Your POPL 2011 General Chair, Tom Ball, took a trip to Austin, Texas from October 13-15, 2010 to scope out the conference hotel (the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, at 700 San Jacinto at 8th St), explore downtown Austin, and visit academic colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin (thanks to Kathryn McKinley for hosting me). This trip was funded by Microsoft Research, at no cost to POPL attendees.
I hope you read this trip report in its entirety. It contains a lot of useful information that will make your trip to Austin in January 2011 and your POPL experience more enjoyable.
You also can view a small photo essay from my trip.
Packing for Austin in January
I asked everyone I met about the weather in Austin in January. The basic thing to know is that you have to be prepared for cold weather (32 degrees Fahrenheit), hot weather (80F), and anything in between (the average high in January is 60F, the average low is 40F). Pack a winter jacket, sweater, as well as t-shirts and shorts. Precipitation? Not much! January has the lowest amount of precipitation of all months (1.89 inches).
Getting to Austin, TX and Downtown Austin
You’ll fly into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. I recommend taking the SuperShuttle from the airport to the conference hotel. It costs $13 for a one-way trip. If you reserve a round-trip in advance, it’s cheaper. You won’t need a car if you are staying at the conference hotel. If you do rent a car, as I did, be warned ahead that there are lots of one-way streets in downtown Austin, construction in various places, and entrances/exits to freeways are sudden and generally not well-signed. Parking at the conference hotel is $18/day (unlimited in/out privileges).
The Omni Austin Hotel Downtown
There are two Omni Hotels in Austin. POPL is at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown (the other is the Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark – don’t go there). While there are many other hotels in downtown Austin that are walking distance to the Omni, I really hope that you stay at the conference hotel. Please read: Why stay at the conference hotel?
The Omni Hotel is centrally located in downtown Austin in the Austin Center building, at 700 San Jacinto at 8th Street (orange marker in picture). The building occupies one full city block, bordered by 8th Street to the north, 7th Street to the south, San Jacinto to the east, and Brazos St. to the west. The building is a large cube (almost) with a huge interior atrium bordered on the east by the hotel rooms, businesses on the west, and the hotel conference space on the south. The main entrance to the hotel is on the north side and there is pedestrian access to the building at every corner except for the northeast.
The hotel has 18 floors, a very nice rooftop heated swimming pool and hot tub, and a restaurant, bar, fitness center, and small gift shop on the main floor. The rooms are well appointed and either have a west view into the atrium in the interior or an east view outside the hotel.
Wireless in your hotel room is complimentary, per our contract with the hotel. POPL will provide free wireless access in the conference space. The Omni Hotel provides free wireless access in the lobby area. My experience with the hotel wireless was very good (my room and lobby).
The Conference Rooms
All the conference rooms that POPL and associated workshops and events will be using are on the second floor. This area is best reached from the ground floor from a centrally-located set of steps in the atrium. Alternatively, you can take the elevator from your room to the second floor and walk across the balcony to the conference area.
Restaurants, Music, Arts, the Capitol, and the Lake
Walking west one block from the hotel on 8th Street takes you to Congress Ave, which runs north (to the capitol) and south to Lady Bird Lake. Turn north and three blocks take you to the state capitol at Congress and 11th Street. The Capitol is a beautiful building with surrounding lawns and trees. Along the way, there are restaurants, an art museum, and stores.
Walking south on San Jacinto from the hotel two blocks takes you to 6th Street, which is home to many pubs and restaurants, featuring a lot of live music.
Lady Bird Lake is just south of 1st Street (Cezar Chavez Street, seven blocks south of the hotel) and is walking distance from the hotel. It used to be named Town Lake and is really is a reservoir on the Colorado River. It has a long trail system with many walkers, joggers and bicyclists and various bridges to cross across to the south side, where there are trails as well.