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Today the Lone Star State's capital is both progressive and laid-back, and has long been a haven for music, with a rich heritage of country, folk and R&B genres.

In 1839 Mirabeau Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas, suggested the tiny community of Austin would make a better capital city than swampy and disease-ridden Houston. Early building in the city was conducted under armed guard as angry Comanche Native Americans watched from the surrounding hills. Despite this difficult start, the city prospered.

Texas State Capitol, AustinThere is plenty to see around town, the most formidable landmark is the Texas State Capitol which, at over 300 feet, is taller than the National Capitol in Washington D.C. and is well worth a visit. From here Congress Avenue stretches down to the Colorado River where, at dusk, millions of bats emerge from their colonies under the bridge.

To the west of the capitol building is the 600-year-old Treaty Oak, the last of the 14 Council Oaks that once served as a meeting point for local Native Americans; it was poisoned in 1989 and now just a third of the tree survives. Head north from the capitol and you will arrive at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum which contains, among other treasures, the diary of Stephen Austin, generally considered the founder of the state, and a bullet-riven bible that saved the life of Sam Houston during the Civil War. Across the river lies lovely Zilker Park, containing the spring-fed, and deliciously cool, Barton Springs Pool.

The University of Texas, based in Austin, has its own oil well and is consequently one of the world's richest universities. The presence of the university has also assured Austin of a wide variety of vibrant nightlife, with many live music venues, bars and restaurants to choose from.

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