Austin Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in Texas
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3-day Itinerary in Austin

Explore the best things to do in Austin in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #8
    Barton Springs Pool
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    #8 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. 

    5 minute walk
  • 2
    #3
    Zilker Metropolitan Park
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    #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.

    10 minutes by car
  • 3
    #1
    State Capitol
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    #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.

    5 minutes by car; 15-20 minute walk
  • 4
    #12
    Austin Bats
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    #12 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. 

Day 2

  • 1
    #10
    LBJ Presidential Library
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    #10 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. 

    5 minutes by car; 15 minute walk
  • 2
    #5
    Blanton Museum of Art
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    #5 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.

    7-10 minutes by car; 20 minute walk
  • 3
    #7
    Sixth Street
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    #7 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.

Day 3

  • 1
    #11
    Bullock Texas State History Museum
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    #11 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. 

    Since opening in 2001, more than 9 million people have visited the museum to learn about the history of the Lone Star State. Native Texans and out-of-towners alike say the exhibits are well laid out and many recommend setting aside at least a few hours to take in all there is to see. 

    10 minutes by car; 25 minute walk
  • 2
    Esther's Follies
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    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Even if you aren't in the mood for live music, head down to 6th Street to get your laugh on. For more than 35 years, the cast at Esther's Follies has kept audiences rolling in the aisles with everything from magic tricks to improv shows. Visitors and locals alike say it's a must-see and the shows are never a disappointment. 

    Shows take place every Thursday at 8 p.m. and every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., and prices tend to range from $25 for general admission to $30 or $35 for reserved seating (there are discounts for students and seniors). Seating is limited, and many recent audience members recommend buying tickets in advance. For more information, check out the Esther's Follies website

    10 minute walk
  • 3
    #14
    Mexic-Arte Museum
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    #14 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. 

    Recent travelers said the museum was a pleasant surprise and recommend stopping in the eclectic gift shop, where works from local artists are available for purchase. Many described the museum as "small, but mighty."

    20 minutes by car
  • 4
    #13
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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    #13 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.

    Today, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the United States' largest research library for native plant studies. Visitors flock from all over the country to enjoy more than 970 species of Texan flora – including bluebonnets and evening primrose – which flourishes on more than 284 acres of gardens and along more than 2 miles of hiking trails. The center also features an observation tower, a cafe and a gift shop. Visitors say it's pretty year-round, but the spring and summer provide the best chance to see the most flowers in bloom (and to avoid disappointment if you only want to see flowers). 

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