Local Talk: What to Know about Visiting Austin
Welcome to our wonderful and weird city, we are excited to be hosting the NASPA Annual Conference this year! Although you will spend a lot of your time at the conference, we hope you enjoy some of the things our city has to offer.
Here is the deal, Austin’s infrastructure and public transit have not caught up to the city’s population growth. Many coming from other parts of the country - I am talking to you Los Angeles and Atlanta - may not think our traffic is that bad. To compound the issue, there are only so many places to cross the river which borders south Austin. This does not mean you cannot get around town, but you will want to be mindful of rush hour(s) and give yourself extra time.
The conference center is in downtown Austin and there are lots of places to eat and things to do within a short distance of the conference center. Yes, we have Uber and Lyft (again), but Austin is an innovative city. When Uber and Lyft were kicked out of Austin a few years ago, competitive ridesharing companies like Ride Austin popped up. Depending on where you are going, ridesharing may be the best choice for getting around town.
It is unpredictable and ever-changing. It is hard to know what Austin will hold during that time of year. Sometimes late March weather brings showers, sometimes, it is hot and humid. Make sure to check the weather ahead of time and be prepared.
One of the wonderful things about Austin is all the local food options. From tacos for breakfast, lunch or dinner to BBQ, there are many noteworthy places worth visiting. A lot of places that originated in Austin that have popped up in other places around the country. Franklin BBQ is by far one of our most famous BBQ places, but that does not mean you cannot get great BBQ from other places, without the wait time. Also, if you visit a Torchy’s, you can ask for your taco ‘trashy’ which means they add queso to your taco. Do not hesitate to ask around for some local favorites. And seriously, there are probably more local places in Austin to eat then chain food restaurants. Enjoy!
Austin Music Scene
Austin is considered the live music capital of the world. You may have heard about Austin City Limits or South by Southwest, in addition to these large events, many local restaurants and bars have live music almost nightly. Part of the reason for the notoriety is that Austin has over 250 live music venues in the city, more venues per capita than any other city. One of my favorite grocery stores, Central Market, has live music on the weekends. Do not assume it will be all country, either. Austin has a wide range of music genres and you are sure to find one that would suit your tastes.
Austin is full of quirks and things that make it a unique and wonderful city. Did you know that Austin has the largest urban bat colony in North America? The Congress Avenue bridge near downtown is home to nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. As the sun begins to set from late March to late fall, the bats cascade over Lady Bird Lake at dusk. Now, you do not want to be standing under the bridge, but many people will watch the bats take flight from the Congress bridge.
Lady Bird Lake is a river-like reservoir on the Colorado River and one of a few ‘lakes’ in town. The lakes and many parks in town are part of the natural beauty of Austin. There is a wonderful trail, Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail that runs parallel to Lady Bird Lake. Whether you enjoy people watching, or walking, running, or biking, the trail is filled with individuals enjoying the outdoors or working out (especially if Austin has not reached blistering temperatures yet).
Austin’s iconic slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Although Portland and other cities try to also lay claim to this title (and are maybe in truth weirder), we did claim the slogan first. This ‘weirdness’ is actualized in some peculiar ways including, but not limited to: many of the above-mentioned items, historic bungalows turned into bars on Rainey Street, a Cathedral of Junk, and various local murals around town.
We hope that you enjoy all that the NASPA conference has to offer, including networking with new and old colleagues in this wonderful city. Welcome to Austin – keep it weird!