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. Blanton Museum of Art

    University of Texas Area | Museum/Gallery

    Formerly the Huntington Art Gallery, this is among the largest university art museums in the United States. Although it's home to a teaching...Read More

  • 2. Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium

    University of Texas Area | Sports–Sight

    Longhorns bleed burnt orange and nowhere is that more evident than at a game at Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium. The stadium was originally...Read More

  • 3. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

    University of Texas Area | Library/Archive

    This is American scholars’ go-to resource for 750,000-plus photographs, old documents, more than 400 quilts, and in excess of 50,000 music recordings...Read More

  • 4. Harry Ransom Center

    University of Texas Area | Educational Institution

    Part of the University of Texas, this is one of the world's greatest collectors and exhibitors of important literary papers and other artifacts...Read More

  • 5. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

    University of Texas Area | Library/Archive

    The artifacts and voluminous documents on exhibit here provide some insight into the 36th president's mind and motivations, and though his foibles...Read More

  • 6. Texas Memorial Museum

    University of Texas Area | Museum/Gallery

    French architect Paul Cret's 1936 plans for the Texas Memorial Museum called for north and south wings to extend from a central building, a...Read More

  • 7. University of Texas

    University of Texas Area | Educational Institution

    The 350-acre campus breeds Texas Longhorns, as passionate about football (and other sports) as they are about academics (it has one of the country...Read More

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