Austin is just simply not like the rest of Texas. From the quirky cast of characters that populate Congress Avenue to burnt orange-clad University of Texas students, bats to Longhorns, four-star restaurants to down-home barbecue joints, corporate CEOs to struggling musicians, Texas' capital city stands apart from the rest.
It's hip and trendy, yet in a vintage sort of way. It's high-tech and laid-back. It's politically charged and culturally rich. It's eclectic by nature and creative by design. Most of all, it's a place where people like to have a good time.
In the state capitol of Texas, we pride ourselves on being far from ordinary. Live music echoes from every corner of the city. We're home to a singer named Willie, a cyclist named Lance and a Longhorn steer named Bevo. As the gateway to the Texas Hill Country, rolling hills and sparkling waterways form our natural landscape. Each night during the summer we celebrate the departure of some 1.5 million bats with abandon, the same as we do in fall for a University of Texas gridiron win. The pages of Texas history-fact and myth alike-unfold at the Texas State History Museum, while the legacy of a president lives on at the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum.
We invite you to sample a taste of Austin-from the kitchens of some of the country's best Tex-Mex and barbecue restaurants to the unique lifestyles of South Congress Avenue, or SoCo as it's known to the locals. We're an exciting 24-hour city where the music never stops and where's is considered normal to be a little out of the ordinary.
A night on the town in the "Live Music Capital of the World" naturally includes music at more than 150 venues on any given evening. Country, blues, rock and roll, Western swing, hip-hop, Tejano and Latin jazz defines Austin's unique music genre. The largest concentration of venues is found downtown in the Warehouse District and along Sixth Street. Each March, thousands of musicians and fans alike converge on the city for the annual South by Southwest Music,
Film and Interactive festival.
In its 31st season, Austin City Limits continues to be the best free show in town. The PBS television series showcases American and Texas roots music. For information on tapings, call the ticket hotline at 512-471-4811. The music leaves the studio in September for the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park.
Austin stakes a claim to being the "Gateway to the Hill Country." Along the western edge of the city, the Balcones Escarpment rises up to separate flat prairies from the rolling hills. Blessed with an undulating landscape and 300 days of sunshine a year, Austin lives for the outdoors. Three lakes surround the city, with Town Lake bisecting downtown. Some 10 miles of hike-and-bike trails border the lake.
Each night from March through October, more than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from beneath Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Town Lake. Zilker Park offers wide-open spaces for flying kites, playing frisbee or listening to music. Swimmers take a deep breath before plunging into the 68-degree waters of Barton Springs Pool. Inspired by hometown boy Lance Armstrong, cyclists pedal along bike lanes and trails throughout the city.
Originally a buffalo hunting ground for Native Americans, Austin was permanently settled in 1838 as a trading post on the Colorado River. Some 657,000 residents now live in the city named for colonist Stephen F. Austin. The pink granite Texas State Capitol commands a stately presence in downtown and stands 14 feet taller than the nation's statehouse.
Interactive exhibits at the Capitol Visitors Center, housed in the Old General Land Office, peek behind the scenes at the statehouse. The Lone Star State's history comes together under one roof at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Recognized among the world's top creative cities, Austin supports a thriving arts and cultural scene. Ranked as the city having the highest creativity index score in Richard Florida's ground-breaking book "The Rise of the Creative Class," Austin nurtures scores of musicians, artists, entrepreneurs and a fabled laid-back lifestyle. Austin is one of only a few U.S. cities with professional ballet, opera, symphony and theater companies. The cultural offerings include some 20 museums, dozens of art galleries and more than 60 performance companies.
Mexic-Arte Museum exhibits art traditions of Mexico, while Arthouse features changing exhibits of contemporary Texas artists. The Austin Museum of Art maintains collections in two locations, downtown and at Laguna Gloria, a historic villa on Lake Austin. A newly expanded George Washington Carver Museum reveals the city's deep-rooted African-American heritage with permanent and changing exhibitions.
The former home and studio of 19th century sculptress Elisabet Ney is the city's oldest museum. Umlauf Sculpture Garden showcases the work of the city's most famous 20th century sculptor.
The drama, comedy and music at the Paramount Theatre, a restored movie palace, span from Broadway to the much beloved Tuna, Texas. Outstanding stage productions spill over to the State Theatre next door. The company of Zachary Scott Theatre consistently produces rollicking entertainment. A multi-cultural world of music and dance takes the stage at One World Theatre.
Outstanding cultural resources are found on the campus of the University of Texas, where the Blanton Museum of Art opened a new facility showcasing an extensive collection spanning from Latin American folk art to contemporary masters. The renowned Harry Ransom Center ranks among the country's top cultural archives, housing such treasures as a rare Gutenberg Bible, the world's first photograph and Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate collection. The Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum chronicles the rise of a young Texas man from a humble upbringing to the pinnacle of power.
Ballet Austin, under the artistic direction of Stephen Mills, emerge among the country's leading ballet companies. In its 96th season, The Austin Symphony continues to entertain a vast audience with music ranging from children's concerts to pops series. The Austin Lyric Opera stages a full season of favorite classics as well as provocative new works.
Time was when eating out in Austin meant three choices-barbecue, Tex-Mex and chicken-fried steak. Granted, those are still the holy trinity of the local dining scene, but the cuisine here now simmers with a decidedly more sophisticated and international flair. The Wall Street Journal labels Austin as one of the country's "up-and-coming culinary hot spots." In the past four years, three Austin chefs (Tyson Cole of Uchi; David Bull of The Driskill Grill; and Will Packwood of 7) have been listed among Food & Wine magazine's "Top 10 Young Chefs." The classical French cooking techniques of Le Cordon Bleu are even taught at Texas Culinary Academy.