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What to do and see in Austin

Texas is the second biggest state by land mass in the United States, the biggest state being Alaska. There are a number of big cities here, including Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and the capitol of Texas, Austin, but also many smaller towns and cities too.

The State of Texas has Mexico on its south western border on the Rio Grande River, and also bordered by New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma and Kansas to the north and Louisiana to its east, while it also has a long coastline on the Gulf of Mexico where Galveston and Corpus Christi are located.

There's a lot to see in Texas and each of the Cities have their own special style, while the country also has prairies, lakes, rivers, mountains, canyons and wilderness areas too as well as the coastline to enjoy.

On these pages we have set down some information for you about Austin –

AUSTIN – is the Capitol of Texas and has a city population of around 885,000. It is both the center of Government for Texas, and also a University City with claims to be "the live music capital of the world" and there are said to be about 250 different places where you can hear live music. Along with the music these are great places for theater shows, food, drink and meeting people.

The City is located next to Lady Bird Lake, a large reservoir of water created on the Colorado River. The name Lady Bird relates to Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of former President Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ), and her name is also associated with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, located at 4801 La Crosse Avenue, where there are over 650 different Texan plants and flowers to see. There is also an Arboretum here, ponds, butterflies, birds and you can climb up the San Antonio Tower to get great views.

On each side of the Lady Bird Lake there are 10 miles of trails, named the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail with a long Boardwalk crossing over a part of the lake off Lakeshore Boulevard, while on the lake itself you can kayak, paddle Board and boat.

There are over 200 parks in and around the City for biking, hiking, sport and recreation, along with some great fishing, boating and swimming places too.

The city itself was named in Honor of Stephen F Austin, said to be the father of modern Texas, and the City dates back to 1839 to a time when this was a small village called Waterloo. The City center was planned on a British grid system, as opposed to a Spanish planning system, reflecting the fact that the Republic of Texas was instigated by American settlers of British origin and not Spanish.

A Capital Square was also established with a wide Avenue roadway leading away from the Square to the riverside, and named Congress Avenue, much like the one in Washington, and in 1888 the Texas Capitol Building was built here in Red Granite. It is a stunning building both inside and out and looks much like the Capitol Building in Washington DC. There are also 22 acres of grounds around it and here you will be able to see 20 monuments dedicated as tributes including to the Heroes of the Alamo, Volunteer Firemen, Confederate Soldiers, the Texas Rangers, Texan Pioneer Women, Texas Children, World War Two, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans and the Tejano Monument – a tribute to the early Spanish settlers when Texas was a district of the Mexican State of Tejano. Each one of these monuments is inspiring to see, and if you get a chance to see inside the Capitol Building this is also something quite special. There are virtual tours of the building on-l ne. See www.tspb.state.tx.us

Austin City Hall – 301 W. 2nd Street is just a few blocks away from the Capitol Building, and is a very different architectural style with geometrical shape using limestone wall sections and a copper roof. Also close by is the University of Texas that has an enrolment of around 52,000 students. The University and its technology work have resulted in a number of high tech and start-up businesses to locate in Austin, and this too is creating a degree of excitement in the City.

The Governor's Mansion – 1010 Colorado Street is also very close to the Capitol Building. The mansion was built in 1856 in a Greek Revival Style with six massive Greek columns at its front. Inside the rooms are furnished in early American furniture, and there are limited tours of the Building but you must book a week in advance – Tel: 512 305 8524 and see www.gov.texas.gov/mansion/tours

Another Mansion in the Greek Revival Style is the Neill-Cochan House Museum located at 2310 San Gabriel Street. It was built in 1855. See www.nchmuseum.org Tel: 512 478 2335.

Other places to see in Austin

  • Ann Congress Avenue Bridge – 305 Congress Avenue is where there is a huge colony of Mexican Free Tailed Bats living under this restored 1909 bridge arriving here in early spring to give birth to their pups in June, before heading back south to Mexico in late Summer. They head off at dusk to eat millions of insects using their sonar skills creating an amazing spectacle when they fly off, with as many as a million or more doing this each night. There is even a Bat Sculpture here near the Bridge and you can read more about bats at www.batcon.org
  • Barton Springs Pool – located at 2201 Barton Springs Road in Zilker Park. This is a natural water pool with the water flowing from an underground spring. It is a great place to swim in natural surrounds, with long grassy banks on each side of the pool. The Zilker Botanical Gardens is also located in the Park too.
  • Barton Creek Greenbelt - 3755-B Capital of Texas Highway – is where you can find lots of trails to follow in and around the hills, do rock climbing and just enjoy the outdoors. You can also climb Mount Bonnell in the Texas Hill Country.
  • Hamilton Pool Preserve – 24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dipping Springs is about 23 miles west of Austin with a large rock pool below a 50 feet high waterfall.
  • McKinney Falls State Park – 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway is also another popular park and swimming place.
  • Deep Eddy Pool – is in Austin at 401 Deep Eddy Avenue. This is a man-made pool next to the Colorado River, and was built during the 1930's Depression, making it the oldest pool in Texas.
  • Hippie Hollow – 7000 Comanche Trail on Lake Travis. See www.hippiehollow.com This is a 'clothing optional' nudist beach on the lake where you can swim or sunbathe.
  • St Mary's Cathedral – 203 E. 10th Street. See www.smcaustin.org This Catholic Cathedral was built in 1884 and has been restored to its former glory.
  • Paramount Theatre – 713 Congress Avenue. See www.austintheatre.org This great old theatre was built in 1915, and has both live shows and movies. The theatre itself is worth seeing just for the interior decoration.
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum – 1800 Congress Avenue. See www.thestoryoftexas.com Tel: 512 936 8746. This is a big and interesting museum, and if you are planning to see a museum, this is the one to see.
  • Blandon Museum of Art – 200 East Martin Luther King Jnr Boulevard. See www.blandonmuseum.org Lots of contemporary artworks to see.
  • Harry Ransom Center – 300 W. 21st Street. See rare books, photos and thousands of artworks here in this vast collection.
  • Mexic-Arte Museum – 419 Congress Street. This museum showcases contemporary Mexican art and design.
  • Elizabet Ney Home – 304 E. 44th Street. This was the studio home of the German portrait Sculptor Elizabet Ney (1833-1907). The house built in 1892 looks like a castle with its tower at the front of it. Tel: 512 458 2255.
  • Mayfield Park and Gutsch Cottage – 3505 W. 35th Street. A historic house with peacocks in the gardens.
  • Texas Memorial Museum – 2400 Trinity Street. This is a Science Museum on the University campus. Tel: 512 471 1604.
  • George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center – 1165 Angelina Street. This Museum presents African American history, stories and culture.
  • French Legation Museum – 2400 Trinity Street. This house was built in 1840-41 making it the oldest in Austin from the time of the Republic. It is open most afternoons to see through it. See www.frenchlegationmuseum.org Tel: 512 472 8180.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum – 2313 Red River Street. See historic photos, clothing, books, manuscripts and personal effects all to do with LBJ and his life and time as the US President, as well as his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.
  • Umlauf Sculpture Garden – 605 Robert E. Lee Road is where you will find sculptures created by Charles Umlauf (1910-1984) all set out in a garden. Tel: 512 445 5582.
  • Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary – 10808 Rawhide Trail. See www.austinzoo.org Tel: 512 288 1490.
  • City Wide Garage Sale – 900 Barton Springs Road. See www.citywidegaragesale.com This is a flea market with lots of stall holders selling a variety of sometimes quirky and fun things.
  • Pinballz Arcade – 8940 Research Boulevard. If you want to play Pinball, this is the place to come. See www.pinballzarcade.com
  • Longhorn Caverns – in Longhorn National Park, 6211 Park Road 4, Burnett – These caverns are located about 50 miles away from Austin, and have been created over thousands of years. In the Civil War the caverns were used to hide ammunitions. See www.longhorncaverns.com

In Austin there are many places to stay, and if you want to be close to the City Center, choose a Hotel or other accommodation that is close to Congress Avenue, 2nd or 6th Streets.

There are the museums along Congress Avenue with the Capitol Building at the top end of the historic Avenue, but also lots of shops, theaters and places to eat. In South Congress, there are more quirky shops and also food trucks. 2nd Street also has lots of shops too, while E. 6th Street is where there are lots of music venues.

When you visit Austin also put on your list to do is eat some Pulled Pork, Brisket or Ribs at Franklin Barbecue located at 900 E.11th Street. This is the famous restaurant of Chef Aaron Franklin, who specialises in barbecue. You may need to queue, but it is worth it. See www.franklinbarbecue.com

I hope you have a great time in Austin and hear some great music.

Happy Travelling

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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