Austin Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
Credit

Courtesy of RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Austin

Austin's attractions cater to all ages. With an abundance of green space, active travelers can bike in Zilker Metropolitan Park and swim in Barton Springs Pool before an evening of bat-watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge. If you find yourself waking up to a rainy day, stay dry in one of Austin's top-notch museums like the Bullock Texas State History Museum or the Blanton Museum of Art. Just make sure you save some energy for an evening of live music at a bar or club on Sixth Street.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated April 2, 2019

  • #1
    State Capitol
    View all Photos
    #1 in Austin
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Standing stoically in the heart of central Austin is Texas's legislative center, the State Capitol. Opened in 1888, this pink-granite landmark stands 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Much of the capitol, including the 218-foot rotunda, the chamber of the Hall of Representatives and the governor's receiving room, still look the same as they did when the capitol opened.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Mount Bonnell
    View all Photos
    #2 in Austin
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For great views, head to Mount Bonnell at Covert Park, which provides sweeping views of the city, Lake Austin and the surrounding hills. The 5.1-acre historic linear park is home to a 775-foot-high outcrop, considered the highest spot in the area. Mount Bonnell is designated a Texas Historic Landmark and is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The point is located alongside the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River and has proven to be an enduring tourist destination since the 1850s.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Zilker Metropolitan Park
    View all Photos
    #3 in Austin
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting across the river from downtown Austin, this beloved 351-acre park buoys Austin's reputation as one of the Best Places to Live. Zilker Metropolitan Park shelters some of the city's most popular attractions – from art museums to swimming holes – as well as several athletic fields and plenty of open space for strolling. Whether you choose to swim, canoe or dig for fossils at the Austin Nature and Science Center's Dino Pit, you'll find a range of options – a particular point of praise for recent visitors. 

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    Blanton Museum of Art
    View all Photos
    #4 in Austin
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sheltered on the University of Texas at Austin campus, the Blanton Museum of Art is a must-see for any art enthusiast. Considered as one of the largest university art museums in the country and home to more than 18,000 works of art – ranging from Renaissance and baroque pieces by renowned artists such as Rubens and Poussin to a sizeable collection of contemporary Latin American art.

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
    View all Photos
    #5 in Austin
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    A cherished outdoor space in the city, the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail which encompasses the entire lake, serves as a popular place for runners, walkers and cyclists, for both locals and visitors. Outdoor enthusiasts rave about the peace and quiet beauty the trail affords.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Sixth Street
    View all Photos
    #6 in Austin
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A trip to the "Live Music Capital of the World" wouldn't be complete without discovering some of Austin's up-and-coming talent along Sixth Street. After drastic restoration took place in an effort by the National Register of Historic Places to save the area from its grungy reputation, this area became the hub of Austin's music scene in the 1970s.

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Barton Springs Pool
    View all Photos
    #7 in Austin
    Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Nestled in Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool is a favorite locale among visitors and residents alike. Native American settlers once believed the springs possessed spiritual healing powers, and professional travel writers still refer to Barton Springs as the "soul of Austin" and many visitors say it's an ideal spot to cool off in the summer.

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    LBJ Presidential Library
    View all Photos
    #8 in Austin
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    While the thought of visiting a presidential library may sound like a bore, this one is an exception. Dedicated to the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson's library houses all the expected artifacts – including presidential papers – as well as several quirkier exhibits that are just as interesting as the president himself. From presidential holiday cards to photographs chronicling the civil rights era and an LBJ robot, this museum uses all types of mediums to narrate the president's life and political career.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    Bullock Texas State History Museum
    View all Photos
    #9 in Austin
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for Texas's 38th lieutenant governor, the Bullock Texas State History Museum explores the Lone Star State's vibrant past with artifacts ranging from the original Goddess of Liberty statue that resided at the top of the State Capitol's dome to astronaut Edgar Mitchell's space suit used in the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. Along with galleries featuring more than 500 artifacts, the museum features rotating special exhibits to reflect the diverse history of the state. The museum is also home to the largest IMAX screen in Texas as well as the 4-D Texas Spirit Theater with special documentary short films, a cafe with an outdoor patio and large museum store to take a piece of Texas history home with you. 

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    Austin Bats
    View all Photos
    #10 in Austin
    Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to experts, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Approximately 1.5 million bats have made the Congress Avenue Bridge their home. The bats settled here after a renovation of the bridge in 1980 created crevices that were perfect for bats to take refuge in against predators. Every spring the Mexican free-tailed bats migrate north to the bridge to give birth and raise their offspring. Come summertime, the bats can be seen each evening at dusk as they emerge for their nightly excursions to rid the city of pesky insects before heading back to central Mexico in the fall. 

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Mexic-Arte Museum
    View all Photos
    #11 in Austin
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Perched along Congress Avenue, just a couple blocks south of The Driskill, the Mexic-Arte Museum is devoted to the conservation of Mexican and Latin American art and culture. Home to a fascinating permanent collection, which includes photographs from the Mexican Revolution and traditional ritual masks as well as more contemporary works from local artists, the museum also features theatrical and musical performances year-round. 

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    View all Photos
    #12 in Austin
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for its co-founder, Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson (wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson), this center is a great place for nature lovers looking to kill time. The former first lady co-founded the center to educate fellow botanists about the benefits of planting and nurturing certain types of plants, a project that has revolutionized gardening habits in central Texas.

    ...Read More »
  • Thinkery
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • McKinney Falls State Park
    View all Photos
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • University of Texas at Austin
    View all Photos
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

Explore More of Austin

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019