02 Nov Austin: for the Texan in Everyone
Author: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos by: Joe Hilbers
5310 Dubois Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Austin: for the Texan in Everyone
By: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos: Joe Hilbers
Easy to know and a pleasant place to linger, the capitol of Texas was given it’s name by Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” An idyllic setting on the north bank of the Colorado River, with rich blacklands and scenic hills, Austin is definitely on the “in” along with boots and hats.
A mix media of University town, and an eclectic high tech presence, Austin is long known for being both down home and sophisticated, laid-back, but bustling with high energy, traditional and avant-garde at the same time.
Glimpse of the Texas capital’s colorful past can be seen today in 12 historic districts that pay homage to Austin’s glorious past. Whether you visit turn-of-the-century neighborhoods, state landmarks or museums, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of cattle barons, statesmen, bankers, artists, gamblers, scamps and outlaws that have made their mark on Texas.
Texas State Capital Complex
Set among rolling, tree-shaded lawns scattered with monuments and canons, the regal pink granite Texas Capitol, resembles the United States Capitol, with a Texas flair. The building designed in Renaissance Revival style in 1888, was recently restored to its majestic luster. Its impressive dome lights up the Texas night sky.
The rotunda’s entrance is guarded by statues of notable Texas heroes, General Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, and rises 218 feet above the Gold Star inlaid on the marble floor. Portraits of all the Governors of Texas hang along the capitol walls.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Museum brings to life the passion of Texas pride and grand history of the Lone Star State. Located at the Capitol Complex, it has 700 artifacts on display and as its jewel treasure, Stephen Austin’s diary that he composed both in Spanish and English. Permanent collections include the Capitol’s original Goddess of Liberty statue, and Neil Armstrong’s space suit.
Featured are a high-tech setting Texas Spirit Theatre, where Sam Houston narrates the Star of Destiny, as historic events come to life with sets, special lighting and amazing sound effect. www.TheStoryofTexas.com
The stately and elegant white-columned, Greek Revival mansion was built in 1855, and was home to Sam Houston, the first occupant, and the residence of every Texas Governor after that. The Governor and his family occupy a private second-floor apartment.
University of Texas
Everything in Texas tends to be big, and the University of Texas (UT) is no exception. UT, the largest public university in the United States, with over 50,000 students, is set on a shady, sprawling campus with statues and magnificent fountains. Piercing the skyline, the 307 foot landmark ‘Watch Tower’ stands as a sentinel for the city’s cultural events, opera, musical production, art exhibits, and the UT Performing Art Center.
The “Drag” along Guadalupe Street, is the popular shopping block of the University students.
LBJ Presidential Library and Museum
Surrounded by the larger-than-life presence of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), the LBJ Presidential Library chronicles the remarkable life and times of the Nation’s 36th president and the state’s most renowned politician. The archives occupy five floors, and exhibits include presidential memorabilia, a replica of the Oval Office, Presidential Limo, First Lady’s Gallery featuring the life of Ladybird Johnson, and priceless gifts from foreign heads-of-states
Live music capital of the world
Austin self proclaimed live music capital of the world, caters to music lovers through its clubs, concert, and TV. Austin City Limits- the longest running live music program brings rousing performances of both musical legend and rising starts to the weekly schedule.
Tour the famous Austin City Limits Studio and be part of the live audience during the taping.
Congress Ave & Sixth Street
This area has been revitalized with trendy restaurants, clubs, shops and art galleries that occupy the Victorian and native stone buildings. After dark, the streets are filled with revelers pulsating with energy, and reverberating with sounds of rock, country, western, swing, blues, tejano and jazz.
Haute cuisine & high spirits
With Austin’s unique mix of heritages and cultural roots, the choice of restaurants is daunting. Dining hotspots feature the hippest trends in the restaurant world, and cravings turn the gamut from barbecue to Tex-Mex, Southwestern, International and Contemporary Texas cuisine.
The Town Lake’s Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in the United States. Just after sunset from April to October, Mexican freetail-bats venture out from crevices in the bridge like a billowing stream of gray smoke.
Once feared, today Austin’s bats attract worldwide attention. Bats have lived in America since the age of the dinosaurs, and today they rank among our most endangered wildlife.
Austin thrives as a recreational mecca. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to its hike-and-bike trail system, parks, and nature preserves. Best known is Zilker Park, in the center of the city. Barton Springs, an Austin treasure located in Zilkler Park is one of the finest swimming holes in America: Spring fed, its crystalline water is 68 degrees and open year-round for the enjoyment of swimmers and sunbathers.
Stroll through an extensive selection of sculpture at the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens, containing more than 130 works by the late Austin sculptor, Charles Umlauf www.io-com/tam/umlauf
Where to stay
Driskill Hotel transcending time and place, the Driskill, the quiet cornerstone of a bustling downtown, has captured Austin’s soul for over a century. The 1886 registered landmark was the proud showplace of Colonel Jessie Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron, established businessman, and active civic leader. A favorite of LBJ who had a suite here when he was President.
Nineteenth century elegance begins in the Grand Lobby where finely polished antiques, a stained glass dome, inlaid marble and original oil paintings, are integrated with touches of the 21st century.
Located at 604 Brezos Street, and for information and reservations phone: (800)252-9367 or www.driskill.com
Around the area
Lady Bird Johnson’s dream of dedication to the beauty of Texas is evident in the Lady Bird Wildflower Center www.wildflower.org
An Austin icon is the rustic driftwood restaurant The Salt Lick Barbeque.www.saltlickbbq.com