12 Best Things to Do in Austin, Texas

Austin, the vibrant capital of Texas, is renowned for its live music scene, burgeoning craft beer community, and a historic mosaic that tells tales of Texas’ wild west days. With so much to offer, Austin is an absolute gem for travelers, families, and adventurers alike. In this extensive guide, we’re bringing you the 12 best things to do in Austin, Texas. From food and festivals to outdoor escapades and family-friendly attractions, we’ve got your itinerary thoroughly covered.

Explore The Great Outdoors

Zilker Park

Zilker Park is the heart of the city, a sprawling green space where Austinites go to run, relax, and revel in the sunshine. Stroll through the Botanical Gardens, feed the ducks at Town Lake, or even take a dip in Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre natural pool that stays a refreshing 68 degrees year-round. Zilker is also the site of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, so depending on the time of year, you might catch some major musicians tuning up under the Texas sky.

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Lady Bird Lake

Named after the First Lady of the United States and a champion of conservation, Lady Bird Johnson, Lady Bird Lake is a serene spot amidst the bustle of the city. Paddle a kayak, row a boat, or take a leisurely walk or bike ride around the 10-mile hike-and-bike trail. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the city’s skyline, as well as opportunities to spot local wildlife, including turtles, hawks, and on occasion, a surprise bat colony taking flight.

Discover Austin’s Music Scene

The “Live Music Capital of the World” lives up to its name with hundreds of venues showcasing local artists and international stars. From the legendary Stubb’s Bar-B-Q to the intimate Cactus Cafe, you can find live music playing any day of the week. Don’t miss out on historic institutions like Antone’s, where the blues found a home, or the Continental Club, which has been a staple since 1955.

Austin City Limits

For fans of the iconic television series, a visit to the Moody Theater, where the program is filmed, is a must-do. You can even catch a live taping if you’re lucky. The state-of-the-art venue offers an intimate setting with superb acoustics, ensuring a memorable concert experience.

Visit Historic Landmarks

Texas State Capitol

Bigger than the U.S. Capitol and a National Historic Landmark, the Texas State Capitol stands as a testament to the Lone Star State’s storied past. Free tours are offered, guiding visitors through the Rotunda, the House and Senate chambers, and numerous paintings and sculptures that celebrate Texas history. The expansive grounds are perfect for a picnic or a casual game of Frisbee.

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The Driskill Hotel

Step into luxury with a visit to The Driskill, Austin’s most famous hotel. Founded in 1886, The Driskill is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture. The hotel has hosted countless politicians, celebrities, and even a few ghosts. Their famous Sunday brunch is a local favorite.

The Paramount Theatre

This historic stage, built in 1915, is the granddaddy of “Texas’ Great Stages.” The theater has seen its fair share of performances, from vaudeville acts to the silver screen, and now to modern-day entertainment. Catch a film series, a national comedy tour, or a stirring concert within its opulent walls.

Experience Food Culture

Food Trucks

Austin’s food truck scene is not just a culinary movement; it’s a way of life. Chains like Torchy’s Tacos and Veracruz All Natural started as trailers, and today, they’re among the most celebrated establishments in the city. Whether you’re craving gourmet doughnuts or Korean barbecue, there’s a food truck for every palette parked around the city’s corners.

BBQ Joints

From Franklin Barbecue, consistently rated one of the best barbecue joints in the country, to the local favorite Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin offers a smorgasbord of smoked meats that will leave you full and happy. Brisket, ribs, and sausage are the stars of the show, served up with all the traditional fixings.


Austin is ideally situated at the confluence of two cultures, Texan and Mexican, which gives birth to a delicious culinary hybrid—Tex-Mex. Head to Matt’s El Rancho for the famous Bob Armstrong Dip or Chuy’s for an Elvis Presley Memorial Combo, and wash it down with a frosty margarita.

Capitol, Building, Austin
Capitol, Building, Austin

Dive into Art and Culture

Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton is home to over 18,000 works, spanning from ancient Greece to the avant-garde. Their permanent collection includes pieces by European masters, North American artists, and contemporary Latin American works. The Blanton is also known for its rotating exhibitions that often include world-renowned artists and provocative themes.

Mexic-Arte Museum

This institution is dedicated to Mexican and Latin American art and culture. The museum’s collection includes traditional and contemporary pieces like Day of the Dead altars, paintings, and textiles. Mexic-Arte also hosts a variety of educational programs and community events throughout the year.

Street Art

Austin’s street art scene is as vibrant and funky as the city itself. The murals and graffiti art that adorn the streets tell a story of local culture and social movements. Take a guided tour or wander through neighborhoods like East Austin and the South Congress shopping district to find these colorful works.

Related: 15 Best Things to do in Houston

Enjoy Outdoor Activities

Hiking and Biking

Escape the city for a day and explore the natural landscapes surrounding Austin. The Greenbelt is a 7.25-mile paradise that offers challenging hikes, scenic swimming holes, and breath-taking waterfalls. The trails are also a popular spot for mountain biking enthusiasts.


Paddle the tranquil waters of Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River for a unique perspective of the city. You can rent kayaks or paddle boards at several locations along the shore, and for a truly memorable experience, take a sunset tour and watch the city come alive with lights.

Shop at Unique Boutiques

South Congress Avenue

Known locally as “SoCo,” this trendy strip is lined with an array of independent shops selling everything from vintage clothing to local art. You can also find awesome Keep Austin Weird memorabilia and food trucks dishing out unique cuisine. South Congress is the perfect place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

2nd Street District

This upscale shopping area is home to trendy boutiques, designer shops, and a variety of cafes and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to update your wardrobe, grab a bite to eat, and take in some of the city’s best street performers.

Explore Local Breweries and Distilleries

Craft Beer Scene

Austin’s craft beer scene is hopping! With over 50 local breweries, there’s no shortage of options. Jester King and Live Oak are two favorites, known for their unique brews and gorgeous hill country settings. Look out for events such as brewery tours, tastings, and special releases.

Distillery Tours

If spirits are more your style, you’re in luck. Austin has a burgeoning distillery industry. Head to Treaty Oak Distilling for a taste of their gin or bourbon. Many distilleries offer tours where you can learn about the distilling process and sample their best bottles.

Attend Festivals and Events

SXSW (South by Southwest)

This world-famous festival is a convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. It’s not only a platform for new ideas but also a week-long party featuring headlining musical acts, screenings, tech exhibitions, and much more. The city’s energy hits a fever pitch during SXSW, and it’s an experience like no other.

Austin City Limits Music Festival

This annual music fest features a diverse lineup of performers across multiple genres. The festival takes place over two weekends in Zilker Park and is a local and visitor favorite. Dance, eat, and discover new music in the great outdoors.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Austin Zoo

Home to over 300 animals across more than 100 species, the Austin Zoo provides a unique and personal experience. Unlike traditional zoos, this rescue zoo offers an up-close experience with animals such as lions, tigers, bears, and reptiles.

The Thinkery

Part children’s museum, part playground, the Thinkery is an interactive learning environment designed to inspire creative thinking in kids of all ages. With themed exhibits, hands-on activities, and a focus on STEM education, it offers a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Children’s Museum

Another family-favorite, the Austin Children’s Museum, offers activities that encourage kids to learn while they play. Interactive exhibits teach kids about art, science, music, and much more. The museum often hosts special events and workshops, so be sure to check their calendar.

Experience the Nightlife

Sixth Street

This historic street is divided into three sections: West 6th, East 6th, and Dirty 6th. The street is lined with bars, live music venues, and clubs, offering a wide variety of nightlife experiences. It’s the perfect place to experience Austin’s live music at its most grassroots level.

Rainey Street

A favorite among locals, Rainey Street’s bungalow bars offer a unique, relaxed vibe. Each house has its own history and character, making for a diverse bar-hopping experience. You can find everything from craft cocktails to food trucks, along with a generally chill crowd.

Day Trips from Austin

Hill Country

Just a short drive away, the Texas Hill Country offers rolling hills, sparkling rivers, and charming small towns. Visit Fredericksburg for German cuisine and culture, Wimberley for market days and blue hole swimming, or the LBJ Ranch for a dose of presidential history.

Hamilton Pool

This natural pool and grotto are one of Austin’s most beautiful spots. A 45-minute drive from downtown, the pool is fed by a 50-foot waterfall that spills from the limestone cliffs above. The setting is serene and postcard-perfect, offering a unique place to swim and explore.

San Antonio

Less than two hours from Austin, San Antonio offers a rich cultural experience. Explore the Alamo, stroll along the River Walk, and visit the historic Market Square for traditional Mexican fare and crafts. The city is a true blend of Tex-Mex culture and history.


Austin, Texas is a city that defies categorization. It’s a tech hub, a cultural melting pot, a foodie’s paradise, and an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Whether you’re attending a music festival, sampling the latest food truck delicacies, or taking in the sunset from the river, Austin’s energy and charm are undeniable. These 12 recommendations are just a starting point for your adventure in the Lone Star State’s capital. Come to Austin with an open mind and an empty stomach; you’ll leave with a full heart and a long list of memories.

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