Austin Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
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Courtesy of RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images

1-day Itinerary in Austin

Explore the best things to do in Austin in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #8
    Barton Springs Pool
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    #8 in Austin
    1.9 miles to city center
    Swimming/Pools
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    1.9 miles to city center
    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.

    Formed from underground springs, the 3-acre pool consistently stays between 68 and 70 degrees – perfect for a respite from the sweltering summer temperatures Texas is known for. The grounds also feature bathhouses and an educational exhibit about the history and biology of the Barton Springs. Patrons of the pool say the experience is one of the things that make Austin unique. Several of the best Austin tours also make stops here during sightseeing tours through the city.

    5 minute walk
  • 2
    #3
    Zilker Metropolitan Park
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    #3 in Austin
    2 miles to city center
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    2 miles to city center
    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. 

    Give yourself a day or two to explore everything Zilker Metropolitan Park has to offer. Art aficionados can peruse the works housed within the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum while nature enthusiasts can stroll among the brightly colored flowers in the Zilker Botanical Garden. And after a day spent strolling the park, cool down with a dip in Barton Springs Pool, a popular swimming hole. The park is also home to several popular city-wide events, including the Austin City Limits Musical Festival and the ABC Kite Fest.

    10 minutes by car
  • 3
    #1
    State Capitol
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    #1 in Austin
    0.8 miles to city center
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    0.8 miles to city center
    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.

    The structure underwent a large-scale restoration starting in the 1980s, including replacing the zinc statue of the Goddess of Liberty that sits atop the dome with an aluminum one. The restoration also included a 667,000-square-foot underground extension that was completed in 1993 to accommodate how much the state government had grown. Many visitors say it's the most impressive state legislative building they've ever seen, but they also warn it can be crowded at times. If you want to learn a bit of Texas history without having to pay an entrance fee, you can't beat a visit to the capitol building, according to past travelers. The building is also a featured stop on many of the best tours in Austin.

    5 minutes by car; 15-20 minute walk
  • 4
    #12
    Austin Bats
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    #12 in Austin
    0.3 miles to city center
    Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    0.3 miles to city center
    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. 

    It's nearly impossible to be unimpressed by the nightly mass exodus. Travelers can catch a glimpse of where the bats make their home by taking a sunset cruise from companies like Capital Cruises and the Lone Star Riverboat that are offered March through early November. Evening kayak trips on Lady Bird Lake are another great way to observe the bats. Past visitors and locals alike who have taken the time to go watch the bats say it's an interesting sight to see if you have spare time on your hands. 

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