21 things to do in Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is many things to many people. Whether you know it as the state capital of Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World or the home of the University of Texas; Austin has a little something for everyone. Simultaneously an oasis from the rest of Texas and proudly Texan, Austin is a city that marches to the beat of its own drum. Politicos and hippies, cowboys and musicians; there’s room at the bar for everyone. Here are a few of my recommendations for things to do in Austin.


21 things to do in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com

  1.  To make the most of your time in Austin one of the first things you should do is take The Real Austin Tour with Austin Detours. This 2 hour tour is a great introduction to Austin’s major tourist draws as well as some of the eclectic, offbeat neighborhoods that “keep Austin Weird”.
  2.  The pink granite dome of the Texas State Capitol is an iconic part of Austin’s rapidly changing skyline. Built in 1888 the Texas Capitol is the largest of all the state capitols and is open for self guided tours during normal operating hours.The Texas State Capitol: 21 things to do in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com
  3. Get the full story of Texas at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. With over 5,000 artifacts spanning over 13,000 years you’re sure to find a side to Texas you didn’t know existed.
  4. Welcoming visitors since 1886 the Driskill Hotel is Austin’s premier historic hotel. Take a stroll through the lobby with its marble columns and magnificent glass dome or enjoy a drink at the Driskill Bar, recently named the best cocktail bar in Austin. I recommend the Batini, the Driskill’s signature cocktail, sweet from the hibiscus with a  spicy kick of ginger.The Driskill Hotel: 21 things to do in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com
  5. As far as I’m concerned the some of the best tacos in the state of Texas can be found in Austin. Torchy’s tacos is a beloved Austin institution that is perfect for fueling up for (or recovering from) an evening of bar crawling; but if I had to choose one place to get tacos from for the rest of my life it would be Veracruz All Natural. The breakfast tacos and agua frescas from this food truck in East Austin has earned it a loyal following; I would seriously plan a trip to Austin just to eat there.
  6. The other food that Austin does really well? Why barbecue of course. Patrons line up for hours at both La Barbecue and Franklin’s hoping to get some of the best brisket in Texas (both places tend to sell out by 1pm) while Stubb’s has lines down the block both day and night. Die-hard BBQ fans make the trek out to Driftwood for all things smoked at The Salt Lick, the smoked sausage alone is worth the trip.BBQ at the Salt Lick: 21 things to do in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com
  7. Austin prides itself on being the live music capital of the world and with venues throughout the city hosting both nationally known acts and upcoming musicians its easy to see why. If you’re lucky you may even score tickets to….
  8. Austin City Limits. Both the long running show on PBS, which has hosted everyone from native son Willie Nelson to Pearl Jam, and the often sold out music festival in October which showcases national headliners and indie acts.
  9. The same creativity that inspires Austin’s musicians can be seen in Austin’s vibrant street art. Nearly 100 murals grace the sides of everything from gas stations to Chinese restaurants. The Hope Outdoor Gallery, once an abandoned construction project, now invites anyone and everyone to leave their creative mark.                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Hope Outdoor Gallery: 21 things to do in Austin, Texas www.casualtravelist.com
  10. In recent years cheaper rents have attracted much of the creative class to East Austin. The result? A slightly hipper, edgier neighborhood with some of the city’s best restaurants (including Qui by Top Chef winner Paul Qui) that still is unabashedly Austin.
  11. While you’re in East Austin be sure to stop by The White Horse, a hipster honkey-tonk that offers up live music, libations and dance lessons 7 nights a week.
  12. Not only a seat of higher learning, the University of Texas is also home to 7 museums including the Blanton Art Museum which houses the largest art collection of any university. Sports more your thing? The Longhorns may be best known for their football program but their basketball (both men’s and women’s), baseball and softball teams also play a heck of a game. Hook em’!
  13. From April to October crowds gather at sunset along Austin’s South Congress bridge to watch a cloud of over 750,000 Mexican free-tail bats leave their roost under the bridge to fly into the night sky.From April to October crowds gather at sunset along Austin's South Congress bridge to watch a cloud of over 750,000 bats leave their roost under the bridge to fly into the night sky. www.casualtravelist.com
  14. When not serving as the site for the Austin City Limits Music Festival Zilker Park serves as a communal backyard for all of Austin. In addition to over 10 miles of trails and green space you can stroll through Zilker Botanical Gardens or engage in hands-on learning at the Austin Nature and Science Center.
  15.  Bring your swimsuit and stop by for a dip at Barton Springs Pool,  located with Zilker Park, this 3 acre natural spring fed pool remains at a constant temperature of 70 degrees F making it perfect for swimming year round.
  16. Also located in Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake is beloved by both locals and visitors alike. A popular spot for water sports of all kinds, on any given day you can find kayakers and paddle boarders sharing the water with boaters and fisherman.
  17. Looking for funky, eclectic shops, club and restaurants? Look no further than the South Congress Ave (SoCo) neighborhood. Here you can find everything from artisan jewelry to antique European thrones and everything in between. Inevitably you’ll get hungry and South Congress has you covered here too; South Congress Cafe for brunch and Hopdoddy’s for ridiculously good burgers are a few of my personal favorites.
  18.  While perusing the shops of South Congress Avenue a stop at Allen Boots is a must. This mecca for all things western wear has cowboy boots in every color, size and style imaginable. If you can’t find your perfect pair of boots here, they don’t exist.While perusing the shops of South Congress Avenue a stop at Allen Boots is a must. This mecca for western wear has cowboy boots in every color, size and style imaginable; if you can't find your perfect pair of boots here, they don't exist. www.casualtravelist.com
  19. Have a car? Great. Get in, roll down the windows and throw on some Willie Nelson and explore the beautiful Texas Hill Country. About 30 minutes southwest of Austin the suburbs give way to rolling limestone and granite hills covered with sagebrush, cedar and Texas live oak. Winding past sprawling ranches stop at one of the state parks for some hiking then refuel with some BBQ at the aforementioned Salt Lick. Hill Country is also home to several good wineries such as Duchman Family Winery and Driftwood Estate Winery.
  20.  While you’re out exploring Hill Country a stop at Hamilton Pool is a must. A quick hike leads you to the beautiful crescent shaped grotto, a waterfall feeding the emerald green pool below. Be sure to check the Hamilton Pool Preserve website prior to your visit to see if swimming is allowed that day.While you're out exploring Hill Country a stop at Hamilton Pool is a must. A quick hike leads you to the beautiful crescent shaped grotto, a waterfall feeding the emerald green pool below. www.casualtravelist.com
  21. Amy’s Ice Cream is an Austin institution. Whether you go with their famous Mexican Vanilla or one of their other 350 rotating flavors make sure to get a good bit of praline sauce (a gooey, butter caramel sauce spiked with pecans) on top.You can thank me later.
Do you have any other suggestions for what to do in Austin? Please share with me in the comments!

64 Comments on “21 things to do in Austin, Texas

  1. So much to love about Austin! Tacos, BBQ, live music, and a road trip through the Hill Country sound right up my alley. I recognize Barton Springs Pool from the movie The Tree of Life with Brad Pitt, and I am almost positive Hamilton Pool Preserve was in it, too. You know I love natural water features! 🙂
    Howard @ Backroad Planet recently posted…Visit 3 Natural Waterfalls in FloridaMy Profile

  2. Brianna,
    Certainly glad you enjoyed my home town. You hit most of the highlights I would recommend. I actually have a pair of boots made at Allen Boots back in 1969. I would add Guero’s Mexican restaurant, as a foodie stop. Next time let me know you are coming to town.

  3. So when I think of Austin, I definitely think of food, drink, and music (so I wasn’t surprised to see those references!) but DANCE LESSONS – so cool and a fun way to check out the music. Plus all the outdoor things… looks like a fun weekend getaway to me 🙂
    Becky recently posted…How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a TourMy Profile

    • Seriously, how can you not have a good time learning to two-step then refueling with some awesome BBQ?

    • Austin was a blast! It would have be dangerous for me to go to college there though, way too many distractions lol.

    • I so wanted to come back with a pair of cowboy boots; my bank account however, not such a fan. The boots were gorgeous though.

    • I didn’t get a chance to go to ACL, work got in the way. Did you have any favorite acts?

    • That was something I really wanted to do, looks like I have an excuse to go back!

  4. Austin is a really cool place! Great list to get started seeing the city that loves to be weird!! Enjoyed it!

  5. Brianna — glad you enjoyed our town. If you want two-step lessons, the Broken Spoke dance hall on S Lamar has them Wed-Sat 8:30 to 9:30 before the bands start. It is an iconic institution – 51 years old, still owned by the same family.

    But for the love of all that is good, please don’t go back to the Salt Lick. Unmistakable atmosphere, but some of the worst barbecue in all of Texas. There are dozens better, that don’t have a 3 hour line like Franklin, or an hour like LA.
    Scott recently posted…eBags TLS Mother Lode 29″ Wheeled Duffel Luggage ReviewMy Profile

    • I had a fantastic time in Austin and will definitely be back. I live in a BBQ black hole, I’d love to hear about your other BBQ recs!

    • thanks, I loved my time in Austin and can’t wait to go back!

  6. Dang, you had to mention ice cream. Time to look at flights. Austin has such amazing food, including the absolute BEST (and I rarely use the term best) donuts I have had in USA, outstanding food truck tacos (like everywhere), perhaps the best (not again) steak I have had.
    Charles McCool recently posted…8 Great Viking Cruises SecretsMy Profile

    • Donuts? Dang, I completely missed donuts! Looks like I need to head back.

    • Austin quickly became one of my favorite cities, I’m sure you’ll love it too!

  7. Austin is such a lovely city in Texas that a casual traveller should not miss it. OK. But how about vegetarian food that too South Indian type available and where to go for a south Indian traveller? That is what I required Brianna?.

  8. Austin looks like so much fun. I went for ACL last year, but I have been itching to go back to just explore the city. Thanks for sharing!

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