Austin may bask in the reputation of being the Live Music Capital of the USA, but there are plenty of things to do in Austin besides going to a concert. The capital of Texas rocks in so many ways and is regularly in the top echelons of tables of both the best places to live and visit in the US. The city is rich, the environment is rich, the people are rich (lots of internet millionaires live in Austin) and a vibrantly rich culture all makes for some great things to do in Austin.
1 Blossom at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
When looking for things to do in Austin, put this stop on your list. The former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, and actress Helen Hayes, founded an organization in 1982 dedicated to preserving North American native plants, the result of which is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a botanical garden dedicated to more sustainable landscapes. While helping to preserve the native flora, the center offers wildflower meadows, landscaped areas, walking trails, an observation tower and exhibits to visitors. It covers 279 acres and displays more than 700 plant species native to central Texas.
2 Watch the Flight of the Congress Avenue Bats
Perhaps an accidental attraction of Austin, this is the largest urban bat colony in North America. If you’re in Austin from April to October, you can witness the spectacle of nearly 1.5 million Mexican Freetail bats departing on their nightly journeys for food from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. The flight of the bats can be seen from the bridge, along the river or while in boats.
3 Browse and Shop South Congress Avenue
Also known as SoCo, this area is a must-see and undoubtedly an icon for the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan. This wonderful avenue is full of unique and original findings, like specialty and antique shops, and food trucks selling food from all over the world. Visit the famous Love Wall, where you can pose by a red graffiti “I love you so much.” The first Thursday of each month, merchants keep their doors open until 10 o’clock p.m. Only a 5-minute drive from downtown and one of the must-go places to visit in Austin.
4 Get Educated at Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum offers exhibits, artifacts, nd IMAX theater and the multi-sensory Texas Spirit Theater. The theater seats actually shake as a rocket takes off or a gusher explodes in the theater production, making it more realistic. Other effects, like smoke and wind, help theater goers experience the story more fully. You can shop for unique gifts and souvenirs in the museum store, and enjoy a nice lunch at the Story of Texas Café. Don’t forget to stop and take a picture in front of the big star on the Lone Star Plaza. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month.
5 Blanton Museum of Art
Located at the University of Texas, this museum is best known for its modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, although it houses an impressive European collection as well. One of the best university collections in the US, it is one of the important attractions of Austin, comprised of more than 18,000 works. There is free admission on Thursdays, and every third Thursday it’s open until 9 p.m.
6 Swim in Barton Springs Pool
Bring your bathing suit because you’ll want to jump into that 68 degree water on one of those hot Austin days. The artesian spring-fed pool covers over 3 acres and is located within the 358 acre Zilker Park. Depth of the pool ranges between 0 and 18 feet, and is surrounded by grassy areas for sitting, lounging or picnicking. Adjacent to the bathhouse is an educational exhibit where you can learn about the biology and history of the springs and the pool. The pool is closed on Thursdays for cleaning.
7 Tour the Texas State Capitol
The pink granite building was built in 1888 and stands 14 feet taller than the nation’s capital at 302 feet. Guided tours are available, and admission is free. Walk along the 22 acres of landscaped lawns and visit some of the 17 monuments on the grounds. Added to the National Register of Historic places in 1970, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. At the southwest corner of the grounds you’ll see the visitor’s center, which has a gift shop and artifacts.
I think this collection of things to do in Austin gives you a good idea of what eclecticism the capital presents to visitors. Any Austin-based readers with more recommendations?