Austin is ready to extend a big Texas "howdy" to the 67th Annual ARA Convention and Exposition. The capital city of Texas and the Live Music Capital of the World®, Austin is friendly, eclectic, and brimming with things to do and see. However you like to spend your leisure time during the convention, you can do it in Austin. The city boasts a clean, safe, walkable downtown with shopping, dining, and entertainment within easy reach of the Renaissance Austin Convention headquarters.
Blessed with more than 300 sunny days a year and an average temperature of 68°, Austin is a great city for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounded by the lush Hill Country, where the Renaissance is situated, and perched on the Colorado River, Austin offers miles of hike and bike trails and more than 200 city parks for visitors to enjoy. Considered the gateway to the seven Highland Lakes that climb more than 100 miles through the Central Texas Hill Country, the Austin area offers water sports from canoeing to sailing and water-skiing.
The city center is nestled on the shore of Lady Bird Lake, a 468-acre Colorado River reservoir. Bounded by a 10-mile bike and running trail, the lake is a focal point for outdoor recreation. Austin’s largest downtown park, Zilker Park, is adjacent to the lake, and Barton Springs, a three-acre pool fed by underwater springs (68° year-round), flows into the lake.
If your idea of the great outdoors involves putting greens and fairways, you’ve come to the right place. Golf magazine and CNN.com recently named Austin America’s #1 golf city. You’ll find 56 public and private clubs around the city, and Austin’s temperate weather makes it a year-round golfing destination. To plan your golfing itinerary at some of the best area courses, contact the Austin Golf Trail at (888) 588-2871.
Music, Music, Music
Austin is all about music. The city has more than 200 live music venues, which calculate out to more live music entertainment per capita than any other city in the world. With the Renaissance as your base, you can explore Austin’s famous entertainment districts.
Whether your taste is rock, country and western, indie, folk, punk, jazz, gospel, or blues, you’ll find it in the Austin music scene. Sixth Street is the most wellknown entertainment district, with more than a dozen clubs between Congress and Red River Streets, but there’s also the East Side for blues, trendy downtown bars and clubs, and the eclectic Warehouse district.
Austin celebrates its musical heritage year-round, and you’ll find live performances in the most unlikely places. Don’t be surprised as you’re bustling through Austin-Bergstrom Airport to hear a live band. Friday afternoon, catch an outdoor concert on the Plaza in front of City Hall, and in-between you might catch some jazz or blues at the Central Market (weekly), the Whole Foods Market (Thursday evenings), or around Lady Bird Lake (daily).
For those whose idea of entertainment is finding a great pair of shoes on sale or the perfect throw pillows for the living room in exactly the cerulean blue to match your favorite vase, Austin is your city, too.
Near the Renaissance, enjoy the upscale vibe of The Domain, Austin’s premier lifestyle center. Featuring fabulous restaurants and 40 luxury shops anchored by Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and Dillard’s, The Domain is designed around a pedestrian-friendly Main Street that invites strolling and window-shopping.
Farther afield from the hotel, spend a few hours, an afternoon, or a whole day exploring Austin’s 2nd Street district in the heart of downtown. You’ll discover more than 50 specialty shops and dining options, most of them locally owned.
For stylish clothing, unique jewelry, or unusual art, head to South Congress or SoCo as the natives call it. This pedestrian-friendly, historic street is the place to find that something special to take home for the kids or grandkids or even a memorable something for yourself. Leave some room for one-of-a-kind shopping finds, because this city has an eclectic array of shops and boutiques. There are also many restaurants and music venues to sample in this area.
So you’ve shopped, hiked, and danced, and now you’re ready for something less strenuous? Or maybe you’ve got the kids or grandkids along, and you need to justify taking them out of school for the trip. (Really, it was educational!)
Try the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 N. Congress Avenue) with three floors of regularly changing exhibits that “will surround you with the sights, sounds, and (sometimes) smells of Texas history,” the website promises (www.thestoryoftexas.com). This non-collecting institution uses interesting artifacts, media programs, and recreated environments to immerse visitors in Texas history. Displays change often as new items are loaned and existing ones are returned to their owners. The IMAX theater runs half a dozen different films, several in 3D, including the fantastic and fascinating Hubble 3D.
Also worth a visit is the stunning Texas State Capitol (1100 Congress Avenue, www.tspb.state.tx.us/spb/ plan/tours.htm), which is considered one of the most beautiful state capitol buildings in the country. Higher than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., by 14 feet, it is the largest state capitol. This is Texas, remember, where bigger is always better.
Close to the ARA Convention hotel, on the University of Texas campus, you’ll find the SoCo-Harry Ransom Center. Renowned for its extensive collections of rare books, manuscripts, photography, film, and art, it houses a Gutenberg Bible and the world’s first photograph (www.hrc.utexas.edu). Also on the University of Texas campus is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. Known as the most visited presidential library it details the life and legacy of LBJ (www.lbjlib.utexas.edu).
With so much to enjoy in Austin, be sure to plan some time to explore the city before, during, or after the ARA Convention and Exposition. It won’t take you long to discover why Austin is ranked among the top four “Most Loved Cities” by Travel & Leisure magazine and America Online.
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