Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is the fourth largest city in Texas and seventeenth largest in the United States. Located in the Texas Hill Country region, Austin is about 176 miles (283 km) south of Dallas, Texas, 147 miles (237 km) northwest of Houston, Texas, and 458 miles (737 km) west of New Orleans, Louisiana. Austin experiences mild winters and hot, humid summers. Frequent rain showers are common in the spring and then again in the fall.

Austin is positioned on the Colorado River and there are many lakes in Austin and its surrounding area, including three man-made lakes within the city limits. The lakes are popular for water activities such as swimming, water skiing, boating, and fishing. Mount Bonnell is one of the highest points in Austin. It is located adjacent to Lake Austin and has an elevation of 780 feet above mean sea level, making it a great location to view the Austin skyline or sit and watch the sun set.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is located in southeast Austin about eight miles from downtown. The airport is on the site of the former Bergstrom Air Force Base on Texas Highway 71 and U.S. Highway 183. The airport offers a variety of restaurants and Texas themed gift shops but the most memorable aspect of the airport is the Live Music Stage that regularly features local performers.

Live Music Capital of the World

Two Austin Musicians © Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau
Sixth Street is the heart of Austin's music scene and is where you can find nearly every genre of live music on any given night of the week.

Austin is called the Live Music Capital of the World. Sixth Street is the heart of Austin's music scene and is where you can find nearly every genre of live music on any given night of the week. 6th Street consists of seven historical block's between Congress and IH-35 and is home to many art galleries, clubs, bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, and more. 6th Street also hosts many annual events. Every year on the weekend following Memorial Day Austin fills with bikers (motorcyclists) for the Republic of Texas Biker Rally. Every March, the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) and South by Southwest Film and Interactive Events Convention are held in Austin.

Austin is home to the University of Texas

Austin is home to the University of Texas, often referred to as "UT" or simply "Texas." It is the largest university in Texas as well as one of the largest in the United States. The school's burnt orange colors and Longhorn steer mascot are popular throughout the state of Texas.

The University of Texas Tower is the University's most prominent and cherished landmark. It stands at 307-feet (93.57 meters); and although it is shorter in height than the neighboring State Capitol, it appears taller due to the higher ground it was built on. The Tower was open in 1937 and has always been popular among visitors.

The Texas Tower carries a haunting history. In 1966, officials were forced to close the tower because of sniper shootings. Charles Joseph Whitman murdered 15 people and wounded 31 before being killed by police. Two years later the tower reopened, but by the mid-seventies it was closed again due to a string of suicide jumps. Finally, in 1999, the tower reopened with safeguards: visitors are now required to pass through metal detectors before entering the tower. A barricade was installed on the observation deck to prevent falls or jumps, and security workers are on duty during visitor hours. The tower was again closed a short time following the September 11, 2001 attacks but has since reopened to visitors.

Austin has many other attractions

Austin is the State Capital of Texas and is where you will find the elegant Governor's Mansion. This beautiful Greek revival style mansion is located near the State Capitol at the corner of 11th Street and Colorado. It is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest executive residence west of the Mississippi. The First Families of Texas have lived in the Governor's Mansion since 1856. Tours of the Mansion and its beautiful gardens are available to visitors.

Capital Building in Austin Texas © Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau
Austin is the State Capital of Texas.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is located in downtown Austin and is a great place to learn the "Story of Texas." The Museum brings visitors back in time through three floors of interactive exhibits. The Museum has a special effects show called The Star of Destiny and the only large-format film IMAX Theatre in Austin that features Texas: The Big Picture.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a botanical garden dedicated to the native plants and fauna of the area. Named after former wife of President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson founded the center along with actress Helen Hayes in 1982. Visitors can learn about the native trees, shrubs, and cacti of the Texas Hill Country and roam the sixteen gardens, including an incredible Butterfly Garden.

Zilker Metropolitan Park sits on 351 acres on Barton Springs Road and offers endless things to do for residents and visitors. Barton Springs Pool (a natural spring-fed pool), Umlauf Sculpture Garden, Zilker Botanical Gardens, Zilker Zephyr (a miniature train ride), canoeing on Town Lake, the Austin Nature and Science Center, and scheduled music and arts festivals are just some of the things to partake in at the Zilker Park.

Watch the bats take flight

The most spectacular attraction in Austin is the world's largest urban bat colony that resides under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Every evening throughout the summer, people gather to watch in awe as the 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the bridge for their nightly feeding. During these forays, the bats of Congress Avenue Bridge devour from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects. These bats, which are mostly female, migrate every spring from central Mexico to Austin. In early summer, the female bats each deliver a single baby bat (called a pup) nearly doubling the bat population.

Dale Whistler, a former local Austin artist, designed one of Austin's most recognizable landmarks, an oversized swiveling bat sculpture. It stands across the street from the American-Statesman office on Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road.

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair
Top Photo Credit: © Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau
Photo Description: Austin is the live music capital of the world.