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Austin texas tourist info
11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Austin & Easy Day Trips
Austin, the capital of Texas, lies at the point where the Colorado River leaves the Edwards Plateau. The second largest state capital in the United States, Austin was founded in 1839 and named after Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” Today, Austin is an important administrative, educational, and cultural center, home to the University of Texas, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Other tourist attractions include the red-granite State Capitol, which was modeled after the Capitol Building in Washington, DC; several museums, including the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; and numerous attractions on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Despite the fact that it is a large city, Austin has a plethora of green spaces and things to do in nature and is well known for its huge bat population that wows crowds as the animals emerge in the evening from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and take flight in spectacular formations.
Plan your trip to the city with this list of the top attractions in Austin:
1 The State Capitol and Visitors Center
Completed in 1888, the State Capitol and its 22 acres of grounds and monuments are home to the office of the State Governor and the Chambers of the Texas Legislature. Protected as a National Historic Landmark, the building impresses with its dimensions; at 308 feet tall, it ranks as the sixth tallest state capitol, taller even than the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Visitors can stroll the park via the tree-lined path called the Great Walk and admire the numerous monuments, including the Texas African American History Memorial, the Vietnam War monument, a bronze statue of a Texas Ranger, and even a miniature Statue of Liberty that was presented in 1951 by the Boy Scouts of America. The Visitors Center is located on the grounds and features exhibits about the history of Austin and the state of Texas. Free tours of the Capitol Building are given daily, except holidays. Also of interest is the recently restored Texas Governor’s Mansion, accessible via free guided tours (reservations required).
Address: 112 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas
2 Zilker Metropolitan Park Attractions
Austin’s most popular green space, the 351-acre Zilker Park is a favorite recreation area that sits alongside Lady Bird Lake and offers many things to do. The park’s grassy expanses and picnic sites are ideal for lazy afternoons, but there are also many recreational facilities for the public to enjoy, including riverside walking trails, volleyball courts, a disc golf course, and the Zilker Playscape, a large playground with its own section designed for kids aged two to five years. Kids will also love the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train that runs along the water’s edge. Water recreation is popular at the park as well, with canoe and boat rentals available, as well as the family-favorite Barton Springs Pool. The park is also host to several major music events, including the Zilker Hillside Theater’s annual Zilker Summer Musical, Blues on the Green, and the celebrated Austin City limits Music Festival.
The 26-acre Zilker Botanical Garden is the park’s most beautiful area, open daily for a small entrance fee. Within, there are several individually themed gardens, including the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, which is built around ancient dinosaur footprints found embedded in the rock, and the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which features serene waterfalls and ponds. There are also gardens dedicated to butterflies, cacti and succulents, herbs, and roses.
The Austin Nature and Science Center is also located on the grounds, open daily with no admission charge. It is celebrated for its interactive exhibits and programs, as well as its numerous trails and special events designed for all ages. Kids especially enjoy the Dino Pit, where they can be amateur archaeologists. The park grounds are also home to one of Austin’s top tourist attractions, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.
Address: 2100 Barton Springs Road, Austin
3 Lady Bird Lake
Named after the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Lake is actually a section of the Colorado River that covers 416 acres and has become one of the city’s top recreational areas. Although lined with hotels and residential complexes, the majority of its shoreline is open to the public, with miles of excellent trails for pedestrians and cyclists, including the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the river and connects downtown Austin with the southern shore. The paths connect many of the city’s parks, including Zilker Metropolitan Park, the Town Lake Metropolitan Park’s Vic Mathias Shores, Lamar Beach, Butler Shores, Waller Beach, and Eilers Neighborhood Park. These trails also lead to popular tourist sites near the river, like the Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue, Congress Avenue Bridge, the Long Center of Performing Arts, and the Barton Springs Municipal Pool. Motorized boats are prohibited, however on the north shore, the Texas Rowing Center provides kayak and canoe rentals and lessons, and on the lake’s south shore in Zilker Park, the Rowing Dock offers rentals and instruction for paddle-boards, kayaks, and paddle-boats. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available for use on Barton Creek, which is within the park.
4 Editor’s Pick Batty about Austin
One of Austin’s most unique things to do is enjoy the evening flight of the Mexican free-tailed bats that have made the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge their home. The world’s largest urban bat colony, up to one-and-a-half million of these insect-devouring critters take to the sky at dusk each evening from March through November. The result is a stunning display as they fly from beneath the bridge and up to heights of two miles in massive formations so they can dine on mosquitoes, moths, grasshoppers, and other flying pests. It can take up to 45 minutes just for the fuzzy mammals to all exit their home, and once the pups (babies) are old enough, they accompany their mothers on the evening flight. There are many vantage points from which you can enjoy the sight, with the area surrounding the bridge the most popular. Others enjoy watching from boats on Lady Bird Lake or from the Statesman Bat Observation Center, which sits at the southern end of the bridge. In conjunction with Bat Conservation International, the center is an eco-tourism destination, striving to increase awareness of bats and educate the public on their importance.
Location: South Congress Avenue, off West Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, Texas
5 Attractions at the University of Texas at Austin
In addition to being the first of the Texas University System campuses, the University of Texas at Austin is home to several top tourist attractions. The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art has a permanent collection of 17,000 pieces of European, American, and Latin American art. The museum also hosts numerous temporary exhibits. Also on campus is the Harry Ransom Center, which houses a permanent collection of rare literature and printed materials and also has numerous temporary exhibits and collections on display. Among the museum’s most prized pieces are a Gutenberg Bible from the mid-fifteenth century and the First Photograph, a heliograph developed on a pewter plate that was created in 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.
The Texas Memorial Museum is part of the Natural Science Center at the University of Texas and features a huge collection of items representing the natural and cultural history of the Lone Star State. Highlights include numerous dinosaur displays, fossils, gems, and minerals, as well as the famous Wichita County meteorite, a large space rock regarded as a medicine stone by Comanche Indians. Another impressive tourist site at the university is the landmark UT Tower, infamous for the tragic shooting in 1966. With a height of 307 feet, the tower provides beautiful 360-degree views of the city of Austin; tours are self-guided and include information on the architecture and history of the structure.
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