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Outdoor Recreation in Austin

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Thanks to its pleasant Texas Hill Country setting among rolling hills and cold, clear rivers, Austin offers visitors a number of great outdoor recreational opportunities. And, because it has a relatively mild year around climate, Austin is a great place to be active outdoors 12 months a year. From kayaking to hiking, exploring caverns to swimming, there are endless ways to spend a day outdoors in the Austin area.

1. Play A Round Around Austin

Austin and the surrounding area features a number of great golf courses. The rolling hills and numerous lakes, rivers and creeks surrounding Austin lend to the character of these courses. Additionally, Texas' oldest golf course, Hancock Golf Course, is located in Austin. While there are several fine private courses in Austin, here are some of the very best public and resort courses in the Austin area.

2. Explore Longhorn Caverns

Longhorn Caverns are a Hill Country wonder that have housed Comanche Indians, Confederate Soldiers and, perhaps, and outlaw or two. Today the site is a state park, offering a number of tours and educational programs.

3. Spend a Day at Lake Travis

Stretching over 60 miles, Lake Travis offers fishermen, sailors and water sport enthusiasts plenty of room to spread out. Impounded in 1941, Lake Travis is located on the Colorado River, approximately 20 miles above Austin. Since filling, Lake Travis has been one of the most popular water sport destinations in the Lone Star State. Scenic, hilly shorelines and deep, clear waters afford the perfect backdrop for sailing, diving, boating, canoeing, windsurfing, water skiing and more.

4. Go Swimming in Barton Springs

Located in Austin's famed Zilker Park, Barton Springs was formed when Barton Creek was dammed. Since its inception, Barton Springs has become one of the most popular swimming holes in the state. The City of Austin has operated Barton Springs as a park since 1917. Several improvements have been made to the Barton Springs "pool" over the years, but it remains a spring fed, natural water "swimming hole."

5. Hike in Colorado Bend State Park

Located on the Colorado River above Lake Buchanan, Colorado Bend State Park offers visitors some of the best river swimming in the state, as well as hiking, camping, fishing, birding and mountain biking.

6. Kool Off at Krause Springs

Located a short distance outside of Austin, Krause Springs is located near the headwaters of Cypress Creek. Krause Springs encompasses two large swimming holes and numerous campsites.

7. Run the Austin Marathon

Held in the Capitol City, the Livestrong Austin Marathon is one of the most scenic races in Texas, with nearly half the course being run along Town Lake and the Colorado River. The rolling hills of Austin also make this one of the more challenging races offered in the Lone Star State.

8. Visit Inner Space

Inner Space Cavern is a limestone cavern located in Georgetown, Texas, just a short distance from Austin. The cavern was discovered in 1963 by a highway work crew drilling through the limestone. Upon exploration, Inner Space Cavern was found to have some of the most intricate stalagtite and stalagmite formations in the state. Addtionally, the remains of several prehistoric animals have been discovered at the site.

9. Kayak Lady Bird Lake

Formerly known as Town Lake, Lady Bird Lake is located smack dab in the heart of Austin. The lake was renamed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson a few years ago, but most locals still call it by its former name, Town Lake. The water is calm along this dammed-up stretch of the Colorado River, so no skill is required to paddle around and enjoy the scenery. Birds and turtles abound, and you'll also get a nice view of the downtown skyline from the water.

10. See the Congress Street Bats

The South Congress Street bridge is home to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The bat family apparently likes to be close, very close. By day, they squeeze into spaces in the expansion joints on the underside of the bridge. From March to September, they emerge around sundown, creating what appears to be a black river in the sky as they head east in search of bugs to eat. The exodus is nearly impossible to photograph, however; just sit back on a picnic blanket beneath the bridge and enjoy the spectacle.
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