As the capital of the state of Texas, the city of Austin is the fastest growing city in the U.S., with a population that ranks 11th highest in the country and 4th highest in the state. The beauty of the region, located in the foothills of Texas Hill Country, combined with an abundance of both natural and man-made attractions makes Austin the perfect city for a weekend getaway.
In the category of ‘natural’ comes a phenomenon that Austin is famous for – the emergence of 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats from under the Congress Bridge, every evening at dusk (shown to the left in a photo by Peter Potrowl). This amazing site is a huge draw for tourists. Standing on the bridge provides a great vantage point for the spectacle. However, tourists preferring to watch from the water are able to rent boats.
Travelers in the market for an athletics and adventure sports can climb Mount Bonnell, or there is opportunity for exploration of the historic Smith Rock Shelter. This limestone formation forms an overhang that sheltered Native Americans between 500 BCE until the 1700s and can be accessed via a 30-minute hike through the park.
For a different State Park experience, travelers can drive approximately 30 miles out of the city to visit Longhorn Caverns for wild cave tours, kayak rentals, glass bottom boat excursions, scuba diving adventures, and much more. For a somewhat similar experience, Rio Vista Park is also a 30-minute drive, where travelers can kayak, go tubing, and swim.
Speaking of swimming, surely Austin is the place to do it with 50 public swimming pools in the region, as well as a handful of natural locations such as Barton Springs Pool – the country’s largest natural pool ironically found within a city. Outside the city by approximately 30 minutes, avid swimmers can visit Hamilton Pool Preserve, a peaceful grotto formed by the collapse of an underground river (shown in the photo to the left by Red Sully). Or, for more daring swimmers, there’s Hippie Hollow, Austin’s clothing-optional swimming spot.
Moving onto man-made attractions, tours, and entertainment, Austin is the place to be with Segway tours of Historic Downtown or the Bat City Bridge. Or, travelers can access the Hop On Hop Off bus, which allows for exploration of numerous Austin landmarks and hot spots, one of which is the Texas State Capitol Building which is open for self-guided tours. Also available for exploration is the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum, named for the 36th President of the United States and housing 45 million pages of historical documentation.
Looking for more in the way of museums? Tourists can visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum or take a 37-minute drive out of the city to visit Dick’s Classic Garage Car Museum to celebrate and admire the car industry.
To spend a leisurely afternoon appreciating sculpted art forms, visitors to Austin can visit the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Or, for a more natural experience, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center draws a large crowd with guided and self-guided tours of native plants as the center brings research, education and application to the design and planning of landscapes and ecosystems (shown in the photo to the left by Carol Highsmith).
Football is BIG in Texas so there is opportunity to catch a Longhorns Game while you’re in town. Or, considering attending one of many music festivals known to the city. Two of the biggest celebrations include South-by-Southwest Festival (SXSW) and the Austin City Limits Festival. In the absence of a festival, head to Sixth Street to enjoy the party.
Fun of a different kind includes hitting up the nightlife. Going dancing and learning the local and ever-popular Two-Step is always in fashion at one of many honky tonks in Austin, including the Whitehorse Saloon or the Broken Spoke (shown in the photo to the left by Carol Highsmith)
Or visit a famous vintage market at Austin City Wide Garage Sale.
But don’t do it on an empty stomach. Austin is famous for steak dinners and amazing tacos, and then washing it all down with margaritas. It’s also well known for its BBQ and one of the best places to find it is as Franklin BBQ where tourists are sure to encounter lineups of enthusiastic diners.
From natural to man-made, from rock climbs to saloons, from dining to entertainment, Austin has it. For travelers spending time here, there’s never a shortage of things to see and do and there are lots of reasons to return.
Lead Photo by LoneStarMike CC BY-SA 3.0