The 10 Most Iconic Things to Do in Austin
Updated: April 19, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Patricia Miller
1522 S. Congress Ave.
You won’t have a hard time finding Allens Boots; just look for the Bunyanesque red boot on the 1500 block of South Congress Avenue. Even if you’re not a cowboy-boot aficionado, it’s fun to gaze at the seemingly endless rows of boots in a kaleidoscope of colors. Take a look at cowboy hats, apparel, jewelry and belts, too; Allens has everything you need to outfit yourself head-to-toe in Western garb.
Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
Congress Ave. & Barton Springs Rd.
You must do this when you’re in Austin: Set up camp near the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and watch Austin’s bats leave their berths under the bridge en masse to devour insects while unknowingly entertaining scores of onlookers. You can witness this phenomenon daily after dusk from early April through early October.
305 E. 5th St.
There are many reasons Austin is called the “Live Music Capital of the World” and Antone’s is one of them. This esteemed venue is nothing short of legendary, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic blues club. Opened by avid blues aficionado Clifford Antone in 1975, who also founded an eponymous record label and record store, the bare-bones club hosts talented local acts as well as touring artists. Recent names on the marquee of this Austin nightclub include Robert Cray, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
When the Texas heat begins to take its toll, head to Barton Springs Pool for a refreshing dip; it's one of many fun things to do in Austin. Located in the 358-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, the 3-acre spring-fed pool’s temperature hovers at a crisp 68-70 degrees year-round. Bring a towel to toss on the surrounding grass and a few bucks for the concession stand, since coolers aren’t allowed.
The Continental Club
1315 S. Congress Ave.
Marked by a restored 1950s neon sign that oozes cool, The Continental Club began its life as an upscale supper club in 1957, morphing into a 1960s burlesque club, then hosting punk bands in the 1980s. These days, the stage is graced by musicians playing roots rock, rockabilly and country for your listening, dancing, head-bobbing and toe-tapping pleasure. Restored 1950s-era murals on the walls recall this revered Austin classic’s earlier days.
The Driskill Grill
604 Brazos St.
Whether it’s a special occasion or you’re just feeling a little spendy, make your way to The Driskill Grill. This swanky establishment inside The Driskill Hotel is reminiscent of an old-school gentleman’s club, from nail-studded leather chairs and a pressed-tin ceiling to plush burgundy carpet speckled with gold stars. Creative menus incorporate locally sourced organic ingredients and change daily, but you’ll find dishes along the lines of wild boar chops, fire-grilled lamb loin, roasted cauliflower steak or pumpkin-tanariva chocolate custard, complemented by an encyclopedic wine list.
900 E. 11th St.
Order up a heaping plate of some of Austin’s best BBQ at this restaurant that’s only open for lunch (its hours are “11-Sold Out!”). There’s at least a 2-hour wait, but this eatery is highly rated and well-known; Anthony Bourdain once said “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.” The brisket, ribs and pulled pork are smoked for 22 hours; you can also choose turkey and sausage. Keep in mind that seating is outdoors only. Those in the know bring lawn chairs, umbrellas and coolers to make the waiting easier.
The LINE Hotel Austin
111 E. Cesar Chavez St.
You’ll need a place to crash at the end of long days exploring the city. The LINE Austin, a AAA Four Diamond® and AAA Inspector Pick, is not only close to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can catch the nightly bat show, but it’s a quick walk to downtown. What’s more, this Austin hotel has free Wi-Fi and yoga classes, a heated infinity-edge pool, modern furnishings, an in-room fridge and iHome docking stations, and pets stay for free.
801 Red River St.
If you’re craving some tasty barbecue, but don’t have the time to wait at Franklin Barbecue, stride over to Stubbs’s Bar-B-Q. This popular eatery has been satisfying carnivorous Austinites since 1968, and if you want a side of live music with your brisket, head outside to the outdoor amphitheater, which earns rave reviews from music fans. Bands also perform on an indoor stage. Texas post oak and house-made dry rubs flavor the slowly smoked meats, and you can have your meal served family style.
600A N. Lamar Blvd.
In case you haven’t heard, people are buying records again. Actually, they never stopped, and the staff at Waterloo Records can testify to that. This Austin record store has supplied audiophiles with its immense collection of vinyl (and CDs) since 1982. You also can’t beat the free in-store shows for all ages, usually followed by record signings, in the shop’s 6,400-square-foot space. In Austin, it's one of the fun things to do with kids who are into music.
AAA Travel Editor Patricia Miller
Patricia Miller is a AAA Travel Expert.