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Getting Natural in Austin
 
Austin is Perfect for the Outdoors Enthusiast
Blessed with a moderate climate, an idyllic river setting in the hills, and a young, active population, Austin thrives as a recreational mecca. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to its hike and bike trail systems and take to the Colorado River for a variety of water sports.

The Colorado River flows through the heart of this city, creating a series of sparkling lakes stretching for more than 100 miles. Town Lake sits on the southern edge of the downtown district, providing recreational opportunities for sports-minded Austinites. Families and couples can set out for a quiet afternoon of canoeing, sailing or paddle boating. Visitors and locals alike delight in taking an afternoon or sunset cruise on an old-fashioned river boat that docks on the south shore. Long considered the soul of the city, Barton Springs gushes forth from the limestone honeycomb of the Edwards Aquifer, filling a 1,000-foot long natural pool with 68-degree, crystalline water year-round for the enjoyment of swimmers and sunbathers.

Further up the Colorado River, Lake Austin and Lake Travis draw scores of boaters, water-skiers, windsurfers, jetskiers, scuba divers and other water sports enthusiasts to their inviting waters. Lake Austin winds between majestic bluffs west of the city and under the impressive Loop 360 bridge. Lake Travis is a hit with bass fishers and sailboaters.

Surrounding Town Lake and jutting off along a series of creeks are 30 miles of developed hike and bike trails. Perhaps most popular is the 10.1-mile Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail which finds hundreds of joggers and cyclists along the river trails during peak morning and evening hours. Runner's World Magazine describes Austin as "a hymn to the outdoors." An annual rite of spring is the Capitol 10,000, which draws nearly 20,000 runners, making it one of the nation's largest road races.

Other Austin traditions are corporate-sponsored Run-Tex Half Marathon and Motorola Marathon.

Joggers seeking a cross-country experience and mountain bikers looking for a challenge in the heart of an urban setting head to the eight-mile Barton Creek Greenbelt trail that begins in Zilker Park and traverses wooded creekside habitat.

Cyclists who prefer to ride on the road find a variety on the Veloway, a 3.1-mile asphalt loop traveling through more than 100 acres of parkland and wildflowers that finds cyclists sharing the path with enthusiastic rollerbladers.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find Austin blessed with parks and nature preserves aplenty. Best known is Zilker Park in the center of the city. In addition to Barton Springs and various trails, the 400-acre lakeside refuge boasts soccer fields, a children's playground, Zilker Botanical Gardens, The Austin Nature & Science Center and a miniature train popular with the kids.

Throughout the city and surrounding hills, dozens of lakeside and creekside parks appeal to diverse tastes. Ecologically minded Austinites are understandably proud of such Hill Country jewels as Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve and Mayfield Park & Preserve.

Austin's moderate temperatures and scenic Hill Country setting have given rise to a healthy golf industry. The late golfing master Harvey Penick called Austin home and his proteges include local professional golfers Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. Some of the state's most prestigious courses place the city high in the golfer pantheon. It is home to Texas' oldest golf course, the venerable, 9-hole Hancock Golf Course, one of many public courses in the area. Golfers can enjoy temporary golfing privileges at a number of acclaimed Hill Country golf retreats, including Lakeway, Lago Vista and Barton Creek. (See Austin Golf Courses for more.)

The epicenter of Austin's sport scene continues to be the 350-acre campus of the University of Texas, a member of the Big 12 Conference. The "Burnt Orange" crowd supports its Longhorn teams in the NCAA. Fans cheer on the Horns at such outstanding athletic venues as Darrell Royal-Memorial Stadium, Disch-Falk Field and the Frank Erwin Center.

The information in this report appears courtesy of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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