Popular things to do
No matter what month you’re planning to visit Austin you’re in luck. The city boasts over 30 festivals of some sort every year. So, you’re bound to find something interesting. Especially, since Austin was the original city capturing the phrase and philosophy of “Keep Austin Weird.” (Things may be a little different this year, but you can find the latest schedule at www.austintexas.org/events.) Live music is the heartbeat of Austin, and there are plenty of other delights to enjoy.
Not far from the downtown core, sits the very BIG pink granite capitol building in a 22-acre government complex. It should be no surprise that it’s the largest in the U.S., even towering 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. This is Texas, you know.
Free tours are offered every thirty minutes, or you can pick up a pamphlet for a self-guided tour and roam at your own pace. Be on the lookout for ghosts. It’s said the long-dead wife of a former governor, Fay Wright Stevenson, is still looking for her official portrait, which was moved from its original spot years ago.
Make time for the Capitol Gift Shop before you leave. You might ask why replicas of some of the building’s decorations, like door hinges, are on sale. Apparently, they’re so unique many of them have been taken over the years.
As long as you’re in the area (less than a 15-minute walk north of the Capitol), the UT complex offers a number of interesting sites all in close proximity. Of course, Texas is LBJ country (that’s Lyndon Baines Johnson, our 36th President), and the museum and presidential library is his honor provides the best view of the entire campus. It’s like a time capsule of the 1960s, with a re-creation of the Oval Office on the 8th floor.
There are other museums of note on campus, too. The Blanton Museum of Art draws as much interest for its stunning modern architecture as it does for its collection. Nearby, you can get a close look at one of the oldest printed books in the world, one of the only 20 copies of the Guttenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center.
Then get a taste of what lies ahead at the Cactus Café, a small dark, cavern-like space where performers like Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett used to play at the start of their careers.
Time to take a break. Heading south on Congress Street brings you to some of the main reasons a lot of folks flock to and remain in ATX. Music, music, music funky shopping and food.
Crossing the South Congress Bridge, you might notice groups of people looking over the rails, especially at dusk, checking for activity from the largest urban bat colony in North America that lives under the bridge. Bat Conservation people are usually there for questions.
Welcome to SoCo. You’ll find lots of trendy shops and nightspots, as well the city’s best concentration of good restaurants. Live music venues beckon; it’s hard to just walk on by when you hear a good beat coming from inside, or above from a rooftop. Also, check out east 6th Street, a pedestrian-friendly music hub that sure feels a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Along the way you’re bound to come across a few of the famous Austin food trucks. Start early, and grab a breakfast taco, like so many Austinites do.
Right near Lady Bird Lake (that’s LBJ’s wife) sits the Austin version of New York’s Central Park. A lively green space of over 340 acres where you can splash (in a spring fed pool), stroll (through a botanic garden), or even rent a kayak or canoe for some great views of the city. Zilker Park is also home to several music festivals, like Austin City Limits and Blues on the Green. Or just have a picnic and rest up for a night on the town.
They say Austin has over 270 music venues, so where to begin? The river divides Austin, running east and west, with Congress St. the major north-south roadway. Pretty much every style of music you might want to hear can be found a few steps either way off Congress. South Austin, including South Lamar and South First Avenues have several great music venues like the Broken Spoke or the Saxon Pub. Why not learn the Texas Two Step while you’re in town? Several places offer lessons before the evening gets going. Venture a little further out to the East Austin neighborhood for some of the trendiest food and nightlife in town.
– South-by-Southwest (SxSW) the Mother of all Austin Festivals
– The Driskill Hotel
– Willie Nelson Statue
– Mount Bonnell
– Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
– Austin Zoo
– Music/Bar Tours
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