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Austin, Texas is sure to win you over with its flawlessly friendly people, excellent food, vibrant arts scene and easy-to-navigate downtown. Here’s what to do while you're in the area:
1. See the bats. Austin is known for being a bit quirky, so it’s no surprise that some of the city’s most beloved residents are the 1.5 million bats who live beneath the Congress Avenue bridge downtown. Each night, when the sun goes down, the bats flood out of the bridge and swarm down the Colorado River toward the countryside, where they do the area farmers a favor by ingesting insects. It’s quite a sight. At dusk, Austin tourists and locals gather on the bridge, on the grassy bank next to the bridge, on the dock by the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, and even on kayaks, paddleboats and riverboats on the water below to watch the spectacle. And so should you.
2. Hear live music. Music is what this city is all about, so be sure to hit up one of its many dive music establishments. Perhaps venture down the stairs to The Elephant Room, a dimly-lit, speakeasy-esque, basement club on Congress Avenue that features live jazz music.
3. Eat some barbecue. Texas knows its meat. And barbecue joint The Salt Lick, in Driftwood, Texas, just a bit outside the city, is a good place to sample it. Carnivores will love the juicy pork rib and beef brisket, with two spicy sauces — not to mention the pecan pie a la mode and pale of local Shiner Bock beer. The property includes a vineyard, as well, so you can even participate in a wine tasting. Dining is super casual at this Hill Country establishment — eat outside or inside on wide picnic tables with benches. Many locals even roll in their own coolers of beverages.
4. Visit the food trucks. You’ve surely heard of the delicious eats dealt out of Austin’s renowned food trailers. So be sure hit up a taco truck like Torchy’s — perhaps order the Trailer Park taco, which includes fried chicken, green chilies, lettuce, pico de gallo and cheese. And definitely try Holy Cacao for dessert. Its frozen drinking chocolate (hot chocolate blended with ice and Blue Bell Dutch chocolate ice cream) is the best thing I've tasted in a long time.
5. Visit the Texas Hill Country. To the west of Austin, you’ll find the Hill Country, a peaceful, rolling landscape dotted with trees where you can taste wine at wineries (try Becker Vineyards), visit lavender farms and view wildflowers. The area is best in April when the famous bluebonnets bloom, making for a particularly lovely scene.