©2006 ACVB Photo/Austin City Limits The Austin City Limits Music Festival rocks the city for a weekend each September.

The Best of Austin

The minute that visitors enter the airport in Austin, Texas, the sound of music fills the air. Cool blues, rockabilly, you name it -- local artists showcase unique sounds on stages throughout Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Dubbed the "Live Music Capital of the World," music is synonymous with the city, as is great barbeque, a decidedly liberal culture, and the likelihood that the tattooed hipster standing next to you in line at a local music venue is a tech millionaire.

The fact is, Austin is a city of contradictions and makes no apologies for it. It's Texas without the flatlands most people expect when they visit. Instead, locals and out-of-towners alike often compare the city's terrain, which is anything but flat, to Colorado. Stunning Hill Country vistas, wildflowers in bloom, and an outdoor lifestyle have made Austin one of the nation's fittest cities.

Austin may be the state capital, but it's also home to the 50,000-student University of Texas, and bleeding burnt orange is just something people do. Austinites are rabid about their Longhorns, and so are others.

Each year, more than 17 million people visit Austin -- whether for Longhorn football games, for musical events like the famed South by Southwest music industry conference or the Austin City Limits Music Festival, for business, for education, for politics, or for fun. Regardless of what brings visitors here, there's no question that many of them are curious about what makes this Central Texas city, especially after being ranked second on Money magazine's 2006 list of Top 25 Best Big Cities to Live.

The Best of Austin

Austin is a mix of thriving nightlife, college party town, great scenery, tolerant citizens, and celebrity hangout. Austin takes all kinds; it's the people here that make the city -- although the city's pretty hip all on its own.

Why come to Austin? The red granite State Capitol building is one reason; it's been named one of the Top 10 Texas Attractions for non-Texans and Texans alike. Music, of course, is everywhere, and is another star attraction. South by Southwest, one of the nation's largest music industry conferences, draws millions to the city for two weeks each March, and the Austin City Limits Music Festival rocks the city for a weekend each September.

People also visit Austin for food. The Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, held each April, is the nation's second largest such event (Aspen is the largest), and showcases food and wine with a Texas flair. Not surprisingly, barbeque is big here -- it is Texas, after all -- but so are vegan and vegetarian food, as well as a number of Mobil Travel Guide-rated Four-Star restaurants and noted chefs.

The University of Texas at Austin is another reason people come to town. One of the largest universities in the country with 50,000 students, UT and its champion Longhorn football and sports teams attract alumni, sports fans, and students from all over the world.

Austin's also known for its healthy lifestyle -- with 300 days of sunshine each year, it's hard to avoid the great outdoors. Speaking of nature, you'd be hard-pressed to miss the incredible sight of 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats emerge nightly from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge (May through October). Home to one of the largest bat colonies in North America, these tiny winged creatures are another quirky part of a city that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Fast Facts & Information

Fast Facts & Information

Geography and landscape: Austin is located in south central Texas, where the Colorado River crosses the Balcones Escarpment, separating the Texas Hill Country from the blackland prairies to the east, creating gorgeous limestone cliff formations throughout the city that define Austin's landscape. Given the scenery, it's no wonder that Austin and surrounding terrain have been nicknamed "The Hill Country." The Colorado River flows through the heart of the city, creating a series of sparkling lakes that stretch for more than 100 miles, and a beautiful centerpiece that is a magnet for Austinites and visitors alike for its cool, calming beauty.

In terms of geography, Austin isn't like the rest of Texas, which is mostly flat, and that's one of the most unique things about the city. Instead, elevation ranges from 425 feet at lakeside to 1,000 feet in the northwest city hills and to 2,000 feet in The Hill Country. Take a walk on any of the city's downtown streets, and you'll likely be out of breath from climbing hills. Area lakes provide scenic and liquid refreshment for the city, and breathtaking limestone cliffs like Mount Bonnell are great spots to take in the scenic and rolling Hill Country terrain.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Dan Herron The rivers and lakes surrounding Austin enhance its natural beauty.[/b]

General orientation: The city is the largest in the Central Texas area, which includes Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties, and is the fourth-largest city in Texas. Altogether, the greater Austin area encompasses 258.43 square miles.

Neighboring cities and suburbs outside Austin proper include Round Rock, Pflugerville, Taylor, and Georgetown to the north, and Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and New Braunfels to the south. As for Austin's proximity to major Texas cities, Dallas is about three hours to the north, San Antonio is about 90 minutes south, and Houston is about three hours east.

When it comes to negotiating downtown Austin, the Colorado River (Town Lake) is a great landmark that essentially splits the city down the middle. Streets that cross the river are marked North on the north side (like North Lamar) and South on the south side (like South Congress).

With the exception of Congress Avenue, Austin's downtown streets that run north and south parallel the order that Texas rivers flow throughout the state -- kind of a neat factoid into Austin's city planning. From east to west, the streets (and the rivers) are: Sabine, Red River, Neches, Trinity, San Jacinto, Brazos, Colorado, Lavaca, Guadalupe, San Antonio, Nueces, and Rio Grande.

The downtown streets that run east to west are all numbered and previously were called the names of Texas trees. And some still are, depending on which part of the street you're on, as do local businesses near those streets. In numerical order (south or north), major downtown streets include Cesar Chavez/First Street; Second Street (Live Oak); Third Street (Cypress); Fourth Street (Cedar); Fifth Street (Pine); Sixth Street (Pecan); Seventh Street (Bois d' Arc); Eighth Street (Hickory); Ninth Street (Ash); 10th Street (Mulberry); and 11th Street (Mesquite).

Safety: Austin has a reputation as being a safe city as far as larger cities are concerned. However, the city tends to be more tourist-friendly west of Interstate 35, where most of the bars and restaurants are anyway. That's not to say you should avoid the east side; there are excellent restaurants there, and neighborhood revitalization programs are in place that have done wonders in recent years. However, there are some areas on the east side that aren't safe to walk through after dark, such as a few streets in the Blackshear-Prospect neighborhood. However, most tourists wouldn't be over here anyway, since most of the east side's popular bars and restaurants aren't near this area. As with visiting any big city, use common sense and stay on well-lit, well-traveled streets.

Population: About 1.4 million people live in the greater metropolitan area, with around 690,000 in Austin itself.

Climate/weather: Austin's climate is considered subtropical, which means it gets pretty hot here, especially in the summer. With an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, average temperatures range between 60 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in July -- but expect anything when you visit. The chilliest day on record was minus-2 degrees Fahrenheit in January 1949, and the hottest day on record was September 5, 2000, when the temperature hit 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of those 100-plus days happen in June, July, and August, but anything's possible.

There's a saying in Texas that if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute, because it's likely to change. While sudden changes in the weather, especially in the summer when late afternoon heat can spark brief thunderstorms, aren't uncommon, Austin's climate is, for the most part, pretty mild. It doesn't ever really get cold here, though freezes in The Hill Country do happen often in the winter. It has snowed in Austin before, though that's a rare occurrence.

Tornados do occur and they can be a threat to the Central Texas area during tornado season, usually March through May, but they're relatively rare in Austin proper.

As for rainfall, the average annual precipitation is just over 31 inches, leaving plenty of good weather to enjoy Austin's wealth of outdoor activities.

Navigating Austin shouldn't pose much of a challenge. Downtown Austin is pedestrian-friendly, and you also can travel by car, bus, or trolley. Go to the next page to see all of our tips about getting around this great Texas city.

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©2006 Micha Capital Metro is Austin's bus system -- rides cost  just 50 cents within the downtown business district.

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Getting In, Getting Around Austin

Austin is an easy city to navigate, in general. You can drive around town or take advantage of Capital Metro, the city's bus system. Just be sure you watch out for occasional road construction. Before making your plans to head to Austin, read this primer on Austin transportation.

From the Airport

Rental car: Car rental is one option for getting from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown Austin. The major car rental companies are conveniently located on the lower level of the airport, just down from the baggage claim area. The companies include Ace, Advantage, Alamo/National, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and Thrifty.

Taxi: Taxi stands are located just outside the doors of the airport's baggage claim area. The city of Austin regulates taxi rates, and the current meter rate is $2 for the first 1/4 mile, 25 cents for each additional 1/8 mile, and a gas surcharge of 10 cents per mile (currently in effect). Waiting time is $22.50 per hour.

Taxi rides that originate at the airport have a $1 surcharge. There's no additional cost for extra passengers, and as many as four passengers can ride for the price of one. As for tipping, it's encouraged for good service. Drivers are independent contractors and they work for themselves. 

Public transportation: Capital Metro, the city's bus system, is another option to get from the airport to Austin. Go to the airport's lower level, where buses depart every 40 minutes. Most individual rides are 50 cents, but make sure to bring quarters because drivers can't make change. For an updated list of bus routes serving the airport, check the Web site.

Shuttle buses to hotels are no charge for guests. Commercial shuttle fares vary, depending if you want a one-way or round-trip ride.

Driving In

Rush hour: Rush hours in Austin can be challenging on the major north-south thoroughfares, Interstate 35 and Mopac (so-named because it parallels the old Missouri-Pacific railroad line). Rush hours are typically 6 to 9 am and 4 to 7 pm weekdays. Be prepared, especially if you're heading north of the city, since delays can range anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour. Still, Austin traffic isn't as bad as many other large cities, and most traffic clears by about 7:30 pm. As for the weekend, driving anywhere is relatively painless with minimal traffic, unless there's a road construction project scheduled that weekend.

Rules of the road: If you're driving, grab a map at the airport before you head out. Austin is a generally easy city when it comes to driving around town, but recent construction means you might be navigating traffic and the occasional alternate route.

Directions to downtown from the airport are well marked; East 7th Street will take you straight into downtown and is an easy route to follow. Once you get downtown from the airport, you'll soon discover that, like many cities, Austin's streets have a naming convention all their own.

As for driving etiquette, never block a crosswalk, especially downtown. This is a city with numerous people who like to walk, and they get very upset if they are forced into oncoming traffic just to cross the street. Cyclists are also in abundance here, thanks to Austin resident Lance Armstrong, so take care when driving and watch for bike riders.

In some areas of town, the middle lane is often used for making right or left turns, so watch for oncoming traffic to be safe.

Getting Around

Public transportation: Capital Metro, the city's bus system, is one of the best ways to get around town. The cost is cheap, too, with individual rides costing just 50 cents within the downtown business district. Make sure you have quarters because drivers can't make change.

You can buy a $5 card that's good for 20 rides (half price), and $10 passes that are good for unlimited riders within one calendar month. Buy passes and fare cards and pick up free bus schedules and route maps at the Capital Metro Transit Store (323 Congress Ave), and at most major supermarkets like H-E-B and Randall's.

Capital Metro also operates a free historic trolley car, called 'Dillo' as a nickname for armadillo. There are several routes, and they all hit popular downtown-area tourist attractions, like the State Capitol, the Lyndon B Johnson Public Library, Barton Springs, and more. There are also free trolley cars that run late Thursday through Sunday for a safe ride after late night downtown partying. For route schedules, check the Web site.

Taxis, on foot, or by bike: With the recent downtown expansion of the Second Street District, plus Austin's Sixth Street Entertainment District and the Fourth Street Warehouse District, walking safely to restaurants and bars is very easy to do. Austin is a walkable city.

Taxis are a good idea if you're heading from one side of town to the other, say from dinner to drinks. A five-minute cab ride is often worth it to avoid blisters from high heels, and taxis are plentiful most days of the week. The current meter rate is $2 for the first 1/4 mile, plus 25 cents for each additional 1/8 mile, and a gas surcharge of 10 cents per mile (currently in effect).

Pedicabs, or tricycles attached to a two-seat mini-carriage, also line the city's downtown streets, as do charming horse-drawn carriages; both are practical and even romantic options to get around downtown on the weekends. Catch a pedicab on 6th Street or in the Warehouse District. Licensed by the city of Austin, cyclists work for tips from customers. The pedicabs comfortably fit two people, but it's best to ask the driver if you want to add more.

When visiting Austin, you'll have your choice of historical sites, music festivals, sporting events, and other activities to keep you busy. Keep reading for our guide to Austin special events and attractions.

©2006 ACVB Photo/University of Texas Autumn in Austin is highlighted by Texas Longhorns football at Darrell K.  Royal Memorial Stadium.

Austin Special Events & Attractions

There's literally always something going on in Austin. Whether it's a music festival, arts and crafts fair, farmers market, museum exhibit, food festival, or a sports event, finding something to do is pretty easy.

When people think of Austin, they think "hip, cool music not like Texas." The city nurtures and celebrates creativity, entrepreneurship, and independence, yet it's a comfortable existence that's easy to love.

There might not be a major sports team in Austin (though San Antonio's Spurs are just 90 minutes south), but you'd never know it because most people here bleed burnt orange for the Texas Longhorns. Whether it's football, baseball, basketball, soccer or any other sport, there are opportunities galore for spectators and sports nuts. Austin's scenic beauty has also made it a mecca of sorts for golf. Pros like Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Fred Couples all have signature courses here.

Austin's also fraught with history, since it's the state capital and home to the Texas Legislature. Don't miss a tour of the Capitol building; it was built in 1888 of Texas Sunset Red granite from nearby Marble Falls, and is the largest statehouse in the country.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Austin

Check out a Texas Longhorns game while you're here. Tickets are especially hard to come by for football games, but they are available. Visit the University of Texas at Austin's sports Web site for ticket information. All of the university's major sports are played on campus: Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium (named after UT's legendary football coach) hosts football, the Frank Erwin Special Events Center is used for basketball, and baseball is played at Red and Charline McCombs Field.

Don't miss a chance to take a dip in -- or just stick your toes in -- Austin's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd). This well-loved natural spring is a cool 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, providing welcome relief on hot summer days to be sure, but also attracting fierce devotees who swim in all seasons, no matter what the weather.

Get active at Zilker Metropolitan Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd), one of the city's most popular hangouts for visitors and locals alike with its volleyball and soccer fields, huge trees, a great playground, and a mini-train for kids big and small that lets visitors tour the 351-acre park in comfort.

Enjoy a walk or run on the Town Lake Trail, the dammed portion of the Colorado River that runs through the middle of downtown Austin. Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive.

This 10-mile path is popular and easily accessed from all downtown hotels. The trail is one reason the city's been named one of the "Top 25 Running Cities" by Runner's World magazine. It's the perfect way to experience Austin's natural beauty. Bring a camera and have your picture taken by the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan -- Austin's native son who launched his stellar blues career here.

While you're on the Town Lake Trail, take a break and stop at the Congress Avenue Bridge to view 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats emerge from under the bridge at dusk and blanket the sky between mid-March to November. There are several points from which to view the event, and an information kiosk is located on the north back of the river, just east of the bridge. Capital Cruises Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd, 512-480-9264) offers bat watching boat tours, but call to make a reservation and arrive at the boat dock 20 to 30 minutes before sunset. During your boat trip, watch for how the city looks amazing with the State Capitol glowing in the distance down Congress Avenue.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St) is another must-do option in New Braunfels between April and September. One of the largest in the country at 65-acres split between two distinct parks, it's been consistently chosen the No. 1 water park in the United States. But don't think this park is just for kids; attractions like the Master Blaster will thrill even the most jaded adult. Best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park.

Before you head out of town, make a stop at the Austin Nature and Science Center (301 Nature Center Dr), a "living nature museum" in Zilker Park that opened in 1960. There's the "Eco-Detective Trail," wildlife exhibits and the incredibly cool Dino Pit exhibit, and an outdoor, hands-on exhibit with six different areas for discovery and exploration. It's great for kids and adults alike -- learning and fun at the same time.

If you're coming to Austin on a whim and aren't operating on a specific timeframe, come for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival or the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The food and wine festival is held each April and has featured foodies with Texas ties, like Bobby Flay and Drew Nieporent. The ACL Festival is named after the PBS show of the same name, which has been on the air for 31 years, and it's known for showcasing the best in new and established music, plus local food and drink, and is a must-attend event for music lovers of all ages.

Austin has a host of great museums to choose from, whether you're looking for modern art at the Blanton Museum of Art or kid-friendly exhibits at the Austin Children's Museum. On the next page, we provide more details about arts and culture in Austin. There's literally always something going on in Austin. Whether it's a music festival, arts and crafts fair, farmers market, museum exhibit, food festival, or a sports event, finding something to do is pretty easy.

When people think of Austin, they think "hip, cool music not like Texas." The city nurtures and celebrates creativity, entrepreneurship, and independence, yet it's a comfortable existence that's easy to love.

There might not be a major sports team in Austin (though San Antonio's Spurs are just 90 minutes south), but you'd never know it because most people here bleed burnt orange for the Texas Longhorns. Whether it's football, baseball, basketball, soccer or any other sport, there are opportunities galore for spectators and sports nuts. Austin's scenic beauty has also made it a mecca of sorts for golf. Pros like Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Fred Couples all have signature courses here.

Austin's also fraught with history, since it's the state capital and home to the Texas Legislature. Don't miss a tour of the Capitol building; it was built in 1888 of Texas Sunset Red granite from nearby Marble Falls, and is the largest statehouse in the country.

©2006 ACVB Photo/University of Texas Autumn in Austin is highlighted by Texas Longhorns football at Darrell K.  Royal Memorial Stadium.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Austin

Check out a Texas Longhorns game while you're here. Tickets are especially hard to come by for football games, but they are available. Visit the University of Texas at Austin's sports Web site for ticket information. All of the university's major sports are played on campus: Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium (named after UT's legendary football coach) hosts football, the Frank Erwin Special Events Center is used for basketball, and baseball is played at Red and Charline McCombs Field.

Don't miss a chance to take a dip in -- or just stick your toes in -- Austin's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd). This well-loved natural spring is a cool 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, providing welcome relief on hot summer days to be sure, but also attracting fierce devotees who swim in all seasons, no matter what the weather.

Get active at Zilker Metropolitan Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd), one of the city's most popular hangouts for visitors and locals alike with its volleyball and soccer fields, huge trees, a great playground, and a mini-train for kids big and small that lets visitors tour the 351-acre park in comfort.

Enjoy a walk or run on the Town Lake Trail, the dammed portion of the Colorado River that runs through the middle of downtown Austin. Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive.

This 10-mile path is popular and easily accessed from all downtown hotels. The trail is one reason the city's been named one of the "Top 25 Running Cities" by Runner's World magazine. It's the perfect way to experience Austin's natural beauty. Bring a camera and have your picture taken by the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan -- Austin's native son who launched his stellar blues career here.

While you're on the Town Lake Trail, take a break and stop at the Congress Avenue Bridge to view 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats emerge from under the bridge at dusk and blanket the sky between mid-March to November. There are several points from which to view the event, and an information kiosk is located on the north back of the river, just east of the bridge. Capital Cruises Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd, 512-480-9264) offers bat watching boat tours, but call to make a reservation and arrive at the boat dock 20 to 30 minutes before sunset. During your boat trip, watch for how the city looks amazing with the State Capitol glowing in the distance down Congress Avenue.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St) is another must-do option in New Braunfels between April and September. One of the largest in the country at 65-acres split between two distinct parks, it's been consistently chosen the No. 1 water park in the United States. But don't think this park is just for kids; attractions like the Master Blaster will thrill even the most jaded adult. Best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park.

Before you head out of town, make a stop at the Austin Nature and Science Center (301 Nature Center Dr), a "living nature museum" in Zilker Park that opened in 1960. There's the "Eco-Detective Trail," wildlife exhibits and the incredibly cool Dino Pit exhibit, and an outdoor, hands-on exhibit with six different areas for discovery and exploration. It's great for kids and adults alike -- learning and fun at the same time.

If you're coming to Austin on a whim and aren't operating on a specific timeframe, come for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival or the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The food and wine festival is held each April and has featured foodies with Texas ties, like Bobby Flay and Drew Nieporent. The ACL Festival is named after the PBS show of the same name, which has been on the air for 31 years, and it's known for showcasing the best in new and established music, plus local food and drink, and is a must-attend event for music lovers of all ages.

Austin has a host of great museums to choose from, whether you're looking for modern art at the Blanton Museum of Art or kid-friendly exhibits at the Austin Children's Museum. On the next page, we provide more details about arts and culture in Austin.

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©2006 ACVB Photo/Ballet Austin You can see performances by Ballet Austin at the Bass Concert Hall.

Austin Arts & Culture

You quickly learn this town takes its art very seriously as soon as you step off the plane at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Music- and Texas-themed art are located all around the airport, including in the baggage claim area. It's a fun introduction to the city.

With the influx of high tech money from "Dellionaires" -- those early employees of Dell, Inc. who reaped the tremendous benefits of multiple stock splits -- other generous benefactors, and enthusiastic city and community support, Austin's arts scene has really exploded in recent years.

The recently opened Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art is the biggest art news to hit Austin in some time, finally bringing together disparate collections from the University of Texas into one centralized location on campus. The Austin Museum of Art's two locations (South Congress and AMOA-Laguna Gloria on West 35th St) are both must-visit stops. The downtown location focuses primarily on 20th-century and contemporary art, whereas the Laguna Gloria location, the museum's original, focuses on the juxtaposition of art and nature.

Even kids get into the act at the Austin Children's Museum and Dell Discovery Center. This very cool museum features tons of hands-on activities, science exhibits, and even an "Austin Kiddie Limits" soundstage where kids can dress up like rock stars and pretend they're part of the show.

Austin is also home to a number of independent galleries, many of which are housed on the University of Texas campus, as well as a few new ones in the Second Street District, including the Shorelines Gallery (221 West Second St) with jewelry, glass art, wood and metal sculpture, bronze sculpture, lithographs, and original paintings.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin is home to many great museums, including the city's newest crown jewel -- the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which opened in April 2006 and is owned by the University of Texas. It covers 180,000 square feet, making it the largest university art museum in the country, and the third largest art museum in Texas. Stellar permanent exhibits include the Contemporary Latin American Art Collection, the Mari and James A. Michener Collection of 20th Century American Art, and the museum's print and drawing collection. The Blanton's permanent collection includes more than 12,000 works of art that span the history of Western civilization.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave) is another must-see attraction, where visitors can get their fill of Texas history and have lunch at the museum's cafe. This fun museum features exhibits and interactive experiences that trace Texas history from before European exploration to the early 1970s. Don't miss the Star of Destiny theater show, visitors' seats shake while watching a gusher from a Texas oil derrick and the takeoff of a Saturn V rocket!

The long-awaited and well-funded Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts (501 West Third St) is under construction now and will eventually replace the former Palmer Auditorium to become the premier address for the performing arts in Austin. Until then, Bass Concert Hall (23rd St at Robert Dedman Dr), located on the University of Texas campus, continues to be the venue for Broadway musicals, classical music performances, dance performances, the Ballet Austin, and much more.

Another gem is the Elisabet Ney Museum (304 East 44th St), a tribute to the renowned 19th-century sculptor and Texas arts pioneer who made her home in Austin. In fact, the museum is actually the artist's former studio.

The Austin Lyric Opera (901 Barton Springs Rd) has won numerous awards for its lyrical presentations, which mainly take place at Bass Concert Hall inside the Performing Arts Building on the University of Texas at Austin campus. You can see international artists and rising American opera performers in this venue.

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden (605 Robert E Lee Rd, off Barton Springs) is another oasis of art in Central Austin, dedicated to the work of American sculptor Charles Umlauf. This garden has 168 pieces of sculpture, plus the artist's home and studio make up the museum.

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River) features photos, sculptures, and portraits of Johnson's years as President, including a 7/8th scale replica of his Oval Office and the actual 1968 stretch limo he used in Washington and Austin.

View contemporary and historical art about Mexican, Latino, and Latin American culture at Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave), which is a non-profit arts organization. You'll also want to check out the back gallery, which is reserved as exhibition space for new talent.

The Zilker Hillside Theater in Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) is a great place to watch drama, ballet, musicals, and symphony concerts for free during the summer under the stars. The theater is officially open from early April until October.

Austin's historic buildings include the State Capitol building, the Governor's Mansion, and charming homes dating back to the 1890s. On the next page, find out more about Austin's architecture and landmarks. You quickly learn this town takes its art very seriously as soon as you step off the plane at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Music- and Texas-themed art are located all around the airport, including in the baggage claim area. It's a fun introduction to the city.

With the influx of high tech money from "Dellionaires" -- those early employees of Dell, Inc. who reaped the tremendous benefits of multiple stock splits -- other generous benefactors, and enthusiastic city and community support, Austin's arts scene has really exploded in recent years.

The recently opened Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art is the biggest art news to hit Austin in some time, finally bringing together disparate collections from the University of Texas into one centralized location on campus. The Austin Museum of Art's two locations (South Congress and AMOA-Laguna Gloria on West 35th St) are both must-visit stops. The downtown location focuses primarily on 20th-century and contemporary art, whereas the Laguna Gloria location, the museum's original, focuses on the juxtaposition of art and nature.

Even kids get into the act at the Austin Children's Museum and Dell Discovery Center. This very cool museum features tons of hands-on activities, science exhibits, and even an "Austin Kiddie Limits" soundstage where kids can dress up like rock stars and pretend they're part of the show.

Austin is also home to a number of independent galleries, many of which are housed on the University of Texas campus, as well as a few new ones in the Second Street District, including the Shorelines Gallery (221 West Second St) with jewelry, glass art, wood and metal sculpture, bronze sculpture, lithographs, and original paintings.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Ballet Austin You can see performances by Ballet Austin at the Bass Concert Hall.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin is home to many great museums, including the city's newest crown jewel -- the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which opened in April 2006 and is owned by the University of Texas. It covers 180,000 square feet, making it the largest university art museum in the country, and the third largest art museum in Texas. Stellar permanent exhibits include the Contemporary Latin American Art Collection, the Mari and James A. Michener Collection of 20th Century American Art, and the museum's print and drawing collection. The Blanton's permanent collection includes more than 12,000 works of art that span the history of Western civilization.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave) is another must-see attraction, where visitors can get their fill of Texas history and have lunch at the museum's cafe. This fun museum features exhibits and interactive experiences that trace Texas history from before European exploration to the early 1970s. Don't miss the Star of Destiny theater show, visitors' seats shake while watching a gusher from a Texas oil derrick and the takeoff of a Saturn V rocket!

The long-awaited and well-funded Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts (501 West Third St) is under construction now and will eventually replace the former Palmer Auditorium to become the premier address for the performing arts in Austin. Until then, Bass Concert Hall (23rd St at Robert Dedman Dr), located on the University of Texas campus, continues to be the venue for Broadway musicals, classical music performances, dance performances, the Ballet Austin, and much more.

Another gem is the Elisabet Ney Museum (304 East 44th St), a tribute to the renowned 19th-century sculptor and Texas arts pioneer who made her home in Austin. In fact, the museum is actually the artist's former studio.

The Austin Lyric Opera (901 Barton Springs Rd) has won numerous awards for its lyrical presentations, which mainly take place at Bass Concert Hall inside the Performing Arts Building on the University of Texas at Austin campus. You can see international artists and rising American opera performers in this venue.

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden (605 Robert E Lee Rd, off Barton Springs) is another oasis of art in Central Austin, dedicated to the work of American sculptor Charles Umlauf. This garden has 168 pieces of sculpture, plus the artist's home and studio make up the museum.

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River) features photos, sculptures, and portraits of Johnson's years as President, including a 7/8th scale replica of his Oval Office and the actual 1968 stretch limo he used in Washington and Austin.

View contemporary and historical art about Mexican, Latino, and Latin American culture at Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave), which is a non-profit arts organization. You'll also want to check out the back gallery, which is reserved as exhibition space for new talent.

The Zilker Hillside Theater in Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) is a great place to watch drama, ballet, musicals, and symphony concerts for free during the summer under the stars. The theater is officially open from early April until October.

Austin's historic buildings include the State Capitol building, the Governor's Mansion, and charming homes dating back to the 1890s. On the next page, find out more about Austin's architecture and landmarks.

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©2006 ACVB Photo/The Driskill Hotel The Driskill Hotel, built in 1886, is Austin's oldest hotel.

Austin Architecture & Landmarks

Austin is more known for its scenic natural beauty and its music than for its architecture, but there are plenty of must-see landmarks in this city. The Governor's Mansion, a Greek Revival masterpiece designed by noted architect Abner Cook, is a real showplace, with the Governor and family in private residences on the second floor. There are also the Moonlight Towers; of the 31 originally bought from the city of Detroit, 17 still survive today. Austin is the only U.S. city that still uses this old tower system to light its city.

Besides the showpiece of the State Capitol building -- definitely the most impressive, architecture-wise, in Austin -- Congress Avenue also boasts its share of beautiful old buildings. St. Edward's University (3001 South Congress) was designed by noted Texas architect Nicholas Clayton and completed in 1887. The school's Old Main Building was once deemed "one of the finest in all of Texas." In fact, a seven-block strip of renovated Victorian and native limestone buildings on East 6th Street between Congress Avenue and Interstate 35 is a National Registered Historic District.

Historic neighborhoods also abound in Austin, from charming homes dating from the 1890s in Hyde Park to the grand estates of Tarrytown in West Austin.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Perhaps the best example of Austin architecture is the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Designed by Abner Cook, who specialized in the Federal style of homes for mostly private residences, the Governor's Mansion was constructed between 1854 and 1856. It has a decidedly Greek Revival look to it, characterized by two-story porticos, Doric columns, and Cook's signature X-and-sticks motif for upper and lower balustrades. Every Texas governor has made his -- or her -- home there, occupying the second story.

Other Cook-designed projects in Austin include the Pease Mansion (6 Niles Rd), built in 1853 and features a front portico and two-story icon columns over the front door, and the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St), which was made of Austin limestone and Bastrop pine in 1855 and designed in a Greek-Revival style with two-story Doric columns across the wide front veranda. The Pease Mansion is privately owned and can be looked at from the street, but you can tour the Neill-Cochran House.

There's also the University of Texas Tower (23rd Street at Guadalupe), which was built in 1936 and is the pride of the University of Texas at Austin. It's 27 stories high -- just a little bit taller than the State Capitol, and it lights up in burnt orange every time there's a UT victory. When UT won the Rose Bowl against football powerhouse the University of Southern California in 2005, the tower glowed burnt orange for nearly two weeks in celebration. There are also gold-plated clocks on each face of the tower that stretch more than 12 feet across. And on August 1, 1966, student Charles Whitman opened fire on the campus below, killing 13 and injuring many others. The observation deck was closed in 1974 after several suicide leaps from the Tower, and stayed closed for the next 25 years until 1999, when UT celebrated its 116th birthday and decided to reopen the deck with a new safety lattice in place.

The Frost Bank Tower (401 Congress Ave) is 515 feet and 9 inches tall, making it the tallest building in Austin. Its silvery blue glass facade includes 200,000 square feet of glass, with 45,000 square feet of glass on the crown alone. The Scarbrough Building (101 6th St) was made in 1911 and is the city's first steel skyscraper.

The One Congress Plaza Building (111 Congress Ave) features a striking stair-steeped pyramid design with a tower camera on its roof, which belongs to KTBC Fox7. The building's 1-acre sunken plaza is landscaped with shady trees, park benches, and a waterfall that cascades down a granite wall.

The Norwood Tower (114 W 7th St) is an ornate Gothic-style high rise and the first building in Austin to have an electric elevator. Former President Lyndon B Johnson was a former owner of the building. Its lobby's ceilings feature 22-karat gold leaf and gold leaf on the exterior facade details.

The Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos) was built in 1886, making it Austin's oldest hotel and a landmark. Former President Lyndon B Johnson stayed at the hotel in 1960 while waiting for election results for his race as vice president to John F Kennedy. Johnson returned in 1964 to listen for the election results of his race for president. The building's east, south, and west facades are topped with a bust of Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel builder, and his two sons.

Shopping in Austin means picking up one-of-a-kind and locally made merchandise you won't find anywhere else. Keep reading to learn more about Austin's shopping scene.

Austin is more known for its scenic natural beauty and its music than for its architecture, but there are plenty of must-see landmarks in this city. The Governor's Mansion, a Greek Revival masterpiece designed by noted architect Abner Cook, is a real showplace, with the Governor and family in private residences on the second floor. There are also the Moonlight Towers; of the 31 originally bought from the city of Detroit, 17 still survive today. Austin is the only U.S. city that still uses this old tower system to light its city.

Besides the showpiece of the State Capitol building -- definitely the most impressive, architecture-wise, in Austin -- Congress Avenue also boasts its share of beautiful old buildings. St. Edward's University (3001 South Congress) was designed by noted Texas architect Nicholas Clayton and completed in 1887. The school's Old Main Building was once deemed "one of the finest in all of Texas." In fact, a seven-block strip of renovated Victorian and native limestone buildings on East 6th Street between Congress Avenue and Interstate 35 is a National Registered Historic District.

Historic neighborhoods also abound in Austin, from charming homes dating from the 1890s in Hyde Park to the grand estates of Tarrytown in West Austin.

©2006 ACVB Photo/The Driskill Hotel The Driskill Hotel, built in 1886, is Austin's oldest hotel.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Perhaps the best example of Austin architecture is the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Designed by Abner Cook, who specialized in the Federal style of homes for mostly private residences, the Governor's Mansion was constructed between 1854 and 1856. It has a decidedly Greek Revival look to it, characterized by two-story porticos, Doric columns, and Cook's signature X-and-sticks motif for upper and lower balustrades. Every Texas governor has made his -- or her -- home there, occupying the second story.

Other Cook-designed projects in Austin include the Pease Mansion (6 Niles Rd), built in 1853 and features a front portico and two-story icon columns over the front door, and the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St), which was made of Austin limestone and Bastrop pine in 1855 and designed in a Greek-Revival style with two-story Doric columns across the wide front veranda. The Pease Mansion is privately owned and can be looked at from the street, but you can tour the Neill-Cochran House.

There's also the University of Texas Tower (23rd Street at Guadalupe), which was built in 1936 and is the pride of the University of Texas at Austin. It's 27 stories high -- just a little bit taller than the State Capitol, and it lights up in burnt orange every time there's a UT victory. When UT won the Rose Bowl against football powerhouse the University of Southern California in 2005, the tower glowed burnt orange for nearly two weeks in celebration. There are also gold-plated clocks on each face of the tower that stretch more than 12 feet across. And on August 1, 1966, student Charles Whitman opened fire on the campus below, killing 13 and injuring many others. The observation deck was closed in 1974 after several suicide leaps from the Tower, and stayed closed for the next 25 years until 1999, when UT celebrated its 116th birthday and decided to reopen the deck with a new safety lattice in place.

The Frost Bank Tower (401 Congress Ave) is 515 feet and 9 inches tall, making it the tallest building in Austin. Its silvery blue glass facade includes 200,000 square feet of glass, with 45,000 square feet of glass on the crown alone. The Scarbrough Building (101 6th St) was made in 1911 and is the city's first steel skyscraper.

The One Congress Plaza Building (111 Congress Ave) features a striking stair-steeped pyramid design with a tower camera on its roof, which belongs to KTBC Fox7. The building's 1-acre sunken plaza is landscaped with shady trees, park benches, and a waterfall that cascades down a granite wall.

The Norwood Tower (114 W 7th St) is an ornate Gothic-style high rise and the first building in Austin to have an electric elevator. Former President Lyndon B Johnson was a former owner of the building. Its lobby's ceilings feature 22-karat gold leaf and gold leaf on the exterior facade details.

The Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos) was built in 1886, making it Austin's oldest hotel and a landmark. Former President Lyndon B Johnson stayed at the hotel in 1960 while waiting for election results for his race as vice president to John F Kennedy. Johnson returned in 1964 to listen for the election results of his race for president. The building's east, south, and west facades are topped with a bust of Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel builder, and his two sons.

Shopping in Austin means picking up one-of-a-kind and locally made merchandise you won't find anywhere else. Keep reading to learn more about Austin's shopping scene.

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©2006 Justin Cox At Kick Pleat, located in Austin's South First Street area, you can shop for chic and pricey clothing.

Austin Shopping

The neat thing about shopping in Austin is that you're bound to come accross something that you won't find anywhere else -- and that it was likely made by someone who lives here. Find funky treasures and great vintage stores on South Congress, re-made duds near the University of Texas campus, or high-end shopping at the boutiques on Second Street.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Austin

The coolest shopping district in Austin is the area known as "SoCo" or South Congress Avenue. Vintage and thrift shops share space with high-end salons and chi-chi clothing and jewelry stores. But it would be a crime to ignore other hot shopping areas and stores like Anthony Nak (800 Brazos), a duo whose exquisite jewelry designs are favorites of local hipsters and international celebrities; and Eliza Page (229 West Second St), where you'll want to pick up accessories by local designer Kendra Scott, who designed the jewelry for Oscar de la Renta's spring 2006 line.

In the South First Street area, Kick Pleat (910 South First) and Tryst (1002 South First) feature chic (and pricey) men's and women's clothes, and Sabia (1100 S First) is the salon to go to for skin, hair, facials, and massages.

The Arboretum at Great Hills Shopping Center (1000 Research Blvd at Great Hills Drive and the Capitol of Texas Highway) is a two-level 45-store mall of boutiques, art galleries, upscale chain stores, and restaurants. Some shoppers simply call it "The Arboretum." You'll find a fountain and cow sculptures dressing up the area between stores like The Sharper Image, Heroes and Legacies, Chico's, April Cornell, and Gymboree.

For bargain hunters and super shoppers alike, don't miss the brand-new Round Rock Premium Outlets (150 Park Dr, Round Rock), a 430,000-square-foot open-air upscale village-style outlet shopping center that opened in August 2006. Just north of Austin, shoppers will find a single-level outdoor village with stores like Calvin Klein, Coach, Kenneth Cole, Michael Nors, J Crew, The Gap, and more. Also in northwest Austin is Lakeline Mall (11200 Lakeline Mall Dr), which includes more than 150 stores such as Dillard's, Foley's, and Mervyn's, along with a nine-screen theatre, two sit-down restaurants, and a nine-merchant food court.

There's also the newly remodeled Barton Creek Square Mall (2901 S Capital of Texas Highway), which has major department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops like Brookstone, Victoria's Secret, and Nine West.

The Brodie Oaks and Brodie Oaks II Shopping Centers (northwest corner of South Lamar Boulevard and Highway 290) includes major stores like Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance, Mervyn's and Tuesday Morning.

The 26 Doors Shopping Center (1206 W 38th St at Medical Parkway) is designed to be a little oasis in the middle of the city. This shopping center has eclectic shops like The Hairs Lair, Root and Ridge Toymaker, and Telfair at Home.

If you think you'll find only organic fruits and vegetables at Austin's two biggest farmers markets, think again. Imagine fresh bread, unique handcrafted jewelry, homemade candles, hip skirts and blouses, sculpture, pottery, and much more. The Sunset Valley Market (in the parking lot of Toney Burger Center in South Austin) is open between 9:30 am to 1:30 pm Saturdays. Austin Farmer's Market downtown in Republic Square (Fourth Street and Guadalupe) is open from 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays.

Once you've finished shopping, you may want to explore the nightlife and entertainment venues in Austin. The choices -- especially those involving music -- seem endless, as you'll find out in the following section.

The neat thing about shopping in Austin is that you're bound to come accross something that you won't find anywhere else -- and that it was likely made by someone who lives here. Find funky treasures and great vintage stores on South Congress, re-made duds near the University of Texas campus, or high-end shopping at the boutiques on Second Street.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Austin

The coolest shopping district in Austin is the area known as "SoCo" or South Congress Avenue. Vintage and thrift shops share space with high-end salons and chi-chi clothing and jewelry stores. But it would be a crime to ignore other hot shopping areas and stores like Anthony Nak (800 Brazos), a duo whose exquisite jewelry designs are favorites of local hipsters and international celebrities; and Eliza Page (229 West Second St), where you'll want to pick up accessories by local designer Kendra Scott, who designed the jewelry for Oscar de la Renta's spring 2006 line.

In the South First Street area, Kick Pleat (910 South First) and Tryst (1002 South First) feature chic (and pricey) men's and women's clothes, and Sabia (1100 S First) is the salon to go to for skin, hair, facials, and massages.

©2006 Justin Cox At Kick Pleat, located in Austin's South First Street area, you can shop for chic and pricey clothing.

The Arboretum at Great Hills Shopping Center (1000 Research Blvd at Great Hills Drive and the Capitol of Texas Highway) is a two-level 45-store mall of boutiques, art galleries, upscale chain stores, and restaurants. Some shoppers simply call it "The Arboretum." You'll find a fountain and cow sculptures dressing up the area between stores like The Sharper Image, Heroes and Legacies, Chico's, April Cornell, and Gymboree.

For bargain hunters and super shoppers alike, don't miss the brand-new Round Rock Premium Outlets (150 Park Dr, Round Rock), a 430,000-square-foot open-air upscale village-style outlet shopping center that opened in August 2006. Just north of Austin, shoppers will find a single-level outdoor village with stores like Calvin Klein, Coach, Kenneth Cole, Michael Nors, J Crew, The Gap, and more. Also in northwest Austin is Lakeline Mall (11200 Lakeline Mall Dr), which includes more than 150 stores such as Dillard's, Foley's, and Mervyn's, along with a nine-screen theatre, two sit-down restaurants, and a nine-merchant food court.

There's also the newly remodeled Barton Creek Square Mall (2901 S Capital of Texas Highway), which has major department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops like Brookstone, Victoria's Secret, and Nine West.

The Brodie Oaks and Brodie Oaks II Shopping Centers (northwest corner of South Lamar Boulevard and Highway 290) includes major stores like Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance, Mervyn's and Tuesday Morning.

The 26 Doors Shopping Center (1206 W 38th St at Medical Parkway) is designed to be a little oasis in the middle of the city. This shopping center has eclectic shops like The Hairs Lair, Root and Ridge Toymaker, and Telfair at Home.

If you think you'll find only organic fruits and vegetables at Austin's two biggest farmers markets, think again. Imagine fresh bread, unique handcrafted jewelry, homemade candles, hip skirts and blouses, sculpture, pottery, and much more. The Sunset Valley Market (in the parking lot of Toney Burger Center in South Austin) is open between 9:30 am to 1:30 pm Saturdays. Austin Farmer's Market downtown in Republic Square (Fourth Street and Guadalupe) is open from 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays.

Once you've finished shopping, you may want to explore the nightlife and entertainment venues in Austin. The choices -- especially those involving music -- seem endless, as you'll find out in the following section.

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©2006 ACVB/The Oasis Restaurant The Oasis, a lakefront restaurant, is a favorite spot for watching the sun go down.

Austin Nightlife & Entertainment

A vibrant nightlife, especially live music and good margaritas, goes hand-in-hand with a work-hard, play-hard attitude that translates into an active social scene. Despite the unfortunate demise of popular live music venues like Steamboat and Liberty Lunch, Austin is still the place for live music, with something going on seven nights a week. The city promotes the music with free noon concerts each Friday, and nearly every restaurant and bar in town has a band playing most nights.

Sixth Street is in a class by itself, with a mix of shot bars, billiards halls, restaurants, and dance clubs that attract students, tourists, and 30-somethings out on the town, while the Fourth Street Warehouse District is a slightly older crowd, enjoying martinis, expensive meals, and plenty of people-watching.

The Second Street area is the newest kid on the entertainment block in Austin. With its mix of high-rise living and young successful professionals, it's attracted a wide range of people who want to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in an urban setting. South Congress Avenue, at one time known for its street walkers, is now home to such famed live music venues as The Continental Club and the ultra-hip Hotel San Jose.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

When in Austin, go see live music. It's what locals do every weekend and sometimes seven days a week, if they so choose, since there's somebody playing somewhere every night. Check out the Austin Chronicle, the city's entertainment and alternative news weekly, for club listings.

The city of Austin sponsors a noon concert Fridays in front of Austin City Hall (301 W Second St), which is a great way to start the weekend.

No visit to Austin is complete without partying on Sixth Street, so make that your first priority. Several new bars and clubs have opened, including Barcelona (209 East Sixth), an underground basement bar; Maiko Sushi Lounge (311 West Sixth) with its modern design; and Hi-Lo (301 West Sixth), a cool retro-style hangout.

The Fourth Street Warehouse District is cool with an edge -- the edge of age, that is. Those past the ripe age of 35 tend to gravitate here, and for good reason. The martinis are good at Cedar Street Courtyard (208 West Fourth); the entertainment and live music worth the trip to La Zona Rosa (612 West Fourth); and there's even a celebrity bar, Six (117 West 4th), partially owned by Lance Armstrong.

The Continental Club (1315 S Congress Ave) is a local favorite, as are Antone's (213 West Fifth St) and Stubb's BBQ (801 Red River), where you can enjoy barbecue brisket and chicken as you listen to quality jazz and other tunes.

Beyond the downtown party life, there's plenty to do on the water, with lakeside haunts like Carlos & Charlie's (5923 Hi Line Rd) and one of the area's best live music venues in The Backyard (13101 Highway 71 West), an outdoor amphitheater set smack in the middle of the Hill Country that has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, Death Cab for Cutie, and Lyle Lovett. The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is a perfect spot to begin your evening. It's located next to Lake Travis, and people flock there to watch the sun go down.

Since Austin's known for live music, there are plenty of free and family-oriented events that don't require a sitter and a cab to Sixth Street. The "Live at the Grove" series of free summer concerts at Shady Grove (1624 Barton Springs), a popular local burger joint near Zilker Park, is very popular and attracts all manner of Austinites.

For those who aren't into the bar scene, check out Esther's Follies (525 East 6th) for a night of laughs and pure entertainment. The show is a hoot, combining magic, vaudeville, and pure Improv comedy. Definitely call ahead for reservations; this is one popular attraction!

There's also Pete's Dueling Piano Bar (421 East 6th), where Texas heritage is celebrated, bawdiness applies, and fun is a requirement.

Or, catch a unique movie at Austin's own Alamo Drafthouse Theater (409 Colorado at 4th St), where you can check out a fun flick and order something to eat and drink while you're watching it from Alamo's fun movie-themed full menu. The Splendor in the Grass vegetarian pizza is great, as is the popular Godfather, with plenty of pepperoni, of course. Don't miss the Fried Pickles -- they are worth every calorie!

If you'd rather relax and unwind while visiting Austin, outdoor activities are your best bet. Three lakes grace this city, and it's home to some of the nation's best hiking trails. The city also offers several fine spas from which to choose. On the next page, we outline some of the best options for relaxing and unwinding in Austin. A vibrant nightlife, especially live music and good margaritas, goes hand-in-hand with a work-hard, play-hard attitude that translates into an active social scene. Despite the unfortunate demise of popular live music venues like Steamboat and Liberty Lunch, Austin is still the place for live music, with something going on seven nights a week. The city promotes the music with free noon concerts each Friday, and nearly every restaurant and bar in town has a band playing most nights.

Sixth Street is in a class by itself, with a mix of shot bars, billiards halls, restaurants, and dance clubs that attract students, tourists, and 30-somethings out on the town, while the Fourth Street Warehouse District is a slightly older crowd, enjoying martinis, expensive meals, and plenty of people-watching.

The Second Street area is the newest kid on the entertainment block in Austin. With its mix of high-rise living and young successful professionals, it's attracted a wide range of people who want to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in an urban setting. South Congress Avenue, at one time known for its street walkers, is now home to such famed live music venues as The Continental Club and the ultra-hip Hotel San Jose.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

©2006 ACVB/The Oasis Restaurant The Oasis, a lakefront restaurant, is a favorite spot for watching the sun go down.

When in Austin, go see live music. It's what locals do every weekend and sometimes seven days a week, if they so choose, since there's somebody playing somewhere every night. Check out the Austin Chronicle, the city's entertainment and alternative news weekly, for club listings.

The city of Austin sponsors a noon concert Fridays in front of Austin City Hall (301 W Second St), which is a great way to start the weekend.

No visit to Austin is complete without partying on Sixth Street, so make that your first priority. Several new bars and clubs have opened, including Barcelona (209 East Sixth), an underground basement bar; Maiko Sushi Lounge (311 West Sixth) with its modern design; and Hi-Lo (301 West Sixth), a cool retro-style hangout.

The Fourth Street Warehouse District is cool with an edge -- the edge of age, that is. Those past the ripe age of 35 tend to gravitate here, and for good reason. The martinis are good at Cedar Street Courtyard (208 West Fourth); the entertainment and live music worth the trip to La Zona Rosa (612 West Fourth); and there's even a celebrity bar, Six (117 West 4th), partially owned by Lance Armstrong.

The Continental Club (1315 S Congress Ave) is a local favorite, as are Antone's (213 West Fifth St) and Stubb's BBQ (801 Red River), where you can enjoy barbecue brisket and chicken as you listen to quality jazz and other tunes.

Beyond the downtown party life, there's plenty to do on the water, with lakeside haunts like Carlos & Charlie's (5923 Hi Line Rd) and one of the area's best live music venues in The Backyard (13101 Highway 71 West), an outdoor amphitheater set smack in the middle of the Hill Country that has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, Death Cab for Cutie, and Lyle Lovett. The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is a perfect spot to begin your evening. It's located next to Lake Travis, and people flock there to watch the sun go down.

Since Austin's known for live music, there are plenty of free and family-oriented events that don't require a sitter and a cab to Sixth Street. The "Live at the Grove" series of free summer concerts at Shady Grove (1624 Barton Springs), a popular local burger joint near Zilker Park, is very popular and attracts all manner of Austinites.

For those who aren't into the bar scene, check out Esther's Follies (525 East 6th) for a night of laughs and pure entertainment. The show is a hoot, combining magic, vaudeville, and pure Improv comedy. Definitely call ahead for reservations; this is one popular attraction!

There's also Pete's Dueling Piano Bar (421 East 6th), where Texas heritage is celebrated, bawdiness applies, and fun is a requirement.

Or, catch a unique movie at Austin's own Alamo Drafthouse Theater (409 Colorado at 4th St), where you can check out a fun flick and order something to eat and drink while you're watching it from Alamo's fun movie-themed full menu. The Splendor in the Grass vegetarian pizza is great, as is the popular Godfather, with plenty of pepperoni, of course. Don't miss the Fried Pickles -- they are worth every calorie!

If you'd rather relax and unwind while visiting Austin, outdoor activities are your best bet. Three lakes grace this city, and it's home to some of the nation's best hiking trails. The city also offers several fine spas from which to choose. On the next page, we outline some of the best options for relaxing and unwinding in Austin.

adAfterBody

©2006 Kaanah Nature's beauty is showcased at Zilker Botanical Gardens.

Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

A lot of unwinding in Austin happens on the water. Town Lake is one of three lakes that are the jewels of the city: there's also Lake Austin, close to downtown, and Lake Travis, north of the city, and each offer stunning views, smooth water for skiing and wakeboarding, and plenty of places to simply hang out and enjoy the scenery.

With about 300 days of sunshine each year, it's not surprising that outdoor activities are tops on most Austinites' list of things to do to relax. The American Hiking Society named the Barton Creek Greenbelt No. 2 on its list of "top 10 top walking trails," and the Bull Creek Greenbelt in northwest Austin is another local favorite.

There's nothing quite as relaxing as a spa, and there are several notables to choose from in Austin -- whether you want a half-day of pampering, a meditative retreat, or a few days of rejuvenation.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, has classes to feed your soul and move your body, and a setting that takes full advantage of the introspective beauty of the Hill Country. Overlooking parts of Lake Travis and just a half-hour from downtown Austin, the Crossings offers workshops with the likes of Martha Beck, David Whyte, and others, and personal retreats where you stay for as long as you want. Meals are included, and you can choose from spa services such as the hot and cold stone massage.

Austin's known for its great golf courses, such as the Twin Creeks Golf Course, (3201 Twin Creeks Club Dr, Cedar Park) designed by Masters champion Fred Couples. The Palmer Lakeside Golf Course (8212 Barton Club Dr) was designed by Arnold Palmer. The Cimarron Hills Golf Course (103 Cimarron Hills Trail, Georgetown) was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

You can also spend time at the links at Falconhead Golf Club (15201 Falconhead Blvd), America's First PGA Tour Signature Series golf course, and is open to the public seven days a week. In Round Rock, Teravista (4333 Teravista Club Dr) is another popular course. Ringed by luxury homes, Central Texas' only Troon Golf course -- known for its luxury golf amenities -- was voted No. 1 by Avid Golfer magazine for Best Service, Best Practice Facility, and Best Pro Shop.

Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928. Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Kite, and Ben Crenshaw (Kite and Crenshaw are both UT grads) have all played at Lion's, which covers just 6,001 yards. Make reservations at least a week in advance; both, especially Lion's, are very popular among locals.

Take time to explore Austin's scenery and tranquil terrain with a day trip to the Barton Creek Greenbelt (2201 Barton Springs Rd). At nearly eight miles long and 809 acres, there's plenty to see. Imagine sheer cliff walls, green everywhere, and swimming holes galore, the Barton Creek greenbelt is a local favorite. If you can pull your own weight, try the Gus Fruh, Loop 360, and Spyglass access points along the trail.

The Highland Lakes are another worthwhile daytrip -- or overnight stay for true relaxation. Located about 85 miles northwest of Austin and heading in toward the city itself, these six lakes in the eastern part of the Texas Hill Country (including Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis, and Lake Austin) are oases in the midst of rolling hills and greenery. Cyclists: be prepared for heaven -- and don't forget your wheels. Boaters, fishermen and women, and campers also will enjoy the incredible scenery; there's definitely something for everyone here.

McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Parkway) is another popular Austin gem. Between stunning scenery, hidden swimming holes, camping, mountain and road biking trails, fishing and more, there's plenty to do in this 744-acre park.

The Veloway, located about 15 minutes south of downtown Austin in south Austin just off South Mopac (4801 La Crosse Ave) is another unexpected oasis of activity. Created specifically for rollerbladers and cyclists, this 3.1 mile paved loop through beautiful Hill Country is a great way to commune with nature.

Zilker Botanical Gardens (2220 Barton Springs Rd), is a relaxing place to meditate and enjoy the gardens, especially the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, located where dinosaur tracks were found in 1992, and the Green Garden, where local designers showcase native plants. Don't miss the Taniguchi Oriental Garden; it's truly a transcendental and peaceful place.

If you're not sure where to start with your Austin sightseeing, an organized tour might be just the thing. Go to the next page for our overview of organized tours in Austin. A lot of unwinding in Austin happens on the water. Town Lake is one of three lakes that are the jewels of the city: there's also Lake Austin, close to downtown, and Lake Travis, north of the city, and each offer stunning views, smooth water for skiing and wakeboarding, and plenty of places to simply hang out and enjoy the scenery.

With about 300 days of sunshine each year, it's not surprising that outdoor activities are tops on most Austinites' list of things to do to relax. The American Hiking Society named the Barton Creek Greenbelt No. 2 on its list of "top 10 top walking trails," and the Bull Creek Greenbelt in northwest Austin is another local favorite.

There's nothing quite as relaxing as a spa, and there are several notables to choose from in Austin -- whether you want a half-day of pampering, a meditative retreat, or a few days of rejuvenation.

©2006 Kaanah Nature's beauty is showcased at Zilker Botanical Gardens.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, has classes to feed your soul and move your body, and a setting that takes full advantage of the introspective beauty of the Hill Country. Overlooking parts of Lake Travis and just a half-hour from downtown Austin, the Crossings offers workshops with the likes of Martha Beck, David Whyte, and others, and personal retreats where you stay for as long as you want. Meals are included, and you can choose from spa services such as the hot and cold stone massage.

Austin's known for its great golf courses, such as the Twin Creeks Golf Course, (3201 Twin Creeks Club Dr, Cedar Park) designed by Masters champion Fred Couples. The Palmer Lakeside Golf Course (8212 Barton Club Dr) was designed by Arnold Palmer. The Cimarron Hills Golf Course (103 Cimarron Hills Trail, Georgetown) was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

You can also spend time at the links at Falconhead Golf Club (15201 Falconhead Blvd), America's First PGA Tour Signature Series golf course, and is open to the public seven days a week. In Round Rock, Teravista (4333 Teravista Club Dr) is another popular course. Ringed by luxury homes, Central Texas' only Troon Golf course -- known for its luxury golf amenities -- was voted No. 1 by Avid Golfer magazine for Best Service, Best Practice Facility, and Best Pro Shop.

Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928. Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Kite, and Ben Crenshaw (Kite and Crenshaw are both UT grads) have all played at Lion's, which covers just 6,001 yards. Make reservations at least a week in advance; both, especially Lion's, are very popular among locals.

Take time to explore Austin's scenery and tranquil terrain with a day trip to the Barton Creek Greenbelt (2201 Barton Springs Rd). At nearly eight miles long and 809 acres, there's plenty to see. Imagine sheer cliff walls, green everywhere, and swimming holes galore, the Barton Creek greenbelt is a local favorite. If you can pull your own weight, try the Gus Fruh, Loop 360, and Spyglass access points along the trail.

The Highland Lakes are another worthwhile daytrip -- or overnight stay for true relaxation. Located about 85 miles northwest of Austin and heading in toward the city itself, these six lakes in the eastern part of the Texas Hill Country (including Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis, and Lake Austin) are oases in the midst of rolling hills and greenery. Cyclists: be prepared for heaven -- and don't forget your wheels. Boaters, fishermen and women, and campers also will enjoy the incredible scenery; there's definitely something for everyone here.

McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Parkway) is another popular Austin gem. Between stunning scenery, hidden swimming holes, camping, mountain and road biking trails, fishing and more, there's plenty to do in this 744-acre park.

The Veloway, located about 15 minutes south of downtown Austin in south Austin just off South Mopac (4801 La Crosse Ave) is another unexpected oasis of activity. Created specifically for rollerbladers and cyclists, this 3.1 mile paved loop through beautiful Hill Country is a great way to commune with nature.

Zilker Botanical Gardens (2220 Barton Springs Rd), is a relaxing place to meditate and enjoy the gardens, especially the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, located where dinosaur tracks were found in 1992, and the Green Garden, where local designers showcase native plants. Don't miss the Taniguchi Oriental Garden; it's truly a transcendental and peaceful place.

If you're not sure where to start with your Austin sightseeing, an organized tour might be just the thing. Go to the next page for our overview of organized tours in Austin.

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©2006 Houstonian You can view Austin and the surrounding Hill Country on a Hill Country Flyer train ride.

Austin Organized Tours Overview

If you want to take an organized tour of Austin, there are plenty of options. See Austin from the land and from the lake in an authentic amphibious military landing vehicle with Austin Duck Adventures Tours (1605 W 5th St). You'll see the State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum, and Sixth Street while learning about Austin. It's wise to make reservations one to two months in advance; these tours are very popular with locals and visitors alike!

Capital Cruises Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd, 512/480-9264) offers tours of Town Lake with a sunset cruise on the Lone Star Riverboat, an authentic, double-decker paddleboat. And, from May through October, it's the best way to see the bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge -- far preferable to huddling with peering crowds on top of the bridge.

Try an alternative form of transportation with Austin's Segway Tours (621 East 6th St). After training and orientation, you'll be zooming around the city on your own personal Segway while listening to a professional guide discuss the city's landmarks, including Town Lake, Congress Avenue, the UT Tower and more. Riders must be 12 and older; reservations are recommended.

Give your feet a rest and kick back on the Hill Country Flyer (610 Brazos) for a leisurely train ride through Austin and the surrounding Hill Country. Choose between a coach (authentic 1920s rail car) and lounge (more modern cars with complimentary snacks and soft drinks) car, and enjoy the ride.

Believe in ghosts? Austin Ghost Tours (617 Congress Ave), featured in USA Today, might make you think otherwise on its tour of Austin landmarks renowned for its ghosts, including the luxury Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos St).

The hotel you choose is a key part of a visit to any city. Austin hotels include the hip, the cool, the contemporary, and the luxurious. Can't decide where to stay? Read our guide to Austin's hotels on the next page. If you want to take an organized tour of Austin, there are plenty of options. See Austin from the land and from the lake in an authentic amphibious military landing vehicle with Austin Duck Adventures Tours (1605 W 5th St). You'll see the State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum, and Sixth Street while learning about Austin. It's wise to make reservations one to two months in advance; these tours are very popular with locals and visitors alike!

©2006 Houstonian You can view Austin and the surrounding Hill Country on a Hill Country Flyer train ride.

Capital Cruises Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd, 512/480-9264) offers tours of Town Lake with a sunset cruise on the Lone Star Riverboat, an authentic, double-decker paddleboat. And, from May through October, it's the best way to see the bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge -- far preferable to huddling with peering crowds on top of the bridge.

Try an alternative form of transportation with Austin's Segway Tours (621 East 6th St). After training and orientation, you'll be zooming around the city on your own personal Segway while listening to a professional guide discuss the city's landmarks, including Town Lake, Congress Avenue, the UT Tower and more. Riders must be 12 and older; reservations are recommended.

Give your feet a rest and kick back on the Hill Country Flyer (610 Brazos) for a leisurely train ride through Austin and the surrounding Hill Country. Choose between a coach (authentic 1920s rail car) and lounge (more modern cars with complimentary snacks and soft drinks) car, and enjoy the ride.

Believe in ghosts? Austin Ghost Tours (617 Congress Ave), featured in USA Today, might make you think otherwise on its tour of Austin landmarks renowned for its ghosts, including the luxury Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos St).

The hotel you choose is a key part of a visit to any city. Austin hotels include the hip, the cool, the contemporary, and the luxurious. Can't decide where to stay? Read our guide to Austin's hotels on the next page.

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©2006 ACVB Photo/Hilton The Hilton Austin, conveniently located across the street from the Austin Convention Center, is one of the city's newest hotels.

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Austin Hotels Guide

Austin has been hopping when it comes to hotels. The Mobil Three-Star Omni Austin Hotel (700 San Jacinto Blvd) was recently renovated. The Hilton Austin (500 East 4th St), across the street from the Austin Convention Center and within walking distance to several bars and restaurants, opened about a year ago. The Mobil Three-Star Hyatt Regency Austin (208 Barton Springs Rd) is a contemporary hotel located on the shores of Town Lake in downtown Austin.

When it comes to hip and cool, however, the only place to hang your hat is at the bungalow-style Hotel San Jose (1316 South Congress), where you're likely to see musicians, celebrities, and a wide range of folks hanging out at the hotel bar, or around the boutique-size swimming pool. After all, who has time to swim when The Continental Club is across the street? With just 40 rooms, this place fills up equally fast with both out-of-towers and locals looking for a hip getaway without ever leaving town, so make reservations well in advance.

 

If you're looking for luxury accommodations, the place to stay is at the Mobil Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Austin (98 San Jacinto Blvd). It's the place to see and be seen, since it's a favorite celebrity hangout, and the hotel is known for its stellar service -- and its $195 margarita!

Another favorite is the legendary Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel (604 Brazos St). Built in 1886, this historic Texas hotel features opulent furnishings, a marble lobby floor, and Art Deco styling. It's also known for its political ties -- then and now. President George W. Bush made the hotel his headquarters while awaiting the results of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election as did Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and 1964.

The Mobil Three-Star InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave) is another favorite with its upscale Texas decor, primo bar overlooking the Congress Avenue streetscape, and a great view of the State Capitol building at night.

The Mobil Three-Star Mansion at Judge's Hill (1900 Rio Grande) is a luxurious addition when it comes to boutique hotels. This 48-room hotel and restaurant with its indulgent massages, 310-thread count sheets, and top cuisine is another favorite.

More hotels are also in the works as the city continues to attract more and more tourists, business and convention travel, including a massive Marriott hotel complex proposed for the block surrounded by Congress Avenue and Second, Third, and Brazos streets.

Anytime's a good time to visit Austin, but be forewarned that hotel rooms can be difficult to come by during the month of March (South by Southwest), during UT football home games, and during the Austin City Limits Music Festival (September). Plan well and make reservations as soon as you can to ensure you have a place to stay during these busy times.

Hotel taxes are 15 percent, the city sales tax rate is 8.25 percent, and hotel parking can cost anywhere between $8 and $15 per day.

When it comes to Austin cuisine, you'll find some fine Mexican and barbeque fare, as you'd expect, but that's not all. Keep reading to learn about dining in Austin.

©2006 ACVB Photo Amy's Ice Cream is an Austin favorite -- locals love the Mexican vanilla ice cream.

Austin Restaurants Guide

You can bet that the home of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival is going to have some great dining options. From barbeque to Mexican fare and everything in between, Austin is a foodie's heaven.

Pick up lunch to go at the new downtown Whole Foods (601 North Lamar at 6th Street), where you'll find a dizzying array of international buffet choices (the Indian food, especially the Green Pea Curry, is great) and many vegetarian options in the chef's case, or enjoy it there with a glass of wine while listening to live music on the rooftop.

Best bets for barbeque include the Mobil One-Star County Line on the Hill (6500 W Bee Cave Rd, just past 360); Artz Rib House (2330 South Lamar); and Stubb's Bar-B-Q (801 Red River). All are known for their brisket, smoked sausage, ribs and generally mouth-watering, tender barbecue as an art form.

Splurge on a quality meal at Aquarelle (606 Rio Grande), a 25-year Austin institution known for its incredible French cuisine. Try the pastry tarts, steamed mussels, and foie gras.

At the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), where Chef David Bull was named one of the top new chefs by Food & Wine, try the Bandera Quail and the Texas Chop Salad; both are local favorites.

At Mobil Three-Star Jeffrey's Restaurant and Bar (1204 West Lynn St), the restaurant is equally as well known as the favorite dining destination of President George W. Bush as it is for its Chocolate Intemperance dessert. Try the baby arugula salad with blue cheese and peach vinaigrette, or the hanger steak with a paprika chimichurri sauce.

Other top picks include the upscale Uchi sushi bar (801 South Lamar), where Coldplay star Chris Martin and wife Gwyneth Paltrow dined several times when the band was in town for the 2005 ACL Festival. Try the maguro sashimi and goat cheese with Fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil.

Wink (1014 North Lamar) has a seasonal menu that changes daily and a great intimate wine bar. Order the quail with risotto and indulge in the famous El Rey chocolate cake for dessert.

Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 West North Loop Blvd) has been known for more than 30 years for its fine Mexican food, immensely popular Sunday brunch, and fresh lime margaritas. Grab a table and try the Ancho Relleno San Miguel.

Reservations are usually suggested and required, except for a few popular places that simply don't take them, including upscale Italian hotspot Vespaio (1610 South Congress) and the romantic Castle Hill Cafe (1101 West 5th). At Vespaio, the homemade gnocchi are melt-in-your-mouth delicious; at Castle Hill, southwestern is the specialty -- the fried goat cheese appetizer with an ancho chutney is a great example.

For dessert, don't leave town without a stop at Amy's Ice Cream (1012 West 6th), another homegrown Austin favorite whose Mexican vanilla ice cream is the best thing you've ever tasted. And yes, there is an Amy.

You've just read about the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Austin. How will you fit everything into your trip? Go to the next page for suggested itineraries to use while visiting Austin. You can bet that the home of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival is going to have some great dining options. From barbeque to Mexican fare and everything in between, Austin is a foodie's heaven.

©2006 ACVB Photo Amy's Ice Cream is an Austin favorite -- locals love the Mexican vanilla ice cream.

Pick up lunch to go at the new downtown Whole Foods (601 North Lamar at 6th Street), where you'll find a dizzying array of international buffet choices (the Indian food, especially the Green Pea Curry, is great) and many vegetarian options in the chef's case, or enjoy it there with a glass of wine while listening to live music on the rooftop.

Best bets for barbeque include the Mobil One-Star County Line on the Hill (6500 W Bee Cave Rd, just past 360); Artz Rib House (2330 South Lamar); and Stubb's Bar-B-Q (801 Red River). All are known for their brisket, smoked sausage, ribs and generally mouth-watering, tender barbecue as an art form.

Splurge on a quality meal at Aquarelle (606 Rio Grande), a 25-year Austin institution known for its incredible French cuisine. Try the pastry tarts, steamed mussels, and foie gras.

At the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), where Chef David Bull was named one of the top new chefs by Food & Wine, try the Bandera Quail and the Texas Chop Salad; both are local favorites.

At Mobil Three-Star Jeffrey's Restaurant and Bar (1204 West Lynn St), the restaurant is equally as well known as the favorite dining destination of President George W. Bush as it is for its Chocolate Intemperance dessert. Try the baby arugula salad with blue cheese and peach vinaigrette, or the hanger steak with a paprika chimichurri sauce.

Other top picks include the upscale Uchi sushi bar (801 South Lamar), where Coldplay star Chris Martin and wife Gwyneth Paltrow dined several times when the band was in town for the 2005 ACL Festival. Try the maguro sashimi and goat cheese with Fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil.

Wink (1014 North Lamar) has a seasonal menu that changes daily and a great intimate wine bar. Order the quail with risotto and indulge in the famous El Rey chocolate cake for dessert.

Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 West North Loop Blvd) has been known for more than 30 years for its fine Mexican food, immensely popular Sunday brunch, and fresh lime margaritas. Grab a table and try the Ancho Relleno San Miguel.

Reservations are usually suggested and required, except for a few popular places that simply don't take them, including upscale Italian hotspot Vespaio (1610 South Congress) and the romantic Castle Hill Cafe (1101 West 5th). At Vespaio, the homemade gnocchi are melt-in-your-mouth delicious; at Castle Hill, southwestern is the specialty -- the fried goat cheese appetizer with an ancho chutney is a great example.

For dessert, don't leave town without a stop at Amy's Ice Cream (1012 West 6th), another homegrown Austin favorite whose Mexican vanilla ice cream is the best thing you've ever tasted. And yes, there is an Amy.

You've just read about the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Austin. How will you fit everything into your trip? Go to the next page for suggested itineraries to use while visiting Austin.

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©2006 ACVB Photo The spring water in Barton Springs Pool is an average of 68 degrees year round.

Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Austin

There are so many things to do in Austin that you can't fit them all into one trip. How, then, can you make sure you see the best that Austin has to offer? We've put together some suggested itineraries that should help. Use these itineraries to get the most out of your trip to Austin, whether you're interested in special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, or relaxing and unwinding.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Austin

The must-see attractions in Austin are a little bit history, a little bit contemporary. See the best of both with these suggested itineraries.

1 day: It's tough, but it's possible to get an idea of Austin's charms in one day. Start the morning with an order of blueberry pancakes for breakfast at Magnolia Cafe (2304 Lake Austin Blvd).

Start off at Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd in Zilker Park) for a morning dip or the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail for a stroll (visit the web site for maps and history). Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive. For serious runners in need of a long run, the 10.1-mile loop is great, but it's a good idea to run with a friend since part of the trail is in a more remote area of east Austin, taking you over Longhorn Dam and across Town Lake at several points.

The Sixth Street Entertainment District (southeast of the Capitol Complex on Sixth St between Congress Ave and Interstate 35) is probably the most well-known when it comes to Austin nightlife, but head off the beaten path to explore the Fourth Street Warehouse District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) more of the 30-plus crowd, or the brand-new Second Street District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) with its upscale shops, restaurants, and condominium and loft projects.

Head to CRU Wine Bar (238 West 2nd St) for a glass of vino, then stop for rustic Italian food at Taverna (258 West 2nd St), or gourmet Mexican food at Cantina Laredo (201 West 3rd St).

Finish off the night at The Continental Club (1315 South Congress Ave) for some live music, or The Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar), which is a "true Texas dance hall" and honky-tonk bar where Lone Star Beer or Shiner Bock (brewed in Shiner, Texas, 90 miles from Austin) are the preferred beverages.

2 days: Start the day off with breakfast tacos at Taco Shack (402 Brazos in the Frost Bank Tower building), an Austin institution best known for the "Shack Taco," the house taco that's a flour tortilla rolled around eggs, chorizo, potatoes, cheese, and salsa.

Learn about Texas with a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave). Named after Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who was the force behind the museum's creation, it's a great place to discover interactive experiences that trace Texas history from early European exploration to the early 1970s. There's a 400-seat IMAX Theatre inside the museum showing 2-D and 3-D films, and the Texas Spirit Theater, also inside the museum, features a film about the history of The Lone Star State, complete with cool 3-D images, lighting and sound effects, plus shaking seats when visitors see a gusher from a Texas oil derrick.

Foodies shouldn't miss a trip to the flagship Whole Foods Market (550 Bowie St) or to Austin's Central Market (4001 North Lamar). Sure, they're grocery stores -- but they're much more than that with food demonstrations, plenty of samples, specialty foods sections, and cafes where you can enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine, and even live music. Central Market features a Sunday jazz brunch, and Whole Foods often hosts live music concerts on its deck overlooking downtown Austin.

At dusk, head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the emergence of 1.5 million of Mexican Free-tailed Bats each night from mid-March to November. It takes about 45 minutes for all the bats to exit. You can come with a lawn chair or blanket to sit along the shores of Town Lake and watch this free display of nature.

Hopefully you'll still have an appetite after watching the bats fly off into the night in search of their own feast of insects. You can head to Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 W North Loop) for Mexican food. Walk through antique doors for such treats as Mexican corn soup with cheese and roasted poblano chiles, Gulf shrimp in tomatillo sauce, and lion lamb chops with chipotle potatoes. The almond flan is a popular way to end the meal.

3 days: Three days in Austin means that a trip to the Hill County is in order. Grab breakfast at Austin Java (1206 Parkway at 12th and Lamar) -- don't miss the migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) or the great coffee -- then head to nearby town of New Braunfels for a bit of German culture. Wurstfest is held here each October, and it's a two-week tribute to sausage, beer, and oompah music -- a fun family adventure for kids of all ages. Tubing is the must-do summer activity here; there's nothing better than floating down the Comal River in a huge inner tube, cooler in tow. Outfitters abound along the banks of the river; try Texas Tubes (250 Meusebach, New Braunfels).

When it starts to get really warm, you'll want to visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St). Your best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park. Resort at the Bahn is located on the west side of the park; Resort at the Rapids is on the east side. Word to the wise: The resorts are extremely popular, especially in the summer, and book up nearly a year in advance, so make reservations early.

On the way back to Austin, make a stop in nearby historic Gruene (pronounced "Green"), another German-influenced town that's home to another famous live music venue: Gruene Hall (1281 Gruene Rd). Internationally known and Texas' oldest dance hall, it's been around since 1878 and has been the career launching pad for such musicians as George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and many more.

Have lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar (1287 Gruene Rd), located just behind Gruene Hall and known for its down-home fare with a Texas flavor. This is the place to try a 16-ounce Texas T-bone or 12-ounce New York Strip steak. If you're watching your weight, they do have grilled chicken and fresh trout on the menu, too. If you still have some room, sink your spoon into a Jack Daniel's Pecan Pie a la mode.

Don't miss the Gruene General Store (1610 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels), where you'll discover homemade fudge, honey, preserves, gifts, and much more.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin's museums, theaters, and performing groups provide plenty to keep you busy during your visit. Use these suggested itineraries to see the best of Austin's arts and culture.

1 day: If you only have time for one day of culture, don't miss the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which has a permanent collection recognized for its Old Master paintings, extensive collection of Latin American art, and a huge array of prints and drawings.

In the afternoon, take the kids to the Austin Children's Museum (201 Colorado St), which targets children 0-9 years of age. It's the only museum just for kids with live music, cultural events, and workshops. The exhibits also teach kids about Austin history and life on a ranch. Best time to go? Sundays between 4 and 5 pm, when admission is free. Saturdays tend to be very busy, so keep that in mind.

At night, enjoy some good barbecue like pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue beef brisket at Stubb's (801 Red River), then listen to some live music.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Austin Theatre Alliance The Paramount Theater has been a fixture in Austin for 90 years.

Afterward, you can catch a performance at The Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave), which has been around for more than 90 years with vaudeville acts, silent films then to The Vagina Monologues and Willie Nelson today. The Paramount's sister theatre and another local favorite, the State Theatre (713 North Congress) was heavily damaged by a water main break in June 2006 and is currently closed for extensive renovations.

2 days: Spend the next day on South Congress Avenue, also called "SoCo." Start your day with hot coffee to go at Jo's Hot Coffee & Good Food (1300 South Congress), which is known as much for its people-watching and "Austintatious" attitude as it is for the coffee.

Visit the ultra-hip Penn Field Design District (3601 South Congress Ave), a mixed-use retail space and noted architectural renovation that is now home to the Design Center of Austin (3601 South Congress at Penn Field, Suite C), a collection of specialty showrooms for architecture and design that's open to the public and to the trade.

Spend some time at the Austin Playhouse (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a professional theatre company featuring such productions as "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

For a lunch or late afternoon snack, grab a table at Ruta Maya (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a local coffee house and favorite hangout for the multi-tattooed and the dressed-to-the-nines or a combination of the two. Select an organic coffee blend and chill out, or enjoy an ice-cold Lone Star beer and a sandwich. You can even try out the salsa dance lessons on Sundays. There's also live music every day of the week.

Afterward, you can wander through the Austin Museum of Art (823 Congress Ave) to view some of the best American art made since 1900, then enjoy a glass of wine at Cork & Company (308 Congress Ave), where reasonably priced and humorously-named wine flights like "Cab Ride to Manhattan" featuring top Cabernet Sauvignon wines and great cheese plates are worth the visit. Taste something you like? You can buy the bottle there, too.

3 days: See the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country upclose at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse Ave), where planting areas, wildflower meadows, exhibits, and an observation tower honor Mrs. Johnson's passionate devotion to native landscaping and preservation.

As you leave, pretend you're Lance Armstrong on the Veloway (access the trail from Mopac, just south of Slaughter Lane and right near the Wildflower Center), a 3.17-mile, 23-feet-wide paved trail that is exclusively for cyclists and rollerbladers -- no walkers or runners allowed. The trail goes through Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park (4103 Slaughter Lane), and is a great way to get in even more of the great outdoors before continuing your day.

Continue your trip down presidential memory lane with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River). This museum on the University of Texas campus includes thousands of volumes of presidential papers, a scale replica of the Oval Office during his presidency, and a First Lady's Gallery devoted to the work of Lady Bird Johnson.

Stop for lunch at the Iron Cactus (606 Trinity at Sixth Street), where you'll enjoy fresh margaritas and upscale Tex-Mex food. Try the Tableside Guacamole, made fresh as you watch, or the Shrimp Enchiladas. If it's not too hot, ask for a table on the rooftop deck overlooking Sixth Street. It's a great view and a nice way to spend an afternoon. And even if it is a little toasty, not to worry too much, since there are misters outside to keep cool.

If you visit Austin during the summer, take in a free performance of the Austin Symphony (at Wooldridge Park, 9th and Guadalupe), held each Sunday night throughout the summer. "Blues on the Green," sponsored by local radio station KGSR 107.1, is another Austin musical tradition in the summer, where well-known blues artists like Marcia Ball play for free at Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.) To find the performance, you should look for an outcropping of limestone rocks in the middle of the park called "Rock Island."

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Austin landmarks give you a glimpse into the city's history. These itineraries will point you in the right direction on your architecural tours.

1 day: Enjoy a classic Tex-Mex breakfast at Las Manitas Avenue Cafe (211 Congress Ave), but be prepared to wait -- it's a very popular place every day of the week and is known for its breakfast migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) during the week and menudo (Mexican soup) on the weekends.

One of the best ways to take in the Austin skyline and architecture during the day is to rent a canoe or kayak and float on Town Lake. Head to local outfitters Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which has been open since 1969; Austin Outdoor Gear and Guidance (3411 N Interstate 35) or the Rowing Dock (2418 Stratford Dr). If you can, try to head out during the week, since the boat rental places tend to get very busy on the weekends.

Enjoy lunch at Chuy's Tex-Mex (1728 Barton Springs), an Austin institution known for its "Big As Yo' Face" burritos and sopapillas, numerous vegetarian fare options (the veggie enchiladas are awesome), stout margaritas, and obsession with all things Elvis. Don't forget to sit in the old-time photo booth and take a few fun pictures before you leave.

After seeing some of Austin's beautiful architecture from the lake, spend the afternoon learning about architect Abner Cook, who designed many important buildings in town. Learn about the Federal style architecture at the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Then head over to the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St) to see how he used Greek-Revival architecture styles in his buildings. You can tour the inside and outsides of these two important buildings to the city's architectural and historical history.

©2006 Christopher Houben The breathtaking view from Mount Bonnell lets you survey the Austin skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country.

2 days: Get up early, grab some house-roasted European coffee and a homemade pastry (the cinnamon rolls are huge and flaky -- they melt in your mouth!) at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd) on Lake Austin, and enjoy the tranquility of the water, or make the short drive to watch the sun rise over Mount Bonnell. You'll climb 99 steps to get to the top, but it's a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, Lake Austin, surrounding Hill Country, incredible lakeside homes -- and one of the many reasons University of Texas at Austin students never leave after they graduate.

Make a stop at the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th St), which is on the way back from Mount Bonnell, and enjoy the exhibits that celebrate the marriage of art and nature. Housed inside a restored 1916 Italian-style villa, the museum is a meditative place to spend the afternoon. Don't miss the opportunity for a walk on the 12 acres of beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Austin, with its sculptures and historic gardens.

3 days: Since you have a few days in town, you have some time to visit and experience the beauty of several buildings in downtown Austin noted for their architectural significance.

Stop at the Bank One Tower (221 W 6th St) to admire this solid block of glass rectangle, which uses varying colors of glass and cut-out notches to give it some visual interest. Each floor going up has glass that's shades darker and lighter than the main floor windows. The corners have been shaved off along with a portion of the roofline.

Visit the First Southern Presbyterian Church (200 E 8th), which is beige in color, typical of Texas architecture, and is made of local stone. Narrow vertical slits of windows let in some light, but are kept small to keep out the heat. This building, made in 1870, is 10 feet above the current street level and is a good contrast to the skyscrapers around it. In contrast, Saint Mary's of the Immaculate Conception (203 E 10th St) features a stout design that accentuates its rose windows, bell tower, and stained-glass windows imported from France and Germany.

Head over to the Capitol Centre (910 Congress), which has rows of squares arranged like a children's toy to form the main thrust of this small skyscraper. A row of windows located down the building's center is angled inward to accommodate shadows and light.

The State Capitol (1100 Congress Ave) is quite massive and worth touring for a while. It's the largest state capitol in the United States. The rotunda floor has images of the Lone Star in its marble, and the Goddess of Liberty statue holding a lone star at the top of the dome has been replaced with one made of aluminum.

When it's time for dinner, grab a table at the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), located inside the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel. You can order a large steak or seafood dish or some other fine traditional American cuisine and enjoy it in an elegant setting.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Austin

Whether you're looking for the trendy, the upscale, or the one-of-a-kind, you'll find it in Austin's shops. To organize your shopping excursions, refer to these itineraries.

1 day: Only one day to shop? Pity. Make the most of it with a trip to South Congress Avenue. Start at Blackmail (1202 South Congress), where the only colors you'll find in this very cool store are black and white, then stop at Antigua (1508 S Congress) for Guatemalan and Mexican art and decor, plus locally crafted jewelry.

Buy a great pair of boots at Allen's Boots (1522 South Congress), or cool cowboy attire, and then browse vintage finds at local favorite New Bohemia (1606 South Congress).

Backtrack slightly for lunch at Guero's Taco Bar (1412 South Congress), known for its great Tex-Mex dishes, tacos, and liberally tattooed wait staff.

©2006 Nika Vee In Uncommon Objects, you'll find all kinds of antiques and one-of-a-kind goods, including furniture, jewelry, and books.

Round out the day at Uncommon Objects (1512 South Congress), an antique lovers heaven with everything old: furniture, jewelry, clothes, books -- you name it -- then wander around on your own and discover the rest of this too-cool-for-school area of Austin.

2 days: Head out early for a day at the outlet malls in San Marcos, where professional shoppers and bargain hunters hone their craft. Prime Outlets (3939 IH 35 South, Exit 200) is the largest in South Texas, with about six million shoppers each year -- all looking for the best deals at more than 110 stores, including the 30 luxury brand stores like L'Occitane, Michael Kors, and the much-anticipated Neiman-Marcus Last Call outlets.

Tanger Factory Outlet Center (4015 S IH 35 South, San Marcos) has less luxury and more mainstream outlets (The Gap, Banana Republic, Nike) and is also worth a stop. Be prepared for crowds, however, at both places, and wear something comfortable, especially shoes, because you will be walking a lot.

Congratulate yourself on your many bargains at The Tap Room (129 E Hopkins; about five miles from The Tanger Center) in San Marcos, where you'll find big burgers and 32 beers on tap.

3 days: Shop downtown Austin and the University of Texas at Austin campus area, where you'll find funky clothes and shoes mixed in with top-dollar designer duds. Start at Sixth Street and Lamar with Girl Next Door (500 North Lamar), done up in girly pink and brown and offering L.A. and New York designer lines like 1921 and Ben-Amun; Erebelle, luxury yoga wear designed by a local Austinite; and more.

Move on to By George (524 North Lamar; 2346 Guadalupe), an Austin institution for hip chicks and dudes of all ages. Don't miss a stop at Waterloo Records (600 North Lamar), Austin's fiercely independently music store that has given many musicians their start, and pick up compilation discs from local radio station KGSR 107.1 as gifts for music-loving friends.

Head toward the UT campus, where you'll find funky treasures (vintage faux leopard fur coat for $15, anyone?) at Buffalo Exchange (2904 Guadalupe) vintage and consignment store.

Wrap up a successful day on the way home with a well-deserved pint and some pub grub (the fish & chips are great) at the Dog & Duck Pub, (406 West 17th, at 17th and Guadalupe). Try a pint of Independence Brewery's Pale Ale or Bootlegger Brown Ale, both great local brews, while you're there.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

In Austin, you can hear great live music while enjoying the local cuisine and maybe a beverage or two. These itineraries will steer you toward all the hotspots.

1 day: If you've only got one night in town, Sixth Street is the place to spend it. Book a room at the Mobil Three-Star InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave), where there's a great bar overlooking Sixth Street. It's far enough away from the crowds so you can get a decent night's sleep whenever you decide to roll in.

©2006 ACVB Photo Looking for some fun? You can't go wrong on Sixth Street.

The Lucky Lounge (209 West 5th St) is the spot to catch a set of one of the early bands (music starts at 8 pm). Cross over to 6th Street and from there the sky's the limit: try the ultra-cool Molotov Lounge (719 West Sixth) with its actual ice bar and premium vodkas, or grab a beer at Shakespeare's Pub (314 East Sixth). End the night dancing at Agave (415 East Sixth), with its raised dance floor and, of course, specialty tequilas.

2 days: Spend the day at Volente Beach on Lake Travis (RM 2222 and Volente Road), where you'll have everything you need for a day on the water. Before you head out, enjoy breakfast at Kerbey Lane (2606 Guadalupe). Open 24 hours and known for great breakfasts and vegetarian specialties, it's a great place to fuel up for the day.

At Volente Beach, one price gets you in for a day of swimming, waterpark attractions and more. Bring a picnic lunch (coolers allowed; much cheaper way to go), and buy refreshments there (including adult drinks at Zebo's Beach Bar).

The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is an Austin institution when it comes to the place to watch the sun go down over Lake Travis. Despite suffering a devastating fire in 2005 -- the result of a lightning strike -- the Oasis' multi-tiered decks are still open and offer the best view in town, no matter where you're sitting. Drinks are good, but stop at appetizers, though the menu is getting much better lately.

Head a bit further down FM 620 for dinner to explore your culinary intuition at Mobil Three-Star Hudson's on the Bend (3509 Ranch Rd), known for its game, rattlesnake, and creative cuisine.

3 days: Start off your late afternoon with an avocado-flavored margarita that has earned a cult following at Curra's Grill (614 E Oltorf St). It's quite tasty and can almost be a meal unto itself, which is possible if you settle for an appetizer with it instead of a standard meal.

Head out to some quality live music at Speakeasy (412D Congress Ave), which features small wooden tables around a dance floor in a relaxed atmosphere in which young professionals grasp apple martinis listening to the sounds of jazz, blues, and ska. You can also head up to the rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air, a nice view onto Congress Avenue, or a casual conversation with a stranger.

When you're ready to listen to the latest up-and-coming music performers, grab a seat at Antone's Nightclub (2123 W Fifth St). This is a live music landmark and known as Austin's home of the blues since it's been around for more than a quarter of a century.

Finish up with some late-late night dancing at Plush (617 Red River St), a miniature dance club that serves up hard-edged music in its cool-toned club. A makeshift dance floor in front of the DJ station is a focal point with ambient lighting from pieces of original neon and metal art hanging from the bar brick walls. Most seating can be found in the back lounge, which is a small sunken area with a minimalist feel.

For a late-late snack, head over to Katz's Deli and Bar (618 W 6th St), which is open 24 hours. Settle your stomach with a matzo ball soup, a greasy cheeseburger, or large Reuben sandwich.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Ready to kick back and take it easy? Austin's spas, lakes, and hiking trails give you ample opportunities to do just that. These itineraries offer three days worth of suggestions for relaxing in Austin.

1 day: Start your day with breakfast at Austin Java (1608 Barton Springs Rd), where the breakfast taco options satisfy every taste and craving, the migas are famous, and the coffee is roasted to order.

Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) and the Town Lake Trail are literally across the street, so enjoy a leisurely stroll or a jaunt on a canoe or kayak. Stop in at the RunTex flagship store on Riverside Drive for a new pair of running shoes (422 West Riverside). Spend the rest of the morning exploring the grounds of this 351-acre park, which has a nature center too. Cool off with a dip at Zilker Park's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd), another local favorite that's a spring-fed swimming pool almost as long as a football field.

Take some time for yourself at The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, and classes to feed your soul.

2 days: Water activities and Austin just go together, so pick a lake and spend some time exploring. Lake Travis and Lake Austin are the most popular for boating and fun in the sun, so get off the beaten path and explore the lakes in the Hill Country, including Lake Buchanan. Lake Buchanan is more than 23,000 acres and is the largest of the Highland Lakes. Spend the day at Black Rock Park, and then stop in Tow, Texas and Fall Creek Vineyards for an ice-cold glass of their signature Chenin Blanc.

It's popular for good reason so, since a visit to Austin just isn't complete without a stop at Lake Travis, go to the best-kept secret on the water: Krause Springs, located about 34 miles west of Austin. This gorgeous oasis was named one of the best swimming holes in Texas. It's spring-fed, has a waterfall and creek swimming area, plus areas for camping and all the comforts of home with nearby restrooms and showers. Bring a picnic and spend the day, or camp overnight.

3 days: Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928.

Wrap up the day with a stop at Central Market (4001 North Lamar, at 38th & Lamar), where the incredible (and huge!) Cobb salad is a great choice for noshing. Vegetarians: omit the chicken, eggs, and bacon and ask for extra avocado -- it's great, and staff is very accommodating when it comes to special dietary requests.

Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the exhibits of more than 100 rescued animals housed at Austin Zoo (1087 Rawhide Trail).

Austin's ability to blend old and new is evident in its museums, cuisine, and landmarks. There's enough to do in this city to satisfy just about anyone -- from art buffs to music afficiandos.

© Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Lemen is freelance writer based in Austin, Texas, whose passion is exploring new cities and meeting interesting people, preferably while running. She's been to Paris for the weekend, to Italy for her 30th birthday, and ran the New York City marathon for her 40th.

©2006 ACVB Photo The spring water in Barton Springs Pool is an average of 68 degrees year round.

1 day: It's tough, but it's possible to get an idea of Austin's charms in one day. Start the morning with an order of blueberry pancakes for breakfast at Magnolia Cafe (2304 Lake Austin Blvd).

Start off at Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd in Zilker Park) for a morning dip or the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail for a stroll (visit the web site for maps and history). Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive. For serious runners in need of a long run, the 10.1-mile loop is great, but it's a good idea to run with a friend since part of the trail is in a more remote area of east Austin, taking you over Longhorn Dam and across Town Lake at several points.

The Sixth Street Entertainment District (southeast of the Capitol Complex on Sixth St between Congress Ave and Interstate 35) is probably the most well-known when it comes to Austin nightlife, but head off the beaten path to explore the Fourth Street Warehouse District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) more of the 30-plus crowd, or the brand-new Second Street District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) with its upscale shops, restaurants, and condominium and loft projects.

Head to CRU Wine Bar (238 West 2nd St) for a glass of vino, then stop for rustic Italian food at Taverna (258 West 2nd St), or gourmet Mexican food at Cantina Laredo (201 West 3rd St).

Finish off the night at The Continental Club (1315 South Congress Ave) for some live music, or The Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar), which is a "true Texas dance hall" and honky-tonk bar where Lone Star Beer or Shiner Bock (brewed in Shiner, Texas, 90 miles from Austin) are the preferred beverages.

2 days: Start the day off with breakfast tacos at Taco Shack (402 Brazos in the Frost Bank Tower building), an Austin institution best known for the "Shack Taco," the house taco that's a flour tortilla rolled around eggs, chorizo, potatoes, cheese, and salsa.

Learn about Texas with a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave). Named after Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who was the force behind the museum's creation, it's a great place to discover interactive experiences that trace Texas history from early European exploration to the early 1970s. There's a 400-seat IMAX Theatre inside the museum showing 2-D and 3-D films, and the Texas Spirit Theater, also inside the museum, features a film about the history of The Lone Star State, complete with cool 3-D images, lighting and sound effects, plus shaking seats when visitors see a gusher from a Texas oil derrick.

Foodies shouldn't miss a trip to the flagship Whole Foods Market (550 Bowie St) or to Austin's Central Market (4001 North Lamar). Sure, they're grocery stores -- but they're much more than that with food demonstrations, plenty of samples, specialty foods sections, and cafes where you can enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine, and even live music. Central Market features a Sunday jazz brunch, and Whole Foods often hosts live music concerts on its deck overlooking downtown Austin.

At dusk, head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the emergence of 1.5 million of Mexican Free-tailed Bats each night from mid-March to November. It takes about 45 minutes for all the bats to exit. You can come with a lawn chair or blanket to sit along the shores of Town Lake and watch this free display of nature.

Hopefully you'll still have an appetite after watching the bats fly off into the night in search of their own feast of insects. You can head to Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 W North Loop) for Mexican food. Walk through antique doors for such treats as Mexican corn soup with cheese and roasted poblano chiles, Gulf shrimp in tomatillo sauce, and lion lamb chops with chipotle potatoes. The almond flan is a popular way to end the meal.

3 days: Three days in Austin means that a trip to the Hill County is in order. Grab breakfast at Austin Java (1206 Parkway at 12th and Lamar) -- don't miss the migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) or the great coffee -- then head to nearby town of New Braunfels for a bit of German culture. Wurstfest is held here each October, and it's a two-week tribute to sausage, beer, and oompah music -- a fun family adventure for kids of all ages. Tubing is the must-do summer activity here; there's nothing better than floating down the Comal River in a huge inner tube, cooler in tow. Outfitters abound along the banks of the river; try Texas Tubes (250 Meusebach, New Braunfels).

When it starts to get really warm, you'll want to visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St). Your best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park. Resort at the Bahn is located on the west side of the park; Resort at the Rapids is on the east side. Word to the wise: The resorts are extremely popular, especially in the summer, and book up nearly a year in advance, so make reservations early.

On the way back to Austin, make a stop in nearby historic Gruene (pronounced "Green"), another German-influenced town that's home to another famous live music venue: Gruene Hall (1281 Gruene Rd). Internationally known and Texas' oldest dance hall, it's been around since 1878 and has been the career launching pad for such musicians as George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and many more.

Have lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar (1287 Gruene Rd), located just behind Gruene Hall and known for its down-home fare with a Texas flavor. This is the place to try a 16-ounce Texas T-bone or 12-ounce New York Strip steak. If you're watching your weight, they do have grilled chicken and fresh trout on the menu, too. If you still have some room, sink your spoon into a Jack Daniel's Pecan Pie a la mode.

Don't miss the Gruene General Store (1610 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels), where you'll discover homemade fudge, honey, preserves, gifts, and much more.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin's museums, theaters, and performing groups provide plenty to keep you busy during your visit. Use these suggested itineraries to see the best of Austin's arts and culture.

1 day: If you only have time for one day of culture, don't miss the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which has a permanent collection recognized for its Old Master paintings, extensive collection of Latin American art, and a huge array of prints and drawings.

In the afternoon, take the kids to the Austin Children's Museum (201 Colorado St), which targets children 0-9 years of age. It's the only museum just for kids with live music, cultural events, and workshops. The exhibits also teach kids about Austin history and life on a ranch. Best time to go? Sundays between 4 and 5 pm, when admission is free. Saturdays tend to be very busy, so keep that in mind.

At night, enjoy some good barbecue like pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue beef brisket at Stubb's (801 Red River), then listen to some live music.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Austin Theatre Alliance The Paramount Theater has been a fixture in Austin for 90 years.

Afterward, you can catch a performance at The Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave), which has been around for more than 90 years with vaudeville acts, silent films then to The Vagina Monologues and Willie Nelson today. The Paramount's sister theatre and another local favorite, the State Theatre (713 North Congress) was heavily damaged by a water main break in June 2006 and is currently closed for extensive renovations.

2 days: Spend the next day on South Congress Avenue, also called "SoCo." Start your day with hot coffee to go at Jo's Hot Coffee & Good Food (1300 South Congress), which is known as much for its people-watching and "Austintatious" attitude as it is for the coffee.

Visit the ultra-hip Penn Field Design District (3601 South Congress Ave), a mixed-use retail space and noted architectural renovation that is now home to the Design Center of Austin (3601 South Congress at Penn Field, Suite C), a collection of specialty showrooms for architecture and design that's open to the public and to the trade.

Spend some time at the Austin Playhouse (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a professional theatre company featuring such productions as "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

For a lunch or late afternoon snack, grab a table at Ruta Maya (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a local coffee house and favorite hangout for the multi-tattooed and the dressed-to-the-nines or a combination of the two. Select an organic coffee blend and chill out, or enjoy an ice-cold Lone Star beer and a sandwich. You can even try out the salsa dance lessons on Sundays. There's also live music every day of the week.

Afterward, you can wander through the Austin Museum of Art (823 Congress Ave) to view some of the best American art made since 1900, then enjoy a glass of wine at Cork & Company (308 Congress Ave), where reasonably priced and humorously-named wine flights like "Cab Ride to Manhattan" featuring top Cabernet Sauvignon wines and great cheese plates are worth the visit. Taste something you like? You can buy the bottle there, too.

3 days: See the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country upclose at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse Ave), where planting areas, wildflower meadows, exhibits, and an observation tower honor Mrs. Johnson's passionate devotion to native landscaping and preservation.

As you leave, pretend you're Lance Armstrong on the Veloway (access the trail from Mopac, just south of Slaughter Lane and right near the Wildflower Center), a 3.17-mile, 23-feet-wide paved trail that is exclusively for cyclists and rollerbladers -- no walkers or runners allowed. The trail goes through Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park (4103 Slaughter Lane), and is a great way to get in even more of the great outdoors before continuing your day.

Continue your trip down presidential memory lane with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River). This museum on the University of Texas campus includes thousands of volumes of presidential papers, a scale replica of the Oval Office during his presidency, and a First Lady's Gallery devoted to the work of Lady Bird Johnson.

Stop for lunch at the Iron Cactus (606 Trinity at Sixth Street), where you'll enjoy fresh margaritas and upscale Tex-Mex food. Try the Tableside Guacamole, made fresh as you watch, or the Shrimp Enchiladas. If it's not too hot, ask for a table on the rooftop deck overlooking Sixth Street. It's a great view and a nice way to spend an afternoon. And even if it is a little toasty, not to worry too much, since there are misters outside to keep cool.

If you visit Austin during the summer, take in a free performance of the Austin Symphony (at Wooldridge Park, 9th and Guadalupe), held each Sunday night throughout the summer. "Blues on the Green," sponsored by local radio station KGSR 107.1, is another Austin musical tradition in the summer, where well-known blues artists like Marcia Ball play for free at Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.) To find the performance, you should look for an outcropping of limestone rocks in the middle of the park called "Rock Island."

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Austin landmarks give you a glimpse into the city's history. These itineraries will point you in the right direction on your architecural tours.

1 day: Enjoy a classic Tex-Mex breakfast at Las Manitas Avenue Cafe (211 Congress Ave), but be prepared to wait -- it's a very popular place every day of the week and is known for its breakfast migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) during the week and menudo (Mexican soup) on the weekends.

One of the best ways to take in the Austin skyline and architecture during the day is to rent a canoe or kayak and float on Town Lake. Head to local outfitters Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which has been open since 1969; Austin Outdoor Gear and Guidance (3411 N Interstate 35) or the Rowing Dock (2418 Stratford Dr). If you can, try to head out during the week, since the boat rental places tend to get very busy on the weekends.

Enjoy lunch at Chuy's Tex-Mex (1728 Barton Springs), an Austin institution known for its "Big As Yo' Face" burritos and sopapillas, numerous vegetarian fare options (the veggie enchiladas are awesome), stout margaritas, and obsession with all things Elvis. Don't forget to sit in the old-time photo booth and take a few fun pictures before you leave.

After seeing some of Austin's beautiful architecture from the lake, spend the afternoon learning about architect Abner Cook, who designed many important buildings in town. Learn about the Federal style architecture at the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Then head over to the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St) to see how he used Greek-Revival architecture styles in his buildings. You can tour the inside and outsides of these two important buildings to the city's architectural and historical history.

©2006 Christopher Houben The breathtaking view from Mount Bonnell lets you survey the Austin skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country.

2 days: Get up early, grab some house-roasted European coffee and a homemade pastry (the cinnamon rolls are huge and flaky -- they melt in your mouth!) at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd) on Lake Austin, and enjoy the tranquility of the water, or make the short drive to watch the sun rise over Mount Bonnell. You'll climb 99 steps to get to the top, but it's a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, Lake Austin, surrounding Hill Country, incredible lakeside homes -- and one of the many reasons University of Texas at Austin students never leave after they graduate.

Make a stop at the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th St), which is on the way back from Mount Bonnell, and enjoy the exhibits that celebrate the marriage of art and nature. Housed inside a restored 1916 Italian-style villa, the museum is a meditative place to spend the afternoon. Don't miss the opportunity for a walk on the 12 acres of beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Austin, with its sculptures and historic gardens.

3 days: Since you have a few days in town, you have some time to visit and experience the beauty of several buildings in downtown Austin noted for their architectural significance.

Stop at the Bank One Tower (221 W 6th St) to admire this solid block of glass rectangle, which uses varying colors of glass and cut-out notches to give it some visual interest. Each floor going up has glass that's shades darker and lighter than the main floor windows. The corners have been shaved off along with a portion of the roofline.

Visit the First Southern Presbyterian Church (200 E 8th), which is beige in color, typical of Texas architecture, and is made of local stone. Narrow vertical slits of windows let in some light, but are kept small to keep out the heat. This building, made in 1870, is 10 feet above the current street level and is a good contrast to the skyscrapers around it. In contrast, Saint Mary's of the Immaculate Conception (203 E 10th St) features a stout design that accentuates its rose windows, bell tower, and stained-glass windows imported from France and Germany.

Head over to the Capitol Centre (910 Congress), which has rows of squares arranged like a children's toy to form the main thrust of this small skyscraper. A row of windows located down the building's center is angled inward to accommodate shadows and light.

The State Capitol (1100 Congress Ave) is quite massive and worth touring for a while. It's the largest state capitol in the United States. The rotunda floor has images of the Lone Star in its marble, and the Goddess of Liberty statue holding a lone star at the top of the dome has been replaced with one made of aluminum.

When it's time for dinner, grab a table at the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), located inside the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel. You can order a large steak or seafood dish or some other fine traditional American cuisine and enjoy it in an elegant setting.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Austin

Whether you're looking for the trendy, the upscale, or the one-of-a-kind, you'll find it in Austin's shops. To organize your shopping excursions, refer to these itineraries.

1 day: Only one day to shop? Pity. Make the most of it with a trip to South Congress Avenue. Start at Blackmail (1202 South Congress), where the only colors you'll find in this very cool store are black and white, then stop at Antigua (1508 S Congress) for Guatemalan and Mexican art and decor, plus locally crafted jewelry.

Buy a great pair of boots at Allen's Boots (1522 South Congress), or cool cowboy attire, and then browse vintage finds at local favorite New Bohemia (1606 South Congress).

Backtrack slightly for lunch at Guero's Taco Bar (1412 South Congress), known for its great Tex-Mex dishes, tacos, and liberally tattooed wait staff.

©2006 Nika Vee­ In Uncommon Objects, you'll find all kinds of antiques and one-of-a-kind goods, including furniture, jewelry, and books.

Round out the day at Uncommon Objects (1512 South Congress), an antique lovers heaven with everything old: furniture, jewelry, clothes, books -- you name it -- then wander around on your own and discover the rest of this too-cool-for-school area of Austin.

2 days: Head out early for a day at the outlet malls in San Marcos, where professional shoppers and bargain hunters hone their craft. Prime Outlets (3939 IH 35 South, Exit 200) is the largest in South Texas, with about six million shoppers each year -- all looking for the best deals at more than 110 stores, including the 30 luxury brand stores like L'Occitane, Michael Kors, and the much-anticipated Neiman-Marcus Last Call outlets.

Tanger Factory Outlet Center (4015 S IH 35 South, San Marcos) has less luxury and more mainstream outlets (The Gap, Banana Republic, Nike) and is also worth a stop. Be prepared for crowds, however, at both places, and wear something comfortable, especially shoes, because you will be walking a lot.

Congratulate yourself on your many bargains at The Tap Room (129 E Hopkins; about five miles from The Tanger Center) in San Marcos, where you'll find big burgers and 32 beers on tap.

3 days: Shop downtown Austin and the University of Texas at Austin campus area, where you'll find funky clothes and shoes mixed in with top-dollar designer duds. Start at Sixth Street and Lamar with Girl Next Door (500 North Lamar), done up in girly pink and brown and offering L.A. and New York designer lines like 1921 and Ben-Amun; Erebelle, luxury yoga wear designed by a local Austinite; and more.

Move on to By George (524 North Lamar; 2346 Guadalupe), an Austin institution for hip chicks and dudes of all ages. Don't miss a stop at Waterloo Records (600 North Lamar), Austin's fiercely independently music store that has given many musicians their start, and pick up compilation discs from local radio station KGSR 107.1 as gifts for music-loving friends.

Head toward the UT campus, where you'll find funky treasures (vintage faux leopard fur coat for $15, anyone?) at Buffalo Exchange (2904 Guadalupe) vintage and consignment store.

Wrap up a successful day on the way home with a well-deserved pint and some pub grub (the fish & chips are great) at the Dog & Duck Pub, (406 West 17th, at 17th and Guadalupe). Try a pint of Independence Brewery's Pale Ale or Bootlegger Brown Ale, both great local brews, while you're there.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

In Austin, you can hear great live music while enjoying the local cuisine and maybe a beverage or two. These itineraries will steer you toward all the hotspots.

1 day: If you've only got one night in town, Sixth Street is the place to spend it. Book a room at the Mobil Three-Star InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave), where there's a great bar overlooking Sixth Street. It's far enough away from the crowds so you can get a decent night's sleep whenever you decide to roll in.

©2006 ACVB Photo Looking for some fun? You can't go wrong on Sixth Street.

The Lucky Lounge (209 West 5th St) is the spot to catch a set of one of the early bands (music starts at 8 pm). Cross over to 6th Street and from there the sky's the limit: try the ultra-cool Molotov Lounge (719 West Sixth) with its actual ice bar and premium vodkas, or grab a beer at Shakespeare's Pub (314 East Sixth). End the night dancing at Agave (415 East Sixth), with its raised dance floor and, of course, specialty tequilas.

2 days: Spend the day at Volente Beach on Lake Travis (RM 2222 and Volente Road), where you'll have everything you need for a day on the water. Before you head out, enjoy breakfast at Kerbey Lane (2606 Guadalupe). Open 24 hours and known for great breakfasts and vegetarian specialties, it's a great place to fuel up for the day.

At Volente Beach, one price gets you in for a day of swimming, waterpark attractions and more. Bring a picnic lunch (coolers allowed; much cheaper way to go), and buy refreshments there (including adult drinks at Zebo's Beach Bar).

The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is an Austin institution when it comes to the place to watch the sun go down over Lake Travis. Despite suffering a devastating fire in 2005 -- the result of a lightning strike -- the Oasis' multi-tiered decks are still open and offer the best view in town, no matter where you're sitting. Drinks are good, but stop at appetizers, though the menu is getting much better lately.

Head a bit further down FM 620 for dinner to explore your culinary intuition at Mobil Three-Star Hudson's on the Bend (3509 Ranch Rd), known for its game, rattlesnake, and creative cuisine.

3 days: Start off your late afternoon with an avocado-flavored margarita that has earned a cult following at Curra's Grill (614 E Oltorf St). It's quite tasty and can almost be a meal unto itself, which is possible if you settle for an appetizer with it instead of a standard meal.

Head out to some quality live music at Speakeasy (412D Congress Ave), which features small wooden tables ­around a dance floor in a relaxed atmosphere in which young professionals grasp apple martinis listening to the sounds of jazz, blues, and ska. You can also head up to the rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air, a nice view onto Congress Avenue, or a casual conversation with a stranger.

When you're ready to listen to the latest up-and-coming music performers, grab a seat at Antone's Nightclub (2123 W Fifth St). This is a live music landmark and known as Austin's home of the blues since it's been around for more than a quarter of a century.

Finish up with some late-late night dancing at Plush (617 Red River St), a miniature dance club that serves up hard-edged music in its cool-toned club. A makeshift dance floor in front of the DJ station is a focal point with ambient lighting from pieces of original neon and metal art hanging from the bar brick walls. Most seating can be found in the back lounge, which is a small sunken area with a minimalist feel.

For a late-late snack, head over to Katz's Deli and Bar (618 W 6th St), which is open 24 hours. Settle your stomach with a matzo ball soup, a greasy cheeseburger, or large Reuben sandwich.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Ready to kick back and take it easy? Austin's spas, lakes, and hiking trails give you ample opportunities to do just that. These itineraries offer three days worth of suggestions for relaxing in Austin.

1 day: Start your day with breakfast at Austin Java (1608 Barton Springs Rd), where the breakfast taco options satisfy every taste and craving, the migas are famous, and the coffee is roasted to order.

Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) and the Town Lake Trail are literally across the street, so enjoy a leisurely stroll or a jaunt on a canoe or kayak. Stop in at the RunTex flagship store on Riverside Drive for a new pair of running shoes (422 West Riverside). Spend the rest of the morning exploring the grounds of this 351-acre park, which has a nature center too. Cool off with a dip at Zilker Park's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd), another local favorite that's a spring-fed swimming pool almost as long as a football field.

Take some time for yourself at The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, and classes to feed your soul.

2 days: Water activities and Austin just go together, so pick a lake and spend some time exploring. Lake Travis and Lake Austin are the most popular for boating and fun in the sun, so get off the beaten path and explore the lakes in the Hill Country, including Lake Buchanan. Lake Buchanan is more than 23,000 acres and is the largest of the Highland Lakes. Spend the day at Black Rock Park, and then stop in Tow, Texas and Fall Creek Vineyards for an ice-cold glass of their signature Chenin Blanc.

It's popular for good reason so, since a visit to Austin just isn't complete without a stop at Lake Travis, go to the best-kept secret on the water: Krause Springs, located about 34 miles west of Austin. This gorgeous oasis was named one of the best swimming holes in Texas. It's spring-fed, has a waterfall and creek swimming area, plus areas for camping and all the comforts of home with nearby restrooms and showers. Bring a picnic and spend the day, or camp overnight.

3 days: Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928.

Wrap up the day with a stop at Central Market (4001 North Lamar, at 38th & Lamar), where the incredible (and huge!) Cobb salad is a great choice for noshing. Vegetarians: omit the chicken, eggs, and bacon and ask for extra avocado -- it's great, and staff is very accommodating when it comes to special dietary requests.

Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the exhibits of more than 100 rescued animals housed at Austin Zoo (1087 Rawhide Trail).

Austin's ability to blend old and new is evident in its museums, cuisine, and landmarks. There's enough to do in this city to satisfy just about anyone -- from art buffs to music afficiandos.

© Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Lemen is freelance writer based in Austin, Texas, whose passion is exploring new cities and meeting interesting people, preferably while running. She's been to Paris for the weekend, to Italy for her 30th birthday, and ran the New York City marathon for her 40th. There are so many things to do in Austin that you can't fit them all into one trip. How, then, can you make sure you see the best that Austin has to offer? We've put together some suggested itineraries that should help. Use these itineraries to get the most out of your trip to Austin, whether you're interested in special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, or relaxing and unwinding.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Austin

The must-see attractions in Austin are a little bit history, a little bit contemporary. See the best of both with these suggested itineraries.

©2006 ACVB Photo The spring water in Barton Springs Pool is an average of 68 degrees year round.

1 day: It's tough, but it's possible to get an idea of Austin's charms in one day. Start the morning with an order of blueberry pancakes for breakfast at Magnolia Cafe (2304 Lake Austin Blvd).

Start off at Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd in Zilker Park) for a morning dip or the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail for a stroll (visit the web site for maps and history). Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive. For serious runners in need of a long run, the 10.1-mile loop is great, but it's a good idea to run with a friend since part of the trail is in a more remote area of east Austin, taking you over Longhorn Dam and across Town Lake at several points.

The Sixth Street Entertainment District (southeast of the Capitol Complex on Sixth St between Congress Ave and Interstate 35) is probably the most well-known when it comes to Austin nightlife, but head off the beaten path to explore the Fourth Street Warehouse District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) more of the 30-plus crowd, or the brand-new Second Street District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) with its upscale shops, restaurants, and condominium and loft projects.

Head to CRU Wine Bar (238 West 2nd St) for a glass of vino, then stop for rustic Italian food at Taverna (258 West 2nd St), or gourmet Mexican food at Cantina Laredo (201 West 3rd St).

Finish off the night at The Continental Club (1315 South Congress Ave) for some live music, or The Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar), which is a "true Texas dance hall" and honky-tonk bar where Lone Star Beer or Shiner Bock (brewed in Shiner, Texas, 90 miles from Austin) are the preferred beverages.

2 days: Start the day off with breakfast tacos at Taco Shack (402 Brazos in the Frost Bank Tower building), an Austin institution best known for the "Shack Taco," the house taco that's a flour tortilla rolled around eggs, chorizo, potatoes, cheese, and salsa.

Learn about Texas with a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave). Named after Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who was the force behind the museum's creation, it's a great place to discover interactive experiences that trace Texas history from early European exploration to the early 1970s. There's a 400-seat IMAX Theatre inside the museum showing 2-D and 3-D films, and the Texas Spirit Theater, also inside the museum, features a film about the history of The Lone Star State, complete with cool 3-D images, lighting and sound effects, plus shaking seats when visitors see a gusher from a Texas oil derrick.

Foodies shouldn't miss a trip to the flagship Whole Foods Market (550 Bowie St) or to Austin's Central Market (4001 North Lamar). Sure, they're grocery stores -- but they're much more than that with food demonstrations, plenty of samples, specialty foods sections, and cafes where you can enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine, and even live music. Central Market features a Sunday jazz brunch, and Whole Foods often hosts live music concerts on its deck overlooking downtown Austin.

At dusk, head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the emergence of 1.5 million of Mexican Free-tailed Bats each night from mid-March to November. It takes about 45 minutes for all the bats to exit. You can come with a lawn chair or blanket to sit along the shores of Town Lake and watch this free display of nature.

Hopefully you'll still have an appetite after watching the bats fly off into the night in search of their own feast of insects. You can head to Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 W North Loop) for Mexican food. Walk through antique doors for such treats as Mexican corn soup with cheese and roasted poblano chiles, Gulf shrimp in tomatillo sauce, and lion lamb chops with chipotle potatoes. The almond flan is a popular way to end the meal.

3 days: Three days in Austin means that a trip to the Hill County is in order. Grab breakfast at Austin Java (1206 Parkway at 12th and Lamar) -- don't miss the migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) or the great coffee -- then head to nearby town of New Braunfels for a bit of German culture. Wurstfest is held here each October, and it's a two-week tribute to sausage, beer, and oompah music -- a fun family adventure for kids of all ages. Tubing is the must-do summer activity here; there's nothing better than floating down the Comal River in a huge inner tube, cooler in tow. Outfitters abound along the banks of the river; try Texas Tubes (250 Meusebach, New Braunfels).

When it starts to get really warm, you'll want to visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St). Your best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park. Resort at the Bahn is located on the west side of the park; Resort at the Rapids is on the east side. Word to the wise: The resorts are extremely popular, especially in the summer, and book up nearly a year in advance, so make reservations early.

On the way back to Austin, make a stop in nearby historic Gruene (pronounced "Green"), another German-influenced town that's home to another famous live music venue: Gruene Hall (1281 Gruene Rd). Internationally known and Texas' oldest dance hall, it's been around since 1878 and has been the career launching pad for such musicians as George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and many more.

Have lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar (1287 Gruene Rd), located just behind Gruene Hall and known for its down-home fare with a Texas flavor. This is the place to try a 16-ounce Texas T-bone or 12-ounce New York Strip steak. If you're watching your weight, they do have grilled chicken and fresh trout on the menu, too. If you still have some room, sink your spoon into a Jack Daniel's Pecan Pie a la mode.

Don't miss the Gruene General Store (1610 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels), where you'll discover homemade fudge, honey, preserves, gifts, and much more.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin's museums, theaters, and performing groups provide plenty to keep you busy during your visit. Use these suggested itineraries to see the best of Austin's arts and culture.

1 day: If you only have time for one day of culture, don't miss the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which has a permanent collection recognized for its Old Master paintings, extensive collection of Latin American art, and a huge array of prints and drawings.

In the afternoon, take the kids to the Austin Children's Museum (201 Colorado St), which targets children 0-9 years of age. It's the only museum just for kids with live music, cultural events, and workshops. The exhibits also teach kids about Austin history and life on a ranch. Best time to go? Sundays between 4 and 5 pm, when admission is free. Saturdays tend to be very busy, so keep that in mind.

At night, enjoy some good barbecue like pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue beef brisket at Stubb's (801 Red River), then listen to some live music.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Austin Theatre Alliance The Paramount Theater has been a fixture in Austin for 90 years.

Afterward, you can catch a performance at The Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave), which has been around for more than 90 years with vaudeville acts, silent films then to The Vagina Monologues and Willie Nelson today. The Paramount's sister theatre and another local favorite, the State Theatre (713 North Congress) was heavily damaged by a water main break in June 2006 and is currently closed for extensive renovations.

2 days: Spend the next day on South Congress Avenue, also called "SoCo." Start your day with hot coffee to go at Jo's Hot Coffee & Good Food (1300 South Congress), which is known as much for its people-watching and "Austintatious" attitude as it is for the coffee.

Visit the ultra-hip Penn Field Design District (3601 South Congress Ave), a mixed-use retail space and noted architectural renovation that is now home to the Design Center of Austin (3601 South Congress at Penn Field, Suite C), a collection of specialty showrooms for architecture and design that's open to the public and to the trade.

Spend some time at the Austin Playhouse (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a professional theatre company featuring such productions as "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

For a lunch or late afternoon snack, grab a table at Ruta Maya (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a local coffee house and favorite hangout for the multi-tattooed and the dressed-to-the-nines or a combination of the two. Select an organic coffee blend and chill out, or enjoy an ice-cold Lone Star beer and a sandwich. You can even try out the salsa dance lessons on Sundays. There's also live music every day of the week.

Afterward, you can wander through the Austin Museum of Art (823 Congress Ave) to view some of the best American art made since 1900, then enjoy a glass of wine at Cork & Company (308 Congress Ave), where reasonably priced and humorously-named wine flights like "Cab Ride to Manhattan" featuring top Cabernet Sauvignon wines and great cheese plates are worth the visit. Taste something you like? You can buy the bottle there, too.

3 days: See the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country upclose at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse Ave), where planting areas, wildflower meadows, exhibits, and an observation tower honor Mrs. Johnson's passionate devotion to native landscaping and preservation.

As you leave, pretend you're Lance Armstrong on the Veloway (access the trail from Mopac, just south of Slaughter Lane and right near the Wildflower Center), a 3.17-mile, 23-feet-wide paved trail that is exclusively for cyclists and rollerbladers -- no walkers or runners allowed. The trail goes through Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park (4103 Slaughter Lane), and is a great way to get in even more of the great outdoors before continuing your day.

Continue your trip down presidential memory lane with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River). This museum on the University of Texas campus includes thousands of volumes of presidential papers, a scale replica of the Oval Office during his presidency, and a First Lady's Gallery devoted to the work of Lady Bird Johnson.

Stop for lunch at the Iron Cactus (606 Trinity at Sixth Street), where you'll enjoy fresh margaritas and upscale Tex-Mex food. Try the Tableside Guacamole, made fresh as you watch, or the Shrimp Enchiladas. If it's not too hot, ask for a table on the rooftop deck overlooking Sixth Street. It's a great view and a nice way to spend an afternoon. And even if it is a little toasty, not to worry too much, since there are misters outside to keep cool.

If you visit Austin during the summer, take in a free performance of the Austin Symphony (at Wooldridge Park, 9th and Guadalupe), held each Sunday night throughout the summer. "Blues on the Green," sponsored by local radio station KGSR 107.1, is another Austin musical tradition in the summer, where well-known blues artists like Marcia Ball play for free at Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.) To find the performance, you should look for an outcropping of limestone rocks in the middle of the park called "Rock Island."

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Austin landmarks give you a glimpse into the city's history. These itineraries will point you in the right direction on your architecural tours.

1 day: Enjoy a classic Tex-Mex breakfast at Las Manitas Avenue Cafe (211 Congress Ave), but be prepared to wait -- it's a very popular place every day of the week and is known for its breakfast migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) during the week and menudo (Mexican soup) on the weekends.

One of the best ways to take in the Austin skyline and architecture during the day is to rent a canoe or kayak and float on Town Lake. Head to local outfitters Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which has been open since 1969; Austin Outdoor Gear and Guidance (3411 N Interstate 35) or the Rowing Dock (2418 Stratford Dr). If you can, try to head out during the week, since the boat rental places tend to get very busy on the weekends.

Enjoy lunch at Chuy's Tex-Mex (1728 Barton Springs), an Austin institution known for its "Big As Yo' Face" burritos and sopapillas, numerous vegetarian fare options (the veggie enchiladas are awesome), stout margaritas, and obsession with all things Elvis. Don't forget to sit in the old-time photo booth and take a few fun pictures before you leave.

After seeing some of Austin's beautiful architecture from the lake, spend the afternoon learning about architect Abner Cook, who designed many important buildings in town. Learn about the Federal style architecture at the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Then head over to the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St) to see how he used Greek-Revival architecture styles in his buildings. You can tour the inside and outsides of these two important buildings to the city's architectural and historical history.

©2006 Christopher Houben The breathtaking view from Mount Bonnell lets you survey the Austin skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country.

2 days: Get up early, grab some house-roasted European coffee and a homemade pastry (the cinnamon rolls are huge and flaky -- they melt in your mouth!) at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd) on Lake Austin, and enjoy the tranquility of the water, or make the short drive to watch the sun rise over Mount Bonnell. You'll climb 99 steps to get to the top, but it's a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, Lake Austin, surrounding Hill Country, incredible lakeside homes -- and one of the many reasons University of Texas at Austin students never leave after they graduate.

Make a stop at the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th St), which is on the way back from Mount Bonnell, and enjoy the exhibits that celebrate the marriage of art and nature. Housed inside a restored 1916 Italian-style villa, the museum is a meditative place to spend the afternoon. Don't miss the opportunity for a walk on the 12 acres of beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Austin, with its sculptures and historic gardens.

3 days: Since you have a few days in town, you have some time to visit and experience the beauty of several buildings in downtown Austin noted for their architectural significance.

Stop at the Bank One Tower (221 W 6th St) to admire this solid block of glass rectangle, which uses varying colors of glass and cut-out notches to give it some visual interest. Each floor going up has glass that's shades darker and lighter than the main floor windows. The corners have been shaved off along with a portion of the roofline.

Visit the First Southern Presbyterian Church (200 E 8th), which is beige in color, typical of Texas architecture, and is made of local stone. Narrow vertical slits of windows let in some light, but are kept small to keep out the heat. This building, made in 1870, is 10 feet above the current street level and is a good contrast to the skyscrapers around it. In contrast, Saint Mary's of the Immaculate Conception (203 E 10th St) features a stout design that accentuates its rose windows, bell tower, and stained-glass windows imported from France and Germany.

Head over to the Capitol Centre (910 Congress), which has rows of squares arranged like a children's toy to form the main thrust of this small skyscraper. A row of windows located down the building's center is angled inward to accommodate shadows and light.

The State Capitol (1100 Congress Ave) is quite massive and worth touring for a while. It's the largest state capitol in the United States. The rotunda floor has images of the Lone Star in its marble, and the Goddess of Liberty statue holding a lone star at the top of the dome has been replaced with one made of aluminum.

When it's time for dinner, grab a table at the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), located inside the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel. You can order a large steak or seafood dish or some other fine traditional American cuisine and enjoy it in an elegant setting.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Austin

Whether you're looking for the trendy, the upscale, or the one-of-a-kind, you'll find it in Austin's shops. To organize your shopping excursions, refer to these itineraries.

1 day: Only one day to shop? Pity. Make the most of it with a trip to South Congress Avenue. Start at Blackmail (1202 South Congress), where the only colors you'll find in this very cool store are black and white, then stop at Antigua (1508 S Congress) for Guatemalan and Mexican art and decor, plus locally crafted jewelry.

Buy a great pair of boots at Allen's Boots (1522 South Congress), or cool cowboy attire, and then browse vintage finds at local favorite New Bohemia (1606 South Congress).

Backtrack slightly for lunch at Guero's Taco Bar (1412 South Congress), known for its great Tex-Mex dishes, tacos, and liberally tattooed wait staff.

©2006 Nika Vee In Uncommon Objects, you'll find all kinds of antiques and one-of-a-kind goods, including furniture, jewelry, and books.

Round out the day at Uncommon Objects (1512 South Congress), an antique lovers heaven with everything old: furniture, jewelry, clothes, books -- you name it -- then wander around on your own and discover the rest of this too-cool-for-school area of Austin.

2 days: Head out early for a day at the outlet malls in San Marcos, where professional shoppers and bargain hunters hone their craft. Prime Outlets (3939 IH 35 South, Exit 200) is the largest in South Texas, with about six million shoppers each year -- all looking for the best deals at more than 110 stores, including the 30 luxury brand stores like L'Occitane, Michael Kors, and the much-anticipated Neiman-Marcus Last Call outlets.

Tanger Factory Outlet Center (4015 S IH 35 South, San Marcos) has less luxury and more mainstream outlets (The Gap, Banana Republic, Nike) and is also worth a stop. Be prepared for crowds, however, at both places, and wear something comfortable, especially shoes, because you will be walking a lot.

Congratulate yourself on your many bargains at The Tap Room (129 E Hopkins; about five miles from The Tanger Center) in San Marcos, where you'll find big burgers and 32 beers on tap.

3 days: Shop downtown Austin and the University of Texas at Austin campus area, where you'll find funky clothes and shoes mixed in with top-dollar designer duds. Start at Sixth Street and Lamar with Girl Next Door (500 North Lamar), done up in girly pink and brown and offering L.A. and New York designer lines like 1921 and Ben-Amun; Erebelle, luxury yoga wear designed by a local Austinite; and more.

Move on to By George (524 North Lamar; 2346 Guadalupe), an Austin institution for hip chicks and dudes of all ages. Don't miss a stop at Waterloo Records (600 North Lamar), Austin's fiercely independently music store that has given many musicians their start, and pick up compilation discs from local radio station KGSR 107.1 as gifts for music-loving friends.

Head toward the UT campus, where you'll find funky treasures (vintage faux leopard fur coat for $15, anyone?) at Buffalo Exchange (2904 Guadalupe) vintage and consignment store.

Wrap up a successful day on the way home with a well-deserved pint and some pub grub (the fish & chips are great) at the Dog & Duck Pub, (406 West 17th, at 17th and Guadalupe). Try a pint of Independence Brewery's Pale Ale or Bootlegger Brown Ale, both great local brews, while you're there.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

In Austin, you can hear great live music while enjoying the local cuisine and maybe a beverage or two. These itineraries will steer you toward all the hotspots.

1 day: If you've only got one night in town, Sixth Street is the place to spend it. Book a room at the Mobil Three-Star InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave), where there's a great bar overlooking Sixth Street. It's far enough away from the crowds so you can get a decent night's sleep whenever you decide to roll in.

©2006 ACVB Photo Looking for some fun? You can't go wrong on Sixth Street.

The Lucky Lounge (209 West 5th St) is the spot to catch a set of one of the early bands (music starts at 8 pm). Cross over to 6th Street and from there the sky's the limit: try the ultra-cool Molotov Lounge (719 West Sixth) with its actual ice bar and premium vodkas, or grab a beer at Shakespeare's Pub (314 East Sixth). End the night dancing at Agave (415 East Sixth), with its raised dance floor and, of course, specialty tequilas.

2 days: Spend the day at Volente Beach on Lake Travis (RM 2222 and Volente Road), where you'll have everything you need for a day on the water. Before you head out, enjoy breakfast at Kerbey Lane (2606 Guadalupe). Open 24 hours and known for great breakfasts and vegetarian specialties, it's a great place to fuel up for the day.

At Volente Beach, one price gets you in for a day of swimming, waterpark attractions and more. Bring a picnic lunch (coolers allowed; much cheaper way to go), and buy refreshments there (including adult drinks at Zebo's Beach Bar).

The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is an Austin institution when it comes to the place to watch the sun go down over Lake Travis. Despite suffering a devastating fire in 2005 -- the result of a lightning strike -- the Oasis' multi-tiered decks are still open and offer the best view in town, no matter where you're sitting. Drinks are good, but stop at appetizers, though the menu is getting much better lately.

Head a bit further down FM 620 for dinner to explore your culinary intuition at Mobil Three-Star Hudson's on the Bend (3509 Ranch Rd), known for its game, rattlesnake, and creative cuisine.

3 days: Start off your late afternoon with an avocado-flavored margarita that has earned a cult following at Curra's Grill (614 E Oltorf St). It's quite tasty and can almost be a meal unto itself, which is possible if you settle for an appetizer with it instead of a standard meal.

Head out to some quality live music at Speakeasy (412D Congress Ave), which features small wooden tables around a dance floor in a relaxed atmosphere in which young professionals grasp apple martinis listening to the sounds of jazz, blues, and ska. You can also head up to the rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air, a nice view onto Congress Avenue, or a casual conversation with a stranger.

When you're ready to listen to the latest up-and-coming music performers, grab a seat at Antone's Nightclub (2123 W Fifth St). This is a live music landmark and known as Austin's home of the blues since it's been around for more than a quarter of a century.

Finish up with some late-late night dancing at Plush (617 Red River St), a miniature dance club that serves up hard-edged music in its cool-toned club. A makeshift dance floor in front of the DJ station is a focal point with ambient lighting from pieces of original neon and metal art hanging from the bar brick walls. Most seating can be found in the back lounge, which is a small sunken area with a minimalist feel.

For a late-late snack, head over to Katz's Deli and Bar (618 W 6th St), which is open 24 hours. Settle your stomach with a matzo ball soup, a greasy cheeseburger, or large Reuben sandwich.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Ready to kick back and take it easy? Austin's spas, lakes, and hiking trails give you ample opportunities to do just that. These itineraries offer three days worth of suggestions for relaxing in Austin.

1 day: Start your day with breakfast at Austin Java (1608 Barton Springs Rd), where the breakfast taco options satisfy every taste and craving, the migas are famous, and the coffee is roasted to order.

Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) and the Town Lake Trail are literally across the street, so enjoy a leisurely stroll or a jaunt on a canoe or kayak. Stop in at the RunTex flagship store on Riverside Drive for a new pair of running shoes (422 West Riverside). Spend the rest of the morning exploring the grounds of this 351-acre park, which has a nature center too. Cool off with a dip at Zilker Park's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd), another local favorite that's a spring-fed swimming pool almost as long as a football field.

Take some time for yourself at The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, and classes to feed your soul.

2 days: Water activities and Austin just go together, so pick a lake and spend some time exploring. Lake Travis and Lake Austin are the most popular for boating and fun in the sun, so get off the beaten path and explore the lakes in the Hill Country, including Lake Buchanan. Lake Buchanan is more than 23,000 acres and is the largest of the Highland Lakes. Spend the day at Black Rock Park, and then stop in Tow, Texas and Fall Creek Vineyards for an ice-cold glass of their signature Chenin Blanc.

It's popular for good reason so, since a visit to Austin just isn't complete without a stop at Lake Travis, go to the best-kept secret on the water: Krause Springs, located about 34 miles west of Austin. This gorgeous oasis was named one of the best swimming holes in Texas. It's spring-fed, has a waterfall and creek swimming area, plus areas for camping and all the comforts of home with nearby restrooms and showers. Bring a picnic and spend the day, or camp overnight.

3 days: Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928.

Wrap up the day with a stop at Central Market (4001 North Lamar, at 38th & Lamar), where the incredible (and huge!) Cobb salad is a great choice for noshing. Vegetarians: omit the chicken, eggs, and bacon and ask for extra avocado -- it's great, and staff is very accommodating when it comes to special dietary requests.

Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the exhibits of more than 100 rescued animals housed at Austin Zoo (1087 Rawhide Trail).

Austin's ability to blend old and new is evident in its museums, cuisine, and landmarks. There's enough to do in this city to satisfy just about anyone -- from art buffs to music afficiandos.

© Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Lemen is freelance writer based in Austin, Texas, whose passion is exploring new cities and meeting interesting people, preferably while running. She's been to Paris for the weekend, to Italy for her 30th birthday, and ran the New York City marathon for her 40th.

©2006 ACVB Photo The spring water in Barton Springs Pool is an average of 68 degrees year round.

1 day: It's tough, but it's possible to get an idea of Austin's charms in one day. Start the morning with an order of blueberry pancakes for breakfast at Magnolia Cafe (2304 Lake Austin Blvd).

Start off at Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd in Zilker Park) for a morning dip or the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail for a stroll (visit the web site for maps and history). Main trailheads are located under the Mopac Bridge off West Cesar Chavez (First Street) near Zilker Park and at First Street and Riverside Drive. For serious runners in need of a long run, the 10.1-mile loop is great, but it's a good idea to run with a friend since part of the trail is in a more remote area of east Austin, taking you over Longhorn Dam and across Town Lake at several points.

The Sixth Street Entertainment District (southeast of the Capitol Complex on Sixth St between Congress Ave and Interstate 35) is probably the most well-known when it comes to Austin nightlife, but head off the beaten path to explore the Fourth Street Warehouse District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) more of the 30-plus crowd, or the brand-new Second Street District (west of Congress Ave and South of Sixth St) with its upscale shops, restaurants, and condominium and loft projects.

Head to CRU Wine Bar (238 West 2nd St) for a glass of vino, then stop for rustic Italian food at Taverna (258 West 2nd St), or gourmet Mexican food at Cantina Laredo (201 West 3rd St).

Finish off the night at The Continental Club (1315 South Congress Ave) for some live music, or The Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar), which is a "true Texas dance hall" and honky-tonk bar where Lone Star Beer or Shiner Bock (brewed in Shiner, Texas, 90 miles from Austin) are the preferred beverages.

2 days: Start the day off with breakfast tacos at Taco Shack (402 Brazos in the Frost Bank Tower building), an Austin institution best known for the "Shack Taco," the house taco that's a flour tortilla rolled around eggs, chorizo, potatoes, cheese, and salsa.

Learn about Texas with a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 North Congress Ave). Named after Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who was the force behind the museum's creation, it's a great place to discover interactive experiences that trace Texas history from early European exploration to the early 1970s. There's a 400-seat IMAX Theatre inside the museum showing 2-D and 3-D films, and the Texas Spirit Theater, also inside the museum, features a film about the history of The Lone Star State, complete with cool 3-D images, lighting and sound effects, plus shaking seats when visitors see a gusher from a Texas oil derrick.

Foodies shouldn't miss a trip to the flagship Whole Foods Market (550 Bowie St) or to Austin's Central Market (4001 North Lamar). Sure, they're grocery stores -- but they're much more than that with food demonstrations, plenty of samples, specialty foods sections, and cafes where you can enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine, and even live music. Central Market features a Sunday jazz brunch, and Whole Foods often hosts live music concerts on its deck overlooking downtown Austin.

At dusk, head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the emergence of 1.5 million of Mexican Free-tailed Bats each night from mid-March to November. It takes about 45 minutes for all the bats to exit. You can come with a lawn chair or blanket to sit along the shores of Town Lake and watch this free display of nature.

Hopefully you'll still have an appetite after watching the bats fly off into the night in search of their own feast of insects. You can head to Mobil Three-Star Fonda San Miguel (2330 W North Loop) for Mexican food. Walk through antique doors for such treats as Mexican corn soup with cheese and roasted poblano chiles, Gulf shrimp in tomatillo sauce, and lion lamb chops with chipotle potatoes. The almond flan is a popular way to end the meal.

3 days: Three days in Austin means that a trip to the Hill County is in order. Grab breakfast at Austin Java (1206 Parkway at 12th and Lamar) -- don't miss the migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) or the great coffee -- then head to nearby town of New Braunfels for a bit of German culture. Wurstfest is held here each October, and it's a two-week tribute to sausage, beer, and oompah music -- a fun family adventure for kids of all ages. Tubing is the must-do summer activity here; there's nothing better than floating down the Comal River in a huge inner tube, cooler in tow. Outfitters abound along the banks of the river; try Texas Tubes (250 Meusebach, New Braunfels).

When it starts to get really warm, you'll want to visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark (305 East Austin St). Your best bet is to book a charming cabin at one of the park's two resorts. Nestled among the trees on the banks of the Comal River, it's the best way to experience this huge park. Resort at the Bahn is located on the west side of the park; Resort at the Rapids is on the east side. Word to the wise: The resorts are extremely popular, especially in the summer, and book up nearly a year in advance, so make reservations early.

On the way back to Austin, make a stop in nearby historic Gruene (pronounced "Green"), another German-influenced town that's home to another famous live music venue: Gruene Hall (1281 Gruene Rd). Internationally known and Texas' oldest dance hall, it's been around since 1878 and has been the career launching pad for such musicians as George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and many more.

Have lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar (1287 Gruene Rd), located just behind Gruene Hall and known for its down-home fare with a Texas flavor. This is the place to try a 16-ounce Texas T-bone or 12-ounce New York Strip steak. If you're watching your weight, they do have grilled chicken and fresh trout on the menu, too. If you still have some room, sink your spoon into a Jack Daniel's Pecan Pie a la mode.

Don't miss the Gruene General Store (1610 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels), where you'll discover homemade fudge, honey, preserves, gifts, and much more.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Austin

Austin's museums, theaters, and performing groups provide plenty to keep you busy during your visit. Use these suggested itineraries to see the best of Austin's arts and culture.

1 day: If you only have time for one day of culture, don't miss the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art (MLK at Congress Avenue, on the University of Texas at Austin campus), which has a permanent collection recognized for its Old Master paintings, extensive collection of Latin American art, and a huge array of prints and drawings.

In the afternoon, take the kids to the Austin Children's Museum (201 Colorado St), which targets children 0-9 years of age. It's the only museum just for kids with live music, cultural events, and workshops. The exhibits also teach kids about Austin history and life on a ranch. Best time to go? Sundays between 4 and 5 pm, when admission is free. Saturdays tend to be very busy, so keep that in mind.

At night, enjoy some good barbecue like pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue beef brisket at Stubb's (801 Red River), then listen to some live music.

©2006 ACVB Photo/Austin Theatre Alliance The Paramount Theater has been a fixture in Austin for 90 years.

Afterward, you can catch a performance at The Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave), which has been around for more than 90 years with vaudeville acts, silent films then to The Vagina Monologues and Willie Nelson today. The Paramount's sister theatre and another local favorite, the State Theatre (713 North Congress) was heavily damaged by a water main break in June 2006 and is currently closed for extensive renovations.

2 days: Spend the next day on South Congress Avenue, also called "SoCo." Start your day with hot coffee to go at Jo's Hot Coffee & Good Food (1300 South Congress), which is known as much for its people-watching and "Austintatious" attitude as it is for the coffee.

Visit the ultra-hip Penn Field Design District (3601 South Congress Ave), a mixed-use retail space and noted architectural renovation that is now home to the Design Center of Austin (3601 South Congress at Penn Field, Suite C), a collection of specialty showrooms for architecture and design that's open to the public and to the trade.

Spend some time at the Austin Playhouse (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a professional theatre company featuring such productions as "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

For a lunch or late afternoon snack, grab a table at Ruta Maya (3601 South Congress at Penn Field), a local coffee house and favorite hangout for the multi-tattooed and the dressed-to-the-nines or a combination of the two. Select an organic coffee blend and chill out, or enjoy an ice-cold Lone Star beer and a sandwich. You can even try out the salsa dance lessons on Sundays. There's also live music every day of the week.

Afterward, you can wander through the Austin Museum of Art (823 Congress Ave) to view some of the best American art made since 1900, then enjoy a glass of wine at Cork & Company (308 Congress Ave), where reasonably priced and humorously-named wine flights like "Cab Ride to Manhattan" featuring top Cabernet Sauvignon wines and great cheese plates are worth the visit. Taste something you like? You can buy the bottle there, too.

3 days: See the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country upclose at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse Ave), where planting areas, wildflower meadows, exhibits, and an observation tower honor Mrs. Johnson's passionate devotion to native landscaping and preservation.

As you leave, pretend you're Lance Armstrong on the Veloway (access the trail from Mopac, just south of Slaughter Lane and right near the Wildflower Center), a 3.17-mile, 23-feet-wide paved trail that is exclusively for cyclists and rollerbladers -- no walkers or runners allowed. The trail goes through Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park (4103 Slaughter Lane), and is a great way to get in even more of the great outdoors before continuing your day.

Continue your trip down presidential memory lane with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (2313 Red River). This museum on the University of Texas campus includes thousands of volumes of presidential papers, a scale replica of the Oval Office during his presidency, and a First Lady's Gallery devoted to the work of Lady Bird Johnson.

Stop for lunch at the Iron Cactus (606 Trinity at Sixth Street), where you'll enjoy fresh margaritas and upscale Tex-Mex food. Try the Tableside Guacamole, made fresh as you watch, or the Shrimp Enchiladas. If it's not too hot, ask for a table on the rooftop deck overlooking Sixth Street. It's a great view and a nice way to spend an afternoon. And even if it is a little toasty, not to worry too much, since there are misters outside to keep cool.

If you visit Austin during the summer, take in a free performance of the Austin Symphony (at Wooldridge Park, 9th and Guadalupe), held each Sunday night throughout the summer. "Blues on the Green," sponsored by local radio station KGSR 107.1, is another Austin musical tradition in the summer, where well-known blues artists like Marcia Ball play for free at Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.) To find the performance, you should look for an outcropping of limestone rocks in the middle of the park called "Rock Island."

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Austin

Austin landmarks give you a glimpse into the city's history. These itineraries will point you in the right direction on your architecural tours.

1 day: Enjoy a classic Tex-Mex breakfast at Las Manitas Avenue Cafe (211 Congress Ave), but be prepared to wait -- it's a very popular place every day of the week and is known for its breakfast migas (Tex-Mex breakfast dish of tortillas, eggs, and cheese) during the week and menudo (Mexican soup) on the weekends.

One of the best ways to take in the Austin skyline and architecture during the day is to rent a canoe or kayak and float on Town Lake. Head to local outfitters Zilker Park Boat Rentals, which has been open since 1969; Austin Outdoor Gear and Guidance (3411 N Interstate 35) or the Rowing Dock (2418 Stratford Dr). If you can, try to head out during the week, since the boat rental places tend to get very busy on the weekends.

Enjoy lunch at Chuy's Tex-Mex (1728 Barton Springs), an Austin institution known for its "Big As Yo' Face" burritos and sopapillas, numerous vegetarian fare options (the veggie enchiladas are awesome), stout margaritas, and obsession with all things Elvis. Don't forget to sit in the old-time photo booth and take a few fun pictures before you leave.

After seeing some of Austin's beautiful architecture from the lake, spend the afternoon learning about architect Abner Cook, who designed many important buildings in town. Learn about the Federal style architecture at the Governor's Mansion (1010 Colorado St). Then head over to the Neill-Cochran House (2310 San Gabriel St) to see how he used Greek-Revival architecture styles in his buildings. You can tour the inside and outsides of these two important buildings to the city's architectural and historical history.

©2006 Christopher Houben The breathtaking view from Mount Bonnell lets you survey the Austin skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country.

2 days: Get up early, grab some house-roasted European coffee and a homemade pastry (the cinnamon rolls are huge and flaky -- they melt in your mouth!) at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd) on Lake Austin, and enjoy the tranquility of the water, or make the short drive to watch the sun rise over Mount Bonnell. You'll climb 99 steps to get to the top, but it's a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, Lake Austin, surrounding Hill Country, incredible lakeside homes -- and one of the many reasons University of Texas at Austin students never leave after they graduate.

Make a stop at the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th St), which is on the way back from Mount Bonnell, and enjoy the exhibits that celebrate the marriage of art and nature. Housed inside a restored 1916 Italian-style villa, the museum is a meditative place to spend the afternoon. Don't miss the opportunity for a walk on the 12 acres of beautiful grounds overlooking Lake Austin, with its sculptures and historic gardens.

3 days: Since you have a few days in town, you have some time to visit and experience the beauty of several buildings in downtown Austin noted for their architectural significance.

Stop at the Bank One Tower (221 W 6th St) to admire this solid block of glass rectangle, which uses varying colors of glass and cut-out notches to give it some visual interest. Each floor going up has glass that's shades darker and lighter than the main floor windows. The corners have been shaved off along with a portion of the roofline.

Visit the First Southern Presbyterian Church (200 E 8th), which is beige in color, typical of Texas architecture, and is made of local stone. Narrow vertical slits of windows let in some light, but are kept small to keep out the heat. This building, made in 1870, is 10 feet above the current street level and is a good contrast to the skyscrapers around it. In contrast, Saint Mary's of the Immaculate Conception (203 E 10th St) features a stout design that accentuates its rose windows, bell tower, and stained-glass windows imported from France and Germany.

Head over to the Capitol Centre (910 Congress), which has rows of squares arranged like a children's toy to form the main thrust of this small skyscraper. A row of windows located down the building's center is angled inward to accommodate shadows and light.

The State Capitol (1100 Congress Ave) is quite massive and worth touring for a while. It's the largest state capitol in the United States. The rotunda floor has images of the Lone Star in its marble, and the Goddess of Liberty statue holding a lone star at the top of the dome has been replaced with one made of aluminum.

When it's time for dinner, grab a table at the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Grill (604 Brazos St), located inside the Mobil Three-Star Driskill Hotel. You can order a large steak or seafood dish or some other fine traditional American cuisine and enjoy it in an elegant setting.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Austin

Whether you're looking for the trendy, the upscale, or the one-of-a-kind, you'll find it in Austin's shops. To organize your shopping excursions, refer to these itineraries.

1 day: Only one day to shop? Pity. Make the most of it with a trip to South Congress Avenue. Start at Blackmail (1202 South Congress), where the only colors you'll find in this very cool store are black and white, then stop at Antigua (1508 S Congress) for Guatemalan and Mexican art and decor, plus locally crafted jewelry.

Buy a great pair of boots at Allen's Boots (1522 South Congress), or cool cowboy attire, and then browse vintage finds at local favorite New Bohemia (1606 South Congress).

Backtrack slightly for lunch at Guero's Taco Bar (1412 South Congress), known for its great Tex-Mex dishes, tacos, and liberally tattooed wait staff.

©2006 Nika Vee In Uncommon Objects, you'll find all kinds of antiques and one-of-a-kind goods, including furniture, jewelry, and books.

Round out the day at Uncommon Objects (1512 South Congress), an antique lovers heaven with everything old: furniture, jewelry, clothes, books -- you name it -- then wander around on your own and discover the rest of this too-cool-for-school area of Austin.

2 days: Head out early for a day at the outlet malls in San Marcos, where professional shoppers and bargain hunters hone their craft. Prime Outlets (3939 IH 35 South, Exit 200) is the largest in South Texas, with about six million shoppers each year -- all looking for the best deals at more than 110 stores, including the 30 luxury brand stores like L'Occitane, Michael Kors, and the much-anticipated Neiman-Marcus Last Call outlets.

Tanger Factory Outlet Center (4015 S IH 35 South, San Marcos) has less luxury and more mainstream outlets (The Gap, Banana Republic, Nike) and is also worth a stop. Be prepared for crowds, however, at both places, and wear something comfortable, especially shoes, because you will be walking a lot.

Congratulate yourself on your many bargains at The Tap Room (129 E Hopkins; about five miles from The Tanger Center) in San Marcos, where you'll find big burgers and 32 beers on tap.

3 days: Shop downtown Austin and the University of Texas at Austin campus area, where you'll find funky clothes and shoes mixed in with top-dollar designer duds. Start at Sixth Street and Lamar with Girl Next Door (500 North Lamar), done up in girly pink and brown and offering L.A. and New York designer lines like 1921 and Ben-Amun; Erebelle, luxury yoga wear designed by a local Austinite; and more.

Move on to By George (524 North Lamar; 2346 Guadalupe), an Austin institution for hip chicks and dudes of all ages. Don't miss a stop at Waterloo Records (600 North Lamar), Austin's fiercely independently music store that has given many musicians their start, and pick up compilation discs from local radio station KGSR 107.1 as gifts for music-loving friends.

Head toward the UT campus, where you'll find funky treasures (vintage faux leopard fur coat for $15, anyone?) at Buffalo Exchange (2904 Guadalupe) vintage and consignment store.

Wrap up a successful day on the way home with a well-deserved pint and some pub grub (the fish & chips are great) at the Dog & Duck Pub, (406 West 17th, at 17th and Guadalupe). Try a pint of Independence Brewery's Pale Ale or Bootlegger Brown Ale, both great local brews, while you're there.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Austin

In Austin, you can hear great live music while enjoying the local cuisine and maybe a beverage or two. These itineraries will steer you toward all the hotspots.

1 day: If you've only got one night in town, Sixth Street is the place to spend it. Book a room at the Mobil Three-Star InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (701 Congress Ave), where there's a great bar overlooking Sixth Street. It's far enough away from the crowds so you can get a decent night's sleep whenever you decide to roll in.

©2006 ACVB Photo Looking for some fun? You can't go wrong on Sixth Street.

The Lucky Lounge (209 West 5th St) is the spot to catch a set of one of the early bands (music starts at 8 pm). Cross over to 6th Street and from there the sky's the limit: try the ultra-cool Molotov Lounge (719 West Sixth) with its actual ice bar and premium vodkas, or grab a beer at Shakespeare's Pub (314 East Sixth). End the night dancing at Agave (415 East Sixth), with its raised dance floor and, of course, specialty tequilas.

2 days: Spend the day at Volente Beach on Lake Travis (RM 2222 and Volente Road), where you'll have everything you need for a day on the water. Before you head out, enjoy breakfast at Kerbey Lane (2606 Guadalupe). Open 24 hours and known for great breakfasts and vegetarian specialties, it's a great place to fuel up for the day.

At Volente Beach, one price gets you in for a day of swimming, waterpark attractions and more. Bring a picnic lunch (coolers allowed; much cheaper way to go), and buy refreshments there (including adult drinks at Zebo's Beach Bar).

The Oasis (6550 Comanche Trail) is an Austin institution when it comes to the place to watch the sun go down over Lake Travis. Despite suffering a devastating fire in 2005 -- the result of a lightning strike -- the Oasis' multi-tiered decks are still open and offer the best view in town, no matter where you're sitting. Drinks are good, but stop at appetizers, though the menu is getting much better lately.

Head a bit further down FM 620 for dinner to explore your culinary intuition at Mobil Three-Star Hudson's on the Bend (3509 Ranch Rd), known for its game, rattlesnake, and creative cuisine.

3 days: Start off your late afternoon with an avocado-flavored margarita that has earned a cult following at Curra's Grill (614 E Oltorf St). It's quite tasty and can almost be a meal unto itself, which is possible if you settle for an appetizer with it instead of a standard meal.

Head out to some quality live music at Speakeasy (412D Congress Ave), which features small wooden tables around a dance floor in a relaxed atmosphere in which young professionals grasp apple martinis listening to the sounds of jazz, blues, and ska. You can also head up to the rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air, a nice view onto Congress Avenue, or a casual conversation with a stranger.

When you're ready to listen to the latest up-and-coming music performers, grab a seat at Antone's Nightclub (2123 W Fifth St). This is a live music landmark and known as Austin's home of the blues since it's been around for more than a quarter of a century.

Finish up with some late-late night dancing at Plush (617 Red River St), a miniature dance club that serves up hard-edged music in its cool-toned club. A makeshift dance floor in front of the DJ station is a focal point with ambient lighting from pieces of original neon and metal art hanging from the bar brick walls. Most seating can be found in the back lounge, which is a small sunken area with a minimalist feel.

For a late-late snack, head over to Katz's Deli and Bar (618 W 6th St), which is open 24 hours. Settle your stomach with a matzo ball soup, a greasy cheeseburger, or large Reuben sandwich.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Austin

Ready to kick back and take it easy? Austin's spas, lakes, and hiking trails give you ample opportunities to do just that. These itineraries offer three days worth of suggestions for relaxing in Austin.

1 day: Start your day with breakfast at Austin Java (1608 Barton Springs Rd), where the breakfast taco options satisfy every taste and craving, the migas are famous, and the coffee is roasted to order.

Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd) and the Town Lake Trail are literally across the street, so enjoy a leisurely stroll or a jaunt on a canoe or kayak. Stop in at the RunTex flagship store on Riverside Drive for a new pair of running shoes (422 West Riverside). Spend the rest of the morning exploring the grounds of this 351-acre park, which has a nature center too. Cool off with a dip at Zilker Park's Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Rd), another local favorite that's a spring-fed swimming pool almost as long as a football field.

Take some time for yourself at The Crossings Austin (13500 FM 2769, near the intersection of Bullick Hollow and Volente Road), a holistic, continuing education, and healing retreat with a day spa, wellness center, and classes to feed your soul.

2 days: Water activities and Austin just go together, so pick a lake and spend some time exploring. Lake Travis and Lake Austin are the most popular for boating and fun in the sun, so get off the beaten path and explore the lakes in the Hill Country, including Lake Buchanan. Lake Buchanan is more than 23,000 acres and is the largest of the Highland Lakes. Spend the day at Black Rock Park, and then stop in Tow, Texas and Fall Creek Vineyards for an ice-cold glass of their signature Chenin Blanc.

It's popular for good reason so, since a visit to Austin just isn't complete without a stop at Lake Travis, go to the best-kept secret on the water: Krause Springs, located about 34 miles west of Austin. This gorgeous oasis was named one of the best swimming holes in Texas. It's spring-fed, has a waterfall and creek swimming area, plus areas for camping and all the comforts of home with nearby restrooms and showers. Bring a picnic and spend the day, or camp overnight.

3 days: Take in a little Austin history and still get in a good game of golf at two of Austin's oldest' courses: The nine-hole Hancock Park Golf Course (811 East 41st St) was built in 1899, and the Lion's Municipal Golf Course (2901 Enfield Rd) is the second-oldest course in Austin, built in 1928.

Wrap up the day with a stop at Central Market (4001 North Lamar, at 38th & Lamar), where the incredible (and huge!) Cobb salad is a great choice for noshing. Vegetarians: omit the chicken, eggs, and bacon and ask for extra avocado -- it's great, and staff is very accommodating when it comes to special dietary requests.

Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the exhibits of more than 100 rescued animals housed at Austin Zoo (1087 Rawhide Trail).

Austin's ability to blend old and new is evident in its museums, cuisine, and landmarks. There's enough to do in this city to satisfy just about anyone -- from art buffs to music afficiandos.

© Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy Lemen is freelance writer based in Austin, Texas, whose passion is exploring new cities and meeting interesting people, preferably while running. She's been to Paris for the weekend, to Italy for her 30th birthday, and ran the New York City marathon for her 40th.

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