The number one thing to do in the Austin outdoors is to paddleboard, canoe, or kayak on Lady Bird Lake.
The lake is a tourist magnet, but you can get in the lake day or night. Night paddleboarding is perfect during bat season on South Congress Bridge.
Paddleboarding during the day will give you glimpses of birds, fish, and wildlife. The sunset from the lake is also pretty nice, so you might wanna wait for that.
This experience is a perfect way to see the city and still be surrounded by nature and wildlife.
There’s also a hike-and-bike trail that goes around the lake if you’d prefer that.
On land, Zilker Park is the best outdoor attraction. And it makes sense when you see its spring-fed swimming pool, sculpture garden, paddleboarding, and not to mention the view from the park.
The park encompasses a wide area, and there are so many things to do.
If the lake made you want to take a dip, the Zilker Park houses the Barton Springs Municipal Pool, where the massive natural swimming pool is.
It’s also the venue for many live music venues.
They also have a few choices for gardens. Their botanical garden features a Japanese garden, herb garden, and a popular prehistoric garden. (If you connected prehistoric with fossilized dinosaur tracks, then you would be right).
There’s also the Umlauf sculpture garden, a quiet escape to nature and an outdoor museum.
These are just the highlights. Visit the park to see what else is in store!
Barton Springs Municipal Pool
Barton Springs is a local favorite. It’s not only inside Zilker Park; it’s also conveniently in the city, where you can go anytime you want to beat the heat.
The pool is fairly large and is a natural spring-fed pool. It’s got a diving board and is big enough that you won’t have to squeeze in the crowd.
It’s also surrounded by nature and lots of areas to lounge about or put down a picnic blanket.
If you’re looking for a true escape from the city, Mount Bonnell is the best place to do it. Why? Well, it’s only the highest point in the city at 775 feet up!
The scenery is remarkable, with an overlooking view of downtown.
You can get here through Covert Park with two options for hiking the trail. There are stairs to the top, but it’s 102 steps.
The other path isn’t paved and may be more challenging for some. Though many previous visitors say that the hike isn’t all that bad.
Up top, there is a view deck where you can take some pictures. There’s also a pavilion and areas where you can do a picnic before going back down.
South Congress Bridge
You might think it’s a little intimidating to see hundreds of bats fly up the sky. Still, it’s actually a pretty exciting event for your evening.
South Congress Bridge is known for watching bats take flight from April to October. There are actually close to 1.5 million bats that call the bridge home and fly out at sunset.
The Austin Bat Refuge gives you detailed advice on the best time and spot on the bridge to see the bats.
Don’t forget to check it out before heading to the bridge to get the full experience!
Opened by the former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, the center manages gardens, arboretums, and natural areas.
Their plant and wildflower collection are often native plants of the area. The plants are cared for in unique houses such as the open-air Pollinator Habitat Garden.
The Texas Arboretum is also full of native Texas trees, with designated picnic areas available. For the families, there is a Family Garden that’s best for the kids.
Go on one of their walking trails to see a view of the Hill Country.
Iconic Music Venues
You cannot leave Austin without seeing what the Live Music Capital has to offer. There are over 250 live music venues in the city, and whatever your music taste is, there’s definitely something for you.
You can also pick and choose depending on your mood. Feeling like you want an intimate live music setting? You want to move your hips to the beat on the dance floor?
Or you want something big and bold and bright with a huge concert show? Your wish is Austin’s command.
Austin has a diverse palette, and that’s evident with their restaurants and dining options. A must-have for any Austin visitor is Franklin Barbecue. Yes, the lines are always long, but it’s completely worth it. It’s one of the best barbecues in the country. Bring a chair and some books or beers as you wait in line.
Other notable mentions are Matt’s El Rancho, Driskill Bar, and Hoover’s Cooking.
You can also head to Rainey Street, East Side Food Park, South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery, and Thicket Food Truck Park.
Where to stay
Your options for accommodations include hotels, resorts & spas, bed & breakfasts, Airbnb, or camping.
For hotels, here are some of the neighborhoods and areas to choose from.
A hotel near the airport is convenient and just a short drive away from downtown.
Downtown is in the center of everything, from Lady Bird Lake to the city’s nightlife.
East Austin is dedicated to foodies, live music lounges, the art scene, and boutique shopping.
Recommended hotels include Fairmont Austin, Drury Inn & Suites Austin North, and Hyatt House Austin Downtown.
Day trips from Austin
Texas Hill County has a lot of good destinations for you. Here are five of the best day trips from the state capitol: