Austin Travel Guide


6th Street
Likely Texas' best known street, the seven block's of 6th Street between Congress and IH 35 are certainly Austin's entertainment center. With a little help from it's many like-minded sister streets, 6th Street is the heart of Austin's live entertainment scene and the capital of third coast music.

Sixth Street (formerly known as Pecan Street) is lined with many historical houses and commercial buildings dating from the late 1800's and early 1900's. The storied old buildings now house numerous bars, a host of live entertainment venues, tattoo parlors, art galleries, casual cafes, upscale restaurants, and the elegant Driskill Hotel. Live music of every genre abounds. From jazz, blues, and country to rock, hip-hop, beat, progressive, metal, punk and derivations of these, there's something to whet everyone's musical pallete. Great food is a staple on Sixth Street, featuring such regional staples as chili, ribs, and Tex-Mex plus steak, seafood, cajun-cooking, and deli.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The main attractions are naturally the display gardens -- among them, one designed to attract butterflies -- and the wildflower-filled meadow, but the native stone architecture of the visitors center and observation tower is attention grabbing, too. Included among the interesting indoor displays is one of Lady Bird's wide-brimmed gardening hats and a talking lawnmower with a British accent.

State Capitol
The history of Texas's legislative center is as turbulent and dramatic as that of the state itself. The current 1888 capitol replaced an 1852 limestone statehouse that burned down in 1881; a land-rich but otherwise impecunious Texas government traded 3 million acres of public lands to contractors to finance its construction. Gleaming pink granite was donated to the cause, but a railroad had to be built to transport the material some 75 miles from Granite Mountain, near Marble Falls, to Austin. Texas convicts labored on the project alongside 62 stonecutters brought in from Scotland.

Barton Springs Pool
If the University of Texas is the seat of Austin's intellect, and the state capitol is its political pulse, Barton Springs is the city's soul. The Native Americans who settled near here believed these waters had spiritual powers, and today's residents still place their faith in the abilities of the spring-fed pool to soothe and cool.

Austin Nature and Science Center
Bats, bees, and crystal caverns are among the subjects of the Discovery Boxes at this museum in the 80-acre Nature Center, which features lots of interactive exhibits. The tortoises, lizards, porcupine, and vultures in the Wildlife Exhibit -- among more than 50 orphaned or injured creatures brought here from the wild -- also hold kids' attention. An Eco-Detective trail highlights pond-life awareness. The Dino Pit, slated to open early 2003, is sure to lure budding paleontologists. A variety of specialty camps, focusing on everything from caving to astronomy, are offered from late May through August.

Bremond Block
"The family that builds together, bonds together" might have been the slogan of Eugene Bremond, an early Austin banker who established a mini real-estate monopoly for his own kin in the downtown area. In the mid-1860s, he started investing in land on what was once Block 80 of the original city plan. In 1874, he moved into a Greek revival home made by master builder Abner Cook. By the time he was through, he had created a family compound, purchasing and enlarging homes for himself, two sisters, a daughter, a son, and a brother-in-law. Some were destroyed, but those that remain on what is now known as the Bremond Block are exquisite examples of elaborate late-19th-century homes.

Capitol Complex Visitors Center
The capitol wasn't the only important member of the state complex to undergo a face-lift: Texas also spent $4 million to gussy up its oldest surviving office building, the 1857 General Land Office. If the imposing German Romanesque structure looks a bit grand for the headquarters of an administrative agency, keep in mind that land has long been the state's most important resource. Among the employees of this important -- and very political -- office, charged with maintaining records and surveying holdings, was the writer O. Henry, who worked as a draftsman from 1887 to 1891; he based two short stories on his experiences here.

Elisabet Ney Museum
Strong-willed and eccentric, German-born sculptor Elisabet Ney nevertheless charmed Austin society in the late 19th century. When she died, her admirers turned her Hyde Park studio into a museum. In the former loft and working area -- part Greek temple, part medieval battlement -- visitors can view plaster replicas of many of her pieces. Drawn toward the larger-than-life figures of her age, Ney had created busts of Schopenhauer, Garibaldi, and Bismarck by the time she was commissioned to make models of Texas heroes Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for an 1893 Chicago exposition. William Jennings Bryan, Enrico Caruso, Jan Paderewski, and four Texas governors were among the many visitors to her Austin studio.

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
The special collections of the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) contain approximately 1 million rare books (including a Gutenberg Bible, one of only five complete copies in the U.S.); 30 million literary manuscripts (including those by James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway); 5 million photographs, including the world's first; and more than 100,000 works of art, with several pieces by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Mount Bonnell
For the best views of the city and Hill Country, ascend this mountaintop park, at 785 feet the highest point in Austin (and the oldest tourist attraction in town). It has long been a favorite spot for romantic trysts; rumor had it that any couple who climbed the 106 stone steps to the top together would fall in love (an emotion often confused with exhaustion). The peak was named for George W. Bonnell, Sam Houston's commissioner of Indian affairs in 1836.

Texas State Cemetery
The city's namesake, Stephen F. Austin, is the best-known resident of this East Side cemetery, established by the state in 1851. Judge Edwin Waller, who laid out the grid plan for Austin's streets and later served as the city's mayor, also rests here, as do eight former Texas governors, various fighters in Texas's battles for independence, a woman who lived to tell the tale of the Alamo, and Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from the South elected to the U.S. Congress (in 1996, she became the first African American to gain admittance to these grounds). Perhaps the most striking monument, sculpted by Elisabet Ney, commemorates Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, who died at the Battle of Shiloh. A multimillion-dollar revamp in the mid-1990s added much-needed pedestrian walkways and a visitors center, designed to suggest the long barracks at the Alamo. Two self-guided tour pamphlets are available.


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