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Congress Avenue Bridge Bats in Austin
The world's largest urban bat colony—750,000 Mexican free-tailed bats—hangs out beneath Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge from April through October. Once considered a nuisance, they're now prized as a tourist attraction and municipal symbol. Visitors and locals alike flock downtown to claim a spot before dusk and watch the tiny (and rather smelly) winged critters make their dramatic appearance against the setting sun.
The best viewing spots are from the hike-and-bike trail by the bridge, or from the patio of Shoreline Grill, adjacent to the Four Seasons hotel. If you're staying lakeside at the Four Seasons or Radisson hotel, there are excellent vantage points from some rooms and public spaces, as well as from T.G.I. Friday's at the Radisson. Watching the bats from the lake aboard a paddlewheel cruise ship is a classy way to go. For a real budget option, there are the pedestrian walkways on both sides of the bridge itself, but arrive early (as much as an hour ahead) in peak season, as it gets crowded; many bring a light folding chair and refreshments and settle in for the duration.
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