Arguably the coolest city in America, Austin is an inspiringly diverse mixture. One part small-town retro and another part Silicon Valley-lite, the Texan capital is tough to pin down; a picture-perfect common ground for 1960s hipsters, rodeo riders and internet entrepreneurs alike. It’s also a city on the up. Founded on the Colorado river back in 1839, Austin has been home to the University of Texas since 1883. From these collegial beginnings a socially-conscious, forward-thinking city has grown and judging from the recent population boom, people simply can’t get enough.
And since 2012 Austin has also boasted its very own Formula 1 circuit on its south-eastern outskirts. The first-ever purpose-built Formula 1 facility in the US, the Circuit of The Americas is a 20-turn, anticlockwise, gradient-changing addition to the F1 calendar, with seating for up to 120,000 fans.
Those in the main grandstand on the start-finish straight get, in true US style, the benefit of an in-seat food and beverage service; those in the stand at Turn 1, which sits atop a dramatic 133-foot elevation, enjoy a view all the way to downtown Austin; and those in the Stadium Section stands at Turns 15/16, next to the circuit’s facility-filled Grand Plaza, get to see the most up-close racing action.
Did you know?
Each year over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Austin and set up home under the city’s Congress Avenue Bridge. From March until September, you can watch as the bats feed at dusk.
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which is situated five miles southeast of the centre, services the city. Buses run into town every 40 minutes or so, although all the usual smaller shuttles, taxis and rental cars are easily available too. Once in the city itself you won’t struggle to find public transport to suit your needs, with buses and pedicabs amongst the most popular choices.
Sample some food. Be it the finger-licking barbecue on offer at the Salt Lick BBQ, the curried crabcakes at the Clay Pit, the burgers at Casino el Camino or the excellent street food and authentic Tacos on offer around town.
Where to go?
City-wide, you’ll spy bumper stickers and t-shirts affirming the officially unofficial slogan of ‘Keep Austin weird’ and there are certainly plenty of oddities to keep even the most inquisitive minds flummoxed. From visiting the colony of bats that occupy the city’s Congress Avenue Bridge to taking a tour around the Museum of Emphmerata, you won’t be stuck for something unusual to do.
In Austin, weird is certainly wonderful but there’s plenty more traditional tourist attractions to enjoy including the Capitol Building, the nightlife of Sixth Street, the beautiful Governor’s mansion and the Austin Children’s Museum.
With a lot of lush green space and a lovely climate, Austinites are outdoorsy folk so join in and find time to sample the hike-and-bike trails along Lady Bird Lake, swimming at Barton Springs or the Deep Eddy Pool, or boating on Lake Travis.
Where to stay?
In addition to the plethora of chain hotels found in any American city, Austin boasts some excellent alternatives including the historic Driskill Hotel which was built in 1886 as the ‘showplace’ of cattle baron Jesse Driskill.
For some retro rest head to the Austin Motel, a cheap and cheerful kitsch 1950s throwback, or choose the Kimber Modern Hotel in the hip South Congress district for a unique boutique stay.
If you’re enjoying a longer stay in the Lone Star State you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do. Aside from Austin, Texas boasts San Antonio (home to the Alamo), Dallas and Houston as cities to visit.
For a more rural experience enjoy the unspoilt Gulf coast, the snow-capped Guadalupe Mountains or the famous stockyards at Fort Worth. As F1 veteran Jarno Trulli describes, there’s no shortage of possibilities: “America has so much to see - you can go from the beach to the mountains, back to a city and then to a desert or even a vineyard, all in the space of a few 100 kilometres, and that’s one of the best thing about the whole country. Whatever you want to do, you can find it pretty easily.”
9201 Circuit of The Americas Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78617
United States of America