I just read that Trip Advisor published a list of 15 travel destinations on the rise. Can you guess which Texas city was in the #2 spot? It’s the great state capitol of Texas, good ol’ Austin.
Seems that year after year, Austin appears on every “best of the U.S.” list around: “Best place to live”, “Best place to raise a family”, “Best place to eat”… If you've been there, you already know why it’s a great travel destination, too. It’s where history meets urban hip, culture blends with nature, and gourmet can mean a 5-star restaurant or an amazing food truck.
There are so many things to do and see in Austin and so many reasons it’s a top travel destination. Here are a few of my favorite Austin activities:
• Groove to the tunes. Austin is considered to be the live music capitol of the world. Where else can you go out any night of the week to dance to a kickin’ country band, hear a great singer or relax to some mellow guitar tunes? Whatever you like — blues, rock, jazz, Tejano, or swing – you can feel the beat in nearly 200 live music venues around the city.
• Capitalize on a freebie! Take a FREE guided tour of the Texas State Capitol building, featuring information about state history and the workings of the legislature. You’ll start at the awe-inspiring domed entrance, walk through many historically-significant spots, catch a view of the senate and house chambers and learn some “secrets” of the building, all in under an hour. And, did I mention, the tours are FREE?
• Wine and Dine. Not only are there hundreds of amazing restaurants in Austin, but each spring, the city hosts the Austin Food and Wine Festival, presented by Food & Wine magazine. Join culinary icons from across the country and Austin’s own acclaimed talent, along with live musical guests for this three-day festival of cooking demos, hands-on experiences and gourmet food tastings that will make you swoon. This year’s event will be April 27 – 29, but tickets go fast so book early.
• Stroll through the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary – If you come here expecting the perfectly manicured and landscaped exhibits typical of many zoos, you may be disappointed. But if you are moved by stories of animal rescue, your heart will soar as you view wild animals whose lives have been turned around and read their second chance stories. A great zoo for children, you’ll find many hands-on encounters with a variety of animals.
• Spend some time with Bob Bullock. Austin is home to several fascinating museums, but if you only have time for one, don’t miss the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Featuring exhibits, state-of-the-art interactive experiences and 3-D IMAX theater, the museum tells the story of Texas, from its early exploration through its ever-changing present, in three categories: Land, Identity and Opportunity.
• Visit Waterloo Records. When a city that lives and breathes music names its best music store, you just have to pay attention. For more than a decade, Waterloo Records and Video has won the Austin Chronicle’s title of Best Record/CD Store. According to the Chronicle, “Waterloo Records & Video is more than an independent music retailer; it’s a modern mecca of music… that’s inextricably woven into the legacy and notoriety of our local music scene. That much is evident not just in the depth of the store’s selection – CDs, vinyl, box sets, DVDs, books, clothing – but in its bounteous treasure chest of used arrivals and its range of in-store performers.”
• Go batty! Home to approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats, the Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin is the world's largest urban bat colony. Every night at dusk, from March-November, the sky comes alive as the bats set out on their nightly quest for food. There are several great viewing spots on and around the bridge, but be prepared to jockey for position – this is a popular event. There are also companies offering boating, kayaking, biking, even Segway tours at prime bat-viewing locations and times. Check the information kiosk, located on the north bank of the river just east of the bridge, for more information.
It's not easy to capture a place like Austin in a short list and, really, I’ve only scratched the surface. It's such a cool city with so much to do and see, it's clear why it's a shining star in the Lone Star state.