Long known as Texas’ most progressive city, Austin is split into two distinct geographical regions: The Balcones Escarpment to the west and Blackland Prairie to the east. The fourth-largest city in the Texas, it is the state capital as well as the county seat (Travis County), situated on the Colorado River.
Beloved Barton Springs, a natural spring-fed pool in Zilker Park, is in the central part of the city and draws year-round lap swimmers, but there are numerous parks and spring-fed creeks in outlying areas, as well as Lady Bird Lake, a magnet for Austin’s running community. The University of Texas, the largest public university in the U.S., is a huge presence, as is the Texas Capitol and Governor’s Mansion at the north end of Congress Avenue.
Annual events include the Austin City Limits Music Festival,South By Southwest music, film and interactive festivals, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Swamp Romp and Crawfish Festival, Pecan Street Festival, Bat Fest, and Carnaval.
Golf enthusiasts will find plenty of courses to choose from, such as Bluebonnet Hill, Blackhawk, the Clubs of Lakeway, Crystal Falls Golf Course, Falconhead, Forest Creek, and Star Ranch.
Outdoor recreation includes cave exploration, Lone Star riverboat tours, river rafting, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, Volente Beach, along with water fun and cruising on Lake Austin, Lake Travis, and other area lakes.
Shoppers will find charming boutiques, distinctive marketplaces and large malls in Austin, including the new Second Street District, South Congress Avenue (SoCo), Barton Creek Square, 26 Doors, Central Market, Highland Mall, Prime Outlets San Marcos, The Domain, Austin Arboretum and West Sixth Street.
Where to stay? Boutique hotels include Hotel San Jose, Hotel St. Cecelia and the W Austin Hotel. Louisville's famous 21C Museum Hotel is planning a branch in Austin along the banks of Waller Creek. Larger establishments include The Four Seasons, Hyatt Regency, Lake Austin Spa Resort, The Driskill, Renaissance Austin, Omni Austin Hotel, the Radisson Hotel & Suites, and Intercontinental Austin Hotel.
Dining options include Bess Bistro on Pecan, Fino, Threadgill’s, Iron Works BBQ, Mesa Ranch, Hudson’s on the Bend, Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, Patton’s On Main, Dragon Gate by Phoenix, Starlite, Beck’s On Congress, Driskill Grill, Manuel’s and the Mansion on Judges’ Hill.
Museums, attractions, and historic landmarks to visit include the University of Texas, Austin Children’s Museum, Texas History Museum, Austin Museum of Art, Harry Ransom Center, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, French Legation Museum, O’Henry Home & Museum, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Memorial Museum, Mount Bonnell, Zilker Botanical Gardens, the Old Bakery & Emporium, George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center and Austin Nature and Science Center. Free tours include the capital, the governor’s mansion, and many guided walking tours, and the “Dillo” ride around town.
Written by Julie Bonnin