Travelers to the United States will often target making good memories in New York City, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles in California (nobody can blame them, traveling to the USA is not that cheap, they want the best for their money). Not all the time that these people will explore cities like Austin in Texas. But, there are so many things to do in Austin that are also worthy of your travel investment.
The state capital of Texas, Austin is an inland city bordering the region of Hill Country. It is the home for the University of Texas flagship campus, and known for its vibrant live music scene centered around blues, country, and rock. Plus, it also has several lakes and parks famous for hiking, swimming, biking, and boating. Did you know that in the city’s south, at Formula One’s Circuit of the Americas, has hosted the United States Grand Prix? That is, if you fancy cars.
Austin is also about the people. Its population is now approaching a million, and it welcomes millions of tourists each year. Austin is, indeed, a busy city. Yet, this Texas capital has preserved its small-town personality, brimming with great music, culinary expertise, and a sociable local population that is impossible to resist. Here is a closer look at the best things to do in Austin.
Best Things To Do In Austin
What are the best things to do in Austin?
1. Watch Bats Swarm Under Congress Avenue Bridge
If you wish to experience some exotic things to do in Austin, read on. Part of Austin lies on the grassy banks of Lady Bird Lake where around over a million Mexican free-tailed bats swarm as the dusk arrives each evening. These bats make their home upon a platform underneath Congress Avenue Bridge, a bridge that crosses the Colorado at the southern portion of downtown.
Watch the scenery, or prepare your cameras for some photo-op featuring the bats. Also, every night, these bats feed on tens of thousands pounds of insects as this bat colony emerges toward the east like a surging river.
The bat observation area is also accessible for tourists with disabilities, and free for everyone.
2. Visit The Whispering Gallery Of Texas State Capitol, The Largest Of This Kind In The US
Finished constructing in 1888 with the use of sunset-red granite, Texas State Capitol is the largest of its kind in the entire United States. Here’s an anecdote. Its architect, Elijah Myers, was once tasked to create a bigger space for the state government after outgrowing the original capital architecture, and submitted his design in 1881. It was his second time designing such a building after what he did for Detroit’s Michigan State Capitol. However, times have passed and changes were made to the Texas State Capitol and Myers’ design after this architect was fired from the project in 1886.
Still standing until today, the building survived a fire in 1983, but resulted in numerous restorations and renovations over the following decade. Still, it is a sight to behold. You can take a look at its beautiful interiors, or visit the whispering gallery. Whispering galleries are called such because in these places, whispers can clearly be heard in other parts of the gallery.
3. Tour Around The University Of Texas At Austin
This is one of the things to do in Austin where you get to appreciate the city’s academic history and heritage. Austin’s University of Texas was established in the late 19th century, and often has the largest enrollment in the state.
Take a university tour beginning with its superb museums and the Texas Memorial Stadium, the home of the Texas Longhorns football team. Then, head over to the University of Texas Tower. It stands 307 feet high, and features a clock tower more than 12 feet in diameter. It is not only a campus landmark but locked into Austin’s history as its perch was used by the 1966 mass killing’s shooter. On a more delightful note, the tower now serves as a beacon of triumph when it is lit orange to celebrate a Longhorn victory or other achievements. Guided tours are available.
4. Learn Texas’ History In High-Tech Exhibits At Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Enormous, glitzy, and filled with not just interactive exhibits, but high-tech exhibitions, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is where you can learn the story of Texas, from its earliest settlers, through the time when it formed part of Mexico, up to its present history.
One of the biggest highlights here is found on the first floor, where tourists can see the hull of La Belle, a French ship that sank off the Gulf Coast in the 1600s, along with artifacts recovered from this wreck.
Continue your museum journey upstairs where you can find galleries that feature Texas’ revolutionary years, its rise to statehood, and its economic expansion with space exploration and oil drilling.
Believe it or not, there’s also an IMAX theater within this museum.
5. Dine In At Walton’s Fancy & Staple, A Restaurant Owned By Sandra Bullock
In Atlanta, there’s the Chicken+Beer restaurant owned by rapper Ludacris. In Beverly Hills, there’s Tagine Beverly Hills owned by Ryan Gosling. In Austin, there’s Walton’s Fancy & Staple owned by “Miss Congeniality” herself and Austin adoptee, Sandra Bullock. If you are a fan of celebrity restaurants and you happen to be in Austin, don’t forget to drop by this restaurant.
These celebrities like Bullock have worked so hard to be able to put up a restaurant they can call their own, and you can be part of this story. Some of the delights here at Walton’s Fancy & Staple are Chicken Caesar Wrap, Shrimp & Grits, Challah French Toast, and a whole lot more.
6. Experience Live Music At The Continental Club
Touted as the grandfather of live music venues, The Continental Club has enjoyed a coast-to-coast and global reputation as the premiere club for live music in Austin, get this, since 1955.
Unlike other music venues around, you’ll always find something you are looking for at The Continental Club. This iconic venue has been the home to performances, such as those by Paul Ray and the Cobras, Wanda Jackson, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and Double Trouble. Always jam-packed, The Continental Club can accommodate up to 200 people, and has even become a place for intimate, electric nights.
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7. Hike At Hamilton Pool
Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Austin also has its share of outdoor experiences. One of them is at Hamilton Pool, a great place for hiking. Located in Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, this breathtaking natural pool is easily reachable from downtown.
Aside from the hiking trails, nature lovers will swoon over the Preserve, considered as one of the city’s best parks, and a protected area for rare birds and wildlife. And if you, your family, or your friends want to take some rest from all the sightseeing here at Austin, you can do so at Hamilton Pool as there are picnic tables around the area.
Note that there is an entrance fee and you may need to reserve during the summer, which is a peak season here.
8. Dive Into Cool Spring Water At Barton Springs
Yes, we mean it when we say “dive.” There is a diving spot in Austin, you ask? Yes, there is, and if you are looking for some refreshing things to do in Austin, your wish will be granted at Barton Springs.
Here, you can start your experience amidst Austin’s hot climate by lounging on the grassy areas before you actually live into the cool spring water. Yes, spring water. It is because this natural pool is filled with freshwater from the city’s nearby springs.
Then, you can learn some knowledge about the place as you visit the ‘Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer” exhibit at the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center just near the bathhouse. Here, you can learn more about the biology and history of the springs. A full package experience.
9. Travel Back In Time At Waterloo Records
In a world where listening to music is as easy as downloading your favorite tracks and placing them on your iPhones or Samsung devices, it is a breath of fresh air when you can visit a music record store, such as at Waterloo Records in Austin.
Waterloo Records is the city’s biggest music store well-stocked with new releases from both major label artists. Its catalog includes John Legend, Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Angel Olsen, and so much more. Experiencing music in this traditional way is indeed a treasure to cherish.
Plus, the music store also offers in-store performances too, so be sure to stay updated from its event calendar.
10. Visit And Hike At Mount Bonnell
If you are hungry for beautiful views and your things to do in Austin bucket list is looking for something extraordinary, you can head to Mount Bonnell at Covert Park. This place provides the prettiest vistas of the city, Lake Austin, and the surrounding landscapes. Mount Bonnell is a certified Texas Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Why not? This has become a popular destination for tourists since the 1850s. Centuries-old experience, no doubt.
For the best experience, you can catch the sunset from the mountain. Tourists are also reminded to bring their tumblers of water to avoid dehydration while you hike.
11. If New Orleans Is To Bourbon Street, Austin Is To Sixth Street
Austin is considered as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and your trip to this city won’t be complete and fulfilling if you skip visiting Sixth Street, Austin’s version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
After a drastic restoration during the 60s to save this area from its disheveled reputation, Sixth Street has become the center and hub of the city’s music scene during the decade that followed after. Today, there is no better way to experience Austin’s live music than at Sixth Street. It buzzes with so many activities, whether in its live music joints, restaurants, shops, and bars. Don’t forget to drop by Esther’s Follies, Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, and Maggie Mae’s. Yeah, visit them all.
12. Try The World’s Best Brisket At Franklin Barbecue
Austin is known for its BBQs, and if you look around things to do in Austin, there are so many places you can find that claim to serve the best. That’s why we created this guide. Believe us when we say the best brisket in the world is at Franklin Barbecue.
Located at 900 E 11th Street, Franklin Barbecue is where briskets are seasoned and smoked to their juiciest perfection. The food here is so tasteful that both locals and tourists are willing to queue up and wait for hours just to try their offerings. Here’s a fun fact. Hungry customers would arrive early in the morning to make sure they don’t wait any longer, bringing with them their chairs, drinks, and the confidence to chat with strangers in the line.
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You Cannot Enjoy The Best Things To Do In Austin Without Knowing How To Get Aroun
After learning about the best things to do in Austin, let’s find out how you can get around the city. After all, you cannot enjoy the things to do in Austin without knowing your directions.
The best way to get around the city is by light rail or bus. While some travelers recommend bringing your car, especially if you are just visiting from within the United States, but the expense and the pains of getting around Austin with a car are there. If you want the most convenience, you can instead use Austin’s public transit system, the Capital Metro.
Uber, Lyft, Ride Austin, and Yellow Cab Austin rides are also available. Choose depending on what makes you most comfortable.
The ‘City Of The Violet Crown’ Is Waiting For You
Austin may not be as in-demand as New York City or Las Vegas, but this amazing city and capital of Texas is just waiting to get discovered. There are so many things to do in Austin. With its stunning parks, unique museums, and diverse food scene, this Texas city is a must-visit. Are you planning a quick weekend getaway, an overnight in Austin, or perhaps a long vacation? Take your travel goals here. Whether you are a music lover, an outdoor buff, a foodie, or somebody in between, Austin will be your friend.
Tours we recommend: