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Generally thought of as the ritzier side of town, West Austin, like North Austin, often gets a bad rep for not being “weird” enough. In reality, though, West Austin has just as much character as other parts of the city! If you’re skeptical, do we have the list for you! Here are no fewer than 18 totally must-have West Austin experiences…

Swoon over black bear cubs at the Austin Zoo

Oregon To Austin – 3 Rescued Baby Black Bears from Trevor George-Fowler on Vimeo.

If you like animals, you’re going to love the Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary, a small but mighty rescue zoo located off of highways 71 and 290. You’ll find more than 350 animals from 100 different species at Austin’s only zoo, as well as $2.50 train rides, food trailers, ice cream, a nifty gift shop, rest areas, a petting zoo, educational programs, and much more. The zoo recently welcomed three orphaned black bear cubs from Oregon into their fold and they are freaking adorable.

10808 Rawhide Trail. 512-288-1490. Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb 1-Oct 31, and until 5:30 p.m. Nov 1-Jan 31. Adults $9, students, seniors, & military $8, kids $6. Website.

Watch a living history reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Museum

Photo: Flickr user U.S. Army, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user U.S. Army, CC licensed

As the Capitol of Texas, it’s not surprising that Austin is home to the Texas Military Forces Museum. Located at Camp Mabry, the museum displays upwards of 35,000 historical artifacts, including weapons, books, photographs, and military vehicles. Free guided tours of the museum run by appointment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and the museum’s “living historians” frequently perform artillery demonstrations and reenact battles from Vietnam and World Wars I and II, among others. So if you’re aching to witness some good old fashioned cannon fire, drop by the Texas Military Forces Museum! It’ll blow you away.

2200 W. 35th St. 512-782-5659. Open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free; donations encouraged. Website.

Dine with your dog at Austin Terrier

dog austin terrier friendly restaurant outdoor seating welcome pets

Austin Terrier is perhaps the most dog-friendly restaurant in Austin! Photo: Flickr user Nan Palmero, CC licensed

Though its name sounds more like a dog park than a food establishment, Austin Terrier is actually a popular West Austin restaurant, serving top-of-the-line pizzas and sandwiches that have been tickling Austinites’ taste buds since 2011. It’s also one of the most pooch-friendly restaurants in the city. Everything about Austin Terrier screams, “WE LOVE DOGS,” from the dog-themed coloring pages for kids to the large covered patio where pet owners can dine with their canine companions. Austin Terrier, we woof you!

3435 Greystone Dr. 512-369-3751. Open Sun-Thurs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Menu. Website.

Go shopping at Barton Creek Square Mall or Hill Country Galleria

If shopping strikes your fancy, then Barton Creek Square Mall and Hill Country Galleria are certain to keep you smiling during your day out in West Austin. Barton Creek Square Mall, an indoor mall that contains more than 170 stores and a 14-screen IMAX theater, is situated on a hill, making it a prime location for viewing the downtown skyline and for watching sunrises, sunsets, and fireworks. The Hill Country Galleria is a well-landscaped outdoor shopping center that features 100+ stores and its own free concert series. Concerts commence from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. every Saturday through mid November at the Galleria’s outdoor amphitheater. The remaining 2014 schedule reads as follows:

Barton Creek Square Mall: 2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. 512-327-7040. Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Directory Map. Website.

Hill Country Galleria: 12700 Hill Country Blvd (Bee Cave). 512-263-0001. Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Directory Map. Website.

Overcome your fear of heights at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures

Feel daring? Then check out Lake Travis Zipline Adventures, a West Austin-based company that has managed to build the longest and fastest zipline in the entire state. The company’s zipline tours combine hiking, gorgeous Hill Country views, and five ziplines, ranging in length and height throughout their 3-hour adventures. With the highest zipline, the Grand Finale, starting from 20 stories up and stretching across Lake Travis for 2800 feet, this activity is not for the faint of heart! While you’re out at the lake, don’t miss your chance to cool off and relax at the paradisaical Volente Beach and to enjoy dinner and drinks as the sun sets over the water at The Oasis.

14529 Pocohontas Trail (Leander). 512-614-1996. $98.00 plus tax per person, reservations required, price includes equipment, transportation, water, snacks, and swimming access to private beach. Website.

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