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Welcome to Austin


Capital of Texas, the city of Austin lies almost in the centre of the state, a big city with a small town feel, young population, casual lifestyle and reputation as a Mecca for live music shows.

Home of the University of Texas campus, Austin life is closely entwined with the energy and enthusiasm of its students, but this city that has been a state capital since 1838 does not ignore its history. Young people are drawn here too by the array of live concerts that are held frequently around the shores of Town Lake. Most famous of these events is the annual South by Southwest music festival-conference held each March. Visitors wanting to tune in to Austin's live musical repertoire, which spans everything from blues and country to reggae, simply have to drift down the famous Sixth Street strip of pubs and clubs any night of the week.

Austin's laid-back attitude lends itself to the great outdoors, and the city has miles of hiking and biking trails linking parks, preserves and greenbelts adding to the ambience of its leafy streets.

Information & Facts


Unlike the other cities in Texas, Austin enjoys settled weather and a pleasant semi-tropical climate. Even in the height of summer temperatures are more moderate than in other parts of the state. In winter the temperature stays well above freezing. Humidity is at its highest between May and September, and rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.

Getting Around

The excellent public transport system in Austin provides cheap public buses and vans that cover all neighbourhoods, downtown and the university campus for a flat fare. Transfers between buses are free and valid for three hours. The Armadillo Express, known as 'the Dillo', provides free trolley rides through the historic downtown area. There is also a free Yellow Bike Program that makes bicycles available to the public - yellow bikes can be picked up anywhere, ridden to one's destination and then left for the next rider. Taxis can be expensive and are best ordered by phone, although they are on hand outside most downtown hotels. Driving in Austin can be very confusing, with a lack of clear east-west routes through the city centre and the fact that locals tend to refer to highways by unofficial names. The city centre can become congested at rush hour.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

One of the more unusual tourist attractions in Austin, or in fact anywhere, is the nightly flight of millions of Mexican free-tailed bats when they emerge from their roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bat colony takes up residence under the bridge in mid-March each year and returns to Mexico in early November. During their sojourn in Austin visitors are amazed by their mass evening emergence from their roost, which generally takes place at dusk. The Congress Avenue Bridge is 10 blocks south of the State Capitol building, spanning Town Lake. A Bat Observation Center is located on the southeast side. During bat season hundreds of people gather on and around the bridge each evening to witness the spectacle.

The opulent plantation-style mansion that is home to the Texas State governor is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating from 1856. Although it is still very much lived in when the governor is in town, the mansion is open to the public for limited hours each day and many historical artefacts are on display, including portraits of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston, and a collection of mementoes from each administration. Guided tours are offered every 20 minutes during which interesting anecdotes are related about previous governors. The Governor's Mansion closed on October 1, 2007 for up to 18 months for maintenance work. Information will be posted on the webiste when tours resume.

The rugged wilderness of the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas was originally a barrier reef under the waters of an ancient sea. Today fir trees and pockets of lush vegetation cling to this mountain range rising from the desert. Formerly the home of the Apache nation the National Park is now occupied by hundreds of plant and bird species, 60 species of mammals and 55 varieties of reptiles and amphibians. Visitors can traverse more than 80 miles (129km) of trails on foot or horseback, or take the 4WD route provided. There are several historic sites in the park including Frijole Ranch History Museum and the ruins of a stagecoach station. McKittrick Canyon in the northeast corner of the park is regarded as the most beautiful spot in Texas, where oaks and maples make a colourful display in fall.

A major stop on national art circuit tours, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin is ranked among the top 10 university art museums in the country. Highlights here are the Suida-Manning Collection of European paintings that features 250 works by the Continental masters and the collection of 20th-century American Art assembled by novelist James A. Michener. There is also a large collection of Latin American Art consisting of more than 500 key works.

Texas hill country is renowned for its glorious spring blooms, and former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, founded this centre dedicated to the study and preservation of native plants in 1982. There are 72 hectares (178 acres) of wildflowers in display gardens, which includes a garden designed to attract butterflies. There are also some interesting indoor displays featuring some novelties, and the centre offers free lectures and guided walks at weekends.

Austin's impressive pink granite capitol building is rivalled only by that of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Encircled by its original wrought-iron fence topped with gold Lone Stars and standing proudly in a hectare (three acres) of ground, the domed building was constructed in 1882 out of granite quarried from Granite Mountain 75 miles (121km) away. Visitors can take guided tours of this interestingly designed building, or attend legislative sessions, which are open to the public.

The 140-hectare (347-acre) Zilker Park, donated to the city by the German immigrant who gave it its name, is Austin's most popular public recreational area, dominated by its ancient spring-fed natural swimming pool, known as Barton Springs, which Native Americans believed to have healing properties. The pool is about the size of a football field with water at a constant warm temperature all year round. Zilker Park has other attractions, too, including a botanical garden which features dinosaur tracks, a nature preserve, the Umlauf Sculpture garden and museum, and eight miles (13km) of biking and walking trails. There are sports facilities aplenty and amusements for children like the Zilker Zephyr miniature train and paddleboat rides.

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