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Austin - USA
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Austin is the capital in the U.S. state of Texas and the county seat of Travis County. Situated in Central Texas, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 16th-largest in the United States of America, as well as the third fastest growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006. As of the 2007 U.S. Census estimate, Austin has a population of 743,074. The city is the cultural and economic center of the Greater Austin metropolitan area with a population of about 1.6 million people. The area was settled in the 1830s on the banks of the Colorado River by white settlers, who named the village Waterloo. In 1839, Waterloo was chosen to become the capital of the newly independent Republic of Texas. The city was renamed Austin, after Stephen F. Austin. The city grew throughout the 19th century and became a center for government and education with the construction of the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas. After a lull in growth from the Depression, Austin resumed its development into a major city and emerged as a center for technology and business. Today, Austin is home to many companies, hi-tech or otherwise, including three Fortune 1000 listed corporations. Austin was selected as the No. 1 Best Big City in "Best Places to Live" by Money magazine in 2006, and the "Greenest City in America" by MSN. Also, according to CNN Headline News and travel and leisure Austin ranks #2 on the list of cities with the best people referring to the personalities and attributes of the citizens. Austin was also voted America's #1 College Town by the Travel Channel. Austin was ranked the 5th safest city in part because annually, there are fewer than 3 people murdered per 100,000 people.

Prior to the arrival of settlers from the United States, the area that later became Austin was inhabited by a variety of nomadic Native American tribes, including the Tonkawa tribe, the Comanches, and the Lipan Apaches. Edward Burleson laid out the town of Waterloo in the mid-1830s. In 1838 Mirabeau Lamar, vice-president of the Republic of Texas, visited Waterloo, where he stayed with one of the earliest settlers, Jacob Harrell. Lamar was elected president shortly thereafter. When the Texas Congress formed a commission to seek a site for a new capital to be named Austin, Lamar advised the commissioners to investigate Waterloo, which was then indeed chosen. In May 1839 Lamar's designated government agent Edwin Waller organized and led a workforce of about 200 men from Houston to Waterloo to construct the new city.

Many of the tourists that visit Austin come for its vibrant nightlife; however, there are many other attractions in Austin, including the Texas Memorial Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art (opened in 2006), the galleries at the Harry Ransom Center, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum across the street (which opened in 2000). The Texas State Capitol itself is also a major tourist attraction. The Driskill Hotel built in 1886, located at 6th and Brazos, was finished just before the construction of the Capitol building. Sixth Street is a musical hub for the city but also includes annual festivals such as the Pecan Street Festival and Halloween night. A very strange and eccentric, unique Austin haven for weird arts such as fire-dancing and circus-like-acts is the Enchanted Forest, which hosts many outdoor art and performance events. The Austin City Limits Music Festival also brings many tourists from around the nation. The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge houses the world's largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats. Starting in late February, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge's expansion and contraction zones as well as in long horizontal grooves running the length of the bridge's underside, an environment ideally suited for raising their young. Every evening around sunset, the bats emerge in search of insects, an exit visible on weather radar. Watching the bat emergence is an event that is popular with locals and tourists, with more than 100,000 viewers per year. The bats migrate to Mexico each winter. Considering Austin's "Earth-friendly" persona, it is appropriate that the Austin Zoo, located in the Oak Hill neighborhood just north of US 290, is a rescue zoo that provides sanctuary to displaced animals from a variety of unfortunate and often neglectful situations. Austin also has several well-known swimming locations. These include Deep Eddy Pool, Texas' oldest man-made swimming pool, and Barton Springs Pool, the nation's largest natural swimming pool in an urban area. Barton Springs Pool is spring-fed and ranges in temperature from about 68.0 °F (20.0 °C) during the winter to about 71.6 °F (22.0 °C) during the summer. Swimming in Barton Springs at Christmas is an annual tradition for many Austinites. Hippie Hollow, a county park situated along Lake Travis, is the only officially sanctioned clothing-optional public park in Texas. Activities include rockclimbing, kayaking, swimming, exploring, and hiking along the greenbelt, a green, lush, long-spanning area that runs through the city. Hamilton Pool is a gorgeous and cool (temperature-wise) pool and wildlife park located about 30 minutes from the city and is strongly recommended by many locals. Farmers markets are popular attractions, providing a variety of locally grown and often organic goods.
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