Welcome to the Meeting and Event Planning Guide to Austin, written with meeting planners in mind. Maybe it's the historical distinction or political prominence. Perhaps it's the thriving cultural scene or "anything goes" atmosphere. It could even be the intoxicating rhythms emanating from over 200 Austin event venues to see live music. Maybe even the alluring number of Austin meeting hotels. Whatever the reason meeting planners choose Austin as their next event locale may be, it's never surprising that nearly 20 million people visit this gorgeous Texas City every year.
Though fairly convenient to fellow Texans (being fewer than 200 miles away from Dallas, San Antonio and Houston), Austin is equally accessible to all travelers. Voted Best Domestic Airport in the United States by the Airports Council International, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport serves over 40 non-stop and 82 direct destinations. Once inside the city, transportation has never been easier or more affordable, whether guests opt for the $0.50 direct airport bus or one of the public buses making 3,000 stops around the city.
Austin's meeting facilities are equally amenable to guests. The dynamic Austin Convention Center headlines the city's meeting options with 900,000 square feet of space. Boasting five contiguous, column-free exhibit halls and two ballrooms - including the largest in the state - the convention center is also conveniently located across the street from 800 posh guest rooms at the Hilton Austin. To top it off, the center is home to state-of-the-art technology that includes a communication infrastructure capable of moving voice and video data at one billion bits per second.
Nearby, both the Palmer Events Center and Travis County Exposition Center round out Austin's large-scale meeting facilities. The two levels at Palmer provide 95,000 square feet of space. Its five meeting rooms are an ideal spot for up to 76 guests to convene while overlooking the city skyline and surrounding park. Just 15 minutes from downtown, the Travis County Exposition Center features a range of varied spaces. Its 15,000-square-foot Banquet Hall is one of the largest meeting rooms in the city, while the 6,000-square-foot Skyline Club boasts panoramic views of downtown.
Though such spaces predictably draw hundreds of events and meetings each year, smaller, unique Austin event venues certainly do not disappoint. The Austin Museum of Art's downtown location offers elegant spaces where guests can enjoy private access to exhibitions and floor-to-ceiling windows that afford striking views of the city. With 12,500 square feet of exhibit space, the Austin Children's Museum's whimsical space serves as a lively backdrop for cocktail receptions. Or, add a touch of culture and class to seminars by hosting them at one of the George Washington Carver Museum's three conference rooms.
Looking to take advantage of Austin's 300 days of sunshine? Let tranquil Town Lake, the Texas State Capitol and Zilker Park be the backdrop for your event by charting a private cruise for up to 80 people with Lone Star Riverboat Cruises. Back on land, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum's outdoor terrace and glass-enclosed conservatory are tranquil settings for receptions and black-tie affairs.
Austin's major industries include high-tech manufacturing, software and information services. In addition to being the state capital, the city serves as headquarters for such corporations as 3M, Hoovers, Inc., National Instruments Corp. and Whole Foods Markets, Inc. Higher learning also holds a strong presence in the city, as Austin is home to the University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward's University, Concordia University and Austin Community College.
Situated on the banks of the Colorado River, Austin traces its origins back to nomadic tribes of Tonkawa, Comanche and Lipan Apache Indians that once frequented the area. It was not until the 1830s when the first permanent settlement in the region was established and named Waterloo. Later, the city, renamed Austin, was selected to be capital of the Republic of Texas. When it nearly lost this status to Washington-on-the-Brazos, proud Austinites defended the national archives stored in the city by force and the switch was never made.
Today, Austin remains the capital of Texas, and its residents continue to be just as proud of their home's political and historical prominence. Marking the city skyline, the Renaissance Revival-style Texas State Capitol is one of the nation's most distinguished such buildings. Here, visitors can take a free tour of the magnificent structure, or simply explore the capitol grounds where 17 monuments honor prominent Austin figures. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum expertly encapsulates story of Texas with three floors of exhibits and two theaters. Catch a glimpse into the lives of early Texas settlers and soldiers, and end the trip with a look at how Texas' key cities link the great state together.
Though residents of this Southern city certainly have strong ties to the region, Austin's population of nearly 745,000 people is a diverse blend of cultural groups. With a global population hailing from Europe, Africa, Mexico and Asia, the city proudly celebrates its diversity in its unique neighborhoods and cultural attractions. The city's Blanton Museum of Art is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Latin American art in the country. Over 1,800 pieces in the collection represent over 600 artists from Mexico, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Austin is also home to George Washington Carver Museum, which has played a key role in the collection, preservation and exhibition of African American historical and cultural material. Austin's Asian influence shines in event sites such as the wildly popular Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which features a Japanese teahouse, koi ponds and the famous "Bridge To Walk Over the Moon."
Though varied, Austin's culture is by no means disconnected. In fact, it is the celebration of uniqueness that defines the city. And whether with the Carnaval Brasileiro, Juneteenth or the popular Austin City Limits Music Festival, celebrate it does. As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin's over 200 locations to see live music keep the party going long after the official events have ended. Jazz, blues, hip hop, metal and more meet at popular music neighborhoods such as the Warehouse District, Red River District and Sixth Street. Here, guests can enjoy fresh Mexican delights and smooth margaritas at Iron Cactus then head to the Atomic Café nightclub to enjoy the tunes. Whether guests are partying the night away or spending an afternoon taking in history and culture, they are sure to grow to love this "Austintatious" city.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
The city of Austin enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine every year and a comfortable average year-round temperature of 65°F. Austin's humid subtropical climate brings hot summers and mild winters to the city. Its summer season sees average temperatures in the 90s, occasionally reaching above the 100°F mark. The city's warmest month is July, with an average high temperature of 95°F and average low temperature of 73°F.
Austin winters are mild and rarely see snowfall. January is the coldest month of the year with an average high temperature of 58°F and average low temperature of 38°F. The spring months bring mild temperatures in the low to mid-70s, as well as the greatest amount of the average 33 inches of rain that fall in Austin each year. The most popular time to visit Austin is in the late summer and fall months, which bring dry days and mild temperatures.
Austin Convention Center
The Austin Convention Center, located in the heart of downtown Austin, is home to modern architecture, extensive amenities and fantastic meeting spaces. Situated between the shore of Town Lake and historic Sixth Street, the convention center is within a short distance of 5,500 downtown hotel rooms, including the 800 rooms at the Hilton Austin just across the street. Constructed of native Texas materials, including rustic limestone and polished granite, the Austin Convention Center is spacious and airy, offering unparalleled views of downtown Austin thanks to a liberal use of windows.
Totaling 881,400 square feet, the convention center features five contiguous and column-free exhibit halls comprising 246,097 square feet. At 43,300 square feet, the upper-level Grand Ballroom, one of two ballrooms at the convention center, is the largest ballroom in the state and can accommodate up to 3,000 people. The Austin Convention Center's second ballroom totals 23,418 square feet, and an additional 54 meeting rooms can accommodate events of 10 to 831 people.
The Austin Convention Center is home to state-of-the-art technology. It boasts a communication infrastructure capable of moving voice and video data at one billion bits per second; complimentary wireless Internet; on-site audio-visual services; and on-site network administrators that design, install and support all in-house networking needs. ARAMARK, the center's exclusive caterer, specializes in delicious regional Southwestern fare. The center also features two parking garages, one located two blocks west of the center and the other on the northwest corner of the facility. Together, the garages can accommodate 1,685 vehicles.
Committed to supporting and encouraging sustainable practices, the Austin Convention Center is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council. The building utilizes energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, solar panels, motion light detectors and a comprehensive recycling program.
Clearly a meetings hotspot, the Austin Convention Center has hosted such groups as the Texas Computer Education Association, Dell, Inc., the Texas Middle School Association and the Association of Energy Engineers.
The Palmer Events Center - TX
Located alongside the popular Town Lake, the spectacular 131,000-square-foot Palmer Events Center makes its home on a 54-acre cultural park in downtown Austin. Owned and operated by the city, the Palmer Events Center is a striking park pavilion structure that offers flexible floor plans and a beautiful setting.
Easily recognizable by its trademark sloping, asymmetrical roof, the center's structure is not only beautiful, but functional as well. Its roof opens at the top to bring a pleasant breeze into the facility's interior space. The center is constructed of natural limestone, wood trusses, decking, textured concrete and galvanized metal roofing, while the interior is marked by dramatic windows, stone mosaics and limestone carvings by Austin artists.
The Palmer Events Center features 70,000 square feet of exhibit space that can be divided into a 45,000-square-foot space, with room for 3,146 people, plus an additional 25,000-square-foot space with room for 2,026 people. The center also features five meeting rooms, each totaling 1,000 square feet. Located on the second floor of Palmer Events Center, these well-appointed meeting rooms offer fantastic views of downtown Austin and the surrounding park. On-site audio-visual, technology and catering services are available.
The recipient of many major awards, Palmer Events Center has been recognized for its superior design by the American Institute of Architects, Texas Society of Architects and Metal Architecture magazine. The center is also the recipient of the Austin IMPACT Award and Austin Commercial Real Estates' Public Sector Award; both awards recognize the center's positive impact on downtown Austin and the quality of urban living. The Palmer Events Center has hosted such groups as the Greater Austin Restaurant Association, Austin Energy Department, Sysco Food Services and the Texas State Historical Association.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
Approximate taxi fare: $25 USD
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is located just five miles outside of downtown Austin and 11 miles from the Austin Convention Center. With roughly 300 daily flights to locations throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, the airport services approximately nine million passengers per year. In operation since 1999, the airport is currently preparing for a terminal expansion due for completion in 2012. Included in the plan is the creation of nine new gates, 20 additional airline ticketing counters, expanded baggage claim areas and a new parking garage.
Currently, the crescent-shaped Austin-Bergstrom International consists of one four-level terminal with 25 gates and two runways. Designed to avoid heavy passenger traffic, the terminal places passengers as close to their gate destination as possible.
As beautiful as it is functional, the airport, built with indigenous materials, features entryways encased in native granite and glass and an exterior of more than 50,000 square feet of white, pink, and black flecked Texas Pearl granite. The airport's large glass panels let in plenty of natural light, perfect for showcasing its extensive art program. Staying true to Austin's reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World, the airport even features a stage in the terminal's central courtyard that routinely hosts live music acts.
The airport features a variety of amenities, including restaurants, banks, gift shops, newsstands and massage booths all housed in the airport's Market Place area. On-site business services include PowerPort computer stations with Internet access and laptop rentals, as well as free printing services and battery and cell phone chargers. Passengers can use the airport's terminal-wide wireless Internet connection for a small fee. The airport also features 10,152 parking spaces in the parking garage located directly across from the terminal; parking is $20 per day. The airport's Super Shuttle service takes passengers from the airport to major downtown hotels for $12 one-way or $21 round trip per person.
Airline carriers serving Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
The Austin Amtrak station is located on North Lamar Boulevard. Servicing the Texas Eagle route, trains run daily between Chicago and San Antonio and three times per week between Chicago and Los Angeles. The station is open Monday through Friday from 7:15 AM to 9:30 PM.
Capital Metro Bus Line
Austin's public bus system is part of a 500-square-mile Central Texas system of more than 3,000 bus stops and 53 routes. Austin is serviced by 19 local bus routes, 13 limited stop/flyer routes, eight express routes, 20 University of Texas shuttle routes, and five downtown "Dillo" circulator routes. The fleet of approximately 400 buses services 130,000 riders each day.
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is serviced by the Route 100 Airport Flyer route, which connects the downtown area to the airport lower level. The Austin Convention Center is serviced by the 17 Cesar Chavez Route, which stops just a few blocks away from the center. All express buses offer free wireless Internet service, while the entire bus fleet is widely known for being clean and efficient.
Youth fares for children ages 6-12 are $0.25 for local service and $0.50 for express service. Adult fares are $0.75 for local service and $1.50 express service. Children under 5 ride for free. An all-service day pass is $3 per passenger.
Slated to begin service in late 2008, Austin's new Capital MetroRail service will run 32 miles of existing freight tracks between Leander and downtown Austin. The Red Line will service nine stations, including a stop right in front of the Austin Convention Center. Each of the six vehicles in the fleet will hold 200 passengers and offer free wireless Internet service.
During the initial service period, MetroRail will run weekdays every 30 minutes during morning and evening rush hours; service times will be expanded after the initial testing period. MetroRail fares will be $1 for one zone and $1.50 for two zones.
Several rental car agencies, including ACE Car Rental of Austin, Advantage, Alamo, National, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty, are represented at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Agency counters are located outside of the baggage claim on the terminal ground floor.
In the city, taxis can be hailed on the street throughout the downtown region or found at hotel taxi stands. Taxis are also readily available outside the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's baggage claim area on the ground floor. Visitors should expect to pay about $25 in taxi fare from the airport to downtown Austin.
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