Happily, Austin offers more live music and weekend fun along its famed Sixth Street than any five college towns combined
Blues, rock, country, hip hop — you can check out a different hot spot every week.
At some point, though, you'll find that there is more to Austin than life inside the college student bubble. Some of your most lasting memories will come from exploring the city at large and the surrounding Texas Hill Country. Here's a starter kit — four must-dos and a bonus suggestion — to help you plan an unforgettable four-year adventure.
1. Belly Flop at Barton Springs
In the heart of Austin's Zilker Park sits the soul of the city — a sprawling (1,000-foot-by-25-foot) spring-fed watering hole called Barton Springs. Known locally as "the Springs," the constant 68-degree water attracts the full range of Austin heroes, from early-morning triathletes to the late-night alternative crowd. You learn fast that it's the diving board that makes the Springs truly special. Competitions break out — sometimes scheduled, mostly impromptu — that epitomize Austin's core beliefs. Silly or splendid, divers here give themselves over to the moment, play to the crowd and make room for anyone willing to let it fly without apology.
2. Learn to Texas Two-Step at Gruene Hall
You can drive an hour south of Austin and discover Gruene, Texas (pronounced "Green"), a town that's been "gently resisting change since 1878." Here you'll find Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas, and a great place to learn to Waltz, Two-Step or any other Texas dancing staple. Gruene Hall has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, George Strait, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Lyle Lovett, and was used in filming Michael starring John Travolta.
3. Make a Night of Bat-Watching
Why take comfort knowing that the largest urban bat colony in North America — an estimated 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed bats — spend six months of the year roosting a few blocks from campus? Because from late March through early October, that colony of bats emerges from under the Congress Avenue Bridge like smoke from a genie's bottle to begin consuming 20,000 pounds of insects per night, including lots of mosquitoes. Long-time Austin residents embrace the bats as just another symbol of the city's eclectic charm. There's even a Bat Hotline 512-416-5700 (ex. 3636) for those who want an estimated flight time to plan their viewing.
4. Find Your Musical Groove
Austin didn't claim the title of "Live Music Capital of the World" because it needed a marketing slogan — this town lives, breathes and celebrates music of every form and fashion. Four years in Austin gives you a leg up on realizing your dreams — whether it's to create and front your own band, join an occasional jam session, or work on the business side or behind the scenes. From downtown’s Sixth Street to the Red River and Warehouse Districts, the East Side to South Lamar Street, music lovers have their pick of 200 live music venues in Austin seven-nights-a-week. Annual events such as the South by Southwest® Conferences & Festivals (SXSW®) and Austin City Limits festivals, and the Kerrville Folk Festival — as well as recording studios and music promoters — all make for great internship experiences. When music calls, Austin answers.
BONUS TIP: Get to Know Lyndon and Lady Bird
Even those with a casual interest in American history will be intrigued by the lives of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, who first met on a breakfast date in the dining room of Austin's posh Driskill Hotel. The Driskill became home base, serving as campaign headquarters during LBJ's congressional career and 1948 Senate race, and the place the family watched results of the 1964 Presidential Election. The full story of the quintessential Texas politician and a First Lady turned eco-warrior is worth a four-year exploration, complete with visits to the LBJ Presidential Library, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (a.k.a. Texas White House) and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Along the way, you'll learn more about the push for Civil Rights, the race to space, Vietnam and other major political and social events.