There are many great choices when it comes to Texas family vacations. After all, Texas is the 2nd largest state behind Alaska and the 2nd most populous state behind California. With its geographical and cultural diversity, its rich and unique history, and its famous hospitality, vacationing in Texas is as memorable as it is rewarding.
At the top of any Texas Family Vacations list should be a trip to Austin, the capital of the state and home to many Lone Star State attractions and entertainment opportunities.
Here then are 7 categories of family attractions in Austin, great reasons to vacation in Austin:
As the capital of Texas, Austin is rich with history. First settled by those of European descent in the 1830s, Austin was originally founded along the banks of the Lower Colorado River and known as Waterloo . After it became the capital, the town was renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin .
Without a doubt, the number one Austin tourist attraction is the Texas State Capitol. Constructed in the 1880s, the Texas State Capitol has more floor space than any other state capitol and is taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
Open to the public every day except major holidays, the Texas State Capitol features magnificent Renaissance Revival architecture, local limestone and distinctive regional Sunset Red granite, beautiful interior wood work, lush grounds, and a magnificent and inspiring rotunda.
The Texas Governor's Mansion is another popular tourist destination, although the site is currently closed for major renovation and repair following a 2008 arson attack. Tours are expected to resume by 2012.
Construction of the Greek Revival style Mansion was completed in 1856. The building is a Texas Historical Landmark, National Historic Landmark, and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Austin is also home to the beautifully manicured Texas State Cemetery , where many prominent Texans--governors (including John Connolly and Lt. Governor Bob Bullock), judges, legislators, Republic of Texas veterans, and Confederate Generals--have been laid to rest.
Most notably, Stephen F. Austin is interred here.
The cemetery also features WWII and Vietnam Memorials as well as a tribute to those Texans who died on September 11, 2001.
The cemetery is normally open to the public 7 days a week, and admission is free.
Austin landmark hotels such as The Driskill and the Stephen F. Austin Hotel are also terrific spots for Texas family vacations. Whether you stay at one of the hotels or just stop in for lunch or dinner, you're in for a treat.
The Driskill , constructed in the 1880s by cattle baron Jesse Driskill, has been restored to its original opulence. In addition to its impressive 19th century aesthetics, the hotel also has an entertaining and colorful history, which includes several supposed ghostly residents.
Likewise, though younger by nearly a half century, the Stephen F. Austin Hotel , constructed in the 1920s is another of Austin's historic grand hotels. It features one of the best terraces in Austin as it overlooks Congress Avenue and offers a spectactular view of the Capitol.
Austin is a nature lover's dream and is unmatched when it comes to enjoyable outdoor activities for the entire family, a perfect Texas family vacations backdrop.
Originally settled along the banks of the Lower Colorado River, Austin's main waterway was dammed in a couple locations to form what is now known as Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake), which serves as a sort of meandering border between downtown Austin and South Austin; and Lake Austin , a section of the Lower Colorado River farther west and north of downtown that eventually makes its way to Lake Travis, even farther north and west.
Lady Bird Lake can be enjoyed in many ways, including by guided tours aboard riverboat or cruise ship as well as by exploring via a kayak or canoe rental.
Where the Congress Avenue Bridge spans the lake, reside more than 1.5 million migratory Mexican free-tailed bats nine months out of the year. At dusk, crowds gather along the rails of the bridge and on both banks of the lake to
watch the bats depart en masse from beneath the bridge and scour the Austin sky
to feed on insects.
And for swimming enthusiasts, Austin provides two hugely popular spring-fed swimming pools - Barton Springs and Deep Eddy .
Austin's extensive hike and bike trails running along both sides of the Lady Bird Lake can accommodate a wide variety of Texas Family Vacations. Whether you prefer a nice leisurely stroll in a beautiful setting, a refreshing bike ride (bike rentals available), or just an old-fashioned invigorating run, there are more than 10 miles of shore-lined trails with the Austin skyline as a backdrop to enjoy.
Austin abounds in parks. The official slogan of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department is, "Austin: A City Within a Park." It's true - the city of Austin boasts 206 parks, 12 preserves, and 26 greenbelts.
Foremost among Austin parks is
Zilker Metropolitan Park
. Zilker Park is Austin's work horse park and the site of many annual
Austin events and festivals
including the longest running festival in Austin a the
Zilker Park Kite Festival
held each spring since 1929.
The park isn't the largest in Austin, but at 350 acres it's large enough to provide a ton of facilities and attractions, including the previously mentioned Barton Springs Pool , a fun playground complete with an old fire truck, the popular Zilker Zephyr kiddie train , a snack bar, the beautiful and serene Zilker Botanical Gardens , the outdoor Hillside Theater where free performances of Shakespeare and Broadway musicals take place each summer, and the Austin Nature and Science Center where kids (and adults) can learn about the natural environment of central Texas with fun, hands-on exhibits and activities.
Additionally, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department maintains smaller parks and attractions.
One such location is the popular and easily accessible
with its inspiring and panoramic view encompassing the Austin skyline to the south, Lake Austin below (along with some impressive estates along its banks), and the striking
Pennybacker ("360") Bridge
to the north.
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden features the sculpture of the late artist Charles Umlauf in a quiet, shaded setting with a mature grove of cottonwoods, wildflowers, and an extensive water feature that includes a bubbling brook, serene pond, and two wooden foot bridges.
You can enjoy a guided bat-watching tour from atop the Congress Avenue Bridge via a Segway or from below on the waters of Lady Bird Lake via riverboat or cruise ship . And of course there are also numerous non-bat tours of Austin via Segway or Cruise Ship as well.
Austin Duck Adventures provides a fun amphibious exploration of downtown Austin and Lake Austin.
Enjoy ghost stories? Austin Ghost Tours provides two popular downtown tours showcasing a darker side of Austin's past.
The Hill Country Flyer is terrific day trip excursion to the nearby Texas Hill Country . Enjoy a steam train ride and an afternoon shopping in the Hill Country town of Burnet.
University of Texas at Austin
also offers various engaging tours of the campus, including a popular one that includes a climb to the top of the famous
But there are also a terrific selections of other first-rate Austin restaurants as well a both high end and casual and encompassing the entire culinary spectrum. Be sure to consult our
resource page for more ideas when making your Texas family vacations plans.
But not all performances take place in bars and nightclubs. There are many options for catching great live music in more family-accessible settings. Popular Austin restaurants such as Threadgills, Artz Rib House , The Oasis , Freddie's Place, Shady Grove , and Hill's Cafe are just some of the choices.
Austin also knows how to celebrate year round in terms of
festivals and special events
, many of which are geared toward families, from the countless
festivals celebrating the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds that make up the citizenry of Austin
to other fun family-oriented celebrations such as
Ice Cream Festival
Wiener Dog Races in nearby Buda
to the annual
Austin Family Music Festival at Pioneer Farms
In fact, it's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Feel free to look around this site and discover in more detail what makes Austin such a special vacation destination.
Real Austin Texas currently consists of more than 350 pages . . . and with more always on the way.
Enjoy your next family vacation in Texas . . .
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