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Top Outdoor Attractions in Austin

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Austin is fortunate to have tons of green space, hike-and-bike trails and swimming holes. Here are some of the best outdoor attractions in town.


1. Barton Springs
The three-acre, spring-fed pool stays at a constant temperature of 68 degrees year-round. It’s by far the best place to be in the middle of summer, whether you want to cool off, swim laps, snorkel or enjoy fantastic people watching.


2. Mount Bonnell
An ideal site for a romantic picnic, Mount Bonnell overlooks Lake Austin and has a panoramic view of downtown. You’ll climb up a long staircase, though, before you can enjoy the scenery. Over 770 feet high, the hill is one of the tallest in central Texas.


3. Lady Bird Lake
Just south of downtown, Lady Bird Lake is the recreational hub of the city. For on-the-water fun, you can rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and, for the romantics at heart, a paddleboat in the shape of a giant swan. A trail goes around the entire lake, but you can take a shorter route by crossing the lake at Lamar Boulevard and S. 1st Street.


4. Zilker Park
With 350 acres to roam, you can play Frisbee on the Great Lawn, feed ducks along Barton Creek or visit the Austin Nature Center and its kid-friendly Dino Pit. Zilker is also home to the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival.


5. Barton Creek Greenbelt
The greenbelt is a minimally developed trail that starts at Zilker Park and meanders through 800 acres in west Austin. After heavy rains, several swimming holes develop along Barton Creek. The area also has a number of sheer limestone cliffs that are popular among rock climbers.


6. Emma Long Metropolitan Park
The park can get a little rowdy on summer weekends, but it’s still a great place for a group picnic. You can lounge along the lakefront, play volleyball or take a hike on the dog-friendly Turkey Creek trail. The lake isn’t very wide at this point, but the small swimming area is protected from passing boat traffic.


7. Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
The city’s most popular tourist attraction never fails to disappoint. Even if you’ve seen them before, you can see the flying mammals from a different vantage point, such as in a kayak or on a party boat. Most people gather on the sidewalk along the Congress Avenue Bridge. You can also bring a blanket and relax on the hillside next to the bridge.


8. Zilker Botanical Garden
The peaceful Japanese garden is my favorite part of the grounds. It features ponds brimming with koi fish, little walking bridges and exotic flora. In spring, the butterfly garden is a riot of eye-popping colors. Native and exotic flowers and butterflies are a feast for the senses.

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Travel Magazine: Top Outdoor Attractions in Austin
Top Outdoor Attractions in Austin
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