Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center#13 in Best Things To Do in Austin
Named for its co-founder, Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson (wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson), this center is a great place for nature lovers looking to kill time. The former first lady co-founded the center to educate fellow botanists about the benefits of planting and nurturing certain types of plants, a project that has revolutionized gardening habits in central Texas.
Today, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the United States' largest research library for native plant studies. Visitors flock from all over the country to enjoy more than 970 species of Texan flora – including bluebonnets and evening primrose – which flourishes on more than 284 acres of gardens and along more than 2 miles of hiking trails. The center also features an observation tower, a cafe and a gift shop. Visitors say it's pretty year-round, but the spring and summer provide the best chance to see the most flowers in bloom (and to avoid disappointment if you only want to see flowers).
Located about 10 miles southwest of the city center, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students and senior citizens and $6 for children ages 5 to 17 (and free for children 4 years and younger). Part of the center, such as the gift shop and cafe, hold different hours. Weekly guided tours are offered for free. There are no public transportation options nearby, so driving or taking a taxi is your best bet (plus, parking is free). For more information, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.
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#1 State Capitol
Standing stoically in the heart of central Austin is Texas's legislative center, the State Capitol. Opened in 1888, this pink-granite landmark stands 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Much of the capitol, including the 218-foot rotunda, the chamber of the Hall of Representatives and the governor's receiving room, still look the same as they did when the capitol opened.
The structure underwent a large-scale restoration starting in the 1980s, including replacing the zinc statue of the Goddess of Liberty that sits atop the dome with an aluminum one. The restoration also included a 667,000-square-foot underground extension that was completed in 1993 to accommodate how much the state government had grown. Many visitors say it's the most impressive state legislative building they've ever seen, but they also warn it can be crowded at times. If you want to learn a bit of Texas history without having to pay an entrance fee, you can't beat a visit to the capitol building, according to past travelers.
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