Austin's Can't Miss Things To Do

The list of what to see and do in Austin is long and the area offers a virtual feast of attractions, but there are some Austin sights and sounds that are a must for any resident or visitor. Think of them as the appetizer course on the banquet menu that presents itself day in and day out in the capital city.

Why not start smack dab in the middle of town with the State Capitol? It is taller than the national Capitol (of course!) and it is packed with Texas history that is easily consumed since it is served up by guides who give fast-paced daily tours. Just one block North of the pink granite landmark is the Bob Bullock History Museum, named after a prominent Texas patriot and former lieutenant governor who made it his mission to create a family-friendly attraction that serves up Texas history with style and Lone Star pizzaz. Exhibits not only celebrate the state's history, but also its culture so visitors might find themselves taking a look at Texas country music traditions or enjoying a fun salute to cowboy boots. There is an Imax theater and a cafe inside.

A few blocks North on the University of Texas campus is the LBJ Presidential Library complete with a replica of the Oval Office and a fascinating collection of gifts given to the late President. (You can visit LBJ's boyhood home in Johnson City, about 50 miles West of Austin.) One of the highlights of the LBJ Museum is a beautiful portrait of Lady Bird Johnson walking in a field of wildflowers, symbolizing her work to beautify the nation's highways. A few miles to the South of downtown, near the Circle C neighborhood in Southwest Austin, is the Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Research Center, a tribute to the former First Lady's passion for wildflowers and a great place to visit in Austin to see what Texas really looks like, especially in the spring and fall -- forget those dusty scenes in Western movies.

No one should miss a chance to swim in Austin's iconic Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park, close to downtown Austin, where the natural spring-fed pool is a constant balmy 68 degrees or so year round. To the West of the city, boaters, yachtsmen, water-skiers and fishermen can enjoy water sports on the Highland Lakes, or visitors can simply sit on a restaurant deck, sip a margarita and watch the sunset.

The Live Music Capital of the World is famous for the music and nightlife scene and there are several entertainment districts located downtown -- Sixth Street, plus the club scene around the convention center and the Warehouse District just West of Congress Avenue. But don't miss a Sixth Street tradition, a visit to Esther's Pool where Austin's famous comedy troupe, Esther's Follies, has been performing for years.

Looking for a great way to end the day? Stroll down to the Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset and watch, from mid-March to early November, the largest urban bat colony in North America. Each night about 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats take flight from their daytime den under the bridge and go out into the night skies to feed. While they go to work munching some 30,000 pounds of bugs a night, end your day with dinner at one of SoCo's friendly cafes on funky and hip South Congress.

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