Things to do in Austin, TX

Get Your Bearings in Austin

By Krissy Mayse
Austin Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

When it comes to entertainment, it's all about individual personality and preferences.  Thankfully, Austin is not only made up of a diverse population, but also diverse attractions and places to visit.  Live music events abound nightly.  However, there are museums, exhibits, guided tours, swimming holes and even rock climbing experiences to be savored in the state's capital. Don't forget to try unique opportunities to learn about the city.  Texas Bike Tours takes you to several historic sites and provides dinner as part of the trip.  Austin Duck Adventures literally drives you into Lady Bird Lake.  

Hot Tips:

In summer, always bring sunblock to any outdoor event. Texas heat is scorching!

Caution:

Some venues close on weekdays so always call ahead first.

Where to Stay

Austin accommodations are plentiful.  The key is to focus on the purpose of your visit.  If you’ll be downtown for business or partying on Austin’s famous Sixth Street, you’ll find several hotels within walking distance of great restaurants, live music venues and even the State Capitol.  Don’t assume that downtown is “all city.”    The downtown area features access to Lady Bird Lake, and hiking and biking trails.  When visiting other areas of Austin, it’s a good idea to verify how far you'll be from your destinations.  Austin is super friendly to cyclists and walkers, and encourages public transportation. 

Hot Tips:

If you are flexible, don't forget to check surrounding cities for hotels. Good deals may be found very close to your destination. Round Rock and Cedar Park are connected to the upper north part of Austin.

Caution:

There is only one hotel close in proximity to the airport. There are several other chain hotels about 10 minutes away.

What to Eat

Austin is a foodie's paradise. Whether it's a chain restaurant or a local favorite you're seeking, you'll be able to satisfy your cravings.  Downtown is host to a variety of restaurants and upscale eateries that cater to the weekend nightlife.  From amazing high-end restaurants to gourmet food trailers featuring mouthwatering originals, Austin has it all.

Be Sure to Sample:

Entrees from at least one of Austin's funky but fabulous food trailers!

Take It or Leave It:

Skip the chain food restaurants. Ask about establishments that are local favorites instead.

Avoid:

Avoid taking IH-35 if you are short on time or have a reservation. Traffic can be a nightmare between 4-7pm on the weekends.

Places to Party

Austin is called the "Live Music Capital of the World" for good reason. You can find live music all over the city, no matter the time of day.  Nightlife here has a personality all its own.  Austin is home to the world's largest bat colony and every night people gather to watch them fly.  Others enjoy dancing in their favorite clubs while sharing drinks with friends. It can get pretty noisy at sunset out on the lake, and it can be pretty quiet on the haunted walking tours downtown!  

Take It or Leave It:

Parking can be an issue at some venues. Call ahead to see if valet service or other arrangements are offered for parking.

Hot Tips:

Pick up a copy of the Austin Chronicle (available free at many local businesses) to see up-to-date concert, show and event times.

Caution:

When attending concerts and live music events, advance purchase of tickets may be the only thing to get you in the door.

Where to Shop

Austin has self-defined style like nowhere else.  People-watch for a few minutes and you'll begin crafting your own style, too!  At some events, you'll rub shoulders with tuxedos and tattoos.  Blue jeans and cocktail dresses sit side by side in restaurants. Quirky styles catch your eye on the streets. Austin is home to upscale boutiques, specialty stores and swanky malls. Get your fitness attire in stores geared towards running or cycling.  Practice recycling by visiting local consignment stores.  Grab those trendy hand-tooled leather boots on South Congress (SoCo) where you'll find an entire strip of shops and galleries.

Hot Tips:

Ask shop owners if you can be put on the VIP mailing list. It often qualifies your for an instant discount!

Caution:

Mall parking can be brutal on the weekends. Channel your inner rockstar and visit boutiques and independent shops for local flavor.

Best Local Souvenir:

Pick up a T-shirt that says "Keep Austin Weird."

Things to do in Austin


Austin is known for...

Five of Austin's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Keeping it "Weird":

The "Keep Austin Weird" slogan reaches far beyond a marketing campaign. Austin is the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world" and the people of Austin reflect a friendly, accepting culture of artistic and individual expression that maintains the city as a vibrant and eclectic creative center. “Keep Austin Weird” is the mom and pop shop down the road, but it’s also the hippie with pet chickens. In a mostly conservative state, Austin is "Weird" because it continues to be that blue spot on a big red map. "Keep Austin Weird" moves beyond a mere slogan, to reflect the dynamics that encompass Austin.

2. Breakfast Tacos:

Austin can’t claim taco primacy, but when it comes to breakfast tacos, Austin is king. The breakfast taco to Austin is the bagel to Miami. There are hundreds and hundreds of venues in Austin in which to buy a breakfast taco, but it would be rare to find any two alike. The gas station taco is completely different than the taco trailer’s, which is different from the taco stand’s.  It’s the cross-pollination of cultures between Texas and our neighbors to the south. Breakfast tacos for dinner?  Sure, why not?

3. Food Trailers:

Los Angeles and New York City can have their food trucks, because Austin claims the food trailer. As witnessed on TV (and many  neighborhoods) the food truck/trailer movement is steadily gaining steam. Austin is home to nearly 1600 trailers, and they are serving up some of city’s best cuisine. Many of our locally grown trailers now have a brick and mortar counterpart, due to their success on wheels. Austin and Airstream now go hand in hand. 

4. The Lakes:

The Colorado River is the 18th longest river in the United States, but it also makes up three of the lakes within Austin city limits. Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake are three reservoirs that run through the city and serve as the city’s most popular escapes from the summer heat. Lake Travis is the largest of the three and it is ideal for fishing, boating, swimming, scuba diving, picnicking and camping. Lake Austin is mainly for boating, but is perfect for water sports. Lady Bird Lake is a major recreation area for the city because it bans motorized boats, so kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are more popular in this downtown location. Each lake takes on its own character, but together they create something that is uniquely Austin.

5. Festivals:

Walk the streets of downtown Austin and chances are you’ll encounter one of its festivals. From the Austin City Limits festival to internationally renowned SXSW to Eeyore’s Birthday, the city is always playing host to festival goers with a common interest. Then there are the free concerts in the summer and film events of winter.  Even our races and sporting events turn out to be a cause for celebration or a reason to visit Austin.