World Facts Index > United States > Austin

Austin is a place where business professionals, artists, musicians, filmmakers and students all bring their passions to life. Even with its population growing rapidly, this city continues to welcome new residents with open arms. Over the past few years, several national magazines have touted Austin as a top place to live. With the new, cutting edge high-tech companies growing at an alarming rate, it may seem surprising that Austin has retained the laid-back style it has become famous for.

Sixth Street
To experience "The Live Music Capital" of the world, Sixth Street is a good place to start. Often closed to vehicle traffic on the weekends, this street is lined with dance clubs, live music venues, eateries and street musicians, plus several tattoo and piercing shops. Visitors can have their tarot cards read by a gypsy on a street corner, or buy handmade jewelry from artists and hippies. Grab a slice of pizza at Roppolo's when the munchies take over and you're short on cash; or, if a Cajun meal is what you're after, Jazz serves up Louisiana cooking and great mixed drinks. Music fills the air every night of the week, and visitors can hear everything from country to hip-hop, blues to noisepop.

If you venture north on Red River Street, you'll find some of Austin's best live music venues. Emo's, Stubb's, and Red Eyed Fly?a venue that just opened its doors in 1999?all reside here. Liberty Lunch, Austin's legendary live music venue, shut its doors in July of 1999, but will find a new home on Red River, right next to Stubb's'the sign is already hanging!

Capitol Complex Visitor Center
Built in 1856 and 1857, the Capitol Complex Visitor Center is the oldest remaining state office building in Texas. In 1997 it underwent an enormous restoration and extension. Inside the Capitol Building, there is an exhibit chronicling the restoration, where visitors can view a 20-minute film narrated by Walter Cronkite, titled Lone Star Legacy: A History of the Capitol.

The Capitol Building
The Capitol is a Renaissance Revival-style building made of Texas pink granite and native limestone, overlooking Congress Avenue. The guided tours are free and provide interesting information and stories for visitors. Make sure to stand in the center of the Rotunda, look up, take notice of the Texas star, and enjoy the beautiful architecture.

Congress Avenue
As you are heading South on Congress Avenue, stop by the Austin Museum of Art and check out their collection of 20th-century artwork. Or, if you are in the mood to shop for unique gifts, visit Tesoros Trading Company, where you'll find a large selection of Mexican and Latin American jewelry, folk art, amulets and collectibles. Many locals buy their "Day of the Dead" supplies here, as well as Peruvian good luck charms and Latin American Christmas ornaments.

As you travel further south on Congress and cross Lake Austin, you'll encounter a whole new environment. Starting with Guero's Taco Bar, you will notice that South Austin has a different kind of energy'relaxed and funky. Here, you'll find antique shops, retro resale shops, vintage clothing and folk art. Stop by Terra Toys to check out their collection of tin soldiers and chemistry sets, then head over to Texas French Bread for a soup and sandwich.

Zilker Park
This 400-acre park is home to natural spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, a miniature train that circles the park for children to ride, a giant playscape, picnic grounds, rugby and soccer fields, a disc golf course and canoe and kayak rentals. At Christmastime, one of the city's moonlight towers serves as the trunk for the Zilker Park Christmas Tree. Thousands of colored lights are strung to form the shape, and each year locals and visitors twirl around underneath the enormous structure.

Enjoy a number of musical, dance and theater events at the Zilker Hillside Theatre, where the Austin Shakespeare Festival is held each year. Or, visit the Zilker Botanical Gardens, where visitors spend the better part of a day enjoying the cactus, succulents, roses, butterflies and special gardens offered?for free.

Originally an African-American community half a mile outside of the city limits, Clarksville remains a melting pot of art and culture. Houses have increased greatly in price due to the location of the neighborhood and all it has to offer. West Lynn Café, a popular vegetarian restaurant, resides here, as well as Jeffrey's for fine dining.

The Drag
The strip of business along Guadalupe Street, bordering the University of Texas, is lovingly called "The Drag." Many of Austin's coolest shops are here?Sound Exchange (CD's, records and tapes), Blue Velvet (vintage clothing), Garb-A-Go-Go (colorful clothes and wigs), Urban Outfitters (hip clothing, accessories, gifts and housewares), and Legs Diamond (hard-to-find eclectic shoes). Stop by the outdoor Renaissance Market, where you will find jewelry, clothing and gifts made by Austin artisans. If you're looking for live music any night of the week, head down to the Hole in the Wall. This small dive hosts live music seven nights a week, with free Sunday night shows. The back room is full of pool tables and pinball games, and the crowd features many regular customers.

Hyde Park
Take a leisurely walk or drive through this Central Austin neighborhood and view its historic homes. You will likely see many residents working in their yards, walking pets or riding bikes. Duval Road runs through the neighborhood and is home to the vegetarian restaurant Mother's Café and the popular Hyde Park Grill. This unique area, the city's first planned suburb, has its own small grocery store, and boasts a theatre in its name?Hyde Park Theatre. Stop by Dolce Vita Gelate and Espresso Bar for sweet Italian ice cream or check out Quack's 43rd Street Bakery for a cappuccino and a homemade muffin.

History of Austin

Austin, Texas has a history of burgeoning growth, beginning with the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. As the new nation, dubbed the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar felt a new seat for the government was in order. Austin was named after Stephen F. Austin, founder of the Republic. Lamar sent Edwin Waller to survey the beautiful land off of the Colorado River to found the new capitol. The city was planned in a grid pattern that still maps the downtown area. Congress Avenue was the center street, with the north/south streets named for Texas rivers. The Capitol was moved to Austin in 1839, with 50 ox-drawn wagons transporting archives and furniture from the previous seat of government in Houston, Texas.

This newly established country continued to be part of the frontier. The next decade was full of fierce battles that are now collectively known as the Mexican-American War. During this time there was an attempt to move the Capitol away from Austin. But the residents of the city made sure that even if the government chose to move further away from the war zone, the archives and records remained in the city. As a result of their efforts, called the Archive War, Texas joined the United States in 1845, and Austin was named the state capital.

The 1850s were a period of tremendous growth. The first limestone Capitol building, the Governor's Mansion and General Land Office Building were erected. In 1888, structural problems and a fire destroyed the original Capitol, but a new building made of Hill Country granite was completed to replace the burned structure. The Governor's Mansion is still in pristine condition, and the General Land Office is one of the state's oldest surviving office buildings.

While surveying for the City of Austin, Edwin Waller also laid out 40 acres for the University of Texas campus. Over 40 years later, construction began on the Main Building at the center of the site. In 1883, the west wing was completed in time for the first class of 221 students. But 35 years after the building was completed, discussions began for expanding the library facilities on campus. After great debate, plans were announced to destroy the old building in order to construct a new administration and library facility. That new building is now known as the University of Texas Tower, standing 307 feet tall and boasting one of the best views of the city from the observation deck.

1871 brought a new era of success to Austin with the Houston and Texas Central Railway. This line was one of the westernmost railroads in Texas and the only railroad for scores of miles. Today, visitors can ride those same rail lines on the Austin Steam Train.

The population boomed. Education became a secondary industry. In 1881 Austin became known as a seat of education with the opening of Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute, now known as Huston-Tillotson College. Just four years later, St. Edward's University.

The turn of the century brought even more success to the bustling town of Austin. Elisabeth Ney blessed the city with her talents as a sculptress and William Sidney Porter (also known as O. Henry) wrote his celebrated stories there. By the 1920s, the city had acquired Barton Springs, adopted a council-manager government, and drew up a new city plan that included a focus on beautification, parks and recreation.

The Great Depression was hardfelt among the Austin population, but the city continued to grow. In 1941, Mansfield Dam was completed, creating Lake Travis. This, combined with the development of the Highland Lake system, created a wonderful recreation site and a huge attraction.

The 1950s brought a realization'the city could not continue its massive growth with only academia and government as an economic base. The Chamber of Commerce began to attract high-tech companies to the city. By the mid-seventies, three of the largest high-tech manufacturing companies had plants in Austin. In the 1980s, two major research consortiums, Microelectronics and Computer Technology and Sematech had been brought to the city. Now, Austin is known as one of the high-tech centers of the United States, with offices for hundreds of high-tech companies.

Austin's volatile past has created an exciting environment for its residents. The explosive growth has brought more than just people; entertainment'through theater, museums, film, music and the arts has become a prominent aspect of the Austin lifestyle. City planning has preserved greenbelts and parks so residents can have easy access to a more natural environment. The lakes provide fantastic water sports during the day, and Sixth Street offers a nightlife of dining and dancing.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 58 64 71 78 84 91 95 95 90 82 71 62
Avg. Low 38 42 51 58 66 71 74 74 68 60 48 41
Mean 48 54 62 70 76 81 85 85 80 71 61 52
Avg. Precip. 1.7 in 2.2 in 1.9 in 2.6 in 4.8 in 3.7 in 2.0 in 2.1 in 3.3 in 3.4 in 2.4 in 1.9 in


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