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27 Things To Do In Downtown Austin Not To Be Missed

Downtown Austin is the heart of the city. From food to music to art, it’s the place to be. It’s a hub for culture and entertainment with a little something for everyone. Whether you're looking for the funky side of Austin or a more traditional experience, Downtown Austin has it all.

Here are 27 things to do in Downtown Austin not to be missed!

May 30, 202316 min read

Anecia Ascalon
Anecia Ascalon
Team Building Expert

Downtown Austin is the heart of the city. From food to music to art, it’s the place to be. It’s a hub for culture and entertainment with a little something for everyone. Whether you're looking for the funky side of the city or a more traditional experience, Downtown Austin has it all.

Here are 27 things to do in Downtown Austin not to be missed!

1. Texas State Capitol Building

Austin Capitol Building

This magnificent pink granite Italian Renaissance Revival-style building was constructed in 1888. It’s the largest state capitol building in the United States with its closest competitor being the U.S. Capitol which is 15 feet shorter! It’s free to visit and the inside of the building is just as handsome as the exterior. Free guided tours are offered that educate visitors about the Lone Star State’s history and government. The grounds around the building are large and filled with monuments. It's a nice place to stroll or even sit down and have a picnic.

2. The Escape Game Austin

an escape room

When you play an escape room at The Escape Game in Downtown Austin you can expect lots of ‘wow’ moments and lots of fun! You’ll be put to the test as you race the clock to find a way out of a ‘locked’ room. Each of the five rooms has been meticulously designed to match its unique theme with a realistic atmosphere, even if it’s a 1950s prison cell!

Every game has multiple rooms to explore as you hunt for clues and solve riddles and puzzles. Stop an art thief in his tracks, hunt for a hidden stash of gold, or prevent a global catastrophe! Whatever the challenge, you’ll have a blast!

3. ACL Live at the Moody Theater

Austin City Limits sign

ACL stands for Austin City Limits, which is the name of the longest-running televised music series in American history! Musicians come from around the country and world to play in this intimate theater. The show is one of many venues that’s helped shape Austin’s reputation as the “live music Capital of the world”. Seeing an ACL show is by far one of the best things you can do at night in Austin.

4. Blanton Museum of Art

a painting

One of Austin's finest museums is located near the University of Texas campus whose art collection the Blanton houses. The collection is impressive with more than 18,000 pieces of art. The museum itself however is not overwhelming and guests can see and contemplate works from many historical eras and regions.

The Blanton boats the most comprehensive collections of Latin American art in the country. The modern art collection is impressive with works from European masters but also many Americans like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and many more. Located at 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

5. Congress Avenue Bats

bats flying out from a bridge

Austin is known by many - for its colony of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats! You can see them fly out from their home underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge every sunset, though the colony is somewhat smaller in cooler months. Still, there are more than enough to delight any time of the year! The sight of these tiny winged black creatures streaking across an orange sky is marvelous! Stand on the bridge or stake out a spot at the bat observation area at the southeast corner of Congress Bridge and Lady Bird Lake.

6. Austin Visitor Center

Be sure to make a stop at the Austin Visitor Center to grab maps and brochures and avail yourself of the vast knowledge of Austin the friendly staff has to share. They can point you to music venues, outdoor activities, restaurants, museums, shopping, and more! Just ask…they will have an answer! Located at 602 E. Fourth St.

7. Downtown Austin Walking Tours

ATX sign

Offered by the Austin Visitor Center, these public Downtown walking tours are heard to help you feel connected to the city’s history, culture, and cityscape. Guides are Austin experts and the tours usually run on Thursday and Friday mornings and last 90 minutes. The cost for adults (ages 13 and older) is $20 per person and for children (ages 12 and under) $10 per person.

8. Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake

This “lake” is actually a reservoir that is approximately 4.5 miles from the Colorado River that runs through Austin. Still, you can do just about everything you can do at a lake except swim or use motorized boats. Join the locals who love to kayak, canoe, and paddle board. Boating through Downtown Austin lends a unique perspective of the city. You can rent equipment from the Waller Creek Boathouse located at 74 Trinity St.

9. Antone's Nightclub

a saxaphone player

This self-proclaimed “Austin’s home of the blues” has some legitimacy to that claim, having hosted legends of the genre since 1975. Just a few of the performers who have graced the stage are B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Muddy Waters. Antone’s intimate atmosphere and stellar line-ups make it an excellent place to hear the blues and a nice place to spend your date night in Austin. Located at 305 E. 5th St.

10. SFC Farmers' Market

This weekly farmers’ market is sponsored by the Sustainable Food Center (SFC) of Auston. It’s the highlight of the week for Austinites who want to purchase high-quality foods from local farmers, ranchers, and food producers from around Central Texas. Ready-to-eat foods are there for trying, like local coffee, Mexican food, baked goods, and many other tasty bites!

Even if you aren't interested in food, you can browse artisan crafts from local vendors or listen to live music that is scheduled once monthly. The market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and is located at Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe St.

11. Austin Street Art

austin mural

Austin’s street art scene is a dynamic one, and large-scale murals are found throughout the city. Several of the best murals can be seen in Downtown. Check these out -- and have the camera ready for these Instagrammable moments!

Howdy Austin at 601 W 6th St.

The Beauty and Liberty of Equality at 111 E Cesar Chavez St.

Tau Ceti at Brazos & Second Streets

Willie Nelson & Janis Joplin Mural at 407 E Seventh St.

Spaceman with Floating Pizza at 1209 Red River St.

Big Chiller Blues at 601 E Fifth St.

Mexic-Arte Museum Mural at 419 Congress Ave.

Historic 6th Street Mural at 582 N. IH-35 Frontage Rd.

…and last by not least the incredible The Beauty and Liberty of Equality

111 E Cesar Chavez St which is 11 stories high, and is painted on the side of the LINE Austin hotel by world-renowned mural artists Sandra Chevrier and Shepard Fairey.

12. Waterloo Records

When this record shop opened in 1982, there were no such things as CDs or MP3s - just vinyl. And today, Waterloo Records still sells vinyl records to customers who gobble them up! They’ve branched out of course and sell all forms of music recordings! Waterloo carries books and movies too. You can catch a live music show from local artists in the shop so check the calendar when you're in town! Located at 600 N Lamar Blvd.

13. Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail

biking in Austin

This 10-mile scenic urban path runs along Austin’s Lady Bird Lake and passes through a few neighborhoods including Downtown. People come to walk, run, and bike along the water's edge. The surrounding views are lovely, with both natural environs and the skyline with Austin's skyscrapers. If you don't have a bike, you can rent one from Barton Springs Bike Rentals.

14. Austin Bus Tours

One way to get an overview of Austin and the downtown area is to take a comfortable bus tour.

AO Tours transports you around town in glass-top, convertible tour buses! There’s a live guide to tell you the history and culture of the sights you’ll see. Tours last between 90 minutes to 3 hours. The Best of ATX Panoramic City Center Tour is 90 minutes and shows you Downtown Austin and other nearby neighborhoods.

The tour visits the East Sixth Street area, Historic Congress Avenue, the University of Texas campus, the 2nd Street District, Lady Bird Lake, the Seaholm District, the Warehouse District, and East Austin (including the African American Cultural Historic District). After your tour, you will know which areas you’d like to spend more time in. If you are in Austin on a rainy day or a hot day, a bus tour is the answer!

15. Bullock Texas State History Museum

Bullock State Musuem

Even though you are only in Austin, you may want to take the time to learn the story of Texas overall. With fascinating artifacts, interactive exhibits, and multimedia presentations the state’s complex history is brought to life. Plus there is an IMAX theater! When so much of Downtown is geared toward adults, a visit to the Bullock is an ideal activity for families visiting Austin. Located at 1800 Congress Ave.

16. Warehouse District

This vibrant neighborhood just west of Congress Avenue is filled with historic buildings that were once used as warehouses and distribution centers. Over time, these buildings have been repurposed and transformed into art galleries, live music venues, restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The Warehouse District has a bustling nightlife much of which is centered

17. Austin Toy Museum

mini robot toys

Small but very cool, the Austin Toy Museum is jam-packed with hundreds of toys and figurines from eras past and present. See Ken and Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, Star Wars figurines, Marvel characters, and many others. There is a roster of rotating exhibits with hands-on activities in both the display cases and the arcade. Play vintage video games in the arcade like Spaces Invaders, Pac-Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong. Games are free to play with your admission ticket. Shop the museum’s large comic book collection. Located at 314 1/2 Congress Ave.

18. The Driskill Hotel

The iconic Driskill Hotel was built in 1886 by cattle baron Colonel Jesse Driskill and has since become an Austin landmark. It is certainly one of the most luxurious hotels in Austin (if you like Romanesque architecture mixed with modern decor!)

It’s widely regarded as haunted and as such is a stop on any Austin ghost tour. You don't have to stay here to get a taste of the hotel’s charm or spirits. Have a drink at the Driskill Bar warmly furnished with rustic leather couches, cowhide barstools, and even cattle-branded custom carpet! Located at 604 Brazos St.

19. Sixth Street

people toasting

Old 6th Street, fondly known as Dirty 6th, is the original entertainment section of the street including those venues between Congress Avenue (to the west) and I-35 (to the East). With a rowdy, loud vibe, bars with doors wide open, live music heard from the street, and tattoo parlors, a night here is one of those things to do in Austin for adults only!

20. The Contemporary Austin

This contemporary art museum showcases thought-provoking and innovative works by both established and emerging artists. It has two locations, with the Jones Center downtown and a sculpture garden called Laguna Gloria north of downtown. The exhibitions at the Jones Center rotate, so there’s always something new and exciting to see. The building is sleek and modern, setting the tone for the works contained within. One wall is devoted to mural art with changing artists. Located at 700 Congress Ave.

21. Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theater

Built in 1915, The Paramount is a cultural landmark known for its beautiful architecture and eclectic line-up. The theater hosts live performances like concerts by both local talent and international talent, comedy shows, children’s theater, and even live podcast recording sessions. The Paramount also has film screenings, with an annual classic film series now running for nearly 50 years!

22. Museum of The Weird

Austin’s unofficial logo is, ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and this museum certainly supports this! Imagine PT Barnum meets Ripley's Believe it or Not and you can anticipate what's on display in this small museum. Among the oddities are shrunken heads, taxidermy animals, a life-size wax figure, displays of mythic creatures like Bigfoot. and an original animatronic from Gremlins! Located at 412 E. 6th St.

23. Mohawk Austin

a man playing guitar

This multi-level music venue and bar is beloved by Austinites who appreciate awesome music and strong drinks. Mohawk showcases local performers and touring bands across three stages, two indoors and one outdoors. There’s also a roof deck so you can listen to great tunes while taking in Austin’s skyline. Located at 912 Red River St.

24. Stubb's Austin

barbeque meat

Stubb’s gives you the chance to eat Texas BBQ and catch great music at the same time! Known for its unbelievable barbeque, Stubbs hosts amazing bands of all genres. Some of the bands to grace the Stubb’s stage over the years are Wilco, The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, Joan Jett, Snoop Dogg, Dwight Yoakam, and many more. The Sunday gospel brunch is a popular event in Austin, and while it may be hard to get in, it’s worth it.

Stubb’s is an all-ages venue. So if you are visiting Austin with teenagers who want to see live bands but aren't allowed in the city’s 21+ music venues, Stubb’s is a destination for you! Located at 801 Red River St.

25. Mexic-Arte Museum

Since 1984, this excellent, community museum has dedicated itself to enriching and educating the community with exhibitions and education programs about Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art. The museum frequently holds festivals and special events, like its “Day of the Dead” parade which is the largest and longest-running Dia de los Muertos celebration in Texas. Located at 419 Congress Ave.

26. Punch Bowl Social

people bowling

Part restaurant and bar, part entertainment center, Punch Bowl Social will keep you busy and having fun for hours. There’s bowling, ping pong, shuffleboard, vintage arcade games, and private karaoke rooms to rent. Punch Bowl Social has a full-service kitchen and a bar serving a wide selection of craft cocktails, beer, and wine. If you are looking for a place to host a work party in Austin, look into Punch Bowl Social. Located at 522 Congress Ave.

27. Esther's Follies

With all the contemporary art and music being heard around Austin, one would expect a vaudeville theater. Well, Esther’s Follies is proof that this unique style of performance is alive and kicking.

For over 40 years, Esther’s Follies and its comedy troupe have been cracking up audiences with comedy sketches, political satire, Vegas-style magic, and hysterical musical tunes. This intimate theater presents two performances nightly, and they can fill up, so go early! Esther's is loads of fun if you are planning a Girls' Night Out! Located at 525 E. Sixth St.

Explore more of Austin with our article, 25 Fun Things To Do In Austin.

For suggestions on how to spend your time in Austin, including daytime activities, suggestions for meals, and nightlife, see our Austin 2-day itinerary!