The state capital of Texas is renowned for its amazing food, live music, incredible weather and vibrant culture. The liberal, laid-back attitude of the locals is demonstrated in their commitment to the city’s motto: “keep things weird”, which is topped with a generous serving of Texan hospitality. These are our favourite things to see and do in the Lone Star State’s coolest little city:
Unlike many US cities, Austin is extremely walkable – the downtown area is compact and designed on a grid pattern that is easy to navigate. The Austin Visitor Centre offers a variety of guided walking tours that are a great way to connect with the city’s heritage and culture. If you prefer to experience its history and architecture at your own pace, Preservation Austin offers self-guided tours either on foot or using the Austin B-Cycle bike-sharing program. Simply download the app, head to one of the many bike stations in Austin’s downtown neighbourhood and start exploring.
Austin’s diverse and innovative food scene is gastronomic heaven, from the diverse offerings of its legendary food trucks to the smoky perfection of its famous barbecue. The city’s iconic barbecue joints, such as Franklin Barbecue or Micklethwait Craft Meats, are the place to go if you want to savour the mouth-watering flavour of slow-cooked brisket. The local truck scene is another culinary adventure, serving up an array of delectable delights, from spicy Tex-Mex tacos to artisan ice-creams. You’ll find some of the best food trucks in the city parked up at South First Street, Rainey Street and The Waypoint near Lake Travis.
Situated in the picturesque Texas Hill Country just northwest of Austin, Lake Travis is a stunning man-made reservoir that was created by the construction of Mansfield Dam on the Colorado River. Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and lush greenery, the lake’s shoreline is adorned with limestone cliffs, secluded coves, and sandy beaches, making it a haven for outdoor activities including boating, fishing, kayaking, and swimming. Head for one of the numerous waterfront parks, where inflatable obstacle courses, floating picnic tables and beach games make for an entertaining escape from the city.
You don’t have to leave the city for a taste of outdoor recreation – Zilker Park offers 351 acres of picnic spaces, hiking trails in the heart of the city, on the banks of the Colorado River where it widens and deepens to become Lady Bird Lake. The park is also home to Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming pool that provides a refreshing retreat on those hot Texas days. The park plays a central role in the city’s cultural calendar, hosting major events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Zilker Kite Festival.
If you’re visiting Austin between mid-March and early November, head down to Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset and you’ll be treated to an incredible nightly spectacle. Every evening at dusk, the world’s largest urban bat colony emerges from the crevices of the bridge to embark on their nightly foraging journey. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats create swirling patterns in the sky as they head on pest patrol, providing a mesmerising sight that has become a much-loved symbol of Austin.
Follow South Congress Ave away from the river and into the heart of Austin’s vibrant ‘SoCo’ district, which is renowned for its diverse mix of boutiques, vintage shops, art galleries, and eateries. It’s also home to some of the city’s most iconic country dancing clubs and honky-tonks, from decades-old favourites like the Broken Spoke and the Continental Club to newer establishments like Sagebrush. Order up a basket of fried chicken and let the live country music entice your feet into showing off their best two-step.
Often hailed as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin’s vibrant and diverse music scene is an integral part of the city’s cultural identity. You’ll find an eclectic mix of genres on offer, from blues and country to rock, indie, and electronic music. Head down to the Sixth Street entertainment district or Red River Cultural District, where legendary live music venues like the historic Continental Club, the iconic Antone’s, and the Mohawk Austin offer live performances every night of the week. Austin is also home to the famed South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, which draws musicians and music lovers to Austin from all around the globe every March.
Even in a city with a reputation for embracing all things weird, the Museum of Weird is quite unlike any other museum. Located on 6th Street in Austin’s downtown area, it’s a one-of-a-kind collection of oddities, curiosities, and paranormal artifacts. Exhibits cover everything from vintage sideshow exhibits to mythical creatures, with a mind-bending variety of unique specimens on display. Delve into the mysteries of Bigfoot sightings and alien encounters, then goggle at macabre shrunken heads and a preserved ‘Fiji Mermaid’.
This spectacular nineteenth-century building towers over Austin’s downtown neighbourhood: a vast, domed marvel of pink granite that rivals the grandeur of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. A free, guided tour is a great way to gain an insight into the Texas legislative process, its rich cultural heritage, and the iconic events that helped to shape its identity. The corridors are adorned with historical paintings and sculptures, while the legislative chambers feature incredibly intricate detailing and symbolic artwork. The manicured lawns of the Capitol provide a tranquil escape from the city as well as breathtaking views of downtown Austin.
Immerse yourself in the manic energy of a college sports game by supporting the much-loved teams of the University of Texas at Austin at a home game. Whether it’s football (September – January) or basketball (November – March) season, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the die-hard enthusiasm displayed by fans of the Texas Longhorns teams, decked out burnt orange and singing the team’s official fight song at full volume.
Austin is home to a thriving whiskey culture that is fuelled by the many craft whiskey distillers in and around the city which lovingly produce small-batch spirits that are infused with a unique, Texan twist. Whether you’re sipping a carefully curated smooth bourbon cocktail at a trendy downtown bar or enjoying the warm, oaky notes of a small-batch whiskey at Garrison Brothers Distillery, you’ll appreciate the sense of artistry to goes into their creation. If whiskey is not your poison of choice, you can also sample locally produced craft vodka, gin, beer and even saké.
Outstanding natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, a vibrant arts and music scene and a laidback atmosphere: the Lone Star State’s capital city offers an unforgettable taste of true Texan hospitality. For more ideas and inspiration about visiting Austin TX, talk to your personal travel manager.