Texas State Capitol Building (FREE): One of the more beautiful views of the city is driving North on Congress Avenue with the Capitol Building sitting in front of you at the peak of the grade. The Texas State Capitol Building is the largest state capitol building and its red granite contrasts the bright metal city buildings. There is a Visitor Center on the grounds, which gives a brief introduction to Texas’ history, and there are guided tours every half hour in the capitol building. This is a great place to visit with children.
Bats (FREE): Speaking of Congress Avenue, the largest urban bat colony in North America lives under the South Congress Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. From April to November, you can watch them leave their roost in the evening. They are Mexican free-tailed bats who winter in Mexico. There are also boat rides on the lake if you are interested.
Botanical Gardens (CHEAP): In Zilker Park, there is a botanical garden that allows you to roam through native plants, a butterfly garden, dinosaur-era inspired plantings, a rose garden, and a Japanese garden. Some of the gardens looked like a work in progress, but becoming familiar with the native flora and visiting the Japanese garden are worth the visit. A visit costs $2 for residents and $3 for non-residents – we thought that was an appropriate price.
Texas State Cemetery (FREE): Chris was very interested in seeing the gravesite of Chris Kyle, so we made a stop. The cemetery was very lovely to walk, and we visited the historical graves as well which included some of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Texas Rangers, Confederate Soldiers, those who captured Santa Anna, and many other honored Texans. They also have a small visitor center at the entrance. The Food: Austin lives up to its reputation for both variety and quality of food. There are plenty of streets full of beautiful restaurants with outdoor seating – I love eating outdoors. Plus, all of the food trucks are enough to make you roam the streets chasing the next delightful amusement for your taste buds. Keep in mind that food trucks are not fast food or cheap food. There are plenty of websites out there to help you make your choice. There are so many options, that it could be overwhelming. Fortunately, you just can’t go wrong eating in this city.
The Culture: Our honest opinion is that Austin does not rank in our top cities. We found it to be more of a city in transition. It felt like it was going in a lot of different directions – I am not saying that is a bad thing, but it was difficult to find the heart of the city for us. I have to admit that I can not honestly appreciate the “stay weird” motto. We didn’t really get a weird vibe. Please take into account that these are just personal first impressions, which is what you get as a visitor, as opposed to a resident. You may have a different experience, but I hold myself accountable to being honest about our travels. In its favor, Austin is a very clean city, and very easy to get around and find parking – and seriously, the food is outrageously amazing!
Tips & Fun Facts:
- We stayed at Oak Forest RV Resort. It was a little more than we like to pay, but it was a well kept campground with good access to the city and great internet. There were a lot of long-term campers here.
- If you have some money to spend, the Bullock Texas State History Museum looked amazing.
- Austin is known for its Live Music, so plan your trip accordingly if you are interested.
- You CANNOT overnight park an RV at a Walmart (or any other business) within a 1 hour radius of Austin. We were hoping to do that for a night to offset the higher cost of the campground, but it turns out that they no longer allow it due to how many people were filling the lots during concerts and live music events.
- The University of Texas is here! Looked like a typical larger, city school. (Not like an LSU campus.) Chris likes to visit stadiums…Hook ‘em Horns!
- The flagship Whole Foods store is located downtown and would be fun to check out if you have the time, and have the will power to not buy one of everything like I would want to do!