Updated June 2021
Our state capitol is the “all ways welcome” epicenter for live music, eclectic good vibes, outdoor activities and incredible food! Austin truly has it all but there are some staple tourist boxes to check off first! We’ve compiled the top eat, drink and do experiences to get you started on checking off your Austinite bucket list!
WALK DOWN SOCO
WALK DOWN SOUTH CONGRESS AVE
South Congress Avenue, aka the SoCo shopping district, on the south side of Lady Bird Lake boasts a strip of shopping and a prime view of The Capitol down the center. The vibrant shops, boho vibes and an aesthetic are specifically unique to the area. No two shops are the same from Allen’s Boots with 4,000+ authentic cowboy boots + western wear to Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, an enormous costume store.
Grab a bite to eat at June's All Day or Joann's Fine Foods, sip some froze at the Hotel San Jose, grab a coffee and photo of the I LOVE YOU wall at Jo's and take a pic of the Austin Motel sign. People watch and oyster slurp at Perla's, make a reservation for dinner at the trendy Aba hidden within the new Music Lane complex or vintage shop off the main streets.
SOCO | DIRECTIONS
swim in BARTON SPRINGS
These 3 acre natural springs located in Zilker Park are an ideal retreat from the scorching Texas sun during the summers. Its crystal clear waters are a popular recreational spot for visitors and locals to cool off, get some sun and have a picnic. The water is chilly but so worth a jump in from the giant diving board surrounded by spectators! Typically you’ll find a vendor outside serving popsicles or drinks for cash!
BARTON HILLS | DIRECTIONS
kayak LADY BIRD LAKE
Driving over any bridge or walking along Lady Bird Lake you’re bound to see kayakers or paddleboarders taking advantage of the weather. Rowing Dock and Live Love Paddle are a couple of spots for rentals to join in on the water activities or you can utilize Airbnb Experiences in the Airbnb app for guided tours! Between Shoal Beach and Lamar Beach Metro Parks or Butler Shores and Auditorium Shores, there are plenty of green spaces bordering Lady Bird Lake to enjoy the outdoors! Biking, hiking, a gorgeous boardwalk and tons of picnic spots to post up offer great views of the lake to behold. Auditorium Shores also has a dog park if your pup joins you on the trip! (Just keep them out of Lady Bird Lake!)
CENTRAL AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
CONGRESS AVE BRIDGE BAT FLIGHT
Humans aren’t the only visitors flocking to Austin. Did you know that a major attraction is bat watching?! A 1980 reno to the Congress Avenue Bridge made it a perfect bat cave for Mexican free-tailed bats and dubbed Austin as North America’s largest urban bat population. Consider them the pest control of Austin taking care of any bugs in their path! They put on quite the show from late March - early Fall between 7:30 - 9:45 pm when they take flight from under the bridge into the sky! Arrive early to get parking and to find your spot on the bridge as it can get crowded or watch from the Statesman Bat Observation Center.
ZILKER | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of Clément Falize
The highest point in Austin with the best view! At 775 feet, Mount Bonnell looks out onto downtown Austin, the Colorado River and everything in between. They have dated tourist visits all the way back to the 1830s so clearly has a history of being an amazing destination! There is a steep staircase to the top and the micro hike is totally worth the climb. It’s completely free to visit and great for picnics, photos and even proposals!
WATERSEDGE | DIRECTIONS
Take a trip 30 minutes west of the city to one of nature’s best accidents! Hamilton Pool came to be the destination you see today when the dome of an underground river collapsed from erosion 1,000s of years ago. Thus creating a natural pool featured across countless travel publications and media! A unique, rounded “ceiling” frames the pool creating a surreal landscape complete with a waterfall Visitors can hike the trails, picnic and of course, swimming (although not guaranteed by the park on the day of visiting). There is a $12 reservation fee paid online or $8 day use fee upon arrival. A reservation fee is highly recommended as this spot is extremely popular.
DRIPPING SPRINGS | 45 MINUTES FROM AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of Thomas Brushel
Austin is known for its happening live music scene! If the timing is right SXSW Music Festival is a great reason to visit. But on any given day or night you don’t have to look for long to find talented musicians playing at restaurants, venues and street corners filling the streets with original sounds. Walking down South Congress Ave is a great place to happen upon live singers or musicians on the street side or on outdoor stages like the one at Guero’s Taco Bar! Additionally, The Elephant Room jazz club, White Horse, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse and The Continental Club are local music venues to check out artists.
As a mecca for food trucks, you can find one for almost every cuisine! You’ll find multiple at The Picnic Food Truck Park near Barton Springs or the Rainey Street Food Truck Lot. Our fave for various fare to share across covered picnic tables is South First Food Court! One of the most recognizable is the Hey Cupcake food truck on the east side of South Congress Ave. Other notable food trucks are T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs, the Peruvian Ceviche7, Garbo’s Lobster Truck and Krab Kingz but you’ll find plenty of trucks - both roaming and resting!
VISIT A BREWERY
VISIT A BREWERY
Authenticity is Austin’s bread and butter, both in food and in beverages alike, which makes a brewery visit a must! In far north Austin, Austin Beerworks rolls out seasonal and year round brews in a trendy, casual setting. Accompany your pints with pizza at The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. or Central Machine Works Brewery darling interior is a cozy spot nestled inside a 1940s machine shop. And of course we can’t forget about Austin Eastciders! The celebrity brewery, Family Business, was created by the stars of the hit tv show Supernatural who are actually both Texas natives! Not technically in Austin proper, but just a short drive west and you may spot the on-screen brothers!
THE (HAUNTED) DRISKILL HOTEL
If you fancy yourself a ghost hunter, there are plenty of historic locations that have been claimed for hauntings to spookify your visit! The most acclaimed being The Driskill Hotel, an iconic landmark in downtown Austin. Several spirits have supposedly been spotted including a jilted bride (of course) and the original owner! There are also ghost tours around town that are a Google search away!
DOWNTOWN | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of The Driskill Hotel
GO MURAL HUNTING
GO MURAL HUNTING
No directions to this one because Instagrammable murals are scattered all over the city nearly everywhere you look! The most well known is the iconic “I love you so much” scrawl painting onto the green exterior wall of Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Ave. The best photo op in our opinion is the Greetings From Austin, postcard-inspired mural located at 1702 South 1st Street that embodies the city perfectly for your insta pic. Our eclectic pick is the psychedelic Willie For President mural of good ol Willie Nelson on the side of Stag Provisions!
An unmistakable South Congress staple welcomes visitors with a retro neon sign with positive quotes! Not only is it a darling, functional motel with a vintage pool scene, gift shop, vivid rooms and a courtyard, it's a hotspot for taking Austin pics! The bright red neon sign is a leading symbol of Austin tourism which makes it a must if you want a killer traveler photo while you explore South Congress!
BOULDIN CREEK | DIRECTIONS
You might already recognize the unmistakable rounded bridge that runs highway 360 over the Colorado River, otherwise known as Pennybacker Bridge! But the real treat is the view from the Pennybacker Bridge Overlook Hiking Trail that leads to the 360 Bridge Overlook! There’s pull in parking and the trail is pretty easy but wear a comfy shoe to avoid any rocks and sand. The overlook is a top photo spot in Austin and we can see why!
NW AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
TEXAS STATE CAPITOL
Play tourist for a while as you get lost in our state’s granite jewel, aka The Capitol! The tours are free and only 30 minutes so it's a win win and you can follow your tour with some Austin grub at Capitol Grill! Walking the historic halls full of elegant detailing and history is a must for every Texan and if you don’t prefer a guided tour you can wander on your own as well!
DOWNTOWN | DIRECTIONS
Zilker reminds us of a larger version of Griggs Park with its rolling green landscape and skyline view! It’s recognized as “Austin’s most loved park” making it the site of picnics, recreational sports, lounging in the sun, working out and even proposals! It’s 350+ acres gives Austinites plenty of room to spread out while enjoying the idyllic Austin weather. The park holds events year round so we definitely recommend checking out their website before your trip to see if any correspond with your dates!
BARTON HILLS | DIRECTIONS
MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK
If a Texas swimming hole makes the Travel Channel Top 10 Swimming Hole in the US, visiting is a no brainer! It's so picturesque that photographers regularly take engagement photos there. The park boasts a dreamy waterfall, app. 700 acres of hiking trails and spots for camping if that’s more your speed than hotels! It's temporarily closed but keep it on your list to look into when you’re planning your trip!
SOUTHEAST AUSTIN | 15 MINUTES FROM AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
CATHEDRAL OF JUNK
Someone trash is truly someone else’s treasure! Step into a sightseeing marvel of whimsey in Austin’s Cathedral of Junk! Tucked into the backyard of an Austinite resident, the Cathedral is exactly how it sounds: a treasure trove clubhouse of curiosities that is its own art installation of sorts! People bring the owners things to add and if they pass his artistic tastes, they will be added. So the Cathedral is constantly evolving, changing and expanding. Among the finds you’ll see things like rooms crafted from the objects, a tree made of cds, road signs from all over and more!
WEST CONGRESS | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of Cathedral of Junk
The rocky shoreline of Lake Travis known as Hippie Hollow Park isn’t for the faint of heart! The park tops the list of adventurous spots for risk-takers because its the only clothing-optional public park in Texas! If you prefer to soak up the sun sans bikini for perfect tan lines, Hippie Hollow is your spot!
NW AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of Hippie Hollow
The world famous 6th Street is a hub of entertainment mainly recognized for its bar scene in its “dirty” section, as the locals refer to it! For a true Austin experience a night out on the town is a must followed by grabbing slices of pizza from Roppolo’s since they close at 2:30am! You’ll see some bar names you might recognize, like Kung Fu which Austin shares with Dallas, and some that are entirely Austin like Maggie Mae’s with their funky rooftop scene!
DOWNTOWN | DIRECTIONS
If you’re into a more laid back bar scene, Rainey Street is for you where the bars rest inside early 1900’s renovated historic homes! Many that come with backyards and patios for ample outdoor seating. We love that its a whole different take on a typical bar scene and you can typically catch live music too!
RAINEY STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT | DIRECTIONS
DEEP EDDY POOL
Have you ever swam in a historic pool? We’d never heard of such a thing until Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest swimming pool in Texas that even features a historic bathhouse! Its lap pool style and bright, blue green water attracts locals and visitors when the Texas temps start to spike. Although its old, its not going anywhere! The Friends of Deep Eddy nonprofit is dedicated to preserving the pool so keep it on your bucket list!
WESTFIELD | DIRECTIONS
LAKE TRAVIS ZIPLINE
Adventure seekers will love this recreational activity that takes you far above beautiful Lake Travis! There are 5 different 3 hour zipline tours and include all equipment, boat transportation, water and a snack! All you have to do is book and show up! After your adrenaline fueled zipline, you can relax in a hammock on their private lakefront property where you’ll have all day access to enjoy the weather! For an extra dose of thrill, choose a Night Flight booking that include glow sticks and headlamps!
VOLENTE | 30 MINUTES FROM AUSTIN | DIRECTIONS
photo courtesy of Lake Travis Zipline Adventures