Lady Bird Lake view
Photo: kbose/Fotolia

The capital of Texas, Austin is home to beautiful parks, great restaurants and a diverse choice of activities. See a performance at the historic ZACH Theatre, visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum to learn about the history of Texas, and explore modern art at the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. Visit the beautiful Zilker Metropolitan Park which is home to a fragrant botanical garden, sculpture garden, theatre and other attractions.

»Boardwalk Trail, Lady Bird Lake

Boardwalk Trail, Lady Bird Lake


The Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake creates a complete circuit around the lake and is one of the oldest urban hike-and-bike trails in Texas. Circling the lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River that lies in the heart of the city, the 10.1-mile (16.3 km) trail was designed for the people of Austin to enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful lakeside setting by walking, jogging, running or cycling. After walking around the lake, head out onto the water for a relaxing boating excursion with Austin Sailboat Rentals. Austin Sailboat Rentals offers a variety of vessels and boats ranging from dinghy sailboats to Sea Skimmers, and both adults and children can enjoy chartered sailboat rides, private and group sailing lessons, sailing summer camps, and unique glass-bottom illuminated kayak eco-tours around the lake.

More Austin vacation ideas: Travaasa Austin, The Driskill Hotel and Lake Austin Spa Resort. Photo: kbose/Fotolia

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»Zilker Botanical Garden

Zilker Botanical Garden


Located within Zilker Park near downtown Austin on the south bank of the Colorado River, Zilker Botanical Garden stretches across 26 acres of mixed topography, offering suitable homes and diverse habitats for both native and exotic plants. This beautiful green oasis in the heart of the city combines theme gardens of roses, herbs, lilies, and succulents, and there is also a Japanese garden connected with waterfalls, streams, and ponds filled with fish. Each individual garden feels like a separate world, and they flow from one to the other.

The Hartman Prehistoric Garden, a favorite among visitors, recreates the world in which the dinosaurs lived. There is also a blacksmith's The Austin Area Garden Center manages the garden and organizes a range of activities, programs, and events such as an annual spring garden festival. Read more

2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746, Phone: 512-477-8672 Photo: Brandon Seidel/Fotolia

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»The Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bullock Texas State History Museum

Named after its founder, Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, the Bullock Texas State History Museum is located just a few blocks from the Texas State Capitol. The museum consists of three main themes with interactive exhibits: the first floor tells the story of how Texas was founded; the second floor explains how the state came about and the history behind its name; and the top floor deals with the subject of opportunity. The museum features the modern, 200-seat Texas Spirit Theater, which offers special effects presentations and shows that take audiences on an unforgettable journey through the history of Texas, as well as a state-of-the-art IMAX theater with 2-D and 3-D capabilities. Read more

1800 Congress Ave., Austin, Texas 78701, Phone: 512-936-4629

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»The Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art


The Blanton Museum of Art is the official art museum and research center of the University of Texas and one of largest university art museums in the United States. Home to over 17,000 works from all over the globe, the Blanton Museum of Art features European masters, American and Contemporary art, and Latin American art. The Museum aims to serve as a “cultural gateway” between the university and the community through versatile and innovative exhibitions, displays and galleries, as well as educational workshops, multimedia programs, lectures, and discussions. Read more

200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, Texas 78712, Phone: 512-471-5482

More Texas vacation ideas: from Dallas, from Houston and from Austin. Photo: The Blanton Museum of Art

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»Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller

Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller

Located at the historic Browning Hangar on Airport Boulevard in picturesque Mueller Park, Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller is one of the most popular Austin farmers markets. It is the favorite place of many for hanging out on Sunday, meeting friends and neighbors, shopping, stocking up on fresh veggies, trying some delicious artisan foods, and enjoying the day outdoors.

There is always live music and a range of activities, and more than 40 local vendors sell seasonal fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, baked goods, home-made products, and specialty foods. A non-profit F2M with a goal of providing residents of Austin with healthy, economical food and fostering the environmental benefits of shopping locally and eating seasonal foods manages the market.

4209 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78722, Phone: 512-363-5700

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»Zilker Metropolitan Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park


The 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park is a beautiful spot walks, jogging and sightseeing. The park is home to Zilker Botanical Gardens, the Austin Nature and Science Center, Zilker Hillside Theatre, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Barton Springs Pool measures three acres in size and enjoys an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, making it extremely popular for year-round swimming. Discovered by Spanish explorers in the 17th Century, the spring that feeds the pool is the fourth largest in Texas and was made into a swimming pool by the city in 1920. The swimming pool has seen its fair share of visitors, including Robert Redford, who learned to swim in it when he was five years old. Today, the pool sees thousands of visitors every year. Due to the high traffic volume, Barton Springs Pool is closed every Thursday for rigorous cleaning. Adjacent to the pool’s bathhouse is an exciting educational exhibit called “Splash!” where visitors can learn about the history of the pool and the spring which feeds it.

2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, Texas 78704

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»ZACH Theatre

ZACH Theatre


One of the ten oldest theatres in the country, ZACH Theatre was founded in 1932 and is Texas’ longest-running theatre company. Located on the tranquil shores of Lady Bird Lake, the historic theatre boasts three stages, several event spaces, and a range of offices, classrooms and halls that can be used for private functions. Home to more than 300 actors, musicians, and designers who produce more than 500 performances a year, the ZACH delights over 100,000 patrons annually with a variety of classic plays, musicals and original works, and runs educational and outreach programs for more than 50,000 children.

202 South Lamar, Austin, Texas 78704, Phone: 512-476-0541

More things to do in Austin: 10 Must-Try Lunch and Dinner Spots in Austin Photo: ZACH Theatre

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»South Congress Avenue

South Congress Avenue


South Congress Avenue is one of Austin's hippest neighborhoods with an eclectic range of shops, boutiques, restaurants, antique stores, music venues, galleries, and food trucks. The neighborhood, bordered by the historic neighborhoods of Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek, stretches between Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and the Colorado River. The avenue and the neighborhood that grew around it share a colorful history. Designed in 1830 to be one of the city's main thoroughfares, it grew in popularity between 1930 and 1960 with the addition of the iconic Austin Motel, the Hotel San José, and the hamburger stand that eventually became the famous Night Hawk.

Artists and musicians discovered South Congress in the 70's and made it their home. After a period of decline due to the construction of new roads into the city, South Congress experienced a revival in the 1990s, growing into one of the city's most lively and popular neighborhoods. South Congress is one of the best spots to see or photograph the Texas State Capitol, as it offers a spectacular, unobstructed view. Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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»Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a 279-acre botanical garden located about 10 miles from downtown Austin on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. The center serves as a research unit of the University of Texas at Austin and is entirely focused on native plants.

The garden is home to over 700 species of plants native to central Texas, and the center hosts a range of temporary exhibits of photography and visual art. The garden features a number of walking trails, outdoor sculptures, formal as well as research plantings, and special educational exhibits. Once a year, the center offers native plants for sale. Read more

4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739, Phone: 512-232-0100 Photo: Kalee/Fotolia

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»Congress Avenue Bridge

Congress Avenue Bridge


The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge is the bridge across Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. This concrete arch bridge has three vehicle lanes in both directions and sidewalks on both sides. When its first span was built in the 19th century, the bridge used to cross Colorado River and was called the Congress Avenue Bridge until the Longhorn Dam created Lady Bird Lake in 1960.

The bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world with 1.5 million bats. As they emerge every night from their nests, they attract a huge number of observers. To provide a safe and comfortable area for seeing the bats, The Austin American-Statesman created the Statesman Bat Observation Center next to the Congress Bridge. Photo: Blanscape/Fotolia

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»Austin Zoo

Austin Zoo


Located on the southwest edge of Austin, the Austin Zoo is a private non-profit Hill Country zoo with big goals: to help animals in need by rescuing and rehabilitating them and to educate the public about animal needs and challenges. The 15-acre establishment started its life in 1990 as a goat ranch called Good Day Ranch. By 1994, the ranch had a number of wild animals and in 2000 it became Austin Zoo. About 300 animals from more than 100 species call this zoo home.

They come from other facilities that weren't able to keep them due to health, age, or other issues, and they also include animals seized in cases of animal cruelty, retired lab research animals, and private exotic pets whose owners could not keep them anymore. There are lions, tigers, bobcats, bears, wolfs, monkeys, reptiles, birds and domestic animals. There is a small train that provides a 20-minute scenic ride through the zoo. Travelers can see some animals such alpacas, emus, and longhorns in their native habitats. Read more

10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin, TX 78736, Phone: 512-288-1490 Photo: Ronnie Howard/Fotolia

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»Austin City Limits Live

Austin City Limits Live


Located just next to the W Austin Hotel & Residences, Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater is Austin's best known and most popular venue for live performances, with almost 100 concerts per year and a large number of special events. This state-of-the art theater has a 2,750-person capacity and is the permanent location for the taping of the longest running American music series Austin City Limits.

The eclectic program includes big music names such as Buena Vista Social Club, Lyle Lovett, Alice Cooper, and Cindi Lauper. On the theatre's Mezzanine level is the Keller Pfluger Gallery with the photography of Austin City Limits' staff photographer Scott Newton. The theatre is located within Block 21, the world's first mixed-occupancy building to be LEED or green certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

2nd Street District, 310 W Willie Nelson Blvd, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512-225-7999 Photo: Austin City Limits Live

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»Texas Memorial Museum

Texas Memorial Museum

Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin is Austin's first science museum. The museum was opened in 1939, and its temporary and permanent exhibits today hold over five million specimens, from dinosaurs and fossilized animals to gems, minerals, and modern wildlife specimens. The specimens are collected during geological and paleontological fieldwork of the scientists of University of Texas at Austin, but also from occasional public donations.

Exhibits focus on evolution, prehistoric life, minerals, rocks, and Texas wildlife. The Hall of Geology and Paleontology has more than 500 dinosaurs and fossils. The Great Hall features the museum's most valuable specimens, such as the flying reptile Quetzalcoatalus northropi, the Texas Pterosaur, found in West Texas.

2400 Trinity St, Austin, TX 78705, Phone: 512-471-1604 Photo: Texas Memorial Museum

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»O. Henry Museum

O. Henry Museum

William Sydney Porter, penname O. Henry, was an American writer of short stories known for their quirky characters, plot twists, dry wit, wordplay, and surprise endings. The O. Henry Museum in Austin collects and interprets documents, objects, and artifacts from his life, offering a glimpse into Porter's life during his Austin years when he started using the penname O. Henry.

It was also during this period that he began writing the short stories that would make him famous, including classics such as "The Ransom of Red Chief, " "Gifts of the Magi," and "The Cop and the Anthem." The bungalow that houses the museum is the place in which O. Henry lived with his wife and daughter between 1893 and 1895 before moving to Houston. The house was opened as a museum in 1934 and contains many period pieces, including Porter's furniture and personal articles. While mostly associated with North Carolina, his home state, O. Henry set 42 of his short stories in Texas.

409 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512-472-1903 Photo: O. Henry Museum

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»McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

Only 13 miles from the Texas State Capitol is McKinney Falls State Park, where you can hike, camp, bike, geocache, rock climb, fish, swim, and picnic. You can also sit on the bank of Onion Creek and watch its waters fall over limestone ledges into cool, clear pools. You can bike or hike almost nine miles of trails.

Take the 2.8-mile Onion Creek Trail if you are pushing a stroller, as this trail is paved. Hikers can take the Rock Shelter Trail to see early visitors' camps. Drop your fishing line into Onion or Williamson Creeks, visit the ruins of an early Texas homestead, or stay in one of 81 campsites.

5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744, Phone: 512-243-1643 Photo: Fotoluminate LLC/Fotolia

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»Barton Creek Greenbelt

Barton Creek Greenbelt

The Barton Creek Greenbelt located in south-central Austin is a 7.25-mile long public area that stretches from Zilker Park through what is commonly referred to as "The Hill of Life," ending in the subdivision Woods of Westlake. The Greenbelt has three distinct areas: the Upper Greenbelt, the Lower Greenbelt, and the Barton Creek Wilderness Park.

It is known for its huge limestone cliffs, dense forests, and shallow creeks and brooks. The Barton Creek Greenbelt contains 12.68 miles of wonderful hiking and biking trails, fantastic limestone bluffs perfect for rock climbing, and, when the water in the creek is high, several nice swimming holes. There are several public access points to the Greenbelt, but you might need a local or a map to find them.

5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744, Phone: 512-243-1643 Photo: emeraldphoto/Fotolia

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»Neill-Cochran Museum House

Neill-Cochran Museum House


The Neill-Cochran House depicts the history of Austin through the lives of several prominent Austin citizens who lived in the house from the mid-19th through early 20th centuries. Through the changes in styles, furnishings, household items, and art, we can follow the changes in Austin's economy and politics. The house, built in the Greek Revival style, was constructed in 1855 for young land surveyor Washington Hill and his family on 18 acres of land located northwest of Austin.

After Hills, the Texas Asylum for the Blind occupied the house, followed by the Lieutenant Governor of Texas Fletcher Stockdale and the Federal Army under George Custer. When the Neill family bought the house in 1876, they furnished it with high quality walnut furniture. Lawyer Thomas and his wife Bessie Cochran first rented the house, later buying it in 1895. Four generations of Cochrans lived in the house, witnessing huge social changes in the country that left significant imprints. The family sold the house in 1958 to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas, who opened it to the public.

2310 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705, Phone: 512-478-2335 Photo: Neill-Cochran Museum House

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»Austin Nature & Science Center

Austin Nature & Science Center

Located on the edge of Zilker Park, the Austin Nature and Science Center is a 80-acre facility opened in 1960 to provide nature exhibits, educational activities, and recreation to Austinites of all ages, raising awareness of the natural environment.

It is also a beautiful green outdoor oasis in the heart of the city where residents and visitors can discover local wildlife, learn how to dig for fossils in the Dino Pit, discover natural treasures in the Naturalist Workshop, hike through the Zilker Nature Preserve. or participate in one of many educations program. A range of indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits teach about the outdoors and provide information on the central Texas environment, offer replicas of fossils and dinosaur tracks, and introduce nanotechnology. The center offers exciting family adventures, nature camps, and much more.

2389 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746, Phone: 512-974-3888 Photo: Austin Nature & Science Center

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»Texas Governor's Mansion

Texas Governor's Mansion


When the Texas Governor's Mansion was completed on August 23rd, 1856, Governor Pease threw a huge party and invited everyone to celebrate. There were more 500 guests, and the governor proudly wrote to his wife that his party was "the talk about town!" The mansion, today a historic building, became the residence of Texan governors and is the oldest governor's mansion west of Mississippi.

Abner Cook designed and built the edifice and in the then popular Greek Revival style, with a deep veranda, large windows, and wide hallways to allow the breezes to circulate through the house. Six massive Ionic columns span the front porch, and four main rooms were created on each floor on both sides of the central hall. The house has a large collection of art and antiques that includes Sam Houston's four-poster bed, Stephen F. Austin's desk, and many other pieces of priceless art. The mansion is open for guided tours, and on special occasions, the visitors can have a look at the Pease and Sam Houston bedrooms and enjoy the famed Governor's Mansion Tea.

1010 Colorado St, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512-463-5518 Photo: hstiver/Fotolia

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»State Capitol

State Capitol

The Texas Capitol is one of the most impressive state capitols in the country. It is a National Historic Landmark and is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. When Austin was established as the capital of Texas in 1839, the capitol building was a two-room log cabin with an eight-foot fence to protect it from Indian raids. The new capitol, designed by Elijah E. Myers in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, was completed in 1888. It is 308 feet tall, taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The building is mostly made of Oak Hill limestone and is today an integral part of downtown Austin.

The main entrance faces the Congress Avenue Historic District. It has 360,000 square feet of floor space, occupying 2.25 acres of land. The building has almost four hundred rooms and nine hundred windows. The central rotunda features a gallery of portraits of all presidents from and governors of Texas. There is a large painting of David Crockett in the south foyer.as well as sculptures of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.

1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701, hone: 512-463-0063 Photo: kbose/Fotolia

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»East Side Cafe

East Side Cafe


Located in a quaint little bungalow in the Austin's trendy Eastside, East Side Café is a pioneer in urban farming, growing most of their veggies in the large garden in the back. The food is classic American comfort food with a rotating chef's special.

Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, the place is simple and charming, making you instantly feel at home. Everything is freshly made from scratch every day, and some of their menu items will surely stand out to you: try jalapeno cornbread muffins or shrimp and goat cheese quesadillas, for example. All the appetizers are so delicious that you might not even get to the rest of the menu.

2113 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722, Phone: 512-476-5858 Photo: East Side Cafe

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»Max's Wine Dive

Max's Wine Dive

Everything about Max's Wine Dive is an exercise in contrasts. It is an industrial space not far from the Texas State Capital Building with raw concrete and exposed brick, elements that somehow work nicely with elegant table settings and striking original paintings on the walls. The wine selection is spectacular and includes some very interesting choices.

They call their food "gourmet comfort food with a twist" – the favorite of many is their chicken fried steak with house-made gravy, but you can expect nice seasonal surprises from the Executive Chef Mason Rogers such as grilled portobello with creamed quinoa, broccoli florets, sharp cheddar, and bitter greens.

4720 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007, Phone: 713-880-8737 Photo: Max's Wine Dive

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»Mexic-Arte Museum

Mexic-Arte Museum

Mexic-Arte Museum was founded in 1984 in order to share the culture and art of Mexico with Texas. Artists Sylvia Orozco, Pio Pulido, and Sam Coronado established the museum in the Arts Warehouse in downtown Austin. From its opening, the museum started offering superb cultural programs and art by the best emerging and established artists from the United States, Mexico, and Latin America.

In 1988, Mexic-Arte Museum moved into its current location in order to expand its exhibitions and programs. It is one of the very few Mexican art museums in the United States, and through original exhibitions and exceptional educational programming, it became one of the most respected art institutions in the area. The permanent collection of the museum includes over 1500 works of Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and material culture. The Mexic-Arte Museum welcomes and encourages emerging Latino artists through programs such as the Young Latino Artists exhibition.

Frost Bank Tower Executive Health Club, 419 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512-480-9373 Photo: Mexic-Arte Museum

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»Teo's

Teo's

Teo's is a small, colorful Rosedale-area cafe and gelateria that offers free wifi, a lovely patio, great Italian coffee, espresso and fresh hand-made gelato with flavors that can satisfy just about anyone. Some of the more traditional flavors include Almond Joy, Peanut Butter Nutella, Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Captain Crunch with Strawberry.

For those who want to take a walk on the wild side, flavors likeGoat Cheese and Cherry, Popcorn, Blue Cheese and Olive Oil will satisfy their craving. Somewhere in the middle is their star - Tartufo al Bacio (dark chocolate with hazelnut), so Italian and so delicious. Get a cup of coffee with your ice cream, it is exceptional - it's imported from Caffe Piansa, one of the ten best cafes in Italy.

1206 W 38th St, Austin, Texas 78705, Phone: 512-451-9555 Photo: Teo's

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»LBJ Presidential Library

LBJ Presidential Library

Housing more than 45 million pages of historical documents, including papers by Lyndon Baines Johnson and his associates, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (LBJ Presidential Library), is one of thirteen Presidential Libraries across the country. Dedicated to Lyndon Baines Johnson on May 22, 1971 by then-President Richard Nixon, the library is run by the National Archives and Records Administration and provides year-round public viewing of its permanent and temporary historical and cultural exhibits. The iconic ten-story building occupies a 30-acre site on The University of Texas campus. It was designed by award-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft and features a Great Hall with a spectacular four-story, glass-encased view of the archives collection. The collection features more than 54,000 objects from Johnson and his family: items such as the desk used in the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and masterpieces by Charles Russell and Winslow Homer .

2313 Red River Street, Austin, Texas 78705, Phone: 512-721-0200

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25 Best Things to Do in Austin, Texas