Top 20 Austin Attractions & Things To Do You Just Cannot Miss

Last Updated on February 24, 2024 by Nikki Jain

Austin is a city that embraces its weirdness and is captivating enough to make it one of the best places to visit in Texas. As the capital of Texas, Austin is a political, cultural, and entertainment hub with tons of things to do. Explore some of the Austin attractions to discover what makes the city a favorite destination in the Lone Star State.

With famous live music venues, vast urban parks, to unusual sights, you'll have plenty of things to do in Austin. It's a destination that everyone can enjoy. Whether you're looking for a fun night out with friends or a place to spend time with young kids, Austin has it all.

You’ll be surprised at how many events are happening around Austin throughout the year. We’ll explore some of the best parks and venues to find festivals, music concerts, cultural events, and more. And there are also places to go in Austin for relaxation. Let’s take a look at some of the top tourist attractions in Austin to check out while you’re in town!

Things To Do in Austin

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1: Sixth Street

Sixth Street

Austin is considered the "Live Music Capital of the World" thanks to the iconic Sixth Street. Sixth Street is Austin's nightlife hub, where you'll find more than 100 bars, restaurants, and music venues.

The best time to visit is from Thursday to Saturday when the entire street becomes a city-hosted block party.

Nicknamed the Dirty 6th, it's where most locals and visitors go to the party. Most of the best bars are located between North Lamar Boulevard and I-35.

You'll have several blocks to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. On the weekends, the street is pedestrian-only and creates a fun atmosphere.

Walk the street to see the glowing neon lights from the bars. You can find some cheap drinks, great live music, dancing, and more. There’s a venue for everyone playing various music genres and fun bar themes.

The area is always packed with partygoers, but it’s a safe area where you can enjoy a fun night out with friends.

Address: E 6th St, Austin, TX

2: Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool
Flickr/Lars Plougmann

The famous Barton Springs Pool is one of the most popular attractions in Austin. It’s a place for enjoying year-round swimming in ideal water conditions regardless of the season. Bring the entire family or go for a swim with friends.

Barton Springs Pool contains water from Barton Spring, one of the largest natural springs in Texas. The water is regulated for refilling the pool and cleaning.

It maintains a consistent temperature all year. It’s cool enough for a refreshing dip in the summer and warm enough to swim in the winter.

The pool is 1,000-ft long in a rectangular shape lined with a paved sidewalk. The emerald-colored waters reach depths of 18-ft. Lifeguards are present seasonally, making it a safe place to go for all ages.

After swimming, you can dry off on the grassy hillside lawns. There are several trees providing shade.

Barton Springs Pool is open to the public with an entrance fee. If you visit during the winter, you can enter for free.

Address: 2201 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746

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3: LBJ Presidential Library

LBJ Presidential Library
Lauren Gerson

A trip to the LBJ Presidential Library will be an insightful look at the documents and archives of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The building houses a library and museum dedicated to his presidency. Explore each of the rooms and enjoy some of the interactive features.

LBJ Presidential Library is located on the UT Austin campus. It opened in 1971, just a couple of years after his presidency ended. The 10-story building has lots of features, including exhibitions and scale replica rooms.

The museum exhibits historical documents, art, photos, and more. You’ll get to see many of the bills passed while he served in office and learn about his widespread impact.

There is a replica of the Oval Office and the office of the First Lady. One of the most surprising features is the robot LBJ figure.

It’s one of the top Austin attractions, both for learning about history and seeing art.

Take some time to walk into each room. Once you make it to the terrace, you’ll have an incredible view of the Texas Capitol Building.

Address: 2313 Red River St, Austin, TX 78705

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4: McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park
Shutterstock/Tricia Daniel

Austin gives you a chance to enjoy one of the best state parks in Texas – the McKinney Falls State Park. The park covers over 700 acres, where you’ll find incredible natural landmarks, outdoor recreation, and historical sites.

McKinney Falls State Park was land formerly owned by Thomas F. McKinney. It was donated to the state and developed into a state park attraction. You can still see the ruins of his stone house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Two of the main highlights in the park are the Upper and Lower McKinney Falls. The waterfalls provide beautiful scenery and a chance to go for a swim. Visitors can jump into the water from the surrounding rocks or simply admire the views.

Hiking, mountain biking, and fishing are a few of the favorite things to do in the park. There are tons of trails to explore where you’ll encounter the diverse plant and animal life.

Camping is also permitted at one of the 80 designated campsites suitable for RVs and tents.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then a visit to the McKinney Falls State Park is all it takes to realize why it’s one of the best tourist spots in Austin.

Address: 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744

5: The University of Texas at Austin Campus

The University of Texas at Austin Campus

Austin is home to the University of Texas (UT), a major public university. It’s a historical university founded in 1883 and remains one of the leading universities in the country.

The beautiful campus is worth checking out, and we recommend taking a guided tour of the campus which is one of the best things to do in Austin.

UT has more than 50,000 students. The campus is always bustling with activities from student life, tours, and events, and more.

You can walk the campus on your own or take a guided tour. It's a large campus with lots of landmark buildings and statues. You'll get to see the iconic clock tower building and the sports stadiums.

It's the most decorated university in the Big 12 Conference – if you get a chance, attend a football game at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium or a basketball game at the Frank C. Erwin, Jr., Special Events Center.

Be sure to drop by the bookstore to pick up UT merchandise and other souvenirs of your visit.

Address: Austin, TX 78712

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Also Read: Top 15 Most Beautiful College Campuses in the USA

6: Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake
Flickr/J Dimas

Lady Bird Lake is one of the main Austin attractions for outdoor recreation in Austin. Trails surround the artificial lake, or you can enjoy water activities in the water.

The lake is a reservoir formed from the Colorado River, initially used for flood control. The lake is named after the former First Lady, who made contributions towards the lake’s beautification and recreational use.

One of the main attractions is the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. The trail extends for 20km around the lake. There are always people walking, running, and biking for exercise and leisure. Feel free to bring your pets on the trails.

Check out some of the boat rentals at the lake for kayaking and canoeing. You might spot the local university row teams practicing in the lake. You’ll have a scenic view of the Downtown Austin skyline.

The lake is also the site of lakefront music venues that host annual festivals year-round. Check local events to see what’s happening when you visit.

Address: Austin, TX 78704

Also Read: 25 Most Beautiful Lakes in the US

7: Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bullock Texas State History Museum
Flickr/Jordan Hatcher

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is one of the best tourist attractions in Austin to learn about the rich Texas history. Opened in 2001, the museum exhibits more than 16,000 years of Texas history, from early civilizations to European settlement to the modern-day.

Bullock Texas State History Museum features exhibitions and galleries across three floors. Each floor represents a theme highlighting Texas’ land, identity, and opportunity. You’ll get to see different artifacts, photos, and other multi-media displays that detail the story of the state.

The museum is named after Bob Bullock, who was instrumental in preserving the state’s history. The current collection holds more than 500 historical artifacts. You can easily spend hours wandering around the permanent exhibits and temporary galleries.

The building has an IMAX movie theatre, a café, a gift shop, and a museum. There are also several educational programs hosted throughout the year.

Visitors must purchase museum tickets in advance before arriving. It’s free entry for everyone on the first Sunday of every month.

Address: 1800 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

8: Zilker Metropolitan Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Spend a weekend in Austin hanging out at the Zilker Metropolitan Park. The urban park setting is a fun destination for recreation or enjoying views of the Austin skyline. There’s plenty of things to see and do for everyone.

Zilker Metropolitan Park is 350-acres in central Austin. On a nice day, it’s filled with locals and visitors for leisure. The favorite activities in the park are hiking, biking, and sports.

There are several sporting fields available for everyone. Visit some of the park attractions, like the Zilker Botanical Garden, Zilker Hillside Theatre, and nature and science center.

It’s also a popular water destination to cool off in the hot Texas heat. Barton Springs Pool, Lady Bird Lake, and the Colorado River are a few nearby attractions.

Grab a bite to eat and picnic out on the lawn with one of the best skyline views. It also hosts music festivals and other cultural activities throughout the year.

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Austin, you’ll be impressed by the Zilker Metropolitan Park.

Address: 2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746

9: South Congress Avenue

South Congress Avenue

If you genuinely want to experience the local Austin atmosphere, South Congress Avenue is one of the best places to visit in Austin.

Nicknamed SoCo, it is a hub for visitors and locals to enjoy dining, shopping, and entertainment. Walk around the vibrant neighborhood to discover one of the trendiest places in Austin.

The main SoCo area starts right across the bridge south of Downtown. As soon as you cross, you’ll have a handful of blocks lined with restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, and more.

There are always lots of people hanging out, so it’s an excellent place for people-watching.

SoCo is the place to be in the daytime or the nighttime. During the day, stop by one of the local restaurants to taste delicious seafood, BBQ, and ice cream. At night, the street becomes a lively nightlife destination with lots of bars and live music.

If possible, visit on the first Thursday of the month to experience the monthly block party.

Address: S Congress Ave, Austin, TX

10: Texas State Capitol Building

Texas State Capitol Building
Dreamstime/Jason Stitt

You can’t visit Austin without stopping by the Texas State Capitol Building. It houses the state government and is one of the most famous landmark buildings in Austin.

You’ll have an incredible view as you approach it on Congress Avenue Downtown. The capitol building is open to the public for tours to learn about Texas history or walk the grounds to admire the architecture.

Texas State Capitol Building was built in 1885 and prominently used locally sourced limestone. It ranks as one of the tallest capitol buildings in the US, thanks to the massive dome on top. In later years it received a major expansion for multiple levels underground.

Visitors can take guided tours inside the building and around the grounds. Inside, you’ll get to see lots of artwork and portraits from local political figures in the rotunda and peek inside the chambers when not in session.

There are several notable monuments around the manicured grounds and a view of the underground expansion.

Address: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

Also Read: 10 Most Beautiful State Capitol Buildings in the US

11: UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum

UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum
Flickr/Nick Amoscato

View original artworks from one of Texas’ most celebrated sculptors, Charles Umlauf, at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum.

The city of Austin established the sculptor garden after a sizeable personal donation of 168 sculptors that you can see on display throughout the site.

There are two areas to explore at the attraction, the outdoor sculpture garden and a museum. The sculpture garden features 40 sculptures artistically decorating the natural setting.

Walk around the gardens and see some of his most famous sculptures like the Kiss and The Diver.

The museum was built a few years after the gardens were established. It has rotating exhibitions of the remaining donated sculptures. It also hosts temporary exhibitions from local Texas artists and international guests.

Be sure to check out some of the workshops and programs hosted at the museum, suitable for all ages. You’ll get a hands-on experience with art and sculptures while learning about the legacy of Umlauf.

Address: 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704

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12: Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell
Flickr/Randall Chancellor

If you’re looking for the picturesque views in Austin, look no further than Mount Bonnell. Rising nearly 800-ft, the summit offers views of the Austin Skyline and Lake Austin.

It’s a popular photo opportunity spot and even checking out a scenic sunset.

Mount Bonnell is also referred to as Covert Park. It’s recognized as a Texas Historic Landmark and includes a Texas Historical Marker at the top for reading.

The hike to the top is relatively short and easy. There are 100 steps to climb that kids can even do with ease.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll have a few observation points to get sweeping views of the city below. There is also a short hiking trail. Pets are allowed.

The daytime is the most popular time to visit when it’s easiest to see Lake Austin. You’ll see lots of people hanging out and taking photos. Stick around for the sunset to see the sunset below the Austin hillsides.

Address: 3800 Bonnell Dr, Austin, TX 78731

13: Blanton Museum of Art

Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art (BMA) is one of the largest university art museums in the US. It’s located on the UT Austin campus is a beautiful building that holds an extensive art collection from around the world.

There are nearly 18,000 works of art displayed in permanent and temporary exhibitions at the BMA. It has the most extensive collection of Latin American art in the country.

There are galleries dedicated to showcasing Latin American art, European Art from the Old Masters, Modern and Contemporary Art, Western American art, and more.

Visit the museum to see art in various mediums – paintings, drawings, antiques, and statues. It also hosts a performance series every year.

BMA is one of the must-visit attractions in Austin, where you’ll get to see famous art from around the world in a modern setting. There are many other facilities within the museum, including a café, gift shop, and auditorium.

More than 150,000 people visit the museum annually. Visitors must make ticket reservations online to visit.

Address: 200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78712

14: Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve

Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
Flickr/Jane Hammons

Spend some leisure time walking the tranquil grounds of Mayfield Park. Mayfield Park is a nature preserve and gardens that feature some unique flora and decorative structures.

Going to this park is one of the fun things to do in Austin.

It’s famous for having peacocks walking freely around the grounds. It’s a great stop to add while visiting Mount Bonnell.

Mayfield Park is established at the former Mayfield-Gutsch Estate. The historic cottage was built in the 1870s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house was donated to the City of Austin and converted into a public park. The cottage is available for hosting events.

Many of the grounds were developed by the former owners of the property. It expands approximately 23 acres with botanical gardens, wooded areas, ponds, and streams.

Visitors can walk the nature trails on the property through the woods and see some unique flora and wildlife.

It’s always a good place to enjoy some shade on a sunny day in Austin.

Address: 3505 W 35th St, Austin, TX 78703

15: Congress Avenue Bridge and Austin Bats

Congress Avenue Bridge and Austin Bats
Shutterstock/Kushal Bose

As the sun begins to set, head to the Congress Avenue Bridge to witness one of the most spectacular sights to see in Austin.

More than one million bats live beneath the bridge and emerge at night. You’ll understand why Austin embraces its weirdness when you see the rare sight.

Congress Avenue Bridge is an arch bridge extending over Lady Bird Lake connecting Downtown Austin with South Austin.

The bridge design and conditions make it the perfect nesting place for bats. It’s home to the largest urban bat colony in the world.

The best time to see the bats is during the summer. Every night loads of people gather to see the bats in flight. There are several places to get great views of the event.

You can stand on top of the bridge and see the bats fly from beneath you or take one of the boat cruises where you’ll be right under them.

The Mid-august Bat Fest celebrates the winged residents with live music, food, vendors, and a bat costume contest.

Address: Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

16: Auditorium Shores at Town Lake Metropolitan Park

Auditorium Shores at Town Lake Metropolitan Park

Check the events calendar when visiting Austin because there’s always something happening down at Auditorium Shores.

It’s a large park on the shores of Lady Bird Lake used as an outdoor venue to host festivals, music concerts, and more.

Auditorium Shores is an incredible place to enjoy live entertainment. It has scenic views of Downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake.

It hosts several events throughout the year, including SXSW, the Austin Food & Wine Festival, and more. The park fills up with attendees to enjoy some of the best entertainment and activities in the city.

When not hosting an event, the park is a popular leisure and recreational space. It’s a pet-friendly park where dogs can roam around without a leash.

You’ll see lots of people having picnics or playing sports on the lawn. There’s plenty of room to run around and space out.

It’s a popular place to stop in between activities to relax and take in the city views.

Address: 900 W Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78704

17: Austin Aquarium

Austin Aquarium

The Austin Aquarium opened in 2013 and quickly became one of the top family-friendly things to do in Austin. It’s the city’s main aquarium that’s home to over 8,000 animals.

Explore the various interactive activities and get hands-on with your favorite animals.

Austin Aquarium is a large facility that holds more than just marine life. It features animals from the ocean, desert, and tropical regions.

Some of the favorite animals to see are sharks, giant squid, stingrays, and lemurs. While most aquariums give just a viewing experience in the large tanks, this museum adds a special touch to every visit.

When you arrive, you can purchase tokens to use at the different activity areas. You’ll have a rare opportunity to feed sharks, touch crocodiles, and hold a snake. You can also enter inside the birdcage and bunny cages.

All of the activities at the aquarium are kid-friendly, and they’ll indeed have a fun time interacting with the animals.

Address: 13530 US-183 #101, Austin, TX 78750

18: Mexic-Arte Museum

Mexic-Arte Museum
Flickr/Mike Prosser

Austin has a large Mexican community that you can connect with through the Mexic-Arte Museum. The museum offers an intimate space to immerse yourself into the Latin culture through art.

Mexic-Arte Museum focuses on Mexican and Latin American Art – it does a great job at promoting and showcasing the works of local artists and native Latin artists. It’s a great way to experience the diversity in Austin.

The museum is located on Congress Avenue in the Warehouse District. The venue has permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions to see various art mediums like paintings and sculptures.

It features work from famous Mexican artists to emerging local talent.

It’s one of the best places to go in Austin to see Mexican Fine Art. The style of art is very distinct and appropriately tells the story about the heritage. The rich culture truly comes to life in the museum.

If you’re visiting with kids, there are several programs hosted for learning crafts. Be sure to visit the gift shop for some cool souvenirs.

Address: 419 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

Bring the kids along to experience one of the most fun attractions in Austin. The Thinkery is a children’s museum that mixes learning with fun.

You’ll be surprised how captivated your kids are at each of the interactive exhibitions. It will be hard to leave with all of the fun they’ll have.

The Thinkery opened in 1983 but later relocated to a new facility to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors it gets every year.

The museum has multiple floors full of fun exhibitions to give kids a hands-on learning experience. Each of the activities focuses on the themes of science, technology, and art.

Some of the popular exhibits are the floating balls, a play diner, Lite Brite, seeing gravity in action, and building blocks. There will be plenty of other kids to play with or enjoy as a family.

The Thinkery also hosts educational programs throughout the year.

Address: 1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723

20: Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater

Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
Flickr/Lars Plougmann

You don't have to live in Austin to know about the Austin City Limits Live. Many people first get a taste of the famous music venue via its long-running TV program showing live music concerts.

Well, now, you have a chance to join over the live audience at the iconic venue live.

Seeing a show at the Austin City Limits Live is one of the top things to do in Austin. It’s one of the premier venues in a major entertainment complex.

The award-winning space has hosted some of the most notable names in music. It’s recognized as a rock and roll landmark but also hosts musicians from other genres.

Austin City Limits Live has about 100 concerts every year. Check the schedule to see what bands are playing during your visit.

An alternative is taking a venue tour to see behind the scenes of everything from the box office to backstage.

Address: 310 W Willie Nelson Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

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