Austin Texas Rodeo
Rodeo (Photo credit: skeeze)

Austin Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Located in Texas, Austin has a population of 820,000 spread out over 276 sq. miles. 
  • Sometimes dubbed “Silicon Hills,” for its high number of tech companies.
  • Known for its liberal values (in an otherwise conservative state).
  • Official slogan: “The Live Music Capital of the World.” Unofficial: “Keep Austin Weird.”
  • Nicknames: ATX, Music Capital, Silicon Hills, Bat City, Cap City, City of the Violet Crown.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: US Dollar (USD).
  • Spoken languages: English.
  • Best time to visit: from September to May. Gets extremely hot in the summer months.
  • Arriving via airport: Capital Metro (public transit) runs the Airport Flyer for $1.00 every 30 minutes (on the hour and half hour). Taxi: minimum $12.85, plus $2.30 per mile.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotels in downtown, South Austin, and North Central Austin (near The University of Texas) are more upscale (and priced appropriately, ranging from $100-$400 a night). Hotels in Northwest Austin (near The Arboretum) average between $65-$150 a night. For a unique and local experience, you can find a hostel room for about $30 a night.

GETTING AROUND

  • Capital Metro is the local transit authority. A single ride costs just $1.00, while a day pass is $2.00. Tickets can also be purchased online, and at most HEBs and Randall’s grocery stores.
  • Taxi companies: Yellow Cab: (512) 452-9999 and Austin Cab: (512) 478-2222. Taxis are available 24 hours a day.
  • Renting a bike is one of the most enjoyable ways to see Austin – various rental companies are available downtown. 
  • Tip: If you choose to rent a car, look into ZipCar (there are over 12 pickup locations in downtown Austin alone).

AUSTIN NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 21, last call is 2 AM (though some bars and clubs stay open till 4 AM).
  • Most people go to Sixth Street for bars, stores, and music acts of all kinds. Sixth Street is a hot tourist destination.
  • Hip/local scene: Rainey Street is a hot spot among the locals, with houses turned into bars. Start at one end of the street and just walk. You’ll find something awesome.
  • Places to party with the locals: Lustre Pearl, The Whip In, Antone’s, Roadhouse Rags (a BYOB music venue and consignment clothing shop), Flipnotics, Elephant Room, East Side Showroom, and Brass House.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Barton Springs: Texas’ oldest man-made swimming pool is located in Zilker Park, and is fed by the water from the Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest spring in Texas. A great way to keep cool when the temperature gets extreme! Admission is $3 for adults.
  • The Bat Bridge: The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge houses the largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world, with up to 1.5 million bats taking residence. Over 100,000 visitors come every year to watch the bats emerge.
  • Lady Bird Lake: Formerly known as Town Lake, Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir in downtown Austin that was created by the Longhorn Dam in the 1960s at the (then) eastern border of the City of Austin. Open for rowing, swimming, and fishing.
  • Mount Bonnell: Alongside the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River, Mount Bonnell offers stunning views of the City of Austin, and has been a popular tourist destination since 1850.
  • Capitol Building. The Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888, and is a stunning example of 19th century architecture. Based on the United States Capitol, the Texas State Capitol surpasses the United States Capitol by 15 feet. Admission is free, and the Capitol Visitor’s Center has free brochures for self-guided tours.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Check out the 357-acre University of Texas campus, including the LBJ Library and Museum, and the Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium.
  • Schoal Creek trail is in the heart of downtown Austin, eventually joining the Town Lake Trail at what is now Lady Bird Lake. The walk is about 4.4 miles (7.1 km), and takes you through the greenbelt and a number of parks.
  • A serial killer haunted Austin in the 19th century, and the city erected moonlight towers, many of which are still standing today. You may spot them as you walk through the city!

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Don’t forget to hydrate! Drink plenty of water, especially in the hotter months.
  • The “lakes” are not really lakes, but rather parts of the Colorado River that have been designated as lakes by small dams. The lakes all maintain a current from the Colorado River.
  • E. 6th Street is often closed to traffic on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and open only to pedestrians.
  • Austin is famous for its numerous festivals, in particular South by Southwest (SXSW). Any local knows to avoid Austin during SXSW – when Silicon Valley essentially invades Austin. If you’re going to be attending SXSW, it is recommended you reserve your accommodations at least 9 months in advance.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: everywhere! But you can’t miss The Whip In. This convenience mart, gastropub, and live music venue has the best Texan-Indian fusion. Austin is one of the best cities for street food, and food trucks can be found everywhere. Check out listings on Yelp for more recommendations.
  • Dangerous areas: Austin is a very safe city. Take note to avoid walking alone at night in Pleasant Valley.

RECOMMENDED AUSTIN GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Austin Travel Guide was last modified: September 23rd, 2016 by Nick
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