Austin Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
Credit

Courtesy of RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images

2-day Itinerary in Austin

Explore the best things to do in Paris in 2 days based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #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.

    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. 

    Hours vary throughout the year, but generally, the pool is open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with lifeguards on patrol 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Check the City of Austin website to make sure it's not closed for periodic cleaning. Admission costs to Barton Springs costs $9 for adults ages 18 to 62 and between $4 and $5 for children. Free admission is granted to those who visit the pool between late October and early March. You can reach the pool via the No. 803 bus. To learn more, visit the Barton Springs website.

    ...Read More »
    5 minute walk
  • 2
    #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. 

    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.

    The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and admission is free. Many recent visitors recommend stopping by during the week when there's free parking and fewer crowds. The park is accessible via several public transport options, including the No. 803 bus. For more information, check out the City of Austin website.

    ...Read More »
    10 minutes by car
  • 3
    #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.

    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.

    Visitors to the State Capitol are welcome to explore the building and the grounds on their own using the self-guided tour pamphlets provided by the Capitol Visitors Center (also available to download on the State Preservation Board's website), or they can tag along on a free guided tour, which generally last about 30 minutes. Tours are offered daily; Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Sunday from noon to 3:30 p.m. The building itself operates on different hours (it's open until 10 p.m. throughout the week and 8 p.m. on the weekends). Travelers can also learn more about Texas's history at the exhibits inside the Capitol Visitors Center located at the southeast corner of the capitol grounds. Parking is free for the first two hours. The Capitol Station bus station sits within walking distance of the capitol, and several routes, including nos. 801 and 803 and the No. 3 make stops there. Hours vary depending on the building and season, so check the State Preservation Board's website to plan your visit. 

    ...Read More »
    5 minutes by car; 15-20 minute walk
  • 4
    #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. 

    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. 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. 

    The Congress Avenue Bridge is located southwest of downtown Austin in between the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake. Access to the bridge is free.

    ...Read More »

Day 2

  • 1
    #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.

    According to recent visitors, the library provides an interesting view of American history during President Johnson's tenure, describing the exhibits as "inspiring and sobering." Reviewers also give high marks to the museum staff. 

    Located near the University of Texas at Austin, the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum is open every day (except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for college students and youths ages 13 to 18; free for kids 12 and younger. Parking for the library is free in the designated parking lot No. 38. You can also access the library via public transportation; bus routes 7 and 10 stop within walking distance of the library. For more information, check out the LBJ Presidential Library website.

    ...Read More »
    5 minutes by car; 15 minute walk
  • 2
    #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.

    Recent visitors said the museum was small, but worth stopping by for a few hours, especially on days when you need to beat the heat with some air conditioning. Reviewers said the collection was unique and eclectic, with many most impressed by the Latin American artists on display.

    Sitting across the street from the Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until 9 p.m. every third Thursday), Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and during university holidays, so check the school calendar before heading over. If you're looking for a bargain, visit this museum on Thursdays when it's free. Admission costs $12 for adults (free for children 12 and younger). Paid parking is available in the Brazos Garage on Brazos Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, located one block east of the museum. You can also access the museum via public transportation; the museum is served by regular bus routes Nos. 1, 3 and 7, and is accessible from the Museum Station stop on the Metro Rapid 801 route. For more information, visit the museum's website.

    ...Read More »
    7-10 minutes by car; 20 minute walk
  • 3
    #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.

    Today, Sixth Street between Congress Street and Interstate 35 (known as Dirty Sixth to locals) is the center of the musical action in Austin. The area buzzes with activity from shops, restaurants, bars and yes, live music joints, such as Esther's FolliesPete's Dueling Piano Bar and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

    Many recent visitors compare Sixth Street to New Orleans' Bourbon Street, assuring that there are venues certain to appeal to all tastes, from rowdy clubs to low-key bars, but it can get overrun with tourists (and homeless Austinites) and might not be suitable for young kids at night. On Friday and Saturday nights, the police restrict vehicular traffic on Sixth Street, which allows people to carouse in the middle of the street. Plan your visit for one of these two nights to experience this entertainment district at its best. For more information on the bars, restaurants and lodging options available on Sixth Street, visit the district's website.

    ...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