One part vaudeville and one part stinging political/social satire, this place has been amusing and delighting its guests, as well as the pedestrians who pass by its front-stage windows and observe its goings-on, since the late 1970s. A troupe of multi-talented performers write, act, sing and dance their way across a broad and constantly updated comedic map that pokes fun at our elected officials, celebrity icons, and regular citizens. It is not all for laughs, though; a magical act comes on a couple of times per show to startle and captivate your senses. This is a true downtown institution.
A reservoir in the Colorado River, Lake Austin is an ideal recreation spot. When the Tom Miller Dam was constructed in 1939, this reservoir was created. Though it serves a practical purpose like generation of electricity and flood control, it is also a popular attraction in the city. You will find many restaurants nearby, and the park along its banks offers fun activities such as canoeing. Lake Austin works for those who just feel like taking a walk, those who are looking to get their exercise for the day, those who feel like chatting with others, or just those who want a bit of peace.
A famous slogan states that everything is bigger in Texas, and if one views its capitol building, the age-old phrase rings true. Standing a stately 309 feet (94 meters) and modeled after the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., the Texas State Capitol owns the distinction of being the nation's tallest capitol building. Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed using lustrous red granite, the capitol took more than seven years to complete. It was finished in the year 1888 at a total cost of more than three million dollars, an extravagant price even by today's standards. The perfectly landscaped grounds reflect the languid pace of life under the central Texan sun, inviting passers-by for a quiet stroll or a lazy day under a tree.
Patrons will enjoy a huge variety of activities at Zilker Park. You can check out the hike and bike trails, picnic facilities, Zilker Botanical Garden, canoe rentals, soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, riverboat rides on Town Lake, concerts, festivals and even a miniature train. The wide-open stretches of grass in this park are just minutes from the downtown area. There is plenty of room and various diversions for the kids, so you can get a suntan, take long walks by the river or just curl up with a book down by the river.
Set along the eastern banks of the restful Colorado River, Mount Bonnell's verdant headlands dominate Austin's western topography from an elevation of approximately 775 feet (236 meters) above sea level. Also known as Covert Park, the location is a stunning progression of luxuriant grasslands, scenic waterfronts, peaceful picnic spots and breathtaking vista points. Inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in the year 2015, the forelands are home to Mount Bonnell's Indian Trail, one of the cornerstones of the American War of Independence. Legend has it that the final 99 steps to the mount's top hold enchanting qualities; if a couple climbs the mount once, they fall in love; twice, they become engaged; and three times, they are destined to be married.
As part of the Pedernales River and Hamilton Creek, this old-fashioned swimming hole is perfect for the nature lover in all of us. A shaded walk through the canyon opens to the limestone outcroppings that create a 50-foot waterfall landing in the pool. A picnic on the banks of the pool, a swim in the cool water or a quick hike through the canyon will wash away city-accumulated stress. The trail to the pool is fairly short (1/4 of a mile) but does include a series of rock steps. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities should call ahead to pre-arrange assistance. Parking is limited, and the pool is very popular so go early.
This is an intimate outdoor venue with a pleasant courtyard feel. Live jazz music is played nightly to a sophisticated crowd. The martinis are a definite must, and there is also an excellent cigar selection to choose from inside. This is a great place to sit under the oak trees and enjoy the breeze while watching some of Austin's best dancers dance up front. Better yet, why not join in?
As one of the galleries of the Texas Fine Arts Association, The Contemporary's Jones Center focuses on nurturing fine art in Central Texas. This gallery brings together artists, curators, art writers, collectors and the general public to appreciate exquisite Texan artwork. TFAA is dedicated to contributing to the growth of art and art education in the state; it offers exhibitions of modern artists, seminars and panel discussions in order to achieve this goal. It can accommodate educational visits of school students and teachers. It also offers art classes for children and adults on topics such as mosaics, photography, collage, watercolor and glass painting, metal art, jewelry design, pottery and digital art.
The Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse is a perfect mix of Austin quirk and Texas charm. With two tiny stages and an accompanying coffee shop, Hideout offers patrons a fun-filled evening of improvisational comedy, rich baked goods, aromatic coffee, and wine by the glass. This Congress Avenue locale sits in the heart of Austin and offers hour-long elimination-style improv comedy troupe performances and poetry slam events. Try their sugared cinnamon roll with a scoop of Amy's vanilla ice cream and a glass of Chardonnay. If you need some help in the humor department, Hideout offers weekly improv classes at moderate prices. Disabled access in coffeehouse and downstairs theater only. Check their website for weekly show times.
A little bit of the Great White Way can be found deep in the heart of Texas. Like the movie studio which shares its name, this theater is grandiose and ambitious with 1250 seats available to host an estimated 160,000 people a year. The calendar features both visiting and local stage productions of musicals and dramatic plays, one-person acts, orchestral performances, children's shows, revivals of great old movies and (because this is Austin) the occasional visiting live-music act. A horn of plenty for theater, music and entertainment fans.
Centrally located in downtown Austin, this museum features works that have a connection to Mexico and Latin America. Exhibits range from art to theater. The permanent collection includes artifacts and photographs relating to Mexican-American culture. Recent exhibits include photographs from the 1910 Mexican Revolution and other works by Mexican artists. Guest artists and performers tackle contemporary issues such as ethnicity, religion and politics. A small gift shop carrying books, artwork and handmade imports is located near the entrance.
If Austin-area jazz lovers feel ignored, it is justified; the local music scene, multi-faceted as it may be, has always neglected their genre of choice. However, what the region lacks in quantity, the Elephant Room more than makes up for in quality. It has been deemed as one of the finest venues in the country by none other than Wynton Marsalis (and subsequently honored by a unanimous resolution of the Texas Senate for having earned the jazz legend's admiration). The appeal stems largely from the club's unceasing lineup of regional favorites, touring greats, and, once in a while, plain ol' jam sessions consisting of anyone who cares to take the stage.