12 Fun Things to Do in and around Austin

by Paul Joseph  |  Published February 23, 2021

The State capital of Texas, Austin has thrived in recent decades and is now considered one of the region’s best cities to live in, thanks in large part to its many parks and lakes, along with outstanding food, great live music venues, and quirky subcultures. Here’s our pick of 12 of the most fun and cool things to do here – both in the city itself and its surroundings.

One of Austin’s historic landmarks you might visit during a customised guided tour of the city (Photo: GetYourGuide.com)

Get to know Austin through the eyes of locals

Get under the skin of ‘The Violet Crown City’ with the help of a friendly local tour guide. The Austin Like a Local Customized Guide Tour is led by neighbourhood experts who are passionate about Austin and eager to share all the tips and tricks of the city. Head off the tourist trail to discover the best places to eat, drink, shop and see – and make a new friend while you’re at it. Depending on where you’re staying, you can opt to take public transport or taxi to get around the city too.

Book at GetYourGuide.com

Take a bike ride through one of America’s largest urban wildernesses

Take off on two-wheels to explore one of the largest urban wilderness areas in the United States on the Barton Creek Mountain Biking Tour. The four-hour trip covers an eight-mile trail that winds through South Austin, across the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Cycling across limestone walls and shallow creek crossings, discover the fascinating history of the 17 th-century Indian camp turned 19 th -century spa resort. Visitors are given free rein to swim in the crystal-clear waters too. The perfect green getaway away from the city for outdoors enthusiasts and adventurers.

Book at Viator.com

The tranquil waters of Barton Springs Pool (Photo: Viator.com)

Visit an acclaimed craft brewery

If craft beer and history are among your passions, then a visit to Celis Brewery gives you both in one trip. The first Texas craft brewery, it was opened in 1992 by Pierre Celis, widely considered the Father of Wit Beer. Of all the places in the world, he decided to move to Austin from Hoegaarden, Belgium to open up the brewery, brew his time-honoured recipes, and introduce Texans to a new style of beer. Pierre’s daughter, Christine, has kept these traditions alive along with her daughter, Daytona, who is a brewer at their new location in north Austin. Styles of Celis White, Grand Cru & Raspberry are some original favorites, plus more modern selections of IPAs, Lagers, & Sours. The Tap Room has indoor and outdoor seating options, a food truck, dogs and families are welcome. Look out for the gorgeous Copper Brew Kettle from the original brewery.

LOCATION 10001 Metric Boulevard HOURS Fri-Sun 12pm-10pm Mon-Thurs 3pm-10

The tap room at Celis Brewery (Photo: Celis Brewery)

Explore Texas’s natural beauty on horseback

No trip to Texas – the Cowboy Capital of the World – would be complete without a few hours spent on horseback. On this two-hour Central Texas Horseback Adventure, visitors get a short horse-riding lesson, followed by a leisurely ride across manicured trails in the Texas Hill Country. The ranch is located in Wimberley, around 35 miles from Austin and a 45-minute drive. There are two few routes to choose from on the tour: a scenic trail around the Canyon Lake or a trip around the ranch. Tours can be customized to include swimming, lunch and sailing. Giddy Up!

Book at Viator.com

Horse riders traverse Texas Hill Country (Photo: Viator.com)

Take a dip at Hamilton Pool Preserve

A popular swimming spot since the sixties’, Hamilton Pool Preserve is a natural swimming hole set in 232-acres of protected natural habitat. A 50-foot waterfall flows into the jade green pool, keeping water levels high and temperatures toasty year-round. Around a 40-minute car drive west of Austin Visitors can explore the collapsed grotto and canyon, formed thousands of years ago by water erosion, too. Located around 23 miles west of Austin, the reserve is home to a wide variety of flora, fauna and wildlife species, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

LOCATION 24300 Hamilton Road Dripping Spring HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5.30pm

Bathers enjoy the refreshing waters of Hamilton Pool Preserve (Photo: Shrie Bradford Spangler via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Gain an insight into the region’s fascinating past

Despite its cutting edge reputation, Austin is also a city with a keen sense of its past. An ideal family attraction for a rainy day, the Bullock Texas State History Museum invites visitors to step back in time and see how the region has changed down the years through a variety of exhibits and artefacts, some of which feature live action and storytelling. There’s also an IMAX theatre that’s a great draw for kids and adults alike.

LOCATION 1800 Congress Avenue HOURS Wds-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Tues

Experience skydiving without jumping from a plane

Soar to new heights on an Indoor Skydiving Experience at iFLY Austin. Featuring state-of-the-art wind tunnels, you’ll get the adrenaline rush of skydiving, without having to jump out of a plane. Through one-to-one teaching with an accredited flight instructor, visitors can learn how to safely float in a vertical wind tunnel with wind speeds of up to 175mph. Eco-conscious travellers will be pleased to hear that the iFLY tunnels are more eco-friendly too, requiring less than a third of the power of a horizontal wind tunnel. The experience includes two exhilarating free-fall flights, skydiving gear and a personalized certificate.

Book at Viator.com

Thrill-seekers mid-flight at iFly Austin (Photo: Viator.com)

Discover how Austin is “Keepin’ it Weird”

Austin is famous for its music, art and history but it also has a reputation for being a ‘weird’ city. Why? This Weird Austin City Tour has all the answers. Learn all about Austin’s weird, wild and wonderful history on a 2.5-hour tour of the city. Try tasty local delicacies, buy local craft beers, visit local street art and take in the downtown skyline. Local musician Lil Willie tags along on the tour too, strumming up Country classics and offering plenty of sing-along
opportunities along the way.

Book at GetYourGuide.com

A tour guest poses for a selfie in front of a graffitied wall in Austin (Photo: GetYourGuide.com)

Escape the city hubbub at a vast public park

Nestled in the heart of Austin’s downtown district, Zilker Park makes for the perfect urban escape from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day-city life. As well as a place to relax and unwind, the 361-acre public park offers an array of recreational facilities, including bike/canoe rentals, a disc golf course, a miniature train ride, a large playground, and the reinvigorating waters of Barton Springs Pool.

LOCATION 2207 Lou Neff Road

Immerse yourself in Austin’s legendary music scene

Discover why Austin calls itself the Live Music Capital of the World on a dedicated music tour of the city. Travelling by tour bus, The Austin Live Music Experience treats visitors to three different live music venues, in three hours, in one evening. Venues vary from week to week, so you never know what you’re going to get. It could be a hipster honky-tonk, or a Latin rave or a 90s tribute act. It’s the quintessential live music experience. The music doesn’t stop on the bus either, with local musicians hopping on board to jam throughout the evening.

Book at GetYourGuide.com

A live music performance during an Austin music tour(Photo: GetYourGuide.com)

Get a taste of Austin’s world class BBQ

Dedicated foodies the world over consider Texas to be a veritable mecca for BBQ cuisine. And it is Austin where this reputation has grown most in recent years. Among the city’s most renowned BBQ joints is Franklin Barbecue, which is thought to serve up some of the best beef brisket anywhere on earth. Seasoned and smoked to perfection, these mouth-watering hunks of meat draw huge crowds, with queues of hungry patrons often stretching as far as the eye can see.

A sign outside Austin’s famous Franklin BBQ restaurant (Photo: Mark Hougaard Jensen via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

LOCATION 900 East 11th Street HOURS Tues-Sun 10.30am-2pm Closed Mon

Get jiggy at one of Texas’s oldest dance halls

You don’t need to be an expert Texan two-stepper to have a good time at Broken Spoke, but it helps if you’re willing to give it a go. The authentic honky-tonk claims to be one of the last true Texas dance halls. As you’d expect, inside it’s all classic red-and-white checked tablecloths and neon lights, with friendly locals and good live music. Over the past 50 years, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and George Strait have taken to Broken Spoke’s stage. Take a look at the ‘memorabilia room’ too, which is filled with cowboy souvenirs, photos and country music mementoes.

LOCATION 3201 South Lamar Boulevard HOURS Tues-Thurs 4pm-late Fri-Sat 11am-late Closed Sun-Mon

Dancers in full swing at Broken Spoke (Photo: Charlie Llewellin via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)