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. Austin Nature and Science Center

    Zilker Park | Educational Institution

    Adjacent to the Zilker Botanical Gardens, this complex has an 80-acre preserve trail, interactive exhibits in the Discovery Lab that teach about...Read More

  • 2. Barton Creek Greenbelt

    Zilker Park | Park/Playground

    This park follows the contour of Barton Creek and the canyon it created west along a 8 mile-long area from Zilker Park to west of Loop 360....Read More

  • 3. Mount Bonnell

    West Austin | Mountain–Sight

    Rising to a height of 785 feet, Mount Bonnell offers the best views of Austin. Stop by during the day for a glimpse of the sweeping panorama...Read More

  • 4. Texas Military Forces Museum

    West Austin | Museum/Gallery

    Here you’ll find exhibits dedicated to and preserving the history of everything from the inception of the Texas Militia to the modern war on...Read More

  • 5. The Contemporary Austin–Laguna Gloria

    West Austin | Museum/Gallery

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

  • 6. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

    Zilker Park | Garden/Arboretum

    This pleasant space at the south end of Zilker Park houses 53 of Charles Umlauf's sculptures in the house where he lived and worked. Umlauf...Read More

  • 7. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

    West Austin | Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    Stunning contrasting views of the Hill Country and the Austin skyline make it worth the trip to this area near the 360 Bridge. You can wander...Read More

  • 8. Zilker Botanical Gardens

    Zilker Park | Garden/Arboretum

    Across from Zilker Park, this botanical garden has more than 26 acres of horticultural delights, including butterfly trails and Xeriscape gardens...Read More

  • 9. Zilker Park

    Zilker Park | Park/Playground

    The former site of temporary Franciscan missions in 1730 and a former Native American gathering place is now Austin's everyday backyard park...Read More

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