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Buford Tower is situated on the bank of the Colorado River in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas. The tower rises sixty-seven feet in height with a width and depth of fourteen feet. Its original but forgotten name, The Old Fireman’s Practice Tower, provides insight into the tower’s history. For more than forty-three years this building served as a training facility and was routinely burned, flooded with water, and scaled by local firefighters.

Buford Tower was initially constructed in 1931 and was paid for by a fire station bond fund. The architect, Roy White, worked at one of the most prominent firms in Austin owned by Hugo Franz Kuehne. In the early twentieth century Kuehne and his associates designed many prominent public buildings in the Beaux-Arts style. Their work is often cited as influencing the dominant architectural aesthetic, which defines downtown Austin to this day. More on Buford Tower.

Zilker Metropolitan Park and Botanical Garden
Austin's most popular green space, Zilker Park is a favorite recreation area for visitors and locals alike. Within the park are a variety of excellent tourist attractions, including the Zilker Hillside Theater - home to the annual Zilker Summer Musical - and the excellent Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Popular activities include walking and picnicking, as well as canoeing on Town Lake, while youngsters love the Zilker Zephyr miniature railway and taking a splash in the Barton Springs Pool, a huge spring-fed swimming pool open year-round. The highlight of a visit is Zilker Botanical Garden, 30 acres of plants and exquisite themed gardens, including the lovely Japanese Garden with its many streams, waterfalls, and ponds. There's also a rose garden, a herb garden, and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, built around ancient dinosaur footprints found embedded in the rock.

Another garden worth visiting is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, eight kilometers from Austin's downtown core and home to interesting architectural elements and wetlands. Also worthwhile is the Austin Nature and Science Center, a living museum with interpretive exhibits, programs, collections, and trails, as well as the Dino Pit where kids can play at being amateur archaeologists.

Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum tells the state's story through a variety of interesting interactive exhibits, along with audio-visual displays and film (the museum boasts an on-site IMAX Theatre). In addition to discovering more about the Lone Star State's rich history, you'll learn about the natural landscape, Native Americans, explorers, ranching, and famous Texans.

Museum Admission (Adults) $13  (Senior 65+) $11  (Youth 4-17) $9
IMAX® Theatre
Documentary films (~45 minutes) $9   $8   $7
IMAX® Theatre Feature films (lengths vary) $14   $12   $11
Texas Spirit Theater
Shipwrecked (26 minutes)
or Star of Destiny (16 minutes) $6   $5   $5
Texas Spirit Theater
Smoke That Travels (13 minutes) $5   $4   $4

Museum admission and film tickets may be purchased at the Museum or online. Museum admission allows entry into all gallery spaces and special exhibitions;  reentry is permitted throughout the day and we suggest allowing 45 minutes for each of the Museum's three floors. Film tickets must be purchased separately, and times listed below are subject to change.

Children age 3 and under are admitted free.  Group discounts are available for groups of 20 or more.

Batty about Lady Bird Lake
Created in 1960 to provide Austin with a reliable source of water, Lady Bird Lake - named after the wife of President Lyndon Johnson - covers 416 acres and has become one of the city's key recreational areas. Although lined with hotels and residential complexes, the majority of its shoreline has been kept open to the public and is lined with excellent trails, including the Austin Hike and Bike Trail. In addition to being a popular place for people-powered boating activities like canoes and kayaks, it's also home to Auditorium Shores, a venue used for major events such as the South by Southwest (SXSW) film and music festivals, along with concerts by many of the world's top performers. If you're a night owl, come dusk, head to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, which crosses over Lady Bird Lake. There, you'll be rewarded with the remarkable sight of the world's largest urban bat colony in flight. It's estimated that a million or more migratory Mexican free-tailed bats live under the bridge in summer, and seeing them take off en masse is an especially impressive sight when viewed as part of a boat cruise across the lake.

Texas Memorial Museum
The Texas Memorial Museum of Science and History - part of the Natural Science Center at the University of Texas - features a huge collection of items representing the natural and cultural history of the Lone Star State. Areas covered include paleontology, geology, biology, herpetology (the study of amphibians), ichthyology (fish), and entomology (insects), with more than five million specimens included in the museum's extensive collections. Highlights include numerous dinosaur displays, fossils, gems, and minerals, as well as the famous Wichita County meteorite, a large space rock regarded as a medicine stone by Comanche Indians.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
Dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of American sculpture, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum features a number of works by 20th-century sculptor Charles Umlauf. Adding to the experience is the fact that many of the sculptures are in the tranquil surroundings and natural environment of the property's superb gardens, along with its waterfalls and ponds. Inside the museum is a permanent collection of the artist's work, along with details of his life and times, as well as personal artifacts and mementos. Temporary exhibits of works by other artists are regularly featured, as are music concerts and other events.

The French Legation
Originally built in 1841 for the chargé d'affaires who represented the government of France in the Republic of Texas (the short-lived country that existed prior to Texas becoming part of the US), the French Legation is one of the most important of Austin's older buildings. Fully restored with period furniture and décor, this historic building serves as a lovely backdrop to a variety of fun events and activities, including concerts and food events, lectures, potluck picnics, guided tours, and special themed events related to French culture. The site's two-and-a-half-acre park is also worth a visit. Almost as old is the Neill-Cochran House, built in Greek Revival style in 1853 and home to an impressive collection of furniture and documents dating from 1770 to 1900.

Mexic-Arte Museum
With a nod to one of the city's largest demographics, the Mexic-Arte Museum showcases traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture. Founded in 1983, the museum features temporary visiting exhibits including photography, painting, and sculptures. Another art facility of note is the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art in the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to a fine permanent collection of 17,000 pieces of European, American, and Latin American art, the museum hosts numerous temporary exhibits. Also of interest is The Contemporary Austin, a superb art establishment with two facilities highlighting contemporary art exhibits.

Elisabet Ney Museum
The Elisabet Ney Museum is worth visiting for its fine displays of works by 19th-century portrait sculptor Elizabeth Ney, along with personal items and other memorabilia. In her original studio named Formosa - believed to be the first purpose-built studio of its kind in Texas - the facility was preserved following her death in 1907. The building, which resembles an old English castle, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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