The 50 Best Things to Do in Austin
Austin may be home to the Texas State Capitol, but it’s also the capital for culture, food and fun in the Lone Star State. Keeping Austin weird is a full-time job for the locals who create and sustain the city’s unique culture, but whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Texan, there’s always more than enough to do in Austin. Here are 50 things to do in the Central Texas city!
1. Swim in Barton Springs Municipal PoolA public pool unlike any other, this rustic Barton Springs swimming area inside grassy Zilker Park offers plenty of space to practice your breaststroke and also lay out under the trees.
2. Hike up Mount Bonnell
If you can climb stairs, you can hike up the steps to the highest viewpoint in Austin, 775 feet above the Colorado River. Try to make it before sunset for incredible views, though any time of day is gorgeous.
3. Admire Mexican and Mexican-American art
In the heart of downtown Austin, the Mexic-Arte Museum is dedicated to showcasing contemporary Mexican, Latino and Latin American art and culture.
4. Tour an Urban Winery
Sure, you could head out to Fredericksburg for a wine tour and tasting…or you could stay in the city. Located in a spacious and bohemian warehouse, Infinite Monkey Theorem offers behind-the-scenes tours of their winemaking process, as well as tastings of their wines made from local grapes.
5. Eat An Oversize Breakfast Taco
Everything is bigger in Texas, and Juan in a Million’s face-sized breakfast tacos, sprawling with scrambled eggs, potatoes and bacon are indeed the perfect size. Expect a wait outside this restaurant at weekend brunch time.
6. Cool Off With An Iced Turbo At Jo’s CoffeePerhaps the most famous coffee shop in Texas—thanks to the “I Love You So Much” mural painted adjacent to the South Congress location of this local mini-chain—Jo’s is also notable for its signature just-sweet-enough, frothy iced coffee drink.
7. Scoot Through The City
A flurry of scooter-share companies have overtaken the streets and sidewalks of Austin! Hop on a Bird, Lime, Lyft or Uber scooter and scoot down a bike lane to see the city at a new pace.
8. Peruse The Farmers Market
Austin is lush with farmers markets vending local fruits and veggies as well as artisanal goods, and often a lively ambiance with live music or activities. Check the market schedule to find a farmers market near you.
9. Dip Into Queso
You haven’t visited Austin if you haven’t tasted queso, the melty cheese dip that defines the city’s Tex-Mex cuisine. Stop by local favorite (and regional chain) Torchy’s Tacos for a taste.
10. Rock Out At A Women-Powered Diner
Owned and operated by women and inspired by punk rock feminists, Holy Roller channels an empowering energy through its delightfully caloric diner fare, like the Casbah sandwich—fried chicken blanketed between a hot honey-buttered biscuit, drenched in comeback sauce, fried egg and maple syrup.
11. Find A New Read At Bookpeople
The only independent bookstore in America doling out breakfast tacos, tamales and empanadas, BookPeople is also an excellent spot to source your next read, or drop in on a complimentary reading or author event.
12. Unwind At The Austin Public LibraryThe Austin Public Library’s Central branch is not only an architectural site to admire but a worthwhile public area to relax (in air conditioning!), grab a bite at the café, a literary-inspired souvenir at the shop and head up to the open-air roof for city views.
13. Treat yourself at Milk + Honey Spa
Treat your squad or just yourself to an all-natural, holistic spa day at the local mini Milk + Honey Spa chain, which uses its own products for manicures and pedicures, facials, massages and more.
14. Taste Your Way Through Austin’s First Food Hall
Austin may be home to several food truck parks, but so far, only one food hall. Fareground opened in 2018, and offers a range of delights, like Texas peach-topped carnitas tacos from Dai Due’s taqueria outpost to chicken-shawarma-topped hummus bowls from from Israeli street food newcomer TLV.
15. Shop For Cowboy BootsReady for some authentic Texas attire? Head into Allens Boots, which stocks hundreds of styles safe to wear beyond the cowboy-inspired confines of the Southwest.
16. Check Out Big Cats At The Austin Zoo
The rescue and rehabilitation Austin Zoo houses over 100 animal species, ranging from cougars to giant tortoises. Check the daily schedule for animal trainings to get an up-close look.
17. Feast On Tacos At All Hours At Las Cazuelas
Thursdays through Sundays you never have to stop craving tacos, with the authentic East Side Mexican Las Cazuelas restaurant open 24 hours.
18. Explore the State Capitol
Head to the Texas State Capitol building for a free half-hour tour of the opulent architecture and a look into the history and politics of one of the largest states in the nation.
19. Get Spooked on a Ghost Tour
Haunted ATX takes thrillseekers for a nighttime ride in a hearse to check out haunted historic sites around town. Scary!
20. Camp Out for Top-Notch BarbecueFranklin Barbecue is almost as renowned for its long lines as the smokehouse is famous for its slow-cooked meats and signature sauces. Arrive early in the morning with provisions to last you until 11 a.m. when the restaurant opens until the food sells out a few hours later.
21. Dance Down Rainey Street
Old homes and their yards make up most of the signature bars on Rainey Street, a late-night favorite for barhopping. Dance your way through the living room at Icenhauer’s, the circus-themed Unbarlievable and America’s first bar made completely from shipping containers, Container Bar.
22. Learn Some Moves at Ballet Austin
You don’t need to be a trained dancer or even an aspiring ballerina to take a class at Ballet Austin. Work out with new moves at daily adult classes that teach you Bollywood choreography, hip hop, ballet and more.
23. Customize jewelry at the Kendra Scott Flagship
Did you know Kendra Scott jewelry is an Austin-based business? The new store on South Congress offers a color bar for jewelry customization, one-of-a kind pieces to shop for, plus a café and spacious patio to sip iced tea on while debating your purchases.
24. Book a Party Barge
Locals know to escape the heat on Lake Travis, where party barges come cheap enough to split with a crew, and sometimes equipped with slides and other water party accoutrements. Get a group together, pack a few coolers and prepare for a floating party unlike any other.
25. Play ‘Champong’ OutsideBuy a bottle of bubbly at the Four Seasons Austin and the property will set up a custom “champong” table, plus all the necessary cups, on the expansive lawn overlooking Lady Bird Lake.
26. Eat Chili At The World’s Only Drag Queen-Run Food Truck
27. Spice It Up With A Salsa Sampler
Curra’s Grill may be known for introducing the avocado margarita to Austin, but along with that chilly creamy drink you’ll want something crunchy, namely, chips and a dozen types of salsa, all varying in heat, to dip into.
28. Sip Mezcal From A Bone Marrow Luge
One of Austin’s trendiest new restaurants, Comedor, is also home to a semi-secret menu item—-the mezcal luge, only attainable after finishing a platter of bone marrow tacos (yum!). Tilt your head back and let the smoky agave spirit wash down the post-taco spice.
29. Sneak In Some Culture At The Blanton Museum Of ArtThe Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin houses an impressive permanent collection as well as rotating seasonal exhibitions. Perhaps most famous is Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” installation, a stone building with rainbow glass windows.
30. Shop And Stretch At The OV Austin Bungalow
31. Catch A Queer Show At Cheer Up Charlies
This queer dive bar, Cheer Up Charlies, is open to everyone, and boasts an expansive backyard with a stage hosting a range of queer acts—indie bands, drag queens, performance artists and more!
32. Bar Hop On Sixth StreetThe west part of Sixth Street is referred to as “Dirty Sixth” by locals, thanks to its high population of shot bars, dives and places to just, well, get drunk. This pedestrian-friendly bar zone is closed to traffic, so wander freely between bars on your big night out.
33. Visit The World’s Largest Bat Colony
Over 1.5 million bats live beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, where crowds gather before sunset from the spring through fall to watch the bats emerge each night. Bring a picnic and camp out for the nightly anticipated bat show.
34. Learn A New Craft
Paper + Craft Pantry is making Austin even more creative, thanks to one-off workshops teaching painting, candle pouring, macramé, embroidery and more.
35. WATCH 'JAWS' WHILE FLOATING In Lake TravisReady to test your wits? Cinema organization Birth.Movies.Death. will give you the experience. Grab a tube and float into this Austin tradition that combines a screening of the classic scary summer flick with the additional fear of being grabbed by scuba divers swimming around to humorously terrorize the weekly summer screenings.
36. Rock Out At Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits is one of the city’s flagship events and takes place every fall for a three-day weekend packed with big name acts on multiple stages spanning across Zilker Park. Grab a three-day pass and be on the lookout for afterparties and shows across town throughout ACL Fest week.
37. Get Cultured At South By Southwest
Held over ten days in the spring, SXSW embodies Austin with cultural discussions, panels, performances, immersive installations and more.
38. Get Literary At The Texas Book Festival
This annual fall Texas Book Festival brings authors from across America to speak, read, sign books and engage in an epic annual Lit Crawl that includes storytelling, performances, games and more.
39. Sip Wine, Eat Cheese And Listen To Music Outside
Located in an adorable bungalow, House Wine offers nightly live music to pair with cheese plates, excellent wines and a super chill ambiance. Weekly wine tastings also help you learn more about what you’re drinking here.
40. Share A Giant Schnitzel In A Former Union HallAttached to the new Carpenter Hotel, Carpenter’s Hall offers a modern menu of local Texas fare inspired by Eastern European immigrants who once occupied the same space in this renovated former union space. The schnitzel, a chicken pounded thin, breaded and fried alongside homemade spaetzle and tomato salad is perfect with a glass of pet-nat.
41. Hike The Barton Creek Greenbelt
Everyone and their dogs head out to the Barton Creek’s Greenbelt on a sunny morning to hike alongside the water and enjoy the fresh air. Arrive early for your best chance at parking.
42. Taste a Kolache
43. Taste Local, Exclusive Brews At Lazarus Brewing
Plenty of experimental and unique beers inspired by Austin are only available on tap at the urban Lazarus brewery, which also serves house-roasted coffee and a full menu.
44. Drink Craft Cocktails In A Parking Garage
A speakeasy unlike any other, Garage is quite literally nestled in a concrete parking structure in prime downtown Austin. The vibe is relaxed, craft cocktails are excellent and the novelty of drinking in such a stylish parking garage is not lost.
45. Go Tubing On The Guadalupe RiverPack a cooler full of beer (or whatever) and book a tubing adventure just outside the city limits with companies like River Sports Tubes or Tube Haus, which provide sturdy tubes to float you down the river with the current, plus transit so you don’t float too far from your car.
46. Sashay Into The Austin International Drag Festival
The four-day Austin International Drag Festival in the late fall brings out hundreds of renowned drag queens, aspiring queens, drag enthusiasts and supporters for an incomparable weekend dedicated to all things fabulous.
47. Eat Modern Texas Fare In A Historic Home
Rosewood’s charming setting is only enriched by its in-house butcher and weekly program of events including family-style dinners, movie nights and picnic baskets.
48. Drink And Dance At An Old School Saloon
The Little Longhorn Saloon brings authentic Texas kitsch with Southwestern decor, live music and happy hour beers at under $2. Visit on Sundays for a few rounds of the bar’s beloved Chicken Shit Bingo.
49. Taste Your Way Around Driftwood
About half an hour from downtown Austin, Driftwood is home to the city’s distilleries, open to drinkers who want to learn more about the booze-making process or just try something new. Get a DD (or a rideshare) and visit Desert Door for the agave spirits, Deep Eddy for vodka (and frozen cocktails!) and Stinson’s Hill Country tasting room.
50. Strip Down At Hippie Hollow
If you’re into skinny dipping, or really just looking for something daring and different, head to Texas’s only clothing-optional park, Hippie Hollow, located on the shores of Lake Travis. Congrats on helping to keep Austin weird!