The logical place to begin an exploration of the city is downtown, where the pink-granite Texas State Capitol, built in 1888, is the most visible manmade attraction. The Colorado River, which slices through Austin, was once an unpredictable waterway but has since been tamed into a series of lakes, including two within the city limits. Twenty-two-mile-long Lake Austin, in the western part of the city, flows into Lady Bird Lake, a narrow stretch of water that meanders for 5 miles through the center of downtown. There are also 10 miles of riverside hiking and biking trails.

The sprawling University of Texas, one of the largest universities in the United States, flanks the capitol's north end. Among other things, it is home to several world class museums. Just to the northwest of the university is a fun and funky student-centered commercial street called Guadalupe ("The Drag").

Almost every street in downtown, from Cesar Chavez to 15th, is hopping with bars, music venues, and restaurants. The best shopping is either in the Second Street District or on South Congress Ave.

From March to October, check out the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, under which the world’s largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats hangs out (literally). The bats make their exodus a half an hour after sunset to feed on insects.

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  • 1. Barton Creek Greenbelt

    West Austin/Zilker Park

    This 12-mile series of hike-and-bike trails follows the contour of Barton Creek and the canyon it created west along an 8-mile-long area from Zilker Park...Read More

  • 2. Barton Springs Pool

    West Austin/Zilker Park

    No visit to Austin is complete without a ceremonial dip in the sacred waters of Barton Springs. The hallowed crown jewel of the Zilker Park...Read More

  • 3. Blanton Museum of Art

    University of Texas Area

    One of the largest university art museums in the United States, with 200,000 square feet that includes two buildings and the adjacent Ellsworth Kelly Austin...Read More

  • 4. Bullock Texas State History Museum


    The 38th lieutenant governor of Texas, Bob Bullock—a potent political force in his day—lobbied hard to establish a museum of state history during his years...Read More

  • 5. Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

    This stunning architectural site and museum is just off of the Hike and Bike Trail, overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Dedicated to celebrating notable Latino artists...Read More

  • 6. McKinney Falls State Park

    This 744-acre state park is 13 miles southeast of downtown Austin. Per the name, the park has two waterfalls (visitors should exercise extreme caution near...Read More

  • 7. Modern Rocks Gallery

    East Austin

    This sleek modern-day art gallery celebrates everything that rocks—both in terms of beautiful geologic finds and of some of the world's most iconic rock and...Read More

  • 8. Mount Bonnell

    West Austin

    Rising to a height of 785 feet, Mount Bonnell offers the best views of Austin from its location several miles northwest of the Barton Creek...Read More

  • 9. Texas State Capitol


    Built in 1888 of Texas pink granite, this impressive structure is even taller than the U.S. Capitol (yes, everything is bigger in Texas). The building...Read More

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  • 10. The Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge

    South Congress District

    Austin is home to the largest urban bat population in the world, with as many as 1.5 million of them taking up residence in the...Read More

  • 11. The Contemporary Austin–Jones Center


    Originally known as the Austin Museum of Art, the Contemporary Austin's Jones Center is a striking downtown presence that features a wide array of contemporary...Read More

  • 12. The Contemporary Austin–Laguna Gloria

    West Austin

    Set on a lush Lake Austin peninsula, this 1915 Mediterranean-style villa was once home to Clara Driscoll, who led the fight to save the Alamo...Read More

  • 13. Treaty Oak


    Many local legends attach themselves to Austin's most famous tree. At least 500 years old, the live oak tree on Baylor Street (between 5th and...Read More

  • 14. UT Tower

    University of Texas

    The centerpiece of the University of Texas campus is a living piece of Austin history. Still functioning as a university administration office, the 27-floor tower...Read More

  • 15. Zilker Botanical Garden

    Zilker Park

    Across from Zilker Park, this botanical garden has more than 28 acres of horticultural delights, including butterfly trails, bonsai and Japanese gardens, and xeriscape gardens...Read More

  • 16. Zilker Park

    Zilker Park

    The former site of temporary Franciscan missions in the 1700s and a former Native American gathering place is now Austin's everyday backyard park. The enormous...Read More

  • 17. Auditorium Shores at Town Lake Metropolitan Park

    South Austin

    Depending on when you visit this lush green park, you’ll have a totally different experience. If you manage to make it here for a concert,...Read More

  • 18. Austin City Hall

    The home of municipal government since 2004 and the anchor of the Second Street District, City Hall is a striking modern showcase of the New...Read More

  • 19. Austin Fire Museum

    Next door to the O. Henry Museum and the Susanna Dickinson Museum, this hidden gem is housed in Central Fire Station No. 1, Austin’s busiest...Read More

  • 20. Austin History Center

    Part of the Austin Public Library system (and located in the beautiful and historic Central Library building), this is the central repository of all historical...Read More

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