You’ve booked your vacation rental home in Austin and you’re ready to see the sights. While you’re in town, stop in to see some of these tourist attractions and local favorites. These things to do when visiting Austin will help you get a taste of the city’s flair and flavor.
11 things to do in Austin for a great Texas vacation
Swim in Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool is a year-round swimming hole that residents and visitors love. The three-acre lake has an average natural temperature of 70 degrees. It’s been a favorite spot for generations, and Native Americans once believed that the warm waters held healing powers. So, when summer temperatures soar in the city, the locals head to Zilker Metropolitan Park for a dip in Barton Springs Pool. The water in this spring-fed lake stays a brisk 68 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can quickly cool off on a hot summer afternoon. There’s also an educational exhibit where you can learn more about the three-acre lake and its history in the area. If you don’t want to take a dip in the pool, explore the rest of the park. Dig for fossils. Relax in the botanical garden. Enjoy outdoor art in the sculpture garden.
See Austin’s Bats off Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
Every summer, Mexican free-tailed bats fly into Austin and make their home under the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. With between 750,000 and one million bats, they make up the largest urban bat colony on the North American continent. They also create one of Austin’s most popular attractions when they leave their nests each evening in search of food. You can watch the natural show from the bridge, but check out Austin kayak rentals to get some of the best views from the river.
Watch a Film at Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse offers a unique film experience along with drinks and high-quality food. It’s a local institution and has been one of the top things to do in Austin, Texas, for over two decades.
Picnic at Zilker Metropolitan Park
Spreading out over 351 acres, Zilker Metropolitan Park is one of Austin’s top attractions and a nice place to have a picnic. During the week you’ll find better parking and fewer crowds. After your picnic, stroll on the trails, canoe on the waterways or play a game on one of the many athletic fields before returning to your vacation rental.
Listen to Live Music on Sixth Street
Check out Sixth Street and discover why Austin has been named “Live Music Capital of the World.” The stretch of Sixth Street between Congress and Interstate 35 contains an assortment of shops, restaurants and bars with local flair. On Friday and Saturday nights, this area is open to pedestrian traffic only, so you can stroll between the venues. Stop at a rooftop bar for a bird’s-eye view of the city, listen to local bands perform or experience Austin’s longest-running show, Esther’s Follies.
Eat Austin’s best at Franklin Barbecue
Franklin Barbecue is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, as evidenced by the line that forms around the block starting at 6:30 a.m. Don’t wait until you’re starving to head over. The wait can sometimes last four hours.
Check Out the LBJ Library and Museum
The LBJ Library and Museum has hundreds of interesting exhibits and artifacts, offering a glimpse into American history during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. The library underwent renovations in 2012, giving this attraction new life.
Take a Tour of the State Capitol
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the state capitol, which stands 14 feet higher than the nation’s capitol building. The large pink granite building maintains much of the same look and feel of the original construction and offers a glimpse into Texas history. It’s also a great place to beat the afternoon heat. Here you can take a guided or self-paced tour through the building and learn more about local and state history. The grounds around the building are just as spectacular, featuring historical buildings and landscaping that make excellent backdrops for photos or picnics.
Line Dance at the Broken Spoke
Established in 1964, the Broken Spoke is the last Texas dance hall of its kind. Listen to live music, line dance with the crowd or take a dance lesson and learn to two-step with the best of them.
Enjoy the View from the University of Texas Tower
There are some spectacular views of Austin all around the city, but none compare to the view from the top of the University of Texas Tower. Enjoy guided or self-guided tours that go all the way up to the observation deck, where you get a panoramic view of the campus, the capitol and the entire city.
Blanton Museum of Art
There’s more to the Austin art scene than music. The Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas’ campus is home to more than 17,000 works of art that range from Renaissance master works to contemporary American art. If you love art, find time in your schedule to explore the museum’s three galleries and rotating exhibits. If you’re in town during the summer, check out the museum’s programs for children and bring the entire family along to appreciate some culture.