7 °C5.6 °C10.6 °C15.4 °C19.2 °C21.9 °C23.3 °C23.3 °C21 °C15.6 °C9.9 °C5.1 °C
Rainfall43.4 mm55.1 mm47.5 mm65 mm121.4 mm94.5 mm51.8 mm52.1 mm83.8 mm87.1 mm60.2 mm47.8 mm
Rain Days5.



Getting There

Austin Train Station

Austin Train Station

© GregW

By Plane

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.

By Train

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.

By Car

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.

By Bus

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.



Getting Around

An interactive map can be found at Map Network.

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

Capital Metro runs public buses in Austin. The website has a trip planner. The city's public bus network with a system of inexpensive neighborhood, express and downtown routes. Visitors can also get around on the Capital MetroRail commuter train which operates on weekdays (and in the early evening only on Saturdays) between Downtown and northwest Austin. Local fares cost $1.25 per trip, or you can get a 24-hour pass for $2.50 on board every bus (while commuter express buses and MetroRail fares are $3.50, $7.00 for a day pass). "E-Bus" and "Night Owl" services serve the city's entertainment districts after hours. Expect a bus ride from any point north of 183 to downtown to take at least half an hour. The Capital Metro website has a trip planner which can be used to find public transport options between two points in Austin.

Austin has a generally mediocre public transit system. However, the bus can be a viable method of getting around with proper planning ahead of time.

The University of Texas shuttles (route numbers in the 600s) offer frequent service between the University and some neighborhoods during weekdays (and less frequently on Sundays) when school is in session. Blue buses are generally used on the shuttle routes; boarding requires a UTexas ID or Capital Metro bus pas.

By Foot

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).

By Bike

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.

While Austin has dining options ranging from casual to upscale, most of the popular restaurants skew towards the budget end of the spectrum. There's a good chance the restaurant you want to visit has counter or quick-casual service and does not accept reservations. Part of the reason behind this is the fact that many popular restaurants started out as food trucks and then later built brick-and-mortar locations. Many of these places require that you pay up front, including tipping. When presented with the tipping step, bear in mind that Austin housing has become relatively expensive for service industry workers.

Consequently, many popular restaurants also have long lines (e.g., Franklin Barbecue). While some people enjoy striking up conversations in these famed lines, you may find yourself wanting to actually eat rather than talk. Austin's restaurants tend to follow trends (e.g., BBQ, tacos, pizza), so plan on some nearby alternatives if the idea of standing in 100º heat for an hour for a burger isn't your idea of fun.




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).

Austin's main strip is on 6th Street downtown. But like most entertainment districts that get raves in the media, it's a little overhyped. Check out the nearby Warehouse District and Fourth Street if you don't want quarter wells and million-dollar sorority girls.

Most grocery stores (especially HEB and Central Market) carry a variety of Texas beer. There are several microbreweries operating in Texas, and you can expect to find their beer at outlets with moderate to wide selections.

There are also a number of small brewpubs serving their own house-brewed beers to the local cognoscienti.




Note that many hotels sell out for Austin festivals, particularly South By Southwest. Book well ahead for anything downtown.

  • Austin Motel, 1220 S. Congress Ave., ☎ +1 512 441-1157, e-mail: A motel right on South Congress which really captures the classic Austin experience.
  • Austin International Hostel.
  • Country Inn & Suites Austin-North, 7400 IH35 North, Austin North, ☎ +1 512 380-0008, fax: +1 512 380-0046. Charming country style décor.
  • HI - Austin, 2200 South Lakeshore Blvd.
  • McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, ☎ +1 512 243-1643. The McKinney Falls State Park offers camping just outside the city. Reservations can be made online.
  • Motel 6 Austin Central-North, 8010 I-35 North, ☎ +1 512 837-9890.
  • Motel 6 Austin Central-South/University of TX, 5330 North Interregional Highway, ☎ +1 512 467-9111.
  • Studio 6 Austin Midtown, 6603 North I-35, ☎ +1 512 458-5453.
  • Suburban Extended Stay Hotel South, 2501 Interstate Highway 35, ☎ +1 512 712-9920. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. This hotel offers free high-speed Internet access in all rooms.
  • Hyatt Place Austin Arboretum, 3612 Tudor Blvd, ☎ +1 512 231-8491. Spacious rooms with in-room microwave, refrigerator, separate workspace and free high speed WiFi Internet access. Plus, free hot breakfast, fitness center and pool.
  • Hyatt Place North Central, 7522 North IH-35, ☎ +1 512 323-2121.
  • Clarion Inn & Suites Central Austin Hotel, 2200 IH-35 South, ☎ +1 512 444-0561.
  • Courtyard Austin Airport, 7809 E. Ben White Blvd., ☎ +1 512 386-7464. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12 Noon. Airport hotel with breakfast buffet, free airport shuttle and free internet.
  • Days Inn Austin Crossroads, 820 E.Anderson Ln, ☎ +1 512 835-4311.
  • Hawthorn Suites Austin Airport, 7800 East Riverside Dr, ☎ +1 512 247-6166. Offers a courtesy airport shuttle and car rental.
  • Holiday Inn Austin Town Lake Hotel, 20 North IH-35, ☎ +1 512 472-8211.
  • Hotel Allandale - NW Austin, 7685 Northcross Dr, ☎ +1 512 452-9391. Formerly known as Northcross Suites, this hotel is very unique boutique all-suite hotel in Northwest Austin. Beautifully-landscaped pool area, a fitness center, complimentary continental breakfast, live music every Thursday night, and fresh-baked cookies and milk every night.
  • Hyatt Summerfield Suites Austin Arboretum, 10001 N. Capital of Texas Highway, ☎ +1 512 342-8080.
  • Staybridge Suites Arboretum, 10201 Stonelake Blvd, ☎ +1 512 349-0888, e-mail: A very clean and comfortable hotel with an urban feel. The lobby is full of local artwork and their spacious suites are great for weekend getaways, business travel and weddings.
  • Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St, ☎ +1 512 474-5911. The oldest hotel in the city, built in 1886 by a cattle baron. Beautiful architecture, marble floors, high ceilings, and the best upscale bar in the city.
  • Hilton Austin, 500 East 4th St, ☎ +1 512 482-8000. Luxurious, 4-Diamond hotel adjacent to the Convention Center.
  • Hotel San Jose, 1316 South Congress Ave, ☎ +1 512 444-7322, e-mail:
  • Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa, 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd, ☎ +1 512 308-1234, fax: +1 512 308-4800. A new resort near McKinney Falls and McKinney Roughs, between Austin Bergstrom International Airport and Bastrop, Texas, just southeast of Austin. The 405 acre resort features horseback riding, Django Spa, a small waterpark and river tubing.
  • Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs.
  • Lake Austin Spa Resort, 1705 South Quinlan Park Rd, ☎ +1 512 372-7300. The resort is one of Austin's finest, featuring extensive spa facilities & luxury accommodations. It combines the amenities of a destination spa & lake resort.
  • Omni Austin Hotel Southpark, 4140 Governors Row (I-35 and Ben White), ☎ +1 512 448-2222.
  • Renaissance Austin Hotel, 9721 Arboretum Blvd, ☎ +1 512 343-2626, fax: +1 512 346-7953. Marriott's Luxury Hotel at the Arboretum near US 183 and Texas 360. It features Hill Country views and a nine story atrium.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Tower, University of Texas

Tower, University of Texas

© GregW

  • The University of Texas at Austin (often referred to as The University of Texas, UT Austin, UT, or Texas) is a doctoral/research university located in Austin, Texas. It is the flagship institution of The University of Texas System. The main campus is located less than a mile from the Texas State Capitol in Austin. According to The Public Ivies: America's Flagship Public Universities (2001) by Howard and Matthew Greene, The University of Texas at Austin is one of America's "Public Ivy" institutions of higher education, defined by the authors as a public institution that "provides an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public school price." Founded in 1883, the university has had the fifth largest single-campus enrollment in the nation as of fall 2006 (and had the largest enrollment in the country from 1997–2003), with nearly 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 16,500 faculty and staff. It currently holds the largest enrollment of all colleges in the state of Texas.
  • Condordia University Texas
  • Huston–Tillotson University
  • St. Edward's University
  • The Art Institute of Austin



Keep Connected


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.



  1. 1 10 Best Big Cities. Money Magazine. Retrieved on 2009–09–19.
  2. 2 The 10 Greenest Cities in America. MSN City Guides. Internet Archive (2007–05–19). Retrieved on 2009–09–20.

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 30.268735
  • Longitude: -97.745209

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