Austin is best known as the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” represented by its rollicking Sixth Street, public television’s “Austin City Limits” and the annual South by Southwest festival in March. The city is home to Texas legend Willie Nelson and the late blues guitarist Stevei Ray Vaughan (fans will want to visit Vaughan’s statue on the shores of Town Lake).
The city—first called Waterloo—was barely a smudge on the map in 1839, when it was selected as Texas’ capital. Judge Edwin Waller, later the first mayor, surveyed the land and laid out a street plan that’s largely survive to this day. The town, renamed for “father of Texas” Stephen F. Austin, sprang up virtually overnight. That October, the fledgling republic’s entire government arrived in oxcarts.
Whether you visit Austin for the FGS Conference or on your own, you’ll discover a hotbed of history in typically Texas-sized proportions. Since Austin is the state capital and home of the University of Texas, much of the Lone Star past winds up here. FGS attendees can take excursions to:
- Austin History Center, (512) 974-7480, which includes the genealogy resources of the city’s public library system
- Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, (512) 936-8746
- Catholic Diocese Archives of Texas, (512) 476-4888 Ext. 48
- French Legation Museum, (512) 472-8180, the oldest extant frame structure in Austin, built in 1840-1841
- German-Texas Heritage Society, (512) 482-0927
- Texas General Land Office, (512) 463-5277
- Texas Historical Commission, (512) 463-6100
- Texas State Cemetery, (512) 463-0605, the Lone Star State’s version of Arlington National Cemetery
- Texas State Library and Archives, (512) 463-5455
- Travis County Courthouse, (512) 854-4565
All are easily accessible from the conference, held at the brand-new Hilton Austin, via the free ‘Dillo Trolley. Likewise for the University of Texas, which offers its Center for American History, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center and the Perry Castameda Library, familiar to Web-surfing genealogists for its map collection. If you have roots dating to the Republic of Texas, you’ll want to stop by the Republic of Texas Museum of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
For a taste of Austin’s history, you can take one of several free guided walking tours offered March through November by the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Tours include the Capital grounds, the Bremond Block of fashionable Victorian homes, and historic Downtown Austin. And for a culinary taste of the city, try one of the many excellent downtown restaurants, such as:
- The Driskill Grill, (512) 391-7162, located in the historic Driskill Hotel
- Iron Cactus, (512) 472-9240, for Tex-Mex
- Old Pecan Street Cafe, (512) 478-2491, in Austin’s music district
- Stubb’s, (512) 480-8341, for the obligatory Texas barbecue
- Sullivan’s Steakhouse, (512) 495-6504
- Texas Chili Parlor, (512) 472-2828, a hangout of Texas politicos
If you’re up to roaming a bit, try Green Pastures (512-444-4747), set in an old country mansion that once belonged to the family of Texas storyteller John Henry Faulk. Vegetarian appetites will be satisfied at the West Lynn Cafe (512-482-0950) and Mother’s (512-451-3994)—just keep your dietary druthers from the beef-boosting locals. You know what they say: Don’t mess with Texas.