When you sit down to plan your next vacation destination, your list probably includes places like Hawaii, Palm Springs, and Orlando. However, a recent study by J.D. Power, an international marketing information services company, found that Austin not only takes the number one spot for tourist destinations in the Southwest, but also the second in the entire nation. As a matter of fact, it is only succeeded by Las Vegas.
Part of the reason Austin was so successful in this study was due to its strong infrastructure and the broad range of activities there are to do. If you're new to Austin, or even if you aren't, it may be time to explore the city of Austin tourist style.
Here are three of the highest rated attractions you need to see:
1. The State Capitol
Standing tall at the end of Congress Avenue, The State Capitol building is one of Austin's most iconic landmarks. The building dates back to 1885 and is an architectural marvel. It features an impressive rotunda and is one of the tallest state capitol buildings in America. The 22 acre grounds feature a range of monuments and a picturesque paved walkway known as the "Great Walk."
An additional perk, half-hour guided tours of the Capitol are free. Certain times of years, they even offer specialty tours. In October, they offer ghost-themed tours that feature haunting urban myths, and in honor of Remembrance Day, the first three weeks of November focus on Texas' contributions to military conflicts.
2. Zilker Metropolitan Park
Nestled along the shores of the Colorado River across from Austin's Downtown, Zilker Metropolitan Park is a popular destination for tourists and locals. The greenspace covers 350 acres, and botanists will be delighted to know that 26 of those acres are dedicated to beautiful gardens including a botanical garden, an herb garden, and a Japanese garden complete with koi fish.
Children will enjoy riding on the Zilker Zephyr miniature train or exploring the Austin Nature and Science Center. The center offers all kinds of hands-on activities such as rock climbing, archery, and family stargazing.
Zilker Metropolitan Park is also home to Barton Springs Pool, an enclosed outdoor swimming area that's waters are made up of Barton Creek itself. The concrete division built into the creek provides a safe space to swim free of strong currents, yet the way in which the pool was designed, allows a constant flow of cool, clean water to pass through.
Other notable sights to see in the park include: Zilker Hillside Theatre, which hosts all kinds of concerts and a Shakespeare in the park festival; Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, which showcases the fine works of Charles Umlauf; and the Zilker Park Kite Festival. Also at Christmas, the park is the site of a 155-foot tall holiday tree made up over 3000 lights.
Whether you're a tourist visiting Austin in any season, or whether you're a resident of Austin, there's always something to do in Zilker Metropolitan Park.
3. Lady Bird Lake
This reservoir on the Colorado River covers 416 acres and is a popular destination for those who like to swim or boat. There's even the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail that forms a well-treed, landscaped circuit that wraps around the entire lake.
Take a tour via bicycle or cruise boat that passes under the Congress Bridge. This picturesque bridge is home to the world's largest urban colony of bats. These Mexican free-tailed bats number more than a million, and watching the flock of them take off, is a sight unlike any other.
So, if you've been living in Austin for a while and you're looking to explore, check out some of the more touristy sites in the city. You might be surprised by what you learn about the city's historic roots.
Or, if you're looking for your next vacation destination, visit Austin. You wouldn't be the first to come to see the attractions and then end up staying for the people, the culture, the incredible vistas, and the ever-growing opportunities.
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