Austin, the live music capital of the world, is an easy day trip from so many great places in Texas and this post will help you pack your itinerary with a bunch of the great things to do and places to see here.

Austin is a short drive from San Antonio, just 1 hour 30 minutes. Under 2 hours drive from Waco and under 3 hours from Houston into the central Texas city.

The vibrant capital of the Lone Star State is famous for its lively concerts, rave-worthy food, and sunny weather. Its locals are not afraid to embrace the weird and wonderful either. It is home to the largest urban bat colony and the only nude beach in Texas!

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6th Street, Austin
6th Street, Austin

The best way to get around Austin is by car. Like everything in Texas, the sites are far apart. If you’re coming from out of town and you need to purchase car insurance in Texas to make driving around the city as safe and enjoyable as possible, we’ve also got you.

If you don’t have a car, or prefer not to use it, I’m always a fan taking a Hop On Hop Off sight-seeing bus, which I am a big of as it doubles as your taxi as you can hop on in either direction as many times as you like.

Start the day in Downtown Austin for Brunch

To start your day full of energy, have brunch and coffee in Downtown Austin. This area exudes charm thanks to its homey cafes and vintage restaurants.

Visit 1886 Cafe & Bakery, a Victorian-inspired tearoom serving pastries and comfort food in the Driskill Hotel. A menu favorite is Helen Corbitt’s Cheese Soup, or try the Texas classic, Fried Chicken Sandwich.

Phoebe’s Diner downtown location is another option and is loved for its traditional Texan entrees, like shrimp and grits, or the smoked brisket burrito. It’s open from 7am – 3pm.

Later in the day, you can sample more eats from the many food trucks in the area.

Driskill Hotel lobby at Christmas
The Driskill during the holiday season

Selfies at the Texas State Capitol

Every tourist’s first stop at Austin should be the Texas State Capitol. It is a replica of Washington D.C.’s Capitol Building (which you can take a free tour of).

But because it is in Texas, where everything is big, it is taller by 22 feet. The imposing building opened in 1885, featuring an Italian Renaissance Revival design. Aside from taking photos of the impressive exterior, you can also enjoy a free guided tour of the building and learn about Texas’ history and government.

Capitol Building, Austin Texas
Visit the Texas State Capitol. Photo by Charles Fair on Unsplash

Soak up some History and Culture at Museums

The University of Texas is a source of knowledge for locals and tourists alike. Inside the campus, you can visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, which offers a glimpse into the 1960s when Johnson was president. There are various historical memorabilia worth examining, including a replica of the Oval Office and the president’s limousine.

The Blanton Museum of Art is another place you can add to your itinerary. It is home to a quaint collection spanning various genres, such as Native American, Latin American, and Roman works.

Try water-based activities in Butler Metro Park

Butler Metro Park, formerly called Town Lake, is a well-loved spot among locals and tourists. It is an urban space flanked by the Colorado River and surrounded by abundant greenery.

It offers respite from the stresses of daily life. The park is a great place to enjoy water-based activities on a hot summer day, like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and river cruises.

Even kids will love it here because there is a splash pad and garden just for them. There’s a dog-friendly area, too, so you can bring your furry friend along.

Swimming in Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool for a dip. Photo by Alex George on Unsplash

Here are other places you can visit in Texas if you enjoy being near water:

●               Barton Springs Pool in Austin, which is a natural swimming hole.

●               Lady Bird Lake in Austin

●               Guadalupe River from Kerr County to San Antonio Bay

●               Comal River in New Braunfels

Dog on kayak on Lady Bird Lake, Austin
A cheeky little kayak on Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Smell the roses in Botanical Gardens

Well, maybe not roses per se, but if you like being one with nature, you can’t miss Zilker Metropolitan Park. It is a lush oasis featuring themed gardens, including a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and a riparian zone.

There’s even a prehistoric garden where you can marvel at plants dating back to the dinosaur age. If you want to rest, you can sit under a heritage oak and take in the view of the Colorado River.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is another must-see for nature lovers. A tribute to President Johnson’s wife, it boasts a wide array of native flora and fauna.

Here are other places you can visit in Texas if you enjoy nature:

●               Blue Hole Regional Park in Texas Hill Country

●              Pedernales Falls State Park in Blanco County

Enjoy the live music scene

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World (trademarked!) It’s the main reason people visit, and you can catch some great live acts day and night.

You’ll find performers getting you in the vibe everywhere from the airport to the grocery store. There are seasonal music festivals and big events, to intimate sounds in local cafes and bars, to entertainment at sporting events.

For all the info on live music in Austin when you will be visiting, check out the Austin Texas Music Scene.

Mist sprayers in summer
Mist sprayers are essential for summer sounds. Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash

Get a taste of Austin’s Nightlife

End your Austin adventure with a nightcap in the East Cesar Chavez Business District or South Congress Avenue.

These areas have countless live music venues, cocktail lounges, wine tasting menus, and brewpubs, offering a lively nightlife experience.

If you’re not ready to call it a night, you can also go to 6th Street. The area has three parts, each one dedicated to an age group. Dirty 6th is for underage partygoers, West 6th is for young professionals with restaurants, events, shopping. West 6th is one big open party where everyone’s welcome.

Stay the Night

If you want to extend your day trip to Austin, the best place to look for accommodation is Downtown, Red River Cultural District or Zilker.

Or head to South Congress. This area provides countless local hotels, each with a unique vibe that reflects Austin’s quirkiness. One of them is the Austin Motel, best known for its colorful interiors and budget-friendly prices.

But if you want a 5-star experience, you can book a stay at Austin Proper Hotel. It treats guests to luxurious rooms, a fitness center, and a swimming pool.

Austin City Limits

If you’re coming to Austin in October, don’t miss the long-awaited Austin City Limits Music Festival. It is happening on Oct. 6-15 at Zilker Park.

A star-studded lineup awaits you, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Chicks, and Paramore. But the music fest will also feature local artists who got their start in Austin.

The Bottom Line

The big city of Austin is one of the most popular tourist spots in the U.S., and it’s easy to see why. It is the perfect place for history buffs, nature lovers, and food enthusiasts. You can even use Austin as a jump-off point to small towns and other attractions nearby, including Dripping Springs, San Antonio, Johnson City, and New Braunfels. These are some of the best day trips to enjoy in Texas.

Looking for another Texas day trip? How about heading to Houston to visit the best children’s museums in Houston?

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