Austin

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

    Museum/Gallery

    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. Inner Space Cavern

    Sports–Sight

    This Mesozoic-era karst cavern 24 miles north of Austin was discovered in 1963 and opened to the public three years later. Visitors enter from...Read More

  • 3. Republic of Texas Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    This organization, which also oversees the Alamo in San Antonio, maintains a collection of artifacts from the Republic of Texas era (1836–46...Read More

  • 4. The Thinkery

    East Austin | Museum/Gallery

    In 2013, the former Austin Children's Museum moved into a new building and evolved into The Thinkery, where kids (and kids at heart) will find...Read More

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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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