Explore Downtown In Austin Texas

Austin is home to nearly a million people, and it is the center of a growing metropolitan area that includes over two million people. However, the beating heart of it all is Downtown Austin.

This isn’t just the center of a busy city. It is the legislative center of the state of Texas. But downtown Austin is so large that it actually contains a number of neighborhoods and historic districts. Here are a few of the largest and most important ones.

The Capitol

The Texas Capitol is the home of the Texas state legislature. This is a major tourist attraction year-round, though the Texas legislature only meets several months every two years.

This not only keeps the Texas government unusually small, but it led to Austin developing a more diversified economy than other state capitals. Austin is the second largest state capital in terms of population, but it is a state capital nonetheless.

The State Capitol is surrounded by a number of historic and cultural buildings. The massive Capitol grounds include the Texas Capitol Visitors Center, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the Supreme Court of Texas, and the Texas African American History Memorial.

The large green space is bounded by Eleventh Street, Colorado Street, Fifteenth Street, and San Jacinto Boulevard. The Texas Workforce Commission Annex is located at the intersection of Fifteenth Street and San Jacinto. The Texas Capitol Gift Shop is at the north end of the civic square.

The Texas Capitol is separated from the massive Waterloo Neighborhood Park by one city block. There is literally one city block between San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street. Go a little farther, and you’re in the heart of Austin’s live music scene.

This area is full of legislative offices and nonprofits. For example, the Legislative Budget Board’s offices are on the north side of Fifteenth Street. The Texas Education Agency’s main offices are one block farther north. There are several legislator office buildings in the capitol square itself. One such building is the John Reagan State Office Building.

The Texas Association of Counties office is several blocks to the west. There are numerous Travis County offices along Eleventh Street. This includes the Travis County Law Library, the Travis County Jail and the Travis County Criminal Court. The Austin History Center and Austin Public Library are located off Guadalupe Street several blocks south of the Capitol Building.

Congress Avenue runs south from the Capitol Building. There are art museums like the Contemporary Austin Jones Center here. Wooldridge Square is a compact, historic park nearby. Locals tend to go to larger parks like the Ninth Street BMX Park and Duncan Neighborhood Park.

The University Of Texas At Austin Area

The University of Texas at Austin is the flagship campus of the University of Texas system. This isn’t the only public university system in Texas. The Texas A&M system and Texas State system are other networks of publicly funded colleges.

But the University of Texas system is the largest, and UT Austin is the largest campus in the UT network.

As the largest school, it is sometimes just called UT while other schools have the city the UT campus is located in appended at the end. For example, the University of Texas at Dallas uses the abbreviation UTD. And UTA generally refers to the University of Texas at Arlington.

The flagship UT school has over twenty thousand faculty and staff, and it has over fifty thousand undergraduate and graduate students. That makes the UT flagship campus as large as some small towns in and of itself.

The campus is located in downtown Austin off Interstate 35. Martin Luther King Boulevard serves as a southern boundary, though the campus stretches south along Trinity Street to the Medical District. The Texas Capitol is several blocks south of the southern end of the campus.

The neighborhood of Central Austin is directly north of the campus. So are neighborhoods like North University and Heritage. West Campus is west of UT and is separated from Old West Austin by Lamar Boulevard.

The LBJ Presidential Library is located on the east side of the UT campus. The Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is just north of the campus, though it is a distinct institution.

The Drag is a narrow strip along Guadalupe Street that caters to students. This includes a ton of restaurants and retail aimed at college students. There are also a few school facilities like TEXAS Global at The University of Texas at Austin on the west side of Guadalupe Street.

Old Austin

Old Austin refers to the oldest residential neighborhood in the city. Today, it is sandwiched between the University of Texas campus and Lamar Boulevard.

The Shoal Creek Greentbelt and parks like Pease District Park run along the western boundary of the neighborhood. The name is often reflected in the neighborhood names themselves like Heritage. That is south of the central medical district.

The oldest and southernmost neighborhood in the historic part of Austin is Old Enfield. The area is named for Enfield Road. This area includes Pease District Park. Pemberton Heights and Bryker Woods are north of Endfield.

These three historic neighborhoods were built between 1886 and 1953. The neighborhoods were called Old West Austin when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. There are almost 1600 historically significant properties within Old West Austin.

Windsor Road passes through Old West Austin, connecting the Drag by UT Austin to West Campus to the Mopac Toll Road. Tarrytown is west of Mopac Expressway.

West Avenue and Shoal Creek were the western edges of the city for years. That was the boundary laid out on the original 640-acre master plan in the middle of the 19th century. Note that Waller Creek and East Avenue were the eastern boundaries of old Austin.


Mueller is a 700 acre planned unit development or PUD in east-central Austin. A large planned development like this is rare in an urban area unless there was a site available for it. In the case of the Mueller PUD, it was built at the former site of Robert Mueller Airport. That airport closed in 1999 when Austin-Bergstrom International Airport opened in southeast Austin.

This is a master-planned mixed-use development. It has around 4600 homes, 650,000 square feet of retail space, and 140 acres of open space.

Most of that is found in Mueller Lake Park and the Southwest Greenway that borders Morris Williams Golf Course. It is designed to be a walkable community. It is next to the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.

That’s a 32-acre hospital campus and employs roughly 1400 people. The UT Health Research Campus is next to the hospital. So is a Ronald McDonald House. The Austin Children’s Museum is a tenant of Mueller Town Center, though it rebranded itself as The Thinkery.

The Mueller project is so large that it can be broken down into several distinct areas. The Mueller Town Center District is dominated by retail outlets, the Mueller Regional Retail Center, and the hospital.

The Mueller Area is primarily single-family homes with some multi-family housing. The Mueller Tower District is at the south end of the Mueller Project. All of it stops at Tilley Street. That road separates Mueller from Rathgeber Village. Windsor Park is north of Mueller. Both neighborhoods have access to Bartholomew Park.

Airport Boulevard runs through the south end of Mueller and is a reminder of the days when this was an Airport. That road as well as East 51st Street gives residents easy access to Interstate 35. The neighborhood of Cherrywood is south of Airport Boulevard.

Residents are part of the Austin Independent School District or AISD. They are generally zoned for Maplewood Elementary School or Blanton Elementary, Kealing Middle School, and McCallum High School or Reagan High School. Maplewood Elementary is in the neighboring Cherrywood community. Blanton Elementary is in Windsor Park. The AISD Performing Arts Center is located in Mueller off Mueller Boulevard. And all of this is four miles from Downtown Austin.

The Red River Cultural District

The Red River Cultural District or RRCD is the hotspot for live music in Austin. It spans the eleven-block area between Fourth and Fifteenth Street, and it is named for Red River Street. This area retains some of its tough exterior and many bars and nightclubs. But it has gentrified to accommodate tourists. You can find boutique hotels and vegan restaurants, the German-Texan Heritage Society, and art exhibits.

Because Austin is the administrative hub of Texas, it is hard to find a neighborhood without government offices. You can find the City of Austin Police Department at the southern end of RRCD, and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas building sits where the Red River district boundaries zig-zag around it. The RRCD boundaries include Symphony Square, but it does not include Waterloo Neighborhood Park and the Moody Amphitheater to the north. The Red River Cultural District is several blocks southeast of the Texas Capitol.

Sixth Street Historic District

Sixth Street is not just a historic street in Austin. It passes through Old West Austin and connects the Mopac Expressway and Interstate 35. The street runs through the historic entertainment district in Downtown Austin. The Sixth Street Historic District runs from I-35 to Lavaca. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The area is full of retail shops, nightclubs, and music venues. Sixth Street is often blocked off when music festivals and film festivals are held here. One of the most famous ones is the South by Southwest festival. The Pecan Street Festival is held here, too. There are museums here like the Museum of the Weird and the Mexic-Arte Museum.

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