Welcome to Austin! As a fellow Austin resident of 10 years and the resident Austin food blogger of 8 years, I finally got around to writing this highly requested guide to things to do in Austin. This Austin city guide is sorted by outdoor activities, restaurants, nightlife, and where to shop in Austin.
SEE ALSO: 24 Most Instagrammable Murals In Austin
Follow me on Instagram at @atasteofkoko to see all the new things going on in Austin and shoot me a DM if you have questions!
OUTDOOR THINGS TO DO IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
1. SWIM IN BARTON SPRINGS POOL
If you’re visiting Austin during the 9 hottest months of the year, you’ll want to take a dip in Barton Springs Pool. And even if you’re visiting in December/January, there’s the polar bear splash to partake in. For only $8 a day ($3 for Austin residents), you can swim in the 68-degree year-round water.
2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX
SEE ALSO: 7 Best Swimming Holes in Austin
2. PICNIC IN ZILKER PARK
Swimming not your thing? Pack a picnic basket and hop across the street to Zilker Park. Lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy the sunshine while watching the dogs play.
2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX, zilkerpark.org
3. CLIMB MOUNT BONNELL
Put on your sneakers and climb the 100 (give or take) steps up Mount Bonnell for an incredible view of Austin. Planning a date? Pack canned wine in your backpack!
3800 Mt Bonnell Dr, Austin, TX
4. WATCH A MOVIE AT ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE
Alamo Drafthouse may have expanded outside of Austin Texas but we still love our local movie theatre. You can order more than just the typical buttered popcorn and concession stand candy. I’m talking buffalo cauliflower, banh mi hot dogs, bourbon milkshakes, and more.
Multiple locations, drafthouse.com
5. PADDLE BOARDING ON LADY BIRD LAKE
One of my favorite outdoor activities in Austin is to go paddle boarding on Lake Bird Lake. There’s a couple of paddle board options but my go-to is Texas Rowing Center because it’s upstream. Trust me, you don’t want to paddle downstream of the lake. It’s not pretty.
1541 West Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX, texasrowingcenter.com
6. GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
Whether you’re a Longhorn fan (hook’em! UT alumni here ☺) or not, the University of Texas is a destination to visit when in Austin. If you happen to be here during football season, go tailgating and watch the game. There are over 51,000 students on 1,438.5 acres (originally only 40 acres back in 1839).
7. VISIT BULLOCK TEXAS STATE HISTORY MUSEUM
Learn all about the Lone Star State at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. It’s right across from the University of Texas campus.
1800 Congress Ave, Austin, TX, thestoryoftexas.com
8. WATCH THE BATS FLY OUT FROM THE CONGRESS BRIDGE
Wondering why there are hundreds of people standing at Congress Bridge at sunset? Over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge almost every night. It’s a pretty incredible sight that’s worth standing for.
Congress Ave, Austin, TX
9. FIND YOUR ZEN AT THE UMLAUF SCULPTURE GARDEN
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a quiet small garden next to Zilker Park that is centered on the artistic works of American sculptor Charles Umlauf. Find inspiration from the many sculptures in the garden and walk away inspired.
605 Robert E Lee Rd, Austin, TX, umlaufsculpture.org
10. SWIM AT HAMILTON POOL
This natural swimming pool was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago. Reservations are required during the summer from May to Sept. No reservations during the fall but be prepared to wait up to 45 minutes to enter. Entrance fee is $15 per vehicle when entering, cash only.
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs, TX, parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool
11. SMELL THE FLOWERS AT LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER
Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center is the home to sustainable, native plant gardens and education, conservation, research and consulting programs. The Wildflower Center is always blooming with plants that are in season.
4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX, wildflower.org
12. GO BOATING ON LAKE TRAVIS
We may not have a beach in Austin but we do have an incredible lake called Lake Travis. From stand-up paddleboards, kayaks & jet skis, to wakeboard boats, party barges, luxury yachts & houseboats, Lake Travis has it all.
13. TWO-STEP DANCING AT BROKEN SPOKE
Put on your cowboy boots and learn how to two-step at Broken Spoke but not before you eat a giant chicken fried steak.
3201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX, brokenspokeaustintx.net
14. VISIT THE DRISKILL HOTEL
The Driskill Hotel is a Texas landmark and is the oldest operating hotel in Austin. The hotel is rumored to be haunted by a young girl that fell to her death down the stairs and suicide brides.
604 Brazos St, Austin, TX, driskillhotel.com
15. TOUR THE TEXAS STATE CAPITOL
Did you know the Texas State Capitol is almost 15 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol? Free guided Capital Tours are Monday through Sunday.
1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX, tspb.state.tx.us/plan/tours/tours.html
16. EXPLORE ZILKER BOTANICAL GARDEN
Located in Zilker Park, the Zilker Botanical Garden is beautiful in the springtime when all the flowers are blooming and the butterflies are everywhere. Perfect selfie spot!
2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX, zilkergarden.org
17. GO NUDE AT HIPPIE HOLLOW
Hippie Hollow is still on my things to do in Austin list. The rumors are true, it’s a nude park so clothing is optional but you must ask for permission if you want to take photographs. Entrance fee is $15 per vehicle.
7000 Comanche Trail, Austin, TX, parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hippie-hollow
18. GET ARTSY AT BLANTON MUSEUM OF ART
New collections come to the Blanton Museum every couple of months so you visit throughout the year. Admission fee is $9 for adults or free every Thursday.
200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX, blantonmuseum.org
19. CATCH A SHOW AT PARAMOUNT THEATER
Paramount Theater is a historic live theatre venue/movie theatre in downtown Austin. It was built in 1915 so there’s so much history there.
713 Congress Ave, Austin, TX, austintheatre.org
20. SHOP ON SOUTH CONGRESS
I always recommend spending the afternoon on South Congress for any visitors that come to Austin. It’s an easily walkable street that is filled with local restaurants, boutiques, and galleries.
South Congress Avenue, austintexas.org/listings/south-congress-avenue-(soco)/4359/
21. GOLFING AT TOPGOLF
Food, booze, and endless golfing at Topgolf. It’s dog-friendly too!
2700 Esperanza Crossing, Austin, TX, topgolf.com/us/austin/
22. JAM OUT AT AUSTIN CITY LIMITS
If you happen to be in Austin during ACL but for ACL, good luck. This is the biggest music festival that brings people from all over the world on two consecutive three-day weekends Oct. 6-8 & Oct. 13-15, 2017. If you’re not here for ACL, avoid Zilker Park at all costs. If you want to check out, you can usually buy a wristband from someone at the entrance.
Zilker Park, aclfestival.com
23. DRINK WINE IN FREDERICKSBURG
Fredericksburg, the Texas Hill Country, is home to over 45 wineries and vineyards. Do a weekend getaway and stay at a bed & breakfast, or book a day trip with a wine bus tour.
Fredericksburg TX, visitfredericksburgtx.com
SEE ALSO: Weekend Getaway to Fredericksburg Texas
WHERE TO EAT IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
24. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH WALL AT JO’S COFFEE
The “I Love You So Much” Wall does exist and it’s located at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress. Order their iced turbo coffee while you’re there and it’ll keep you caffinated throughout the trip.
1300 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX, joscoffee.com/south-congress-jos/
25. EXPERIENCE THE BARBECUE PIT AT SALT LICK
You have to eat barbecue in Austin and the best experience is at Salt Lick because of the one-of-a-kind massive meat barbecue pit in Driftwood. Prepare to go home smelling like barbecue. The all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and beans is only $24.95 per person. Cash only and BYOB.
3600 Presidential Blvd, Austin, TX, saltlickbbq.com
26. TEXAS-SIZED BREAKFAST AT JUAN IN A MILLION
Everything is bigger in Texas and the Don Juan at Juan In A Million is massive. Don Juan El Taco Grande (try saying that 5 times fast) is a secret combination of potato, egg, bacon, and cheese in a hot tortilla for only $5.65!
2300 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, juaninamillion.com
27. MANMOSAS AT BANGER’S
Sausages, 100+ beers on tap, and manmosas (1 liter of champagne + OJ) for brunch.
79 Rainey St, Austin, TX, bangersaustin.com
28. QUESO FUNDIDO AT EL ALMA
There’s queso and then there’s queso fundido.
1025 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX, elalmacafe.com
29. QUICK SLICE AT HOME SLICE PIZZA
Even living in Austin for 10 years, I still love a quick hot slice of margherita pizza from the walk up window at Home Slice Pizza and topo chico.
1415 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX, homeslicepizza.com
30. SUSHI AT UCHI
There’s a reason why everyone has recommended Uchi to you and it’s so worth it even if it’s not a special occasion. And then go try their sister restaurant, Uchiko. Go during their happy hour if you don’t want to spend a pretty penny.
801 South Lamar￼ ￼Boulevard, Austin, TX, uchiaustin.com
31. TACOS AT VERACRUZ
Tacos are a food group for us Austinites so it’s a highly touchy subject. Veracruz is loved by the locals for it’s all natural ingredients and authentic, fresh tacos and salsas. They started out originally as a trailer that’s still on E Cesar Chavez and now they’ve launched 3 more locations.
Multiple locations, veracruztacos.com
32. FRENCH DINNER AT JUSTINE’S BRASSERIE
When I want to treat myself, it’s the steak fries with house red and chocolate cake at Justine’s.
4710 E 5th St, Austin, TX, justines1937.com
33. ICE CREAM AT AMY’S ICE CREAM
There are a ton of ice cream options but Amy’s is the OG of Austin with their Mexican vanilla.
*Multiple locations, amysicecreams.com
34. BRUNCH AT CONTIGO
What makes Austin special and different from Houston and Dallas is our love for patio dining and Contigo is at the top of the list with their outdoor restaurant that serves a farm-to-table menu.
2027 Anchor Ln, Austin, TX, contigotexas.com
35. BIG DOUGHNUTS AT GOURDOUGH’S
These are not your ordinary doughnut shop doughnuts. Gourdough’s serves up the biggest doughnuts that you’ve ever tasted in #foodcoma inducing flavors like mother clucker (fried chicken), miss shortcake, and blue balls.
1503 S 1st St, Austin, TX, gourdoughs.com
NIGHTLIFE THINGS TO DO IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
35. LIVE MUSIC AT MOHAWK
There are tons of live music venues in Austin but Mohawk is one of the top picks in downtown Austin. Live music is daily from 8pm-2am showcasing the best of what Austin’s creative local scene has to offer and both touring up-and-coming & also established talent.
912 Red River St, Austin, TX, mohawkaustin.com
36. DIRTY 6TH STREET IN DOWNTOWN AUSTIN
Everyone has to go at least once but nobody says you have to go more than twice. But if you do, no one’s judging you :). Watch out for horse poop.
37. CONTAINER BAR ON RAINEY STREET
Sadly Rainey Street isn’t as cool as it use to be before all the housing construction but there are still cool bars like Icenhauer’s, Bungalow, Javelina, Half Step, and Container Bar. Container Bar is made entirely out of shipping containers.
90 Rainey St, Austin, TX, austincontainerbar.com
38. MEZCAL COCKTAILS AT WHISLER’S
If you’ve done dirty 6th street, west 6th, Rainey Street, then you have to go to the east side. Whisler’s serves craft cocktails (my personal favorite is the Tigers Tears) in a chill setting. Be sure to upstairs to their Mezcalería Tobalá, a traditional Oaxacan mezcal bar.
1816 E 6th St, Austin, TX, whislersatx.com
39. HANG OUT AT NATIVE HOSTEL
Native Hostel is Austin’s hottest new hang spot and it’s a rad hostel that has a bar + kitchen. I did a staycation there last month and loved the chill vibe. Beds start at $49 a night so if you’re too drunk to go home, skip the expensive Uber ride and stay the night.
807 E 4th St, Austin, TX, nativehostels.com
THINGS TO DO IN AUSTIN: WHERE TO SHOP IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
40. TRY ON COWBOY BOOTS AT ALLENS BOOTS
There are over 3000 pairs of boots at Austin’s iconic boot shop, Allens Boots.
1522 South Congress, Austin, TX, allensboots.com
41. ANTIQUE SHOPPING AT UNCOMMON OBJECTS
If you’re wanting to shop local boutiques, South Congress is the spot to go. Uncommon Objects, Allens Boots, and Tesoro’s are all located on this strip. Uncommon Objects is an antique and vintage shop that is filled with relics. You can easily spend hours here!
1512 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX, uncommonobjects.com
42. PICK UP GIFTS AT TESORO’S
Skeleton bride & groom candles from Mexico? Check. Handpainted blown glass lingerie ornament from China? Check. Vintage bowls from Morocco? Check. Tesoro’s on South Congress has items from all over the world.
1500 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX, tesoros.com
43. SHOPPING AT DOMAIN NORTHSIDE
Love to shop? You’ll love Domain Northside. Nordstrom, Interior Define, Sephora, Free People, CB2, Kiehl’s, Lush, Frye, Whole Foods, and more.
11700 Domain Blvd, Austin, TX, domainnorthside.com
44. RECORD SHOPPING AT WATERLOO RECORDS & VIDEO
I just bought a record player so Waterloo Records is on my shopping list. Waterloo sells both local artists and concert ticket sales.
45. BUY A CACTUS AT EAST AUSTIN SUCCULENTS
Whether you live in Austin or you’re just visiting, you have to have a cactus. East Austin Succulents is this really cool nursery in East Austin that has all kinds of plants for your #jungalow.
SEE ALSO: Where To Buy Succulents In Austin