This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Austin has become more popular over the past few years, and you really need to see the city with your own eyes to understand why. The capital of the Lone Star State offers plenty of reasons to visit: 300 days of sun a year, live music, a great food scene, and opportunities to enjoy outdoor adventures. It’s also home to a major university and numerous startups.
Austin is a mix of musicians, students, tech experts, and hippies, making for a dynamic, lively city. Here are ten of the best things to do in Austin, Texas.
The Live Music Scene
Austin is known as The Live Music Capital of the World. Indeed there are more than 250 live music venues in and around the Austin area. Don’t assume you’re only going to find country music. Almost every genre is represented in Austin, from jazz, rock, country, and funk to samba, blues, and hip hop. There are famous spots such as the Continental Club, which opened its doors in 1955 but also less-known live-music venues. Let’s not forget the numerous music festivals such as SXSW or the Austin City Limits Festival.
Watching Bats From the Congress Avenue Bridge
From March to October, about one and a half million Mexican free-tailed bats settle under Congress Avenue Bridge, one of the world’s largest bat colonies. Every evening, about half an hour before sunset, they start flying from the bridge in search of insects. Don’t miss this and watch them fly over from the South Congress Bridge.
The Outdoor Adventures
With more than 300 days of sun a year, it’s no surprise there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in Austin. It’s home to more than 200 parks, 14 nature preserves, and more than 50 miles of hiking and biking trails. Lady Bird lake will allow you to admire superb views of the city skyline and enjoy kayaking or paddle boarding.
Mount Bonnell is the city’s highest peak in Covert Park, a great spot to see the sunrise or sunset. There’s also the Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake, Shoal Creek, the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Lake Travis, the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail, plus beautiful public and private golf courses.
The Food and Craft Beer Scene
When it comes to food, Austin really delivers! First off, the food trucks. There are more than 1,000 food trucks in Austin, serving everything from delicious tacos to burgers, Mexican food, donuts, chicken wings, queso, vegan bites, and more. The barbecue scene must be mentioned. Franklin Barbecue is very popular in Austin. It is known for its oak-smoked brisket. Austin is also home to numerous breweries, craft beers lovers won’t be disappointed.
Austin is a city with a rich history. It’s home to numerous museums, all of which are very interesting. You have to visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum, where you learn about the history of Texas. Did you know Texas was an independent country for nine years, from 1836 to 1845? There’s also the Blanton Museum of Art and the LBJ Presidential Library, a museum dedicated to Lyndon Johnson. Don’t miss it.
Related: Things To Do In Denver With Teens
The Art Scene
There are more than just museums in Austin. You’ll quickly notice that Austinites are bursting with creativity. SXSW showcases rising music talent. There’s also street art and colorful murals all over the city. Austin is also home to various festivals and exhibitions, numerous art galleries, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, and the Austin Symphony. Want to see weird stuff? Check out the cathedral of junk, or look at the quirky architecture of the Jenga Tower, the tallest building in Austin.
You cannot go to Austin and not check out the iconic Sixth Street., home to Austin’s nightlife scene. Music, food, drinks, bars, restaurants, and clubs fill Sixth Street. The area can get a little crazy, but there are also historic buildings to see, like The Driskill, Austin’s oldest operating hotel (which opened in 1886). Be sure to check out Maggie Mae’s, Sixth Street’s oldest bar, established in 1978.
Zilker Park is a great family-friendly park with a designated area for kid activities. It hosts the Austin City Limits music festival featuring 100+ artists on eight stages over two consecutive weekends in October. In Zilker Park, you’ll also find Lady Bird lake and the Hike-and-Bike Trail, which we discussed earlier.
You can ride the Zilker Zephyr Train that runs through the park, admire the Zilker Botanical Garden and take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool, a 3-acre outdoor swimming pool. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists. You can either swim, sunbathe or just relax. Kids love it!
The Texas State Capitol Building
You have to see this impressive red granite building. Built in 1888, the Texas State Capital building is the largest capitol in the US (51.4 acres). It’s even larger than the one in Washington D.C. There are also 22 acres of landscaped grounds filled with statues and historical monuments.
Self-guided tours are available, or you can join a 30-minute free guided tour (beginning every 15 minutes) from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. There are more than 400 rooms, and you can see the Senate Chamber, the House of Representatives Chamber, and more.
Peter Pan Mini Golf
Peter Pan Mini Golf is an excellent activity for families operating since 1948. It features two 18-hole courses with fun statues and obstacles, including a giant T-Rex, a clown head, or Peter Pan himself.
What are your favorite things to do in Austin? Let us know in the comments.
Roobens is a black travel blogger from Paris, France. His blog focuses on solo travel and traveling as a black person. He also wrote a book “Traveling while black”, where he relates what it’s like to travel the world independently as a black person.