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Come for the cars, stay for the culture

Circuit of The Americas has made Austin the place to head for fast cars, live music and serious fun

Think of Texas and you think of cowboys, country music and wide-open spaces. Austin has got so much more. Over the last few years it’s grown to be one of America’s most vibrant and exciting cities, with world-leading live music, innovative street food, a booming LGBTQ+ scene and a tech industry that includes the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. And central to Austin’s recent reincarnation as America’s number one place to live – and one of its top places to visit – is Circuit of The Americas (COTA), the dedicated race track that’s home to the Formula One United States Grand Prix, which this year runs from 1-3 November 2019.

Opened in 2012 and with a capacity of approximately 120,000 visitors, COTA is the first – and only – circuit in the United States of America to be purpose built for Formula One racing. Dreamt up by Miró Rivera Architects and legendary German engineer, racing driver and circuit designer Hermann Tilke, it’s a certified Grade One track by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the top of its class. This means spectators and drivers alike get to experience all the risks, adrenaline and thrill of the dramatic bends, speed traps and fast corners of this world-class circuit.

This year’s Formula One United States Grand Prix takes place on the first weekend of November and, as well as the chance to watch the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen take on the challenge of the COTA track, there’ll also be food, drink and merchandise stands to explore, and live performances from P!nk and Imagine Dragons on the Friday and Saturday nights on COTA’s dedicated Superstage – built especially for the F1 race weekend. 

If you’ve only got one day to check out COTA, then pick a Single Day Ticket which allows entry to the race day of your choosing: you can watch the practice laps and Imagine Dragons on Friday, the qualifying rounds and P!nk on Saturday, or go for the main event on Sunday, where history will be made at the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Buy your Single Day pass here

However, if you’ve got a whole weekend free, then the Three-Day Pass, which lets you enjoy all the excitement, suspense and adrenaline that the Grand Prix has to offer, is the one for you. This will let you enjoy all three days of racing, plus entry to the festival lawn to watch both headliners on Friday and Saturday nights. Great sight lines of the circuit are guaranteed, too, whether you’re sitting on the bleachers with a bird’s eye view of the track, or in the Main Grandstand by the pit lane and start/finish line, where you can witness all the drama Formula One has to offer live and up close. Buy your Three-Day pass here

Of course, the VIP Hospitality passes will make it a weekend you never forget. These tickets ensure you and your guests enjoy the best food, the best drink, the best suites, and the best experience all weekend long. With seven packages to choose from – so you can select the one that suits you best – every VIP pass also includes an exclusive pit lane walk on Thursday, plus admission to watch P!nk and Imagine Dragons, and an opportunity to experience Texas’s famous hospitality for yourself. Buy your VIP pass here

If you can’t make it to COTA for the Grand Prix in November, then there’s plenty of other ways to check out the incredible venue. COTA Karting lets you enjoy all the thrills and spills of Formula One on a smaller scale, and can be tried by drivers young and old. However, if you really want to get some speed up, then the Audi Driving Experience is for you. Designed for all drivers, from novices to speed demons, it’s an opportunity to test your mettle on the world-famous COTA Formula One track, as well as a chance to try out the latest Audi Sport range. Programmes range from half-day to full-day experiences, and will ensure you come away highly skilled at handling a course such as COTA. 

The track also hosts other races throughout the year, so speed fanatics can get their fill at other times, too. Highlights include the ARX Americas Rallycross on 28 September 2019, which will see some of the world’s best rally drivers hit the tarmac and dirt to take on Round Five of Americas Rallycross Championship, as well as the 2020 MotoGP Grand Prix of The Americas and 2020 IndyCar Classic, the dates of which will be confirmed soon. For a more immersive event, you can try out Cars & Coffee, Texas’s biggest gathering of auto lovers who meet once a month at COTA to showcase their cars and experience the track at a more leisurely pace. 

Round off your trip to COTA by experiencing the very best Austin has to offer by day

As well as the race track, Austin stands out from other US cities due to its famous live music scene, great food scene and seriously impressive architecture. It should be at the very top of your travel bucket list this year – and here’s why.

The food’s pretty great

Forget stuffy silver service. Austin is famous for its food trucks, and has more than 1,000 estimated to be operating in the city, serving everything from cupcakes to ceviche. And don’t let the fact this food comes in cardboard containers fool you – just like with London’s street food scene, the city’s best chef and most innovative makers are opening food trucks all over the place. Highlights include Three Little Pigs, which sells (you guessed it) pork sliders and ribs, Baton Creole, which specializes in traditional Cajun gumbo and jambalaya, and East Side King, which serves Japanese street food.

It has the largest capitol building in the country

Austin has grown to encompass 272 square miles along the Colorado River since the first European settlers started arriving in 1835. In its almost two-hundred-year history, some pretty significant buildings have grown up around the city. First in their number is the Texas State Capitol, which every Texan is proud to point out is larger than the United States Capitol, home of Congress, in Washington DC. Completed in 1888, it’s made from sunset red granite and overlooks downtown Austin from its impressive 302 metre height. Also on the list is the University of Texas’s Main Tower, which at 94 metres tall is the centrepiece of the beaux art-style campus. The monolithic – and controversial – Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, completed in 1971 by architect Gordon Bunshaft, is also well worth a visit for its dramatic, modernist exterior. 

It’s the perfect excuse to get outdoors

With more than 29,000 acres of parkland throughout the city, spending the day in Austin often means getting active. There are plenty of hiking trails for ramblers, with the best being the River Place Nature Trail, which takes walkers alongside waterfalls and through woods, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt, which is mere minutes from the town centre but provides biking, climbing and swimming. For more intrepid visitors, there’s the amazing NLand Surf Park, Austin’s impressive artificial wave pool that allows surfers hang 10 even 200 miles from the sea. 

… And get cultural 

Of course, Austin is famous for its live music, and its yearly SXSW tops the bill. But throughout the year it hosts many other festivals, like the Austin City Limits Festival in October, which this year is headlined by the likes of Guns ‘N’ Roses, The Raconteurs and Tame Impala, and Levitation in November, with Kurt Vile and The Flaming Lips. And, if you need a break from all that sound, there’s the peace and quiet of the Texas Book Festival at the end of October, and the East Austin Studio Tour, a free art event in which Austin’s artists and creatives open up their studios for two weeks in November.

Follow COTA on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter to keep up-to-date with the upcoming race schedule. For more information on what to do and see in Austin visit visitaustin.org