10 of the Most Amazing Austin Attractions

10 of the Most Amazing Austin Attractions

Visiting Austin? Here are some must-see attractions to make the most out of your visit and experience what Austin has to offer.

The city of Austin is the second largest state capital in the United States. Named after the “Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin, it was founded in 1839 and is an important administrative center in the state of Texas, as well as a significant educational and cultural contributor.

Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Texas with these places that must not be missed.

Texas State Capitol

Source: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

Built in 1888, this pink-granite building is the main attraction in downtown Austin and “home to the office of the State Governor and the Chambers of the Texas Legislature.” A National Historic Landmark, the 22-acre grounds boasts of several monuments, such as one dedicated to the Heroes of the Alamo from 1891 and a Vietnam War Veterans’ Monument erected in 2014.

Brochures are available for self-guided tours, and free guided tours are available. I suggest you go reserve a slot for the tour, which includes a visit to the recently-restored Texas Governor’s Mansion.

The Texas Legislature meets here once every two years. Check their schedule if you want to witness an actual session.

Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701

Hours:
Mondays to Fridays, 7am – 10pm
Saturdays and Sundays, 9am – 8pm

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org

The 142-hectare Zilker Park is hailed as Austin’s “most loved park” and “most popular green space”, and is a favorite destination for both locals and visitors. Have a picnic, play golf or volleyball, go canoeing on the Lady Bird Lake, hike, bike or just take a walk—it’s a great place for a wide range of activities.

The park is home to several excellent attractions. Take a ride around the grounds on the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature railway. Dive in for a swim at the Barton Springs Pool, which is “a natural spring-fed pool with a year-round average of 68 degrees,” and is perfect for swimming. It is also home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander.

One highlight is the Zilker Botanical Garden. Featuring exquisite gardens of every theme, take a stroll at the lovely Japanese garden with its waterfalls, little ponds, and bubbling streams. Go and indulge your senses on a wide array of sweet-smelling roses at the Rose Garden or the heady, intoxicating scents of the Herb Garden. The Hartman Prehistoric Garden features ancient plants that is believed to be around at the same time as the dinosaurs, and is built around a rock with dinosaur footprints on it.

Source: http://www.zilkergarden.org/

The Hartman Prehistoric Garden

The Zilker Hillside Theatre is the home of the famed, annual Zilker Summer Musical. Additionally, it also hosts concerts—from country to jazz—and Shakespeare in the Park. All you need is plop right down on the grass, blankets optional.

Source: http://www.austin360.com

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum and the Austin Nature and Science Center are also part of the Zilker Park, but will be included as separate entries in this article.

Next time you feel a bit overwhelmed and run-down by the hustle and bustle of the city, relax and reconnect with nature at the Zilker Metropolitan Park, a little slice of refreshing green amidst a sprawling metropolis.

Zilker Metropolitan Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704

Park Hours:
Daily, 5am – 10pm

Austin Nature and Science Center

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org

The Austin Nature and Science Center is “a living museum with interpretive exhibits, programs, collections, and trails.” Carefully curated exhibits and programs are not only aimed at educating kids, but adults as well.

A number of animals call the ANSC their home—fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds. Most of the animals at the center are injured or orphaned, and cannot survive in the wild. At the center, they receive daily care, and allow visitors a close-up glimpse into the animal world.

Visit the Splash! Exhibit, tells the history of the aquifer and explains “how it maintains its average daily flow of 32 million gallons of water at Barton Springs.” This exhibit is aimed at educating visitors about water quality testing, and also how their daily routines can affect the local water quality.

Source: http://freefuninaustin.com

Kids can have educational fun at the Nature’s Way Preschool, where they learn about the natural world through exploration and play, through fun activities like nature walks, digging, climbing, and even playing in mud! Dinosaur and archaeology enthusiasts will enjoy the Dino Pit, where they get to play archaeologists.

For adults, the ANSC hosts talks on nature and environment every last Wednesday of each month. Caving and rock climbing are offered in warmer months, and so weekend trips with researchers to learn more about the local flora and fauna.

Austin Nature and Science Center
2389 Stratford Dr.
Austin, TX 78746
Admission: Free

Hours:
Mondays - Saturdays, 9am – 5pm
Sundays, 12pm – 5pm

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

Source: http://austinot.com

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum showcases the works of award-winning American sculptor and art instructor, Charles Umlauf, who is one of the most celebrated sculptors of the 20th century. He used many mediums, from “exotic woods, terra cotta or cast stone in his early work, rich bronzes and alabasters and luminous marbles in his prime.” Umlauf’s works of art are exhibited inside the museum as a permanent collection, along with artifacts and photographs of his life.

Outside, Umlauf’s sculptures are exhibited in beautiful gardens with ponds and waterfalls. These works of art can be touched too, to further appreciate the mastery of skill, and also to the benefit of visually-impaired visitors.

Check their website for a list of temporary exhibits by other artists. The museum also hosts music concerts and other events.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
605 Robert E. Lee Rd
Austin, Texas 78704
Phone: 512-445-5582
Admission: $5 for adults
Website: http://www.umlaufsculpture.org/

Hours:
Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 am-4 pm
Saturdays and Sundays, 12 pm-4 pm
Closed on Mondays

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Source: http://www.tejasstudio.com

The Bullock Texas State History Museum dedicates itself to “telling the story of Texas.” Discover the rich history of the Lone Star State, from its beginnings to present day through interactive exhibits and wide array of artifacts, photographs, films and other audio-visual displays. Visitors will learn more about notable Texans, Native Americans, ranching, explorers, and the natural landscape of the state. The museum has an on-site IMAX Theatre too, which would make your learning experience an exciting one.

Check their website for a list of events and activities you can join in.

Bullock Texas State History Museum
1800 Congress Ave,
Austin, TX 78701
General admission: $12
Website: http://www.thestoryoftexas.com

Hours:
Mondays to Saturdays, 9am – 5pm
Sundays, 12pm – 5pm

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

Source: http://museum.escubes.com

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum was founded in 1971, and is one of the most visited attractions in Austin. Exhibits tell the story of President Johnson’s time in office, including more than 45 million pages of historical documents related to the President’s career, and important issues such as the civil rights movement.

A highlight is the replica of the Oval Office back in Johnson’s time. Check their website for temporary exhibits that the museum hosts year-round.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
2313 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78705
Admission: $8
Website: http://www.lbjlibrary.org

The French Legation

Source: http://frenchlegationmuseum.org/

The French Legation was originally built in 1841 for the chargé d'affaires to “represent the French government in the new Republic of Texas.” (Texas was an independent state prior to becoming part of the United States of America.) This historic building and the 2 ½ acre park is one of the most important sites in Texas.

Fully restored with furniture and décor from the same era, get a glimpse of the times and life of the residents of the Republic of Texas. Collections include books, documents, even furniture. The museum also hosts activities such as picnics, lectures, concerts and food fairs, and other events related to French culture.

The French Legation
802 San Marcos Street
Austin, TX 78702
Website: http://www.frenchlegationmuseum.org

Hours:
Tuesdays to Sundays, 1pm – 5pm
Closed on Mondays

Paramount Theatre

Source: http://squaredoor.com

Located in downtown Austin, the 3,000-seat Paramount Theatre was opened in 1915. The historic building features the classical revival style architecture, with Nouveau stylistic touches, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The theater is still functional, hosting plays, live music concerts, red-carpet movie premieres, ballets and stand-up comedy shows. Once inside, look up as to not miss the ornate ceiling.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701

Hours:
Mondays to Saturdays, 12pm – 5:30am
Closed on Sundays.

Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge a.k.a. Bat Bridge

Source: http://visit.georgetown.org

If you’re not deathly-scared of them, then head over to the Ann W. Richards Bridge—or better known as Bat Bridge— on Congress Avenue before sundown. It is “estimated that more than a million migratory Mexican free-tailed bats live under the bridge from March to October, and it is a magnificent sight to see them all fly out of the bridge at dusk. You may opt to book a boat cruise on the Lady Bird Lake to watch this spectacle, stand on the walkway on the east side of the bridge (the best vantage point, in my opinion), or bring a blanket and plunk down the hillside below the bridge.

Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
305 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78704

Republic Square Park’s Downtown Farmers Market

Source: http://austin.com

The Republic Square Park hosts a variety of events, including outdoor movies and, on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, the park is transformed into a bustling farmers market. You can just find about anything at the market—fresh fruit and produce, craft beers, breads, artisanal cheeses, and other locally-made specialty foods. With buskers performing live music, it exudes a festive vibe that’s great if you just want to hang out and munch after some shopping on a weekend morning.

Downtown Farmers Market
Republic Square Park
Guadalupe St,
Austin, TX 78701

Hours:
Saturdays, 9am to 1pm

Park hours: Daily, 5am – 10pm

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