Despite being the fastest growing city in the U.S., attracting 150 new residents and countless new businesses daily, the quirky city retains its “Keep Austin Weird” motto—a slogan adopted to represent the city’s ongoing support for local artists and businesses, however unique along with the iconic SXSW festival. From outdoor graffiti walls to two-stepping dance halls, we’ve rounded up the must-visit attractions that make Austin what it is.
The State Capitol and Visitors Center
Completed in 1888, the State Capitol and its 22 acres of grounds and monuments are home to the office of the State Governor and the Chambers of the Texas Legislature. Protected as a National Historic Landmark, the building impresses with its dimensions; at 308 feet tall, it ranks as the sixth tallest state capitol, taller even than the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Visitors can stroll the park via the tree-lined path called the Great Walk and admire the numerous monuments, including the Texas African American History Memorial, the Vietnam War monument, a bronze statue of a Texas Ranger.
Lady Bird Lake
Named after the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Lake is actually a section of the Colorado River that covers 416 acres and has become one of the city’s top recreational areas. Although lined with hotels and residential complexes, the majority of its shoreline is open to the public, with miles of excellent trails for pedestrians and cyclists, including the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the river and connects downtown Austin with the southern shore. The paths connect many of the city’s parks, including Zilker Metropolitan Park, the Town Lake Metropolitan Park’s Vic Mathias Shores, Lamar Beach, Butler Shores, Waller Beach, and Eilers Neighborhood Park.
Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum tells the state’s story through a variety of interesting interactive exhibits, along with audio-visual displays and film. The museum’s IMAX theater shows educational and popular new-release films. The permanent Story of Texas exhibit is home to artifacts and displays that feature defining events in the state’s history, like the preserved hull of the 17th-century La Belle, which was shipwrecked at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Other exhibits and presentations include the fall of the Alamo, Tejano culture, and the history of the Texas oil industry.
Barton Springs Pool
Although swimming in Lady Bird lake is prohibited, nearby Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park is Austin’s favorite place to cool off. A spring-fed pool along Barton Creek, it covers an area of three acres and has an average temperature of 70 degrees year-round. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the grassy tree-lined perimeter and perfect water that reaches up to 18 feet deep. The area is also considered a protected habitat for the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, which is only found in this specific aquifer. Because of the delicate balance between recreation and nature, the pool is closed for most of the day once a week for a specialized cleaning that protects the wildlife form harsh chemicals while keeping swimmers safe.