©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.