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Planning Your Trip
When to Go
Austin has a humid, subtropical climate, with about 300 days of sunshine. The best times to visit are spring and late fall.
It's no accident that many visitors fall in love with the city when they visit during the SXSW festivals in March—that's when the weather is most pleasant and temperate, and wildflowers cut multicolored swaths on the rolling hills and roadsides.
In summer, when the high is 96° and weeks of daily triple-digit highs are not uncommon, every Austinite able to escape to cooler climes does so. It's usually not before October (average high 81°, average low 60°) that people again start to forego air-conditioned restaurant interiors for outdoor patios. Austin has mild winters, with the average high and low in the coldest month, January, at 60° and 40°, respectively. Snow, while not unheard of, is rare. The wettest month is May, with average precipitation of just over five inches.
If you visit in late September, be prepared for music-crazed fanatics flooding the city for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Austinites and out-of-towners alike migrate in zombie-like droves toward the bass-pumping, heart-thumping, rhythm jumping beacon of Zilker Park, where the three-day affair takes place.
Getting to Austin
The major entryway into Austin is I-35. Loop 1 (also known as MoPac) joins with I-35 on Austin's northern and southern outskirts, dispersing traffic to the west side of the city. U.S. 183 runs at a slight north-south diagonal through Austin. Although it doesn't serve any major cities, U.S. 183 does serve as a major thoroughfare through town, eventually meandering northward to western Oklahoma and southward toward the gulf. East-west Highway 71 and U.S. 290 connect Austin and Houston.
Getting Around Austin
Although the highways are clearly marked, many of them have been granted other names as they pass through Austin (some joke that every road has at least two names). Keep in mind that U.S. 183 runs parallel to Research Boulevard for one stretch, Anderson Lane at another, and Ed Bluestein Boulevard at yet another, and Highway 71 is also known as Ben White Boulevard. Congress Avenue serves as the major north-south thoroughfare in the downtown area; it is interrupted at the State Capitol, Austin's heart and soul.
The rest of downtown is laid out in a conventional grid of numerical streets. The majority of these are one-way streets: even-numbered streets generally run one way to the west, and odd-numbered streets generally run one way to the east.
With 19 million annual visitors, more than 50,000 university students, and a large commuter population, Austin meets the demand with having more roads per capita than the other major cities in Texas—and it needs all of them. In fact, even with new highways and toll roads added in recent years, Austin's population growth has brought congestion, and it seems that every year rush hour gets longer, running weekdays from 7 to 9:30 am and 4 to 7 pm, with Friday afternoon's rush starting a bit earlier. Driving can be irksome during rush hours, but Austin is generally navigable and car-friendly.
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