Austin, Texas, the capital of the great state of Texas, and home to the mantra, “Keep Austin Weird,” should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
One visit to this fun and quirky city and you will quickly understand why so many people are drawn to it. Austin has a thriving music scene, great food, fabulous outdoor activities, and more. All of this ensures that there are things to do in Austin for all age groups and interests.
As a native Texan, I have been visiting Austin my entire life. As a kid, I loved touring the capitol building and the college campuses, and now that I’m an adult, Austin’s eccentric vibe and awesome food scene keep me coming back for more.
With that in mind, let’s dive into all of the great things that Austin, Texas has to offer!
1. Tour The Texas State Capitol
As you know, “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that includes the capitol building. Did you know that the Texas State Capitol building is the largest capitol building in the United States? It’s true. The Texas State Capitol building stands almost 15 feet taller than the United States Capitol building and is located right in the heart of downtown Austin.
You can take a free guided tour of the Texas State Capitol to learn more about this awesome building and a little bit of Texas history, or take a self-guided tour if you prefer to enjoy the venue on your own.
Both the interior and the exterior of the Texas State Capitol are open to the public. All are ADA-accessible.
2. Mount Bonnell
For one of my favorite views in Austin, head to Mount Bonnell. Located at Covert Park, Mount Bonnell offers incredible views of the city, Lake Austin, and the surrounding hills.
This epic viewpoint has been attracting visitors since the 1800s and has been designated a Texas Historic Landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places.
After arriving at the park, you will have to climb about 800 stairs to get to the top of Mount Bonnell, but once you do, the views are spectacular.
3. See The Bats At Congress Avenue Bridge
Did you know that Austin, Texas is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world? Well, now you do!
From fall to spring, over 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats make their way to Austin and live under the Congress Avenue Bridge right in the heart of downtown!
One of the most popular things to do in Austin is to watch the bats head out on their nightly flight! You too can experience this awesome spectacle. Just head to the bridge around sunset.
My favorite vantage point to watch the bats take flight is from the water! You can do this by kayaking on Lady Bird Lake.
Pro Tip: Be sure to arrive early as this event is popular and the area around the bridge gets very crowded. There are several vantage points, including on the water, in the grassy area between the water and bridge, and on top of the bridge.
4. Zilker Park
Another place that has to be on your list of things to do in Austin is Zilker Park. This 351-acre park is a staple in the Austin community and is loved by locals and tourists.
Don’t overlook Zilker Park as it is much more than just a park. Zilker Park is home to museums, swimming holes, annual events, and loads of hiking and biking trails.
During your visit to the park, you can explore the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, and the Zilker Botanical Garden, or catch a live performance at the Zilker Hillside Theater.
During the summer months, you will want to cool off from the summer heat at Barton Springs Pool, that is also located inside the park. Barton Springs Pool is a popular spring-fed swimming hole that offers great views of the Austin skyline.
Pro Tip: Barton Springs Pool is extremely popular during the summer months, so arrive early if you want to avoid crowds!
5. Lady Bird Lake
Austin’s Lady Bird Lake shimmers and shines in Downtown Austin, bringing loads of joy to residents and visitors of the city.
Lady Bird Lake is the perfect place in Austin city limits to enjoy some great outdoor recreation. Since motorized boats are not allowed on the lake, it is the perfect place to enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.
There are also numerous trails lining the shores of the lake that are perfect for an afternoon stroll or bike ride.
6. Explore Downtown Austin
Downtown Austin is the perfect place to spend the day. Lined with loads of fun shops, restaurants, museums, and art galleries, Downtown Austin offers something for everyone.
If you would rather immerse yourself in Texas history, then you can check out the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Here you can explore Texas history that encompasses the time from the Native Americans to the present day.
Honestly, Downtown Austin has so much to offer that you can spend days exploring it!
7. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Another great way to get out and enjoy nature while in Austin, Texas is to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. As the primary botanical garden of Texas, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is home to over 1,000 plant species native to Texas.
Of course, the flowers change depending on the season, but there is always something beautiful blooming at the center. In the summer you can see heat-resistant native plants like Texas lantana, the Texas bluebell, and the rock rose.
You can also check their website for special events and workshops that are hosted throughout the year.
The majority of the walkways at the center are made from crushed stone, so they are wheelchair accessible. There are also benches and sitting areas along the trails for visitors to enjoy.
8. Mayfield Park
Mayfield Park is a beautiful 27-acre nature preserve that is the perfect place to visit in Austin if you want to experience history while connecting with nature. The historic cottage and gardens occupy approximately 2 acres of the property and have helped to earn the park a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The highlight of a visit to Mayfield Park are the peacocks that roam the grounds. Visitors just love watching the birds strut their stuff as they fan open their gorgeous tail feathers for all to see.
After checking out the peacocks, be sure to enjoy the hiking trails and gardens that are located in the park.
9. Sixth Street
Ok, I am going to be honest with you here, Sixth Street is not for everyone. However, it is one of the options if you are wanting to check out Austin’s nightlife.
Lined with venues of all sorts, Sixth Street houses everything from tattoo parlors to microbreweries and dance bars.
Known to locals as “Dirty Sixth,” Sixth Street can be a bit gritty and somewhat overwhelming at times.
If you are looking for a night out exploring clubs and bars, then check out Sixth Street and see what you think about it.
10. Check Out Austin’s Live Music Scene
As the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas is known to have over 100 live music performances happening on the same night. While that can get a little overwhelming, it does make it easy to find the perfect live music performance to fit your taste.
While you can find live music venues throughout the city, one of the most popular in Austin, Texas is the Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater. Holding just over 3,000 people, this venue will definitely provide you with an intimate experience!
In addition, there is an Austin City Limits Music Festival that takes place annually. This festival takes place over two weeks and has live music venues throughout Austin, Texas. The concerts go on all day!
Of course, you can find live performances daily throughout the city. I mean, Austin isn’t called the “Live Music Capital of the World” for nothing!
11. Texas Governor’s Mansion
As the capital of Texas, it only makes sense that the Texas Governor’s Mansion can also be found in Austin, TX.
The Texas Governor’s Mansion was built in the 1800s and is a true architectural masterpiece. Serving as the home to every single Texas governor in history, the mansion definitely has some stories to tell.
During your visit to Austin, you can take a free tour of the mansion to learn all about the history associated with the home and view some beautiful antique furnishings.
12. Rainey Street Historic District
Another hot spot for nightlife in Austin, TX is the Rainey Street Historic District.
What used to be a residential neighborhood is now a fun and trendy area full of quirky bars and restaurants.
When you visit Rainey Street, be prepared for houses that have been transformed into fun hangout spots. Just walk down the street and take in all of the sights and sounds. You will find party lights strung through yards, and music pouring out of every door.
A couple of my favorite spots on Rainey Street include Banger’s for some great sausage and craft beer, and Lucille’s for a glass of wine in the cozy outdoor space.
13. Shop On South Congress Avenue
South Congress Avenue is home to some of the quirkiest and trendiest boutique shops in Austin, TX.
Walking down South Congress Avenue, you’ll find yourself surrounded by all kinds of fun and nostalgic shops, galleries, and restaurants.
For a current list of businesses located on South Congress Avenue, please click here.
14. Lake Travis
Watching the sunset over Lake Travis is one of the highlights of an Austin trip. While there are many places where you can make this happen, one of my favorites is The Oasis on Lake Travis.
Head to The Oasis before sunset to grab a seat and a glass of wine as you watch an incredible sunset over Lake Travis. This is truly one of the best things to do in Austin!
Of course, you can also enjoy a day out on the water during your visit to Lake Travis. Lake Travis is a great lake to enjoy fishing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, or swimming.
15. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
A visit to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is a must during your time in Austin, TX.
Despite not being native to Texas (Gus’s originated in Memphis), Gus’s Fried Chicken is a staple in the Austin community.
While the only meat you will find here is fried chicken, you will have a wide variety of sides to choose from. Stroll through the buffet and get your fill of coleslaw, baked beans, fried okra, and potato salad.
16. Ann And Roy Butler Hike And Bike Trail
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail stretches for more than 10 miles and is a great way to get some exercise during your time in Austin, TX.
The trail, which winds its way around Lady Bird Lake, is a popular spot for nature lovers. There are paved areas that are often used by joggers, people on rollerblades, and dog walkers. In addition to the paved area, there are hiking trails that wind their way through the natural area surrounding the lake.
17. Cathedral Of Junk
The slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”, didn’t happen by chance. This fun Texas town does more than just embrace the weird and quirky, it highlights it.
One of the unique places to visit in Austin to see just that is the Cathedral of Junk.
Vince Hannemann started building the art installation in his backyard in the early ’80s. He constructed the cathedral using old televisions, bottles, ladders, pool toys, and other random household knick-knacks.
Throughout the years, the Cathedral of Junk has transformed and taken on a life of its own. When you visit the Cathedral of Junk, you can check out the hidden corridors and walk up the stairways, truly immersing yourself in the art.
Just be sure to call ahead as the Cathedral of Junk is on private property, so you need permission to visit.
For more information on traveling to Austin, Texas, check out these articles: