Best Things to Do in Downtown Austin – In Detail

Austin, Texas: this funky, rapidly-growing city has its fair share of cool spots and attractions for visitors and locals alike to check out. It’s known as a home base for events like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest (SXSW) and also as a live music hub. A good time is expected on 6th Street, which boasts a vibrant and bustling nightlife scene. For those who prefer the great outdoors, well-curated museums, or some tasty eats – Austin has all three and more.

Downtown Austin is right at the heart of all things Austin, and it’s a wonderful place to start your exploration of the city. With Spring right around the corner, mild temperatures mean you can comfortably spend the entire day seeing everything downtown has to offer. To be clear, though, downtown Austin is great fun to explore year-round, and there will always be plenty of engaging things to do and see. 

10 Top Things to Do in Downtown Austin

So, if you’re planning to check out downtown Austin, here’s what we recommend:

  1. The Escape Game Austin
  2. Texas State Capitol Building
  3. ACL Live at the Moody Theater
  4. Blanton Museum of Art
  5. Congress Avenue Bats
  6. Austin Visitor Center
  7. Downtown Austin Walking Tours
  8. Lady Bird Lake
  9. Antone’s Nightclub
  10. SFC Farmers’ Market

1. The Escape Game Austin

Address: 405 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 643-0043

Escape Game Austin

For the adventurous types, or those who love a good mystery, The Escape Game Austin is a must-try. With seven different themed escape rooms to choose from, there are a variety of possibilities for some fun that will get your heart racing. The Heist room will immerse you in a world where you must recover a priceless painting from a crooked curator. If you’re up for more of the challenge, the Prison Break room speaks for itself.

The Escape Game Austin has been hailed as one of Austin’s best escape rooms. It’s immersive, wildly intricate, and each room is produced with a lot of care. Games are hosted throughout the night, some even past midnight, so they’re a great option for some late-night entertainment. Nestled in the heart of downtown, it’s a must-add to your itinerary.

2. Texas State Capitol Building

Address: 1100 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 463-4630

Texas State Capitol Building

The Texas State Capitol Building is more than just that – besides its historical value, the building is treasured as an architectural beauty. Sitting upon a lush green hill in downtown Austin, you absolutely cannot miss it. Take a walk through the Capitol grounds, or go straight inside to see its gorgeous rotunda or learn some history.

The Capitol offers free guided tours every day, but you’re free to create your own tour. Inside the building you’ll find various exhibits, pieces of art, the Senate Chamber, and plenty of other exciting spaces. If you’re in downtown Austin, the Capitol will most certainly catch your eye, and it’s for good reason!

3. ACL Live at The Moody Theater

Address: 310 W Willie Nelson Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 404-1300

ACL Live at The Moody Theater

So, you’ve come to Austin to see live music. That’s what the city is known for, right? Then, ACL Live at The Moody Theater is the perfect place for you. This venue holds world-class performances from a variety of diverse artists. It’s a gorgeous building right in the heart of the 2nd Street District, so it’s in the perfect spot to go shopping or grab a bite to eat before a show.

If you’d like to get some behind the scenes knowledge of the venue and its history, ACL Live holds tours. Learn about PBS’s Austin City Limits, which is produced at ACL Live and is the longest running music series in American television history, browse superb music photography, and purchase merchandise. No matter whether you’re seeing a concert or simply aching to know more music history, ACL Live is a great place to visit.

4. Blanton Museum of Art

Address: 200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78712

Phone: (512) 471-5482

Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art recently went through a multitude of architectural, design, and landscape improvements – and it shows. Blanton’s 200,000 sq ft. campus is absolutely gorgeous and boasts a beautiful outdoor patio as well as two buildings. The outdoor area is just as curated as the inside, and you can find flora as well as vibrant art installations.

Inside, the Blanton is lush with unique, bold art exhibits. Browse their permanent collection such as Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, or come to see one of their special, temporary exhibitions. As for events, the Blanton’s got those down as well. Every other Saturday, enjoy live music out on the patio and extended museum hours. Check out the Blanton’s calendar to see what other events they may have up their sleeve. If you’re interested in free admission, be sure to visit on Tuesday as it is free for all visitors.

5. Congress Avenue Bats

Address (Statesman Bat Observation Center): 305 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

Phone (Statesman Bat Observation Center): (512) 327-9721

Congress Avenue Bats

Austin becomes the home of nearly 1.5 million bats when the colony arrives in late March of every year. The bats will stick around until around early fall when the temperature begins to drop. During this time period, many of the bats reside underneath the Congress Avenue bridge during the day. At night, the bats fly out from underneath the bridge, which is quite the captivating sight for those of us down below.

Watching the bats make their nightly flight out into the city is one of the most popular attractions in Austin, and rightfully so. You can gather along the bridge to watch the bats take flight, or you can watch from the Statesman Bat Observation Center, a grassy hill that allows you to see the underside of the bridge. Take a walk on the Butler Hike & Bike Trail along Ladybird Lake and watch the bats while you’re at it. No matter the option you choose, this sight is unforgettable.

6. Austin Visitor Center

Address: 602 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 478-0098

Austin Visitor Center

What better way to get acquainted with downtown Austin than to check out the Austin visitor center? The staff there can inform you on some of Austin’s history and culture, or they can help you figure out transportation for all of your adventures throughout the city and downtown. If you need somewhere to store your luggage while you explore before checking in to your hotel, the Austin Visitor Center offers luggage storage for $8 per piece, per day.

Perhaps you’d like to purchase some Austin-themed merchandise to celebrate your visit, or some fun gifts for friends and family. The Austin Visitor Center holds a gift shop that should suit all of your Austin item needs. In addition, ask them about tours, enjoy a clean restroom, use their complimentary Wi-Fi, and grab a map or a brochure.

7. Downtown Austin Walking Tours

Address: 602 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 478-0098

Downtown Austin Walking Tours

If you’re interested in taking a guided tour of downtown Austin, or maybe you’d rather not go through the trouble of creating your own itinerary, then join in on one of the downtown walking tours hosted by the Austin Visitor center. Choose from two different tours curated by the Visitor Center – see West of Congress Avenue, or Downtown sights, old and new. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, the Visitor Center can custom-design a tour to fit your needs and interests.

Tours are $20 for those above age 13, and $10 for kids 12 and under. They’re only given on Thursdays and Fridays, and you must email tourdesk@visitaustin.org to secure a spot. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience the history and culture of Austin through the guidance of an expert. 

8. Lady Bird Lake

Address: Visit here for a list of public access areas for the lake.  

Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake is the host of quite a few different recreational activities, so it might be hard to get bored if you decide to visit this beauty. For our more adventurous readers, you must try kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding on the lake. You can rent all three from a variety of different businesses near the lake, such as Rowing Dock or Epicsup.

There isn’t any motorized boat traffic on Lady Bird Lake, which is what makes it great for kayaking and paddle boarding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a nice boat ride. Capital Cruises boasts an all-electric fleet of boats that they use to give sightseeing tours, dinner and lunch cruises, and private events. If you want to enjoy the view of the lake without getting on the water, take a walk on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

9. Antone’s Nightclub

Address: 305 E 5th St., Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 814-0361

Antone’s Nightclub

Yet another live music staple of downtown Austin, Antone’s Nightclub cannot be overlooked by the music aficionados out there. Once a host of very popular artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson, Antone’s is iconic amongst Austinites as the gritty, yet dazzling, venue to pull crowds from all over the city and beyond. Today, they host a diverse range of artists for all your blues and associated needs.

Buy a ticket to one of the shows held at the “Home of the Blues” and allow yourself to be immersed in the rich cultural significance of Antone’s. Better yet, enjoy a hot dog or one of Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys while you’re there. If you’d like to grab a funky record or some Antone’s apparel, check out Big Henry’s Vinyl & Gifts, the in-house box office and retail space.

10. Sustainable Food Center (SFC) Farmers’ Market

Address: 422 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512)-236-0074

(SFC) Farmers’ Market

Farmers, ranchers, dairies, beekeepers, soap-makers, artisans – these are just a few of the types of vendors you may find selling their products at the SFC Farmers’ Market. On Saturdays in downtown Austin, you’ll find this market bustling with all kinds of activity. With tasty food being sold, good music being played, and beautiful art to browse, this vibrant atmosphere is a great way to start your day.

The market is positioned next to Republic Square Park, making it a perfect location for grabbing some items or a snack and sprawling out in the green space. Enjoy free yoga from 10 am to 11 am at the park, then grab a coffee at the market. There could always be a new activity or vendor at the market, so it’s a great idea to dive right in and take a look. 

Conclusion

Downtown Austin has a ton to offer. So, if you’re looking for something to do, be sure to check out one of the quality picks above. There are plenty of attractions and neighborhood staples to keep you occupied and interested, and that’s just downtown – there’s a whole city left to explore!

Texas Tasty Team

The Texas Tasty Team is a dedicated group of writers and editors who love all things Texas. From food to culture, they share the best of the Lone Star State through engaging articles and captivating stories. Their mission is to inspire readers to explore and embrace the rich heritage and diverse offerings of Texas.