Photo courtesy of HyunJae Park on Flickr.
Austin has a reputation as one of the most unique and fun cities in the country. While there's no shortage of fun in Austin, there are certain events that can't be missed. Whether you're a longtime resident or new to the city, here are 20 must do activities to live like a local in Austin:
Visit the Capitol- The centerpiece of downtown Austin, every Austinite (and even every Texan), should visit the Texas State Capitol building at least once. Tours of the interior are offered daily. It is a popular site for community events and festivals throughout the year, as well as picnics on the grounds.
Zilker Park- Found just south of Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Park is Austin’s largest park. The large playscape is looped by the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train that local kids love. Visitors can also tour the Zilker Botanical Garden, Hillside Theater, and Umlauf Sculpture Garden. Festivals are held at the park year round, including Austin’s biggest music festival, Austin City Limits.
Austin Swimming Holes- It’s hard to spend a summer in Austin without taking a dip in one of the area’s swimming holes. Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, and Krause Springs are popular spots to cool off in the summers. Check out our list of Austin Area Swimming Holes.
Hear Some Live Music- It’s hard to go anywhere in the Austin area without hearing strains of live music from restaurants, bars, and other venues. Austin’s music festivals, ACL, South by Southwest, and Fun Fun Fun Fest, also contribute to Austin’s reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World”.
Lady Bird Lake- The calm waters of Lady Bird Lake are the perfect spot for canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating and stand-up paddleboarding. Some companies even offer boat tours on the lake. The city has recently completed a 10 mile trail system along the shore for visitors to walk, run, or bike.
Night Out on 6th Street- Sixth Street is the crown jewel of entertainment and nightlife in Austin. Restaurants, bars, and clubs line the street and typically feature live music nightly. Festivals like the Pecan Street Festival and Republic of Texas Biker Rally are also held on 6th Street.
Shop on South Congress Avenue- This quirky street is lined with some of the most unique shops in the Austin area. Find a costume at Lucy in Disguise, shop for Western footwear at Allen’s Boots, or browse antiques and oddities at Uncommon Objects.
Paint on the Baylor Street Art Wall- This must-see landmark is three stories of concrete walls covered in distinctive spray paint artwork. Visitors are welcome to add their work to the wall, so you’re guaranteed to see something new every time you visit.
Watch the Bats- Every March to November, Austinites gather along the Congress Avenue bridge to watch thousands of bats fly out from beneath the bridge. The bats take flight just before sunset and are an incredible sight. You can even take a boat tour to get a prime viewing spot.
Visit a Farmer’s Market- Farmers markets are one of the easiest ways to come by fresh produce and natural products in the Austin area. Some of the larger markets even host live music.
Eat!- Austin has developed a solid reputation for its dynamic food scene. You can find nearly every type of cuisine in the area, from Indian to Tex-Mex. Don’t just look to the top rated Austin restaurants for a good meal; sometimes the best food can be found at a tiny hole-in-the-wall or gas station!
Catch a Showing at the Alamo Drafthouse- You can enjoy dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse with it’s unique dining concept. This theater offers full entrees and drinks in addition to traditional movie snacks. The Alamo Drafthouse is also known for its quirky, custom made previews and unique events like “Quote-a-Longs” for favorite movies.
Attend ACL- The Austin City Limits Music Festival has grown so large that it takes two weekends in October to fit all the music in. People from all over the world flock to Zilker Park to see well-known and undiscovered bands play on several stages.
Dine at a Food Truck- The food truck craze in Austin is going strong, with food truck parks located throughout the city. Some Austin favorites have been nationally recognized, like the kimchi fries served at Chi’lantro. One of the best ways to try new trucks is at Trailer Food Tuesdays.
Boat on Lake Travis- It's hard to find a better way to relax than on a boat out on Lake Travis. This lake is a popular spot for Austin locals to jet ski, water ski, or wakeboard on hot summer days.
Attend South by Southwest- South by Southwest is a ten day combination of music, film, and technology. Some of today’s big names in each field got their start at South by Southwest, so you never know who will be discovered next. If you don’t have a pass, South by Southwest also offers free events throughout the week.
Celebrate Eeyore’s Birthday- This festival is held every April in Pease Park and is one of the most unique in Austin with it’s hippie vibe. Attendees of all ages are encouraged to dress up in a costume and come out to enjoy live music, games, and just celebrate spring.
Take a Brewery Tour- Like it’s restaurant scene, Austin has become well known for its local breweries and craft beers. Several companies offer group tours that make stops at some of the city’s finest breweries. You can even tour the distillery for Austin-based Deep Eddy Vodka.
Visit the Trail of Lights- One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in Austin is by taking a tour through the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park. This stunning light trail features holiday-themed exhibits, ending in the 155 ft tall lighted tree that can bee seen for miles.