May 20 2009 by Julie Drossos
If you're looking for a fun-filled and easily accessible travel destination, look no further than the capitol of the glorious state of Texas - the city of Austin. After all, any city that has a motto like "Keep Austin Weird" has to be a good time! Austin is a city like no other in Texas. Yes there's a lot of barbecue and the expected Texas honky-tonk spirit, but Austin also boasts a thriving and world renowned art community. Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin's diverse culture encompasses filmmakers, sports fanatics, an impressive 200 different live music venues and a plethora of festivals including the Austin Film Festival, The Austin Chocolate Festival (I don't know about you, but any city that has an entire festival dedicated to Chocolate is right up my alley!) and the infamous Austin Batfest (yes, bats, as in that creepy black flying species!)
There is absolutely no shortage of things to keep you and your family entertained in Austin, but to help narrow things down, here are five activities that I promise will not leave you disappointed.
The Congress Avenue Bats are a must-see for any visitor to Austin. I realize how weird this may sound, but even if these mysterious black creatures creep you out a little bit (as they do me), taking the time to enjoy this spectacle is well worth your while - and it's free! These bats are part of the largest urban bat colony in North America. A mind-boggling 1.5 million bats depart nightly at sunset (between April & October) from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. There is a free bat viewing area behind the Austin Statesman Building. For a visual of what to expect - check out this clip on YouTube.
Get Your Feet Wet
Go for a dip at Barton Springs Pool. Located in beautiful Zilker Park, this pool is an artesian spring-fed pool kept at a constant 68 degrees. It's open daily from 5am to 10pm Friday through Wednesday. Admission to the pool is free between November and March, and from mid-march to October the fee is between $1-$3. The pool is surrounded by grassy slopes which make great spots for sunbathing. Keep in mind that topless sunbathing is permitted there, just in case you're planning a family outing.
Enjoy the View
Mount Bonnell is one of Austin's oldest tourist attractions, dating back as far as 1850. At 785 feet, it is the highest point within the city limits. Climb the 99 steps (it sounds daunting but really it is not an "athletic" trek by any means) to the top of Mount Bonnell and you will not be disappointed. The panoramic view of the city, Lake Austin and the surrounding Hill country is truly breathtaking. Hiking to the top of Mount Bonnell is free of charge, and it's the ideal spot for a romantic picnic or family lunch in the sun.
Brush up on your History
Visit the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (gotta love that name!), for a more educational and cultural experience. This is an excellent museum with loads of rich and informative Texas history. There are interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, an IMAX Theatre (which is also a nice treat as you can rest your tired legs - it's a huge property and you'll be doing a lot of walking!) as well as the multi-sensory Texas Spirit Theatre which brings together myth, legend and fact of the Lone Star State together. Depending on how much you want to see, you'll be spending between $7 and $15 per adult.
Hit the Street
6th Street (formerly known as Pecan Street) is pretty much the place for fun and nightlife in Austin. It consists of seven blocks of bars, live music and entertainment venues, restaurants and energetic nightlife. Music lovers will be in their element, as they'll find everything from jazz, blues, country, rock, hip hop, metal and punk. Thursday through Sunday, 6th street is packed, packed, packed. The main stretch of bars extends from Sabine to Lavaca streets, and are predominantly enjoyed by the "college crowd", thus it can get a little too rowdy for some people's tastes. On West 6th street, east of Lamar, there is a group of bars that tend to be a little more upscale and sophisticated, attracting more of the "young professional" crowd. If you're venturing to 6th Street, make sure you have an empty stomach - delicious eats are abound, with local favorites including chili, ribs, tex-mex, steak, seafood and Cajun cooking. I'm getting hungry just writing this!