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The Austin Experience by Laura Faulkner, Austin UPA 2007 Conference liaison

On this Page: Classic Austin Experiences | Food | Live Music | Outdoor Activities | Indoor Activities | Shopping

Classic Austin Experiences

Bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge

1.4 million of them leaving at dusk right in the middle of town! The lovely little Mexican Freetail bats are much beloved Summer residents under the Congress Avenue bridge – every night, no charge.

Sunset on Mt. Bonnell

On a high central/westside cliff overlooking the Hill Country and the Colorado River, Mt. Bonnell at sunset is Austin at it’s best. A favorite of contemplative solos, romancing couples, and small groups who cluster and talk into the night, you will see the countryside in all its changes from the expansive day to twinkling lights at night.

Town Lake

Kayak and row, hike and bike. In the evening, walk along a semi-paved walk, lighted in most areas, partially through park areas, around and over the lake at the beautiful pedestrian walk across at Lamar Boulevard.

Meet Leslie...

Go down to Sixth Street in early evening and see if you can catch a glipse of "Leslie." He is our single most colorful human institution in Austin. He's a homeless sometime-transvestite, easily spotted by a large storage contraption built on top of a shopping cart, usually with a large sign on it of some sort, but most especially by his own delightful self. If he's not toting the cart or is take a break from it, he's easy enough to spot on the street corner: general attire is a women's bathing suit top, tight bottoms, sometimes garters, and a sheer, frilly shrug about the shoulders. Mix that with the long frizzy redish hair, mustache and sometimes beard, and you have undoubtedly, unquestionably seen Leslie.

Austin Chronicle photo and article

He knows more about Austin that almost anyone, and occasionally (seriously and in a suit) runs for mayor. He lives on the streets largely by choice. Give him a dollar--it's worth it and he'll make good use of it. Austin has great affection for him; almost as much as our Congress bridge bats.

His celebrity has recently extended both within and beyond Austin with the release of the "dress Leslie" refrigerator magnets. The local altnerative bookstore Bookpeople regularly stocks them (and regularly sells out due to demand). They're now being offered on the web. But magnets or no, seeing him is a memorable experience--seeing him more than once a privilege.

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You can eat out for weeks in Austin and never hit a chain restaurant; but at ½ million people in the city alone, you can find almost any cuisine or national favorite you like. Some of the top ones from recent Austin polls (partial source, Alcade, Jan/Feb 2007):





Relaxed Atmosphere




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Live Music

6th Street club district

The heart of Austin’s "Live Music Capital" image. Too numerous to name here, below is a sampling of favorite Austin music venues include (most on or near 6th) (source, Texas Highways, August 2006):

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Outdoor Activites

Bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge

See above.


Tour any of the many caves in the area such as Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown or Longhorn Caverns, near Inks Lake; or Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio (day trip)

Enchanted Rock

There’s no better place to experience the Texas Hill Country than Enchanted Rock. About an hour’s drive west from Austin (not so far, in Texas terms), it’s a local favorite for a day hike. Walk up the Big Rock—a beautiful, bare hill rising up from the trees and brush, that is, itself a single rock—or walk through a low lying glade, then scramble through its protecting boulders. Find the little cave niches in the back of the Big Rock and the Small Rock.

Mt. Bonnell

Walk up and picnic.

Town Lake

See above.

Water, water, water

Summers are hot in Austin, and can even be quite humid, yet nature has made things pleasant by providing some of the most delightful natural water activities in Texas. Central Texas is also home to one of the largest and highest rated waterparks in the world, the legendary Schlitterbahn. Don’t like how you look in a bathing suit? It’s Austin – nobody cares; wear denim and a t-shirt or your most daring attire; however you appear, you’ll fit right in with the locals.

Zilker Park

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Indoor Activities

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Enjoy good food, wine, and beer, and watch your movie too! An all-time favorite Austin activity, the Alamo cinemas offer two different movie-going experiences: 1) Central Austin hosts a bizarre array of eclectic films and combination theme events, such as the annual Austin Air Guitar championships (one of the most hysterically entertaining events around); and 2) first-run movies at the South Lamar and North Village locations, each of which is preceded by a compilation of vintage film, TV and commercial clips in keeping with the theme of the film. A great, evening get-away.

Bars & Live Music

See above.

Blanton Art Museum

Austin’s newest cultural addition.

Texas History Museum

Tour / IMAX show.

Welch Hall (UT)

Painter Hall Telescope, The University of Texas at Austin - Fridays and Saturdays, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m, whenever UT-Austin is in session.

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