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In the past decade, the capital of Texas has grown steadily, attracting everyone from young urban professionals to artists and students. This rapid evolution is noticeable everywhere from the busy downtown area to trendy and pricey neighborhoods. Despite the growth, Austin, the live music capital of the world and home of the 7 time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, has managed to maintain its mellow, small-town appeal. A perennial "Best Place to Live" winner, it's also a great place to visit, offering a range of attractions and activities and friendly locals.
The State Capitol, the largest in the United States, will appeal to those interested in the political side of Austin. History buffs can head to the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. In 1982, Lady Bird Johnson created a Wildflower Center dedicated to preserving the native plants of North America. Other world class museums on or near the University of Texas campus include the Blanton Museum, the Texas State History museum, and the Harry B. Ransom Center. The Ransom Center offers a diverse collection, including the famous "Scarlett" dress made of the green draperies of Tara.
Austin also offers recreational activities from golf to walking trails to canoeing in beautiful parks to swimming at Barton Springs. The shopping, restaurants and nightlife offer world-class appeal with a down-home Texas feel.
There are several areas in Austin that can be seen by walking. The University of Texas campus has lovely buildings, walkways and fountains. A half mile away is the Texas state Capitol building and grounds. The Capitol is at the north end of Congress Avenue, once the heart of Austin and now trying to regain its past glory. Just down Congress Ave is Sixth Street, five blocks of bars, clubs and restaurants (going east from Congress). Further down Congress you turn right into the Warehouse District (Fourth Street area) which features restaurants, bars, and upscale shopping. Even further down Congress, across Lady Bird Lake (and the bridge where you can see the bats) is "SoCo" with lively restaurants, music venues and local shops. On the first Thursday of every month the neighborhood hosts a street fair of sorts. Shops stay open late, restaurants set up serving stations and there's even free beer to be had if you look.