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Holiday Guides for North America - United States

Austin Holiday

Charming, old fashioned, picturesque and full of southern charm, the Texan city of Austin is becoming a popular tourist destination.

Situated on the banks of the Colorado River and surrounded by hills, Austin is relatively small, with just over half a million residents, laidback and warm for most of the year, including the holiday season.

The city was founded after the president of the Texas Republic, Mirabeau B Lamar, fell in love with a settlement while buffalo hunting in 1838 and decided to make it the state capital. Originally called Waterloo, it was renamed in honour of Stephen F Austin, the secretary of state under President Houston.

The city boomed when the railroad arrived, becoming one of the most cosmopolitan places in the south-western United States. It is now home to a stylish, friendly population and a growing number of technology firms.

Austin has a strong arts scene, with a number of films using its pretty streets as a backdrop and high rates of computer literacy, book purchasing and college degrees. With a host of excellent live music venues and a colourful musical past, the city claims to be the 'Live Music Capital of the World'.

One of Austin's unique tourist experiences is bat watching which is a must for Austin holiday makers. The city has a vast flock of around 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live on a platform beneath the Congress Ave Bridge and swarm out to feed between March and November. Several companies have started to offer bat-watching tours and cruises to visitors.

Key tourist attractions in the city include the elaborate 1888 Renaissance Revival Texas State Capitol and surrounding complex, the Austin Museum of Art – Laguna Gloria, the historic main street Congress Avenue and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, with an eclectic collection that includes the first photograph ever taken.

For families on holiday, Austin has the excellent Austin Children's Museum, with plenty to see and do for young people and adults, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Austin Science and Nature Centre.

The city has some excellent shopping opportunities, with everything from chain stores and malls, to quirky independent stores, bookshops and flea markets. The city has restaurants, diners and eateries everywhere, from Mexican restaurants to fast food outlets and fine dining. Cheap basic accommodation is easy to find, while there are also numerous stunning hotels in delightful historic buildings.

Austin is at its hottest during the height of the summer, when temperatures soar to 38 degrees C and is significantly cooler during the winter months.

As travelling to Austin becomes increasingly fashionable, flight routes are opening up from the UK and the city is relatively easy to reach from the major Texan airports. The city itself is small, safe and easier to get around without a car than most of America.