Austin is the capital of Texas. Despite its importance, it’s only the fourth largest city in the state. Austin also has the unique title of the most southern capital in the lower 48 states. It has several nicknames, including Bat City, for the urban population that lives beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Austin’s most popular slogan, however, is ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ which tells you a lot about this laid back, vibrant place. Austin was founded in 1839 and is home to around 930,000 people.
It’s difficult to know where to start with the sheer list of things to do in Austin as there’s so much to choose from. The city has a great mix of traditional and modern and is sure to have something for everyone. Let’s check out all the things to do in Austin that will allow you to appreciate the weirdness in all its glory.
Austin State Capitol & Visitor Center
A tour of the Texas State Capitol is one of the best things to do in Austin. The rotunda sits at just over 92m tall and is higher than the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The style of the building is Italian Renaissance Revival, and the exterior is red granite, which makes it look a very pale pink. The building has 300 rooms and 900 windows, and a 22-acre park encircles the area. The grounds contain many memorials and sculptures, and it’s a lovely area to take a walk. A visit to the State Capitol is one of many free things to do in Austin.
Barton Springs Pool
This natural spring swimming pool is located in Zilker Park. As temperatures in the city can get crazy, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Austin during the summer. Local residents flock to the park to cool off and chill out when it’s too hot. It’s a popular place to hang out in the evening or on a weekend. However, the water tends to be pretty warm anyway as it’s being constantly heated by the strong Texas sun, so don’t expect it to be chilly. Although swimming in the pool is technically a free thing to do in Austin, there are some nominal charges depending on the time of year and time of day you visit.
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
This Austin attraction is dedicated to telling the story of Texas from its founding to where it stands today. There are displays on Texas history, America’s involvement in WW2, and a huge collection of artifacts to explore. The museum is named after the 38th Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Bob Bullock. Bullock was very vocal and equally passionate about preserving Texas history and providing a space for the state’s story to be told to a wider audience. There’s always an event or exhibitions on show at the museum, and it has a great rolling calendar of events throughout the year. The site also has an IMAX, which was the first laser IMAX theater in Texas. This gives you yet another option for things to do in Austin.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $9-$13
If you want things to do in Austin with a military twist, then this base might just be for you. Camp Mabry is the third oldest (active) military installation in the state and is home to the Texas Military Forces. This includes the Texas State Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including as a training facility for the famous Texas Rangers (not the football team…the elite team of crime fighters). Within the site is the Texas State Forces Military Museum, which details the distinguished history of the military forces from 1823 to the present day.
Boggy Creek Farm
Boggy Creek Farm is an urban agricultural farm that has been a staple of the city since around 1839. The Farmhouse that still exists today is one of the two oldest properties in Austin. The current owners have been at Boggy Creek Farm since 1992 and the family produces a huge range of veg, including a dizzying array of tomato varieties, salad, and herbs. It’s not just veg on sale, though. There’s a range of grass-fed meats, eggs, cheese, and honey. For non-food stuffs, there are soaps and flowers for sale. Boggy Creek Farm is a premier Austin attraction for food lovers and has a great reputation.
If you are looking for free things to do in Austin when the sun goes down, head to the Congress Avenue Bridge. From March to October, there’s a nightly show from the city’s 1.5 million resident bats as they fly out from under the bridge to feast on bugs. Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony and having the chance to watch their live show is one of the most unique things to do in Austin. It’s not often you get the chance to have more than a million bats swirling in a massive cloud above your head. Probably take along some garlic, just in case.
One of the best things to do in Austin for lovers of all things a little unusual is to walk around Hope Outdoor Gallery. This is a unique park, filled with colorful street art and murals. It was transformed from a failed construction project into one of the best things to do in Austin for free.
Frequently Asked Question by TravelersAbout Austin
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about what to do in Austin. The questions cover a range of topics and will help you research and plan your next trip to the city.
What can you do for free in Austin?
There are so many free things to do in Austin, there’s something to suit even the smallest of budgets. For example, you can have your photo taken at the ‘Greetings from Austin’ mural that adorns postcards throughout the city. A visit to the Liz Carpenter Fountain is also a free thing to do in Austin and a great way to cool off on baking hot days as you can soak yourself in it. The Fountain is also a great Austin attraction to visit at night as it’s lit up in an array of colors.
Is Austin a safe city?
Yes! Compared to other cities of a similar size in the United States, Austin is one of the safest places to live, work and visit. Crime in Austin is significantly lower than in other major American cities. Like everywhere, there are certain places that are less safe than others but, on the whole, it’s a very safe place to spend time.
How safe is downtown Austin?
Downtown Austin is generally a safe place to be but, as with everywhere, you always need to be mindful of your surroundings. This is particularly important when you’re looking for things to do in Austin and don’t have the depth of knowledge locals have. The area around the bars and clubs on 6th Street has seen its fair share of problems in the past. However, keep your wits about you; don’t wander around on your own after dark, and don’t put yourself in positions you’re not comfortable with. You’ll find that Austin Police have a decent presence around the area, so they’re never too far away if you need them.
Where can I walk around Austin?
If you’re looking for things to do in Austin involving physical exercise, then Lady Bird Lake is the place for you. For free, you can walk, hike or run until you drop. Alternatively, for a small fee, you can hire paddle boards, kayaks or rowboats and have yourself a day out on the lake. The park surrounding the State Capitol Building is also good for a stroll and is another free thing to do in Austin. Somewhere people often don’t consider taking a walk is on the beautiful grounds of the Austin University. It’s often buzzing with students and faculty staff, so it’s a vibrant and interesting place to be. Lastly, a walk around Pioneer Farms park is yet another quality walking area in Austin.
There are a lot of things to do in Austin for all ages and interests. Austin is very much a college town, with the prestigious University of Texas at Austin campus and Texas A&M within its boundaries. Because of this, it has a young population (well below the national average). This means lots of bars, cafes, clubs, and activities aimed at a younger demographic. Almost 35% of the city’s population is Hispanic, with a further 7.5% black and 6.5 Asian. This means there’s also a great range of cultures and cuisine to help to make the city stand out. It’s difficult to run out of things to do in Austin, and there’s a great range of budget accommodation and attractions on offer for even the thriftiest travelers. The city is served by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which sits 5 miles south of downtown.