As a resident of Austin for over 5 years, I’m excited to share my insider’s guide on the absolute best things to do in this wildly eclectic city. Austin is the capital of Texas and known as the “Live Music Capital of the World”. But it’s so much more than just music. Austin has a vibrant food scene, world-class museums, outdoor activities galore, and so many unique things that make this city weirdly wonderful.
Explore the Outdoors
One of the best ways to experience Austin is by enjoying the outdoors. There are so many parks, trails, and water activities in and around the city.
1. Hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in Austin. This green space contains over 12 miles of hiking and biking trails that follow Barton Creek through the heart of the city. The trails wind through the woods, with scenic overlooks, shallow pools, and limestone cliffs. It’s a great place to spend a few hours exploring while getting in some exercise. The trailhead can easily be accessed from Zilker Park.
2. Swim at Barton Springs Pool
After working up a sweat on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, head over to Barton Springs Pool to cool off. This spring-fed pool stays at 68-70 degrees year round and is open to the public daily. It’s located within Zilker Park and is a top spot for swimming and sunbathing. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than taking a dip in the refreshing waters of Barton Springs!
3. Kayak Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir on the Colorado River that runs through downtown Austin. It’s a hub for water activities like kayaking, canoeing, and stand up paddle boarding. There are many places around the lake to rent equipment and then explore the water. Take your time paddling along the shoreline while appreciating unique views of the Austin skyline. Early morning and sunset are beautiful times to be on the water.
4. Bike The Butler Hike & Bike Trail
For an easy and scenic bike ride, head over to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail which follows Lady Bird Lake for over 9 miles. The paved trail is mostly flat and passes by the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail bridge, Austin’s iconic bat bridge. Rent a bike from one of the shops near the trail or bike share stations around the lake.
5. Zipline Over Lake Travis
Feeling adventurous? Head west of downtown to strap on a zipline harness and soar over the waters of Lake Travis. Lake Travis Zipline Adventures offers guided tours that take you gliding and zipping across parts of the lake for unforgettable views and an adrenaline rush!
Explore Austin’s Famous Food Scene
From BBQ joints to food trucks, Austin has an incredibly diverse and tasty food scene. Try some of these local favorites to get a true taste of the city.
6. Chow Down on BBQ
You can’t visit Austin without trying Texas-style barbecue! Some of the most popular BBQ joints include Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue, and Terry Black’s BBQ. Be prepared to wait in line for the succulent brisket, ribs, and sausage links paired with sides like potato salad and beans.
7. Have Breakfast Tacos
Breakfast tacos are a staple in Austin and seriously tasty. Some favorites for the perfectly wrapped tacos are Veracruz All Natural, Tamale House East, and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. Go for the migas, bean and cheese, bacon and egg, or potato and egg tacos.
8. Explore the Food Trailers
The food truck scene in Austin is massive and colorful, with just about any kind of cuisine you can imagine. Check out food trailer parks like South 1st Street, South Lamar, and East 6th for a wide variety. Veracruz, Torchy’s Tacos, and Hey!…You Gonna Eat or What? are just a few of the popular trucks not to miss.
9. Tour the Breweries
With a burgeoning craft beer scene, Austin has dozens of breweries and taprooms to explore. Fan favorites include breweries along the Austin Beer Trail like Austin Beerworks, Zilker Brewing Co, and Jester King Brewery. Many offer behind-the-scenes tours and tastings.
Experience Austin’s Music Scene
Dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin boasts live music every night of the week at countless venues. Here’s where to listen to the best local bands and performers.
10. Watch a Show at ACL Live
For great acoustics and an intimate setting, catch a concert at ACL Live at the Moody Theater downtown. The 2,750-person capacity venue hosts major acts in rock, country, and pop. With state-of-the-art sound and lighting, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
11. Two-Step at The Broken Spoke
For an authentic Texas dancehall experience, mosey over to The Broken Spoke – a true Austin legend since 1964. Dine on downhome cooking and enjoy cold beers while twirling around the large wooden dance floor to live country music. Don’t forget your boots!
12. Rock Out on 6th Street
No trip to Austin is complete without partying it up on the iconic 6th Street. The legendary block closes to traffic at night and becomes wall-to-wall lively bars,clubs and music venues. Catch rock, blues, jazz, and more while bar-hopping into the wee hours!
13. See a Show at Stubb’s
One of the most famous concert venues is Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Austin. In between brisket platters, Stubb’s outdoor stage hosts major concerts and festivals like SXSW. On Sunday nights, Stubb’s hosts free shows with local artists. Grab some grub and catch rising stars!
14. Go Honky Tonking
For an old-fashioned Texas honky tonk experience, go two-stepping at country/western bars like Broken Spoke, White Horse Saloon, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, and Luckenbach Dance Hall. Sip beer, listen to fiddle solos, and dance along to classic country tunes.
Tour Austin’s Unique Museums
Beyond music, Austin has a great museum scene highlighting everything from history and art to quirkiness.
15. Visit The Blanton Museum of Art
As the largest university art museum in the U.S., the Blanton Museum of Art at UT Austin boasts an impressive collection of over 18,000 works. View art spanning centuries and genres, from Renaissance to modern American art. Admission is free on Thursdays and for UT students/faculty.
16. Explore The Bullock Texas State History Museum
At the Bullock Texas State History Museum, discover the proud history of Texas as a republic and state. Highlights include historical artifacts, films, and exhibits like the Texas Spirit Theater and the Star of Destiny multimedia show at the Story of Texas.
17. Tour The LBJ Presidential Library
History buffs will love the LBJ Presidential Library honoring Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. View Presidential limos, the recreated Oval Office, and fascinating permanent exhibits detailing LBJ’s life and political legacy.
18. Marvel at Museum of the Weird
Quirkier museums include the Museum of the Weird featuring bizarre exhibits like shrunken heads, two-headed animals, and Bigfoot memorabilia. Take silly selfies with exhibits dedicated to Elvis Presley, freak shows, and crop circles!
Wander Through Austin’s Diverse Neighborhoods
In addition to the downtown area, Austin has several eclectic neighborhoods worth exploring on foot.
19. Shop South Congress Ave
The vibrant South Congress district, aka SoCo, is lined with colorful local shops, restaurants, and food trucks. Browse the fashionable boutiques, sample Tex Mex cuisine, catch some live music, and don’t miss the iconic “I Love You So Much” mural.
20. Stroll through Rainey Street
For a lively nightlife scene, head to historic Rainey Street east of downtown. The street is home to dozens of charming old houses converted into trendy bars and restaurants. Bar hop between craft cocktails on breezy patios lit by dangling lights.
21. Wander South 1st Street
Artsy South 1st Street south of Lady Bird Lake boasts indie boutiques, food trucks, coffee shops, and cultural venues. Snap an Instagram at the iconic “Greetings from Austin” mural or catch a show at cool venues like Hotel Vegas or Mohawk.
22. Explore East Austin
Gritty East Austin across I-35 has an edgy, hipster vibe with art galleries, dive bars, and unique eateries. Stop for wings and cocktails at The Liberty, browse local shops like Farewell Books, and catch live music at The White Horse.
Have Fun on Austin’s Waterways
Being located on the Colorado River, Austin has ample opportunities to play on the water.
23. Tube the River
For a quintessential Texas summer activity, go tubing down the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers near Austin. Outfitters like Texas Tubes provide tubes, shuttles out, and pick up at take out spots along the chill rivers. Float and relax for hours under the sun!
24. Rent a Boat on Lake Austin
On sunny days, many locals and visitors cruise around sparkling Lake Austin by boat. Rent ski boats, party barges, kayaks, paddle boards, and more at marinas like Just For Fun and Lake Austin Marina. Play on the water or relax with lake views.
25. Splash in Water Parks
When temps heat up, stay cool at Austin’s water and amusement parks like Schlitterbahn Water Park and Volente Beach Water Park. Speed down thrilling water slides, float the lazy river, or lounge at sandy beaches.
Root for Austin’s Pro Sports Teams
Sports fans will love cheering on Austin’s local major league teams surrounded by lively fans.
26. Watch the Austin FC Soccer Team
The new MLS team Austin FC brings fast-paced professional soccer to the city at the gorgeous Q2 Stadium. Catch home games March to October and root for the Verde team alongside 20,000 excited fans.
27. See the Austin Spurs Basketball
Hoops fans can watch the San Antonio Spurs’ G-League affiliate team, the Austin Spurs, play at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park November through April. Enjoy close-up views of rising basketball stars and family fun!
28. Tailgate for Texas Longhorns Football
College football reigns supreme in Texas. Join 100,000 fans rooting for the burnt orange UT Longhorns at packed Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Tailgating with food and drinks in The LBJ Lawn before games is a must. Hook ’em!
Admire Austin’s Instagrammable Murals
Art abounds all over Austin, especially in the form of colorful murals. Bring your camera and snap pics at these Instagram-worthy walls around town.
29. “I Love You So Much”
This iconic mural on South Congress is pure Instagram gold. The brightly painted wall exclaiming “I Love You So Much” is perfect for posing with friends or that special someone.
30. Greetings From Austin Mural
No social media feed about Austin would be complete without this postcard-style mural on South 1st Street. Strike a pose in front of the retro “Greetings From Austin” lettering.
31. Willie for President
Texas legend Willie Nelson graces this fun mural depicting him as a presidential candidate. Located in the Live Music Capital of the World, obviously.
32. Hi, How Are You Mural
This splashy mural was created by local musician Daniel Johnston in 1993. The frog named Jeremiah will instantly brighten your pics with its kooky vibe.
Watch Austin’s Famous Bats
One of the most unique (and a bit batty) things to do in Austin is observing the famous Congress Avenue Bridge bats.
33. Congress Bridge Bat Watching
From March to November, you can watch over a million Mexican Free-Tailed bats emerge from under Congress Bridge at dusk. Their nightly flight downtown to hunt insects is an impressive natural spectacle.
Position yourself on the bridge or grassy hill below before sunset. As it starts getting dark, the bats will swarm out in a continuous black stream for up to an hour. Don’t forget your camera!
Attend Austin’s Legendary Festivals
Few cities can match the sheer number and diversity of fun annual festivals that Austin hosts.
34. Experience SXSW Music, Film & Interactive
One of the biggest events is the two-week SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Festival every March. It’s an iconic mix of musical performances, movie premieres, tech conferences, and star-studded panels. Buy passes and experience the buzz!
35. Celebrate Pecan Street Festival
Every May, the free Pecan Street Festival in downtown Austin celebrates local art and music with 300+ arts and craft vendors, 10 stages with live music and food booths galore. Shop, eat and rock out!
36. Go Weird at Eeyore’s Birthday
A uniquely Austin tradition since 1963, Eeyore’s Annual Birthday Party in Pease Park celebrates all things weird and wonderful in the city. Think live music, wacky costumes, eclectic vendors, beer gardens and fun for all ages!
37. Enjoy the Austin City Limits Music Festival
One of the world’s best music festivals happens every October in Austin – the Austin City Limits Music Festival. With eight stages and 130+ acts over two weekends, you’ll discover amazing performances from every genre imaginable.
From outdoor adventures and mouthwatering food trucks to legendary music venues and cultural museums – Austin truly offers something for everyone. Vibrant festivals, hip neighborhoods, photo op murals and more await. Follow this Austin insider’s guide to experience the best of this eclectic capital city in the Lone Star State!