Texas’ progressive, laid-back capital city enjoys a thriving food scene, nightly live music, acres of leafy outside space, and 300 days of sun a year. Here are eight reasons why you should pay a visit to Austin, Texas.
A vast, verdant 361 acre playground in the heart of the city. Here you can rent bikes, canoes and paddleboards, play disc golf and sand volleyball, explore botanical and sculpture gardens, and ride the Zilker Zephyr train that runs through the park. In October, Zilker Park hosts the renowned annual Austin City Limits music festival, a huge six day event running over two consecutive weekends. The festival features over 100 artists on eight stages.
Barton Springs Pool
One of the jewels in Zilker Park’s leafy oasis is this expansive three acre outdoor swimming pool. The cool waters are fed by three underground springs and maintain a constant average of 68 degrees. A draw for year round swimmers, the pool stays cool even in stifling summer temperatures, and is hugely popular with locals and visitors. Keep your eyes peeled for the tiny and endangered Barton Springs salamander, which makes its home in the shallows.
Austin’s Barbecue Scene
If you’re a Texas barbecue fan, you’ll be in hog heaven amidst Austin’s legendary food scene. From sit down eateries to iconic food trucks, the city boasts multiple meat-charring locales. Notable luminaries include Franklin Barbecue, where diners regularly queue around the block to tuck into renowned oak smoked brisket, pulled pork and homemade sausages. Kerlin BBQ is another Austin legend. This unassuming white food truck lures hordes of meat lovers lusting after Angus brisket, pork ribs and meat and cheese kolaches. Do like the locals, and bring a folding chair for a relaxing wait in line.
The State Capitol
An impressive red granite centrepiece, Texas’ State Capitol towers over the city from its vantage point on Congress Avenue. At a nudge over 302 feet, this majestic landmark stands several feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Join a free 30 minute guided tour of its halls, and explore ornate 19th century architecture, including the beautiful 280 feet high rotunda. The building sits serenely in 22 acres of immaculate landscaped grounds, filled with imposing historic monuments.
For a breath of fresh air and great views of the city, head to Covert Park. Here you’ll find Mount Bonnell, a 775 foot limestone outcrop and the city’s highest peak. A brief 200 feet ascent brings you to a viewing terrace where you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views of downtown, Lake Austin and the famed 360 Bridge. It’s a great spot to see the sunset (or sunrise if you’re an early bird). There’s a pavilion and tables, so bring a picnic, relax and enjoy the vista.
Congress Avenue Bat Watch
Each evening, from spring through to early autumn, you’ll find a crowd gathered around the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. Beneath the bridge live a staggering one and a half million Mexican free-tailed bats, the world’s largest colony, As the sun sets, thousands of bats emerge into the twilight, and swarm in formation columns, in search of insects. Join the spectators at Statesman Bat Observation Center (opposite the bridge) for the best views of this astonishing natural spectacle.
Bar Hop in SoCo
South of downtown you’ll find SoCo. The vibrant area around South Congress Avenue is a trendy medley of vintage shops and chic boutiques, music venues, and art galleries. Take your pick from an array of neighbourhood eateries, many with outdoor terraces perfect for people watching. For live music head to the legendary Continental Club, which showcases diverse blues, rock, country, swing and rockabilly acts every night of the week.
Relax on Ladybird Lake
This peaceful lake running through central Austin is technically a reservoir and feeds off the Colorado River. Hike or rent a bike and explore the scenic 10 mile trail that loops around its perimeter. Sections of the trail boast superb views of the city skyline. Private motorised boats are banned from the lake, which only enhances its sense of tranquility. Enjoy paddle boarding and kayaking on the calm waters, relax on a river cruise at sunset, or if your balance is good enough, have a go at SUP yoga.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com