Sometimes it’s good to be a tourist in your own town, and what better way than on two wheels? Though we’ve lived here awhile and have visited a number of Austin’s well-known landmarks before, experiencing them on a Segway was much different and a whole lot more fun! And faster. It doesn’t hurt that Austin is such a cool, quirky city, and a great one to gaze upon at six miles per hour. Here are just some of the places we saw while we zipped around town on our Austin Segway Tour.
Texas State Capitol Building and Grounds
Our first stop was the stately, pink-marbled Texas State Capitol building and surrounding grounds, home of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor.
Next up, the elegant Driskill Hotel on Brazos Street. Built by cattle baron Jesse Driskill in 1886 and — legend has it — lost in a poker game just two years later, the hotel is always included on a tour of Austin. When it opened, the high-end hotel boasted an electric bell system, steam heating, gas lighting, a few suites with attached baths, and the exorbitant nightly price of $2.50. Presidential and senatorial candidates have awaited election results here and danced in more than a few inaugural balls.
Even better, the place is famously haunted, with people reporting actual apparitions, the sounds of a phantom ball bouncing down steps, and the extra creepiness of Room 525 where two suicide brides allegedly killed themselves in the same bathtub, 20 years apart.
Angelina Eberly Cannon Sculpture
If it hadn’t been for Angelina Eberly, the capital of Texas might very well be much closer to the coast. A large statue bears the likeness of the old innkeeper at 6th and Congress. Back in 1842, Eberly thwarted a plot by Sam Houston to steal the government archives of the independent nation of Texas, so he could move the capital to his favorite city — you guessed it — Houston! Our intrepid heroine witnessed the theft and sounded the alarm by firing the town’s 6-pound cannon into the General Land Office building. The Austinites fought back, won the “Archive War,” and preserved the town’s rightful place as the capital of Texas. Phew! Thank you, Angelina.
O. Henry Museum
While not a Texan by birth, the American short story writer William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, lived in Austin for a time during the late 1800’s. He’s probably best known for writing the Christmas classic, “The Gift of the Magi,” and he continues to inspire Austin’s yearly spoken pun competition, the O. Henry Pun Off. A look at his little house (from the outside) is included in the tour.
Texas Walk of Fame
As we sped along the streets of downtown Austin, our tour guide pointed out the stars we were rolling over that make up the Texas Walk of Fame. Modeled after the one in Hollywood, we found the names of notable actors, performers, musicians, politicians, and other leaders who hail from the Lone Star State.
At the corner of Trinity and E. 2nd, a circular medallion in the pavement marks the location of a large time capsule. Words around the perimeter reveal what’s inside. We had fun picturing the aluminum lawn chair, 2-liter soda bottle, foam drinking cup, personal mobility scooter, and radial tire buried just beneath our feet.
Willie Nelson Statue
You can’t breeze past the W Austin Hotel on Lavaca Street without taking in the 8-foot bronze statue of hometown music legend Willie Nelson. Erected in 2012 on 4/20 at 4:20 p.m. (a nod to Willie’s favorite recreational pastime), it commemorates his inaugural performance on the Austin City Limits TV show.
It was a gorgeous day to cross Lady Bird Lake and pass through Auditorium Shores, the urban park that hosts a number of popular events including the South by Southwest music festival.
HOPE Outdoor Gallery
Known locally as the Graffiti Wall, the paint park at 11th and Baylor was our final tour stop. Managed by a non-profit to provide an outlet for muralists and street artists, the place is gritty and dirty, and everything you’d expect from an abandoned housing project, but worth a visit if you’re in Austin.
SegCity Segway Tours and Sales
We chose to Segway with SegCity Segway Tours & Sales. We spent the first 15-30 minutes filling out paperwork, finding a helmet, and practicing a few basic Segway maneuvers. We took the 2.5 hour Ultimate City Tour, which looped clockwise from the capitol to the Convention Center, hitting a few spots in and around 6th Street before stopping outside City Hall and crossing the river on 1st Street. Back across the Pfluger Pedestrian bridge, we headed up Lamar, passing the ATX sign and the Whole Foods headquarters on the way to the HOPE Gallery and finally back to the capitol once again.
SegCity also offers an Austin Street Art Tour, Lady Bird Bat Tour, a Cultural Campus Tour which explores the museums on and around the University of Texas, and a riding-only tour called a “Cruise” for people who just want to feel the wind in their hair.
Can you ride a Segway? Yes, you can!
Honestly, I thought I would spend the entire two hours trying not to fall on my face. But that really wasn’t the case. (At least not after the first five minutes.) Segways are designed to keep you upright, and we all found them surprisingly easy to ride.
Things you need to know:
- Each Segway has a zippered bag on the handles which is more than adequate to hold a small to medium-sized purse.
- Two water bottle pouches are on each side of the bag, and it’s recommended that you bring your own beverage.
- You’re allowed to travel with your own bike helmet, if so desired.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also handy in Austin year round.
- The weight restrictions at SegCity are 75-300 lbs, although some tour companies have a lower limit of 100 lbs.
Want to buy a Segway for yourself??
Incidentally, if you’ve got a spare six or seven large lying around, you can buy a Segway from SegCity. If that’s out of your reach, your next best option is a Segway mini. Our neighbor liked her Austin Segway Tour so much, Santa brought one of these….
The Segway miniLite Smart Self Balancing Personal Transporter. It takes a little more effort to ride without the handles of a full-grown Segway. But for tooling around the neighborhood, it’s a much cheaper way to get your Segway fix.