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.
The amazing Zilker Botanical Garden overlooks the Zilker Park fields bordering Barton Springs Road. The garden is actually comprised of several different gardens, including the Cactus and Succulent, Xeriscape, Herb and Fragrance, Rose, Azalea, Butterfly and Taniguchi Gardens. Taniguchi is a beautiful Japanese landscape with a waterfall, running stream, lily ponds and wooden bridges. The lush, peaceful grounds are commonly perused by artists and writers searching for inspiration, and by others just looking for solitude amid the city.
A 35-foot (10.7 meters) bronze Lone Star sculpture greets visitors at the entrance of this epic museum. This place narrates the story of Texas, sharing its rich cultural heritage and traditions. The three floors of the impressive building present interactive exhibits, special effects shows and more. On the first floor, you will find a permanent exhibit called Encounters on the Land, which highlights the first meetings between Native Americans and European explorers. The second and third floors have exhibits that showcase the evolution of Texas from the time of its inception. The museum boasts a total of 17 media installations and over 700 artifacts, not to mention Austin's only IMAX Theater.
Charles Umlauf (1911-1994), one of the more famous Austin artists, was a prolific sculptor. This museum displays many of his works in a fantastic garden spot located close to Zilker Park and just minutes from downtown. His sculptures range from realism to abstraction and include families, religious figures, animals and mythological characters.
At Harry Ransom Center you will enjoy viewing the first photograph ever taken, alongside one of only 13 remaining Gutenberg Bibles, created in 1456. Also showcased are rare compositions and manuscripts by Galileo, Beethoven, Hemingway and more. You will find a wonderful collection of theater arts pieces and a book library with over 800,000 priceless manuscripts. Take advantage of the free admission and experience many of the University's unique treasures.
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.
Built in 1867 as the home of the Texas General Land Office, this building is the oldest standing government building in the state. Along with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, it has quite a bit of history. From 1887 to 1982, a draftsman named William Sidney Porter, better known today as the short story author O. Henry, rented a space upstairs. Some of the author's greatest short stories were inspired by his experiences here. The second floor of the building houses the O. Henry Nook, where visitors can view his comical land tract maps. The building also houses the State Travel Information Center, which provides guided tours. A Texas-style gift shop is located on the first floor.
Short story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, lived in this home for three years while he spent time in Austin. It was constructed in 1891 and is filled with rare books, O. Henry's writing desk, original furniture, photographs, personal belongings and the chairs that brought The Gift of the Magi to life. Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of this home and its famous occupant. The house has been moved twice since from its original location at 308 East Fourth Street. It now features a gift shop with books, videotapes and more. The museum offers writing clubs for Austin children and sponsors many local events such as the Victorian Christmas celebration and the "O. Henry Pun-Off." Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
One of the first streets surveyed in Austin, Sixth was originally known as Pecan Street. During the day, shops, restaurants and historic buildings are the main attraction, but by night, the street becomes festive with live music, shows and special events. On Friday and Saturday nights, the blocks are closed to automobile traffic for an all-out street party. Stop by for a beer or a show, or just enjoy watching the eclectic nightlife of Austin.
Fancy a visit to the historic downtown area of Austin? Austin Historic Walking Tours provides free guided tours of several buildings and areas in Ausitn to anyone who's interested. Tours commence from the Capitol Building, and then take one to Congress Block, Sixth Street and Bremond Block Historic District, where one can marvel at the fine architectural aspects of the buildings, juxtaposed against metal and glass skyscrapers right alongside. Tours must be booked in advance; visit website for timings.
The Congress Bridge over Colorado River houses approximately one and a half million bats in mid-summer. In the spring, the pregnant female makes her way north to roosting sites in the Southwestern United States. They each give birth to a baby and at five weeks of age the pups can fly. Hundreds of people line the bridge at dusk to catch a rare glimpse of the bats as they leave the bridge for their nightly feeding. It may take up to 45 minutes for all the bats to exit. They will consume between 10,000 and 30,000 pounds of insects each night.