Things to do in Austin, TX

More About Austin

A bastion of progressive thought amid Texas conservatism, Austin is not only the state's capital but is also a city made intriguing by its mix of government, university, culture and counterculture. Texas's fourth-largest city, Austin boasts a booming economy and an enviable quality of life, and its residents seek to make the seat of Travis County a reckoning force in technology, environmental concerns and music, to name but a few. Austin grew from a small settlement dating to the 1830s, which got an immense boost in prestige when it was chosen as the home base for the Republic of Texas. The settlement on the Colorado River ultimately chose its name to honor Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas," who embarked on a long struggle with Spanish and Mexican authorities before finally succeeding in bringing American settlers to populate the new territory. Numerous Austin historic sites tell the story of this city's early days. While traveling in Austin, you will see that it is distinguished by a gorgeous, attention-grabbing Capitol building, the lovely flagship campus of the University of Texas system, and an independent civic spirit that strives to cultivate what's worthy and distinctive. As proof of such character, the city happily promotes its "Keep Austin Weird" movement, which supports small local businesses while simultaneously combating the influx of corporate, big-business initiatives. In addition, the town revels in its population of bats (yes, bats), whose huge numbers draw folks to vacation in Austin and mesmerize them for the extent of their stays. Thanks to a location in Central Texas with the Hill Country to its west, the city is incredibly convenient to Lakes Town, Long, Austin, and Travis. As a result, Austin vacations are always in close proximity to a soothing lake, making hot, humid summers bearable and adding life to the expansive landscape. The terrain is also conducive to other athletic pursuits, including running, biking (what else in a town where Lance Armstrong lives!), and, by extension, competing in local triathlons. Beyond that, if you're intrigued by the prospect of enjoying the many things to do outdoors, Austin lays claim to Hippie Hollow, a public, county-run, clothing-optional beach. While enjoying your vacation in Austin, you will find that live music is chief among the city's claims to fame. Venues populate the city, especially along Sixth Street, and Austin City Limits, the venerable public television show, regularly broadcasts the city's — and the nation's — best performers. So great is Austin's esteem for the genre, in fact, that the city's official nickname is "The Live Music Capital of the World." Austin's arts mix also includes a substantial selection of festivals and arts organizations — not to mention a broad creative community — all of which provide the capital city its own special brand of energy and interest. Complementing the allure of music and culture is the variety of signature sights and things to do in Austin. Vacations in Austin, TX must include the Blanton Museum of Art, UT's impressive, light-filled facility that showcases the area's most substantial art holdings, and Zilker Metropolitan Park, a much-frequented green haven that comes complete with botanical and sculpture gardens and a refreshing, spring-fed pool. A plethora of restaurants also suits a populace schooled in vibrant flavors and satisfying experiences. They put forth everything from barbecue and casual Tex-Mex to exceptional French fare and sublime, chef-driven regional cuisine. It's no wonder, then, that Austin travel guides rate this as such a lovely place to visit, as amenable to good times as it is to bettering the lives of its citizens and breaking free of standard molds and expectations. The city even boasts a nationally-recognized "green" program that rewards residents for building and outfitting their homes and companies to be energy-efficient and gentle to the planet. This entrancing juxtaposition — a bureaucratic capital that's simultaneously so forward-thinking — is absolutely typical of Austin, a city that unites office towers and storefronts, politicians and hippies, lawmaking and art-making. Since there are so many things to do in Austin, vacations in this city are a wonderful experience full of future memories. Just make sure to don your burnt orange and cheer on those UT Longhorns — that's non-negotiable!

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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.