Austin Travel Guide

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Austin Travel Guide

Austin Local History

Legend has it that Republic of Texas vice president; Mirabeau B. Lamar came to the village of Waterloo on a hunting trip in 1838 and fell in love with what he saw. In 1839 Sam Houston, president of the republic, commissioned the republic's new capital at Waterloo and renamed it to Austin, in honour of Stephen F. Austin. In 1842, the capital was moved to Houston after repeated attacks by Indians and Mexicans, but returned in 1845. The city began to boom and by the turn of the century; the city was as cosmopolitan as many in the east. During the 1880's the University of Texas was established.

In 1933, Kenneth Treadgill opened a gas station and beer joint called Treadgill's. You can still drop in and have a look at 'Travis County Beer License No 01'. Threadgill hosted regular informal jam sessions 'Hootenannies' that attracted musicians from around Texas, of which Janet Joplin was a regular. In years to follow, Austin's music scene grew and was highlighted with the opening of Armadillo World Headquarters in 1970. Armadillo played host to musicians like Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa and Van Morrison. As the 'Live-Music Capital of the World', Austin now hosts the annual South by Southwest Music Festival.

In 1998 Austin was hit hard by climatologically chaos starting with weeks of record high temperatures (33`C/90`F) followed by tornadoes and severe flooding. Damage to the state was extensive.

Austin Attractions

Austin Shopping

Austin is every shopper's dream and offers a wide variety of markets and malls to specialty shops, to cater for any shopping need.

The Renaissance Market - Billed as the only continuous operated, open-air crafts market in the United States. At this hippie-ish crafts market you will find everything from silver jewelry and hand-carved flutes to batik T-shirts.

Barton Creek Square - Has a wide-ranging collection of more than 150 shops, including Dillard's, Foley's, Sears and JCPenney. 2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. Tel: 512/327-7040.

Central Market - For every imaginable edible item, you should visit this gourmet mega market which sells everything fresh or frozen, local or imported it also has a restaurant section, with a top-notch chef serving up cowboy, bistro, Italian, Vegetarian, you name it. In addition, all at very affordable prices. 4001 N. Lamar. Tel: 512/206-1000.

Austin Activities

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Texas Memorial Museum - Is child friendly but mostly cater for the older child with an interest in history. Outdoor attractions are still the biggest kiddies-draw and good choices include Zilker Park, which offers regular programs, and Barton Springs, where there is lots of room for children to splash around. In addition, the following attractions are especially geared toward children: Austin Children's Museum, Austin Nature and Science Center, Austin Zoo (with a variety of native animals and other interesting creepy-crawlies), Jourdan Bachman Pioneer Farm, Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer and Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train.

Austin Parks & Gardens

Zilker Park - Just south of the Colorado River, about half a mile west of Congress Ave, you will find a pleasant 8-acre (3ha) stretch of green, lined with hiking and biking trails. This is the epicenter of outdoor recreation in Austin and it is the home to a botanical garden, sculpture garden and museum. The Austin Nature Center runs exhibitions on native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, from the inside of the park. Buses are available from downtown and the Park is definitely worth a visit. Zilker Park also plays host to Austin Symphony's Fourth of July Concert, Blues on the Green (every other Wednesday night from June to August), and Zilker Park Jazz Festival (in September).

Barton Springs - Zilker Park is the city's access point to BARTON SPRINGS, Austin's natural swimming pool. Here you can kick back and relax in a beautiful setting.

National Wildflower Research Center - Founded in 1982, the Center has a display garden featuring every type of wildflower and plant that grown in Texas. Anyone with an interest in Fauna and flora should visit this first-class center. The best time for a visit is between April and August when everything is in full bloom. There is a short nature trail and rock gardens. For the children there is a playhouse and frequent programs to keep them happy and occupied. The Center is 20 minutes south from downtown central and is easily reached by car, taxi or bus.

Austin Restaurants and Bars

Living the Austin lifestyle means a bellyful of that famous mesquite BBQ and a few rounds of Celis beer. With the certified Angus beef or simple chicken and fish preparations (mostly done in a fry-friendly style) you cannot go wrong. The Texans seems to have a great preference towards meat and meaty dishes, but creatively teams their dishes with intercontinental tastes like bratwurst and sauerkraut. There is an extensive representation of Mexican food to satisfy the more spice thirsty appetites. Whatever your taste, in Austin you will not go away hungry.

For those that are not into meat, there is a variety of vegetarian restaurants that will tingle your taste buds with scrumptious vegan dishes. With heavy south-of-the-border representation, you will find classic chiles rellenos, burritos, and nachos along with more unusual tofu enchiladas.

Austin Restaurants

Mr Natural - A restaurant that falls into the inexpensive range. This restaurant doubles as a health food store and bakery and has an all-Mexican staff. You will find dishes such as tofu pipian, vegetarian chorizo and zucchini poblana on the menu. 1901 E. 1st St. Tel: 512/477-5228.

Castle Hill Cafe - Tucked away by trees on three sides, this cafe with its dark-wood tables, rich Southwestern tones, and abundant Oaxacan folk art balances comfort and creativity. Empanadas filled with curried lamb and raisins and topped with a cilantro-yogurt sauce make a superb appetizer. As do the crab-crayfish cakes with apple-rosemary vinaigrette. Entree prices have gone up in recent years, but the main courses come with salads, and the low-priced starters are huge. Prices for main courses range between $11 - $20, and they have a good selection of reasonably prices local wines. 1101 W. Fifth St. Downtown/Capitol. Tel: 512/476-0728.

Fonda San Miguel - One of America's top fine-dining spots for Mexican regional cuisine. Here you will discover food from the northern Mexico state of Sonora. Appetizers such as Vera Cruz-style ceviche or quesadillas with huitlacoche (a corn fungus), cannot be beaten and followed by one of the Yucatan offerings like Cochinita pibil (pork baked in banana leaves) you are sure to get your money's worth. For patrons with more traditional tastes, familiar northern Mexican fare can be found on the menu. Prices range between $13-$20 for main courses and reservations are recommended. 2330 W. North Loop. Tel: 512/459-4121.

The Salt Lick - Here you can indulge in the all-you-can-eat family-style platters of beef, sausage, and pork ribs. Just make sure to reserve some space for the fresh-bakes peach cobbler. The Salt Lick serves the most excellent moist chicken, beef and pork BBQ's, as well as terrific homemade pickles at an equally terrific price. Prices range between $7-$14 per plate and take to mind that they do not accept credit cards. This restaurant is a must for barbeque lovers. If you, however, like a brew with your BBQ, you will need to take your own in a cooler. Tel: 512/858-4959, 888/SALT-LICK (mail order).

Austin Bars & Clubs

Broken Spoke - This is the genuine Western honky-tonk item, dating from 1964. It still has a plank floor and a cowboy-hatted, two-stepping' crowd. The atmosphere is just right to enjoy their chicken-fried steak, which is just unbeatable. Cover range between $5 - $25. 3201 S. Lamar Blvd. Tel: 512/442-6189.

Capitol City Comedy - Ranked as one of the top on the stand-up comedy circuit, Cap City offers nationally recognized comedians like Dave Chapell and Tommy Chong, on their stage. The best acts turn up on Fridays and Saturdays, but you will have plenty to laugh about (including lower cover charge) during the week. 8120 Research Blvd, Suite 100. Tel: 512/467-2333. Tickets: $9 (Sun, Wed & Thurs), $2 (Mon), $4.50 (Tues), $12 (Fri, Sat).

La Zona Rosa - With a renovated garage brightly painted with monsters and filled with kitschy memorabilia, this is a place to listen to good bands, from Greg Allman and Friends to Los Lobos. Tel: 512/263-4146. Ticket prices range between $6-$8 for local acts and $20-$45 for national acts.

Scholz Garten - Since 1866, when council member August Scholz first opened this tavern, every governor has visited it at least once making Scholz Garten Texas's oldest operating biergarten. In recent years, the tavern was sold to the owners of the popular Green Mesquite BBQ. An extensive menu combines barbecue favourites with a state-of-the-art sound system. Overall, it is a great place to drink in some Austin history. 1607 San Jacinto Blvd. Tel: 512/474-1958.

Austin children's activities

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Texas Memorial Museum - Is child friendly but mostly cater for the older child with an interest in history. Outdoor attractions are still the biggest kiddies-draw and good choices include Zilker Park, which offers regular programs, and Barton Springs, where there is lots of room for children to splash around. In addition, the following attractions are especially geared toward children: Austin Children's Museum, Austin Nature and Science Center, Austin Zoo (with a variety of native animals and other interesting creepy-crawlies), Jourdan Bachman Pioneer Farm, Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer and Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train.

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