Austin Mural Tour – Keeping Austin Weird with Street Art

“Keep Austin Weird” has become a rallying cry that has come to symbolize maintaining the unique (and non cookie cutter) character of the city by supporting local businesses, culture, and the arts. One of our favorite “weird” things about Austin is the numerous iconic murals around town that make the Austin a cool place to live.

Austin’s decorative murals, shown here using photos from the book Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait, make a great backdrop for a photo and will bring a smile to your face whether you are visiting Austin for the first time (maybe you are here for SXSW 2011 or Austin City Limits) or if you are an Austinite down to your core.


Austintatious Mural - Drag Guadalupe UT
Austintatious Mural

If you only have time to check out one mural in Austin, the Austintatious Mural in the Renaissance Market is the one to see. Painted by 3 friends known as the Austintatious Artists, this massive mural comically depicts both the landmarks of downtown Austin on one side of the square, and on the other, the entire state of Texas. At Renaissance Market you can buy all sorts of hand crafts and jewelry, and with the student oriented Drag shopping strip around it and the Univerity of Texas directly across from it, there’s plenty to do when visiting this mural.


Murals on Austin Drag by Fredrico Archuleta AKA "Fe De Rico"
The Drag Murals at 24th and Guadalupe – Tower Records \ Intellectual Property \ Wells Fargo Building

Just 1 block over from the Austintatious Mural, the corner of 24th and Guadalupe is home to 2 beautiful murals, one gigantic movie themed mural on the old Intellectual Property / Tower Records building and a dreamlike warped mural on the side of the Wells Fargo Bank (former GAP building). At the street level of the old Tower Records building you will find many stencil based pieces featuring famous rock stars by the prolific Austin artist Federico Archuleta.


Austin frog mural hi how are you? - Guadalupe Drag
Hi How Are You? Frog Mural

The iconic Hi How are You? Frog might as well be the poster child for Austin weirdness. Painted in 1993 by musician Daniel Johnston, the Frog has been a fixture on the Drag ever since, surviving building remodels and the occasional prankster vandalism. The Frog has spawned an entire industry around it – you can buy a T-shirt with the picture of the frog at Storyville on South Congress and the iconic amphibious street art has even inspired an iPhone game it featuring music by Daniel Johnston.


https://www.austinphotobook.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/austin-mural-Skager-Brakkage-new_peter_tsai_MG_9098-Edit-109_-1-2.jpg
Austin Postcard Mural

Located on the side of the Roadhouse Relics building on South 1st street and Annie, this iconic, vintage looking Austin mural is a great tourist photo opp or an engagement photo shoot favorite. Once you’re done taking a few snapshots here, head over to the nearby Trailer Park Eatery, where you can enjoy a Torchy’s taco or two. The South First neighborhoods around the mural are also great to take a stroll around.


South Austin Music Mural Shop Lamar Blvd Texas
South Austin Music

Another mural depicting Austin music legends on the side of the South Austin Music building on South Lamar. Aaron Sacco created this full wall mural to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Austin institution, the South Austin Music store. The wall features over 30 local Austin musicians and spans 40 feet long. Artists highlighted on the mural include: Alejandro Escoveda, Patrice Pike, Guy Forsyth, Kevin Fowler, Papa Mali, and more. To see more of Aaron Sacco’s work, go to www.aaronsacco.com


Rhapsody - East Austin Mosaic Jazz Mural
Rhapsody Mosaic Mural

Rhapsody, the huge, colorful mosaic mural in East Austin by artist John Yancey is on the southwest corner of East 11th Street and Waller. Yancey, an associate chairman and professor of art at the University of Texas, designed the mural to reflect East Austin’s rich African American history.


6th street live music capital of the world mural - Downtown Austin
Live Music Capital of the World Mural on 6th Street

On 6th street near San Jacinto, this mural seemingly popped out of nowhere one day in 2009. It covers up the site of the burned down Black Cat Lounge and is a welcome addition to 6th street and the music scene it gives a home to, that earned Austin the title of “Live Music Capital of the World”. Austin music legends featured in the mural include: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt, and Roky Erickson.


Austin Tesoros Trading Company Mother Mar
South Congress Murals – Tesoros

South Congress is come to numerous murals and graffiti pieces, some done by notable artists like Shepard Fairey, who designed the Obama “Hope” poster. You can find many murals on the walls of stores and in back alleys (the Fairey piece is behind Home Slice). The particular mural is by Fredrico Archuleta and features the same mural of Mary, mother of Jesus that appeared on the Drag – it’s located across from Guero’s on South Congress and Elizabeth.


george washington carver library mural - East Austin Texas
George Washington Carver Library and Museum

This colorful and huge mural entitled “Sesquicentennial” was created by John Fisher. It depicts the hardships of slaves during middle passage and is located at the George Washington Carver Center in East Austin at Angelina St and Rosewood Ave. Originally created in 1986, the mural was restored last in 1999.


SXSWi 2011 and MOO Cards for Austin Photo Book

SXSWi 2011 at the Austin Convention Center

South by Southwest 2011 is fast approaching and an estimated 36,000 visitors will soon descend on Austin for the SXSW interactive, music and film conferences. During SXSW, the movers and shakers in their respective industries come to Austin to learn about new industry trends, discover new ideas and talent, and network with people from all around the world.

Speaking of networking, Peter Tsai, the photographer of Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait will be at SXSWi this year! If you are attending SXSWi 2011, make sure to follow him on Twitter at @AustinPhotoBook or at his personal account at @supertsai.

MOO Photo Business Cards
Give him a shout! If you do meet up with him, he’ll give you one of his awesome MOO business cards, which happen to feature one of 25 photos from Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait. If you want to learn more about MOO cards, you can find them on Twitter at @overheardatmoo

Don’t have a badge for SXSW this year? No worries – there’s many ways to participate in the SXSW even without a badge. Websites like Republic of Austin and SXSW Free Noms will show you where to get your party on for free! Why are there so many free parties in Austin during SXSW? I’m not sure, but it’s just one more reason why Austin is an awesome place to live.

Proof of Why People Love Austin – Austin Named to Countless “Best Of” Lists

Downtown Austin Neon Sign with the Frost Tower

We already know that recently, people have been moving to Austin in large numbers, but did you know that more than 17 million people visit the capital of Texas every year?

What do visitors come to Austin for? Tens of thousands of people come regularly for hugely popular events like the SXSW Conferences, Austin City Limits Music Festival, and University of Texas football games. Others come to visit family and friends or to take advantage of the many attractions around town, like the State Capitol (which gets 1 million visitors a year), great museums, a great music and nightlife scene, and Austin’s natural beauty.

One thing is for sure – people love Austin. As if the city’s friendly people, burgeoning restaurant scene, world class university, great attractions, beautiful public facilities, and low cost of living weren’t proof enough for why people love this place, the following sampling of superlative “Best Of” lists that Austin has been named to provide a clearer picture.

Top Austin, Texas “Best Of Lists”

Number One Best City for the Next Decade – Kiplinger for 2010-2020
Best Places to Live 2009 – US News and World Report
Best Cities to Move to in America 2010 – Yahoo! Real Estate
Number 1 Big City for Jobs 2009 – Forbes.com
Most Popular City For Young People (ages 24-35) 2007-2009 – Brookings Institute
Best City For Recession Recovery – Forbes / Yahoo! Finance
Number 2 American IT startup ‘Hot Spot’
Best Bargain City in America 2009 – Forbes.com
Top 10 City for Young Professionals 2010 – Forbes
Top U.S. Entrepreneurial Creative Center 2010 – Entrepreneur
Most Dog Friendly City in America 2008
Fourth best place to visit in U.S. in 2011 – Lonely Planet
6th Smartest City in America 2010 – CNNMoney.com
America’s Number 3 Best Music Citiy 2010 – Travel+Leisure
3rd Best City for Singles 2010 – Travel+Leisure
5th Least Stressed City in America 2010

Do you know of any other cool “best of” lists that Austin is on? What are the reasons that you love Austin? Let us know in the comments!

Also, don’t forget that the book Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait will be in bookstores everywhere in March!

Austin is Beautiful – Austin Scenic Overlooks Tour

Austin is known for it’s natural beauty, with its great parks, miles of hiking trails, and the beautiful Lady Bird Lake running through downtown. Any tour of Austin should include at least one scenic overlook, an elevated place where you can get a great view of the city. These spots are great places for a romantic hike, relaxing, or great people watching.

Lucky for you, this guide will highlight some of the best public scenic overlooks in Austin using photos from the Austin coffee table book, Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait.


Austin Pennybacker Bridge - 360 Cliff View
Austin 360 Cliff
Northwest side the Pennybacker Bridge south of West Courtyard Dr. (see map)

One of the best views in Austin! From on top of the cliff you can see Lake Austin, the Pennybacker Bridge, and the downtown skyline from a distance. To access the view, park on the side of the road in the small gravel lot and hike 2 minutes to get to the top of the cliff. There are people there at all hours during the day, and this is a popular photo and picnic spot.


Austin Scenic Outlook Lou Neff Point

Lou Neff Point
Hike and Bike Trail at the Corner of Zilker Park (see map)

If you are running the loop on the hike and bike trail, Lou Neff point is an awesome place for a break. Here, you can see the entire skyline from across the lake, there is ample seating, and you can watch the kayaks and canoes row by.

Sunset is particularly beautiful here, as shown in the picture above. If you just want to go to the point without walking the trail, If you park in the back right corner of the Zilker great lawn on Lou Neff Road, it’s only a 1 minute walk down the large stone steps to get to the point.


Lake Austin view from Mount Bonnell - where the rich in Austin live
Mount Bonnell Park
3800 Mount Bonnell Drive

From atop Mount Bonnell, you can see an amazing view of the lake all the way to the Pennybacker Bridge and the mansions that back right up to the water (boat docks and all). Because of this, the park has become a favorite spot for families, those who want to just sit on the cliff and relax, and couples on a date.

There are two entrances, one up a steep flight of stairs, and one up a gentle hill. The edge of the hill slop provides the best view, and is a great place to relax, read a book, or take a picture.


Map of Texas on Doug Sahm Hill in Butler Park by Ranger Excavating, next to the Liz Carpenter Fountain - Austin, Texas
Doug Sahm Hill
Riverside Drive

Located right next to the Palmer Events Center, Doug Sahm Hill comes complete with a huge map of Texas and a cool circular bench where you can sit and watch the skyline. Perhaps the best time to climb the hill is right before sunset, for the most beautiful view of downtown.

Just below the hill is the Liz Carpenter Fountain, kids play freely in during the hot summer days. At night the fountain’s LEDs provide a beautiful light show.


Sunset on Lake Travis at the Oasis and Soleil Restaurants - AKA Sunset Capital of Texas
The Oasis
6550 Comanche Trl

The so called Sunset Capital of Texas – an amazing view of Lake Travis attached to a gigantic restaurant that’s a great place to grab a drink with visiting friends. This is part of the standard tour for many.

Although food at the Oasis is not so great, two new restaurants next door, Soleil and Uncle Billy’s, come with the promise of the same great view with better food.


Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge - Monarch Condo - Towne Lake - Austin, TX
Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
Lamar and Riverside Dr

The Pfluger Pedestrian bridge is frequented by joggers and bikers, but there’s a great large sitting area right in the middle, complete with park benches and beautiful landscaping. It’s easy to just relax there for hours, watching boats on the lake, cars on the Lamar Bridge, and people move by.

Also, you get a great view of downtown as well as some of the coolest grafitti downtown, that reminds you to take a deep breath and relax.


Zilker Park Downtown view from the Great Lawn in Austin, Texas - soccer players
The Great Lawn
Zilker Park

The Great Lawn is huge piece of green that’s a great place to have a picnic, play some soccer, or fly a kite that also happens to have an amazing view of the skyline. Large trees and a granite outcrop on the lawn serve as a great spot to cool off on hot summer days.

Perhaps the most famous use for the Zilker Great lawn is serving as the home of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The lawn is also the site of the Zilker Kite Festival and a great place to watch fireworks on the 4th of July.

Young People Love Austin and are Moving to Texas in Droves

Immigration in Texas is a huge issue – we’re going to cover a the subject of an influx of people into Austin, but probably not the kind you are thinking of.

If you are a young professional living in Austin, chances are that you already know that according to a recent Brookings Institute study from 2007-2009, more young people moved to Austin than any other city. The whole state of Texas gained popularity nationwide, as Dallas was the second most popular city among the 24-35 year old demographic, with Houston taking the 4th spot.

In case you were wondering where people are moving from, the answer is everywhere. Take a look at the following screen capture, courtesy of a Forbes.com Infographic that shows net migration patterns for every county in the United States.
Texas Immigration in Travis County

In this infographic, black lines mean more people are moving into Austin, while red lines mean people are leaving Austin. Immediately, you can tell there is a heavy influx of people from counties in California, the Northeastern States including New York, the Midwest (mostly around Chicago and Detroit), and Florida.

For example, when you look closer at the Austin-LA connection in 2008, you can see that 1,170 people moved from from Los Angeles to Austin, while only 457 people moved from Austin to LA, a difference of more than 2.5 times. Similar ratios can be found in the relationship between Austin and Miami (1.9 ratio), and Chicago (1.7 ratio). Even within Texas, there is a pattern of migration to Austin.

College Educated Immigration to Austin Texas

One final noteworthy data point from the same Brookings Institute study is that migration patterns are making Austin a more educated place to live. 2.8 times more people with college degrees are moving to Austin than are leaving. All very good news!

To those who have moved to Austin recently or who are thinking about moving, the photo book that is the topic of this blog entitled Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait, serves as a great introduction to the city. The photos and captions in the book show off the best the city has to offer, from more obvious tourist attractions to slightly off the beaten path museums, parks, and scenic overlooks. The book is great for those few who have recently left the city and would like a memento of the great city they have left behind.

Fantastic Free Museum Attractions in Austin, Texas

Austinites like to have a good time and the city is full of opportunities for free fun. After visiting and photographing almost all of Austin’s attractions for Austin Photo Book, I would like to pass on my recommendations for the top free Museums in Austin, along with a description of why each is worth visiting.

The photos in this article all appear in Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait, which goes on sale in March of 2011. If you want to save this list to a mobile device, click here to save this tour as a Gowalla trip.


Harry Ransom Center picture window mural - Austin, Texas

Harry Ransom Centerwww.hrc.utexas.edu
19th and Guadalupe

My favorite free museum in Austin. Exhibits are constantly rotating in and out and they’ve had amazing photography exhibits come through including Ansel Adams, Frida Caillou, Fritz Heinle (one of the early LIFE magazine photographers), and an amazing retrospective on the history of photography. Also, they have the world’s first photograph and one of the only Guetenberg Bibles in the world on the permanent display!

Tip: Parking is a little tricky – I park on the street on San Antonio Street and walk over – it usually takes about an hour to walk through the whole gallery.


Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library

Lyndon B Johnson Librarywww.lbjlibrary.org
2313 Red River St

An impressive Presidential Library and museum in a huge modern space that covers American History leading up to and during the Johnson administration including exhibits on the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, the JFK assasination, and the space program. There’s even an animatronic joke telling LBJ robot.

Both parking (on Red River Street) and admission are free at this, the most visited Presidential library in the country. You could easily spend a couple of hours here in the museum and walking the beautiful stretch of the UT campus it’s located on.


Arthouse at the Jones Center - Austin, Texas

Arthouse at the Jones Centerwww.arthousetexas.org
700 Congress Avenue

This venue is worth checking out for the building itself – Arthouse was newly renovated in 2010 and now truly lives up to it’s name. The structure features a very modern concrete and glass exterior with glass tiles jutting out of the walls of the building. Come at the right time of day, and see these translucent tiles glow from the light of the rising sun or from the lights of the museum illuminating them from the inside-out.

Arthouse also features a beautiful wooden staircase and a beautiful rooftop deck. It features prominent contemporary art, much of it sourced from the Austin community.


george washington carver museum East Austin Texas
George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Centerwww.ci.austin.tx.us/carver
1161 Angelina St

The Carver Museum is a hidden gem located 3 minutes east of I-35. Here you can find beautiful murals, an exhibit on Juneteenth and prominent early African-American families in Austin. One of the coolest things here that I saw, was an exhibit on famous African-American inventors (like Dr. Carver himself) geared towards teaching young children that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

There are rotating art and history exhibits in the gallery in the impressive Center, and there are exhibits chronicling the life of George Washington Carver as well.


F4 Phantom Fighter Jet at Camp Mabry - Texas Military Forces Museum

Camp Mabry – Texas Military Forces Museumwww.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org
2200 West 35th Street

When I was little, I used to love huge military machines – too bad I didn’t live in Austin back then to take pictures with the hundreds of tanks, planes, jeeps, helicopters at this cool museum that includes exhibits on the history of Texas based military divisions in various wars including WWI, WWII, and the Spanish American War.

Perhaps the coolest pieces of military hardware at the museum are the Vietnam era F4 Phantom jet and Cobra attack helicopter, which are both sitting near the running track and visible from the Mopac expressway. You will have to pass through a military checkpoint base so make sure to bring your photo IDs.


Austin Nature Center and Science Center bronze dinosaur ribcage in the dino pit

Austin Nature and Science Centerwww.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc
Zilker Park – 301 Nature Center Drive

The Nature and Science Center is great for kids and families. The attraction includes mini zoo full of native Texas species, giant bronze dinosaur ribcage and the Dino Pit where kids can dig for “fossils”, and a learning center. The center also hosts temporary exhibits that rotate on a regular basis (At the time of this writing, it was the NASA funded “A View From Space”).

Best place to park is under the Mopac Bridge along the Hike and Bike Trail (Stratford and Mopac).


Elizabeth Ney Studio Museum, Formosa - Austin, Texas

Elisabet Ney Museumwww.ci.austin.tx.us/elisabetney
304 East 44th Street – Hyde Park

Elisabet Ney was a gifted artist that sculpted works depicting European royalty and celebrities, and the distinguished men Texas including Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, Richard Wagner, Sam Houston, and Stephen F. Austin.

The museum is housed in Elisabet Ney’s former studio, named “Formosa.” Inside, visitors can find dozens of her sculptures and get a glimpse of life in the 1800’s. Ney’s other works can be found around Austin, including in the State Capitol and at the Center for American History.


Texas Memorial Museum Dinosaur University of Texas - Onion Creek Mosasaur - Austin, Texas

Texas Memorial Museumwww.utexas.edu/tmm
2400 Trinity Street – UT Campus

A really great Natural History Museum complete with Dinosaur bones here in Austin?!? That’s what I thought when I first visited the Texas Memorial Museum. This not often advertised museum has a complete flying Pteranodon (like a Pteradactyl) skeleton and this pictured 30 foot long Mosasaur skeleton, found right here in Austin’s Onion Creek.

Additionally, you can find displays with specimens of wildlife on par with many better known museums around the nation, get up close and personal with rocks and gems, and see other types of prehistoric life. This is a must see for the kiddies.


Texas State Capitol Visitors Center Building - Austin, Texas

Capitol Visitors Centerwww.tspb.state.tx.us/CVC/home/home.html
112 East 11th Street

Located just next to the State Capitol, this landmark is easy to pass by unless you are looking specifically for it. This great little Museum that has exhibits on early life in Texas, a cool cutaway model of the interior of the Capitol Dome, interactive exhibits, historical photos, and my personal favorite, a nice view of the capitol from a higher viewpoint.

If you are looking at the front of the State Capitol from the main gate on 11th St, turn to your right to see the Capitol Visitors Center.


More Austin Attraction Posts to Come!
Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for more posts like this one in the future. If you are wondering what other attractions will be in Austin Photo Book, there’s an extensive list in the right hand column.

Also, remember that all of these great photos will be available in the Austin Photo Book, scheduled to print in March of 2011.