Austin, Texas showcases fascinating history, a musical haven, delicious cuisine, and a thriving arts scene. Although the list of interesting and fun places seems overwhelming, we’ve compiled some of the best tourist attractions to find throughout the Live Music Capital of the World. Read below to get ideas for your travel list:
1) Texas State Capitol
An architectural wonder, the Texas State Capitol is worth touring if you’re fascinated by history, architecture and design, fine art, and politics. Not only does it obviously serve as the state’s seat of government, but it also preserves state and national history. Further, both the exterior and interior of the building and its surrounding grounds are gorgeous. You can self-tour or take an official tour during business hours. One of the top tourist attractions in Austin, you don’t want to miss out.
2) Local Museums
Consider the official history museum of Texas, the Bullock Texas State History Museum showcases hundreds of artifacts, culture, innovations, community events, symposiums, and more. Built to celebrate the experiences and memories of Texas people, places, and objects, locals and tourists can truly gain a sense of what composes Texas culture. Also, their IMAX theater frequently shows interesting documentaries and popular current films.
Located on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus, this museum preserves Texas natural history with over 5 million specimens on display. Permanent exhibitions include prehistoric life and fossils, gems, minerals, and meteorites, and Texas wildlife. Further, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and community events as well.
Located at the University of Texas at Austin campus, the LBJ Library serves as one of the 14 presidential libraries throughout the nation. Visitors can experience the life, duties, and presidential era of Lyndon B. Johnson. Furthermore, exhibits include a replica of the Oval Office, dozens of LBJ’s historic White House phone conversations, and so much more within the articles and museum collection. Moreover, the library also hosts revolving exhibitions and events, so check the calendar frequently!
Other top tourist attractions in Austin include:
3) University of Texas at Austin’s Tower
Completed in 1937, this 307-foot historic tower is the university’s most distinguishing landmark. As the symbol for the Main Building, the Tower has served as a library and archive and houses department offices as well. In the evenings and during special events, the Tower illuminates with specific colors. Note that you need to schedule tours via the Texas Union. Tours are 45-minutes long and narrated by UT student escorts.
4) Broken Spoke Dance Hall
Country and honky-tonk lovers have found the right place to two-step at the Broken Spoke. A traditional Texas dance hall, we recommend you bring some dancing boots and let loose at one of the best tourist attractions in Austin. This famous hall attracts musicians and celebrity guests frequently, so don’t be surprised if you see familiar faces. Also, you can even get dancing lessons here if you’re not the well-acquainted with Texas-style dancing.
5) South Congress Avenue
Beautiful views, quirky shops, upscale eateries, and famous music hot spots line South Congress Avenue. Also referred to as “SoCo”, South Congress’s neighborhood attracts crowds of locals and visitors each day. This popular hangout neighborhood can keep you busy for hours with favorites like The Continental Club, Amy’s Ice Creams, Home Slice, and Lucy in Disguise.
The Texas Hill Country area boasts beautiful green spaces, and although Austin is urban, the city features gorgeous parks, lakes, lookouts, and nature centers. Trust us, you don’t want to skip out on these top tourist attractions in Austin.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Great for hiking, walking the dogs, rock climbing, biking, swimming, and more, consider spending an afternoon at one of the various entrances to the Greenbelt. Run by the Austin Parks Foundation, the Greenbelt enables guests to relax and get out of the city scape for fun in the sun.
LBJ Wildflower Center
Dedicated to creating sustainable, lovely landscapes, the Wildflower Center educates guests on preserving native plant and flower species to better our environment and way of life. Celebrating First Lady Lady Bird Johnson’s preservation activism, the center’s grounds are breathtakingly beautiful, especially during the holidays.
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake, or Town Lake, resides right in the heart of the city to provide respite from the urban lifestyle. Guests can enjoy hiking and biking trails, paddle boarding, boating, kayaking, and more. A great way to gain beautiful views, exercise, and sun, don’t miss out on one of the top tourist attractions in Austin.
Other green spaces in the area:
7) Local Eateries
Texas in general is lauded for its fantastic diverse cuisine, and Austin definitely boasts dozens of delicious culinary experiences. These restaurants are just some of the best places to sample:
- Kerbey Lane Cafe
- Franklin’s Barbecue
- Texas Chili Parlor
- Torchy’s Tacos
- Via 313
- Ramen Tatsu-ya
- La Barbecue
- Whip In
- El Primo
- 888 Pan Asian Restaurant
- P. Terry’s Burger Stand
- Amy’s Ice Creams
- Magnolia Cafe
8) Historic Theaters
Austin’s arts culture continues to thrive through its theater acts, attracting big names and thousands of guests each year.
Alamo Drafthouse Ritz
The Ritz’ building has served as movie theater, music hall, club, and comedy house. Beginning in 2007, the building became the new downtown location for the Alamo Drafthouse. If you’re going to see a movie, we recommend going to any Alamo Drafthouse location, but this historic building’s atmosphere gives off perfect vintage theater vibes. Also, the strict no-talking policy and fantastic dining options make the Drafthouse a beloved theater chain.
Open since 1915, the Paramount Theatre has hosted everyone from Houdini and Katherine Hepburn to Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and John Mulaney. Hosting musical events, interviews, book readings, film screenings, comedy acts, and more, the Paramount Theatre has stood as a significant fixture in the Austin performing arts community.
Home of Austin City Limits Live (ACL Live), this 2,750-person capacity live music venue hosts about 100 concerts a year. Produced by KLRU-TV, PBS presents ACL Live as the longest running music series in American television history. Hosting some of the largest, most popular acts, look for giveaway tickets to live performances and special events.
Other historic theaters:
9) Peter Pan Mini Golf
You’ll spot a massive T-Rex figure on Lamar Avenue to know you’re at the right place. Looking for a BYOB mini golf course with over-the-top holes? Check out Peter Pan Mini Golf for a laidback afternoon or evening.
10) Rainey Street District
If you’re in the mood to bar hop or enjoy Texas-style eats, head to Rainey Street downtown! This entertainment district welcomes guests and their dogs to enjoy drinking, dancing, mingling, and dining. Restaurants, food trucks, and bars line this tucked away street, so get ready for a great night out.
11) East 6th Street
East Sixth features a unique blend of restaurants, cocktail bars, dive bars, food trucks, and shops. In the past decade, this area has significantly expanded and changed, with establishments opening left and right. Looking for something somewhat quieter than West 6th Street? East 6th has you covered.
12) West 6th Street
West 6th Street downtown brings crowds of locals and tourists each day, particularly on the weekends. One of the most frequently attractions in Austin, this is the area to drink, dance, listen to local live music, and get a little wild. Now, you can also find upscale and casual dining, as well as more relaxed dive bars like the Tiniest Bar in Texas or the Mean-Eyed Cat, but all locals know West 6th is a party zone.
13) Congress Avenue Bridge
One of the key attractions in Austin is to see its population of Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. From late March through early fall, visitors line the bridge and right below it in the park to view hundreds of thousands of bats fly out from under the bridge. The best time to typically see them is sunset, although they can fly out anywhere from 7:45 to 9:45. Further, note that parking is scarce, so arrive early and park near the bridge or the Austin Statesman. Also, if you can, we recommend biking over via the Butler Hike & Bike Trail or perhaps kayaking down Lady Bird Lake to avoid parking issues.
14) The Driskill Hotel
This iconic 19th century hotel sits at the corner of 6th Street and Brazos Street in the center of downtown, serving as a historic Texas landmark. With a gorgeous lobby area, conference rooms, hotel rooms, and dining areas, it’s honestly entertaining just to walk through the hotel even if you’re not a guest. Moreover, we do recommend having a drink in the hotel’s bar, which typically features live music and happy hour specials.
Plan Your Visit to Austin Today
Now that you know the top tourist attractions in Austin, where will you head to first? Eat large helpings of queso and chips for us!