Known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas, is famous for its live music scene—but the city has so much more to offer. Austin enjoys an average of 230 sunny days yearly, so pack for the outdoors. Even winters in Austin are mild, making it a great destination for sunseekers. On the few rainy days, you can stay dry by browsing interactive exhibits at Austin museums like the Bullock Texas State History Museum or the Blanton Museum of Art.
From swimming at Barton Springs and hiking up Mount Bonnell to the nightly bat show above Congress Avenue Bridge, check out our favorite things to do in Austin, Texas.
Stroll Around Zilker Metropolitan Park
Dubbed Austin’s “most-loved” park, Zilker Metropolitan Park sits on the banks of the Colorado River and spans over 350 acres. Some of the city’s most famous draws are here, including Zilker Botanical Gardens and Barton Springs. There are also trails and plenty of open space for strolling and picnics.
Set aside a day to explore all this lovely park has to offer. Art lovers can browse the works of sculptor Charles Umlauf, and garden enthusiasts will love the scenery of the Zilker Botanical Garden. Kid-friendly activities include a ride on the miniature train encircling Zilker Park (free for kids). Make new friends when you watch a musical at the theater or during an afternoon volleyball game.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: The Carpenter Hotel is 11-minutes from Zilker Metropolitan Park and offers contemporary rooms with red-brick interiors and private terraces. This prime location puts you close to downtown attractions.
Cool Off at Barton Springs
Barton Springs Pool is a popular swimming spot that has brought Austin locals and tourists together for generations. Located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, this beautiful blue pool is fed by underground springs. The water temperature stays a cool 68 degrees year-round making it the best place to lounge on hot summer days. There are grassy areas to relax, bathhouses, and even an exhibit to learn about the endangered Barton Springs Salamander and the area’s history.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: The Loren at Lady Bird Lake is a luxury hotel with upscale amenities and rooms that offer stunning views of the surrounding grounds. This lakeside property is pet-friendly and has a rooftop restaurant where you can enjoy a romantic dinner.
Coffee at Walton’s Fancy & Staple
A-list movie star Sandra Bullock owns Walton’s Fancy & Staple, a cute cafe on 6th Street with a rustic-chic interior. Enjoy a creamy latte and pastries here to take a break from exploring.
There’s also a flower shop in the building, so you can pick up a bouquet for your partner if you’re on a couple’s trip. If you’re not quite ready to continue strolling the streets of Austin, grab a window seat to observe the people and activity around you.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Canopy by Hilton Austin Downtown is an artsy hotel across from Walton’s in downtown Austin. Vibrant decor, modern rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and free bikes to explore Austin make Canopy a perfect stay.
Lady Bird Lake Trail
Lady Bird Lake trail (as locals call it) is a scenic 10-mile trail in the center of Austin that loops around Lady Bird Lake. This trail is perfect for walking, running, hiking, or biking. A mile-long boardwalk offers stunning views of downtown’s skyline and many scenic spots to relax and picnic along the water’s edge.
Pack a basket to spend a leisurely evening resting in the peaceful quiet of the trail, or rent a kayak for some time in the water.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Regency Austin faces Lady Bird Lake and offers a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and a sundeck. The onsite eatery serves hand-crafted cocktails and locally inspired fare.
Tour the Texas State Capitol
In the heart of Austin stands the Texas State Capitol—14 feet taller than the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. This historic landmark proves that everything really is bigger in Texas. Join one of the free official tours of the building, Mondays to Sundays, to learn about Texan history while admiring the grounds and ornate architecture. If you’d rather go at your own pace, pick up a brochure and take a self-guided tour of the Capitol.
The Capitol was restored in the 1990s. Its intricate design, beautiful terrazzo floors, and star-crested rotunda will surely leave you smitten.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Austin at The University / Capitol is a 7-minute walk from the Texas State Capitol. This hotel also puts you in the city’s center and is close to popular live music venues and bars.
See All of Austin From Mount Bonnell
Officially known as “Covert Park,” Mount Bonnell is home to the highest point in Austin—a 775-foot limestone outcrop. It offers sweeping panoramas of the city, Lake Austin, and surrounding hills. The path to the top is easy (you can do it in flip flops) and consists of 102 steps that you can scale in 20 minutes.
On clear days, Mount Bonnell is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the lake and share drinks with locals.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Moxy Austin – University is an eclectic-style hotel in the campus district less than 3 miles from Mount Bonnell. Share drinks with friends at the bar in the lobby.
Visit the LBJ Presidential Library
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum pays tribute to the 36th president of the United States and is one of the most intriguing presidential libraries in the US. A 10-story tower on 30 acres within the University of Texas campus, the library houses historical artifacts and quirky exhibits from the ’60s and ’70s.
Get a unique perspective of American history during President Johnson’s administration with exhibits like an in-depth study of the Vietnam War. You can also listen to LBJ’s recorded phone conversations, see a replica of his Oval Office, and laugh at jokes told by his life-size animatronic.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Austin – University Area offers easy access to attractions within the UT campus and 6th Street.
Go Two-Stepping at the Broken Spoke
Ready to bring out the Texan in you? It’s time to go two-stepping. Two-stepping is a popular dance accompanied by country music and is one of Austin’s best pastimes. Head to the Broken Spoke to watch some live boot-scooting or try it yourself. They offer two-step lessons from Wednesdays to Saturdays so you can pick up a new dance skill to impress everyone back home.
After showing off your moves on the dance floor, enjoy an ice-cold beer and a plate of Spoke’s famous chicken-fried steaks.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Colton House Hotel is a stylish boutique hotel perfect for couples and solo travelers. Its rooms are spacious and modern and decorated with stunning artwork.
Take a Spooky Tour in a Hearse
Skeptics and believers in the paranormal alike will enjoy the dark and ghostly tours Haunted ATX offers. See the eerie side of Austin in style with your friends in a converted hearse or a van covered in spooky art. You’ll visit historic locations and hear tales of the paranormal activity detected in these haunted landmarks.
The tours typically last 3 hours, so it’s a complete experience, and you can bring your own drinks.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Rooms at Sonder at East 5th are fitted with large windows and simple but tasteful furniture. If you love big, open spaces that catch lots of sunlight, book a stay here.
Snap a Pic With the I Love You So Much Mural
The famous green wall of Jo’s Coffee bears a simple but beautiful message—the spray-painted words “I love you so much.” It is a great spot to take cute photos if you’re visiting with your partner or pet.
Located on the bustling South Congress Avenue, it gets pretty crowded here. Still, even on the busiest days, you’ll only have to wait about 15 minutes for your turn with the wall.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: Hotel Magdalena has well-appointed rooms with a contemporary feel. The hotel’s ambiance is warm and welcoming, with bright southwestern-inspired decor, a poolside bar, and sundecks.
Spend an Evening Watching Austin’s Famous Bats
If you’re visiting Austin in the summertime, don’t miss the magnificent sight of 1.5 million bats flying out from their home on the underside of Congress Avenue Bridge. One of its unique quirks, Austin is home to North America’s largest bat colony in an urban area. The Mexican free-tailed bats settled here after Congress Bridge’s 1980 renovation created crevices that made a safe bat refuge. Every evening at dusk, these nocturnal animals take off to rid the city of pesky insects like mosquitoes.
Observe the bat show from the water on Lady Bird Lake for the best view, or watch safely from the Statesmen Bat Observation Center next to the bridge. The spectacle lasts about 45 minutes, but you can pair your viewing with other activities in the area. Downtown Austin is very lively, so there’s always something fun around.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: The LINE Austin is set in a modernist mid-century building that used to be a jazz club. Fitness enthusiasts can take part in the free yoga and fitness classes.
Go Shopping at Allens Boots
Get a whiff of rich leather and the old west when you walk into Allens Boots on South Congress Avenue. With shelves holding thousands of pairs of cowboy boots made from exotic skins and premium leather, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Find what complements your boots by browsing their cowboy hats, Wrangler jeans, leather jackets, belts, and jewelry collection. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, don’t be shy to try on one or two booties. A visit to this vintage store selling premium footwear is an experience in itself.
Nearby Recommended Hotel: South Congress Hotel is a trendy hotel on South Congress Avenue in Austin. It offers several dining options, including an upscale Japanese cuisine restaurant.
Attend the Austin City Limits Music Festival
Austin City Limits (ACL), Austin’s biggest music fest, is held every October in Zilker Park over two consecutive weekends. This event brings together over 100 big names and local artists. Enjoy the best of rock, pop, and hip-hop in an electrifying atmosphere.
If you’re not visiting in October, enjoy live music at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater. Home to the award-winning “Austin City Limits” series, this theater seats over 2,700 people and is known for superb acoustics. If you can’t get seats to a show, book a tour of the venue. You’ll learn about ACL history and visit the Jack & Jim Gallery on the balcony. Tours typically last 90 minutes.
Nearby Recommended Hotel:The Driskill Hotel is a 15-minute walk to Moody Amphitheater. The hotel was built in the 19th century, and some rooms feature unique architectural details and furniture. There’s a bakery and grill house onsite that serve regional fare.
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