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Did You Know … ?
- Austin’s airport has three live-music venues.
- Austin’s capitol building claims the largest gross square footage of all U.S. state capitols.
- In summer, Austin hosts North America’s largest urban bat population, about 1.5 million critters.
- When founded in 1839, the city was called Waterloo.
- The name Texas is based on an Indian word meaning friends or allies.
Attention, music lovers
Austin, the capital of America’s second-largest state, bills itself as the live-music capital of the world. Another city or cities somewhere might make a similar claim (it’s a hard one to prove). Nevertheless, the moniker effectively sums up one significant aspect of a metropolis that counts nearly 200 live-music venues and an estimated 1,900 recording acts resident in the area.
For the visitor, this translates into a raft of choices for genres (from rock to blues, jazz to folk or gospel singing and the symphony) and for venues (from free outdoor park settings to concert halls, from grungy bars to the airport or a grocery store). There are several music festivals, to boot.
Music has to figure in a well-rounded itinerary for the tourist in Austin, but the city isn’t a one-note destination either.
Because of its geography and numerous parks, Austin is appealing for venturesome travelers, especially those in the younger set who love being active in the outdoors.
Located in southeastern Texas, Austin boasts 300 days of sunshine and an average temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It also counts more than 220 parks that encompass the de rigueur greenery plus creeks, lakes and natural springs. In or near the city, visitors can enjoy cycling, golfing, hiking, kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, zipping around on a canopy tour or just taking a dip in those springs.
The city already is notable for its green appearance, but it now wants to be a green city in the ecological sense. Austin’s climate-protection plan aims to make the city carbon-neutral by 2020.
Visitors may choose to visit for the music or the chance to cycle where Lance Armstrong trained, but an overview of Austin’s attractions must include food. The city’s fine-dining restaurant scene is up and coming, but its reputation for barbecue is established. Barbecue is the king of foods here, and the only issue is which establishment serves the city’s, and maybe the nation’s, best.
Things to do for Venturers
- Listen to live music — which can include alternative punk rock and hip-hop — and take in the nightlife in the Red River, Sixth Street or the Warehouse entertainment district.
- Jog or cycle along the Hike and Bike Trail that circles Lady Bird Lake for 10 miles. Or, for more vigorous activity, head outside of town to cycle on open roads often used by athletes, including hometown champion Lance Armstrong.
- At the Barton Creek Greenbelt, locate and take advantage of the natural rock climbing walls along its eight-mile trail.
- Visit the home of William Sidney Porter, the short-story writer better known by his pen name, O. Henry. Or, time your visit to observe or even compete in the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships.
- Go wakeboarding or waterskiing on Lake Austin or Lake Travis outside of town.
- Take a canopy tour, flying from platform to platform over cypress treetops west of Austin.
Things to do for Centrics
- Take lessons and then practice your stand-up paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake.
- Come to town in October for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Or, make that a March visit for the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference and Festival (SXSW) to hear established entertainers and newcomers, as well.
- Bring the binoculars and go bird-watching in Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.
- Search out a restaurant that suits your tastes on Manor Road in the up-and-coming East Austin area.
- Rent a kayak or canoe for some time afloat on Lady Bird Lake at the edge of downtown.
- Look for and attend one of the free CD release parties or in-store performances at Waterloo Records.
Things to do for Authentics
- Anytime from April to October, look for hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats roosting under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Watch their nightly flight.
- Hear country music at the Broken Spoke (where you also can take a Texas two-step dance lesson) or the blues at Antone’s, dubbed Austin’s home of the blues.
- Shop in the pedestrian row of upscale boutiques found in the Second Street District.
- Barbecue is a serious subject in Austin; try the specialty at several dining spots. Try the breakfast taco, too.
- Take in free theater under the stars at the Zilker Hillside Theater. Free live music is another outdoor option, such as at Waterloo Park on summer Wednesdays. You may even hear live music in a grocery store or at the airport.
- Join a free tour of Independence Brewing Company, with samples and live music, available the first Saturday of each month.
For more information, consult the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.austintexas.org