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Things to do in Austin, TX: Activities & Attractions

Austin, TX, known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” offers an eclectic mix of attractions and activities that cater to all types of visitors. From its rich history and vibrant culture to its beautiful outdoor spaces and thriving food scene, there’s no shortage of things to do in Austin. This guide will explore some of the best attractions and activities to make your visit to Austin unforgettable.

History and Culture

Austin, TX, boasts a rich history and a vibrant cultural tapestry that reflects its diverse heritage and dynamic growth. The city was founded in 1839 and named after Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” Since then, it has evolved into a bustling metropolis known for its live music scene, technological innovation, and cultural landmarks. 

The Texas State Capitol, completed in 1888, is a prominent historic site, standing 302 feet tall, even taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This iconic building, constructed from Texas pink granite, symbolizes the state’s grand history and political significance. 

Nearby, the Driskill Hotel, established in 1886, offers a glimpse into the opulent past with its Romanesque architecture and storied legacy of hosting dignitaries and celebrities.

Cultural diversity is at the heart of Austin’s identity, particularly highlighted in the historic district of East Austin. Known as Six Square, this area was designated in the 1928 master plan as the “Negro District,” confining Black residents to a six-square-mile area. 

Despite these challenges, East Austin flourished as a hub for Black businesses, cultural institutions, and community solidarity. Today, Six Square celebrates this rich history through various cultural sites like the George Washington Carver Museum and Rosewood Park. 

These landmarks commemorate the resilience and contributions of Austin’s Black community. Events like the annual Juneteenth celebrations further emphasize Austin’s commitment to honoring its diverse cultural heritage and ensuring that its vibrant history is preserved and appreciated by future generations.

Outdoor Activities

Austin, TX, is renowned for its array of outdoor activities that cater to a variety of interests, thanks to its nearly 300 days of sunshine and mild climate. One of the city’s top outdoor attractions is Lady Bird Lake, which flows through downtown Austin and offers a perfect spot for kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing. 

Rental services like the Austin Rowing Club make it easy to get on the water, while guided tours provide unique perspectives of the city’s skyline. 

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, a 10-mile loop around the lake, is popular among joggers, cyclists, and walkers, offering scenic views of both the lake and the urban landscape.

Zilker Park, spanning over 350 acres, is another jewel in Austin’s outdoor offerings. It hosts numerous activities including disc golf, volleyball, and picnicking. 

The park is also home to the Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed pool that maintains a refreshing 68-70 degrees year-round, making it an ideal spot for swimming, especially during the hot summer months. 

For those interested in hiking, the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers over 12 miles of trails winding through lush greenery and limestone cliffs, perfect for both beginners and experienced hikers. Additionally, Mount Bonnell provides one of the best spots for panoramic views of Austin, making it a favorite for photographers and sunset watchers.

Music Scene

Austin, TX, often referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” boasts an incredibly dynamic and diverse music scene that attracts enthusiasts from all over the globe. 

The city is home to over 250 live music venues, offering a variety of genres from rock and blues to country and jazz. Iconic spots such as The Continental Club, Antone’s Nightclub, and Stubb’s Bar-B-Q are renowned for their vibrant atmospheres and top-notch performances. 

Moreover, Austin hosts numerous music festivals that draw large crowds, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest (SXSW), which together attract more than 450,000 fans each year.

In addition to these major events, Austin celebrates music year-round with a plethora of smaller, yet equally engaging festivals. The Austin Blues Festival, the Austin Reggae Festival, and the Besame Mucho Festival each highlight specific genres and cultural influences, enriching the city’s musical diversity. 

Local venues and outdoor spaces frequently host live performances, ensuring that residents and visitors alike can enjoy music almost any night of the week. The unique Free Week festival, organized by the Red River Cultural District, offers free admission to a multitude of concerts, showcasing the best local talents across various genres. 

This vibrant and inclusive music scene solidifies Austin’s reputation as a premier destination for live music lovers.

Food and Drink

Austin, TX, is celebrated for its vibrant food and drink scene, which offers an eclectic mix of culinary delights and beverage experiences. 

The city is home to numerous renowned restaurants that showcase a variety of cuisines, from classic Texas barbecue to innovative modern dishes. For barbecue aficionados, Franklin Barbecue remains a must-visit, famous for its melt-in-your-mouth brisket and long lines of eager patrons. 

Meanwhile, LeRoy and Lewis are gaining recognition for their inventive approach to barbecue, incorporating underutilized cuts of beef and creative sides that offer a fresh take on traditional flavors.

For those seeking a more diverse culinary experience, Austin boasts a range of eateries that cater to different tastes and preferences. Barley Swine, led by Chef Bryce Gilmore, is known for its farm-to-table tasting menu that highlights local, seasonal ingredients with a focus on sustainability. 

For a taste of authentic Mexican flavors, Nixta Taqueria and Con Todo offer dishes that blend traditional techniques with contemporary twists, serving up everything from nixtamalized tortillas to mesquite-grilled cauliflower tacos. 

Additionally, the annual Austin Food + Wine Festival is a highlight for food lovers, featuring artisanal food, wine, beer, and spirits from top-rated chefs and purveyors, along with interactive demos and tasting sessions.

Historic Attractions

Austin, TX, offers a rich tapestry of historic attractions that reflect its diverse heritage and vibrant history. One of the most iconic landmarks is the Texas State Capitol, completed in 1888, which stands 302 feet tall, making it taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. 

The building, constructed from Texas pink granite, features stunning architectural details and offers free guided tours that provide insight into Texas’s legislative history. Adjacent to the Capitol, the Texas Governor’s Mansion, dating back to 1856, is another historical site open for public tours.

Another significant historic site is the Driskill Hotel, built in 1886. This Romanesque-style building has hosted many notable guests and events throughout its history, embodying the elegance of 19th-century architecture. 

For those interested in literary history, the O. Henry Home & Museum offers a glimpse into the life of the famous short story writer William Sydney Porter, known by his pen name O. Henry. The museum is housed in Porter’s former residence and features original manuscripts and personal artifacts. 

Additionally, the Bullock Texas State History Museum provides a comprehensive overview of Texas history with interactive exhibits and galleries, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Museums and Galleries

Austin, TX, is home to a diverse array of museums and galleries that cater to a wide range of interests, making it a vibrant cultural hub. One of the city’s standout institutions is the Blanton Museum of Art, located on the University of Texas campus. 

With over 21,000 pieces, it boasts the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas. 

The museum’s collections span from European paintings to modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, featuring notable works such as Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” sculpture. The Blanton also offers rotating exhibitions and special events, making it a dynamic space for art lovers.

Another key cultural institution is the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which provides an extensive overview of Texas history from its earliest inhabitants to modern times. The museum’s exhibits include artifacts such as a World War I trench knife and a flag from the Guerrero Battalion, offering a deep dive into the state’s rich past. 

For a unique experience, the Museum of the Weird showcases oddities and curiosities, staying true to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird” motto. This museum features everything from shrunken heads to live sideshow performances, making it a must-visit for those interested in the bizarre. 

Additionally, the Mexic-Arte Museum in downtown Austin celebrates Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture through its impressive array of paintings, sculptures, and interactive exhibits.

Shopping Districts

Austin, TX, offers a vibrant and diverse shopping scene that caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. One of the most iconic areas is South Congress Avenue, also known as SoCo, which is renowned for its bohemian atmosphere. 

SoCo is lined with eclectic boutiques, vintage shops, and unique art galleries, making it a haven for those seeking one-of-a-kind finds. Popular spots include Feathers Vintage, which offers a range of retro apparel and locally sourced goods, and STAG Provisions for Men, known for its stylish and relaxed menswear. 

The district also hosts First Thursdays, a monthly event where shops stay open late, and local vendors sell their crafts and art, creating a lively and festive environment.

For those interested in a more upscale shopping experience, The Domain in North Austin is the place to be. This high-end shopping district features luxury brands and designer stores, providing a sophisticated retail environment. 

The Domain offers a curated selection of fashion, accessories, and home decor, with stores like Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton. After a day of shopping, visitors can enjoy various dining and entertainment options, making it a comprehensive destination for both shopping and leisure. 

Additionally, East Austin offers a unique blend of art and commerce, with creative spaces and galleries like Canopy Austin showcasing local artisans’ work against a backdrop of vibrant street art.


Austin, TX, offers a vibrant and eclectic nightlife that caters to a wide array of tastes and preferences, making it a top destination for night owls. One of the city’s most iconic nightlife experiences can be found at The Broken Spoke, known as the “last true Texas dance hall.” 

Here, visitors can enjoy authentic country music, take two-step lessons, and explore a small museum featuring country music memorabilia from legends like Willie Nelson and George Strait. 

For those who prefer live music, Austin’s legendary music scene does not disappoint. The Continental Club, which has been a staple since 1957, offers a mix of blues, rock, and folk, while Antone’s is renowned as the “home of the blues,” having hosted greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

For a more modern nightlife experience, the Red River Cultural District is a must-visit. This area is packed with trendy bars, live music venues, and clubs that cater to various musical tastes, from punk and hip-hop to electronic and indie rock. 

Cheer Up Charlie’s is a popular spot, known for its welcoming atmosphere and diverse crowd, along with great live music and a spacious outdoor area. Additionally, the Warehouse District offers upscale nightlife options with stylish clubs like Red Fez and rooftop lounges such as Summit, where visitors can enjoy top DJs and stunning views of the city skyline. 

Whether you’re in the mood for a laid-back bar or an energetic dance club, Austin’s nightlife has something to offer everyone.

Living in Austin

Living in Austin, TX, offers a unique blend of urban excitement and natural beauty, making it an attractive destination for a wide range of residents. The city’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, primarily driven by housing costs. 

As of 2024, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is approximately $2,242, while a three-bedroom apartment can reach around $4,604 per month. Despite these higher housing costs, other expenses such as groceries, utilities, and transportation remain below or near the national average. 

For example, the grocery index is at 88.4, and utilities at 93.6, which contributes to making daily life more affordable (Numbeo, Redfin, TexasRealEstateSource).

Austin’s robust job market and thriving tech scene continue to attract professionals. Major employers include the University of Texas, which alone employs over 12,000 individuals, and tech giants like Tesla and SpaceX, which are expanding their presence in the area. 

The city’s focus on education is evident, with top-rated public school districts and numerous higher education institutions. Residents enjoy a vibrant cultural scene, highlighted by a plethora of live music venues, outdoor activities, and a rich food and dining culture. 

Popular outdoor spots include Barton Creek Greenbelt, Lady Bird Lake, and Zilker Park, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and water activities. 

Despite some challenges like traffic congestion and hot summers, Austin’s diverse entertainment options and welcoming community make it a desirable place to live (Travel Safe Abroad, Move to Austin, Numbeo). 

If you’re planning to move to Austin, hiring a professional Austin moving company can significantly ease the transition. These companies not only transport your belongings efficiently but can also help you get acquainted with the city.