Austin: it's a total package

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ

  • San Antonio

    Distance from Victoria - 130 miles

    Points of Interest

    The Alamo

    See one of the most famous places in Texas history. Built in 1718, the Alamo houses relics and offers a short glimpse into the lives of Texas ...

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  • San Antonio

    Distance from Victoria - 130 miles

    Points of Interest

    The Alamo

    See one of the most famous places in Texas history. Built in 1718, the Alamo houses relics and offers a short glimpse into the lives of Texas founders. Admission is free. Hours: Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. · 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205 · P: 210- 225-1391

    Source: www.thealamo.org

    The River Walk

    Take a stroll down the lush 2-mile pathway that has served as both flood control and cultural hub for the city since 1938. Start downtown where restaurants and quiet waterfalls border the pathway. The walkway channels through Rivercenter Mall and into La Villita, "the little village," San Antonio's oldest neighborhood, which was established by Spanish soldiers stationed at the Alamo. The newest portion connects downtown with the San Antonio Museum of Art, and is lined with art by local and international artists. Boat tours are also available for as little as $2.50 for children.

    Source: www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com.

    San Marcos

    Distance from Victoria - 102 miles

    Points of Interest

    San Marcos River

    Calling all river rats! You're guaranteed to find your place on the San Marcos River, a constant hub of tubers, swimmers and kayakers. The spring-fed river is a constant 72 degrees year round and crystal clear in most places. Rent a tube and shuttle ride from the San Marcos Lions Club for as little as $7 and relax down the hour-long river float from the river headwaters to Rio Vista Dam, a tube shoot and spillway. Hours: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. · 170 Bobcat Drive San Marcos, TX 78666 · P: 512-396-5466.

    Source: www.tubesanmarcos.com

    Tanger and Prime Outlets

    Experience Prime Outlets, the shopping center voted the third "Best Place to Shop in the World" by ABC's The View. The center boasts being the most popular tourist attraction in Texas with stores such as Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center, A/X Armani Exchange, Saks Fifth OFF 5th and more. Prime is adjacent to Tanger Outlet, which boasts 100 brand name stores including a Crocs Outlet, Liz Claiborne Clearance and more. Hours: vary by store · 4015 I-35 South San Marcos, TX 78666 · P: 512 396-7446 (Prime), P: 512 396-7446 (Tanger)

    Source: Source: www.primeoutlets.com/locations/san-marcos.aspx; http://www.tangeroutlet.com/sanmarcos

    Corpus Christi

    Distance from Victoria - 98 miles

    Points of Interest

    Padre Island National Seashore

    Hit the beach in Corpus Christi on the world's largest undeveloped barrier island. The park stretches 70 miles of wind-blown dunes and warm costal shoreline. The beach is also home to the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the world's smallest and most endangered species of sea turtle. The live hatchlings release happens at different times throughout the summer. Malaquite Visitor Center Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. · 20420 Park Road 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418 · P: 361-949-8068.

    Source: http://www.nps.gov/pais

    Texas State Aquarium

    Watch dolphin training at Dolphin Bay or get up close to a variety of trained exotic birds in the Hawn Wild Flight Theater. The facility is host to thousands of animals representing more than 250 different species that serve to entertain and educate. Check the aquarium Web site www.texasstateaquarium.org for more details on daily programs.

    Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. · 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd. Corpus Christi, Texas 78402 · 361-881-1200 or 1-800-477-GULF.

    Source: www.texasstateaquarium.org

    Houston

    Distance from Victoria - 127 miles

    Points of Interest

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

    It is the largest art museum in the American South and has free admission for all ages on Thursdays plus free admission for 18 and under on Saturday and Sunday. Join the nearly 2.5 million people who visit the museum each year and enjoy more than 60,000 works of art.

    Address:

    1001 Bissonnet Street

    Houston, TX 77005

    .P 713-639-7300. Hours: vary

    -Source: www.mfah.org

    Space Center Houston

    Take a trip into outer space without leaving Texas. Explore the restored Saturn V, the worlds most powerful rocket to took astronauts into space. Also, until Sept. 20, check out the new George Lucas movie artifact collection featuring authentic props, costumes and awards from the filmmaker's work.

    Address: 1601 NASA Parkway

    Houston, Texas 77058.P: 281-244-2100. Hours: August 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

    Source: www.spacecenter.org/

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."

Goliad Golden Ale

Coleto Creek Park

Coastal Bend Paddlers take on the Guadalupe River




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