An Insider’s View of Austin, Texas [Part 1]

Austin, Texas not only is the host city of HITEC 2011, it’s also the headquarters city for HFTP, producers of HITEC. So from now until HITEC 2011, we’re going to give insights into the city from those that know the city best — HFTP staff.

For [Part 1] we’ll hear from:

Jan Dodson, accounting associate

Katy Walterscheidt, public relations and social media manager

What your favorite scenic locale in Austin?

Jan Dodson: The Texas Capitol. Made of granite from Central Texas, the capitol can be seen from all over Austin….after all, it is 15 feet taller than the US Capitol! It offers free tours every day that last about 45 minutes. A fun fact about the capitol is that if you stand in the middle of the seal under the dome and speak, you can hear an echo that only you can hear.

Any tips for surviving the Texas heat?

Jan Dodson: Drink lots of iced tea!

Name a place you can say is found nowhere but Austin?

Katy Walterscheidt: My all time favorite thing to do in Austin is watching the bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge. As the largest urban bat colony in North America, millions of Mexican free-tail bats live under the bridge during the summer and at dusk, they fly out to find food.

The bridge goes across Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin (close to several official HITEC hotels and the convention center). There are a lot of different ways to watch the bats but I’d recommend one of the two options below:

  • Bat boat tours — These tours leave about 30 minutes before sunset and provide a leisurely sightseeing tour up and down Lady Bird Lake before taking you to see the bats. The boats aren’t that big and tours fill up most nights, so call ahead and make reservations.
  • Dock near the Four Seasons — Just outside the Four Seasons is a little-known dock that provides the perfect view of the bridge. It’s easy to access and quick to get to from the convention center, so this is the best option if you don’t have a lot of time to watch them.

One final tip about the bats — if you go, don’t forget the bug repellent. Not only do bats come out at dusk, so do mosquitoes!

What is your favorite thing to do within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center?

Katy Walterscheidt: You’ve probably heard of Austin’s 6th Street before. If you haven’t, it is an area of downtown loaded with nightlife — bars, restaurants, entertainment and plenty of live music. Here are two of my favorite places to go on 6th Street:

  • The Alamo Drafthouse. Yes, it’s a movie theater and you probably aren’t coming to HITEC to go to a movie, but it’s more than just a movie theater. They host all sorts of fun events — like singalongs, film festivals, Master Pancake Theater (similar to Mystery Science 3000), cult classics and more. And the Drafthouse has a full bar and menu for you to enjoy during your show.
  • Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. Piano bars are awesome. But this is Texas, where everything is bigger, so this place has not one, but two pianos that duel throughout the songs. Make sure you go prepared to singalong and possibly not have a voice the next day from all the fun. It’s really close to the convention center too — only two blocks away.

Photo courtesy of Austin City Guide.

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