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The best place to start a tour of the texas Hill Country is the state capital of Austin, both for its own attractions and for the convenient access it offers to Lyndon Johnson country.

Before setting out for LBJ's boyhood home and the ranch, be sure to see the new $10 million National Wildflower Research Center, one of the country's few botanical gardens emphasizing the area's native plants.The 42 acres of meadows, mesquite and live oak, which opened April 8, is a project of Lady Bird Johnson who, as first lady, led the campaign to beautify the U.S. capital and plant wildflowers along the nation's highways.

Also see the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and sample some of the 35 million pages of LBJ's presidential papers and memorabilia, ranging from his fourth-grade report card to a film of Johnson telling funny stories.

Nature lovers will also enjoy Zilker Park, 22 acres of beautiful Oriental landscaping, and the nearby Austin Nature Center, which has 90 acres of exhibits on dinosaurs and regional flora and fauna.

And sample the nightlife, Austin style. Local bands provide a mix of jazz, rap, fusion and reggae. They cater mainly to students at the University of Texas, who operate on tight budgets, so bar-hopping is relatively cheap.

Other points of interest include the state capitol, largest in the nation.

Not far from the capitol is the Old Land Office Building, which houses two museums with relics from 19th-century Texas.

That should prepare you for your foray into the Texas Hill Country. To learn more, call the Austine Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 926-2282.