10.  Beauty isn’t Always What it Seems

LadyBird Town Lake

Serene and lovely, Town Lake (officially: Lady Bird Lake) is a relatively recent addition, having been created as a flood-control project by the construction of Longhorn Dam in 1960. It fairly quickly became polluted and ugly, but was reclaimed and transformed into a popular recreation area for kayaks, canoes, and shells by the Town Lake Beautification Committee, established in 1970 by the city and the former first lady. Heavily used bike and bike paths surround the lake. Some 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats summer under the Congress Avenue bridge (they winter in Mexico). Their evening search for food, surging into the sky in great numbers at dusk, is an urban wonder all its own.

Next, check out 5 off-the-beaten path bars in Austin and discover the “Cathedral of Junk” in Austin. Julia Vitullo-Martin is a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association. She can be reached @JuliaManhattan.