This slow-rolling, laid-back area of Central Texas is an ideal destination for a low-key getaway. Austin  is a relatively small city, so it feels like an endearing, earnest little sibling compared to urban bullies like Houston  and Dallas . The Hill Country , meanwhile, is rustic yet civil enough to have commendable camping and lodging facilities for a nice weekend escape.
Things have always been relatively pleasant in this area of the state, which attracted its first pioneers—mainly from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri—for the same reasons Native Americans had inhabited the land for centuries: a temperate climate and abundant natural resources.
By the late 1800s, German immigrants were arriving in droves. Word got out in Germany that Texas was the place to be, and so many people jumped at the opportunity that significant portions of Central Texas had a majority German population in the late 19th century. Evidence of their settlement remains in the form of sturdy barns, homes, and dance halls constructed upon their arrival more than 125 years ago. Czech immigrants settled along the Brazos River near Waco , and their cultural legacy is found in the remarkable churches scattered throughout small communities on the fertile Blackland Prairie.
Austin  has traditionally attracted another portion of the population not always found in other parts of Texas: intellectuals. The University of Texas  has been the main draw, but politicians and lawyers have proliferated ever since the city was named the state’s capital in 1846. For the next century, government entities and the university raised Austin’s profile by investing in infrastructure and academic projects (bridges, dams, laboratories, museums, stadiums) aimed at improving the city’s quality of life.
By the late 20th century, the city became a hotbed for creative thinkers, movers, and shakers, including computer guru Michael Dell, earning the tech-heavy business climate the nickname “the Silicon Hills” while remaining a mecca for musicians and artists.
Despite boasting a current population of nearly 750,000, Austin  still maintains a reputation as a college town due to the more than 60,000 students living there. University of Texas  grads forced to flee Austin for big corporations and money in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex  and Houston  tend to have serious nostalgia for the “40 acres” (the UT campus), so they regularly return for football games or just to comment on how much the town has changed in the decades since they’ve been there.
Austin isn’t the only college town in this part of the state, as the Aggies in College Station  will certainly remind you. Nearby San Marcos  is also home to nearly 30,000 students at Texas State University.
Culturally, Central Texas is known for its distinctive heritage, honkytonks, barbecue, and Dr Pepper  (invented in Waco ). Geographically, the land is marked by a convergence of the cotton-rich Blackland Prairie and the granite outcroppings of the Hill Country . Communities near the Highland Lakes  west of Austin and in small towns like Fredericksburg  and Bandera  draw hordes of visitors every weekend to experience the region’s cooler temperatures, distinct history, and beautiful landscape.