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It is often said that Austin is to Texas as Berlin is to Germany. Austin is a city with many facets and this makes it endlessly interesting because your experience of it will, in large part, be defined by what you seek out. For some, they know Austin as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ and they’re likely to enjoy its great live music venues, top-notch culinary scene, excellent museums, expansive parks, and multicultural milieu. Others know Austin as the ‘Drunkest City in the US,’ and they’re more likely to be familiar with the city’s gigantic university student population, relentless nightlife, and late-night entertainment scene. Regardless of which side of Austin you get to experience, it can’t be denied that this city knows how to make a lasting impression.
To discover Austin by car, you’ll be pleased to know that prices start from just $38 a day. You’ll find economy vehicles such as a Chevrolet Spark for $51 a day, or spacious SUVs like a Jeep Compass for $83 per day. Book your Austin car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip.
Guide to Austin
Austin is located at the foot of the Balcones Escarpment on the Colorado River in south-central Texas. Austin separates the Texas Hill Country from the Blackland prairies to the east, giving rise to the distinctive limestone cliff formations that Austin’s landscape is known for. Austin also boasts several water bodies, most notably Lady Bird Lake, a river-like reservoir, and Lake Travis, a reservoir on the Colorado River. Austin lies 146 miles northwest of Houston, 182 miles south of Dallas, and 74 miles northeast of San Antonio.
Climate in Austin
Austin has a subtropical humid climate. Its summers are hot and humid, with temperatures frequently hovering around 90°F. The best time to visit Austin would be in spring (March to May) or fall (September to November). Wildflowers accompanied by balmy and pleasant weather make spring the ideal time for outdoor activities. Alternatively, if you are musically inclined, visit in the fall to experience the famous Austin City Limits Music Festival, which takes place in October.
Texas was a part of Mexico until about 1835. When it declared sovereignty from Mexico, Austin - then known as Waterloo - was formed and appointed the capital of the Republic of Texas in 1839. Shortly after, it was renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas” as well as the republic’s first secretary of state. In 1842, when the Mexican troops invaded San Antonio, President Sam Houston ordered for the capital, along with all the national archives, to be moved to Houston. However, in 1945, Texas was formally annexed into the United States and Austin once again became the capital.
Today, Austin is an ethnically diverse city with significant Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American populations. Austin is also famously known as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ and you’re likely to see a variety of genres, including rock, folk, jazz, and Latino music, being played on every street in the evenings.
Things To Do in Austin
Tour the State Capitol
Inaugurated in 1888, the Texas State Capitol is an attractive pink and granite building that stands at a height of 308 feet, making it 14 feet taller than the US Capitol in Washington. There’s a statue of the Goddess of Liberty sitting atop the dome and the entire building is protected as a National Historic Landmark. Start at the Visitor Center to learn more about the history of Texas and Austin before exploring one of the many monuments sitting within the 22-acre grounds surrounding the Capitol, including the Texas African American History Memorial and the Vietnam War Monument. You can also stroll through a tree-lined avenue called the Great Walk. Free guided tours of the Capitol building are also available every day except on holidays.
Indulge in the outdoors at Zilker Metropolitan Park
Running alongside Lake Lady Bird is the 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, a popular spot in Austin drawing in locals and tourists alike. This vast green space houses many recreational facilities like riverside walking trails, volleyball courts, and a disc golf course. You can also indulge in canoeing and boating at Barton Springs Pool. Children love to play archaeologists and dig for fossils at the Dino Pit in the Austin Nature and Science Center. Art lovers will particularly appreciate the installations at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum. On the other hand, the 26-acre Zilker Botanical Garden draws in scores of nature enthusiasts. Specialty gardens within it like the Hartman Prehistoric Garden and the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden are particularly mesmerizing. The park also organizes many city-wide events like the Austin City Music Festival and the ABC Kite Fest.
Enjoy the view from Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell - located within Covert Park - is another top attraction that offers panoramic views of the city, Lake Austin and the nearby hills. This 5.1-acre historic linear park has a 775-foot-tall outcrop that is regarded as the highest spot in Austin. Mount Bonnell has also been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The peak is a limestone outcropping surrounded with abundantly growing oak, ash juniper, persimmon, and mountain laurel. You will need to climb 102 steps to reach the peak of the outlook so wear good footwear and pack a picnic to enjoy atop Mount Bonnel while absorbing the stunning views.
Witness the flight of Mexican free-tailed bats
One of the most unique experiences that Austin has to offer is witnessing the evening flight of Mexican free-tailed bats residing in the crevices of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. Each day at dusk, about 1.5 million bats from the world’s largest urban bat colony rise to the skies from their nests beneath the bridge to dine on flying insects like grasshoppers, moths, and mosquitoes. It is indeed a sight to behold as they fly up to 2 miles high in massive formations. You can enjoy watching from many vantage points like the Statesman Bat Observation Centre or from boats on the Lady Bird Lake. The best time of the year to catch this spectacle is between March and November.
Admire top-notch art at the Blanton Museum of Art
Featuring more than 18,000 works of art, the Blanton Museum of Art is an art aficionado’s heaven. It boasts works of art greats like Rubens and Poussin from various eras in history and European art styles, including Renaissance, baroque, and pre-Columbian art from Latin America. The museum is located within the University of Texas (Austin campus) as is reputed to be one of the largest art museums in the entire country. The Blanton Museum of Art is closed on Mondays and during university holidays so make sure to check their website before visiting.
Eating Out in Austin
This Texan capital has slowly put its name on the short-list of true American gastronomic destinations with its impressive variety of food options. Here are some of our top restaurant recommendations:
At Barley Swine, you will find hyper-local ingredients ruling the scene. You can’t go wrong with their cured antelope, beef fat toast, or aged Akaushi ribeye. Meat lovers will love the Central Texas-style barbecue at La Barbecue. Savor their smoky brisket wrapped like a sandwich with pickles and onion along with a side of chipotle slaw. At Clark’s Oyster Bar, taste the oysters first and then dig into the pan-roasted black Angus hamburger topped with gruyere, a must-try in Austin. Try the goat chili frito pie drizzled with avocado cream or the quail al pastor with shishito mayo and cashews at Odd Duck. At Kemuri Tatsu-ya, the menu is an irresistible amalgamation of Japanese and Texan influences. Their delicious Berkshire pork ribs with garlic furikake or brisket with a sesame-pecan rub and serrano limon miso will tantalize your taste buds and leave you wanting more.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is located about 5 miles southeast of downtown Austin and serves the Greater Austin Metropolitan Area. It is the third-busiest international airport in Texas and operates flights to more than 75 destinations in North America and Europe.
Getting Around Austin
The easiest way to get around Austin is by bus or light rail. Capital Metro Transit, Austin’s public transit system operates bus routes that cover the whole city. If you’re planning to stay solely within the city, take a MetroRapid bus. The light rail network spans 32 miles and operates from downtown to the northwest suburb of Leander.