Time to talk about stop number three of the TravelinWheels Texas Road Trip! We arrived just ahead of the traffic gridlock that envelopes Austin, TX making it difficult to get around for a couple hours every afternoon. My first impression of the city of live music is how energetic it is, and what a wonderful place it is for a traveler with disabilities. The lake, or is it a river, sits in the center of downtown, and people traverse the waters in kayaks and other boats. The downtown sidewalks are wide and level with great curb cuts. They are lined with a variety of bistros and music venues to suit any taste. I was thrilled to see a number of disabled parking spaces on nearly every block.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Austin, which overlooks the lake. It is right next to the famous Congress Bridge where every night at dusk, people gather to watch the largest colony of bats in North America take flight. It is really something to see. Kelsey was a bit creeped out, but I thought it was pretty cool!
We have been here to check out some of the local hotels for accessibility, as well as take in some of the sights, and we have had a marvelous time!!! I have decided that I have a love affair with this city. While, it's not the land of a thousand tourist attractions, it is filled with lovely parks, artwork, and an energy that is almost indescribable.
We wandered around quite a bit, and every part of the city was a treasure trove of cool coffee shops, restaurants, music venues, and boutiques. Driving along Cesar Chavez Drive, we see the locals out on the hike/bike trails that skirt the lake. Kayaks, paddle boards, rowboats, and canoes dot the lake, enjoying the calm waters and wildlife. Everyone seems to be out enjoying what Austin has to offer.
From the trailers parked along South Congress serving all sorts of edible delights, to the funky little bars emitting cool live music along 6th Street, we loved it all. It's one of those places you actually consider moving to. I could easily imagine myself living in one of the mansions overlooking Lake Austin (or Lady Bird Lake, as it was renamed), hanging out in the many hip neighborhoods with my oh so cool friends, enjoying the lake by day and the music by night.
Can you tell I like it here?
What's even better about Austin is the ease with which we moved around. Yes, there are some inclines, so a little muscle, a scooter or a power chair may be necessary, but the majority of downtown is pretty level. Public transportation in Austin goes everywhere, and there are lifts on every bus.
People are willing to assist, and very friendly here. You will have a fabulous time!
Some places we did visit:
We checked out the very large University of Texas at Austin, home to over 50,000 students. It is beautiful campus, with a HUGE football stadium. They definitely do it big in Texas!
At the heart of the city lies the State Capital. It is a remarkable building, modeled after the Nation's Capital, but they actually made it taller! The best view can be seen driving down Congress Avenue, which runs right into the building complex.
Barton Springs Pool - This spring fed pool is 68 degrees year round. They do have accessible bathrooms and a beach wheelchair.
Texas Rowing for All - a wonderful not for profit organization that teaches people with disabilities to row, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Their executive director took us out one evening, and it really was magical!
Austin Duck Tours - If you are a slow walker, or in a manual chair, this is a great tour. They do have a manual wheelchair lift that you must request at least 24 hours in advance. The owner came out and personally operated the lift to make sure our trip was comfortable. If you are short, make sure you have an extra cushion to boost you up a little on the seat; you will be transferring to a seat on the boat, and they store the wheelchair. The tour guides are fun and very knowledgeable!
The Shops at the Domain - Situated about 10 miles outside of the city, this upscale shopping center offers lovely shops, restaurants, and family entertainment choices.
Downtown Austin - Wander the shops, bars, restaurants, and local museums without little issue to handicap accessibility.
South Congress St. -- Find a variety of bohemian restaurants and music venues. Park yourself at one of the many trailer/food vendors for some yummy treats. Parking was a bit more of a challenge here, but it is doable.
Oyster Landing - Enjoy dining on Lake Austin, with easy free handicap parking and dining on the water. We ate at Abels, and there were ramps to the back porch, overlooking the lake. The accessible restroom was inside.
Cruise the homes of the rich and famous - This is the home of Sandra Bullock, Lance Armstrong, Michael Dell, and Matthew McConnauhy, among many others.
This city is young, vibrant, and very inviting to all. If you are debating on visiting this great capital of Texas, my answer would be a most definite, "Yes!"