Welcome to Austin, the live music capital of the world! 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 Texas. Consider me your personal guide to sightseeing in Austin Texas!
SEE ALSO: 24 Most Instagrammable Murals In Austin
Check out my pocket-sized guidebook to Austin Texas that you can easily reference on your trip!
Table of Contents
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 – it’s one of the many natural springs in Austin. And even if you’re visiting in December/January, there’s the polar bear splash to partake in.
For only $9 a day ($5 for Austin residents), you can swim in the 68-degree year-round water.
2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX, austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Swimming Holes in Austin (including state parks)
2. Boating on Lake Travis
There are two lakes on Austin that you can go boating on – Lake Travis and Lake Austin. I recently went boating on Lake Travis with Float On Boat Rentals – loved how easy it was to get to the dock and they even help you load up your stuff into a wheelbarrow to the boat. We booked the sunset cruise and it was just perfect.
$50 off Float On Boat Rentals with code: KOKO
Book a boat pack with Easy Tiger for sandwiches, appetizers, cookies, and drinks!
Lake Travis (16405 Clara Van St) + Lake Austin, rentalboataustin.com
3. Picnic in Zilker Park
Swimming not your thing? Pack a picnic basket and hop across the street to Zilker Park. Layout a picnic blanket and enjoy the sunshine while watching the dogs play.
2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX, zilkerpark.org
4. 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!
I recommend checking out Mayfield Park that’s nearby – it’s filled with peacocks! Or going to Lake Austin to have a drink on the water at Hula Hut.
3800 Mt Bonnell Dr, Austin, TX
5. Watch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse may have expanded outside of Austin Texas but we still love our local movie theater. 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
SEE ALSO: 24 Spots With The Best Brunch In Austin
6. SUP on Lady Bird Lake
If you’re new to Austin, or just looking for a new way to experience our city, you must try paddle boarding (paddleboard) on Lady Bird Lake that is connected to the Colorado River. My favorite spot to rent SUPs is at Rowing Dock – their team is super friendly, will give you basic paddling instruction before you hit the water, and they’re super centrally located (they also have single/double kayaks, canoes and pedal kayaks). Truly – this is one of the best ways to beat the heat, get some beautiful downtown views, and hang with friends. They also have a variety of guided paddle tours for those interested in learning more about our city!
1541 West Cesar Chavez, rowingdock.com
7. Go to a football game at the 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).
8. Visit Bullock Texas State History Museum
Learn all about the Lone Star State and Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. It’s right across from the University of Texas campus. The LBJ Presidential Library is also nearby on the University of Texas at Austin.
1800 Congress Ave, thestoryoftexas.com
9. 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. Austin has the largest urban bat colony! It’s a pretty incredible sight to watch the bat colony fly out that’s worth standing for.
Walk over to the Mexic-Arte Museum to see an evolving collection of traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino and Latin American art .
Koko Tip: Go to P6 at the Line Hotel to watch the bats fly out with a cocktail.
10. 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, umlaufsculpture.org
11. 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. The entrance fee is $15 per vehicle when entering, cash only. There is a small bike trail but I’ve always headed straight to the pool.
McKinney Falls State Park is a popular swimming spot too.
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs, TX, parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Swimming Holes in Austin
12. Smell the flowers at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
COVID-19 update: currently open for reservations only
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, wildflower.org
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, 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 building is almost 15 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol? Free guided tours are Monday through Sunday.
1100 Congress Ave, 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, zilkergarden.org
17. Go nude at Hippie Hollow
I finally crossed off Hippie Hollow on my things to do in Austin list on my 30th birthday. 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. The entrance fee is $15 per vehicle. Keep Austin Weird y’all.
7000 Comanche Trail, parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hippie-hollow
SEE ALSO: 14 Best Hiking Trails In Austin TX
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. The admission fee is $9 for adults or free every Thursday.
200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, blantonmuseum.org
19. Catch a show at Paramount Theatre
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. Hike Barton Creek Greenbelt
There are several different ways to get into the Greenbelt. My favorite entry point is past Loop 360 off of the Capitol of Texas highway. Hike one hour in and you’ll be greeted with waterfalls – a relief from our humid Texas summers. Watch out for bikers as you’re walking on the path (this is a popular area for biking). I like walking on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike trail boardwalk or go on a bike tour of 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.
So, if you want to experience live music, visit Austin City Limits (ACL) Live at The Moody Theater.
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
24. Spa day at Viva Day Spa
For a spa treatment, I go to Viva Day Spa, a local day spa with three locations in Austin: The Domain, 35th St, and North Lamar.
For the holidays, Viva Day Spa has a couple of holiday packages and I treated myself to both of these and loved them!
25. Drink beer at a local Austin brewery
Austin has many craft breweries throughout the city with multiple brews on tap.
Popular breweries include:
- Austin Beer Garden Brewing (ABGB)
- Austin Beerworks
- Hold Out Brewing
- Jester King Brewery
- Live Oak Brewing
- Meanwhile Brewing (personal fav!)
26. Visit Laguna Gloria
The Contemporary Austin has two separate sites, Laguna Gloria in Central Austin and the Jones Center in downtown Austin. Laguna Gloria is a 14-acre outdoor site on Lake Austin houses a sculpture park and 14th century Italianate-style villa in the early 1900s. The museum also runs a program called “Museum Without Walls,” which aims to bring art out into the community, as well as a public art collaboration with Waller Creek Conservancy, a chain of parks around a restored Waller Creek in downtown Austin.
3809 W 35th St, thecontemporaryaustin.org/lagunagloria/
@atasteofkoko Private tour of the new $260 million Austin FC soccer stadium #austintxtiktok #austinfc #austintexas #soccer #thingstodoinaustin ♬ original sound – Koko | Austin Food Blogger
27. Go to an Austin FC soccer game
Austin is now home to our very first soccer team with a beautiful stadium in North Austin. See the schedule here.
10414 McKalla Place
Best restaurants in Austin, Texas
28. 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 caffeinated throughout the trip.
1300 S Congress Ave, joscoffee.com/south-congress-jos/
29. 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 bbq.
The all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and beans is only $24.95 per person. Cash only and BYOB.
3600 Presidential Blvd, saltlickbbq.com
SEE ALSO: 10 Spots For The Best BBQ In Austin
30. 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, juaninamillion.com
32. Manmosas at Banger’s
Sausages, 100+ beers on tap, and manmosas (1 liter of champagne + OJ) for brunch.
79 Rainey St, bangersaustin.com
33. Queso fundido at El Alma
There’s queso and then there’s queso fundido.
1025 Barton Springs Rd, elalmacafe.com
34. 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 a topo chico.
1415 S Congress Ave, homeslicepizza.com
SEE ALSO: 10 Spots For The Best Pizza In Austin
35. 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, uchiaustin.com
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Options For Omakase in Austin
36. 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 its all-natural ingredients and authentic, fresh tacos and salsas. They started out originally as a food truck that’s still on E Cesar Chavez and now they’ve launched 3 more locations.
Check out my guide to the 10 Best Breakfast Tacos In Austin and the best tacos in Austin!
Multiple locations, veracruztacos.com
37. 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, justines1937.com
38. Texas-shaped waffle at The Driskill Hotel
There are a ton of ice cream options but Amy’s is the OG of Austin with their Mexican vanilla.
*Multiple locations, amysicecreams.com
39. 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. Also very family-friendly! 2027 Anchor Ln, contigotexas.com
SEE ALSO: 24 Spots With The Best Brunch In Austin
40. 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. Gourdough’s has a restaurant in South Austin on South Lamar.
1503 S 1st St, gourdoughs.com
SEE ALSO: 17 Spots For Late Night Food In Austin
Nightlife things to do in Austin, Texas
41. 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 in the local music scene.
Other popular live music venues:
- The Continental Club
- Antone’s Nightclub
- ACL Live
- Elephant Room
912 Red River St, mohawkaustin.com
42. 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.
43. Bar hopping 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 Stay Putt.
90 Rainey St, austincontainerbar.com
44. 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, whislersatx.com
45. Hang out Native Hostel
Native Hostel is one of Austin’s hottest hang spots and it’s a rad hostel that has a bar + kitchen.
807 E 4th St, nativehostels.com
Best shops in Austin, Texas
46. 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
47. 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!
1602 Fort View Rd, uncommonobjects.com
48. 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 gift shop on South Congress has items from all over the world.
1500 S Congress Ave, tesoros.com
49. 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, domainnorthside.com
SEE ALSO: 11 Best Things to Do in Salado TX
51. 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.
52. 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
53. Visit the Cathedral Of Junk
The Cathedral of Junk stands quietly in the backyard of a small house on a suburban street in South Austin with over 60+ tons of well, junk.
4422 Lareina Dr
Events that happen in Austin
- South By Southwest (SXSW)
- Austin Food & Wine Festival
- Austin City Limits (ACL)
- Formula 1 (F1) at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) (see Austin F1 race tips)
FAQs On Austin
What should you not miss in Austin?
Sixth Street, Congress Avenue Bridge, Broken Spoke, Franklin Barbecue.
What can you do in Austin in one day?
Kayak on Lady Bird Lake, Blanton Museum of Art, eat tacos, queso, and margaritas, and sunset boat tour to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue bridge.
What is Austin known for food?
Tex Mex, tacos (breakfast tacos specifically) queso, and margaritas.
What is famous in Austin TX?
Texas Capitol, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, Alamo Drafthouse, Congress Avenue Bridge, and Franklin Barbecue.
Q: What are some of the best outdoor activities to do in Austin, Texas?
A: Austin is known for its abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking and biking trails, kayaking and paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake, and swimming in Barton Springs Pool. Visitors can also take a stroll through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or enjoy a picnic at Zilker Park.
Q: What are some popular cultural attractions in Austin?
A: Austin is home to a vibrant arts and music scene, with world-renowned music festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. Visitors can also explore the Blanton Museum of Art, the LBJ Presidential Library, and the Texas State Capitol building.
Q: What are some unique experiences to have in Austin?
A: Visitors to Austin can take a dip in the natural spring-fed pool at Barton Springs, watch the bats take flight from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and explore the vibrant street art scene in the city.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit Austin?
A: The best time of year to visit Austin is during the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and comfortable. However, visitors can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities and festivals throughout the year.
Q: What are some must-try restaurants in Austin?
A: Austin is a foodie’s paradise, with a wide range of culinary options to choose from. Some of the top restaurants to try include Franklin Barbecue, Uchi, Launderette, and Fonda San Miguel.
Q: How do I get around Austin?
A: Visitors to Austin can easily navigate the city using public transportation, ride-sharing services, or by renting a bike or scooter. The city also has a number of bike and pedestrian-friendly paths and trails.