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    What to see in Austin: attractions and landmarks of the Texas capital

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    Martí Micolau

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    Austin is the capital of Texas, the great state famous for its cowboys and their rodeos, for oil wells and space explorations, which, as Hollywood cinema teaches us, depart from Houston. But although it is the capital, we can say Austin is a bit off the charts with respect to its state, which is best represented in its essence by the small settlements among the boundless lands and, among the big cities, probably by the combination Dallas - Forth Worth.

    Austin has been from its origins an alternative city, long defined as hippie, dominated by live music, by the street arts. If you decide to stop in the capital, you should know that sociability, cheerfulness and fun await you.


    • Where it is and how to reach it
    • When to go to Austin?
    • What to see in Austin
      • A ride in the Downtown
      • The neighborhoods of good food and nightlife
      • Austin's historic and symbolic buildings
      • Museums
      • Parks and green areas
      • The bats of Congress Bridge
    • Events not to be missed
    • Where to eat in Austin
    • Where to sleep in Austin

    Where it is and how to reach it

    Austin is located along the Colorado River (no, it's not the Grand Canyon, even if it bears the same name) about 120 kilometers from San Antonio and 260 from Houston. The city of Dallas is more than 310 kilometers away.

    The city's airport is theAustin–Bergstrom International Airport which is the third in the state for air traffic after Dallas and Houston.

    When to go to Austin?

    Texas is huge. If we exclude Alaska, it is the largest state in the US. This would make us think of a great variety of climates inside, as we find in other even smaller states. But its geographic conformation and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, fortunately make things a little easier. The north-west (the area between Oklahoma, New Mexico and the Mexican region of Chihuahua) has a continental climate, while throughout the rest of the state the climate is subtropical. And it is in this area that the main cities are located, including Austin.

    The two main characteristics of the subtropical climate are heat and humidity. So if you plan to visit Austin, like other big Texas cities, in the height of summer, be prepared to sweat a little. It is easy to exceed 40 ° on hot days as well in August the daily average is almost 30 °. On the other hand, winters are mild, with an average in January, the coldest month, of almost 11 °. This does not exclude very cold days, but you will hardly find the polar frost of other US locations.

    The rain is quite regular during the course of the year and there are no periods in which it is completely absent. The wettest months are spring and autumn, with an average of 8-9 days a month. Despite the greater probability of rain, which however is not excessive, the mid-seasons are the best ones to visit Austin and all of southeastern Texas. March, April, October and November these are the months with the most comfortable temperatures to visit the city without the excessive heat of summer and without the risk of running into a cold week.

    That said, your trip to America is likely to include multiple states, and the period is dictated by other factors. In this case, don't be discouraged: after all, compared to other places, Texas can be visited with peace of mind all year round.

    What to see in Austin

    Austin is first and foremost a city to be experienced. A sparkling and eclectic capital, where it is difficult to get bored. However, if your schedule doesn't allow you to linger for a few days, wait until you delete Austin from your itinerary, as there are also A lot of things to see suitable for a hit and run and a stop on a road trip.

    A ride in the Downtown

    Downtown is the area north of the Colorado River and is the oldest but also the most modern part of the city. We are located in the administrative center of the state, but also in one of its main economic centers, where we can raise your eyes to the top of the skyscrapers. Today the skyline is dominated by buildings over 200 meters high, but this is where the history of the city began, along with that of the Republic of Texas.

    It was in the 30s when a team of topographers was entrusted with the study of an urban first floor at this point, above a cliff on the river. Even today the historic center of the city follows the same pattern, which then expanded all around over the next two centuries.

    Austin has a feature that isn't easy to find in US cities: it was designed with squares. Anyone who has already visited a bit of America, especially far from the East Coast, knows well that the historic center of the "typical city" consists of Main Street, because the conquest of territories, the discovery of new unexplored areas and the race to 'gold led to the founding of rest areas which over time were transformed into more or less large agglomerations.

    The fact that Austin was specifically designed to be built in a specific place at a precise historical moment, has allowed its architects to include some meeting places and socializing which we can quite associate with the European concept of the square.

    There were four original public squares, of which three remain: Wooldridge Park, Republic Square and Brush Square. The first two are particularly interesting:

    • Wooldridge Park o Wooldridge Square it is a block without buildings, full of greenery, where a staircase constitutes a sort of open-air theater. In the center, a classic revival-style gazebo forms one of Austin's premier venues for public events.
    • Republic Square today it is more of an urban park than a square. Here the green of nature contrasts with the steel and glass of the surrounding skyscrapers. Concerts, festivals and events of all kinds take place on the grass of Republic Square.

    The neighborhoods of good food and nightlife

    Austin, 6th Street

    We have already mentioned that Austin is famous for live music. The whole city is teeming with bars and restaurants where bands perform every night. 6th Avenue and its side streets are one of the main areas in which to go out for dinner, to eat well and listen to good music, in the city center.

    Another area, even more renowned for the live music accompanying the meals, is South Congress, also known more simply as SoCo. This neighborhood is ideal for going out in the evening: you will be spoiled for choice both to find something good to eat, and to entertain yourself in your evening. But if you happen to be there during the day, that's okay: this is also the area of ​​fashion and boutiques, where you can stroll through the shop windows.

    Austin's historic and symbolic buildings

    Being the state capital, we can only start from Texas State Capitol, or the Capitol. The government building has not only an institutional value, but also an architectural one. Its dome not only reminds us of its more famous Washington cousin, but surpasses it in magnitude. With its 92 metersin fact, it is one of the domes of government buildings (yes, there are other more impressive ones) that exceed that of the American capital, 88 meters high. Regardless of the records, the palace is worth a stop on your city tour and you can join in Free guided tours. All timetables updated on the official website.

    Another building not to be missed is the Lyndon Baines Johnsons Library and Museum, or the presidential administrative library (one of 13 scattered in the USA). For fans of American history, a tour inside is definitely recommended, because among the millions of pages of historical documents, they will surely find something of interest. But the building itself is curious. Like a large cube with a plate resting on it, it has an extravagant appearance that reminds us of some science fiction film.

    A completely different architectural style is that of Littlefield House. Located at the intersection of 24th and Whitis streets, this late XNUMXth century house is listed as a historic building and is certainly worth a photo. Another historic building is the St Mary's Cathedral, a Victorian style church designed by the Irish architect Nicholas J. Clayton. The Irish, in fact, have historically constituted an important Catholic community in Austin. The Venetian Gothic style is found on the facade of the Walter Tips Building in Congress Avenue, while the façade of the The Driskill Hotel in Brazos Street.

    Also in the nineteenth century one of the main theaters of the city was built: the Millet Opera House. Over the years the building has changed its destination, becoming a school, a printing house and a social club. Today, at least from the outside, it continues to stand out among the more anonymous high-rises that surround it. Style

    If you are a graffiti lover, check out the Baylor Street Art Wall. More than a building, you will find a part of it: this in fact must have been a condominium, but it has never been finished. Over the years, the concrete has colored thanks to the work of dozens of artists armed with spray cans. As the name implies, it is located on Baylor Street and we advise you to go there also because from the top you have a great view of Austin.

    The most modern and contemporary architecture, on the other hand, is excellently represented by three imposing skyscrapers: The Indepentent, The austonian e 360 Condominiums. The former, 210 meters high, is the tallest building in the city and one of the tallest residential buildings in the United States. What makes it curious is the fact that it is made up of staggered blocks, like Lego bricks placed one on top of the other in a disordered way. The second, 208 meters high, is a colossus of glass and steel, while 360 ​​Condominiums, with its 177 meters, has a more sober style, so to speak for a skyscraper.


    Bullock Texas History Museum

    Austin does not lack the opportunity to visit some interesting museums. Let's see which are the best to enter during a visit to the Texan capital.

    • Bullock Texas History Museum. This museum dedicated to the history of Texas is the ideal place to understand why Texas is as we know it today, with so many peculiarities that make it different from many other American states. In an interactive way, with touch screens and even themed shows, you have the opportunity to discover how this territory and its people went from being part of Mexico to becoming one of the most relevant states in the USA. All information on timetables and tickets can be found on the official website.
    • Blanton Museum of Art. Are you among those who are looking for the main art museum in every city? Then plan a visit to the Blanton. Here you will find one of the largest art collections in the United States, as well as temporary exhibitions that alternate throughout the year. For info on timetables and tickets you can consult the official website.
    • Mexic-Arte Museum. The territory of Texas was once part of Mexico and even today Mexican culture is closely linked to that of the United States in the border states. Here you can discover an artistic heritage dedicated to this border culture. On the official website you can find detailed information on timetables and tickets.

    Parks and green areas

    Zilker Metropolitan Park

    Austin is one city ​​very rich in green areas and public parks, where it can be pleasant to take a walk, perhaps to cool off in the shade of the trees on hot summer days. Some of these gardens are real gems that deserve an extra look.

    • Zilker Metropolitan Park. This is probably the most loved park by the citizens of Austin, who frequent it in all seasons. Vast and varied, it is a place where families bring their children and where sportsmen go to train, but at the same time it is home to various kinds of events.
    • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This splendid botanical garden was born with the aim of preserving the native flora and over time it has also transformed into the ideal habitat for various animal species. It is located outside the center, but it is worth taking a trip to immerse yourself in a place where nature reigns supreme.
    • Circulation Sculpture Garden. The bronze sculptures of the artist Charles Umlauf turn this verdant garden into an open-air museum. You can walk among streams and waterfalls, relaxing while discovering the statues scattered in the park.
    • Mayfield Park. A large park north of the center, full of walking paths and containing a well-kept garden, where you will find ponds covered with water lilies, peacocks and a pretty cottage.

    The bats of Congress Bridge

    Austin's Congress Bridge it is certainly not a postcard bridge like the Golden Gate in San Francisco or the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, but it is still a great attraction. To be precise, it is the bats that live under it that attract hundreds of people near the bridge.

    That of Congress Bridge appears to be the largest urban bat colony that is around the world. We are talking about almost one and a half million small flying mammals that between March and November, at dusk, fly to hunt for insects. They don't all live under the Congress Bridge, but also in other places in the city. The humidity of the river, however, attracts mosquitoes and other insects, and consequently also the bats that feed on it. Seeing them all fly together is definitely fascinating and above all it is about a natural spectacle difficult to see elsewhere.

    If you happen to be here when the sun goes down and your eyes fall on a big dark flock, don't mistake them for birds: they are the tool that the citizens of Austin use to fight the mosquito problem!

    Events not to be missed

    In Austin, the most popular events are musical ones. Just do an online search for the period you are planning your trip and you will probably have some big or small event to attend. However, there are some annual milestones to emphasize. The first is the South by southwest: it is one of the most important events of the US music industry. It takes place in March and lasts two weeks: in addition to music, it also includes cinema and other types of events. In October, on the other hand, for two consecutive weekends, the meadows of Zilker Park host theAustin City Limits, a music festival that sees groups of all kinds of music alternate in the park. From rock to country, from indie to electronic music, from folk to hip hop, it's hard to get there without appreciating at least one of the concerts on offer.

    Racing car enthusiasts know that Austin is home to the Circuit del Grand Prix of the Americas. If you love Formula 1, visiting Austin when the cars whiz around its circuit will allow you to feel a good emotion. We always talk about engines every June for the ROT Rally: the grandiose motorcycle parade that sees hundreds of centaurs traveling to the Texan capital on two wheels.

    If, on the other hand, you prefer art and culture, you might like the Texas Book Festival - dedicated to books, in October - or the Pecan Street Festival, a great and ancient festival on arts and crafts, which in spring and autumn fills 6th Street (which in fact was once called Pecan Street) with stalls.

    Where to eat in Austin

    In downtown Austin you will find places to eat to suit all tastes and budgets. But we give you some suggestions that might be useful to you.

    • Terry Black’s Barbecue (1003 Barton Springs Rd). Are you looking for good quality grilled meat? Here is one of the best barbecues in the city. The prices are not that high and the food is good.
    • Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (117 San Jacinto Blvd). Do you want to eat fried chicken, spending little but avoiding fast food chains? At Gus you will find what you are looking for and you will come out with a full stomach and without emptying your wallet.
    • Cedar Door Patio Bar & Grill (201 Brazos St Bldg A). Here you can eat American and Mexican food, the prices are not very high and the quality of the food is good. A good place for both lunch and dinner.

    Where to sleep in Austin

    Like any major city, Austin delivers numerous accommodation possibilities. Therefore, the advice is to click on the button you find below to see all the available accommodations and choose the type of structure that best suits your needs. However, let us try to highlight some good quality hotels and suitable for an overnight stop in the Texan capital.

    • Canopy By Hilton Austin Downtown. If you are looking for a high quality hotel, this four-star hotel in the heart of Downtown is for you. From the bar to the swimming pool, all the services offered are of a high standard and the location is ideal for visiting the city.
    • Brava House B&B. This Bed & Breakfast is close to the center, but at the same time surrounded by greenery. You will feel like you are staying in an old house rather than a hotel, and if you like to breathe a familiar area during your travels, you will not be disappointed by one or more nights spent here.
    • Homewood Suites Austin/South. This accommodation, in an excellent three-star hotel, is ideal for those who are on a road trip and have the hours counted. Its position, next to the junction between two of the main city arteries, but at the same time close to the center, will allow you not to waste precious time, especially if your arrival or departure is scheduled at peak times.

    All accommodations in Austin

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