Situated in Central Texas with its own version of the Colorado River running through it, Austin delivers an experience unlike any other in the Lone Star state. From the opulent state capitol decked out in more stars than you can possibly count to the live music spilling out of the bars on Sixth Street to the Mexican free-tailed bats making sunset appearances from their roost under Congress Bridge, there’s an adventure…and a touch of weirdness…at every turn. And, when you’re ready to turn in for the night, the elegant Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta provides a place to bed down in luxury surrounded by the history of Texas’s most intriguing city.
Within minutes of checking into the Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta in the heart of Austin, the desk clerk enthusiastically recommended Velvet Tacos for lunch. Ready for a taste of Texas, my best friend, Nancy and I dropped off our luggage and walked the short distance to fuel up on a local favorite. In less than a two-block walk, we were exposed to a slice of Austin’s quirky history. On Congress Avenue, a striking bronze sculpture of a woman firing a Howitzer cannon sheds light on the little-known Texas Archive War of 1842. With Austin newly designated as the capital of Texas, Sam Houston attempted to have the state’s archives returned to his namesake city. When local widow and boarding house owner, Angelina Eberly realized what was happening, she made her way to a cannon and fired it alerting Austin residents and stopping the would-be archive thieves in their tracks. Now that’s girl power!
There’s much more history to explore in Austin and an excellent place for an overview is the Texas State Capitol. In keeping with the “everything’s bigger in Texas” motto, this immense three-story structure stands 14 feet higher than the U.S. Capitol building. Constructed with Sunset Red Texas granite, it’s a beauty and holds the title of largest capitol in the country. Inside, opulent details include giant brass door hinges and brass chandeliers in the House of Representatives Chamber with light bulbs spelling out T-E-X-A-S. And there are stars, plenty of stars all over the building. At the top of this architectural marvel stands a 16 foot tall, 2,000 pound Goddess of Liberty statue complete with a huge sword and, of course, a golden star. The equally impressive Capitol grounds span 22 acres and feature 17 monuments dotting the beautifully landscaped lawn.
Austin’s 300+ days of sunshine enhance the city’s plentiful outdoor activities. From smaller urban parks with playgrounds to expansive green spaces for hiking and biking, you’ll find a plethora of options for outdoor pursuits. Stroll or bike along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, kayak or stand-up paddle board in Lady Bird Lake or dip your toes into the Barton Springs Pool – a local favorite.
Just west of downtown, the Barton Creek Greenbelt provides a peaceful escape from city life. Rock formations within the Barton Creek Wilderness Park beckon climbers with challenging routes. And hikers breathe in the fresh air along dog-friendly hiking trails. With 350-acres, Zilker Park also boasts plentiful hiking and biking trails along with access to the Barton Creek Greenbelt and the aforementioned Barton Springs.
Eclectic Music History
Although Austin is Texas, it’s music scene isn’t limited to country. There’s folk, reggae, rap, blues, jazz, and more in this eclectic music scene. When the Germans settled the area, they brought their musical heritage along. By the 1880s German music halls lined Pecan Street, now known as Sixth Street. Mexican settlers also contributed to the musical mix and the scene grew from there.
Take a stroll down Sixth Street and you’re bound to find your style of music. Or you can do what Nancy and I did, pop into Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar with all the bachelorette parties and sing along. It’s that kind of town!
Evenings in Austin
When you’re ready to leave the singing bachelorettes behind, focus on the quieter grown-up scene at Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta. Start with a cocktail at Stephen F’s Bar & Terrace overlooking Congress Avenue with idyllic views of the historic Paramount Theater and the shimmering Texas State Capitol.
The history theme continues within the walls of the hotel. Named for Stephen Fuller Austin, the “Father of Texas,” responsible for leading 300 families to the region now known as Texas, the hotel first opened its doors on May 19, 1924. The hotel sits on the former location of the state War Building. Insider tip: One of the War Building’s walls still stands and has the distinction of being the oldest wall in Texas. Step into the alley behind the hotel to take a look.
So much has happened within these walls. In 1937 it served as the headquarters for Lyndon B. Johnson’s successful run for House of Representatives. In 2000, George Bush, Sr. utilized the hotel in his presidential campaign. And, the Capital Ballroom was featured in a scene for “Miss Congeniality” starring Sandra Bullock.
Enjoy a Blissful Night’s Sleep
Renovated and restored to its original historic glory, the Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta makes an idea home base for your Austin explorations. And when you’re ready to rest, the luxuriously appointed guest rooms ensure a blissful night’s sleep. With 190 guest rooms including 22 suites, modern amenities and an indoor pool and hot tub, you’ll have a place to relax and soak up all that Austin atmosphere. And if you want to keep your workout routine going, the fitness center has everything you need. Maybe you’ll make your own bit of history with a new record on the fitness center’s Peloton bike. Weirder things have happened. This is Austin, after all!