Edit: Hello new readers! If you’re visiting this page for the first time, be aware that this was written before RTX 2011 and isn’t necessarily accurate for RTX 2012. I’ll be making a similar guide for this year in the next few weeks.
A primer: I attended PAX East for the first time this year, and would have been completely lost if not for the guides that people put together. So I want to return the favor for those of you coming to Austin for RTX! Enjoy!
Hi, how are you?
This is just a basic travel guide for Austin/RTX that I hope will help those of you planning on attending the event. I’ve been living in Austin for 5 years now, and I’ve been a member of the RT community for even longer. I’ll be updating this with more information as the RT staff releases more info about the event.
1. RTX is in Texas, in May. It will be hot!
This shouldn’t really need to be said, but Texas is hot. Texas is extra hot in May. RTX will be hot! Pack accordingly. It will probably also be bright and sunny. I don’t know how much of the event will be outdoors, but you may want to consider a hat and sunscreen if you’re of a pale persuasion like me.
2. The trees are trying to kill you
If you have bad allergies, you’d better stock up on some medicine before heading to Austin! The Central Texas (Specifically the Hill Country) is notorious for bad allergens. Luckily, in May we’ll be at the tail end of the worst of Spring allergies. It still might be worth checking this graph if you are concerned about how the allergens around the Austin area may impact you.
3. Austin has good (but not great!) public transportation
Gus has stated that they will be arranging shuttles to/from the DoubleTree (The RTX Hotel), but if you plan to do anything other than the “official” events it is likely you’ll need to find your own way around. Get to know Cap Metro! Depending on how much you plan on moving around Austin, I’d suggest buying a Day Pass each day you are there ($2.00 each) which will probably work out being cheaper than paying $1.00 per ride.
4. Beware the bikes!
Austin is full of bicycles. If you are planning to drive yourself around and haven’t had much experience sharing the road with cyclists, please read up on the ettiquite of driving alongside a bike! I found a good guide here: http://bicycleaustin.info/laws/handout2.html. Also, please realize that Austin is a big city trapped in the body of a small town. The roads in Austin were never really built to handle the amount of people that live here now. Keep that in mind and be a good driver.
5. Austin is a college town at heart
In addition to being a big city trapped in a small town body, Austin is also a college town at heart. The University of Texas is smack in the center of Austin. The reason I mention this is because the cost of living (and therefore cost of everything else) is low compared to most large cities. In Boston, I was surprised by how much a simple dinner at a local resturant was. In Austin (if you’re coming from a large city somewhere else) you might be pleasantly surprised by the cost of a simple meal.
This also bodes well for any crowds you may face during RTX. Because spring semester classes will have finished by RTX, a good number of students won’t be in Austin anymore. Also, it’ll be Memorial Day weekend and Austin isn’t really a “destination” city for tourists or anything. That said, there will probably be fewer people around Austin and it’ll be a bit less crowded than usual.
6. Location, location, location
At this point, I don’t know what events are planned for RTX, but I suspect many of you are looking for a hotel that will be nearby.
Gus has now announced the “main” hotel for RTX as the DoubleTree at I-35 and 71/290. Check further down in the guide for places to eat/shop around the hotel. It is strongly suggested that you book at the DoubleTree if you can. Gus said there are about 375 rooms at the hotel, so RTXers will have most (if not all) of the hotel that weekend.
The following info is if you want to book at a different hotel:
RT HQ is located near South 1st Street and Slaughter Lane in Austin. The closest hotels to this area are at the intersection of I-35 and Highway 71. Look to book something there if you want to be close to RTHQ. Another good hotel option would be downtown, as you’d be in the center of Austin and probably close to any/all events that are planned. For those, just check any hotels near downtown.
7. Things to see!
Currently, I have no idea what the schedule of RTX looks like and how much free time we will have outside of the main event. If there is some time, I highly suggest checking out the following things in Austin! I’ll add more as I think of them
The Congress Bridge Bats – A bat colony that lives under the Congress Avenue bridge and flys out to feed at dusk. A pretty awesome sight.
Texas State Capitol – Again, if you’re into that kind of thing, check it out. If anything, the grounds are pretty cool. I’ve played many games of capture the flag games there!
Barton Springs Pool – Okay, this is really awesome. This is a spring-fed pool that stays between 71 and 68 degrees year round.
8. Things to nom!
As far as eating around Austin, I’ve been working with Count3D on putting together RTX Sidequest, so I don’t want to spoil anything planned for that. For now, if you’re interested in eateries around Austin that have been mentioned/suggested by the staff at RT, check out Sidequest and Rooster Feast. Once more Sidequest information becomes available, I’ll share it here.
Near the DoubleTree:
9. 01010111011010010100011001101001 (WiFi)
We’re all a bunch of tech nerds right? We need our WiFi. Our lifeblood. Lucky you! Austin is a very connected city and has plenty of free access points. I found a nice database of access points (complete with a map) here: http://www.openwifispots.com/citylist_free_wifi_wireless_hotspot-Austin_TX.aspx
Like I said, I’ll add more to this as I can. If you have any questions about the Austin area or anything like that, feel free to ask them in the comments or find me on the RT community site!
(The image at the top is a relatively famous mural here in Austin by Daniel Johnston)