With a motto like “Keep Austin Weird,” you’ll find that there are plenty of offbeat things to do in Austin, Texas. Hyper chic, yet quirky and casual, Austin welcomes out-of-town guests with a youthful buzz that promises to keep the city wonderfully different. And authentic: Beyond the trendy beer gardens and boutiques, it’s easy to find old-school music joints, dive restaurants serving up giant platters of sauce-drenched ribs or cheesy Tex-Mex, and Western-wear shops that sell cowboy boots and dinner-plate-sized belt buckles. And plan on spending lots of time outside – Austin is filled with parks, lakes and walking paths that make it easy to enjoy the moderate climate and lush green landscape.
Top 10 things to do in Austin, Texas
There’s always something blooming at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a 279-acre botanical wonderland where more than 2 miles of walking paths lead to wildflower meadows, shady forests and a green lawn perfect for kite flying. The pristinely landscaped gardens feature over 800 species of native plants, making it one of the most peaceful and picturesque thing to do in Austin, Texas. Take it all in from the top of the brown sandstone observation tower, overlooking the center and surrounding area.
Get those legs ready for a workout! Climb the 106 stone steps to the top of Mount Bonnell and you’ll be rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of downtown Austin, the 360 Bridge, the rolling hill country and Lake Austin.
As with all travel in America – and elsewhere, taking the time to learn a bit of history is part of what makes the trip memorable. At the LBJ Presidential Library, recordings of phone conversations reveal the full measure of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Texas-sized personality. Exhibits including a recreated Oval Office, LBJ’s presidential limousine and gifts from world leaders reveal an insider’s view of his presidency.
There are only 45 Gutenberg Bibles in the world. One of them, along with the earliest-known photograph ever taken, is on display at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus.
Where there’s smoke there’s barbecue, especially at Franklin Barbecue, where pit masters have turned cooking brisket, pork and beef ribs into the messiest – and most delicious – of art forms. Its famous long line, which can go from four to six hours, has been deemed worth it by the masses. Some say that you can travel America and not find another barbecue joint that compares. Other must-visit joints in the area include La Barbecue (expect a line) and – a quieter option – Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Dreams of brisket will surely fuel your return.
In Austin’s hip South Congress neighborhood you can shop, people-watch at Jo’s Coffee, and catch a show at the Continental Club, an Austin institution since 1957. The bustling town is also a hub for food trucks. El Primo (tacos), Churro Co. (delectably topped Churros) and The Mighty Cone (fried chicken, shrimp and veggies served in a tortilla cone) are all good options for a quick bite.
Perfect your backstroke at Barton Springs Pool at Zilker Metropolitan Park. The natural swimming hole is located in the middle of the city and is fed by thermal springs that keep the water at a comfortable 68 degrees all year long. Go hiking, biking, boating or picnicking at Zilker or any one of Austin’s more than 300 parks. Camping is also available at many of the parks such as McKinney Falls State Park where you can fish and swim beneath beautiful natural waterfalls before retreating to your campsite or cabin for the night.
Nearby Texas Hill Country is dotted with adorable towns originally settled by German immigrants. Fredericksburg and Gruene are two of the most stroll-worthy. It’s also home to top wineries and breweries including Grape Creek Vineyards and Driftwood Estate Winery. Grape Creek boasts the on-site restaurant Stout’s, where visitors can order cheese and charcuterie platters to enjoy out on the patio, or sit down for a full meal in the cozy dining room.
For families and animal lovers alike, the Austin Zoo is a fun way to spend some time and get to know a variety of animals ranging from lions and tigers to domestic American wildlife like longhorn cattle and llamas. All of the animals at the zoo are rescues, including those that have been saved from cruelty situations, retired laboratory research animals and exotic pets that needed a new home. For a small fee, visitors can take a scenic ride on the zoo’s train.
Sample award-winning craft beer and grab Fido a bag of “Brew Biscuits,” dog biscuits made from spent brewing grains, at the sustainable and dog-friendly Hops & Grain Brewery. Their taproom is open 7 days a week and tours are given on Fridays and Saturdays.
Which of these things to do in Austin, Texas are you most interested in? Tell us in the comments.