I recently returned from Austin, Texas, where I was attending the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Film, Interactive and Music Festival. The visit was my 10th to the city, though given I’ve only ever visited the city to attend festivals and conferences (the other being the iconic Austin City Limits Festival which happens in October), I haven’t spent much time getting to know the city’s immediate surrounds.
I decided to change that this trip, however, and embarked on a 90 minute bus tour of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country with AO Tours. Though you never leave the bus during the tour, you’re taken past a run of Austin’s most iconic buildings, including the Capitol – pictured above – and learn as much about the region’s topography as you do about its history.
Here’s nine things I learned on my journey:
- Before being named Austin – very briefly – Waterloo; which inspired stores like the famous “Waterloo Records”.
- Huge population build in the city, recently passed 2 million, they expect it to hit 2.5 million by 2030, gaining 150 residents a day. Tech industry pushing this growth, and residents coming internationally.
- 1.5 million of bats live under the “Bat Bridge” on the Congress Bridge. This is the largest urban bat roost in North America, and you’re most likely to find them there over the Summer.
- “The Mighty Cone”, which serves up fried chicken and avocado in a tortilla cone, was the first food truck in Austin, which is now one of the most popular cities in the world for the food truck trend, with a number of dedicated truck areas around the city and its outskirts.
- Up until recently, Austin was the third largest film production city in America behind Los Angeles and New York, but this number dropped recently as the city stopped giving lucrative tax incentives.
- Austin City Hall has been designed to represent the topography of Austin, though out its back it has a “tail” that represents an armadillo.
- There are 150,000 students within 40 minutes of Austin
- The UT football stadium seats 100,000 and sells out every home game. Because in Texas, Football is everything. Please refer to Friday Night Lights for reference. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.
- The city has recently been named the 4th most congested city for traffic in the US according to Forbes. Our driver assured us if they tried hard enough, they would hit number 1 before too long.
Tickets for the 90 minute tour with AO Tours are available HERE and run between $17 and $25.
Getting to Austin from Australia: Qantas fly direct to Dallas, with connections to Austin. You can also travel via Los Angeles with Virgin Australia and Delta, or via San Francisco with United. Most domestic US airlines offer service to Austin.
The AO tour was kindly provided to the writer by AO Tours and Austin Tourism.