Austin, the second-largest capital in the U.S. by population (after Phoenix), has become a top tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. It’s known for its lively music festivals, nice weather, friendly community, and restaurants with the yummiest food. Adventurers spend their days exploring some of the city’s attractions, including museums with a boatload of history and fun-filled urban parks. And party lovers aren’t left behind, as the nightlife in Austin is lively, and there is a perfect bar or nightclub for everyone. But even with its many attractions, these 10 are unmissable and are worth the vacation.
10 McKinney Falls State Park
Lower waterfalls, Mckinney Falls State Park, Austin, Texas
McKinney Falls State Park sits on the southeastern side of Austin and covers an area of 641 acres. The park is a picturesque escape from the bustling city and offers numerous outdoor recreation activities like hiking, fishing, camping, and swimming. The park’s two main highlights are the Upper and Lower Falls, which provide stunning scenery and refreshing swimming opportunities, especially after it rains. Younger children swim in the shallow Lower Falls, while experienced aquaphiles make the Upper Falls their playground.
9 Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell overlook, Austin, showing the Colorado River bend and luxurious homes
Mount Bonnell is a must-see spot when in Texas. It’s at the highest point within Austin, with a height of 775 feet above sea level, offering panoramic views of downtown Austin, the Colorado River, and the 360 Bridge. Photography enthusiasts find Mount Bonnell the best photo op with the Austin skyline as the backdrop. Travelers reach the lookout deck and pavilion by taking 102 stair steps as they admire the expansive views of Austin. Additionally, the steps are kid and pet-friendly, so everyone gets to join in the fun.
Staying on the deck until late evenings rewards outdoor lovers with stunning sunset views.
8 Umlauf Sculpture Garden And Museum
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, a top-rated attraction in Austin, Texas
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum feature original artwork sculptures by the well-known sculptor and teacher Charles Umlauf. Art lovers will love walking around the garden as they admire the bronze and stone sculptures between trees and flourishing gardens. The garden offers a peaceful space for an introspection retreat with soothing waterfall sounds or a heart-to-heart chat with friends on the secluded benches. The Sculpture Garden occasionally hosts a music or dance performance that adds to its alluring magical nature.
7 Zilker Metropolitan Park
Live performance in Zilker Metropolitan Park, Austin, Texas
Locals and tourists spend their lazy afternoons at the 315-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. The park boasts grassy spaces beside Lady Bird Lake, ideal for picnics, plus volleyball and golf course courts for active adventurers. The large Zilker Playscape is a haven in the form of a playground for kids aged 2 to 5 years. But the 26-acre Zilker Botanical Garden within the park stands out with its themed gardens. Nature lovers find bliss as they explore the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which has enchanting waterfalls and ponds.
6 Bullock Texas State History Museum
Bullock Texas State History Museum, a top-rated attraction in Austin
Named after Bob Bullock, the Bullock Texas History Museum has exhibits showing how Texas was from the early civilizations to the modern times. The museum has artifacts spread over the third floor, which include industry, technology, sports, and space. History buffs spend hours browsing and learning about Texas through the Story of Texas exhibit with well-preserved artifacts that define the state of Texas. Some fascinating artifacts and displays include the 17th-century shipwrecked La Belle, traditional Mexican outfits, Austin City Limits Theater, and artworks.
5 Mayfield Park And Nature Preserve
Gorgeous peacock in Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve, Austin, Texas
A stroll in the peaceful Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve on a hot sunny day sounds right for outdoor adventurers. The nature preserve has a picturesque cottage that blends perfectly with lush gardens and roaming peacocks to create a laid-back slice of heaven. Visitors find peace and inspiration as they stroll the gardens brimming with heritage plants or see koi fish and turtles swimming in the ponds. The sounds of the birds calling from the trees make visiting this tranquil garden a retreat for the soul and mind.
4 Texas State Capitol Building
The popular Texas State Capitol Building and horse back statue, Austin, Texas
The Texas State Capitol is one of the most significant historical landmarks that is a must-visit for explorers. Completed in the late 1800s, the impressive building houses the State Governor’s office, the Texas Legislature Chambers, and a visitor center. History buffs explore the visitor center featuring exhibits showing the history of Texas and Austin. Moreover, visitors stroll along the Great Walk to admire monuments like the Texas African American History Memorial Monument.
Self-guided tours are welcome anytime the Capitol is open, but there are guided tours every day except on holidays.
3 Lyndon Baines Johnson Library And Museum
LBJ Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum from above, Austin, Texas
There’s no better way to experience the 1960s than visiting the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, one of Austin’s top attractions. This museum has memorabilia from the 36th president’s administration, ranging from telephone recordings to a replica of his Oval Office. The replica office has intriguing exhibits like LBJ’s favorite books and retro electronics. Additionally, history buffs see Lady Bird Johnson’s office with papers and photos left many years ago. Besides the permanent exhibits, the museum hosts several rotating displays about President Johnson’s family or trusted staff and his reign as Head of the nation.
2 Mexic-Arte Museum
Congress Avenue that leads to Mexic-Arte Museum with Texas Capitol in the background, Austin
Established in 1984 by three Mexican artists, the Mexic-Arte Museum displays traditional and modern art dedicated to Mexican culture and traditions. The museum has thought-provoking exhibits with problems affecting Mexicans, such as cultural acceptance, border control, and immigration issues. Art lovers marvel at the topic-focused galleries with photography, multimedia, and painting collections that give insight into Mexican culture. On Sundays, the museum hosts the free-entry Domingos Gratis en Familia event, featuring an English and Spanish tour of the museum plus hands-on activities for all ages.
1 Congress Avenue Bridge
Congress Avenue Bats Bridge and skyscrapers, Austin, Texas
The Congress Avenue Bridge has become an unusual but sensational tourist attraction in downtown Austin from mid-March to early November. The bridge shelters a colony of approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, which put on a spectacular show at dusk as they head out for their nightly insect feed. Curious onlookers arrive 30 to 60 minutes before sunset to get decent viewing spots on the bridge. Since the bridge gets too crowded in peak season, tourists book bat-watching cruises or riverboat excursions for breathtaking views beneath the bridge.