I wasn’t born in Austin, but I got here as fast as I could. In my 13 years as an Austinite, I have found the best way to discover Austin is to get lost; ditch the downtown Austin touristy spots and explore the path less traveled because the likes of Rainey Street and Sixth Street are not the Austin I know or recommend. I’ve compiled an Austin bucket list of some touristy and not so touristy attractions and I hope you find something unique to add to your itinerary.
Outdoor Activities Around Austin
Austin is one the best places to enjoy the outdoors year round – Hiking and camping during our mild winters, spring wildflowers, water activities in the Texas sun, and fall festivals.
- Hamilton Pool Preserve is a favorite swimming hole among locals
- Go for a hike in one of the many hill country State Parks
- Escape the heat (or just embrace it) under the shady live oak trees and themed gardens at Zilker Botanical Garden.
- Enjoy the Austin’s native plants and wildflowers at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
- Admire how the mundane transforms into a masterpiece at Sparky Pocket Park.
- Waterloo Adventures is a fun twist on water parks that is part American Ninja Warrior and part bounce house.
Hidden Gems In Austin
Ditch the popular tourist attractions and explore Austin like a local with this curated list of off-the-beaten path activities.
- View the art of budding and experienced artist at the West Chelsea Contemporary Art Gallery or The Contemporary Austin.
- Learn about a unique style of art with hands-on activities, galleries, and a store at Flatbed Press.
- Make light of current events at an Esther’s Follies comedy and magic show.
- See the lesser known sculptures at Bee Cave Sculpture Park.
- Attend a picnic in the garden at Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.
- Experience the latest art trend using color and light at Wonderspaces.
Fun Things To Do
- Take a glass blowing class or shop at the Ghost Pepper Glass Gallery.
- Try your hand at ancient arts like blacksmithing at Pioneer Farm.
- Take the kids to a fun and hands on learning experience at the Science Mill or The Thinkery.
- Drive on the only Formula One race track in the US with COTA Karting.
- Enjoy a night of crafting and drinks at Upstairs Circus.
- Learn how to take care of everyone’s favorite house plant at Succulent Native.
- Enjoy Austin’s food and drink culture at a brewery, cidery, or food truck; do all at once at Austin Eastiders.
- Spend the day at Austin’s favorite Arcade, Pinballz, playing retro arcade games, escape rooms, VR arenas, and so much more.
Free Things To do
If you are looking for some budget friendly activities, there are plenty of free options for exploring Austin’s history, culture, and art.
- Visit local artist galleries during the bi-annual East Austin Studios Tour (E.A.S.T.)
- Take a tour of Austin’s most iconic murals.
- Watch the Bats at the South Congress Avenue bridge from from early spring through early fall.
- Climb the 106 steps of Mt. Bonnell for panoramic views of Lady Bird Lake and the downtown Austin skyline.
- Peacocks, flowers, and a nature walk at Mayfield Park
- Visit the preserved sites of Latin American art and history on Tejano Walking Trail in the historically Hispanic region of Austin.
- Visit Elizabeth Ney’s former studio, Formosa, at the Elisabet Ney Museum which houses her sculptures from the 1800s.
Museums And History
Austin is rich with Texas, Mexican, and US history
- George Washington Carver Museum and Genealogy Center honors the culture and history of the BIPOC community in Austin.
- The O. Henry Museum is the former home of short story writer William Sydney Porter.
- Learn local Black history at Hezekiah Haskell House that chronicles the rise and fall of Clarksville, a Black community pushed out of West Austin because of gentrification.
- Gain a unique perspective on Texas history from a Battle of the Alamo survivor at the Susanna Dickison Museum
- Explore Bob Bullock’s rotating exhibits on history, music, art, pop culture, and more.
- Visit the old Bakery & Emporium, an Austin landmark, that now operates as an art gallery.
- The Neill-Cochran House showcases rotating exhibits of local and state history.
- Visit the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas to see literary and cultural contributions to the advancement of the arts and humanities.
- Relive your childhood at the Texas Toy Museum.
- See artifacts of Austin’s contributions to pop culture at the Austin Museum of Pop Culture
Day Trips From austin
The Texas Hill Country is packed with small towns and big personality. The famous small towns like Fredericksburg have a lot to offer, but if you’re looking for something unique and far from the crowds, then this list is for you!
Llano is the perfect spring destination for scenic wildflower drives and an art festival to celebrate earth day.
Take a scenic drive
Roy B. Inks Bridge
The Llano Earth Art Fest showcases art in nature at Grenwelge Park.
Driftwood is the quintessential Texas town with wineries and BBQ, but did you know Driftwood is also a popular destination for sour beer lovers? Jester King Brewery is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon and is an absolute must for the atmosphere, food, and an eclectic taste in beer.
Salt Lick Barbeque
Jester King Brewery
Boerne is home to many city parks, state parks, and caverns which make it the perfect getaway for nature lovers looking for quieter and lesser known hikes.
Round top has been featured on HGTV and is known for their bi-annual antiques festival in the historic town square which is home to many antique shops and art galleries.
This unsung college town has a little something for everyone. You can get your fix for hiking, floating the river, shopping, and eating.
Waco is more than just a college town that marks the halfway point to Dallas from Austin. Its a hidden gem for antique shopping, breweries, and barbeque.
Guess Family BBQ featured in Texas Monthly
The Findery Antique Shop
True Love Brewery