Top 25 Things To Do in Austin

From live music and BBQ to quirky attractions and outdoor adventures, Austin keeps it weird and wonderful for every type of traveler.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

As the sun dips below the horizon, an extraordinary spectacle unfolds in the heart of Austin. The Congress Avenue Bridge comes alive with the rustle of tiny wings as 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their daytime slumber. This nightly exodus is more than just a natural wonder – it's a perfect metaphor for Austin itself, a city that reveals its quirky charm to those who know where to look.

Welcome to Austin, where the motto "Keep Austin Weird" isn't just a catchphrase – it's a way of life. This vibrant capital city of Texas blends Southern hospitality with a fiercely independent spirit, creating a unique atmosphere that's at once laid-back and buzzing with energy. From world-class live music venues and mouth-watering BBQ joints to serene natural springs and cutting-edge tech hubs, Austin offers a smorgasbord of experiences that cater to every type of traveler.

So, grab your cowboy boots (or your Birkenstocks – we don't judge here), and let's dive into the 25 best things to do in this wonderfully weird city. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning fan, Austin's ever-evolving landscape of sights, sounds, and flavors is sure to surprise and delight you.

Watch the Bat Exodus at Congress Avenue Bridge

Swarm of bats emerging from Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset in Austin, a nightly spectacle drawing crowds
Witnessed the incredible bat exodus from Congress Avenue Bridge tonight. Over a million bats took flight – nature's own airshow right in the heart of the city!

As the sun sets over Lady Bird Lake, prepare yourself for one of nature's most spectacular shows. Every evening from March to November, the Congress Avenue Bridge becomes the stage for an awe-inspiring performance as North America's largest urban bat colony takes flight. Up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats spiral out from beneath the bridge, creating a swirling vortex against the twilight sky. The sight is so mesmerizing that it draws crowds of locals and tourists alike, all gathered to witness this nightly ritual. As you watch, you'll feel a sense of connection not just to nature, but to the quirky heartbeat of Austin itself.

Location: 100 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Best viewing times vary seasonally, typically around sunset
Admission: Free

Why Visit: This natural phenomenon is a uniquely Austin experience that combines wildlife watching with stunning urban views.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to snag a spot on the bridge's east side for the best views, or book a bat-watching boat tour for a unique perspective from the water.

Dive into Barton Springs Pool

Swimmers enjoying the crystal-clear waters of Barton Springs Pool in Austin, a popular natural swimming hole
Found the perfect spot to beat the Texas heat! Barton Springs stays a refreshing 68-70°F year-round. No wonder it's an Austin favorite.

Imagine plunging into crystal-clear waters that stay a refreshing 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. That's the magic of Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre natural limestone pool fed by underground springs. This aquatic oasis in the heart of Zilker Park has been a beloved Austin institution for generations. As you float on your back, gazing up at the towering pecan trees that line the banks, you'll understand why locals consider this their second living room. The pool's natural bottom is home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, adding a touch of ecological significance to your swim.

Location: 2201 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily (closed Thursdays 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM for cleaning)
Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for seniors, $3 for children (1-11), free for children under 1

Why Visit: It's a natural swimming hole in the heart of the city, offering year-round refreshment and a glimpse into Austin's commitment to preserving natural spaces.

Insider Tip: For a quieter experience, head to the pool early on weekday mornings when it's frequented by local lap swimmers and early risers.

Rock Out at The Continental Club

Live band performing on stage at the historic Continental Club in Austin, showcasing the city's vibrant music scene
Caught an amazing blues set at The Continental Club last night. This place has been rocking since 1955 – you can feel the history in every note!

Step into The Continental Club, and you're instantly transported to the heart of Austin's legendary music scene. This iconic venue on South Congress Avenue has been the epicenter of roots, rock, and country music since 1955. The low-lit, intimate space oozes vintage charm, with its red velvet curtains and neon signs creating the perfect backdrop for unforgettable live performances. As you sway to the rhythm, cold beer in hand, you might just find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with music legends – everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Robert Plant has graced this stage.

Location: 1315 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: 4:00 PM - 2:00 AM daily
Admission: Varies by show, typically $10-$25

Why Visit: It's a living piece of Austin's musical history where you can experience world-class performances in an intimate setting.

Insider Tip: Check out the happy hour shows from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM for free entry and a chance to see some of Austin's best local talent.

Feast on BBQ at Franklin Barbecue

Long line of people waiting outside Franklin Barbecue in Austin, famous for its mouthwatering brisket
The line at Franklin Barbecue is no joke, but trust me, it's worth the wait. Their brisket is life-changing!

Prepare your taste buds for a religious experience at Franklin Barbecue. This unassuming joint, housed in a blue cinderblock building, has earned a reputation as the holy grail of Texas barbecue. The star of the show? A melt-in-your-mouth brisket that's smoked to perfection for a whopping 12-18 hours. The result is a piece of meat so tender and flavorful, it's been known to bring tears to the eyes of BBQ aficionados. The long lines that form hours before opening are a testament to its legendary status – even celebrities and presidents have been known to wait their turn for a taste of Aaron Franklin's smoky masterpieces.

Location: 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11:00 AM until sold out (usually around 2:00 PM-3:00 PM)
Price Range: $25-$30 per pound of meat

Why Visit: It's consistently rated as some of the best barbecue in the country, if not the world.

Insider Tip: Can't stand the wait? Pre-order online up to 6 weeks in advance for pickup. Just be ready to set an alarm – slots fill up fast!

Explore the Quirky Shops on South Congress Avenue

Eclectic shops and vibrant street art along South Congress Avenue in Austin, a hub of local culture and quirky charm
Spent the afternoon exploring South Congress. From vintage boots to quirky gifts, this street is peak Austin weirdness!

Take a stroll down South Congress Avenue, and you'll find yourself in the beating heart of Austin's famous "weird" culture. This vibrant street is a treasure trove of eclectic boutiques, vintage shops, and uniquely Austin experiences. Pop into Uncommon Objects to browse a curated collection of antiques and oddities, or visit Allen's Boots to try on a pair of authentic cowboy boots. Don't miss the iconic "I love you so much" mural – it's the perfect backdrop for a memorable Austin selfie. As you wander, the aroma of food trucks and the sound of street musicians create a sensory experience that encapsulates the city's creative spirit.

Location: South Congress Avenue, between Riverside Dr and Oltorf St
Hours: Vary by shop, generally 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Price Range: Free to browse, purchases vary

Why Visit: It's a one-stop-shop for experiencing Austin's unique culture, from shopping to people-watching.

Insider Tip: Visit on the First Thursday of each month when shops stay open late and offer special deals, turning the street into a lively evening festival.

Paddle on Lady Bird Lake

Kayakers enjoying a sunny day on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, with the city skyline in the background
Perfect day for kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. The skyline views are unbeatable, and we even spotted some turtles sunbathing!

Glide across the calm waters of Lady Bird Lake, and you'll see Austin from a whole new perspective. This serene reservoir on the Colorado River cuts through the heart of the city, offering a peaceful respite from urban life. Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard and spend a few hours exploring the lake's nooks and crannies. As you paddle, you'll be treated to stunning views of the Austin skyline, with opportunities to spot local wildlife like turtles, herons, and even the occasional river otter. The lake is also ringed by the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, perfect for a post-paddle stroll.

Location: 208 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704 (Zilker Park Boat Rental)
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Price Range: $15-$25 per hour for rentals

Why Visit: It offers a unique blend of urban views and natural beauty, all while getting some light exercise.

Insider Tip: For a magical experience, book a sunset bat-watching tour that combines paddling with viewing the Congress Avenue Bridge bat exodus.

Immerse Yourself in History at the Texas State Capitol

Majestic red granite Texas State Capitol building in Austin, showcasing its impressive architecture and grounds
Did you know the Texas State Capitol is taller than the U.S. Capitol in D.C.? Everything really is bigger in Texas!

Stand in awe before the majestic dome of the Texas State Capitol, a stunning example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture that stands even taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. As you step inside, you're not just entering a building – you're walking into the pages of Texas history. The ornate rotunda, with its whispering gallery effect, and the beautifully restored legislative chambers tell the story of the Lone Star State's past and present. Free guided tours offer fascinating insights into the building's architecture, artwork, and the sometimes dramatic events that have unfolded within its walls.

Location: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday-Friday 7:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Saturday-Sunday 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a stunning architectural marvel and a deep dive into Texas history and politics.

Insider Tip: After your tour, head to the Capitol grounds to find the quirky World's Smallest Office Building, a converted fire hydrant that's a perfect example of Austin's weird side.

Get Inspired at the Blanton Museum of Art

Vibrant stained glass installation at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, part of its diverse collection
Mesmerized by Ellsworth Kelly's 'Austin' at the Blanton Museum. It's like stepping into a rainbow!

Step into the Blanton Museum of Art and prepare to have your senses awakened. This world-class institution on the University of Texas campus houses an impressive collection of over 19,000 works, ranging from ancient Greek pottery to contemporary American masterpieces. The museum's crown jewel is Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin," a 2,715-square-foot stone building with luminous colored glass windows that create a transcendent, light-filled space. As you wander through the galleries, you'll encounter thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge your perceptions and spark conversations. The Blanton isn't just a museum; it's a cultural hub that reflects Austin's dynamic art scene.

Location: 200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78712
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, free for children under 12

Why Visit: It offers a world-class art experience with a distinctly Austin flavor, featuring both global masters and local talent.

Insider Tip: Visit on the third Thursday of the month for free admission and extended evening hours, often featuring special programming and live music.

Experience Live Music on Sixth Street

Lively nighttime scene on Sixth Street in Austin, with neon signs and crowds enjoying the famous live music strip
Sixth Street on a Saturday night is wild! Hopped between three different venues and heard everything from blues to indie rock. Austin's music scene is unreal!

Welcome to the pulsating heart of Austin's famous music scene – Sixth Street. As night falls, this historic district comes alive with the sounds of live music pouring out of every bar and club. Known as "Dirty Sixth" by locals (a term of endearment, we assure you), this vibrant strip offers a dizzying array of musical genres. From blues at Antone's to rock at The Parish, there's something for every taste. The energy is infectious as you hop from venue to venue, each with its own unique vibe. Don't be surprised if you stumble upon the next big thing – many music legends got their start on these very stages.

Location: East 6th Street between Congress Ave and I-35
Hours: Most venues open from 8:00 PM - 2:00 AM
Price Range: Many venues offer free entry, others charge $5-$20 cover

Why Visit: It's the epicenter of Austin's live music scene, offering a high-energy nightlife experience.

Insider Tip: For a slightly more relaxed vibe, explore the eastern end of Sixth Street past I-35, where you'll find hip bars and restaurants with live music but fewer crowds.

Discover Street Art in East Austin

Visitor posing in front of a vibrant street art mural in East Austin, showcasing the neighborhood's creative spirit
East Austin's street art game is strong! This mural by local artist Niz is just one of many incredible pieces we discovered today.

East Austin is a veritable outdoor gallery, where the city's creative spirit spills onto the streets in vibrant bursts of color. This once-overlooked neighborhood has transformed into a haven for street artists, with murals adorning walls, buildings, and even electrical boxes. Take a self-guided tour and you'll encounter everything from massive, building-spanning works to tiny, hidden gems. The art here isn't just beautiful – it's a reflection of Austin's diverse community, often touching on themes of social justice, local history, and the city's unique culture. Keep your eyes peeled for works by renowned local artists like Niz and HOPE.

Location: Throughout East Austin, concentrated around East Cesar Chavez St and East 6th St
Hours: Viewable 24/7
Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers a glimpse into Austin's thriving contemporary art scene and the neighborhood's evolving character.

Insider Tip: Join a guided street art tour to learn about the artists and the stories behind the murals, plus get tips on the best local eateries.

Relax at Zilker Metropolitan Park

People enjoying a sunny day at Zilker Metropolitan Park in Austin, with the city skyline visible in the distance
Zilker Park is like Austin's backyard. Spent the whole afternoon here and still didn't explore it all. The skyline views are a bonus!

Zilker Park is Austin's 351-acre playground, a lush oasis in the heart of the city where locals come to unwind and visitors come to understand why Austinites are so darn happy. This sprawling green space offers something for everyone: picnic spots with skyline views, trails for hiking and biking, and fields perfect for a game of frisbee or a lazy afternoon of cloud-watching. The park is also home to several of Austin's top attractions, including Barton Springs Pool and the Zilker Botanical Garden. During summer evenings, the Zilker Summer Musical brings Broadway to the park with free performances under the stars.

Location: 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily
Admission: Free (some attractions within the park may have separate fees)

Why Visit: It's Austin's most beloved park, offering a perfect blend of nature and recreation in the heart of the city.

Insider Tip: Rent a swan-shaped pedal boat on Lady Bird Lake for a whimsical way to enjoy the park's waterfront views.

Sample Craft Beers on the Austin Ale Trail

Craft beer flight at an Austin brewery, part of the city's popular Ale Trail experience
Sampling my way through the Austin Ale Trail. This city takes its craft beer seriously – so many unique flavors!

Quench your thirst for adventure (and great beer) on the Austin Ale Trail. This self-guided tour takes you through the city's booming craft beer scene, from downtown taprooms to sprawling brewery complexes in the Hill Country. Each stop offers a unique flavor profile and atmosphere, reflecting Austin's diverse brewing culture. At Jester King Brewery, you can sip on funky farmhouse ales while overlooking the scenic Texas Hill Country. Meanwhile, Austin Beerworks serves up crisp, refreshing lagers perfect for beating the Texas heat. The trail isn't just about drinking – it's an opportunity to meet local brewers, learn about the brewing process, and experience the community spirit that makes Austin's beer scene special.

Location: Various locations throughout Austin
Hours: Vary by brewery, typically 12:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Price Range: Most breweries offer tasting flights for $10-$15

Why Visit: It's a delicious way to explore the city and experience Austin's craft beer revolution firsthand.

Insider Tip: Pick up an Austin Ale Trail map and get it stamped at each brewery you visit. Collect enough stamps, and you can redeem them for exclusive Ale Trail merchandise.

Travel Back in Time at the LBJ Presidential Library

Visitor next to LBJ's presidential limousine at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, offering a glimpse into 1960s history
Stepped back in time at the LBJ Library. The animatronic LBJ telling jokes was unexpected but totally entertaining!

Step into the world of one of America's most influential presidents at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. This fascinating museum offers a deep dive into the 1960s, one of the most tumultuous and transformative decades in U.S. history. As you explore the exhibits, you'll gain insights into LBJ's presidency, from his ambitious "Great Society" programs to the challenges of the Vietnam War. The library's crown jewel is a 7/8th scale replica of the Oval Office as it looked during Johnson's presidency. Don't miss the animatronic LBJ, who regales visitors with humorous anecdotes in his distinctive Texas drawl.

Location: 2313 Red River St, Austin, TX 78705
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Admission: $13 for adults, $9 for seniors, $3 for children 13-17, free for children under 13

Why Visit: It offers a compelling look at a pivotal era in American history through the lens of one of its most colorful presidents.

Insider Tip: For a truly presidential experience, download the library's app which includes a tour narrated by former President Bill Clinton.

Catch a Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse

Interior of Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, showing unique cinema experience with in-theater dining
Movie night at Alamo Drafthouse is next level. Where else can you watch a cult classic while enjoying gourmet snacks and local craft beer?

Forget everything you know about going to the movies. At the Alamo Drafthouse, cinema is elevated to an art form, complete with gourmet food, local craft beers, and a strict no-talking, no-texting policy that cinephiles will appreciate. This Austin-born theater chain has revolutionized the movie-going experience with its blend of first-run films, quirky repertory screenings, and special events. You might find yourself at a quote-along version of "The Princess Bride," a feast pairing each course with a scene from "Babette's Feast," or a terror-filled showing of "Jaws" on a floating screen at Lake Travis. The Alamo Drafthouse isn't just a movie theater – it's a celebration of cinema that's pure Austin.

Location: Multiple locations in Austin (Original location: 1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704)
Hours: Vary by showtime, generally 11:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Price Range: $10-$15 for standard screenings, specialty events may cost more

Why Visit: It's a uniquely Austin movie experience that goes beyond just watching a film.

Insider Tip: Join their Victory rewards program for free to earn points towards free movies and food, plus get access to exclusive screenings and events.

Hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt

Hikers exploring the lush trails of Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin, a natural oasis in the city
Hard to believe this is just minutes from downtown! The Greenbelt is like a hidden forest in the middle of Austin. Perfect for a morning hike.

Escape the urban jungle and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This 12.68-mile stretch of public land is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking trails, limestone bluffs for rock climbing, and serene swimming holes. The main trail winds alongside Barton Creek, leading you through a diverse landscape of juniper and oak woodlands. During spring, the Greenbelt comes alive with wildflowers, painting the trails in vibrant hues. After a good rain, you can cool off in one of the many swimming holes, like the popular Twin Falls or Sculpture Falls. It's hard to believe this natural oasis exists just minutes from downtown Austin.

Location: 3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78704 (Main access point)
Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily
Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers a quick escape into nature without leaving the city, perfect for hiking, swimming, and rock climbing.

Insider Tip: Water levels in the creek can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall. Check the Greenbelt Now website for current conditions before your visit.

Shop and Dine at the Domain

Shoppers strolling through The Domain in Austin, an upscale outdoor shopping and dining destination
Treating myself to some retail therapy at The Domain. It's like a little slice of Beverly Hills in Austin!

For a taste of upscale Austin, head to The Domain, a sprawling open-air complex that's equal parts shopping center, dining destination, and entertainment hub. This "second downtown" boasts over 100 upscale and mainstream retail stores, from local boutiques to high-end brands like Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. But The Domain is more than just a shopping trip – it's an experience. Stroll along the beautifully landscaped boulevards, enjoy live music at the central park, or savor a meal at one of the many restaurants ranging from casual eateries to fine dining establishments. As night falls, the area comes alive with locals and visitors enjoying the vibrant bar scene.

Location: 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Austin, TX 78758
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM (restaurant and bar hours may vary)
Price Range: Free to browse, purchases and dining costs vary

Why Visit: It offers a one-stop destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment in a beautifully designed outdoor setting.

Insider Tip: Visit during the holiday season to see The Domain transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a 40-foot Christmas tree and Santa's Workshop.

Explore the Museum of the Weird

Visitor examining odd exhibits at the Museum of the Weird in Austin, showcasing the city's love for the unusual
The Museum of the Weird lives up to its name! From shrunken heads to alleged alien specimens, this place is delightfully bizarre.

Embrace Austin's weird side at this delightfully odd museum on Sixth Street. The Museum of the Weird is a cabinet of curiosities that would make P.T. Barnum proud, showcasing a eclectic collection of bizarre artifacts, sideshow gaff, and crypto-zoological specimens. From shrunken heads and two-headed animals to a purported Fiji mermaid and the Minnesota Iceman, every corner of this quirky museum holds a new surprise. Live sideshow performances add to the carnival atmosphere, featuring sword swallowers, human blockheads, and other classic acts. It's strange, it's kitschy, and it's pure Austin.

Location: 412 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:00 AM - 12:00 AM, Friday-Sunday 10:00 AM - 1:00 AM
Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for children (7-17), free for children under 7

Why Visit: It's a whimsical dive into the world of the strange and unusual, perfectly embodying Austin's "Keep It Weird" ethos.

Insider Tip: For the full experience, time your visit to catch one of the live sideshow performances, typically held every hour on the hour.

Take a Dip in Hamilton Pool Preserve

Stunning natural beauty of Hamilton Pool Preserve near Austin, featuring a unique collapsed grotto and waterfall
Hamilton Pool is like something out of a fairy tale. The 50-foot waterfall and jade green pool are absolutely magical!

Prepare to be awestruck by the natural beauty of Hamilton Pool Preserve. This stunning grotto, formed by the collapse of an underground river thousands of years ago, is like something out of a fairy tale. A 50-foot waterfall cascades into a jade green pool, surrounded by limestone cliffs and lush vegetation. The pool is part of a 232-acre nature preserve, offering hiking trails that wind through the Texas Hill Country landscape. Swimming is permitted when conditions allow, offering a uniquely refreshing experience. It's no wonder this hidden gem has become one of the most photographed natural areas in Texas.

Location: 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM daily (reservations required)
Admission: $12 per vehicle (additional $8 per person for swimming)

Why Visit: It's a breathtaking natural wonder that offers a perfect blend of swimming, hiking, and photogenic views.

Insider Tip: Reservations are required and can be made up to 12 weeks in advance. Book early, especially for summer weekends, as slots fill up quickly.

Experience Formula 1 at Circuit of The Americas

Formula 1 cars racing at Circuit of The Americas near Austin, with its iconic observation tower visible
Caught the F1 action at Circuit of The Americas today. The roar of the engines and the speed of the cars is absolutely thrilling!

Feel the rush of adrenaline at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), a world-class racing facility that hosts the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. This 3.4-mile track, with its signature 133-foot observation tower, has put Austin on the map for motorsports fans around the globe. But COTA isn't just about F1 – throughout the year, it hosts a variety of races, concerts, and events. Take a tour of the facility, test your skills on the karting track, or attend one of the many music festivals held on the grounds. During the Grand Prix weekend, the entire city comes alive with F1 fever, offering a party atmosphere that rivals any in the racing world.

Location: 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd, Austin, TX 78617
Hours: Vary by event
Price Range: Varies by event, F1 tickets start at $60 for general admission

Why Visit: It offers world-class racing events and concerts in a state-of-the-art facility.

Insider Tip: For a unique view of the track, book a ride on the COTA Zipline, which sends you soaring over Turn 1 at speeds of up to 30 mph.

Visit the Cathedral of Junk

Visitor exploring the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, a towering structure built entirely from discarded items
The Cathedral of Junk is peak Austin weirdness. It's amazing how one man's trash became this incredible, ever-evolving art piece!

Hidden in a South Austin backyard, the Cathedral of Junk is a testament to one man's artistic vision and Austin's "keep it weird" spirit. This towering structure, built entirely from discarded items, is the life's work of local artist Vince Hannemann. As you wander through the labyrinthine passages of the cathedral, you'll discover a wonderland of the weird and wonderful – bicycle parts, action figures, street signs, and countless other objects form towers, tunnels, and rooms within the structure. It's not just a pile of junk, but a carefully curated assemblage that speaks to themes of consumerism, creativity, and the nature of art.

Location: 4422 Lareina Dr, Austin, TX 78745
Hours: By appointment only
Admission: Donation suggested

Why Visit: It's a unique, immersive art experience that embodies Austin's creative, offbeat spirit.

Insider Tip: Call ahead to make an appointment, as the Cathedral is on private property. The owner, Vince, often gives tours himself, offering insights into the Cathedral's evolution.

Enjoy a Sunset from Mount Bonnell

Visitors watching sunset over Austin skyline and Colorado River from Mount Bonnell, offering panoramic city views
Hiked up to Mount Bonnell for sunset and wow – best views in Austin! Pro tip: bring a picnic and make an evening of it.

For the best views in Austin, make the short climb up to the top of Mount Bonnell. At 775 feet above sea level, it's the highest point in Austin, offering panoramic vistas of the city skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country. The "mount" is actually more of a cliff overlooking the Colorado River, with a long history as a popular picnic and sightseeing spot dating back to the 1850s. Today, it's a favorite spot for romantic dates, family outings, and tourists looking to capture the perfect Austin skyline shot. As the sun sets, watch the sky transform into a canvas of oranges and pinks, reflecting off the waters of Lake Austin below.

Location: 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd, Austin, TX 78731
Hours: 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily
Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers the best views of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country, especially at sunset.

Insider Tip: Pack a picnic and arrive about an hour before sunset to secure a good spot. Don't forget to bring water and wear comfortable shoes for the short but steep climb.

Learn About Texas History at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Visitor next to iconic star sculpture at Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, showcasing state pride
Learned so much about Texas history at the Bullock Museum today. The restored French shipwreck La Belle is incredible!

Dive into the rich mix of Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. This engaging museum tells the story of Texas through interactive exhibits, multi-sensory experiences, and rare artifacts. From the state's indigenous roots to its time as an independent republic and beyond, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the complex history that shaped modern Texas. Don't miss the museum's crown jewel – La Belle, a 17th-century French shipwreck painstakingly restored and displayed in all its glory. The museum also houses an IMAX theater and a 4D special-effects theater, offering immersive experiences that bring history to life.

Location: 1800 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Admission: $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $9 for children (4-17), free for children under 4

Why Visit: It offers a comprehensive and engaging look at Texas history, from prehistoric times to the present day.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Sunday of the month for free admission to the exhibit galleries.

Savor Breakfast Tacos at Veracruz All Natural

Customer holding a freshly made breakfast taco from Veracruz All Natural food truck in Austin
Best breakfast tacos in Austin? Veracruz All Natural gets my vote. Their migas taco is pure morning bliss!

Start your day the Austin way with a breakfast taco from Veracruz All Natural. This locally-owned food truck turned mini-empire has gained national recognition for its fresh, flavorful tacos that capture the essence of Austin's food scene. The star of the show is the migas taco – a heavenly combination of scrambled eggs, crispy tortilla chips, avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese, all wrapped in a homemade tortilla. As you bite into the perfectly balanced flavors, you'll understand why locals and visitors alike are willing to wait in line for these handheld delights. The original food truck still operates, but they've also opened brick-and-mortar locations around the city.

Location: Multiple locations (Original truck: 1704 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702)
Hours: Vary by location, generally 7:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Price Range: $3-$5 per taco

Why Visit: It offers some of the best breakfast tacos in a city famous for them, showcasing Austin's vibrant food truck culture.

Insider Tip: Try the "El Tradicional" taco with egg, bacon, refried beans, and cheese for a classic Austin breakfast experience.

Get Cultured at the Mexic-Arte Museum

Vibrant Day of the Dead altar exhibit at Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, showcasing Mexican cultural traditions
Mexic-Arte Museum offers such a rich look at Latino art and culture. Their Day of the Dead exhibit is particularly stunning!

Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture at the Mexic-Arte Museum. This downtown gem showcases a diverse range of traditional and contemporary works, from pre-Columbian artifacts to cutting-edge installations by emerging artists. The museum's rotating exhibits often explore themes of identity, migration, and cultural exchange, offering thought-provoking insights into the Latino experience in Texas and beyond. Don't miss the museum's colorful gift shop, which features unique handcrafted items from both local and international artisans.

Location: 419 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Friday-Saturday 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Admission: $7 for adults, $4 for students/seniors, free for children under 12

Why Visit: It offers a unique perspective on Latino art and culture, showcasing works you won't find anywhere else in Austin.

Insider Tip: Visit during the annual Viva la Vida festival in October for a colorful celebration of Día de los Muertos, featuring a grand procession, live music, and traditional food.

Take a Spin on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

Cyclists enjoying the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail along Lady Bird Lake in Austin
Rented a bike and explored the Butler Trail today. It's a 10-mile loop around the lake with some of the best views of Austin!

Lace up your sneakers or hop on a bike to explore the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, a 10-mile path that loops around Lady Bird Lake. This urban trail offers a perfect blend of nature and city views, winding through lush parkland with the Austin skyline as a backdrop. As you make your way around the lake, you'll cross several bridges, including the Instagram-famous Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, which offers stunning views of downtown. The trail is a favorite among locals for exercise, but it's also a great way for visitors to experience Austin's outdoor culture and see the city from different angles.

Location: Starts at 920 W Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Open 24/7
Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers a scenic tour of downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake, perfect for exercise or leisurely exploration.

Insider Tip: Rent a bike from one of the many Austin B-cycle stations along the trail for an easy way to cover more ground.

Catch a Show at the Paramount Theatre

Elegant interior of the historic Paramount Theatre in Austin, showcasing its beautiful early 20th-century design
Caught a classic film at the Paramount Theatre tonight. This place has been entertaining Austin since 1915 – if these walls could talk!

Step back in time at the historic Paramount Theatre, a grand dame of Austin's entertainment scene since 1915. This beautifully restored venue, with its ornate interior and excellent acoustics, hosts a diverse lineup of performances throughout the year. From classic films and stand-up comedy to live music and Broadway shows, the Paramount offers a little bit of everything. As you settle into your seat beneath the twinkling starry ceiling, you'll feel the echoes of over a century of performances, including appearances by legendary acts like Harry Houdini and Katharine Hepburn.

Location: 713 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Box office open Tuesday-Saturday 12:00 PM - 5:30 PM, Show times vary
Price Range: Varies by performance, typically $20-$75

Why Visit: It offers world-class entertainment in a stunning historic setting, right in the heart of downtown Austin.

Insider Tip: Check their calendar for classic movie screenings, often featuring sing-alongs and costume contests for a uniquely Austin movie experience.

Unwind at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum

Bronze sculptures on display at UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum in Austin, set among beautiful landscaping
UMLAUF Sculpture Garden is such a peaceful retreat. It's amazing to see how the sculptures interact with the natural surroundings.

Tucked away just south of Zilker Park, the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum offers a serene retreat from the bustling city. This hidden gem showcases the work of 20th-century American sculptor Charles Umlauf, with over 50 sculptures scattered throughout a lush, shaded garden. As you wander the winding paths, you'll encounter bronze and stone figures emerging from the greenery, their smooth forms a striking contrast to the natural surroundings. The garden's tranquil atmosphere, complete with a babbling brook and koi pond, makes it a perfect spot for quiet contemplation or a peaceful picnic.

Location: 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Saturday-Sunday 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $1 for students, free for children under 12

Why Visit: It offers a unique blend of art and nature in a peaceful setting, perfect for escaping the urban hustle.

Insider Tip: Visit on Thursdays for free admission to the garden and museum.

Experience Austin's Nightlife on Rainey Street

Patrons enjoying drinks on the patio of a bar in a converted house on Rainey Street in Austin
Rainey Street is such a unique nightlife spot. Where else can you bar-hop between renovated bungalows? Each place has its own quirky vibe!

As the sun sets, head to Rainey Street for a uniquely Austin nightlife experience. This historic district has transformed from a quiet residential area into one of the city's hottest entertainment hubs. The street is lined with renovated bungalows turned into chic bars and restaurants, each with its own distinct personality. Sip craft cocktails in a garden patio at Lucille, enjoy live music at Geraldine's, or savor gourmet bar bites at Emmer & Rye. The laid-back vibe and eclectic mix of venues make Rainey Street a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It's the perfect place to bar-hop and experience Austin's famous nightlife scene.

Location: Rainey Street, between River Street and Driskill Street
Hours: Most bars open from 4:00 PM - 2:00 AM
Price Range: Drinks typically $5-$15

Why Visit: It offers a unique nightlife experience in a charming, historic setting with a diverse range of bars and restaurants.

Insider Tip: Start your evening early to enjoy happy hour specials and avoid the late-night crowds. Many bars offer great deals between 4-7 PM.

Structuring Your Austin Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Welcome to Austin! This 7-day itinerary is designed to give you a taste of everything the city has to offer, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems. Feel free to adjust it based on your interests and energy levels – after all, part of Austin's charm is going with the flow and discovering your own adventures.

Days 1-2: Downtown and South Congress

  • Start your Austin journey with a tour of the Texas State Capitol, then stroll down Congress Avenue to the Mexic-Arte Museum.
  • Grab lunch at one of the food trucks on South Congress Avenue, then explore the street's eclectic shops and street art.
  • In the evening, catch the bat exodus at the Congress Avenue Bridge, followed by dinner and live music on Sixth Street.
  • The next day, visit the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus, then cool off with a swim at Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park.
  • End your day with dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Tip: The Capitol offers free guided tours every 30-45 minutes. Arrive early to beat the crowds.

Days 3-4: East Austin and Lady Bird Lake

  • Begin with breakfast tacos at Veracruz All Natural, then explore the street art scene in East Austin.
  • Visit the LBJ Presidential Library for a dose of history, followed by a relaxing afternoon at Zilker Metropolitan Park.
  • The next morning, rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore Lady Bird Lake, then cycle the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail.
  • In the evening, experience Austin's craft beer scene on the Austin Ale Trail.

Tip: Many of East Austin's best murals are within walking distance of each other. Create your own walking tour or join a guided one for insider stories.

Days 5-6: Hill Country and Unique Austin Experiences

  • Take a day trip to the Hamilton Pool Preserve (remember to reserve in advance), then visit a Hill Country winery on the way back.
  • The next day, start with a hike in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, then visit the quirky Museum of the Weird on Sixth Street.
  • In the afternoon, explore the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, then head to Mount Bonnell for a spectacular sunset view.
  • End your day with dinner and drinks on Rainey Street.

Tip: The Greenbelt can get crowded on weekends. Visit on a weekday morning for a more serene experience.

Day 7: Austin's Greatest Hits

  • For your final day, hit any spots you missed or revisit favorites. Some options:
    • Brave the line for world-class BBQ at Franklin Barbecue
    • Catch a daytime show at the historic Paramount Theatre
    • Visit the whimsical Cathedral of Junk (call ahead for an appointment)
    • Do some upscale shopping and dining at The Domain
  • End your trip with a classic Austin night out: dinner at a food truck park, followed by live music at the Continental Club on South Congress.

Tip: If your visit coincides with a race, consider adding the Circuit of The Americas to your itinerary for a high-octane Austin experience.

Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Austin is a city that rewards exploration, so don't be afraid to wander off the beaten path. You never know what weird and wonderful experiences you might discover!

Why Visit Austin?

From the nightly bat exodus that kicks off evenings of live music and culinary adventures, to the serene natural springs and quirky art installations that showcase the city's unique character, Austin offers a smorgasbord of experiences that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you're two-stepping at The Broken Spoke, sampling world-class BBQ, or paddling on Lady Bird Lake with the city skyline as your backdrop, you'll find that Austin's charm lies in its ability to be many things at once: weird and sophisticated, laid-back and energetic, deeply rooted in history yet always innovating.

As you explore the city, from the bustling streets of downtown to the peaceful trails of the Greenbelt, you'll understand why Austinites are so proud of their hometown. The city's slogan, "Keep Austin Weird," is more than just a catchphrase – it's an invitation to embrace the unexpected, to seek out new experiences, and to contribute your own verse to Austin's ever-evolving story.

So whether you're here for a weekend getaway or an extended stay, dive in and experience all that Austin has to offer. Who knows? Like so many before you, you might just fall in love with this vibrant capital city and find yourself planning your next visit before you've even left. After all, in Austin, the weird and wonderful adventures never really end – they just evolve, much like the city itself.

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:41 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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