Austin, Texas (ATX) has become a popular destination to visit primarily for its music and food scene. There are some folks that visit and don’t check out the best of what ATX has to offer. They leave not having done what makes Austin, Austin! I’m here to remedy that. I have narrowed down all of the must do’s in order for you to make the most of your trip.
Must-See Things To Do In Austin
Most of what you should do in Austin is EAT (see “LET’S GET CHEESY” and “FOODGASMS IN AUSTIN” for specific recommendations). Below are suggestions from a high level perspective:
- Food Trucks Galore: Austin is known for it’s incredible volume & variety of food trucks, there are a few notable areas where you can explore multiple trucks where there’s also a seating area to chill at:
- 1720 Barton Springs Road (go to The Mighty Cone and Turf n Surf Po’ Boy)
- 1311 South 1st Street (ORIGINAL TORCHY’S!)
- 74 Rainey Street (Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts)
- 6th & Waller Street
- Up and down South Congress (Hey! Cupcake)
- TexMex: Takoba (queso fundido), Maudie’s, & el Alma. **Avoid Guero’s Taco Bar (it’s not good)
- BBQ: Salt Lick, Franklin, La Barbecue, Freedmen’s, Black’s, Iron Works, and the list goes on…the best of the best are a wait. Note that Salt Lick is a drive outside of Austin but worth the trip, they have live music on weekend and a huge patio where you can BYOB while you wait for your table. The others I have listed are all in Austin proper.
You can’t just eat! 🙂 You should also plan on seeing a show to get the complete ATX experience. Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, so get tickets to a live show or go during a popular music festival.
- Festivals: South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits (ACL), Fun Fun Fun Fest, and Blues on the green (every Wednesday in summer) *More to come soon on my thoughts re: SXSW
- Live Music: My favorite local venues to check out are Stubbs, Parish, and Continental Club. I also liked seeing shows at Banger’s on Rainey. In order to see shows at the first 3 venues or other notable spots, you will need to do research in advance of your arrival to purchase tkts.
Austin was more artsy than I anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise, especially if you appreciate murals and a variety at that (scenic, abstract, tile, etc.).
- When I went on a mural scavenger hunt with my friend Mykala we found a few sites to be particularly helpful: Mural Facts and Mural Locations.
- Favorite Murals: “I love you so much” (see South Congress), “I hate you so much” (parody, explore Rainey), Greetings from Austin (nearby original Torchy’s truck & Gourdough’s donuts), “Hi, How are you” (see UT Campus), and “You’re my butter half” (not near much).
- HOPE Outdoor Gallery (11th & Baylor St): Definitely worth a visit. Bring your tennis shoes to climb to the top for a great view of downtown. You can also bring your own spray can and paint your own creation!
Perfectly situated along the Colorado river, Austin offers numerous outdoor activities on and off the water:
- Mount Bonnell and Mayfield Park – Gorgeous views of downtown ATX and the CO River (or, as locals call it “Lake Austin”). I recommend going at sunset, see pictures below taken during the day. Mayfield Park, situated right next to Mount Bonnell, is a quaint park with peacocks!
- Town Lake / Lady Bird Lake – Picture below taken in winter, even prettier in spring/summer. Lots of fun activities along town lake including paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, etc.
- Lake Austin – Get on a boat & wake board/tube/water ski, etc. on Austin’s finest “lake”. Even though it isn’t actually a lake, it’s the CO river, it is fun 🙂 (Since I’m from the Midwest, where there are legit lakes, hearing the river referred to as various lakes always made me chuckle).
- Botanical Gardens – Definitely worth a visit and offers a great scenery for photos (especially formal pictures like senior high/engagement).
- 360 Overlook – Another spot for an excellent view of the river and downtown.
- Barton Springs – Go for a swim or lounge near Barton Springs (a natural water springs ). It’s a perfect summer day activity, there is also an ice cream truck nearby. $3 fee for adults.
- Zilker Park – Where the majority of the music festivals are hosted, this massive park is great for an afternoon picnic, a walk with your dog, or even a volleyball game with friends.
- The Greenbelt – Offers bike and hike trails, rock climbing and swimming with a range of difficulty levels. It is a large area and I wasn’t able to see all of it, if you’re up for a day adventure, make sure you check out the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
As you prepare for a trip or move to Austin, this website is really helpful in keeping up to date on what’s going on in the area: do 512.
Need to know where to eat in Austin? Here’s a list of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in ATX.
Looking for a coffee shop to do some work? Here are my favorite coffee shops in Austin.
Considering moving to Austin? Here’s the lowdown on all the pros and cons.