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.
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.
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.
Mayfield Park Cottage and Gardens is open to the public but is a favorite among the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department facilities rental division. The historic 1870s cottage is perfect for a small group. The cottage holds 65 people, while the grounds hold up to 200. Enjoy the landscaped gardens, lily ponds, peacocks and palms in this picturesque environment. Pack up the family or reserve it for your event and enjoy this sprawling estate in central Austin.
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.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center was established by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States from 1963-1969. This fabulous garden bearing her name brims with native Texas plants in courtyards, terraces, arbors and meadows. Along with a fantastic children's center, visitors can explore a visitor's gallery, observation tower, cafe, gift store and nature trails. Enjoy award-winning architecture and fabulous scenery in this wonderful garden spot.
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?
Austin Duck Adventures is a one-of-a-kind tour takes you through the city and on Lake Austin on an authentic amphibious military landing vehicle that carries around 20 passengers. The tour goes through downtown, to the State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the LBJ Library, East Sixth Street's music district, historic Congress Avenue and area lakes. Meanwhile, the tour guide gives the history of the city, along with little-known insights. Each tour last for around two hours. Check the website or call ahead for further information.
Take a tour with Lone Star Riverboat down the Colorado River (known as Town Lake in the Austin city limits) on a paddle wheel boat. This Southern style of transportation is a perfect way to take in the city's skyline. Trips are 90 minutes long and do not require reservations. Call ahead to determine the seasonal schedule. During the summer moonlight cruises are offered, as well as close-up cruises of the bats underneath Congress bridge. Prices vary by excursion, so check their website for further information.
For cruising around on Town Lake, the best way to go is on a Capital Cruise. Have dinner with friends or just your date, while watching the beauty of Austin's downtown from the peaceful water. Sightseeing tours are available along with canoes and kayaks; or you can take out paddle boats for an outdoor activity with the family. So whether it is a romantic evening for two or a day on the lake with kids, this service can meet your needs. Furthermore, the Hyatt caters for these cruises and serves wonders like shrimp pasta, beef or chicken fajitas, to name a few. They will work with your company or group to customize a menu if you desire.
In a town with as much history as Austin, you are destined to find some scary stories and haunted locations. This tour takes you through downtown to experience some of the ghosts of this city's past. Hear stories about famous Austinites who have died, but never seemed to leave town. Learn about serial killers pre-dating Jack the Ripper, murders and mayhem, as well as spooks and haunts of Austin's sordid past. This tour may be a bit too much for small children. But adults will find it a wonderful way to learn about Austin's secret history.