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. Bob 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...Read More

  • 2. Austin City Hall

    Government Building

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

  • 3. Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center


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

  • 4. Fire Department History Museum


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

  • 5. General Land Office

    Government Building

    The only surviving government building from Austin's first 30 years owes its Gothic style to its German-born and -trained architect, Conrad...Read More

  • 6. Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum


    As war stories go, the most defining for Texas is, of course, the Alamo. And although Davy Crockett, William Travis, and James Bowie are often...Read More

  • 7. O. Henry Museum


    Writer William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, rented this modest cottage from 1893 to 1895. Moved a few blocks from its original location...Read More

  • 8. Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery

    Clarksville | Museum/Gallery

    With a collection more akin to a first class art museum than a commercial gallery, the Russell has a longstanding reputation for being the go...Read More

  • 9. The Austin History Center


    Part of the Austin Public Library system (and next door to the central branch building), this is the central repository of all historical documents...Read More

  • 10. The Contemporary Austin–Jones Center


    The Contemporary Austin, as it's known, doesn't have a huge amount of space at either its downtown location or at the gorgeous 1916 Italianate...Read More

  • 11. The MEXIC-ARTE Museum


    Founded in 1984, this museum is a beguiling, moderate-size museum devoted to traditional and contemporary Mexican and Latino art. The permanent...Read More

  • 12. The Old Bakery and Emporium


    In 1876, Swedish baker Charles Lundberg built this charming building near the capitol and operated it as a bakery for the next 60 years. Rescued...Read More

  • 13. Treaty Oak

    Historic District/Site

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

  • 14. Willie Nelson Statue

    Public Art (Mural/Sculpture/Statue)

    Back in the 1970s when mainstream country music was all in Nashville, Willie Nelson kept his feet firmly planted in Texas. Playing around Austin...Read More

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