1. Between March and November just before dusk, get yourself to the Congress Avenue Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. You will see as many as 1.5 million Mexican Free-tail bats take flight looking for its 12-15 tons of bugs to eat every night! The bats are why we have few bugs in Austin and never a buggy windshield on your vehicle. For likely flight times and density, check www.austin360.com. I like to watch from two vantage points: on the bridge and on the Austin American-Statesman lawn. Some also like it from TGIF Friday’s on the north side of the lake. For the latest information, call 512-416-5700 ext. 3636.
2. Tour our beautiful taller-than-the-U.S. capitol building, quarried from pink granite in nearby Marble Falls. Sixteenth and Congress Streets. The Senate and House chambers, the rotunda and grounds statues are all really neat, I think.
3. Austin claims the moniker, “Live Music Capital of the World.” Pick a venue and find out why. Places like Antone’s, Nutty Brown Cafe, The Backyard, The Broken Spoke, Austin City Limits Music Festival (aka ACL), South By Southwest, …and of course East Sixth Street, where you will find them in mass. Ie: Coyote Ugly, Maggie Mae’s, Iron Cactus and Esther’s Follies to name but a few.
4. As old as Austin, the spring-fed Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park has a constant 68-degree flow year ’round. Take a swim — any time of year. –Home to the endangered Barton Creek Salamander.
5. Annually proclaimed Texas’ cleanest lake, crystal clear Lake Travis beckons. Water sports, dining experiences, fishing and more await. The Oasis, Texas, restaurant high atop a cliff on the southeast shore is Austin’s largest restaurant and is the Sunset Capital of Texas.
6. Take in the view of downtown in one direction and of large luxury homes below from atop Mt. Bonnell. An Austin icon, there are 99 steps to climb from the road or you can gradually ascend along the cliffside trail. As a host of visitors, this is one place we always go.
7. One of the U.S.’ larger urban parks with 360 acres, Zilker Park has a lot to offer: Botanical gardens, the Barton Springs Pool, Umlauf Sculpture garden, miniature train, nature trails, softball fields, disc golf, soccer fields and science & nature center. My wife and I like some of the restaurants just outside the park to the east: Romeo’s, Green Mesquite and Chuy’s.
8. Originated right here, the Alamo Drafthouse features first-run movies and dining unlike any you’ve seen at a movie theatre. Independent films also are aplenty ~ especially during SXSW and Austin Film Festival. Locations: Lake Creek in northwest Austin, South Lamar Blvd., Anderson Lane in north Austin, and downtown.
9. The Austin Children’s Museum is full of fun, interactive exhibits. A must for kids at 201 Colorado Street. Featuring: Austin Kiddie Limits, Creation Station, Exploration Station, Global City, Time Tower and more on three floors. FREE 5-8 Wed. and 4-5 Sun. 512-472-2499 www.austinkids.org
10. With more than 60,000 students, the University of Texas – Austin is the largest in the country and covers a lot of urban space. Take a walking tour to take in the historic architecture, courtyards, sculptures, museums and more. I am fascinated by some of the architectural details on some of the cornices.
11. While touring UT, don’t forsake “The Drag” — that portion of Guadalupe Street within the university. Eclectic stores, eateries and more are here waiting to be visited.
12. See downtown at night in a fun, romantic way — by horse and carriage. They and pedicabs are some of what makes Austin what it is.
13. Also while on the University of Texas campus at 2400 Trinity, take in the Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress) or go back in time at the Texas Memorial Museum (2400 Trinity) with its wildlife, fossil, dinosaur and special exhibits. Always FREE. I like these! www.blantonmuseum.org and www.tmm.utexas.edu
14. Sometimes the temperature rises in Austin and you need to cool off. When you don’t have your swim suit handy and cannot make it over to Barton Springs Pool, try the Austin Ducks. It’s a fun tour of downtown Austin that culminates with a dive into Lady Bird Lake. You don’t get wet but you feel the refreshment of the water.
15. “The Drum” (aka The Erwin Center) is home to UT basketball, concerts and other events. Catch Coach Barnes or Coach Gail’s teams in action on the hardwood. Andy Roddick of Austin recently influenced the USA vs. Spain Davis Cup match to be played here. The Drum is always a fun place to go.
16. To see between half and three quarters of a million books, periodicals, maps and pamphlets, the place to go is the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
17. Hike and bike trails are not all that you will find along Lady Bird Lake. Take in the wildlife, rent a kayak or just picnic along the shores. Its a midtown oasis of serenity. I like the trails, the peace and quiet.
18. Line dancing, the Texas Two Step and more are alive and well most nights of the week at the historic Broken Spoke a couple miles from the river at 3201 South Lamar Blvd. 512-442-6189.
19. If you can catch it when it’s open, the famous University of Texas clock tower affords a great view of campus and most of downtown. Often closed, but you could get lucky.
20. Home of Whole Foods, Inc., be sure to visit the new urban HQ store at 601 N. Lamar Blvd. All the food is organic and beautifully displayed. Need exercise, ice skate on the roof! Always a different experience. There are other locations around town, too. –Just not as “Austintacious.”
21. The Austin Nature and Science Center, 301 Nature Center Drive, lets you use your hands to proactively experience mammals, birds and reptiles. 512-327-8181 www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc
22. At the Austin Area Botanical Center, take a hike along the butterfly trail and view the single-room schoolhouse onsite.
23. VERY old street lamps here and there throughout downtown are “Moonlight Towers,” very tall in accordance with their name. A must-see for history buffs.
24. Beautiful water features and ponds join with peacocks to give you a unique relaxation experience at Mayfield Park. It’s near the Austin Convention Center.
25. One of Austin’s oldest swimming pools and along Mopac just north of Lady Bird Lake is Deep Eddy Pool ~ spring-fed for more than a century. There are basketball courts here for landlubbers.
26. Tour area wineries and sample their wines. D Vine Wine in Lakeway; Flat Creek Estate in Marble Falls; Stone House Vineyard in Spicewood; and Mandola Estate Winery in Driftwood are nearest.
27. Shop to your heart’s content at many Austin malls and stores. SOCO, Hill Country Galleria, Barton Creek Square Mall, Lakeline Mall, Mueller Development, The Domain, The Arboretum, Davenport Village and South Park Meadows to name but a few. One of the largest outlet malls you will ever see is a mile long and at exit #200 in San Marcos.
28. See as many of Charles Umlauf’s 130 sculptures as you can at the garden bearing his name: Umlauf Sculpture Gardens. Find it in Zilker Park.
29. There are many art galleries and museums here. See works of art and pieces of Texas history at several of them. They tend to be clustered in and around the downtown area.
30. Travel south to San Marcos to see the museum and beautiful floating wetlands and boardwalk at the Aquarena Center. Formerly the home of diving beauties and the famous diving pig, it is now maintained by Texas State University. SCUBA diving at certain times and glass bottom boat rides any time. I really like this pristine place.
31. On the east side of I-35 is the George Washington Carver Museum, Texas’ first neighborhood museum featuring African-American heritage. It always amazes me how many things this man invented and created!
32. Spend time on Lady Bird Lake. Kayak, canoe or paddleboat. Or you and your dogs can watch from the trail around its perimeter. Walking bridges can take you to and from either shore. Kayaking, once you get the hang of the balance necessary, is a lot of fun.
33. Day trip to Gruene, a little ghost town resurrected within the city limits of New Braunfels. Quanit shops, good eateries, Gruene Dance Hall (the oldest in Texas) and tubing down the Guadalupe River. Tubing is also popular on the Comal River in San Marcos.
34. Play golf on one of Austin’s many first-class, private and public courses: Barton Creek, Austin Country Club, Crystal Falls, Blackhawk, Teravista, Avery Ranch, Onion Creek, Lyons Municipal, Forest Creek, Hidden Pines and many others.
35. Visit White Fences Equestrian Center on the Onion Creek greenbelt in South Austin when really hoofing it is your hankerin’.
36. Dine at an Austin eatery. Ranging from basic to fantastic, you will find a place that suits you. Consider Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, Salt Lick BBQ, Vince Young’s, Bess’ Bistro, Jasper’s, Carrabba’s, The Oasis, Hudson’s On The Bend, Mighty Fine and Mighty Cone, among hundreds of others. Supposedly Austin leads the nation in restaurants per capita.
37. The area lakes and rivers are controlled by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and it wants you to enjoy them. So, drop your blanket and commence picnicking at any of the LCRA parks.
38. Lance Armstrong does it. So can you. Bicycle the hilly and watery parts of the northwest part of Austin on Loop 360, aka Capital of Texas Highway.
39. Jet skis, water skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, sailing and more are popular water craft sports on Lake Travis. Check with the marinas and park ramps for availability and get out on the water. We like winter when traffic is less and the water is cooler.
40. On the National Register of Historic places is our famous Congress Avenue, a long city street interrupted only by the capitol complex. Guided walking tours of the historic street are available for us history buffs.
41. Windy Point on Lake Travis lives up to its name. Because wind is in good supply, sailing and lessons launch here. Want to sail? See the folks at Windy Point and adjacent Bob Wentz Park — public and private parks on the southeast portion of the main basin.
42. Emma Long Metropolitan Park is Austin’s largest by far and an old, old standby along Lake Austin. Picnicking abounds. To get here, take City Park Road off RR 2222 and Loop 360 just north of Pennybacker Bridge.
43. Marathons are big in Austin. There are one or more races every weekend, it seems. Seventy-three scheduled for 2011 in Central Texas. Would that make Austin a runner’s paradise? You bet! Check with the Convention and Visitors Bureau for race schedules. 512-404-4404.
44. Tennis is big here. Pick a court and play. They are open all over the area day and by lights at night. For competition play, see World of Tennis at 1 World of Tennis Square in The Hills of Lakeway. We like the new Veterans Park court in Cedar Park.
45. Another swimming hole that likely goes back a few hundred years is Hamilton Pool, a beautiful grotto-type area just off the Pedernales River at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road. Hiking to the pool is scenic and mildly challenging, as is the hike in the opposite direction to the Pedernales. Call for opening times. 512-858-4725.
46. Fish, swim or play on any of the seven highland lakes, courtesy of their champion, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, Lake Travis, Lake Marble Falls, Lake LBJ, Inks Lake, and Buchanan Lake.
47. Equestrian sports abound. Ride horses at many area stables, including those in Austin, Driftwood, Manor, Round Rock and Leander.
48. FREE of charge on the University of Texas campus at 21st & Guadalupe Streets is the Harry Ransom Center, home to one of the original Gutenberg Bibles and the first photograph. A vast array of 45 million items concentrating on films, art, performing arts, books, manuscripts and photography. 512-471-8944 www.hrc.utexas.edu/home
49. In Zilker Park, the Barton Creek greenbelt spans 7 miles and is great for hiking. Go slow enough to smell the plants and take in the wildlife. Resting points along the way. Drinking fountains, too.
50. Be careful but you must see the view from the Pennybacker Bridge (aka Loop 360 Bridge) over Lake Austin with its high cliffs above and the Austin Country Club and recreational boats below.
51. The brand new recording studio for Austin City Limits is now open at PBS-KLRU. You can score tickets to attend and participate in tapings …if you’re so fortunate.
52. Immerse yourself in the arts culture by attending a performance by the Austin Symphony Orchestra 512-476-6064 www.austinsymphony.org or the Austin Symphonic Band 512-345-7420 www.asband.org.
53. Get out there on Lady Bird Lake! Take a cruise on the Lone Star Riverboat 512-327-1388 or with Capital Cruises 512-480-9264. I can vouch for the fun this is. And going at dusk is another way to the see the bats take off looking for bugs.
54. Tickle your tummy at a comedy club. There are many, including Bad Dog Comedy, Capitol City Comedy, Ether’s Follies, Laughing Box and Velveeta Room.
55. Lady Bird Johnson had a dream to beautify America. She did it along highways all across the land …and at the 279-acre Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Research Center in South Austin. Explore nature trails, plant gardens, wildflower meadows, and children’s activities. A very interesting place also good for tourists and in-town guests. 512-292-4200 www.wildflower.org
56. Home brewed beer can be had right from the tap at a number of local brew pubs — most within walking distance of each other.
57. Ballet Austin can really put on a show and you ought to go. A must-see. 501 West 3rd Street. 512-476-9051 www.balletaustin.org
58. The Capitol and grounds have recently come through an elaborate and expensive restoration. Take a guided tour inside to see what’s so special about the Texas capitol, then walk the grounds.
59. Just west off Mopac at 35th Street is National Guard Camp Mabry. See airplanes, helicopters, tanks and cannons on display and at the Military Forces Museum.
60. FREE The LBJ Library and Museum. Open daily on the Univ. of Texas campus just north of MLK off I-35. Traveling exhibits join permanent displays and a store commemorating the life and presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson. I never get enough of this place! 512-721-0200 www.lbjlib.utexas.edu
61. Learn who some of our most famous Texans are along the Walk of Stars.
62. Dinosaur tracks in Zilker Park? You bet! Find them in the pre-history era …and in the riverbeds of the San Gabriel River just west off Hwy 183 north of Leander. Don’t go when the water is flowing high.
63. Lake Travis’ only water park is Volente Beach and features a beach club, slides, pirate boat and wading area. Take FM 2769 to the Leander location. This is a neat place in a neat little setting.
64. Many of Texas’ most valuable and important old documents are kept at the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library. Open for you to see.
65. See the oldest still-standing state building — the Old General Land Office Building at East 11th and Brazos Streets across from the capitol grounds. In fact, it’s the capitol visitors center and gift shop. William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) worked here as a draftsman in the 1880’s.
66. Currently under re-construction is the Texas Governor’s Mansion just across the street southwest of the capitol. Once completed, you will again be able to tour the residence housing our every governor since 1856.
67. Got a sweet tooth? Satisfy it at the Old Bakery & Emporium, 1006 Congress Avenue. Baked goods and crafts are provided by area senior citizens.
68. You may have never seen as beautiful a place as the old Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Avenue. www.austintheatre.org
69. LBJ met Lady Bird here. It was the site of their first date …and their booth is memorialized at the historic Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos Street. Take the walking tour and walk where Texas elite have trod for more than a century.
70. St. Mary’s Cathedral, 203 East 10th Street, has an arched gothic doorway and Rose Window you’ve got to see.
71. Annually voted America’s favorite water park is New Braunfels’ Schlitterbahn on 65 acres of rides, slides, glides and more to entertain the family all day. Day and season passes available during the summer months.
72. With more than 1,000,000 items gathered locally, the Austin History Center can keep you busy for hours. 810 Guadalupe Street. 512-974-7480 www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/ahc
73. The beautiful castle-looking building at 304 East 44th Street is actually a place displaying works by Texas’ first eminent sculptor, Elisabet Ney; the museum is aptly named the Elisabet Ney Museum. 512-458-2255 www.ci.austin.tx.us/elisabetney
74. Austin’s oldest continuously operating eatery/drinkery is Scholz Garten at 1607 San Jacinto Blvd. near the Univ. of Texas football stadium. Stop in for a beer; it’s always Oktoberfest!
75. Hear tales of mystery, imagination, family histories …and their ghosts… at the Neil-Cochran House, a museum in the Greek Revival style. Find it at 2310 San Gabriel Street. 512-478-2335.
76. Austin also has a living history farm. It’s located in northeast Austin and is a place thrown back in time where you can see life as it was in Texas pioneer days. I like this place and always spend hours each time I go.
77. Did you know the Univ. of Texas has an ice hockey team? It sure does! It hits the ice at the Chaparral Ice Center in north Austin along the west side of I-35. But that’s not all. Kids and families are welcome to ice skate, too, engaging in broomball, dodge ball and the Olympic sport of curling.
78. Founder and father of Austin, Stephen F. Austin, is at rest at the Texas State Cemetery, east of downtown about a mile. This is a neat place, where many of Texas’ most famous people are buried and where a recent restoration has made the grave markers and tombstones stand out all the more amidst the nicely landscaped lawn, ponds and hills.
79. Recent governor, George W. Bush, teamed with his Lt. Governor, Bob Bullock (may he rest in peace) to bring Bullock’s Texas State History Museum to life. It depicts the wonderment of Texas lore with an IMAX theatre, large store and many exhibits on three floors. 1800 North Congress Avenue. 512-936-8746 www.thestoryoftexas.com This is also one of my favorite places to go in Austin.
80. Austin’s oldest African American church is the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Find it near another African American Church of some stature — the Ebenezer Baptist Church, 1010 East 10th Street.
81. One of the prettiest houses in Austin is now a museum. Along the shores of Lake Austin is the picturesque Laguna Gloria Art Museum and its changing exhibits of American art. 3809 West 35th Street. 512-458-8191 www.amoa.org I take my camera here and just click, click, click.
82. Get a bird’s eye view of Lake Travis and the Hill Country surroundings by parasailing 600 feet high above the lake. Parasailing is so calm and quiet. It’s so relaxing.
83. SOCO is what we call SOuth COngress Avenue. South of Lady Bird Lake on Congress, certain stretches are full of the eccentric and eclectic shops that spawned one of Austin’s monikers, “Keep Austin Weird.” Now with back-in angle parking, more cars and their passengers can be accommodated than ever before. The 1700 block of South Congress is also home to some of the infamous food trailer clusters.
84. Visit Round Rock to the north, the self-proclaimed and acclaimed “Sports Capital of Texas.” Most of the boast stems from its very successful Round Rock Express baseball team, an affiliate to the Texas Rangers. You can see and often peek inside the Dell Diamond east on Hwy. 79. On-site is the only satellite location from the Salt Lick BBQ folks.
85. Did you know the Austin area has more than 60 theatres? You can see any first-run movie at many of them and when The Austin Film Festival is held in late October, some of the venues show some of those indies, too. To get an Austin Film Festival award is quite an accomplishment.
86. Pros and amateurs alike compete at the springtime Texas Relays. You can watch the pros …and future pros… on the Univ. of Texas track. Future pros can be seen in the football stadium, the basketball court, and the golf and tennis venues as well.
87. Bicycling and in-line skating through a part of the Hill Country is made possible with The Veloway, a 3.1-mile tour of west Austin Hill Country savannah.
88. One of my favorite natural areas in Austin: Hike, bike, jog, swim, fish, picnic and more at McKinney Falls State Park. Not far from the Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Research Center, it is a gorgeous place with rock bed water falls. 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy. 512-243-1643 www.tpwd,state,tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/mckinney_falls/
89. Along Capital of Texas Highway (aka Loop 360) is the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, a densely treed area with trails and some neat ground-level fauna. It has some challenging inclines so I recommend going prepared; wear pants and take water. It’s on 227 acres. Nearby is a turnout with great views of downtown off in the distance.
90. As organic farming grows in popularity and its produce is more sought after, demand is met by places like Boggy Creek Farm in east Austin. Come by for fresh produce, to see tractors and animals coexist and to get a glimpse of life on the farm. Theirs and other produce can be purchased at various farmer’s markets around Austin.
91. Are you into Tejano music? Conjunto, tropical or salsa? Then check out some of the venues around town and join in the celebration of our Latin-American music heritage.
92. First Thursday is a special day of the month. It’s when shops are crowded with people and bargains on South Congress Avenue. Come to shop, people watch or just window shop.
93. On the south side of Lady Bird Lake is a neat statue of one of Austin’s own music legends. “I can’t drive 55” ring a bell? Have your picture taken next to the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue on Auditorium Shores, …where ACL is held. Then head a bit east to see the large bat statue over at South Congress and Riverside.
94. The Republic of Texas. It’s in the past for most, but still ever-present for others. See artifacts of the republic at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Museum, 510 East Anderson Lane. 512-339-1997 www.drt-inc.org/museum
95. Remember funkadelic? You can still live it in Austin. Head down to 1506 South Congress Avenue to Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds. 512-444-2002.
96. A wildlife sanctuary? A zoo with exotic animals? A family farm with all this? It’s the Austin Zoo at 10807 Rawhide Trail in south Austin. 512-288-1490.
97. Enjoy a performance by the Austin Lyric Opera. Opera at its finest. 901 Barton Springs Road. 512-472-5992 www.austinlyricopera.org
98. Jazz is alive and well in Austin. You don’t have to go to Memphis; you can enjoy it nearly nightly at: the Elephant Room, Cedar Street, Jazz on Sixth, Top of the Marc and the Continental Club.
99. Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Asleep at the Wheel, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Johnson, Charlie Saxton and others launched their careers in Austin. In Austin, the place for blues is Antone’s Night Club, 213 West 5th Street. 512-320-8424.
100. Threadgills’ World Headquarters at 301 West Riverside south of Lady Bird Lake is a place to get down-home cooking. It’s so good. I like the pot roast best. While you’re there on a Wednesday, you will treated to some extra special down-home music. This is where Janis Joplin was really launched big time.
101. Don’t miss The Domain, a multi-use area at the geographic center of Austin. It features upscale retail and dining, apartment living above the stores, a couple boutique hotels, parks, jogging trails and more. Find it north of Braker Lane between Mopac and Burnet Road.
102. Fun Fun Fun Fest. Usually first weekend of November along Lady Bird Lake. First year of the fest was 2006. It has grown to three days and attracted 43,000 fest-goers this year. It features harder to find and hear music like electronic, punk, grunge, garage, Indie and a few other styles.
Believe it or not, there are many, many more things to do in Austin …and many more as you travel out from the city on day trips. The quality of life here is very good. It’s a desirable place to be. No longer the big secret it was a couple decades ago, Austin is being discovered by thousands more happy residents every year. If I can get any more information to you, just let me know.