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Austin, Texas, USA — Overview for travelers

The Capitol, Austin, Texas, USA
The Capitol, Austin, Texas, USA

Overview — Austin in a nutshell

Down-home yet sophisticated. Laid-back and bustling with high energy. Traditional and avant-garde at the same time. These qualities allow Austinites and visitors alike to embrace the city’s unique, often quirky, identity and appreciate the traditions that it was founded upon. Over the past two decades, the small university town where Willie Nelson crafted his own unique musical style grew into a big city with a glittering skyline and 1.4 million people in the metropolitan area.

More and more, Austin stacks up as “the” place to see and be seen. MovieMaker magazine touts it as one of the country’s “Best Filmmaking Cities.” Mens Journal declares Austin at #2 among its “5O Best Places to Live.” According to’ Money, it’s the “Best Place to Start a Business.” Travel + Leisure lauds it for having the “Best-Looking People,” being the “Prettiest in Spring” – and “Friendliest.”

It’s a 24-hour city where celebrities enjoy just hanging out alongside the locals. Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Quaid, Robert Rodriguez, and the Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, are all residents and/or frequent visitors to the Texas capital.

Part of Austin’s draw is the distinctive attractions. For instance, thousands flock downtown to Congress Avenue Bridge nightly, March until November, to watch more than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats take flight at dusk. As home to the University of Texas (UT) and nearly 50,000 college students, the city is awash in burnt orange and white in the fall when the University of Texas’ football team takes the field. In fact, football fever is so fierce that Austin earns the title of the country’s “most sports-crazed city.” And aside from politics, nothing strikes up a heated discussion more quickly than trying to name the best barbecue joint around. Is it the Salt Lick, County Line, Stubbs or Iron Works?

An unending play list of live music echoes from nearly 200 venues on any given evening. It’s the constant sound of blues, country, rock and roll, Jazz and Tejano that fuse together to solidify Austin as “Live Music Capital of the World®.” Live music extends into the city’s burgeoning cultural arts scene as well. The community nurtu res Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin and Austin Lyric Opera in addition to dozens of independent theatres and performance groups. The historic Paramount Theatre features touring acts, while One World Theatre and Zachary Scott Theatre showcase world music and locally-produced pieces.

Long revered as the playground of Texas, Austin stands as the gateway to the scenic Texas Hill Country – a vast region of rolling hills, sparkling lakes and fields of wildflowers where nature trails, parks and greenbelts create a verdant oasis in the heart of the Lone Star State.

Guests can also experience the outdoors without leaving downtown. Town Lake bisects downtown with a narrow waterway bordered by 10 miles of highly traveled hike-and-bike trails. At the heart of a network of more than 200 municipal parks lies 36Q-acre Zilker Park, a favorite venue for outdoor music events and home to Barton Springs Pool.

Top 10 Sightseeing & Attractions

State Capitol
Governor’s Mansion
Old Pecan Street / 6th Street
Driskill Hotel
Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum
Texas State Museum
Treaty Oak
Mount Bonnell
Zilker Park & Barton Springs
Bat Colony at Congress Avenue Bridge

Austin, as a university city, offers a huge bar & restaurant scene and, of course, music live venues and festivals throughout the year but especially from Spring to Fall.

Read more about Austin, Texas, USA — Sightseeing & Attractions

Weather / Temperatures

Best time to travel / Season
300 days of sunshine annually; 68.5 degrees F. average year-round temperature; 32 inch annual rainfall. Summers are kind of humid but pleasant. Austin is a year-round destination.

Austin temperatures in C (F).

MonthMax Celsius (F)Min Celsius (F)
Jan15,5 (60)5 (41)
Feb17,7 (64)6,6 (44)
Mar21,6 (71)9,4 (49)
Apr25,5 (78)13,9 (57)
May29,4 (85)18,3 (65)
Jun33,3 (92)22,2 (72)
Jul35 (95)23,3 (74)
Aug35,5 (96)23,3 (74)
Sep32,2 (90)20,5 (69)
Oct27,7 (81.5)15,5 (60)
Nov21,1 (70)8,8 (48)
Dec17,2 (63)6,1 (43)

Map Austin, Texas, USA

Essentials & Data

Population

961.855 (U.S. Census 2020)
790.390 (U.S. Census 2010)
656,562 (U.S. Census 2000)

Austin is in the Top 20 largest cities in the United States, currently around 11th position. See details on Wikipedia: List of United States cities by population – Wikipedia

Area

2,705 sq. mi. metro area; 232 sq. mi. in city limits.

Airport

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Ca. 7.5 miles from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown.
Web: Airport (AUS) | AustinTexas.gov

Public Transportation

Capital Metro and MetroRail
A system of more than 1,600 bus stops and 82 routes.

Metrorail
Connecting Austin on a 32-mile line that stretches all the way from the city of Leander to downtown Austin next to the Convention Center, MetroRail provides serves nine stations in between.

Airport Transportation with Capital Metro
With convenient service every 15 minutes, 7 days a week between the University of Texas at Austin, downtown hotels and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), Capital Metro’s Route 20 Manor Road/Riverside is a great way to travel.

The CapMetro App allows riders to buy passes and plan their trips.

Web: CapMetro – Austin Public Transit

Elevation

Avg. ca. 155 m / 700-800 ft.
425 – 1,000 ft. above sea level. The highest point is Mt. Barker at 840 ft.

Visitor Center

602 E. Fourth St.
Web: Austin, Texas, Visitor Center (austintexas.org)

Austin History

Austin’s sheer physical beauty captured the heart of visiting Republic of Texas Vice president Mirabeau B. Lamar, who traveled in 1838 to what was then known as Waterloo to hunt buffalo with friend Jacob Harrell, who lived in the land of the Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. Succeeding Texas Revolution hero Sam Houston as president of a young nation, Lamar dispatched surveyor Edwin Waller to the Texas Hill Country village that the President’s Commission had renamed the capital of the upstart Republic to honor Stephen F. Austin. Waller in 1839 surveyed the town, selling lots and overseeing construction of a dog-trot style state capitol. Waller’s visionary layout of the central city, which followed the area’s topography, remains essentially unchanged 150 years later.

With the city still vulnerable to Indian attacks in 1842, Austin found itself virtually deserted as Gov. Sam Houston moved the Republic’s government to Houston to keep it out of harm’s way. Houston might be the state capital today without the governor’s failed attempt to have Texas Rangers retrieve the state’s archives.

In The Archive Wars, Austin hotelkeeper Angelina Belle Eberly spotted the Rangers that Houston had dispatched to Austin loading documents taken from a state building into wagons. She fired a cannon to alert the townspeople, who chased the lawmen to Brushy Creek and recovered the documents.

In 1845, Republic President Anson Jones moved the capital back to Austin. Austinites would see a flourish of construction: the Capitol (1853), the Governor’s Mansion (1856) and the General Land Office (1857). Today, the General Land Office serves as the Capitol Complex Visitor Center.

In the next quarter century, an iron bridge spanned the Colorado River (1884), the University of Texas was founded (1883) and the moonlight towers lit the downtown sky. The Flood of 1900 swept away the bridge, houses and livestock, and left more than 20,000 residents in darkness.

When the city’s limestone Capitol burned to the ground in 1881, citizens rallied to build a granite structure that stands 309 feet. Free Capitol tours are given daily at the statehouse that underwent a four-year, $67 million renovation. The town’s political legacy includes the likes of “Ma” Ferguson, the second woman to serve as governor in the United States, and President Lyndon Johnson, who was elected in 1937 to represent Austin in the U.S. Congress.

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the UT campus chronicles the remarkable life of the state’s most renowned politician through 40 million papers and documents, emotionally charged dioramas, recordings, photography, music, sound effects and recorded commentary. The museum is open 9 to 5 daily, except Christmas Day.

The Congress Avenue and Sixth Street (Pecan Street) National Register Districts interweave modern skyscrapers with more ornate 19th century buildings such as the Old Bakery (1876), Millett Opera House (1878), Driskill Hotel (1886), Walter Tips Building (1876) and Robinson-Rosner Building (1856). Historically significant places of worship, such as St. Mary’s Cathedral (1874) and St. David’s Church (1854) reflect Old World architecture. The Historic Congress Avenue & Sixth Street tour times are 9 a.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

O. Henry Home and Museum (1888) is worth a short side trip. Relocated from 308 E. 4th St. to 5th Street between Trinity and Neches, the Victorian cottage served as the residence of famous short story writer William Sydney Porter and his family from 1893-95. The museum is free and open from 12-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Take a stroll through the Bremond Block National Historic Register District, a residential enclave of stately homes built on the edge of the city’s commercial district before the turn of the century. It contains a collection of homes belonging to members of the John Bremond, Sr. family, a wealthy merchant, and his prosperous neighbors, the Robinsons and Hirschfields. Guided walking tours of the Historic Bremond Block take place at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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