Austin Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
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Austin Area Map

Neighborhoods

Although Austin doesn't have officially designated districts, different areas of the city do display distinct personalities. However, a love for music and an adoration of outdoor activity are the ties that bind all of the city's regions together.

Most travelers spend the majority of their visit in downtown Austin, which comprises the central city and the University of Texas at Austin campus. Once the site of the entire city, downtown Austin has since expanded and is now home to the majority of the city's most popular attractions, such as the State Capitol and Sixth Street. Experts say this area caters to tourists because of the large number of hotels, restaurants and bars. Downtown Austin is also full of museums, which cater to a wide range of interests, such as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Thinkery (the Austins children's museum) and the Mexic-Arte Museum. Outdoorsy travelers shouldn't miss Town Lake – one of several lakes formed from damming the Colorado River.

Guadalupe Street – which borders the western side of the University of Texas and runs north past the Austin State Hospital – is known by Austinites as "The Drag." Pronounced "Guada-lupe," this street is home to some of the city's funkiest businesses, including numerous record stores, vintage clothing boutiques, live music venues and indie video shops. Experts strongly recommend perusing the stalls at the Renaissance Market, an outdoor marketplace where Austin artisans sell handmade jewelry, clothing and other goods.

Located north of the University of Texas, the Hyde Park district got its start in 1891 as one of Austin's first planned suburbs. Today, this area is still mainly a residential area, though experts say that there are several budget-friendly inns and bed-and-breakfasts tucked away amongst Victorian-style houses. Just west of Hyde Park is the neighborhood of Clarksville, which used to be an exclusively black community founded by freed slaves after the U.S. Civil War. Clarksville is now home to upscale restaurants, bistros, bars and bakeries, as well as a collection of art galleries.

South of Town Lake is South Austin, which is primarily a residential area. Among these neighborhoods are the upscale Fairview Park and Travis Heights, which were some of the first settlements south of the Colorado River, as well as some trendy, shops and boutiques. Because of the enormous amount of parks, recreational areas and country clubs, South Austin has become one of the most popular places in the city to live.

The East Side is centered between Town Lake and 12th Street and features a predominately Hispanic population. The side streets between 12th Street and Interstate 35 are littered with authentic Mexican restaurants and Hispanic markets. However, over the past few years, the East Side has welcomed a new wave of residents. The area east of the I-35 – known to Austinites as the French Place – has been welcoming waves of aspiring artists. Many of the area's abandoned warehouses have been transformed into spacious contemporary art galleries and exhibition halls.

Although this part of the city is primarily residential, West Austin is a popular destination for outdoorsy types. Dotted and lined by several bodies of water, such as Lake Austin (actually part of a river) and Lake Travis, this area also shelters several popular parks, such as Lakeway and Bee Cave. West Austin offers many opportunities to swim, bike and hike and is accessible by car or public transportation.

Zilker Metropolitan Park, the city's largest park that runs along the banks of the Colorado River, is a must-see. This 350-acre park features plenty of walking trails, picnic spots and several kid-friendly activities, such as a miniature train and a giant playground. Zilker Park is also home to the Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming area, as well as a hillside theater and numerous outdoor sports facilities. 

Compared to other U.S. cities of its size, Austin is relatively safe for visitors, but it's still necessary to exercise precautions. Make sure to keep your car doors locked and your valuables in a secure location and avoid dimly lit streets after sundown.

Those who are not used to Texas' climate should be mindful of heat stroke. Common symptoms include dizziness, headache and exhaustion. To prevent illness, wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.

Visitors to Austin should be aware that they will be sharing the city with some intimidating creepy-crawlies, including scorpions and snakes. The types of scorpions that are sometimes spotted within the city cannot inflict as much damage as other species, but experts do recommend keeping your distance. If you head out into the countryside, you may encounter rattlesnakes and water moccasins. If you're stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake, contact a medical professional immediately.

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