Austin delivers the goods when it comes to sightseeing. Whether you’re staying on the vibrantly emerging east side or in the tried and true downtown area, you’re sure to have plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.
In Austin, you’ll find family-oriented activities like museums, parks, and the Peter Pan mini-golf along with adult experiences including craft beer tastings, nightlife, and upscale dining. Check out this list of the best things to do in Austin, Texas on your next visit.
The Best Things to Do in Austin, Texas
1. Paddleboard Lady Bird Lake
Austin is a wonderful city that blends city life with a healthy dose of nature. If you’re looking to enjoy the sunshine and the great outdoors, try paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake or Lake Austin. You can bring your own equipment or rent one from a local shop.
2. Dive into Barton Springs Pool
The Barton Springs Pool is one of the best ways to cool off in the hot months of summer. This Austin gem is located on the grounds of Zilker Park and is open to the public year-round. The Barton Creek greenbelt also offers multiple biking and hiking opportunities.
The pool is closed on Thursday to allow for cleaning and is fed by a natural aquifer. Stop by the educational exhibit to learn more about the history and biology of the natural spring swimming hole.
3. Watch Bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge
One of the best things to do in Austin, Texas is to see the local bats hunt in the evening. If you find yourself in ATX between March and October, you must make time to see the largest urban bat colony in North America. The bats take flight every evening from the Congress Bridge. The event typically starts around 20 minutes before the sun sets and can best be viewed from a kayak or boat on the river underneath the Congress Ave bridge.
4. Catch a Game at the University of Texas
The University of Texas at Austin is home to the most winning football team in the Big 10 Conference. In this town, football is religion and the best way to get a sense of the community spirit in Austin is to check out a home game. You’ll join thousands of other fans celebrating the longhorns with hook ’em horns and exuberant chants.
Whether you love Mexican food or prefer Asian-inspired cuisine, Austin has tasty treats you’ll love. The city is known for its funky culinary infusions and premium craft beers. Get some work done at one of the coworking spaces or coffee shops in town and eat your heart out at the best new restaurants.
Make sure to try breakfast tacos and migas — a blend of eggs and tortillas you won’t soon forget. Another popular outing for tourists and Austinites alike is visiting the local food trucks, which serve up everything from homemade sausage and BBQ — Franklin BBQ is our favorite — to craft beers and vegan delights. Don’t forget to indulge in a weekend brunch or treat yourself to an upscale afternoon tea party.
6. Watch the Sunset From Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is the tallest peak in the Austin city limits. It’s the perfect place to catch the last rays of daylight and enjoy a picnic with friends and family. The hike is not too difficult and the views are well worth the effort.
7. Run or Bike Zilker Park
The Zilker Botanical Garden spans 351 acres and features everything from picnic sites and playscapes to volleyball courts and a disc golf course. Within the park grounds, you’ll also find the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, which features works of art from Charles Umlauf. Check out the hike and bike trail for an afternoon of exercise.
The park is also home to several events including the Zilker Park Kite Festival and the Trail of Lights — a wildly popular holiday event featuring thousands of lights and décor.
8. Shop in Downtown Austin
The downtown Austin center is easily walkable and features great access to food and shopping. Visit the 2nd Street District to explore stylish boutiques and enjoy delicious dining options as well as live music. Other great spots to check out are South Congress Avenue (SOCO), South First Street, and South Lamar Boulevard.
9. Discover Local Flora at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
This wildflower center is the work of first lady Johnson who aspired to create a center where people could enjoy the local flora of Texas. Today, the wildflower center hosts educational events, movies in the wild, and garden tours.
10. Visit the Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol offers guided tours to the legislative chambers of the state. You can also opt for a self-guided tour or one of the specialty tours such as the Women in Texas History tour. A visit offers the chance to see the original desks in the Senate offices as well as a glimpse at the Governor’s mansion.
11. Check Out the LBJ Presidential Library
This library is located on the grounds of the University of Austin and is home to more than 40,000 pieces, which were donated by the Johnson family. The library features enormous windows and stunning architecture that make a visit to this library truly enchanting.
12. Get Artsy and the Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art offers an exquisite opportunity to view art from famous Texans as well as Mexican artists. The museum is home to more than 18,000 works of art spanning ancient Greek pottery and abstract expressionist paintings. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions, ensuring there is always something new to discover within its walls.
13. Dive into History at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
Learn more about the history of the lone star state and its impact on the development of the United States at this historic museum. The museum features special showings in the on-site IMAX theater and offers hundreds of exhibitions demonstrating the story of Texas Here, you’ll learn more about the key players in the state’s founding and witness cultural artifacts.
14. Catch A Performance at One of the Music Venues
Austin is called the “live music capital of the world”. The city offers hundreds of live music venues where you can catch performances from local artists or national names. For a true Austin experience, head over to the Broken Spoke — a legendary bar that’s host the likes of Garth Brooks and Clint Eastwood. For avid music lovers, check out the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival.
15. Party on East 6th Street
Known as Dirty Sixth, the nightlife rages here on East Sixth Street. The nightlife neighborhood features dozens of bars offering cheap shots as well as more upscale venues where you can enjoy craft cocktails and tailored menus. If you’re looking for something lively, but with less of a college drunken vibe, check out Rainey Street instead.
16. Get Natural in the Texas Hill Country
Austin borders the Texas Hill Country where you can find farm-to-table restaurants and wellness spas. Enjoy the breeze blowing through your hair and have a picnic under one of the fragrant cypress trees. Other adventures include boating on glistening lakes and adventuring through limestone canyons. Don’t forget to visit one of the traditional villages such as Braunfels or Fredericksburg.
17. Catch A Flick at the Alamo Drafthouse
The Alamo Drafthouse is a moody theater that offers a unique way to watch your favorite movies. This year’s The Lion King opening night featured an adoption event highlighting cats and kittens that could be adopted on-site. The movie theater serves high-quality meals and beers with each showing and also hosts fun events such as movie marathons featuring favorites like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.