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Austin shatters the classic Texas stereotype of rough-and-tumble cattle ranchers riding horses across the plains. Exhibiting the trendiness of Soho and the funk of Seattle, Austin is its own star deep in the Lone Star State. Proud of their panache, Austinites sport a bumper sticker campaign to “Keep Austin Weird.” As the “live Music Capital of the World,” and home to thousands of University of Texas college students (and many an aging hippie), Austin’s vibrance radiates from its eclectic offerings. From food co-ops to boundless supplies of live music, Austin is a liberal, alternative oasis in a traditional state.
Divided north-south by the Colorado River, the majority of Austin lies between Mopac Expressway/Route 1 and I-35, both running north-south and parallel to one another. UT students inhabit central Guadalupe Street (“The Drag”), where plentiful music stores and cheap restaurants thrive. The state capitol governs the area a few blocks to the southeast. Congress Avenue has upscale eateries and classy shops downtown, while funkier South Congress (SoCo) offers a mix of antique and thrift stores across the river. The many bars and clubs on 6th Street hop and clop at night, though some nightlife has moved to the growing Warehouse District, around 4th St., west of Congress. Away from the urban gridiron, Town Lake is a haven for the town’s joggers, rowers, and cyclists.
Like Ricky Martin, Austin is not what it once was. Although the town has dwindled significantly since its days as a major mining camp, it does remain the only evidence of civilization for miles around. It is a good 2hr. drive from Austin to Fallon (the next town), so do at least get out of the car. A developed network of mountain biking trails goes through the nearby Toiyabe National Forest, just south of town. Trails range in difficulty and length; pick up a trail guide and Forest Service map at the Austin Ranger District Office, just west of town or at the Chamber of Commerce, on the second floor of the Austin Courthouse. Based on an Italian design, the three-story Stokes Castle was built as a luxury summer home for Anson Stokes, a mine developer and railroad magnate. Today, it lies in ruin. Just west of the Chevron Station and left on Castle Rd.
Though there is no doubt you will stumble upon some gem with any step you take in Austin, we have come up with the list of must-sees to make sure you make the most of your time. Click the links to explore and book tours or local guides.
Scores of fast-food joints line the west side of the UT campus on Guadalupe Street. Patrons can often enjoy drink specials and free hors d’oeuvres around 6th Street, south of the capitol, where the battle for happy hour business rages with unique intensity. Farther down the road, barton Spring Road offers a range of inexpensive restaurants, including Mexican and Texas-style barbecue joints. The Warehouse District has swankier options.
From beef, to pork, to beef again, Texans like to throw it on the grill. Eat at any of the many barbecues joints, though, and they’ll tell you that the real secret’s in the sauce. For those in the mood for something ethnic, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, and fajitas are scrumptious Tex-Mex options.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.