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This creek winds through Central and South Austin, featuring beautiful hiking and bike trails as well as many choice swimming holes. The natural surroundings have been left to flourish as only the Texas countryside can. One of the more popular areas is at the far north end of the park—the Scottish Woods Trails, a rocky path leading to a gorgeous private swimming hole at the base of a small waterfall. Barton Creek Greenbelt runs west and north from Zilker Park for nearly eight miles. Contact the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for a map of the greenbelt and access areas.
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.
The former home and studio of German sculptress Elisabet Ney is open to the public for exploration. This home was one of the first buildings erected in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which was developed as a suburb in 1892 by Monroe Martin Shippe. Visitors flock to this museum to view nearly 50 busts and statues of Texas heroes, as well as Europeans she sculpted as a young artist. Her tools and several personal items are also on display. Admission is free.
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.
As the first neighborhood museum in the state dedicated to African American history and culture, this 1926 structure houses various forms of art. The center was once Austin's main library and received a Texas State Historical Marker in 1976. The museum is named in honor of Dr. George Washington Carver, former slave who went on to become a renowned botanist and inventor. The museum exhibits a fantastic collection, as well changing exhibits of black history and culture in Austin and Travis County.
Spend a day with the kids that is both fun and educational — head over to Zilker Park and take in the fantastic wildlife at the Nature Center. Albino raccoons, barn owls, snakes and other furry creatures roam about the petting zoo. While escaping the urban life, wander down winding trails and past the beautiful pond. Even though this park is in the middle of the city, nature permeates the surroundings, making every adult feel like a kid again.
The Governor's Mansion is one of the most significant landmarks in Austin. It was built in the mid 19th Century, giving it a historical status. The mansion is accentuated with elegant furnishings such as Sam Houston's bed, antiques, famous paintings and more. The Governor's Mansion was built using bricks and wood, thus giving a timeless touch to it. There are regular guided tours conducted here, although reservations are a must.