North of the Colorado River, along Congress Avenue, downtown Austin sizzles with Sixth Street’s lively clubs and bars. Elegant Southwestern restaurants and down-home cafés, folk- art shops and funky boutiques add to the mix. West of Congress Avenue, the Warehouse District has a more sophisticated scene, with stylish restaurants, clubs and boutiques. Immerse yourself in Texas history at LBJ Library Museum and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Each contains historic collections and engaging interactive displays. South of the river is South Austin and SoCo (South Congress), where Congress Avenue lights up with rocking live sounds at the Continental Club, down-to-earth cafes and trendy trattorias. Folk art shops and couture boutiques make for fun window-shopping.
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North of downtown, above the State Capitol, north central Austin's main attraction is the University of Texas campus. Bustling university life is most prevalent on Guadalupe Street. Students browse boutiques or the trinkets and T-shirts of Renaissance Market. A few blocks north of the campus, low-key Hyde Park's peaceful streets of elegant 19th-century Victorian and American Arts and Crafts-style homes peek out from behind the trees. Kids can marvel at the giant Texas pterosaur at the Texas Memorial Museum. A mix of restaurants line Duval Street, including city favorite Hyde Park Grill.
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Suburban northwest Austin puts the visitor close to huge shopping malls like The Arboretum and The Gateway complex. Sprawling resorts and spas make their home here too. The area is a useful location for exploring Texas Hill Country and its wineries, the Austin Museum of Art as well as Westlake and Lake Travis. Beautiful sunsets set the scene for dinner at the hillside Oasis restaurant. The Emma Long Metropolitan Park provides scenic hiking and boating opportunities.
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The sleepy communities of Round Rock and Georgetown are 17 and 27 miles north of Austin. Stroll Round Rock’s Old Town, where 19th-century buildings evoke the Old West. Baseball fans can watch the minor league Round Rock Express, owned by big-name major league pitcher Nolan Ryan. In historic Georgetown, a cable car takes visitors to limestone caves millions of years old at the Inner Space Cavern.
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25 miles south of Austin on Spring Lake, former Native American town San Marcos was first settled 12,000 years ago. Take a glass-bottomed boat ride at the Aquarena Center, or poke around the caves at Wonderworld. The Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern &Mexican Photography puts on intriguing exhibitions of regional contemporary works. Lost Pines, 30 miles southeast of Austin, promises leafy environs for hiking, camping and swimming.
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