“One of the best tour companies in town”
We caught up with Mary Davidson, partner of female-owned AO Tours, Austin’s Original Tour Company. They’ve been running city tours of Austin for the past 19 years, so they know a thing or two about this weird southern paradise. Specializing in entertaining and informative tours, AO Tours Austin has several tours to choose from where they take their passengers through historic areas downtown, trendy hot spots, hidden gems, and up and down the lakes and hills of Hill Country. The result? Guests leave with a fresh, new appreciation of the Capital City.
What motivated you to start a tour company?
"Since childhood, I have lived and traveled all over. There’s nothing like being in a new place. When I fell in love with, and settled down in Austin, I knew I wanted to start a business where I could show people the things about this city that had captured my heart."
What makes AO Tours Austin different from other tour companies?
"We focus a lot on what makes Austin unique. There’s a history to this city that doesn’t always meet the eye. “Old Austin” is still there, if you know where to look, and we know where to look! Our goal is to entertain and educate. On our tours, we show you the hows, the whys and the whens. On top of that, our vehicles are extremely clean, provide luxurious comfort and deliver great views from both our glass-top panoramic and our custom high-top 14 passenger Mercedes. Most importantly, our guides are entertaining and passionate about Austin and our guests."
Any Austin tidbits you can share?
"One of my favorite spots in Austin is the Haskell House. It’s right in the middle of town, in Clarksville, but not a lot of people know about it. In the late 1800s, it was built by Peter Tucker, a man freed from slavery. Later, he sold the home to Mary and Edmund Smith. Their daughter married Hezekiah Haskell, a Buffalo Soldier. (If you don’t know about the Buffalo Soldiers, you SHOULD.) The house was passed down to their son. After his death, the property was dedicated to the city and it’s still standing. We don’t have a ton of historical homes in Austin, so the fact that this one is so significant (for obvious reasons) is really special."
Anything new or exciting coming to AO Tours Austin?”Yes! We have two newer tours! On our Arts & Architecture tour, you’ll cruise around town past both modern and historic buildings, while getting to stop at some of the most interesting and iconic public art pieces. Our goal was to create a tour that allows guests to explore the city with the eye of an architect and artist, while learning about what led to Austin having such a diverse and vibrant city design. Our other new tour is the Offbeat & Hidden tour, geared to those who want to know more about how the eccentric history of Austin influences daily life. You’ll get the behind-the-scenes stories on the heart and soul of Austin’s music scene, the local heroes like Janis Joplin and Matthew McConaughey, and a few of the ghosts who still roam buildings and streets.
“If you have a smaller group or just want a more custom, intimate experience, we are always expanding our private tour options. AO Tours Austin will pick you up in one of our luxury vehicles and provide a one-of-a-kind, specialized private tour.”
How can someone book a tour with AO Tours Austin?
Visit our website at AOToursAustin.com. It’s easy to book straight from there. You can also call us at 512-659-9478. We’re always offering deals and specials, so follow us on Instagram @AOTours and @AOToursAustin on Facebook and Twitter.