Top 10 Things to do in Austin, Texas
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Greetings from the capitol! Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we'll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things to do in Austin, Texas.
For this list, we're taking a look at places, events, and activities worth crossing off your bucket list the next time you're in this urban gem in Texas.
Top 10 Things to do in Austin, Texas
Greetings from the capitol! Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things to do in Austin, Texas.
For this list, we’re taking a look at places, events, and activities worth crossing off your bucket list the next time you’re in this urban gem in Texas.
#10: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Alamo Drafthouses can be found across the U.S. today, but the franchise’s first theater in downtown Austin opened its doors back in 1997. This cinema chain comes from humble beginnings, as founders Tim and Karrie League actually converted a parking garage building into a second-run movie theater. The venue quickly distinguished itself with food options that tied into the movies being shown, and silent film screenings with live musical accompaniment. The downtown location still serves as a hot spot for Q&A sessions, retrospectives, and other film events. In an era dominated by streaming, Alamo Drafthouse reminds audiences why going to the theater is part of the movie-going experience, bringing a society of film-lovers together.
#9: HOPE Outdoor Gallery
Some might view graffiti as vandalism, but others have long considered it a form of artistic expression. Originally opening on Baylor St. and later planning a move to Carson Creek Ranch, HOPE Outdoor Gallery is a paint park where any artist can let their imagination run wild. HOPE provides a canvas for muralists and street artists to share their visions and messages with others. Aside from showcasing some of the coolest spray paint art you’ll ever see, this park is a popular venue for live musical performances as well. While its best known for the dazzling Graffiti Park, Hope Outdoor Gallery also hosts numerous events and projects that encourage creativity, education, and community-building.
#8: Austin Food + Wine Festival
For tourists and locals with an appetite, the Austin Food + Wine Festival may be the best way to get a taste of Texas. Along with wine tastings, this annual event will appeal to anyone who loves barbeque, tacos, and grilling in general. (That’s, like, everybody, right?) There’s so much more to this festival than eating and drinking, though. It gives attendees the chance to cook with and learn from a wide variety of culinary masters, who hail from both Austin and the rest of the country. So, if you’re an aspiring chef or just looking for a few cooking techniques to try out at home, you’re bound to walk away with a smorgasbord of delicious new ideas.
#7: Esther’s Follies
Once a prime source of escapism, vaudeville started to become a dying art in the early 1930s. The spirit of vaudeville is still very much alive at Esther's Follies, however, which has been delighting audiences with music, magic, and comedy routines for over 40 years. Named after the Million Dollar Mermaid herself, Esther Williams, this modern vaudeville theater features an assortment of entertainers who perform in front of sold out audiences every weekend. Hailed as “Austin’s answer to ‘Saturday Night Live,’” the venue is especially well-known for its timely political sketches. In addition to the regular cast members, a few big-name comedians have also dropped by the theater for special events over the years.
#6: Barton Springs Pool
The sun can be overbearing for the citizens of Austin during the summer and even their winters are warmer than most. When the heat gets to you, there isn’t a better place to cool off than Barton Springs Pool. Far from your average public pool, this oasis in Zilker Park stretches nearly 900 feet and is entirely made up of natural water from Main Barton Spring. The water can be chilly, but that’s the point, right? There really isn’t a bad time of year to take a dip. Open from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm every day except Thursday, Barton Springs Pools has only grown more prominent in recent years ,with nearly 800,000 annual visitors.
#5: Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
In 1908, Lyndon B. Johnson was born in a Stonewall, Texas farmhouse. 55 years later, he was sworn in as President of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Two years after his time in office ended, this museum was inaugurated in Number 36’s honor. With 45 million pages of historic documents and several exhibits that’ll transport visitors back to the 1960s, the LBJ Library and Museum is a cornucopia of knowledge and history. Receiving a multimillion-dollar redesign in 2012, this presidential library is especially worth checking out for its distinctive architecture. The building’s terrace in particular is a superb vantage point to catch a glimpse of the Texas State Capitol. Speaking of which…
#4: Texas State Capitol
As long as you’re brushing up on Texas history, make your way from the LBJ Library to the State Capital. This four-story building and the 22-acre grounds make for a site that’s equal parts patriotic and picturesque. Open to the public every day except major holidays, the Capital offers free tours that generally last about a half hour. Whether you prefer to take a guided or self-guided tour, the State Capital is abundant with rich architecture, and even richer history. The Visitors Center, notably shaped like a castle, is full of fascinating exhibits; and your trip wouldn’t be complete without a meal at the Capital Grill, where legislators and guests alike can dine.
#3: South by Southwest
For over three amazing decades, the annual South by Southwest festival has become a major source of revenue for Austin’s economy. Occurring every March, SXSW covers three mediums: music, film, and interactive media. In recent years, the event has attracted an estimated 2,000 acts annually, making it the biggest musical festival of its kind. Many films, including blockbusters like “Furious 7” and “Bridesmaids,” had their world premieres at SXSW. The event also acts as a launching point for new technologies and startups with the potential to shape the future. Numerous celebrities have been enlisted as speakers over the years, so don’t be surprised if you spot A-listers like Nicolas Cage, Ava DuVernay, or President Barack Obama.
#2: Mount Bonnell
If you want to experience Austin, Texas in all of its glory, there isn’t a better spot to check out than Mount Bonnell. Located in the middle of Covert Park, by the Colorado River, this site has been enthralling sightseers for generations. Covering 5 acres and peaking at roughly 775 feet, the highest point in Austin, this limestone landmark showcases a majestic view of both the city and Lake Austin from its summit.. As vast as Mount Bonnell seems, it offers a fairly casual hike for visitors, with no shortage of Instagrammable and eye-catching photo ops.
#1: Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
People often associate Texas with cattle and horses, but did you know that Austin is home to the largest bat colony in the world? More specifically, the Congress Avenue Bridge is bat central! Stretching acros s Lady Bird Lake, a water reservoir, the bridge itself is a handsome attraction. But it’s the migratory Mexican free-tailed bats that dwell underneath the bridge, however, that makes this site one of a kind: it’s the biggest urban bat colony in the world! Spending their winters in Mexico and summers in Austin, these bats emerge from under the bridge like a fluttering tornado; people regularly gather by the bridge around dusk to see hundreds of thousands of bats launch into the sky.