Our Lovely capital city
Austin is a sparkling city with a beautiful downtown, a hip dining and bar area - complete with live music entertainment - and lots of natural beauty at its parks and rivers.
Home of the state capital and the gigantic University of Texas (UT) campus, this city has culture, politics and a thriving college town feel. A UT education is one of the best bargains in the nation, at less than $10K a year (based on 2007 tuition rates) if you call Texas home.
Hyde Park (around 45th St) is a great old community sitting right on the border of UT campus. Old bungalows and huge, shade trees line the streets.
In 2000, Austin native Red Wassenich accidentally invented the phrase Keep Austin Weird. It has since become the unofficial city motto.
Take in a view of Town Lake from the shore or on the water. The city park here stretches over 10 miles with bicycling and jogging trails along the Colorado River. The Rowing Dock is located at 2418 Stratford Drive. They provide lessons, kayak and paddle boat rentals. This is for the whole family.
You're so close to Zilker Park at this point, that you have to go take a dip in Barton Springs Pool. This is a natural pool where the sides have been cemented. You've never seen anything like it. The water is FRIGID -- even when air temperatures soar above 100-degrees. There's one very, springy diving board, lifeguards and snacks available. Entrance fees apply.
This photo only shows about 1/3 of the entire pool's length. You cannot come to Austin and fail to see this place.
Gotta See it!
The Botanical Garden across the road is another beautiful spot. The Japanese garden area is especially peaceful with a small creek running through it.
Within this same downtown area, you can head over to the Congress Street Bridge (South side of the River) if the sun is beginning to fall in the sky. A million or more Mexican free-tailed bats take flight at dusk for their nightly feeding. You can park and find a spot on the lawn, gratis the Austin American-Statesman newspaper building, to watch this amazing sight. Bring an umbrella or a newspaper (snicker) to protect your head and shoulders, a lawn chair or blanket and expect to smell some stanky stuff.
If you're a plant lover, don't miss the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin (4801 LaCrosse Ave, Austin. tel: 512-292-4100). Open from 9am-5:30pm, Tues-Sun. $3 children, $7 adults (13+). There are two picnic areas and the Wildflower Cafe open from 10am-4pm.
Directly across the road from the Wildflower Center is the Austin Veloway.
The Austin Veloway is exclusively for use by folks on non-motorized wheels (bikes, roller blades, roller skates). NO WALKERS ALLOWED. The 3.1 mile trail loops through 100 acres. All traffic rides in a clockwise direction. The trail is open from dawn until dusk. There is one drinking fountain, which may or may not be functioning, so bring water.
Music + Entertainment
Austin City Limits is 33 years old and airs on PBS TV. "Now the longest-running music series in American television history, ACL showcases popular music legends and innovators from every genre." - from their website.
The TV show is recorded in a KLRU television studio located on the University of Texas campus. The show spawned the annual Austin City Limits Festival, featuring more than 130 bands on eight stages over a three-day weekend each September in Austin.
South by Southwest (SXSW): This is a full-city music EVENT that occurs every March. Hundreds of musical artists travel to Austin and perform throughout the City. All hotels are booked up, the city swells in population and any respectable Austinite, not attending, stays out of Austin during this event.
Film and a meal: The Alamo Drafthouse with four Austin locations (North, Downtown, South, further South near Circle C) is an eclectic mix of dinner and a movie. Every other row of theatre seating has been removed and replaced with a long narrow table. Waiters take your orders and serve your dinner while you watch a newly released film. Burgers, pasta, salads, sandwiches. Family-friendly for kids, 13 and older. Their shakes rock!
Many of the bars and restaurants have live bands every night of the week (well maybe not on Monday or Tuesday), but most other nights. The Red River district has some great restaurants and provide live music.
Continental Club: Located on So. Congress (south of Town Lake)
For bars and music, head over to the 6th street area in downtown. You can park your car and bar hop on foot, dance on the bar at Coyote Ugly and generally relive your college days until closing time. They shut down the street to automobiles starting at 11pm. That must be when people are too drunk to stay on the sidewalks. Probably not the place you want to take your kids. This is really an adults-only area after about 6pm.
South Congress is the place to park the car and get out and walk into the dozens of eclectic shops and cafes. I'm also including a link to a fun map of Vintage Shops all over Austin that would make for a fun day or afternoon.