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Austin - Texas

 History | Where to Stay

Set at the edge of Texas Hill Country, on the Colorado River, the state capital is an unexpected pleasure to the visitor. We all know that this is the home of country music in Texas, the city where luminaries like Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm (Texas Tornadoes and the legendary Sir Douglas Quintet) got their start. There is a thriving music scene in the city, with almost every style of contemporary music available, including the purest of Texas Country, plus music with Mexican influences.

The food is just about the best in the state, with every cuisine represented, and the city's outdoor attractions are no less than superb, with the river widening into a series of long lakes. All this and a stronger historical perspective than most cities in Texas (except for San Antonio and Galveston) makes a visit to Austin extremely rewarding. The presence of the University of Texas, St. Edwards University (training camp for the Dallas Cowboys), and Austin Community College add to the rich cultural life of the city.

This is a place where thousands of people look for the famous bats that call the Congress Street Bridge home, and fly into the evening sky in the hundreds of thousands. You can even eat in several Austin restaurants with excellent views of the bridge and the nightly flight. This is also a place where you can experience "moonlight" every night, even if the sky is overcast. Compared to Houston, built on a swampy bayou, and Dallas/Fort Worth -- sitting on bald prairie -- Austin's setting is perfect for a major vacation stay: a launching point for adventures into Hill Country including several larger lakes just an hour's drive from the city center.

Austin History

The first settlement beside the Colorado River was named Waterloo, founded by Jacob Harrell in 1835. It was an advantageous place to develop a town, with three creeks flowing from the hills into the Colorado. One of these, Barton Creek, was named by another pioneer, William Barton, for whom Barton's Springs were named. This large spring (the fourth largest in Texas) lie a few hundred yards from the Colorado, and is a natural treasure. A large public pool takes water from the spring, providing a fine swimming spot. The city is blessed with walking, hiking and bike trails along both sides of the river, and along the three creeks, as well as in other linear parks.

Harrell and Barton came here when the region was still in the hands of the Commanche and Tonkawa tribes. The natives used the springs for rest and relaxation. When the town was designated Texas' capital, it was named for Stephen F. Austin, the "father" of the Republic of Texas. In 1839, the town survey was completed in three months, and the process of building the city began. The city was built facing the Colorado River. A wide grand avenue, Congress Street, was to run from the banks of the river to the top of the highest hill. All streets running north and south were named for Texas Rivers, and streets running east and west were named for Texas trees. The tree streets were later given numbers -- an unfortunate outcome for naturalists.

Austin lost its status as the capital in 1841 when Mexican Troops took San Antonio and the government was moved to other towns to avoid it being overtaken by Mexican invaders. When Texas became a state, on July 4, 1845, the Austin again became the capital, but only provisionally. Two subsequent state-wide referenda (in 1850 and 1872) were held to finalize the decision. The Highland Lakes, including Lake Austin and the much longer Lake Travis, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, Inks Lake, and Lake Buchanan (all northwest of the city), are the result of a series of dams built by the Lower Colorado River Authority beginning in 1893.


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