Austin, Texas is a vibrant city full of sights and activities that are sure to impress. From the bustling downtown nightlife to the picturesque hills of the Texas Hill Country, there is something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening stroll through the city or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Austin has it all. From the iconic South Congress Avenue to the gorgeous Zilker Park, Austin is a place where you can explore, create memories, and take in the unique culture of the city. With its numerous outdoor activities, delicious dining options, and vibrant music scene, Austin is an unforgettable vacation destination.
Here are some of the best things to do in Austin.
Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol is a National Historic Landmark and its grounds are home to the Governor’s office and the legislative chambers of the state. Constructed in 1888, the Capitol building stands at 308 feet, making it the sixth-tallest structure of its kind and taller than even the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
The Great Walk, a tree-lined path, goes through the Capital Park, where visitors can see the Texas African American History Memorial, the Vietnam War monument and a bronze Texas Ranger. Additionally, the Boy Scouts of America gifted a miniature Statue of Liberty in 1951.
The visitor center has displays about Austin and Texas history, and free tours of the Capitol Building are available every day, except on holidays.
Address: 112 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas.
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake, which takes its name from the wife of ex-President Lyndon Johnson, is a reservoir of the Colorado River that stretches for 416 acres. It is a popular recreation area in the city, with hotels and residential complexes dotting its shores.
However, most of it is open to the public, with wonderful trails for pedestrians and cyclists. The main walking path along the lake is the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Pedestrian Bridge, which connects the downtown area of Austin to the southern shore.
This path also links many of the city’s parks, such as Zilker Metropolitan Park, the Town Lake Metropolitan Park’s Vic Mathias Shores, Lamar Beach, Butler Shores, Waller Beach, and Eilers Neighborhood Park.
Zilker Park, one of Austin’s most beloved outdoor areas, is 351 acres in size. With grassy fields and plenty of areas for picnicking, it is the perfect spot for an afternoon of relaxation. Additionally, the park has several recreational activities, such as walking trails along the river, volleyball courts, and a disc golf course.
The most impressive part of the park is the Zilker Botanical Garden, which covers 26 acres and charges an admission fee. This garden is divided into sections, each with its own theme. Examples include the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, where dinosaur fossils are on display, as well as a Japanese Garden with waterfalls and ponds. The garden also has sections devoted to butterflies, cacti and succulents, herbs, and roses.
Barton Springs Pool
Although swimming in Lady Bird lake is not allowed, the favorite place to cool off in Austin is the Barton Springs Pool located in Zilker Park. This spring-fed pool is spread across three acres and its water is at a constant temperature of 70 degrees (21 °C) throughout the year. People both from the area and from outside enjoy the grassy and tree-ringed perimeter and the water that is up to 18 feet deep.
The pool is also a protected habitat for the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, which is unique to the aquifer in this area. Since it is essential to sustain the balance between recreation and nature, the pool is closed for most of the day once a week to conduct specialized cleaning that safeguards the wildlife from harsh chemicals while ensuring the safety of the swimmers.
Address: Zilker Metropolitan Park, Austin, Texas.
Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is one of the most famous sites in Austin. It’s home to over 45 million pages of documents and notes from the late President’s career.
This museum, which was established in 1971 and renovated in 2013, offers insight into LBJ’s presidency, as well as the movements and events which were going on at the time, like the civil rights struggle.
Visitors can also take a look at an exact replica of the Oval Office as it existed during Johnson’s tenure. You can also view shifting displays on American history hosted every year. The library and museum are open each day of the week except for major holidays.
Address: 2313 Red River Street, Austin, Texas.
Bat watching at Congress Avenue Bridge
One of the most remarkable attractions of Austin is the nocturnal flight of the Mexican free-tailed bats that inhabit the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. Every night from March to November, up to 1.5 million of these insectivorous creatures swarm into the sky, making it the most extensive urban bat colony in the world.
This creates a breathtaking view as they fly from the bridge to heights of up to two miles, searching for mosquitoes, moths, grasshoppers, and other flying pests. It can take as long as 45 minutes for them to completely depart their abode. When the young ones are old enough, they join their mothers on the flight.
There are numerous spots where the spectacle can be observed, with the area surrounding the bridge is the most favored. Other people opt to watch from Lady Bird Lake on boats or from the Statesman Bat Observation Center underneath the bridge.
Address: South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas.
Mount Bonnell is one of the best hiking spots in Austin. It’s a must-see for tourists due to its abundant picture-taking opportunities and its closeness to the downtown area. 775 feet (0.24 km) high, Mount Bonnell is the tallest point in the city and gives incredible views of the downtown area and the 360 Bridge above the Colorado River. It is a great place to take spectacular shots of the Austin skyline.
The lookout deck and pavilion at the summit can be accessed by a series of 102 stair steps and is not a long or strenuous climb. Pets are allowed on the path and the observation deck, and many people love to have a picnic while admiring the scenery. You may find the area a bit crowded if you visit on the weekend.
Address: 3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive, Austin, Texas.
Museum of Ice Cream
At the Museum of Ice Cream, you are invited to pleasure your senses with 12 different interactive installations. Start your journey with a signature pink lemonade popsicle before being taken to a wonderland of sweet treats.
Take a tour through the Museum of Modern Ice Cream, the Carnival, the Sweet Shop, and the Magnet Room. Each of these locations offers unique sweets, like pink vanilla soft serve, a variety of candies, and pink, fluffy cotton candy. Be sure to check out the exciting attractions like the Sprinkle Pool, the Banana Forest, and the Rainbow Tunnel.
Address: 11506 Century Oaks Terrace #128, Austin, TX.
Top 8 things to see & do in Austin
Let’s summarize this guide. These are the must-visit sights and best things to do in Austin:
- Texas State Capitol
- Lady Bird Lake
- Zilker Park
- Barton Springs Pool
- Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum
- Congress Avenue Bridge
- Mount Bonnell
- Museum of Ice Cream
Day trips and tours from Austin
Take a day trip from Austin and experience the best of what Texas has to offer! There are plenty of exciting things to do and see within a short drive of Austin. From the breathtaking views of the Texas Hill Country to the vibrant music scene in the city, there are plenty of day trips to choose from. Explore the rich cultural heritage of the region by visiting some of the state’s oldest towns, or take a hike in one of the many parks and preserves.
Get to experience the nocturnal vibes of San Antonio on this night tour. This tour comes with a trip to the Tower of the Americas for a stunning view of the city skyline lit up at night, a tranquil River Walk cruise, and a narrated drive.
Your tour guide will meet you outside your hotel in either San Antonio or Austin to start the night tour. You’ll then be taken to the Tower of the Americas which is the highest observation tower in Texas, standing at a height of 190 m (623 ft). From the observation deck, you will take in the picturesque views of the city all lit up.
The next activity is a refreshing evening cruise along the River Walk, passing the Old Mill Crossing and La Villiata, the first-ever neighborhood in San Antonio. After your cruise, your tour guide will take you on a drive to discover the nightlife in San Antonio.
Texas Hill Country Winery Tour
After heading to the Austin Visitors Center to catch your shuttle, you will be taken to Texas Hill Country. At each stop, you will be able to indulge in some scrumptious Texan barbecue and sample the local wines without worrying about a way to get back.
The Salt Lick, which began in 1967, became renowned after its barbecued food was featured on the Travel Channel in 2008 and Salt Lick Cellars’ vines were put in the ground in 2006 and the first bottles of wine were released in that same year.
You will be responsible for paying for the food and drinks, with the tastings costing between $10 and $25. You will be taken back to Austin in the mid-afternoon as the tour concludes.
There are plenty of incredible day trips from Austin to choose from. So, pack your bags and get ready for a day of exploration and excitement!
More Austin tips
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