While often overlooked, there are plenty of fun things to do in Austin, Texas. After all, it is the state’s capital. Austin is known for sunny weather, gorgeous parks, and an exciting live music scene. So, it can make a great vacation for you and your family. If you love spending your time outdoors and learning lots of fascinating history, then you will likely have a blast. It might not be the place for amusement parks and crazy crowds, but instead, it will provide you with more serene attractions. Here are 11 fun things to do when staying in Austin.
#1 – Texas Capitol Building
Like any capital city, you can’t miss the capitol building. You at least need to walk by and admire its beautiful structure. It was first built in 1888, and it now covers 22 acres, including the outdoor areas and monuments. It stands an impressive 308 feet tall, making it the sixth tallest capitol building in the United States. There are outdoor paths for guests to explore, along with an indoor visitor center with exhibits about the state’s history. Guests are always welcome to take a self-guided tour of the building during its open hours. Visiting the capitol building is free, so it’s a must-see attraction during your vacation, no matter how much time you plan to spend there.
#2 – Haunted Walking Austin History Tour
Sure, vacations can be peaceful, but some people prefer a little fear. If you’re a Halloween enthusiast, then this spooky walking tour might be a good plan for your trip. During this tour, a storyteller will walk you around Austin in a small group. They’ll take you to the nooks and crannies of the city, where supernatural events have supposedly occurred. You’ll learn all about historical stories of murder and mayhem that took place right in Austin. These stories might make it harder to sleep at night, but they’re sure to make a scenic tour much more interesting.
#3 – Blanton Museum of Art
For art lovers, the Blanton Museum of Art is one of the fun things to do in Austin. It’s located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, along with the Texas Memorial Museum and the Harry Ransom Center. This art museum is home to over 18,000 works of art including European, American, and Latin American pieces. Most visitors spend about an hour or two looking at art, so it’s a great way to take a break from the Texas heat in a relaxing and educational way. It has a unique collection of its own, along with rotating temporary exhibits. Plus, the university campus itself is also a beautiful area to walk around.
#4 – Bullock Texas State History Museum
Perhaps art isn’t your thing, and that’s okay! You can still learn lots in an air-conditioned space at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. This museum has a wide range of exhibits, and guests can expect to spend around half a day there. It has interactive exhibits, a gallery with over 500 artifacts, a 4-D theater, and the largest IMAX screen in Texas. This attraction first opened in 2001, and it has since brought in millions of visitors, both residents and those from out of town. The museum consistently has rotating exhibits related to the state’s history, so there’s always new excitement to uncover.
#5 – Zilker Metropolitan Park
If your idea of fun things to do in Austin includes outdoor adventures, then put Zilker Park on your list. It’s a 351-acre green space that sits along Lady Bird Lake. It’s the perfect place to go for an outdoor adventure or have a lazy day. It has picnic sites, walking trails, volleyball courts, and even a disc golf course. Within the park, there are many other attractions, including museums, swimming spots, and science centers. It’s a great place to walk around and explore in between other attractions. It’s even home to a botanical garden and a sculpture garden, both of which you’ll want to be sure to walk through. Beautiful nature spaces like this are some of the reasons that the city of Austin is rated so highly.
#6 – Barton Springs Pool
The Barton Springs Pool is one of the many attractions that can be found within the Zilker Metropolitan Park. It’s a massive public swimming pool that’s a favorite for both locals and visitors. It was once believed that this swimming area had spiritual healing powers, but now it’s mostly just used as a fun place to visit. This 3-acre pool was formed from underground springs, so it consistently stays 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Around the water, there are plenty of shady and sunny spots, so you can either cool off or sun tan when you’re not swimming. This outdoor pool is much more unique and beautiful than any man-made water space.
#7 – Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is another free outdoor attraction that you won’t want to miss. It’s a part of Covert Park, but it’s the most notable part of the park due to its scenic views. It has a limestone-paved staircase that leads to the top of Mount Bonnell, which is the perfect spot to view the sunset. Along the path, there are trees for shade, along with other beautiful plants. This walk isn’t considered an intense hike, and it can easily be done in everyday clothes. So, it’s worth the trip just for the unforgettable sights.
#8 – Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
Now, being near bats probably wasn’t on your list of fun things to do in Austin. But it is now! The Congress Avenue Bridge is well-known for its large bat population. Every night around sunset, a colony of about 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly away from their home, which is underneath the bridge. They head out into the night to devour many of the pesky insects. This usually only occurs from May to October, since the bats usually fly elsewhere during the winter. It might sound like a creepy sight, but it’s also incredible. You’ll never see so many bats in one place at the same time! Even if you’re not a fan of small animals, it can still be cool to view these sights from a distance.
#9 – Lady Bird Lake
If you visited the Zilker Metropolitan Park or the Congress Avenue Bridge, you already saw this magnificent lake. But there are still many other exciting adventures you can have on this lake. The Lady Bird Lake covers 416 acres, and it’s the prime space for kayaking and paddle boarding. Most of the shoreline has access to the public, and it’s also surrounded by walking trails, hotels, and tourist attractions. Motorized boats aren’t allowed on this lake, but there are plenty of rentals and lessons for smaller boats, such as canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and paddle boards. It’s the perfect way to spend a beautiful day outside.
#10 – Mexic-Arte Museum
The Mexic-Arte Museum is a great place filled with art and culture. It has traditional and contemporary pieces, including Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art. The museum was first founded in 1983, and it features both permanent and rotating exhibits. Many of the pieces cover topics like immigration, border patrol, and Mexican culture in Texas. It has all types of art, including painting, photography, and multimedia pieces. On select days throughout the year, the museum has free family days, which often include hands-on art experiences.
#11 – McKinney Falls State Park
In addition to the other outdoor adventures on this list, you should also check out the McKinney Falls State Park. It’s home to one of Texas’ best waterfalls. The waterfalls alone are beautiful enough, but the park is also filled with lots of hiking and biking trails, which go through the park’s limestone formations and wooded areas. It even has over 80 campsites for visitors to enjoy, so there’s no shortage of outdoor space. Thus, if you’d rather plan a camping trip than stay at a luxury hotel, that’s perfectly acceptable in Austin.
There are so many fun things to do in Austin, and they tend to be a little more relaxed than your typical vacation. Austin is often warm and sunny, so there are lots of outdoor adventures for you to partake in. Hopefully, this list helped make vacation planning a little bit easier for you!