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Top Things To Do In Austin

You’ve heard the slogan — Keep Austin Weird. Often treated like a distant relative to the rest of Texas, Austin’s counterculture reputation earns its spot as a fast-growing and fast-changing city. Whether you’re familiar with the city or just trying to hang like a local during SXSW, there’s plenty of new things to try in Austin, Texas. True to its reputation, most of its standout attractions involve downtown bars, barbeque, and non-touristy activities.

As the state capital of Texas, Austin is teeming with funky attractions. Prioritize the following iconic city activities before finding all the restaurants, bars, and landmarks that keep Austin weird.

The best things to do near Austin include:

  • Visiting ZIlker Park, a metropolitan recreational area
  • Watch the burnt orange insanity at a University of Texas home football game
  • Visit Leroy and Lewis for new-school smoked barbecue
  • Watch live music at South Congress’ The Continental Club Club
  • Hike up to Mount Bonnell and watch the sunset

Vacations can be budget-friendly with careful planning. Austin is also home to the University of Texas flagship campus, ensuring nighttime and weekend activities are affordable or even free.

Cheap attractions near Austin include:

  • Watching the Mexican Free-Tailed Bats emerge from underneath the Congress Bridge at dusk
  • Getting a free tarot card reading at Milonga Room
  • Better Half is an all-day diner that offers exceptional coffee
  • Sifting through the stacks at Austin City Wide Garage Sale
  • Watching a free drag horror show at Die Felicia

Though Austin is ostensibly non-touristy, visitors to the city can still find many photo ops and vacation cornerstones found throughout other popular city destinations. These Austin attractions can be found around almost every corner in the city.

Things to do for tourists in Austin include:

  • Visiting the Texas State Capitol, home to the state legislature
  • Look for the “yarn-bombed” trees found all over Austin
  • Explore Austin’s iconic murals all over the city
  • Explore Austin’s food truck parks throughout the city
  • See the public art installations at University of Texas campus

Being spontaneous in Austin ensures you will have an experience like no other. Check out any of the following places to visit in Austin today.

Exciting activities near Austin include:

  • Grab a breakfast taco at Papalote
  • Try the ultimate all-American fusion foods at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ all-American
  • Visit Guild, a seafood-forward spot in North Lamar
  • Pack a picnic and head to Emma Long Metropolitan Park
  • Grab a pint at Jester King Brewery

When the sun goes down, Austin turns up. Austin has no shortage of bars, breweries, and cool spots to hang out at night.

Nightlife attractions near Austin include:

  • Watch the fireworks over Lake Austin
  • Order margaritas on the patio of Polvos Mexican Restaurant
  • Go see a favorite movie at Alamo Drafthouse
  • Sing punk and indie songs at Karaoke Underground
  • Head to Cheer Up Charlies for a friendly club with two stages and an eclectic blend of genres

With a reputation for embracing the weird, Austin is home to many eclectic antique shops, vendors, and unique eateries. This makes finding something to do over the weekend a breeze.

Weekend activities near Austin include:

  • Catch a wave at NLand Surf Park
  • Hang out all night on the back porch of The Liberty
  • Eat beet fries from the trailer in the back of Liberty Bar, East Side Kings
  • Spend an unforgettable night at Dirty Sixth
  • Micklethwait Craft Meats offers a sweet spot between traditional Texas barbecue and modern food innovation

With its arcades, candy shops, fun parks, diverse eateries, and more, there is plenty of things to do in Austin with kids. Bring the whole family and explore what kid-approved activities the city has to offer today.

Family-friendly things to do near Austin include:

  • Spend time in rows of new and vintage pinball machines at Pinball Arcade
  • Test your skills among the characters at Peter Pan Mini-Golf
  • Look for wandering peacocks at Mayfield Park
  • Admire the wildflowers at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Visit Fareground, a modern food court with casual concepts

Date nights in Austin are always fun. Whether it’s a casual coffee date or a cool dinner adventure, the capital of Texas has a lot to offer for couples new and old.

Romantic date ideas near Austin include:

  • Try Emmer & Rye, a restaurant with farm-to-table offerings and a rotating menu
  • Stop by Broken Spoke, a dusty dancehall mere minutes from downtown Austin
  • Go on a coffee date at Spiderhouse
  • See a show together at Paramount theater
  • Visit Las Perlas, a relaxed mezcaleria and cocktail bar

Though this city enjoys its dives and diners, there’s enough room for large group activities in Austin, too. The whole squad is welcome to any of the following group vacation ideas.

Things to do with your friends near Austin include:

  • Try authentic Cajun food at Nubian Queen Lola’s soul food
  • Jump into Barton Springs Pool together
  • Find the art installation in South Austin known as the Cathedral of Junk
  • Wait in line together for Franklin BBQ — it’s worth it
  • Head to Nickel City, an Eastside neighborhood bar with cocktails and no-frills food

Even if it’s treated like an island, Austin is no stranger to the Texas sun and arid temperatures. Leave no stone left unturned and find indoor activities in Austin that everyone can enjoy.

Things to do indoors near Austin include:

  • Peruse David Foster Wallace’s papers at Harry Ransom Center
  • Learn more about Texas history at Bullock Texas State History Museum
  • Try the beer selection served at The Whip In
  • Look at the artifacts at Austin Nature & Science Center
  • Head to Seven Grand, a low-lit whiskey bar in downtown Austin

The majority of the sights to see in Austin are in the city, even the parks. But if you wander just outside city limits, you’ll find caverns, grottos, and lakes to explore.

Outdoor attractions near Austin include:

  • Find water-based equipment rentals to explore Lady Bird Lake
  • Head to Hamilton Pool, a natural swimming grotto
  • Do the full loop of Lady Bird Lake Hike
  • Explore the natural wonders of Longhorn Caverns
  • Hang out with waterlilies and quiet statues at Umlauf Sculpture Garden

It may feel like Austin is a hidden gem in itself, but there are some unique things to do in the city that you won’t find anywhere else. Discover live music to jam to, one of a kind antique boutiques to shop at, and experimental burgers to eat.

Must-see places near Austin include:

  • Donn’s Depot, a dicey piano bar, has a carpeted nook where you can look out at the entire bar
  • Order some of the uniquely named menu items at Veggie Heaven
  • Sift through antiques, baubles, furniture, jewels, and old photographs at Uncommon Objects
  • Order hormone-and-antibiotic-free burgers and tiki drinks at the casual Pool Burger
  • Smokey Denmark’s delicious barbecue is still flying under the radar