Visiting Austin? Then I have your 411. I may be an Aggie, but hopefully my street cred, my fifth-generation Texan status and being the daughter of a Texas history teacher makes me a legit travel tip gal when it comes to the ATX.
I’ve spent the last week chatting about all things Texas and great things to see along the way. Today, I share what there is to love about Austin. And, if you happen to find yourself here for a weekend, my very best tips for things to see. Some of them historical, others uniquely Austin and some just downright fun.
1. The State Capitol. Yes, ours is bigger than the national Capitol and yes, it’s prettier. <— no bias there! You can certainly go on a self-guided tour, but I highly recommend the guided one if time is on your side. If not, be sure to check out the rotunda, both legislative chambers (house and senate) and then take the elevators downstairs. There, you’ll find a great gift shop, art galleries and the beautiful extension to the Capitol. There are loads of architectural details throughout the space. And, if you get lost or need help, just ask one of the friendly State Troopers assigned to the Capitol. Parking is always free (usually up to two hours) in the visitor’s parking garage.
2. Just down the street is the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. It’s home to a ton of exhibits, some great theaters (including the IMAX) and loads of history. Bob Bullock was the former Lt. Governor and was pretty beloved in Texas history. In our state, the Lt. Governor and Governor are elected separately and sometimes a Republican finds himself working with a Democrat, such was the case with Bullock-D and former President Bush-R. If you want a great keepsake, the museum sells a Capitol ornament every year and it can be purchased either here or at the Capitol. I’ve been here so many times and I still keep going back.
3. The Blanton Museum of Art. As much as it pains this Aggie to recommend a visit to the University of Texas campus, this is definitely worth the stop. The exhibits change often and it’s got easy parking access.
4. Nevermind 6th Street, I much prefer Rainey Street. These houses were transformed into a block of bars with plenty of great food, cold libations and fantastic live music on the weekends. Bangers is one of my favorite places.
5. South Congress. Quirky shopping, great candy (Big Top is fab), good eats (think Guero’s, Hopdoddy, Homeslice and Hill’s) is all along this street. When you hear “keep Austin weird” we’re really referring to supporting local businesses. But, we have our fair share of weird. So, jump on that train if you must.
6. Austin is home to countless murals, with these being some of the most popular. Even if you only have time to snap a picture or two, you’re bound to always remember your trip here.
7. The Bats. Okay, full disclosure here. I am NOT a bird or flying thing girl. This is not my cup of sweet tea, but it may very well be yours. From March to November, you can sit below the Congress Street bridge or stand on top of it and watch the enormous bat colony take flight at dusk. I suppose the best thing about sitting there is the absence of mosquitos. The bats take care of that for you.
8. Zilker Park & Botanical Garden. The park is an awesome place for families. There’s the huge playground, lots of open space and the Zilker Zephyr train. I’ve always been a lover of the botanical garden. They have a dinosaur garden with waterfalls and trails, lots of flowers and a vast array of different types of gardens and vegetation. You can also enjoy beautiful gardens at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center or take a stroll, or jog, around Lady Bird Lake downtown.
9. The 360 Bridge Overlook. Austin has plenty of great scenery and this view won’t disappoint. It’s a little hike with a great view. Cars usually just part on the side of the road leading up to the bridge.
10. Catch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse. I mean, come on. Any movie theatre that offers beer AND a movie? WINNING. Just don’t be loud or text, they’ll “kick your ass out.” Their quote, not mine.
And, it wouldn’t be a trip to Austin without some live music. Tons of restaurants downtown offer outdoor seating and great live music, like Shady Grove, the Green Mesquite, Hill’s Cafe and more.
If you’re looking for great shopping, check out The Domain, The Arboretum, South Congress or head a little south of Austin to the outlet mall in San Marcos.
For my best tips on good eats, click here.