austin travel guide - the top thing

The Austin Travel Guide

Written: The Top Thing Staff | August 17, 2023

Explore the State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a must-see attraction in Austin. Here’s why:

  • Historical Significance: The building, completed in 1888, holds great historical significance as it’s the largest state capitol in the U.S., even surpassing the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
  • Free Tours: Visitors can enjoy free guided tours that provide insights into the history, architecture, and legislative processes of Texas.
  • Architectural Beauty: The stunning architecture featuring a pink granite exterior and intricate interior details makes for an impressive sight.
  • Grounds and Monuments: The extensive grounds surrounding the capitol are adorned with monuments honoring significant events and people from Texas history.
  • Educational Experience: It offers an educational experience for visitors of all ages, shedding light on Texas’ rich history and political system.

Visiting the State Capitol provides a perfect blend of education, history, and architectural marvels. Whether you’re interested in politics or simply want to admire beautiful buildings, this iconic site has something for everyone.

Visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bullock Texas State History Museum offers a captivating journey through the history of Texas. Here are some insights to make your visit even more enriching:

  • Interactive Exhibits: The museum boasts interactive exhibits, making it an engaging experience for visitors of all ages. From multimedia displays to hands-on activities, there’s something for everyone.
  • Immersive Storytelling: Visitors can delve into the rich and diverse narratives that have shaped Texas. The museum skillfully weaves together various perspectives, providing a comprehensive understanding of the state’s history.
  • Special Events and Programs: Keep an eye out for special events and programs hosted at the museum. These include lectures, film screenings, and workshops that delve deeper into specific historical periods or themes.
  • Notable Artifacts: The museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts that offer tangible connections to key moments in Texas history. From iconic objects to rare documents, these artifacts bring history to life.

In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Bullock Museum frequently hosts traveling exhibitions from renowned institutions across the country. This ensures that there is always something new and exciting for both locals and tourists alike.

Take a Stroll in Zilker Metropolitan Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park is an iconic green space in Austin, spanning over 350 acres and offering various recreational activities. Here’s why it should be on your must-visit list:

  • Outdoor Activities: The park provides opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Visitors can explore the lush trails or rent equipment for water activities at the park’s boathouse.
  • Barton Springs Pool: This natural spring-fed pool within the park is a popular spot for swimming and relaxing. The water maintains a refreshing temperature of around 68°F (20°C) year-round.
  • Botanical Garden: Zilker Botanical Garden showcases diverse plant species and themed gardens, including Japanese, rose, and herb gardens.
  • Events and Festivals: Throughout the year, Zilker Park hosts events such as music festivals like Austin City Limits Music Festival and Blues on the Green. It also hosts holiday celebrations like Trail of Lights during Christmas.

Visitors to Zilker Metropolitan Park can enjoy stunning views of downtown Austin while engaging in various outdoor activities. Whether it’s taking a dip in Barton Springs Pool or attending one of its vibrant events, this urban oasis offers something for everyone seeking relaxation or adventure amidst nature.

Swim in Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool is an iconic natural spring-fed pool located in Zilker Park. It’s a must-visit spot for locals and tourists alike.

  • Natural Oasis: Barton Springs Pool spans three acres, offering a refreshing escape from the Texas heat. The water temperature remains around 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making it ideal for swimming.
  • Breathtaking Setting: Surrounded by lush greenery and bordered by limestone walls, the pool provides a stunning backdrop for relaxation and recreation. Visitors can also enjoy sunbathing on the grassy areas nearby.
  • Diverse Wildlife: As an important habitat for several endangered species, including the Barton Springs Salamander and Austin Blind Salamander, the pool fosters environmental awareness among its visitors.
  • Historic Significance: With origins dating back to prehistoric times, this site holds cultural significance for indigenous peoples as well as early settlers in Austin. Exploring its rich history adds depth to any visit.

Swimming in Barton Springs Pool offers more than just a chance to cool off; it’s an opportunity to connect with nature while immersing oneself in local history. Whether seeking relaxation or adventure, visitors are sure to find something special at this beloved Austin landmark.

Enjoy Live Music on Sixth Street

Austin’s Sixth Street is renowned for its vibrant live music scene, offering a plethora of venues where visitors can experience the city’s musical heartbeat. Here are some insights into what makes this experience unforgettable:

  • Diverse Music Genres: From blues and country to rock and jazz, Sixth Street boasts an eclectic mix of music genres, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.
  • Historical Significance: With a history dating back to the 1970s, this iconic street has been a breeding ground for legendary musicians and bands. Its historical significance adds depth to the musical experience.
  • Live Performances Every Night: Visitors can enjoy live performances every night of the week, creating an atmosphere that pulsates with energy and excitement.
  • Local Talent Showcase: The street serves as a platform for local talent to showcase their skills, contributing to Austin’s reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
  • Immersive Atmosphere: The lively ambiance on Sixth Street creates an immersive experience where visitors can feel connected to both the music and the city itself.

This section provides deeper insights into why enjoying live music on Sixth Street is a must-do when in Austin. Whether it’s exploring historical venues or discovering emerging talent, this iconic street promises an unforgettable musical journey.

Sample Local Eats at Food Truck Parks

Food truck parks in Austin are a must-visit for anyone looking to sample the city’s diverse culinary scene. These hubs offer an array of cuisines, from traditional Tex-Mex to innovative fusion dishes.

Visiting food truck parks allows you to experience local flavors and support small businesses simultaneously. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in Austin’s vibrant food culture while enjoying affordable yet delicious meals.

These parks often feature live music, creating a lively and enjoyable atmosphere for visitors. You can savor your meal while soaking up the city’s unique blend of music and gastronomy.

One popular spot is The Picnic, which hosts a variety of food trucks offering everything from gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to authentic Thai cuisine. Another well-known park is The Thicket, where you can find an eclectic mix of vendors serving up delectable treats like artisanal ice cream and mouthwatering barbecue.

Austin’s food truck parks provide an opportunity for visitors to interact with locals and gain insight into the city’s culinary traditions. They also showcase the innovation and creativity of local chefs who have turned these mobile eateries into thriving businesses.

Hike Mount Bonnell for City Views

Mount Bonnell, also known as Covert Park, is a must-visit destination in Austin. Here’s why:

  • Spectacular City Views: As the highest point in Austin, Mount Bonnell offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and Lake Austin. Visitors can capture stunning photos or simply enjoy the serene beauty.
  • Historical Significance: This iconic spot has been a popular attraction since the 1850s. It holds historical significance as one of the oldest tourist attractions in Texas.
  • Nature Trails: The hike to the summit is relatively easy and surrounded by lush greenery. It provides an opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in nature while getting some exercise.
  • Romantic Setting: Mount Bonnell is often regarded as a romantic spot, making it perfect for couples looking for a picturesque setting to spend quality time together.
  • Family-Friendly Outing: Families with children can also enjoy visiting Mount Bonnell due to its manageable hiking trail and picnic-friendly environment at the top.

Kayak or Paddleboard on Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake offers the perfect setting for kayaking or paddleboarding, providing a unique way to experience Austin’s natural beauty.

  • Peaceful Escape: Paddling along the calm waters of Lady Bird Lake allows visitors to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, offering a serene and tranquil experience.
  • Iconic Views: The lake provides stunning views of downtown Austin, as well as lush greenery and diverse wildlife along its shores.

Visitors can rent equipment from various vendors located around the lake or bring their own gear. There are guided tours available for those who want a more structured experience.

For those interested in fitness, it’s worth noting that kayaking and paddleboarding provide an excellent full-body workout while enjoying nature. These activities engage core muscles for stability and arm muscles for paddling, making them not only recreational but also beneficial for physical health.

Furthermore, Lady Bird Lake is home to Congress Avenue Bridge, which is famous for its bat population. From March to October at dusk, spectators can witness over 1 million bats emerging from under the bridge—a truly unique sight best experienced from a kayak or paddleboard on the water.

Experience the Nightlife in the Rainey Street District

The Rainey Street District is a vibrant and lively neighborhood known for its eclectic mix of bars, food trucks, and live music venues. Here’s why experiencing the nightlife in this district should be at the top of your Austin to-do list:

  • Unique Setting: The district is set within bungalow-style homes that have been repurposed into bars and restaurants, creating a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that sets it apart from other nightlife areas.
  • Live Music Scene: Visitors can immerse themselves in Austin’s renowned live music scene with numerous venues offering an array of musical genres, from blues to indie rock.
  • Food Truck Variety: The area boasts an impressive selection of food trucks serving up diverse cuisines, making it easy to find delicious late-night bites while exploring the district.
  • Historic Charm: Many of the buildings in the Rainey Street District are historically protected, preserving their unique architectural charm and adding character to the overall ambiance.
  • Laid-back Vibe: Unlike some of Austin’s more bustling nightlife spots, Rainey Street offers a more relaxed and intimate setting where visitors can unwind and enjoy a casual night out.

Whether you’re looking for an evening filled with live music or hoping to sample some local culinary delights amidst charming surroundings, experiencing the nightlife in Austin’s Rainey Street District promises an unforgettable time.

Attend a Show at The Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is an iconic venue in Austin, Texas, offering a diverse array of shows and performances. Here’s why attending a show at The Paramount Theatre should be on your list of things to do in Austin:

  • Historical Significance: Built-in 1915, this historic theater has hosted legendary performers such as Harry Houdini and Katharine Hepburn.
  • Varied Performances: From classic film screenings to live music concerts and stand-up comedy acts, the theatre offers something for everyone.
  • Architectural Marvel: The stunning architecture of the theatre itself is worth experiencing. Its grandeur adds to the overall allure of attending a show there.
  • Cultural Experience: Attending a performance at The Paramount Theatre provides insight into Austin’s vibrant arts and culture scene.
  • Community Engagement: The theatre frequently hosts events that engage with local communities, contributing to the city’s cultural tapestry.

Whether you’re interested in history, entertainment, or simply immersing yourself in the local culture, catching a show at The Paramount Theatre promises an enriching experience during your time in Austin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the must-visit attractions in Austin?

If you’re in Austin, don’t miss exploring the State Capitol, visiting the Bullock Texas State History Museum, strolling in Zilker Metropolitan Park, swimming in Barton Springs Pool, and enjoying live music on Sixth Street.

Is there a place to experience Austin’s vibrant nightlife?

Absolutely! The Rainey Street District is perfect for experiencing Austin’s nightlife. You’ll find an array of bars and entertainment venues offering a unique and lively atmosphere.

Where can I enjoy outdoor activities in Austin?

For outdoor enthusiasts, Lady Bird Lake offers opportunities for kayaking or paddleboarding. Hiking Mount Bonnell provides breathtaking city views that are worth experiencing.

What dining options are available for food lovers?

Food truck parks offer a diverse range of local eats that will surely satisfy your cravings. These parks are known for serving up delicious street food from various cuisines.

Are there any cultural experiences to consider while visiting Austin?

The Paramount Theatre hosts captivating shows that provide insight into the rich cultural scene of Austin. It’s definitely worth attending one during your visit to immerse yourself in the city’s artistic vibe.