This building is one of the more impressive state capitols in the country, and it's also the largest, and the second tallest. In such a liberal town, it's kind of fascinating to think that George W. Bush spent eight years in this place. Can't imagine he and Karl Rove went for too many leisurely strolls down 5th Street. The place has tours that run for 45 minutes on Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
recommendation by goose
The largest urban colony of bats lives on the underbelly of a downtown Austin bridge, and come sunset you can spread out a blanket on an expanse of grass nearby to watch them come out, or stand on the bridge and watch them come out. The bats earn their keep by eating tons of insects everynight. Austin has found a cool and green way to keep the insects under control, and it's a really impressive thing to watch as black clouds of bats emerge from under the bridge.
Congress Ave over Ladybird Lake
The folks in Austin take their natural parks seriously and this is one of the better botanical gardens I've seen in the US. They've got a rose garden, an oriental garden, herbs and fragrant plants, cactuses. The Butterfly trail is filled with plants that attract those flying beasties.
If you're planning a visit check the website, which has a map and offers monthly photos of flowering plants and their identification so you'll know what to look for.
Open dawn to dusk.
In the middle of the city of Austin is this huge pool. It costs $3 to go in (for the whole day) - the water is pleasant all year round and you're outdoors, in a stream with pool amenities and big trees all around. It's cool and super clean. If you don't want to pay the $3, just go on the other side of the fence and you can swim in the same water, and get your feet in the muck.
There's a lot going on at this place. Modern exhibits, art house film showings, and their awesome permanent collection. If you're in Austin and want to take a day off from drinking, definitely check this place out. There's always something new here, and it'll admission to the downtown museum will only set you back $5.