Austin’s known for awesome live music, food trucks, and their much ballyhooed weirdness. What’s there to do during the day, between meals, when it’s too early for a drink and you want to see the city?

Here’s our favorites:

1. Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool

 

Barton Springs Pool is a huge, natural swimming pool in Austin’s Zilker Park, and it’s the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. At 3 acres, it’s very large, and, thanks to underground springs, it remains a chilly 68 degrees year-round. After jumping into the cool water, the grassy slopes are perfect for relaxing. The place is a bit of a community gathering spot in the summer, with drum circles, acroyoga, etc. Admission is very cheap – read more here (Photo by Randall Chancellor)

2. Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

 

The Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888 and is known for its great architecture, beautiful grounds and vibrant history. Construction began on the Texas State Capitol in 1882, and it became the 6th largest state capitol building in the United States upon completion. The grounds encompass 22 acres and include 17 monuments. Guided tours of the building and grounds are free and last about 45 minutes – and they’re more lively when the House and/or Senate are in session – read more here (Photo by Stuart Seeger)

3. Town Lake Park

Town Lake Park

 

Town Lake Park straddles the banks of the Colorado River in downtown Austin and offers great views of the Austin skyline. The park was created in 1960 by the construction of the Longhorn Dam on the eastern edge of Austin. The lake was polluted and choked with weeds until the mayor of Austin and former United States First Lady Lady Bird Johnson led a beautification effort in the 1970’s. In 2007, the name of the lake was changed from to Lady Bird Lake, but it is currently referred to by both names. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail straddles both sides of the Colorado River is popular with runners, walkers, and bikers. Other popular features include the dog park, the Auditorium Shores outdoor concert venue, the Long Center for Performing Arts, a Splash Pad for kids, and a Pitch & Putt Golf Course. There’s a great photo spot in the middle of the Pfluger pedestrian bridge – read more here (Photo by Matthew Rutledge)

4. The Blanton Museum of Art

Blanton Museum of Art

 

The Blanton Museum of Art has the largest and most comprehensive art collections in central Texas, and it is one of the largest university art museums in the United States. It originally opened as the University Art Museum in 1963 before changing to its current name and moving into a larger two-building complex in 2006. Today, the museum houses more than 18,000 works of art, and it is a major repository of postwar Latin American paintings and drawings and includes works by artists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Joaquín Torres-Garcíait. There are also paintings of the American West, fine antiquities, twentieth-century American paintings, and a good selection of Old Master works – read more here (Photo by Ethan Lundgaard)

5. Bats Under the Congress Avenue Bridge

Bats Under the Congress Avenue Bridge

 

Austin is famous for their Bats Under the Congress Avenue Bridge. They leave at dusk from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge during the 6 warmest months of the year and usually fly East across Lady Bird Lake. The colony is made up of Mexican free-tailed bats, which spend their summers in Austin and their winters in Mexico. It is estimated that the colony numbers up to 1.5 million live during the summer months, making it the world’s largest urban bat colony. It can take up to 20 minutes for all of them to leave – read more here (Photo by Lori Branham)

6. ACL Live at The Moody Theater

ACL Live at The Moody Theater

 

ACL Live at The Moody Theater became the new home of the popular Austin City Limits television show in 2011 after a long run at its original studio on the University of Texas at Austin. The show turned 40 tears old in 2014, and its new home offers a state-of-the-art facility designed to be used full-time for music production. Views are great from any seat, and no seat on any of the three levels is farther than 75 feet from the stage. In addition to ACL, The Moody Theater also hosts other acts on a regular basis, including classical music, rock and alternative, comedy. Wine Down Wednesdays features free shows on the front steps- read more here (Photo by Nan Palmero)

7. Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum

Lyndon B. Johnson Library

 

Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum is one of the most visited presidential libraries in the nation and covers one of the most controversial times in United States history. Inside, the LBJ tapes provide an insider’s glimpse into the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Great Society initiatives, and the Vietnam War. The top floor of the Library has an almost-full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it looked during LBJ’s presidency. Other highlights of the LBJ Library & Museum include a life-size, moving model of the president telling corny jokes, a phone bank where visitors can listen to phone conversations recorded during the presidency, and a Beagle Ear Science Lab – read more here (Photo by Cameron Russell)

8. Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz

Alamo Drafthouse is a new-concept movie theatre experience that combines a movie with food and drink, reserved seating, and special screenings such as sing-alongs, quote-alongs, and movie-themed dinners. Alamo started in Austin in 1997 and has since spread across the United States. The first Alamo theatre was opened by founders Tim and Karrie League in a refurbished warehouse building in downtown Austin. They theatre showed second-run movies, but it stood out by featuring cabaret-style seating at tables and offering a full menu of food and drink and waiter service for delivery to the tables. Check the web site for special events such as Terror Tuesday, Weird Wednesday, and Master Pancake Theatre. For an extra-plush experience, reserve a leather loveseat recliner in the balcony – read more here (Photo by Cameron Russell)

9. Zilker Metropolitan Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park is Austin’s largest and most popular park and offers such activities as swimming, boat rentals, hiking trails, and a miniature train. The 351 acre park is located south of downtown along the shores of Town Lake. Facilities include athletic fields, picnic tables and shelters, a dog park, playgrounds, some hiking trails, and plenty of green space. Attractions in Zilker Park include: Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin Nature and Science Center, Zilker Hillside Theatre, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, Zilker Zephyr Miniture Train, Zilker Park Boat Rentals – read more here (Photo by Sam Butler)

10. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a world-renowned botanical garden that covers 279 acres and contains over 700 species of plants native to Texas. Walking trails meander through to the native plant gardens and past beautiful buildings, many of which feature stunning architecture and sustainable features. The Center also includes an art gallery, a cafe, a gift shop, and a research center. It is a perfect place for photographers or people who want to meander down trails and gaze upon the beautiful flowers, and it is especially nice in Spring and early summer – read more here (Photo by Tracy Keller)

11. Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

 

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum brings Texas history to life, from the Native Americans who called the land home for thousands of years to the first Europeans who explored Texas in the 1500’s to the modern-day oil rigs that brought great riches. The three floors of interactive exhibits include impressive historical artifacts and short films. Visitors start at the first floor, where they learn about the interactions between Native Americans and the first European explorers. The second floor focuses on Texas’ first for independence and statehood, and the third floor is about how oil, aviation and the space program have shaped the recent history of Texas – read more here (Photo by Steven Polunsky)

12. Toy Joy

Toy Joy

Toy Joy is a kooky, cluttered, and goofy toy store in the Warehouse District that has been bringing nostalgic gifts and collectibles to Austin since 1988. Kids will love the quirky and thank you for taking them there, but they will also want to buy lots of the stuff they will see there.  Hello Kitty City is a favorite for young girls, and there’s plenty of unique and extraordinary toys for everyone, including a huge selection of nostalgic toys for grown-ups. As a bonus, Toy Joy serves vegan soft-serve ice cream – read more here (Photo by Karin Dalziel)

13. Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell

 

Mount Bonnell is one of the highest points in the Austin area at about 780 feet, which makes it the perfect place from which to see downtown, Lake Austin, the Hill Country, the 360 Bridge, and watch the sunset. It is more of a vantage point than a hiking destination. From the parking lot, stairs lead up a short trail to the summit. The stairs are the hardest part of the climb – most people can reach the summit without too much effort. A pavilion at the top provides the most sweeping views, but there are also good vantage points on the northern and southern sides of the pavilion – read more here (Photo by Jeff Gunn)

14. Waterloo Records & Video

Waterloo Records

Waterloo Records & Video in Austin is a dinosaur of a store – an iconic throwback to the days when visitors could spend hours flipping though stacks of cd’s and vinyl records, listen to potential purchases at listening stations, and be lucky enough to catch an in-store performance from an indie band that just hit town. Customers can listen to any album in the store before buying, and they have 10 days to return it if they are not satisfied. Past in-store performers have included everyone from Willie Nelson to Jeff Buckley to Nirvana – read more here (Photo by Charlie Llewellin)

Featured photo by Stuart Seeger. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

See our list of the 49 best things to do in Austin here.

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