Tons of Austin Attractions to Visit
First time in Austin and looking for places to see? Don’t miss landmarks such as University of Texas Tower and unique cultural highlights like Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and Blanton Museum of Art. If some outdoor time is on the agenda, experience the natural beauty of Zilker Park, Zilker Botanical Garden and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Since the city of Austin is situated on the banks of the Colorado River, it consists of three man-made lakes that serve as ideal venues for swimming, boating, and other recreational activities. The city enjoys a humid subtropical climate due to which it has hot summers and mild winters with most of the rainfall and thunderstorms occurring during the spring season. Austin’s characteristics match with four ecological regions namely the desert, the tropics, and the humid areas and it is due to this reason that the area is home to diverse varieties of flora and fauna. Snowfall is rare in Austin although it may occur once in a while and freeze everything in the city.
You could easily spend a day shopping at Southwood Center, Brodie Oaks Shopping Center and Barton Square Mall. If you have extra time, you might want to explore the campuses of University of Texas at Austin and Huston Tillotson University. Don’t forget to buy tickets if you want to attend a game or event at Frank Erwin Center or Mike A. Myers Stadium. Other popular places to visit in town include Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Capitol and LBJ Presidential Library.
Scenic views in and around Austin
Austin is located on the Colorado River, with three man-made lakes within city limits: Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake and Lake Walter E. Long. Lady Bird Lake, formerly Town Lake, divides the city between north and south and is the spot where locals like to hit the trails for a picturesque waterfront walk or run. Climbing Mount Bonnell’s 102 steps is well worth the effort, especially at sunrise or sunset. The natural limestone formation offers one of the best views in the city. And because Austin sits on the edge of the rolling landscape of the Texas Hill Country, it’s the perfect basecamp for daytrippers to experience the vineyards, lavender farms and small-town charm of nearby Fredericksburg and the surrounding area.
Top Attractions in Austin
Some of the noteworthy attractions in the city of Austin are listed as follows:
The Barton Springs Pool is an ideal picnic location where one can have the unique experience of swimming in chlorine-free water, sunbathing on the rocks, or just basking in the sun on the grassy slopes. Since the spot maintains a steady temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year and is also equipped with restroom facilities, a diving board, a playscape for children and a number of concession stands, it serves as a comfortable venue for a family outing throughout the year.
Mount Bonnell is a popular tourist attraction not only because it is one of the highest points in the city but also due to its romantic aura which is believed to make couples fall in love and tie the knot with good feelings and mutual admiration. The 99 steps which lead to the pinnacle provide one with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the city as well as the famous Lake Austin.
Another longstanding Austin Attractions favorite for both locals and tourists and photographers of all persuasions, Mount Bonnell offers some unforgettable views of Lake Austin, the Highway 360 Pennybacker Bridge, and even the Austin skyline.
Access to this city-maintained park is relatively easy and there are two pedestrian choices for the climb – a shorter but steeper stair route from the south or a longer but more gradual rock and dirt path from the north.
Take a camera and, if it’s in the heat of summer, definitely take some water (you won’t find any on-site).
The Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue was erected in 1994 to commemorate one of the city’s famous musicians named Stevie Ray Vaughan who enthralled the audience with his exceptional guitar playing abilities combined with unforgettable lyrics.
The Texas State Capitol holds the honor of being the tallest building in the country at a height of 309 feet thereby echoing the Texan motto which says ‘everything is bigger in Texas’. This vast monument of red granite which is surrounded by spacious lawns took seven years of persistent labor and hard work and was finally completed in 1888.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park is a haunt for nature lovers as it features lakes, waterfronts, campsites, and lots of oak, juniper, and ash trees spread over an area of 1000 acres of land. The lakes and waterfronts are utilized by the visitors for skiing, boating, fishing, and swimming whereas the 66 campsites offer one the opportunity of living in the midst of nature.
The Blazer Lazer Tag is a maze of towers, ramps, and bridges accentuated by light and sound effects, music as well as fog which gives an ultimate feeling of the laser world within the largest laser tag arena of the state. This facility is for all age groups and it is obligatory for the participants to wear a lightweight vest and carry a futuristic phaser.
Pease Park is the favorite haunt of dog lovers as it is one of those rare locations which insist on the unleashing of pets in order to enable them to run, play and jump freely. Besides seeing a number of happy and ecstatic canines, one can also play disc golf here with Frisbees.
Zilker Christmas Tree Lighting involves a 175-foot tall Christmas tree that is illuminated with 4000 twinkling lights. It is a tradition in the city that this tree would remain lighted from early December till the end of the year and during this time it would spin on its center point with people standing at the base and twirling with it and enjoying the dazzling light show in the process.
Swisher-Scott House is a historic site that served as the residence of the famous architect Abner Cook in 1856 and later belonged to a native actor named Zachary Scott. It still functions as a private home but is also a heritage site of the city.
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum – Named in honor of the late Bob Bullock, longtime State Comptroller, and Lieutenant Governor during the 1990s who was a major supporter of the Texas State History Museum. It opened in 2001 shortly after Bullock’s death.
The impressive three-story building features interactive exhibits with a separate theme for each floor: Land, Identity, and Opportunity. Group and reserved tours are available as well as limited free walk-in tours. The museum has two theaters – the multimedia and special effects Texas Spirit Theater as well as Austin’s only IMAX Theater.
Located just a few blocks north of the Capitol, the museum offers underground parking for a flat $8/day.
6th Street – Austin’s most famous street and a big reason why the city refers to itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” The seven or so blocks west of I-35 is home to numerous clubs, bars, restaurants, and tattoo parlors, drawing large and diverse crowds.
Notable establishments include The Parish, B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, Maggie Mae’s, Pete’s Piano Bar, Esther’s Follies, and the Iron Cactus Restaurant.
Best times to visit 6th Street if you really love large crowds and a festive atmosphere are Halloween, Mardi Gras, and South by Southwest (SXSW).
South Congress Avenue – Laidback and bohemian, the South Congress (SoCo) Shopping District takes the stress out of anyone’s day. Known mostly for its retro hipness, the area has revitalized itself considerably in recent years.
Gone are the 24-hour adult movie theater, the trolling prostitutes (especially when the Legislature was in session), and the landmark Austin Motel has been transformed from seedy motel to Austin treasure. With the added polish comes the criticism by some locals that more than just the seediness has been lost.
But much of the quirkiness and laid-back charm remains, and if you’ve ever been to a town or place where time stood still, you’ll understand how necessary change can be. So enjoy the old and the new – from Austin musical landmark The Continental Club and the popular First Thursday street-side revelry to, yes, even the sight of Starbucks and all those new condos in the area.
Austin Live Music – It’s not just 6th Street clubs and bars where Austin live music thrives. Two legendary Austin attractions and music venues, Antone’s Nightclub and Stubbs BBQ, along with other Austin mainstays such as La Zona Rosa, Emo’s, and the Mohawk are all downtown in neighboring areas.
Other Austin favorites include: The Continental Club, the Saxon Pub, and the Broken Spoke in South Austin; the small and intimate singer-songwriter Cactus Cafe as well as the big act touring venue Frank Erwin Center, both on the UT campus; and Threadgill’s at both north and south restaurant locations.
Austin Music Festivals – Austin takes seriously its claims of being the “Live Music Capital of the World.” And it isn’t just live music in clubs, bars, restaurants, and coffee houses.
It seems that most recurring annual Austin events and festivals aren’t complete unless they have a live music component. Even the Austin Marathon features live bands playing along the 26-mile course.
And then there are the major music festivals held each year in Austin, including South by Southwest (SXSW), the Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Fest), the Austin Reggae Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Texas RockFest, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival, the Urban Music Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Lone Star State Jam, and the Old Settler’s Music Festival.
Austin Bats – No Austin Attractions list is complete without a mention of our migratory Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. Every evening at dusk from early spring through late fall, one of the largest migratory bat colonies in North America emerge from beneath the underside of the Congress Avenue Bridge to feed on millions of insects and begin their nocturnal day.
And every evening at the same time, tourists and locals line up atop the bridge, congregate on nearby hotel grounds, gather along both shores of Lady Bird Lake, or take to local cruise ships to watch them pour en masse from beneath the bridge and into the sunset reddened sky.