Time Travel: A Historic Visit to Storied Austin

Austin, home to the the Texas State Capitol, is a vibrant city with a rich and storied past
Austin, home to the the Texas State Capitol, is a vibrant city with a rich and storied past | © Chris Boswell / Alamy Stock Photo
Emilie Hall

Head from downtown to Georgetown and beyond to Texas Hill Country on this expert-led experience that unites past with present and sets you up in a jazz club turned hotel.

Today, Austin may be known as the BBQ capital of the world, a melting pot of live music and for wearing its “weird” badge proudly, but did you know that the state capital of Texas was once a riverside village called Waterloo? Even long-term Austinites delight in the layers of past and present that coalesce in the city’s culture. “I have lived in Austin for over 20 years, and I am still shot with joy as I drive down Barton Springs Road,” says Amanda Eyre Ward, an Austin-based author whose novel, The Jetsetters, was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

“I love the swampy smell of the greenbelt and the butter-yellow sun on the Southern live oak trees. I love Laguna Gloria – an Italianate villa turned art gallery on the shores of Lake Austin – and seeing the Contemporary Austin neon sign glow, watching the dome of the Texas State Capitol from the Driskill Hotel’s deck, and the James Turrell Skyspace at the University of Texas.”

To help you dive deeper into the rich history of this sprawling metropolis and its surroundings, we’ve found fascinating tours and fixed you up in a retro-chic hotel, all bookable right here on Culture Trip.

 An iconic Austin sculpture of Angelina Eberly firing a cannon |
 Brush up on your history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum |
 The Texas Governors Mansion has been the home of every governor since 1856 |

Where To Stay: The Hotel…

1. The LINE Hotel


The Line
Courtesy of the LINE Hotel Austin / Expedia.com

This hip-as-can-be downtown hotel is part of Austin’s musical history – it was once home to a jazz club that broadcast live on local radio in the late 1960s. It’s housed in a Mad Men-era Modernist building whose Brutalism contrasts with its bucolic setting, right off the leafy hiking and biking trail that surrounds Lady Bird Lake. From your perch on the water’s edge, you can launch yourself into Austin’s downtown sights and cultural centers, or tune into the modern-day music venues of South Congress Street. But there’s no particular need to hurry out, thanks to the prime views of Congress Bridge’s nightly bat spectacle from the rooftop cocktail bar – when Mexican free-tailed mammals swoop overhead – plus a Top Chef winner in the kitchen at Arlo Grey and a gallery’s worth of work by local up-and-coming artists lining the walls.

What To Do: The Experiences…

2. Austin Historic Downtown 5K

Activities, Tours

All levels of fitness are welcome on this guided 5K (3mi) run that takes you past downtown Austin’s historic sights and landmarks. With approximately one guide for every six runners, you can go at your own comfortable pace (or even walk) and listen as your guide tells the story of the city’s fascinating evolution from Old West frontier town to progressive tech capital through its architecture. You’ll pass the Texas Capitol building, the Governor’s Mansion, Congress Avenue’s “bat” bridge and the Paramount Theatre, as well as more modern markers.

3. Texas Hill Country and LBJ Tour From Austin


This tour takes you on a road trip into Texas Hill Country to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park, a cultural center designed to immerse you in the life story of the 36th president, from his childhood on a rural Texas ranch to the JetStar he flew in as Vice President. Next, you’ll have time to explore the wineries, breweries and antique stores of historic German settlement, Fredericksburg, and stop in the live-music hotspot of Luckenbach before heading back to Austin.

4. Historic Downtown Walking Tour in Austin


Travel half an hour north of downtown Austin to find Georgetown, a charming railroad town worthy of a weekend getaway. On this tour, you’ll walk around “the most beautiful town square in Texas,” and stop by artisan shops, award-winning wine rooms and adorable cafés. Your expert guide will regale you with the stories of the individuals and families who’ve shaped the town and the tales hiding behind the historic façades.

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