by Shraddhanvita Tiwari Updated on 13 Oct 2018
Home to the University of Texas and an array of beautiful parks, gardens, and buildings, the city of Austin in the state of Texas offers a wide range of activities. The city is known for its State Capitol, festivities at Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, views offered by the Mount Bonnell, fun activities provided by Lake Travis and Lake Austin, rich history museums and libraries, interesting flora and fauna, and much more. The city has something special for history lovers, adventure buffs, and art admirers. Let us see some of the best things to in Austin!
1. Know the history of Texas at Texas State Capitol
One of the most spectacular and prominent points of attraction in Austin is Texas State Capitol. This magnificent building is home to some of the important offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor. Located in Downtown Austin, Texas State Capitol is the work of the architect Elijah E. Myers and was completed in 1888. A 30 minutes tour of Texas State Capitol offers a keen insight into the history to Texas and its legislative system. Some highlights of this building are its four marble floors and a beautiful dome on the top.
2. Attend a festival at Zilker Park
Named after its benefactor, Andrew Jackson Zilker, Zilker Park is located in South Austin and is one of the top tourist attractions in Austin city. Stretched over an area of 350 acres, Zilker Park is placed between the Barton Creek and the Colorado River. Zilker Metropolitan Park provides plenty of recreational activities for people of every age. The main features of this park are its miniature train, playgrounds, nature center, botanical garden, dog park, swimming pool, live music, and a number of festivals that are celebrated here.
3. Enjoy paddle boating on the Lady Bird Lake
While looking for free things to do in Austin, hanging around the picturesque Lady Bird Lake is a great option. Formerly known as the Town Lake, Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir that is used significantly for flood control and recreational facilities. This reservoir was built in the city of Austin in 1960 as a cooling point for the city power plant. There are some hiking and biking trails around the lake and also a boat ramp through which you can participate in kayaking, paddle boating, and stand up paddle boarding.
4. Bathe in the soothing waters of Barton Springs Pool
When you are at Zilker Park, you will come across Barton Springs Pool that highlights a major part of recreational activities in Austin. The reason behind its name is that this outdoor pool is filled with the waters of nearby springs. The average temperature of the water in the pool is 20 to 23 degrees Celsius which makes it perfect for swimming throughout the year. The water majorly comes from Main Barton Springs which is the fourth largest spring in Texas. The swimming pool itself covers an area of 3 acres in the park.
5. Look at the city from Mount Bonnell
Also called as Covert Park, Mount Bonnell is one of the popular tourist destinations in Austin. Honored as Texas Historic Landmark, Mount Bonnell was also listed as one of the National Historic Places in 2015. Mount Bonnell has an elevation of 775 feet above sea level and with this, it provides a panoramic view of the city of Austin, Lake Austin, and the hills that surround it. Mount Bonnell covers an area of 5.36 acres and is considered as the highest point in Austin.
6. Meditate upon the Lake Travis
With 63.75 miles of total length, over 271 miles of shoreline and 4.5 miles of width, Lake Travis is a symbol of natural beauty in Austin. This beautiful reservoir is located on the Colorado River and was formed in 1942 by the construction of Mansfield Dam. The reservoir is surrounded by some good resorts, waterfront parks, and restaurants. In addition to a plethora of recreational activities that this reservoir provides, you should enjoy a 4-hour tour of the lake that includes a boat ride, jet skiing, and other outdoor activities. With the views of lakes, woods, and hills, Lake Travis is one of the best Austin tourist attractions.
7. Read and experience the history at Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Also known as LBJ Presidential Library, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is a part of the University of Texas in Austin. This huge library and museum is one of the thirteen presidential libraries that are run by National Archives and Records Administration. The library is situated over an area of 14 acres and provides an opportunity to view a large number of historical, cultural, and temporary exhibits. With 125,000 visitors year-round, LBJ Presidential Library if one of the top attractions in Austin Texas.
8. See the colony of birds from Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
Built over the picturesque Lady Bird Lake, Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge is a concrete arch bridge with three southbound and three northbound vehicle lanes. The bridge has a length of 945.9 feet and was first opened for public in the year 1910. The Congress Avenue Bridge is famously known for its urban bat colony, world’s largest and featuring Mexican free-tailed bats. You can see the bats from the bridge itself, or from the boat while enjoying a ride on the Colorado River.
9. Try fishing in Lake Austin
Moving around the Lake Austin is one of the fun things to do in Austin Texas as with world-class resorts, adventure activities, and plenty of nature trails, it provides fun activities for entire family. This picturesque water reservoir was formed due to the construction of Tom Miller Dam in 1939. The lake houses a large variety of fishes such as Largemouth bass, Grass carp, Bluegill, Blue catfish, White crappie, and more. A major part of Lake Austin’s shoreline is owned privately which also means that it doesn’t lack anything when it comes to recreational activities and cozy stay. Apart from these, there are public boat ramps, walking trails, picnic and swimming areas.
10. Listen to the “Story of Texas” at Bullock Texas State History Museum
Owned by the Texas State Preservation Board, Bullock Texas State History Museum is an important point of attraction for all the history buffs. The museum displays a huge collection of historical artifacts, exhibits, documents, educational resources and also holds some interactive programs and events. The museum also has an IMAX theatre that offers 400 seats and has a projector with both 2D and 3D quality. Another theatre is used for multimedia representations and lectures. The museum has three floors dedicated to the historical exhibition.
11. Explore the animal life at Austin Zoo
Located in the west of Austin, Austin Zoo is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitation, and care of animals. Home to over 300 animals of more than 100 species, exploring the animal life at Austin Zoo is one of best things to do in Austin with kids. Some of the specialties of animals found here are African Lions, Bengal tigers, cougars, three species of monkeys, black bears, ring-tailed lemurs, and porcupines. Earlier, the zoo housed domestic animals like goats, pigs, fallow deer, donkeys, and ponies.
12. Admire the world art at Blanton Museum of Art
Blanton Museum of Art was founded in 1963. In the beginning, the museum was located in the Art Department of the University of Texas. With a great collection of over 18,000 works of art from European paintings, prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, Blanton Museum of Art is one of the must-see places in Austin. Known as one of the largest art museums in Texas, Blanton Museum of Art comprises an area of 189,340 square feet. In the vicinity of this museum, you will see some wonderful exhibitions, art galleries, administrative offices, classrooms, a print study room, an auditorium, shop, and a cafe for the tourists.
13. See the weird collection of Museum of the Weird
Located on the Sixth Street in downtown Austin, Museum of the Weird is one of the unique places to visit in Austin. Often called as “Texas’s Strangest Attraction”, the Museum of the Weird is a fun place to visit. You will find a huge collection of weird things at this place that includes some movie props as well as recreation of movie characters. As you move around the place, you will see two headed animals, shrunken heads, and skeletons, and many random things you would witness for the first time.
14. Attend an educational program at Austin Nature & Science Center
With an aim of promoting awareness about our natural environment, Austin Nature & Science Center was established in 1960. Nestled on the western edge of Zilker Park, Austin Nature & Science Center provides an indoor and outdoor area for scientific exhibits and also offers environmental science education programs for school kids and communities. In addition to this, you can also participate in camps, adventure activities, family events and more offered by the center.
15. Look at the magnificence of University of Texas Tower
One of the popular landmarks in Austin, the University of Texas Tower stands in the city as a symbol of academic excellence and personal growth. The tower is 307-foot-tall and can be seen from a far distance. The purpose of building this tower was to provide space for the university’s central library. The building was designed by Paul Cret, a French architect. Made of Indiana limestone, this tower houses plenty of bookshelves for world-class literature.
16. Meet the aquatic animals of Austin Aquarium
One of the best places to explore the marine life, Austin Aquarium houses a collection of over 8,000 living animals fetched here from the Oregon shores and Indonesian Islands. The aquatic animals are provided with the replicas of their natural habitat in this aquarium. There are 35 exhibits represent the life of aquatic animals. You can feed the sharks, rays, birds, and fish and know about a variety of reptiles kept in the aquarium. The aquarium also hosts various educational programs and tours.
17. Enjoy a ride through McKinney Falls State Park
Nestled on the meeting point of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek, McKinney Falls State Park first opened to the public in 1976. The park has 81 campsites and many hiking and biking trails for the nature enthusiasts. The Onion Creek that forms the fall is also available for fishing and swimming. 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail provide the best route for road trippers and bikers. The park offers Ranger Programs for kids and has a group recreational hall in its vicinity.
18. Take a stroll around Mayfield–Gutsch Estate
Located near the shores of Lake Austin, Mayfield-Gutsch Estate is a historic house and was built in the 1870s. This beautiful house, best known for its lush gardens and porches offering breathtaking views of the landscape, was purchased by the former Texas Secretary of State Allison Mayfield in 1909. The house was later purchased by the university professor Milton Gutsch. Today, as the park is open for public, you can take a stroll in its gardens and see the museum of art located inside.
19. Be a hippie at Hippie Hollow Park
Hippie Hollow Park is located on the shore of Lake Travis in the northwest of Austin. Known for its hippie atmosphere, Hippie Hollow Park is the only legal clothing-optional park in Texas. Due to its location, the park is often called as a beach. The park is set over a steep slope above the lake which is made of limestone and also provides an opportunity for rock climbing. The park usage is restricted to the people over 18 years.
20. Experience the fun of zipping at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
Located by the Lake Travis, Lake Travis Zipline Adventures is the best place to catch some adrenaline rush. This amusement center in Austin provides an opportunity of enjoying the awesome views of the Lake Travis while zipping over the lake. This zipline adventure begins from 22 stories above the water surface and features 5 ziplines of different levels. Taking a nighttime zipline tour of 3 hours is one of the best things to do in Austin at night.