The following is a special feature from Austin native and long time F1 fan, Dale Daugherty. Dale was the winner of last week's Fan Feature and has offered to share his suggestions to visitors of Austin for the 2012 Formula 1 USGP.
// Formula Fun
Welcome, Formula One fan, to the greatest city in the United States!
Think of me as your friendly, local tour guide. If you find me to be a bit enthusiastic, it’s because I REALLY love my home town… and I am certainly very excited for the 2012 United States Grand Prix! I was born here in 1984, and I have witnessed our evolution from a small Texas city, to a bustling metropolis that constantly finds itself on the nations “Top Ten” lists.
Some of you may not have heard of Austin… but I would be willing to bet you have heard about Texas! First, let me address a common stereotype regarding Texans: Most of us do not ride a horse to work, or even own a horse for that matter. We do have automobiles here, and they do a fantastic job of causing some serious traffic jams around town during our weekday rush hours. I bring this up now, so that we can get the only downside of Austin life out of the way. Luckily for you, F1 Fan… a plan has been created to ensure your Grand Prix weekend is enjoyable and (mostly) traffic free. A massive shuttle operation will get you to and from the track, and ensure that you are not spending your weekend stuck in traffic. In fact, one of the shuttle locations will be at Waterloo Park, which is quite close to the famous downtown Sixth Street entertainment district.
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is located in Elroy, Texas, only 2 miles from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), and within 15 miles of downtown Austin; you can actually see both from the track. There are just enough hills in the area to create some incredible elevation changes around the 3.4 mile, Tilke-designed circuit. Anyone who has seen COTA in person can tell you that pictures do not give the proper sense of scale. Your jaw is sure to drop when you finally get to see Turn One in person.
As long as we are on the subject of elevation changes, I should mention our fantastic “Texas Hill Country”. If I were Michael Schumacher, this is where I would take my Harley-Davidson for a Thursday cruise into the sunset. From visiting the shops of Wimberley, Texas, to sampling Texas Barbeque at Cooper’s in Llano or The Salt Lick in Driftwood; the roads between are sure to be a blast to drive. Give Lone Star Exotic Rentals a call and cruise them in style. If you can find a designated driver, there are some excellent wines made right here in the hills of Central Texas… and many of the vineyards welcome visitors. Check out www.hillcountryoutdoorguide.com for some destination ideas.
When you finally pry yourself away from the back roads, downtown Austin is where you will find the party and nightlife. Sixth Street is a vibrant entertainment district in the heart of the city. This is where you can have a drink and listen to some local music. There are over fifty bars, and many offer live music. If you are not keen on walking from venue to venue, you can always find a pedicab… there are plenty in Austin. It’s a good bet that you can find great music at Antone’s on 5th Street. This historic blues venue is rich in history, having hosted acts like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and of course… Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Let’s go back to food for a second, because it is a subject I am particularly fond of. Austinites are spoiled when it comes to food. Between Tex-Mex cuisine, the epic food trailers scattered about, and the barbeque… we are quite proud of our eateries. Franklin BBQ is in the city limits, and it’s a local favorite. They open for lunch at 11 am and close once the food is gone, so go early. If you prefer margaritas and enchiladas I would suggest Trudy’s, or Chuy’s. For the carnivore, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is excellent if you don’t mind paying for what you get… otherwise, I would suggest Texas Roadhouse. If you prefer your steak “chicken fried”, then Threadgill’s is the place to go.
If you would like to remain within the City of Austin throughout your stay, there are plenty of things to do. The outdoorsy type would find interest in Zilker Park, and the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. If the weather is right, you can paddle out on Lady Bird Lake in a canoe or kayak for a wonderfully different view of the city. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is must for any history buff, and you should probably make plans to check out the Texas State Capital as well (which is taller than the U.S. Capital because everything is bigger in Texas). Staying on Congress Avenue and travelling south you will find the Governor’s Mansion, and after crossing the river you will be in the So.Co. shopping district. There are a couple of really neat bars and restaurants in this area... and as long as you are there you should make an effort to visit Home Slice Pizza.
Of course there will also be Formula One related events throughout the city all weekend long. Many of these are still in the planning stages, so information is currently limited… but a sure bet will be the “Austin Fan Fest”. This will be a Friday and Saturday evening event with live music in the heart of downtown Austin. I would imagine EVERYONE will be there, and you should go be there as well. Another celebration will be “Experience Austin”, and this will be somewhat of a block party. Expect details on both events soon.
I should, at this point, refrain from bragging about Austin… and give you some tips and resources that could make your stay a bit better. You'll have to hold on till next week when I'll give some insight to the transportation situation in Austin and some links to my favorite spots in town. I look forward to welcoming y’all to Austin in November, and I sincerely hope you enjoy your stay.
// CONTEST ALERT
Leave us your helpful F1 tip in the comments of this article in order to be entered into our contest. Dale will choose another winning F1 tip and you will receive a COME AND RACE IT sticker autographed by Alexander Rossi!
Contest closes at 12:00PM (Noon) CDT on September 6, 2012. Winner will be announced in the September 7, 2012 edition of "Fan Feature" here on this website.
Message Contest@TheAustinGrandPrix.com if you have questions.