Top Things To Do In Austin, TX 2023

Austin is full of unique things to do and if you are like us, you’ll want to keep Austin weird by enjoying a full spectrum of experiences that Austin has to offer. So if you are looking to spice up your Austin bucket list, you have come to the right place! Here, you can create an itinerary full of hidden gems adored by locals, such as: places to take a chilly dip, museums, cultural institutions, escape rooms, outdoor escape games, great places to have a drink, places to learn about Texas history, learn the two-step, great places to read, play, dance, eat, enjoy public art and soak in the scenery. This list has you covered!

bats of congress

This is a central experience to visiting Austin, and one that you can’t miss, because it is the largest urban bat colony in the world.  In the evening, these pregnant hungry bats come out by the millions for a meal, and its a sight to behold. You have a few choices, you can 1) stand on the south east corner of congress bridge on town lake, 2) sit on the lawn below that or 3) Go on a boat tour on the lake to gain a unique perspective.  All three of these choices are top-notch, so don’t stress too much about which one you choose.  But do pick the time of year and time of day carefully!  The bats are active from May thru October during sunset to sundown.

Equipment Room in Austin

This room is named for what it used to do, store equipment. Which doesn’t sound that impressive until you see how it has been transformed into a speakeasy-style, atmospheric bar  that will make you feel like a VIP. This unique experience is new to Austin in 2023, and quite a hit so far.  Sip on exquisite cocktails and tune your ears into the high-fidelity vinyl sound experience. It’s a great choice for impressing your audiophile friends, because the sound quality will blow you away.

Barton Springs Pool in Austin, TX

This three-acre long spring fed swimming hole is the crown jewel of Austin. It’s also the reason why we don’t all lose our minds with the heat in the summer. Watching people take turns on the diving board is an oddly-satisfying people watching activity, and the crystal clear water has a fountain of youth property that can easily become a healthy habit. We recommend what is called locally “the pay side” where you pay a fee to enter. Keep your mind open – it’s legal for women to go topless and they will do it. Keep an eye out for drum circles on Sundays, where you can expect music, drumming, hula-hooping and acrobatics. 

Employees playing Escape the Box in Austin, TX

This one of a kind experience is a live, immersive, time-travel themed, outdoor escape game. After a hosted introduction, each team receives a box and are set loose in an Austin neighborhood to solve clues and puzzles to complete the singular goal: to get back to the present. It’s a great way to see the city, unleash your inner detective, bond with your friends and have some laughs.  The pictures you leave with are priceless, and the memories of your adventure?  Even better!.

Butler Hike and Bike Trail in Austin, TX

This hike and bike trail is the perfect blend of nature, people watching, waterfront joy,  and views of the city’s beautiful skyline.  You can jog, walk, bike or meander along the 10 mile loop, which has remained the centerpiece of Austin’s quality of life for decades. Be sure to stop at Auditorium Shores for the dog park and waterfront lawns. Don’t miss Butler Park, which features a pond, fountain, rolling hills and splashpad. Be sure to make a stop at the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue, popular with fans from all over the world.  The boardwalk is an experience in its own right, a great way to take a walk while hovering over the water.  If you find yourself on the trail May – October, be sure to stop at the Congress Street bridge to watch the Mexican Freetail Bats take flight for an evening meal. 

Visiting the capitol building while you are in the capital of Texas is an absolute must see!  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. You can enter several rooms where the Texas legislature meets, check out the various historical portraits and the impressive architecture of the enormous rotunda.  Be sure to explore the capital grounds that have many historical statues and beautiful lawns, as well as a new extension plaza that is a great place to walk around and check out public art.

If you are planning to enjoy some drinks with friends and you are looking for a night scene with live music that is classier than dirty sixth but still has plenty going on, head over to Rainey Street. We recommend ditching the car altogether and taking a scooter, rental bike or Uber over to Rainey. That’s because it’s not a very car-friendly area, plus the drinks are strong, and you’ll want more than one, that’s for sure. Be sure to fill up on grub from one of the many food trucks in the area, and plan a safe ride home! 

Toy Joy in Austin, TX

If you want your visit to the toy store to actually be fun, head over to Toy Joy, where you can browse cult classic toys, nostalgia items, sensory toys, anime, novelty gifts, niche genre toys and games. The staff here are extraordinarily knowledgeable and represent the quirky nature of our city and the store. Bring a child along or bring your inner child, this toy store is for everyone!

No Lights No Lycra

With how weird this dance party is, you’d think it was unique to Austin, but it’s not. It’s a dance party because they have a DJ, but don’t expect all of those other pesky dance party features like booze, lights and judgment.  That’s right, it’s in the dark with no alcohol!  Started in Australia, NLNL has chapters in over 50 cities around the globe. But within the U.S., it can be found only in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin. We also encourage you to sign up for their unusually awesome newsletter and read the Austin Chronicle article here

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Town Lake in Austin, TX

If you have ever tried kayaking, surfing or canoeing, you have some frame of reference for what this activity is all about, but it’s got its own twist. You stand up on what looks like a surfboard, and you paddle while standing as though you are a gondolier in Venice. It looks weird, it works your abs, and it is tons of fun.  There are several options of places to rent them, and you can spend some time out on Town Lake paddling around.  Be sure to use sunscreen, and we don’t recommend swimming because the water has a lot of algae, some of it poisonous, and its also illegal to swim in Town Lake.

Zilker Park in Austin, TX

This park is like the beating heart of Austin, full of the youthful recreation that keeps Austin weird.  Sprawling grass lawns give way to craggy hills, which lead the way to chilly springs, you could spend all day here having a fabulous time.  Don’t forget to check out all that Zilker has to offer, such as the Nature and Science center, botanical garden, hillside theater, sand volleyball court, playscape and of course, Barton Springs Pool.

The Eureka Room in Austin, TX

Billed as a fun and absurd participatory experience, inside a remodeled house on the East Side of Austin, the Eureka Room is not really an escape room, and not really much like anything else you have done, but also requires you to try something new and be participatory. If that sounds good to you, it will not disappoint.  But take heed, as one reviewer warns, “definitely don’t research your experience.  Keep an open mind and prepare to make friends” 

Novel Escape in Austin, TX

Escape rooms are all the rage these days and with so much variety out there, it can certainly be hit or miss. This particular one is enjoyable and unique, as it is based on a work of literature: 20,000 leagues under the sea. But don’t worry, you do not have to be an English major, nor do you even need to read the book to enjoy it!  You can expect to feel wowed by the creativity and complexity of this activity.  You are fighting against time before you run out of air, so hurry!

Veracruz All Natural in Austin, TX

Austin has no lack of taco joints, that’s for sure. But we are being careful here to recommend a place that is consistently fresh, delicious and unique. The breakfast tacos are solidly delicious enough to convert any taco skeptic into a raving fan.  We recommend a classic potato, egg and cheese. They have plenty of vegan, vegetarian, fish and meat tacos, so there is something for everyone. The Aguas Frescas are delicious, we recommend the watermelon.  And be sure to try their birria tacos if the timing is right, these are killer.

Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue at Auditorium Shores in Austin, TX

You will find locals enjoying the sunshine and expansive lawns and dog park here at Auditorium Shores, also known as Vic Mathias Shores (but no one calls it that). WIth beautiful views of the city from up close, taking a stroll along the shores of Town Lake is a great choice for spending the afternoon.  If you have a dog, this just might be the best place in the city to let them romp around while you socialize with other dog owners and enjoy the scenery.  Parking can be a little bit of a competitive sport, so plan to show up early or park a few blocks away and walk. 

Deep Eddy Pool in Austin, TX

Taking a chilly dip in fresh spring water is always a good idea once the temperatures get above 90 degrees, which happens to be a common occurrence here in Austin.  Deep Eddy is a very popular place to enjoy chilly spring fed water on a hot day.  This clean swimming pool has a crystal clear deep end great for plunging, a section for lap swimming and a very large area that is perfect for children’s swimming.  You can cool off with a Jim Jim’s Frozen Ice or grab a hot dog from their small menu. There is plenty of grass to lounge around on, trees for shady hangouts and the newly renovated outdoor locker rooms are great for a shower afterwards.

Moody Center in Austin, TX

This entertainment arena was built recently, with construction completed in 2022. In addition to serving as the new home court of The University of Texas Women’s and Men’s basketball teams, the new arena also hosts family, sports and community events. It has already boasted acts like Harry Styles and the Arctic Monkeys, with nothing short of Madonna and Duran Duran playing this summer. Austin-based Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey was a major funder of the Moody Center, and serves as the “Minister of Culture” of the venue, ensuring Longhorn and Austin cultures are properly represented.  The Moody Center is authentic to Austin and unlike any other venue in the country. The immersive and sustainable design was created by Gensler Architects who also made Q2 Stadium in Austin.   

Guero's Live Oak Beer Garden in Austin, TX

One of the quintessential Austin experiences is enjoying some live music under the dappled shade of a live oak tree, sipping a margarita. If this sounds like a great time to you, be sure to check the music schedule at Guero’s, at their outdoor venue that is separated by a parking lot from the restaurant. Unwind with some tacos, drinks and dancing in the heart of Soco!

Mount Bonnell in Austin, TX

A brilliant place for a hike with a stellar view, Mount Bonnell is one of the highest points in Austin at 781 feet. The peak is named for George Bonnell, who served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Texas Republic. This entirely free tourist destination is great for a casual picnic date, taking photos, and taking in the scenery.  To get there, take 35th Street west over MoPac past Camp Mabry. After taking a left at the fork onto Old Bull Creek Road, take a right on Mount Bonnell Road and move up the hill, where you will then see parking to your left.

The Broken Spoke in Austin, TX

There is a reason why it’s called the “last of the true Texas dance halls, and damn sure proud of it” by James M White, owner of the Broken Spoke.  This authentic two-step joint is worth a visit, as it’s now a part of history.  It received a historical marker that was recently dedicated on April 12, 2023.  Be sure to catch their live music Tuesdays  – Saturdays and learn the two step at their dance lessons Wednesday – Saturday.

Pease Park in Austin, TX

Pease Park is an enchanting respite from the ramble of the city, replete with weeping willows, heritage live oaks, and cypress trees drizzled with old world tree moss. Much of it is untouched from centuries ago, with lush ambling meadows and gnarled burly limbs reaching out over the shores of shoal creek. However, the modern era is alive and well here, in an area called Kingsbury Commons, with a clever updated playscape, splash pad, clean restrooms, and a one-of-a-kind observation pod called the Treehouse that makes you feel like a spider in a giant web, pictured above. Once a year, the park is energized by Eeyore’s Birthday, a celebration of life for a depressed donkey characterized by naked body painting and drum circles. This celebration is also a fund-raiser operated by the Friends of the Forest Foundation to benefit local non-profit groups.

Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, TX

This internationally renowned research center for the humanities at UT Austin houses extensive collections of the creative process. Among them are: Robert DeNiro’s collection of scripts, notes, costumes and props; Jack Kerouac’s notes for writing On the Road; Albert Einstein’s unpublished notes about relativity; Manuscripts by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; E.E Cummings’ wooden paint box; the earliest known photograph; and one of only 20 complete copies of the Gutenburg bibles in the world. Check their schedule for temporary exhibitions and tours, and make a reservation in their reading room to get your hands on fascinating relics from long ago.

Central Austin Public Library in Austin, TX

This is not the only library in Austin, but it is certainly the most popular, which doesn’t come as a surprise given that it boasts such awards as Time magazine’s world’s greatest places 2018.  Inside you’ll find an art gallery, 3D printing and technology spaces, a rooftop lounge with solar panels, a seed library, a coffee shop and cafe. The design of the wonky staircase is truly a sight to behold, as it weaves asymmetrically throughout the middle of the six floors, looking like something out of a Harry Potter spell. If you are looking for some inspiration to read all day long and never get bored, you have found the right place!

Blanton Museum of Art at University of Texas in Austin, TX

This museum is central to Austin’s cultural scene, and an absolutely gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. Inside, the gradient blue hued staircase at once makes you feel like you are underwater and like you are so glad to be surrounded by impeccable architecture and works of art. The exhibitions are extensive, thoughtful, specific and inclusive. Outdoors, enjoy the modern renovations that include the giant metal petal sculptures (pictured).  Another can’t miss on the Blanton Campus is a unique building by Ellsworth Kelly called “Austin”  which is something like a secular museum-church in which to worship color and great architecture. 

The Beauty and Liberty of Equality mural in Austin, TX

Austin’s art is the heartbeat of the city, reflecting its joy, cultural diversity and love of music. It tells a story of who this city has been, insists that we interact with the moment, and encourages us to keep the spirit of the city alive as it grows into the city that it is becoming. Check out this list called The Ultimate Guide to Murals and Public Art in Austin 2023, because it  is full of statues, graffiti and murals, including Austin’s first mural and some of the most recent ones. Set aside a few afternoons to visit each one, take some pictures, and enjoy the living breathing creative side of Austin.

Custom Stetson Hat at Maufrais in Austin, TX

If you have spent any time in Austin, you know that finding a fashionable hat is of the utmost importance. Going back home after a trip to Austin without one is like coming home empty handed. If you’re looking for the custom-made variety, we have you covered. Check out this list called Four Custom Hat Shops to Visit on South Congress to see the favorites. The added bonus? They are all walking distance from one another!

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Top Things To Do In Austin, TX 2023

Austin is full of unique things to do and if you are like us, you’ll want to do like the locals do and “Keep Austin Weird” by enjoying the full spectrum of experiences that Austin has to offer. So if you are looking to spice up your bucket list, you have come to the right place! Here, you can find hidden gems adored by locals, such as: places to take a chilly dip, museums, cultural institutions, escape rooms, outdoor escape games, great places to have a drink, places to learn about Texas history, learn the two-step, great places to read, enjoy public art and soak in the scenery. This list has you covered!

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