Looking for things to do in Austin? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Austin, Texas, is constantly making headlines. The capital of the Lone Star State has repeatedly been voted the best place to live in the country. It’s also the fastest-growing city in the US. So what makes Austin so special?
First, Austin is home to the University of Texas. The large student population has skewed the city towards the liberal side in a historically conservative state. This has paved the way for Austin’s thriving arts scene, unique cuisine (food trucks, anyone?), and popup events and shops.
There are lots of other things to do in Austin as well. The city offers a plethora of museums to explore, lots of state history, and tons of outdoor activities.
With all this and more, how will you decide what to do and see while you’re in town? We’ve put together a list of some of the best activities in Austin for you.
Things to do in Austin
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Visit the Texas State Capitol
An integral part of Texan history and culture, the Texas State Capitol is worth a visit.
Opened in 1888, this building stands even taller than the US Capitol building in DC. This is one of the most impressive state legislature buildings in the country.
Many of the rooms are still the same as they were when they were built, although extensions have been added. The outside of the building is beautiful, but to learn more about Texas history, take a free guided tour inside.
Go Brewery Hopping
Austin is home to an incredible craft beer scene and you’ll definitely want to taste some local brews. With new breweries popping up everywhere, you could visit a different one each day and not scratch the surface.
Some of the most popular and iconic Austin breweries include Nomadic Beerworks, Southern Heights, Zilker Brewing, and Pinthouse Brewing. Of course, there are also plenty more.
Each brewery has its own personality, so if you’re a beer lover check out as many as you can.
Looking for a safe and responsible way to check out as many breweries as possible? Consider booking a Half-Day Craft Beer and Brewery Tour.
Party on Sixth Street
Sixth Street is the most iconic area in Austin for entertainment, bars, and nightlife. It’s so popular that it’s closed to car traffic from Thursday to Saturday nights. This 9-block street is heaven for those looking for a bite to eat, tons of drink options, and unique entertainment.
Check out Esther’s Follies, Flamingo Cantina, and The Parish for some of the best live shows in the city. The iconic Driskill Hotel is also located on Sixth Street and is home to the Driskill Bar.
You’ll find crowded bars, live music, and loads of fun wherever you decide to go. There’s always a party on Sixth Street.
Bar Hop Around the City
Sixth Street might be the most famous, but there are incredible bars located across the rest of the city, too. Rainey Street is home to many up-and-coming bars and restaurants like Lucille’s. Austin is also home to Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar if you’re looking for a unique experience.
For more upscale drinks, you can head to The Roosevelt Room. In addition, Austin’s many craft breweries are dotted around the city for you to check out.
Rooftop Restaurants and Bars
With mild weather all year round, rooftop bars and restaurants are plentiful in ATX. Head up to the roof, enjoy a classic Texas meal and a cocktail, and marvel at the view. Rooftop bars and restaurants can also be a good spot to watch the Austin bats we mentioned earlier.
Some of the best rooftop restaurants include El Alma and EastSide Tavern. As for rooftop bars, we recommend places like P6, Upstairs at Caroline, and Edge Rooftop.
For more check out our article on the best rooftop bars and restaurants in Austin.
Barton Springs Pool
Austin can get pretty hot, so at some point you’ll probably need to cool off. The most popular swimming hole in the city by far is Barton Springs Pool.
Located within Zilker Park in central Austin, this is one of the city’s many natural springs. The water temperature hovers around 68 degrees all year round, so be prepared for a chill.
While it’s one of the most popular tourist activities all year round, it’ll never be too crowded to find a spot. The pool spans three acres, so you’re bound to find a good stretch of grass to set up shop.
Hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt
A hike along the Barton Creek Greenbelt can be whatever you want it to be. The starting point is Barton Springs Pool, so you’ll have the opportunity to cool off both before and after. The Greenbelt is home to 12 miles of hiking trails offering the most gorgeous scenery.
During your hike, you’ll pass through areas known as the Flats, Twin Falls, and Sculpture Falls. Both Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls are beautiful. Sculpture Falls is known to offer a little more seclusion if you’re looking for a true nature escape.
The trails are popular for both hiking and biking, so just be aware of your surroundings. Pack a lunch and get on the trails!
Tour Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir of the Colorado River spanning 416 acres in the downtown area. It offers plenty of recreational activities both on and off the water.
If you’re looking for a relaxing day, rent a stand-up paddleboard and get going. Or, there are many dinner cruise options.
If you’re looking to stay on land and enjoy the scenery, there are plenty of options for this, as well. The Ann and Roy Hike-and-Bike Trail surrounds the entire lake. The whole thing is about 10 miles long and passes some of the city’s most iconic sights. The best part is probably the 1.1-mile boardwalk, which offers incredible views of the downtown landscape.
If you’re looking to make this an educational experience, consider taking the following toure – 1.5-Hour Lady Bird Lake Bike Tour.
Climb Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is the highest peak in Austin, located in Covert Park. This viewpoint is registered as a Texas Historic Landmark and is in the National Register of Historic Places.
You can reach the peak of Mount Bonnell by climbing about 100 steps to the limestone outlook point. Once you reach the top, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the city and its surrounding areas.
There’s also a picnic area at the top where you can enjoy some snacks and drinks if you packed them. This is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the city.
Mount Bonnell is surrounded by a lush forest, so take a walk once you’re done at the peak.
Explore McKinney Falls State Park
This beautiful state park provides some respite from the heat if you’d like to get out of the downtown area. Both Onion Creek and Williamson Creek run through the park, so you’ll pass by streams and waterfalls everywhere you look.
The park is home to 9 miles of hiking and biking trails to choose from. Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of natural limestone formations and lush forestry. If you’re looking to make this a real nature trip, there are campsites and cabins available for overnight use.
Indulge in the BBQ
Texas barbecue is to die for, and the stuff in Austin is no different. The city is nationally recognized for the quality of its smoked meat, so eat as much as you can. If you’re looking for a way to explore all the food Austin has to offer, GetYourGuide has a couple of options.
Visit Austin’s Museums
Austin boasts a vibrant art scene and tons of history. This combination has made the city home to an impressive number of museums.
For art enthusiasts, there’s the Blanton Museum of Art, the Mexic-Arte Museum, and the Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria. For history buffs, check out the LBJ Presidential Library and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Kids will love Thinkery, combining science, nature, and technology.
And finally, Austin is home to many odd museums. The Museum of the Weird is home to many, well, weird items. Magic’s Theater is also home to a museum that houses much of Harry Houdini’s collection.
With all these to check out and more, the museums alone can keep you busy for days on end.
Join a Biker Gang
One of the best ways to see everything the city has to offer is on a bike! An electric-powered bike is the perfect vehicle to enjoy the outdoors and zip around the city without tiring yourself out. The Biker Gang E-Bike Adventure will take you around to the city’s top sights while telling you loads of fun facts. This themed adventure will also have you feeling like the badass you truly are.
Take a Haunted Tour
You may not know this, but Austin has a pretty spooky history. Many supernatural goings on have been reported and mysterious events have been caught on camera.
There are many opportunities to study up on these legends and visit the sites of these strange happenings.
Some of the most haunted locations include the Omni Hotel, the William Sidney Porter House, and the Texas Governor’s Mansion. You may also want to visit the suicide bridges at Driskill.
Book this Haunted History Ghost Tour to visit these locations and more while learning about what made Austin so spooky.
Day Trip to Hill Country
Hill Country is known for its wine and spirits. The town of Fredericksburg is the heart of Hill Country and is home to about 50 wineries.
If wine isn’t your thing, Hill Country also boasts several renowned breweries and amazing barbecue to go along with them. As a bonus, the scenery in this area is unlike the rest of the Texas landscape. The best part is that it’s only about 45 minutes away from Austin.
Looking for a responsible way to take a boozy day trip? Check this out – Texas Hill Country and LBJ Ranch Tour with Hotel Pickup.
Explore the SoCo District
SoCo – short for South Congress – is the district surrounding South Congress Avenue. The heart of the city’s strange culture, SoCo is about 5 miles south of the downtown area. Known for its eclectic shops and fantastic restaurants, this area is a go-to for locals and tourists alike.
Stroll through the district on a sunny day and browse through the galleries and boutiques before grabbing some food. Many of the restaurants and bars also offer outdoor patios and live music, so there’s always something going on.
See the Austin Bats
The Congress Bridge Bats are one of the most famous attractions in Austin. Each night they come out from under Congress Bridge to feed on the mosquitoes in numbers reaching 1.5 million.
It’s an impressive sight to see, and it’s completely natural. In fact, this is the largest urban bat colony on the continent.
You can view the bats from the water at Lady Bird Lake or take a bat watching cruise tour. Or, you can simply stand on the bridge and wait.
The bats usually come out 30 minutes to an hour before sunset so make sure you get there early. Bat watching spots can get pretty crowded.
See Esther’s Follies
Located on Austin’s iconic Sixth Street, Esther’s Follies is often called Texas’s own Saturday Night Live. Opened in 1977, it’s been serving up singing, dancing, sketches, and more, all with comedy peppered throughout. Locals and tourists alike love seeing the show for its unique and hilarious take on pop culture and politics.
Just be sure to buy your tickets early and arrive in time to get a good seat. The show is known for calling for audience participation, so be prepared for a potential role in the show. There is also a taqueria and a bar on site.
Attend a University of Texas football game
The University of Texas campus itself is a destination to visit. If you’re in town during football season, though, it’s even better.
The UT Longhorns are famous nationwide and whether you’re a diehard fan or not, games are a super fun environment. The stadium itself is always packed with fans. So, grab a beer and a snack and get in on the madness like a true Texan.
Where to Stay in Austin
Looking for a place to stay in Austin? Check out these options:
- The Austin Southpark Hotel is a great mid-range option. Located super close to the Barton Springs Pool, it includes an onsite restaurant and a breakfast buffet.
- For a luxury stay in Austin, check out the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown. With a rooftop bar and pool, this option is located in the heart of downtown.
Things to Do in Austin Parting Words
Of course, there’s more to explore, but these are a good base for the best things to do in Austin. With a wide variety of activities and attractions, there’s something for everyone in this eccentric city.
As always, happy travels all! We hope to see you all on the road!