Austin

For other places with the same name, see Austin (disambiguation).
The state capitol in Austin, Texas

Austin is a city of over 700,000 people in the Hill Country region of the U.S. state of Texas. It is the capital of Texas and a college town, and also a center of alternative culture away from the major cities on the US coasts, though the city is rapidly gentrifying with its rising popularity. Austin's attitude is commonly emblazoned about town on T-Shirts and bumper stickers that read: "Keep Austin Weird." Austin is also marketed as the "Live Music Capital of the World" due to the large number of venues.

Districts

Understand

Visitor information

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 60 64 72 79 85 91 95 96 90 81 70 63
Nightly lows (°F) 39 43 50 58 65 72 74 74 69 59 49 42
Precipitation (in) 1.8 2.4 1.9 2.9 4.5 3.4 1.8 2.1 3.3 3.5 2.1 2.3

Austin weather is generally nice most of the year; activities are generally not limited by season. However, as Austin lies within Central Texas, be prepared to deal with the long, hot summers if you are visiting between May and September. It is not uncommon for daily high temperatures to be between 90 and 100 degrees during this time — in fact, a day in the 80s is rare, and several days may even reach triple digits (90 days in 2011). If you are here when the weather is like this, dress accordingly, drink plenty of water, and do not plan on staying outside for long (nearly all indoor places are air-conditioned) — unless you're taking the opportunity to take a dip in Barton Springs Pool or any of the other swimming holes in the area. This is especially true if the heat index is around 105 or higher, which is considered to be dangerous. Also keep in mind that the interior of cars will get dangerously hot, especially if the windows are up and it's parked in the sun — don't leave pets or children in there, no matter how briefly. How hot the summer gets usually depends on the amount of precipitation the area has been getting. If there is no drought and the spring has been particularly wet, temperatures will remain relatively tolerable and rarely break triple digits. If it has been dry, as it was from 2007-2009, summers can be very uncomfortable and triple-digit temperatures will be very common.

Central Texas winters are short to non-existent. There are many pleasant or even warm days during the winter months (the first 90 degree day of 2012 was in February), and snowfall is rare. However, hard freezes happen occasionally, and light freezes may occur frequently (especially in the more rural areas), and when this mixes with precipitation, ice storms and other wintry weather happen. If the storm is severe enough, the city may shut down for a day or so, traffic may be snarled, and the local auto body shops may notice a spike in business. The Austin area usually experiences such events 0-2 times each year or so, from late December to mid-February. Generally, though, winter weather just varies a lot, with alternating cold and warm fronts that can make for large temperature swings in the course of a single week.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit. Springs tend to be stormy (see "Stay safe" for related warning), and falls may bring light freezes during the night. For the most part, though, springs and falls are very pleasant times to experience Austin.

Read

Pick up an Austin Chronicle newspaper first thing. These are freely available all over town, including the information desk across from baggage claim at the airport. It will be your guide to everything that's going on in Austin from festivals (Spam Festival, Chili Festival, etc.) to music, theater and food; it's all in there. New issues are published every Thursday.

Get in

By plane

Austin Bergstrom International Airport (IATA: AUS). 6 miles (10 km) southeast of the city center, it is served by most major carriers, with non-stop service to 49 destinations. There are a selection of buses, taxis, Uber, Lyft, shuttles and car rentals to get you into town and back. Chauffeured sedans or limos are also available to pick you up or drop you off at the airport but normally require advance reservations. Taxi fare to downtown Austin is approximately $30. You may also catch Capital Metro bus 100 from ABIA to Downtown Austin, $1.75 for one way or $3.50 for a 24-hour local pass.

By train

Austin Amtrak station, 250 North Lamar Blvd. Served by the Texas Eagle Line with service from Chicago to San Antonio.

By car

Austin is on one major freeway and several regional highways, and its outskirts are served by several tollways. From San Antonio, head north on IH-35, about one and a half hours. From Dallas, head south on IH-35, about three hours. From Houston, head west on US-290 (or I-10 W to Hwy 71 W if you want to reach South Austin), about three hours. From I-10, take SH-130 Toll north to Austin.

By bus

There are multiple long distance bus lines serving Austin from San Antonio, Houston, Laredo and Dallas-Ft Worth in the U.S. and from Nuevo Laredo and Monterey in Mexico. Each company has a stop or their own bus stations in different parts of town that are far from each other.

Get around

On foot

Generally, the feasibility of seeing Austin by foot depends largely on the weather

For those content to see only downtown Austin and who are in good shape, exploring most of the downtown area on foot is possible. There are many attractions within a 1 - 2 mile walk from most downtown hotels. Just be prepared for potentially oppressive heat during the summer months.

The University of Texas area, just north of downtown, is also very pedestrian friendly, and in fact can be a difficult place to get around by car (very hard to find a parking spot).

By bike

Though there are some exceptions, most of downtown Austin is reasonably bike friendly. There is a high concentration of cyclists in the city, and many trails around town.

Austin is hilly to the west but generally mildly sloping toward the river in the center of town. There are bike lanes on most major streets. Biking is a great way to get around year round and the weather is usually agreeable from mid-October to mid-April. May to mid-October temperatures may reach the high 90's to 100's and humidity may be a problem.

By bus

Capital Metro. The city's public bus network with a system of inexpensive neighborhood, express and downtown routes. Visitors can also get around on the Capital MetroRail commuter train which operates on weekdays between Downtown and northwest Austin. Local fares cost $1.25 per trip, or you can get a 24-hour pass for $2.50 on board every bus (the airport bus, "flyer" routes, and bus rapid transit along Lamar and Burnet are $1.75 for a single ride and $3.50 for a day pass; while commuter express buses and MetroRail fares are $3.50, $7.00 for a day pass). "E-Bus" and "Night Owl" services serve the city's entertainment districts after hours. Expect a bus ride from any point north of 183 to downtown to take at least half an hour. The Capital Metro website has a trip planner which can be used to find public transport options between two points in Austin.

Austin has a generally mediocre public transit system. However, the bus can be a viable method of getting around with proper planning ahead of time.

The University of Texas shuttles offer frequent free service between the University and some neighborhoods during weekdays (and less frequently on Sundays) when school is in session.

There are also double-decker tour buses:

By car

Driving is not too difficult if you're used to living in a large city. Traffic is bad from 7-9AM and 3:30-7PM weekdays, though IH-35 through town can be jammed at other times as well. Austin's traffic is among the worst in the nation in terms of hours of delay per year, so allow plenty of extra time during the morning and evening commute.

There are two major north-south expressways: I-35 (non-standardly called "IH-35") and Loop 1 (also called the MoPac Expressway for the former owner of the railroad which runs along it, Missouri-Pacific - or "Slo-Pac" for anyone who has experienced it at rush hour). There is only one true major east-west freeway in Austin, located south of the city center, known as Ben White or US 290 West/Texas highway 71. The freeway section of 290 West/Ben White currently runs from I-35 to just east of Oak Hill. Freeway extensions are currently being constructed east on 71 to the airport, and the beginning stages of construction are taking place west towards and past Oak Hill. Hwy 183 runs from the southeast corner of the city near the airport to the northwest suburbs, bridging MoPac and I-35 in North Austin.

Oak Hill is the point at which TX 71 and US 290 split apart and go in separate directions, and in case this isn't confusing enough, some people make the distinction between 290 West and 290 East because at I-35, 290 East actually heads up the interstate, and then continues on to the east in North Austin. There is a second freeway that runs from the Northwest side of the city down to the Southeast side of the city past the airport. This freeway is called US 183, and in North Austin it may also be referred to as Research Boulevard. Most of it is freeway now, however there are still several major intersections which are currently being constructed and turned into freeway.

I-35 has no loop that circumnavigates the city, so watch out for aggressive, confused drivers. Also, keep your eyes open for the upper deck/lower deck split between Airport Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard; it's confusing, and accidents occur there frequently. Drivers going through Austin without stopping, or those who wish to avoid the chaos of the lower deck, should use the right two lanes as the deck split approaches, in contrast to other cities where through traffic uses the left lane. On the northbound side, traffic entering I-35 at Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard goes directly to the upper deck.

Out-of-towners be warned: on-ramps on I-35, especially the lower deck, are very short. Austin has a mostly completed network of toll roads, see Central Texas Turnpike System and Central Texas Regional Mobile Authority. These include SH 130, an Austin bypass east of town; SH 45, an east-west artery in North Austin; the North MoPac extension; the US 183A bypass of Cedar Park and Leander; and SH 45SE in far south Austin. TxTag accounts are available for commuters. There has been significant opposition and accommodations have been made in some areas. Both US 183A and MoPac are rather deceptive — if you keep going north on either 183 or MoPac, the freeway seamlessly transitions into a toll road and the signage is rather poor. To avoid the toll, you must keep a sharp eye out and get off the main lanes. Even worse, all tolls on 183A are "TxTag Only" meaning that you cannot pay cash. This trend will likely extend to all Austin tollways in the near future.

Parts of the city are subject to flooding at times during the year; however, it is not too common as Austin does not usually get an excessive amount of rain. The year 2007 saw several flood episodes with the worst effects in Marble Falls, northwest of the city. See City of Austin Flood History for historic flooding.

For those of you unfamiliar with proper treatment of flooded areas, NEVER drive through flooded low water crossings. You will lose your car and possibly your life. As little as a few inches of running water can and does wash a car away and each year there are some deaths due to this. "Turn Around, Don't Drown."

Parking

While driving is not too bad, parking in the city center can be difficult; look for municipal parking garages as officers will ticket you in the blink of an eye (check meters, though, because many are free in the evenings, on weekends, and on major holidays). Worse yet, vehicles illegally parked in private parking areas are very quickly towed, so make sure that you don't park in spots marked no parking.

Parking is free in the Texas State History Museum garage near UT after hours and on weekends. As of 2005 under SB 1533, state employees may park in state garages during non-business hours for free.

By taxi

There are several cab companies on call if you'd prefer to avoid the driving hassle.

Square Patrol

The Square Patrol offers a free designated driver service between 10PM and 3AM seven days a week. Call or text 512-R-U-DRUNK (512-783-7865) and leave your phone number. They will call you back immediately and ask for your location. This service requires you to have your own car, as they only provide a driver.

See

The University of Texas Tower

Do

Cycling

Festivals

Arranged by month. The mammoth South by Southwest (SXSW) festivals are in March. The major Austin City Limits Festival is in October.

Public art

Tours

Theater companies

Theaters

Spoken word

Music

KUTX Austin Music Map (Warning: sound; mute at bottom left)

Austin is the "Live Music Capital of the World". If you're into the bar and club scene, head to Sixth Street during the later hours for a wide selection of venues, many of which also feature live music. Sixth street is not by any stretch the only place to see music. It can in fact, become very crowded, and is generally the most tourist filled part of town. By ordinance for the protection of workers and public enjoyment, all public buildings in Austin are clean air zones, including bars. Smoking is prohibited except in rare separately ventilated areas, making Austin one of the few cities where a large and varied selection of music can be experienced smokefree.

Film

Enjoying the outdoors

Spectator sports

Extreme sports

Other

The Austin Steam Train Association, runs several tours aboard the Hill Country Flyer steam train into and around Texas Hill Country. The train makes short half hour jaunts as well as a 30-mile (50 km) circuit on weekends March through December. The Steam Train Association does actually own a live steam train, but it has been out of commission since about 2000. The train still runs though, just using a borrowed diesel engine. It is still nice, but not as attractive as it used to be.

Learn

Austin is one of the premier educational areas in the nation. The University of Texas at Austin is one of the best universities in the world, public or private. The flagship institution of the University of Texas System, it is also one of the largest universities in the world, both in terms of endowment, and in terms of student population. UT has been the largest university in the United States, but has intentionally limited enrollment and now ranks in the top five nationally. The red-tiled roofs of the "Forty Acres," as it is known, shelter many cultural and entertainment institutions. The campus is beautiful and vibrant, and visitors are welcome.

Austin is a college town as well as a government and high-tech center. It draws its population from all over, and many students decide to stay. This gives Austin a high level of general education and a diverse cultural scene.

Buy

Austin is very proud of its local stores. Great places to shop are South Congress (SoCo), The Drag, (Guadalupe, from 17th to 38th, along the West side of the UT campus) and South First. North Loop also has a few fun and funky shops, but you'll probably have to ask a local (or several) how to get there.

Malls

Groceries

Austin is home of the original and the world headquarters of Whole Foods. Their flagship store is located downtown at W. 6th St. and Lamar, in the same building as their brand-new corporate headquarters. They have several other stores around town as well. The flagship store is a destination in and of itself.

Austin is also home to the original Central Market, near Lamar and 38th St., and a second location at Lamar and Westgate, down south. Both have live music in their dining areas on weekends.

Both Whole Foods and Central Market have a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, wines, beer, cheese, free-range meats, and seafood. The Whole Foods flagship store downtown and the 38th St. Central Market locations have a varied selection of gelato. The "mothership" Whole Foods (as locals call it) is the largest in its chain, boasting six mini-restaurants with dishes prepared to order (seafood, vegetarian, BBQ, Italian, Asian, and pizza). Spirits live music at night, an ice rink on top (during the winter months) and much, much more.

Wheatsville Food Co-op (original location 3101 Guadalupe, open daily 7:30AM-11PM, new south Austin store 4001 S. Lamar Blvd) is now a thriving cooperative grocery and has been around for over 30 years. Their focus on food issues guaranteed an excellent selection of ethically produced products including organics, vegetarian, vegan, free range meats and eggs, fair trade, household items, bulk foods and a full service deli. The store is a much smaller than the large supermarkets and provides a much more personal grocery experience. "King of the Hill" made fun of the earnestness of the place by having Hank eat "faux fu" (a more ethical form of tofu) from the place.

Austin also features a large variety of ethnic grocery stores, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and, of course, Mexican.

Music

Books

Toys

Antiques

There are several antique stores on South Congress.

Clothing

Eat

When you visit Austin, or if you decide to live here, you'll have no shortage of interesting and satisfying places to eat. Austin's restaurants are a feast for the mind and the palate. The listings below are only a sampling of the diverse and plentiful Austin restaurant scene.

Austin has many high-end, destination restaurants, but it also has many high-quality, unique, and inexpensive restaurants where the locals eat, drink, and socialize every day (all day). It's a town built for living in, and the affordable, excellent restaurants show it. Just so you know you're in Texas, Austin has a large number of places serving Texas Barbeque and Tex-Mex; many of them are venerable, famous, and exceptionally good eating.

Austin is vegetarian-friendly, and many restaurants have a good selection to choose from. Most supermarkets such as HEB, Fiesta and Randall's offer inexpensive prepared food.

Service Expectations

While Austin has dining options ranging from casual to upscale, most of the popular restaurants skew towards the budget end of the spectrum. There's a good chance the restaurant you want to visit has counter or quick-casual service and does not accept reservations. Part of the reason behind this is the fact that many popular restaurants started out as food trucks and then later built brick-and-mortar locations. Many of these places require that you pay up front, including tipping. When presented with the tipping step, bear in mind that Austin housing has recently become relatively expensive for service industry workers.

Consequently, many popular restaurants also have long lines (e.g., Franklin Barbecue). While some people enjoy striking up conversations in these famed lines, you may find yourself wanting to actually eat rather than talk. Austin's restaurants tend to follow trends (e.g., BBQ, tacos, pizza), so plan on some nearby alternatives if the idea of standing in 100º heat for an hour for a burger isn't your idea of fun.

Restaurants


Burgers

Barbecue

If you're going to Austin looking for barbecue, you're going to the right place. Austin is home to multiple of the best barbecue restaurants in the state.

Fried Chicken

Mexican

Austin is home to a verity of excellent Mexican restaurants. Everyone in town has his/her favorite so if your looking to find a good one just ask the locals.

Italian

Seafood

Japanese

There are numerous Japanese restaurants in town (if you are looking for the real thing, most Japanese restaurants in town also are Korean or Chinese run). If you see bulgogi or other Korean fare it's likely a Korean restaurant. These places are pretty good and if you're not really into sushi, it's great to also have the option to eat Korean food.

Vietnamese

Etc.

Drink

Coffee

Austin is coffee mad. The coffeehouse culture is strong and growing here in Austin, and you can hear poetry and live music at quite a few of these places, as well as getting light eats. Coffeehouses are where the liberal heart of Austin beats for all to see. Free wireless Internet connections are very common (and available at many other businesses as well).

Gay and Lesbian

Most gay and lesbian bars and night clubs are located downtown with the highest concentration in the Warehouse district.

Alcohol

Austin's main strip is on 6th Street downtown. But like most entertainment districts that get raves in the media, it's a little overhyped. Check out the nearby Warehouse District and Fourth Street if you don't want quarter wells and million-dollar sorority girls.

Local Beer

Most grocery stores (especially HEB and Central Market) carry a variety of Texas beer. There are several microbreweries operating in Texas, and you can expect to find their beer at outlets with moderate to wide selections:

There are also a number of small brewpubs serving their own house-brewed beers to the local cognoscienti. These include:

Distilleries

Austin is becoming a hotbed for local, handcrafted spirits.

Sleep

Note that many hotels sell out for Austin festivals, particularly South By Southwest. Book well ahead for anything downtown

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Free Austin area WiFi Hotspots.

Stay safe

Austin is one of the safest major cities in the US. However, this does not mean that there is no crime. As with most American cities, credit cards are accepted nearly universally, especially for nightlife. Therefore, for convenience and safety, it's inadvisable to carry large amounts of cash. The number for police, fire, and medical services is 911.

In many parts of Austin, there are beggars on the street corners, particularly off of the freeways, who will hold signs asking for money (panhandling). Almost all of these people are fakes. A business hires them, supplies them with a cardboard sad-message sign, puts them at a begging station in the morning, picks them up at the end of the day, and takes a cut of the handouts. Much of the panhandled donations goes straight to drug dealers. These fake panhandlers crowd out legitimate poor people. Therefore, is not recommended that you give handouts to panhandlers. Donate instead to a legitimate charity, like Meals on Wheels or the Salvation Army.

There is a district around 6th St. and Red River that houses a large homeless shelter known as the Arch. This area is generally safe during the day, but often filled with panhandlers at night. They can be fairly aggressive and sometimes follow people traveling alone. In addition, groups of muggers sometimes target intoxicated bar patrons who dare to depart on their own.

There is generally a large, visible police presence (mounted, foot, and cruiser) at night in the 6th St. area. They are quite willing to let belligerent drunks dry out overnight in the city jail. They do, however, provide a safe and secure area to enjoy yourself and Austin's famous live music.

There is the Rundberg area, where you should not walk alone on the streets by yourself, especially around the I-35 area. Austinites tend to avoid this area.

Because surrounding hills concentrate the water, some streets in Austin and the surrounding area are prone to flooding during periods of heavy rain. These areas are typically marked as 'low water crossings' but in any event do not drive or walk across moving water. Each year several people are killed as they are swept away by flooding. You will also see many flood control structures built into the landscape. Small, dry low places with bounding berms during the dry season, these are dangerous places to be in, but keep Austin safer when the rains come.

Cope

Consulates

Radio

FM

Go next

Routes through Austin

Dallas Temple  NE  SW  San Marcos San Antonio
Waco Round Rock  N  S  San Marcos San Antonio
Clinton Vernon  N  S  Luling Refugio
El Paso Dripping Springs  W  E  Brenham Houston


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.