Austin is the capital of Texas and is known for its live music scene (SXSW anyone?). You might have heard how Austin has a really unique culture but don’t just take our word for it. You have to check out some of the places on our list and see for yourself.
Be sure to check out the three sections of Sixth street – West, East, and Dirty. West is, well, anything west of Congress Ave. East is anything east of I-35. Dirty is Congress Ave to I-35. Oh and did we mention that it’s also home to the University of Texas’ main campus? Home football games are a really big deal here. In addition to the food, music, sport and culture here, Austin also has several really cool parks with hiking and biking trails, lakes, swimming holes, and grottos that will make even the most avid outdoorsman or woman really happy.
We worked with locals Victoria Ramos and Sim and Jill Whatley (Caroline’s brother and sister and law) to be sure we weren’t missing anything, but as always, this is an evolving list that will continue to change as we find new things to see, do and eat so keep checking back and make a note of the date on the bottom to see when our list was last updated.
THE ULTIMATE AUSTIN BUCKET LIST – 101 THINGS TO DO IN AUSTIN TX
- ⬡ Alamo Helicopter Tours
- ⬡ Austin Aquarium
- ⬡ Austin Paintball
- ⬡ Austin Zoo
- ⬡ Cathedral of Junk
- ⬡ Circuit of the America’s (Auto Race Track)
- ⬡ Driveway Austin Motorsports (Drive Experience)
- ⬡ The Goodnight (Bowling)
- ⬡ HOPE Outdoor Gallery – the grounds aren’t open to the public
- ⬡ iFLY Austin Indoor Skydiving
- ⬡ LBJ Presidential Library
- ⬢ Littlefield Fountain
- ⬡ Moonlight Towers
- ⬡ Peter Pan Mini Golf
- ⬡ Pinballz Arcade
- ⬡ Rent Bikes and ride Around Town
- ⬡ Hunt Down SprATX Artwork
- ⬡ Take a Trapeze Class
- ⬢ Visit the Texas State Capitol
- ⬡ Wanderlust YOGA Austin
- ⬢ Zilker Botanical Garden
MEMORIALS + MUSEUMS
- ⬡ Austin Nature and Science Center
- ⬡ Blanton Museum of Art
- ⬡ Texas Capitol Visitors Center
- ⬢ Harry Ransom Center (Art) at the University of Texas – Austin
- ⬢ Learn about Texas History at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
- ⬡ Mexic-Arte Museum
- ⬡ Museum of the Weird
- ⬡ Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata – Ready to learn a new word? Ephemerata is something with no lasting significance, such as posters or stickers that were meant to serve a short-lived shelf life.
- ⬡ O. Henry Museum
- ⬡ Radha Madhav Dham, a temple
- ⬡ Sitagu Buddha Vihara, a temple
- ⬢ Texas State Cemetery
- ⬢ The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center (Your $5.00 admission also gets you into the Laguna Gloria)
- ⬢ Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
- ⬡ Xiang Yun Temple (called the International Buddhist Progress Society, IBPS, on Google)
- ⬡ Yard Dog Art
- ⬡ Allens Boots
- ⬡ Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
- ⬢ BookPeople
- ⬡ City Wide Garage Sale
- ⬡ Go antiquing at Uncommon Objects
- ⬢ Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds
- ⬡ Tesoros Trading Company
- ⬡ TOMS Austin
- ⬡ Toy Joy
- ⬡ Waterloo Records & Video
SHOWS + VENUES
- ⬡ Antone’s Nightclub (Blues)
- ⬡ Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
- ⬡ Broken Spoke
- ⬡ Carousel Lounge
- ⬡ Chicken Shit Bingo at Little Longhorn Saloon
- ⬡ Comedy at Esther’s Follies
- ⬡ Historic Scoot Inn
- ⬡ Jazz at the Elephant Room
- ⬡ Karaoke at Ego’s
- ⬡ Mohawk Austin
- ⬡ One World Theater
- ⬡ Paramount Theater
- ⬡ See live music at Austin City Limits Live (ACL Live at the Moody Theater)
- ⬡ See live music at Donn’s Depot
- ⬡ The Continental Club
- ⬡ White Horse
OUTDOORS + URBAN PARKS
- ⬡ Austin Bouldering Project
- ⬡ Austin Sailboat Rentals – Take a sailing lesson
- ⬢ Barton Creek Greenbelt
- ⬡ Deep Eddy Pool
- ⬡ Go swimming at the Hamilton Pool Preserve, a natural grotto
- ⬡ Go swimming in Barton Springs Pool
- ⬡ Go Tubing
- ⬡ Hippie Hollow Park, the only legally recognized clothing optional public park in Texas
- ⬡ Hike up Mount Bonnell / Covert Park for a view of the city
- ⬢ Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
- ⬢ Lady Bird Lake – Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail
- ⬡ Lake Travis Scuba
- ⬡ Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
- ⬡ Lone Star Riverboat Cruises – Take a sunset tour on the Colorado River
- ⬡ Longhorn Cavern State Park
- ⬡ Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve – look for the peacocks!
- ⬡ McKinney Falls State Park
- ⬡ NLand Surf Park
- ⬡ Red Bud Isle Park, let your dog off-leash here!
- ⬡ Ride a horse with Texas Trail Rides
- ⬡ Rock-About Climbing Adventures
- ⬡ Sparky Park
- ⬡ St. Edwards Park for more swimming hole fun
- ⬡ Take an electric bike tour
- ⬡ Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center
- ⬡ Zip Lost Pines
FOOD + DRINK*
- ⬡ Austin Beerworks
- ⬡ Banger’s on Cocktail Row (Rainey Street) – grab a drink
- ⬡ Big Top Candy Shop
- ⬢ Guero’s Taco Bar
- ⬢ Lazarus Brewing Co.
- ⬡ Live Oak Brewing Company
- ⬢ Prohibition Creamery
- ⬡ Spider House Patio Bar & Cafe – great people watching
- ⬡ PubCrawler of Austin
- ⬢ Zilker Brewing Company
*Will have a separate list for just food soon!
- ⬡ See a University of Texas home football game (fall)
- ⬡ See the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge (summer nights)
(Pro Tip: Rent a boat and take a Congress Ave. Bat Tour tour with Live Love Paddle.)
- ⬡ SXSW (March)
Tips for First Time Visitors
- The Capital Metro runs routes all over, from downtown and back. There’s also a late night route called Night Owls.
- Yellow Cab and Austin Cab if you want to go the old-fashioned route.
- Car2Go Austin is community car sharing. Park it anywhere, anytime within the Home Area.
- Austin B Cycle if you want to bike around, one of my favorite ways to see a new place.
- Pedicabs for the most adventurous.
When to Visit
- Peak season is September – November and March – May. The weather is pretty picture perfect with temps in the 70’s and 80’s. Many festivals take place during these months, so be sure to plan your hotel stays and book your flights with as much notice as possible cause rates will certainly be higher.
- Low season is June – August. Though the summer heat and humidity don’t scare away too many non-locals, the temps soar to the high 90’s in the summer.
- Shoulder season is December – February. Austin rarely sees snow and even the cold fronts are short lived. Temps hover in the low 60’s.
- Metered parking is $1 per hour with a 3-hour limit. Austin can get extremely congested. Make sure you read the signs closely, some of them can be confusing. There is some parking in East Austin that is free in the mornings and daytimes and only requires you to pay from 6 pm to midnight. On the flip side, there were places downtown where we saw workers writing tickets all day long.
- Parking Garages – There are over 20 downtown. The rates and hours/length of availability vary with each location. The average rate is $3.00 for a half hour and $18 a day. ParkMe offers real-time information for Austin parking garages. It also allows you to reserve a spot. Give it a look if you know your destination!
- Valet – Many businesses offer valet services, so it’s worth checking ahead to see if that’s available.
Neighborhoods to Check Out
- East Austin (7th Street) – It reminded us a little bit of our neighborhood in Asheville: great food (some of it in food trucks) great coffee and beer, live music almost all of the time and street art everywhere.
- North Loop has been gaining steam in the last few years as the Mueller Airport relocated and left a bit more peace and quiet in it’s wake. Indie shops are the claim to fame here.
- University Hills has been making over it’s brick houses built in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s and filling them with a more diverse crowd: same sex couples and young professionals sans children. The neighborhood also has a park and great eats in every direction.
- Cedar Park and Cedar Park Center give you lots of room to spread out. This is suburbia at its best. With 90 acre Brushy Creek Lake Park and the Cedar Park Sculpture Garden within 500 acres of parkland, you can skate, canoe, kayak, and fish.
- Topo Chico Mineral Water is a religion; some people probably even bathe in it.
- Expect to be the most unpopular person in the theatre if you talk or text during the movie.
- You can play a live version of Where’s Waldo during your visit, only you will be looking for a man on a bike wearing only nude colored thong underwear.
- Though the city agrees SXSW has gotten too big, they still really REALLY love it.
- If you’re in Austin on a Friday, keep your eyes peeled for free art. If you find a piece of free art, be sure to claim it on Instagram by tagging the artist in social media. Follow the clues on Instagram at #atxfreeartfriday
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Did we miss anything? What would your ideal trip to Austin include?