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Austin: it's a total package

ERICA RODRIGUEZ

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:22 a.m.

It's hard to imagine why Austin wouldn't be the number one hot spot close to Victoria. With its eclectic blend of white collar business class and starving musicians, its tourist attractions steeped in Texas history and hi-tech electronics scene, the city embraces, and is embraced, by all walks of life.

The city ranks at the top of many "best quality of life" lists and is home to environmentalists, entrepreneurs, politicians and artists. The city of 1.4 million is described as the largest small town in Texas and has enough to entertain any walk of life.

"Where else can you go eat dinner next to some million-dollar executive and a guy with a thousand tattoos right next to each other," said Shane Mericle, a former Victoria resident who now lives in Austin.

Austin, with its mix of funky hippies and corporate businesses, boasts an environment you can't duplicate anywhere.

"What makes Austin such a great place is it has a nice artistic feel to it," said Jeff Contreras, an Austinite from Victoria. "You can be creative here, you can be yourself. You don't have to fit into any particular mold."

Little more than a two-hour drive from Victoria, the city makes a destination for residents as a weekend or day trip not too far from reach.

"I'm burning up the road - literally," said Laura Kinnison, a Victoria resident who visits the town about twice a month. "It's really hard to have a bad time in Austin. There's just so many wonderful things do to in Austin, there's no reason not to go."

Daytrippers or weekend travelers have a range of visiting options uniquely Austin. But there's those things nearly everyone agrees you must see - the outdoors, the history and the music.

One of the highest rated pastimes is watching the bats on the Congress Street Bridge on a summer evening. Every night, 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats wake from their roost. Visitors are encouraged to call the Bat Hotline 512-416-5700 for exact flight times.

(http://www.batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/visit-a-bat-location/congress-avenue-bridge/subcategory/52.html)

But bats aren't the only outdoor attraction in Austin.

"There's lots of green in Austin," Kinnison said. "There are parks everywhere."

Known as the gateway to the Texas Hill County, Austin is home to Zilker Park (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker/), a 351-acre park with playgrounds, nature trails and the crisply, cool watering hole, Barton Springs (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/bartonsprings.htm). About 3-acres in size, the spring is fed from underground springs, making it a refreshing 68 degrees year round.

For the history buffs, there's the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum (http://www.thestoryoftexas.com), which sports three stories and a theater of all things Texas. Hop across the street to the Texas State Capitol building (http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/spb/capitol/texcap.htm) and stroll the campus or take a tour (http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/CVC/plan/plhome.html). Also a must see, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum (http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/ ) features two levels of exhibits chronicling the public life of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a native Texan.

After soaking up Austin, wind down the day with tunes from any one of Austin's 200 live music venues.

The Elephant Room (http://www.elephantroom.com/ ) in downtown offers a nightly dose of live jazz and was rated one of the top 10 jazz venues in the country. For some good old-fashion Texas honky tonk, the Broken Spoke off Lamar Street, jams out nightly. And for those who want more, Austin City Limits offers in September a Texas-size lineup of musicians from everywhere.

No matter what your lifestyle, musical taste or interests, the city of Austin has something to suit you.

"Our atmosphere can't be beat," Contreras said. "It's basically the total package."


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