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Austin Texas

The state capital of Texas, Austin is home to approximately 950,000 people and every year welcomes an abundance of visitors from around the world to its vibrant social scene.

Situated on the Balcones Escarpment, on the Colorado River, the city is home to three man-made lakes - Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin and Lake Walter E. Long - as well as numerous natural waterways and rivers that give Austin a green and verdant atmosphere despite the baking heat of the Texas climate.

The city covers an area of approximately 271 square miles, making it a diverse and interesting place to visit, with a host of amazing sights to be seen and always something on offer for visitors to enjoy.

At present, Austin is the fastest-growing large city in the US; and it's easy to see why, with so much to explore and many fantastic attractions and sporting events that take place here throughout the year.

Austin is also an economic hub of the southern US, with the Greater Austin Metropolitan Area creating gross domestic product in excess of $86 billion per annum. It is also a centre for high-tech industry, with thousands of graduates bolstering the local economy every year through the engineering and computer science programmes of the University of Texas at Austin.

Currency

The US dollar is the sole currency of Austin. 

Customs

As with any visit to the US, tipping is a custom that travellers should remember to adhere to. Everything from taxi rides to paying for restaurant meals should include a tip. Anything between 15 and 20 per cent should be added on to the cost of services when working out how much to tip.

Also remember that in the US, it is customary not to include tax on displayed prices, so this should be factored in when considering purchases. In Austin, the city's sales tax rate is 8.25 per cent. This includes a 6.25 per cent state sales tax and a two per cent local sales tax.

GETTING AROUND

Colorado river

Exploring the exciting sights and sounds of Austin is easy for visitors, who can access a range of transport options at their fingertips.

Austin is located between the north-south highways of Interstate 35 and the Mopac Expressway (Loop 1), while State Highway 71 can be found to the south of the city and runs from the east to west.

In addition, Austin itself is served by the extensive Capital Metro service, which provides bus and light rail transport options to every part of the city. Rapid transit services also include the use of 60-foot, train-like, high-tech buses that ensure visitors can reach their final destination as swiftly as possible.

Finally, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) is located just five miles from the city, making this a perfect destination for international travellers eager to arrive in Austin with the minimum of fuss.

WHAT TO SEE

Texas state capital building

Providing an abundance of attractions to stimulate all lovers of culture, history and architecture, Austin is home to some amazing galleries, museums and venues that showcase the very best of what the city has to offer.

Highlights include the Harry Ransom Center and the Contemporary at the Jones Center - a gallery dedicated to featuring both new and established artists. As well, there are the Mexic-Arte Museum and the Carver Museum, both of which are dedicated to the collection and preservation of the city's rich cultural heritage and treasures.

Visitors can also celebrate the eccentric nature that Austin is renowned for, with popular off-the-wall attractions including the Cathedral of Junk and a range of zany festivals that take place throughout the year, such as The Fusebox Festival.

Austin is not just about culture and history, however. The city also offers some fine walks by the banks of the Colorado River and from here a superb diversion is to head up Mount Bonnell; a grandiose name for a small wooded hill, but nonetheless a great place to go for an elevated view of the city and the river.

Various areas close to the river are wooded, making the city a distinctly green place. Either side of Mount Bonnell, Mayfield Park and Nature Reserve combines woodland with riverside wetland, while the Bright Leaf Preserve is a more spacious and elevated green area.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

Austin skyline at night

Austin likes to call itself the 'live music capital of the world', and it certainly has a very active blues and rock scene, as well as jive, jazz, hip-hop and Latin beats.

A particular feature of this is the live music brunches, where crowds can sit at rows of outdoor wooden tables enjoying huge plates of great food while a band plays on an adjacent stage. 

Alternatively, visitors can enjoy the superb atmosphere of one of the city's nightclubs, where live music and warm evenings offer a great combination.

The city is also very multicultural, with distinct Latin, Asian and African-American elements. From music to the delicious concoctions to be tasted at one of the many fruterias, the Latino element richly enhances Austin life, with Spanish widely spoken. Black culture is expressed most strongly at Six Square on the east side, while the city's large Asian community brings with it far-eastern culture and food in abundance.

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