Trails To Tunes: 27 Of The Coolest Things To Do In Austin For Unforgettable Good Times

From the green paths of Zilker Botanical Garden to the iconic Texas State Capitol to swimming holes in the Hill Country, Austin is packed with places that blend history, art, and nature in unique ways. Whether you're into checking out cool art, stepping back in history, or enjoying the great outdoors, get ready to discover what makes Austin stand out and why you don't want to miss these 27 things to do in Austin!
Visiting The Texas State Capitol Is One Of The Free Things To Do In Austin

1. Texas State Capitol

Website, 1100 Congress Avenue, (512) 463-4630, Downtown Austin

Completed in 1888 and located at what is considered the center of downtown Austin, the Texas State Capitol is renowned for its classic Renaissance Revival architecture. This iconic structure  is one of the most distinguished state capitols in the United States. The Capitol’s expansive grounds feature statues and monuments that illustrate Texas history. Whether you’re a history aficionado or simply appreciate architectural beauty, the Texas State Capitol is always at the top of the list for things to do in Austin. The best way to see the Capitol building is on a  free guided tour of the Texas State Capitol. Tours usually start every 30 to 45 minutes from inside the South Foyer outside the tour guides office in the Capitol and last for about 30 minutes. Parking at the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 12th and San Jacinto Street is free for the first 2 hours.

2. Old Bakery & Emporium

Website, 1006 Congress Avenue, (512) 974-1300, Downtown Austin

As you cross Colorado Street on Congress Avenue in front of the Texas State Capitol, you will find a unique slice of Austin’s history. The Lunberg Bakery once served the Austin community with baked goods. Today it is a gift shop and City of Austin Vistors Center, which makes it the perfect stop before or after a tour of the Texas State Capitol. This historic building dates back to 1876 when Swedish baker Charles Lundberg opened the first commercial bakery in Austin. Everything sold in the Old Bakery is made by local Austin artisans over the age of 50. Besides jewelry, ceramics, quilts, original artwork, woodcraft and other unique souvenirs of Austin, the Old Bakery is a great source of information on other things to do in Austin. Read more here about the old Bakery and Emporium.

texas governor mansion

3. Texas Governors Mansion Tour

Website, 1010 Colorado Street, (512) 305-8524, Downtown Austin

If you are looking for educational and historical things to do in Austin, consider making a reservation to take the Texas Governors Mansion Tour. Steps away from  the Texas State Capitol, this impressive building has served as the official residence of the Texas governor since 1856 and is a splendid example of Greek Revival architecture. The mansion not only serves as a home to the current Texas governor, but also as a living museum chronicling over 160 years of Texas history. Visitors are treated to a guided tour highlighting the mansion’s architectural features, historical furnishings, and the significant role it has played in Texas politics. The tour also offers a rare glimpse into the personal lives of the governors who have resided there, adding a human touch to the historical narrative. Advanced reservations are required and identification must be submitted in advance. For history buffs and political enthusiasts, the Texas Governor’s Mansion Tour is a worthwhile experience to add to your list of things to do in Austin.

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4. Bullock State History Museum

Website, 1800 Congress Avenue, (512) 936-8746, Downtown Austin

Named after former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, this multifaceted museum is dedicated to telling the “Story of Texas” through a variety of interactive exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays. From the early indigenous inhabitants to the space explorations of NASA, the museum covers a broad spectrum of Texas history, offering something for every interest. The museum’s IMAX theater shows both educational films that complement the exhibits and current first run movies. There is underground parking at the Bullock State History Museum located on the south side of the museum off 18th Street. The Bullock Museum has a flat rate of $15 for all day parking, which makes it a great choice if you are planning on spending some time exploring all three of the things to do in Austin near the Texas Capitol Mall – the Blanton Museum of Art, the Texas State Capitol and the Texas State History Museum. 

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5. Blanton Museum of Fine Art

Website, 200 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, (512) 471-5482, Downtown Austin

Located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, the Blanton Museum of Art is a highlight among things to do in Austin. Since its opening in 1963, the museum has grown into a significant art museum, showcasing over 19,000 works that span European masterpieces to contemporary American and Latin American art. The Blanton Museum, including the visually striking Rapoport Atrium and Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” (a free standing installation outside of the museum), is a unique blend of art and architecture. The museum offers educational programs, guided tours, and rotating exhibitions as part of its mission of making art accessible to all, including free admission to the Blanton Museum on every Thursday. 

texas memorial stadium ut mccombs red zone

6. UT Hall of Fame at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium

Website, 405 DeLoss Dodds Way, (512) 471-4780, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

For sports enthusiasts in general and UT Football fans in particular,  the University of Texas Hall of Fame located within the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is a great addition to any “things to do in Austin” itinerary. The UT Hall of Fame pays homage to the university’s storied athletic history, showcasing memorabilia, photographs, and awards from its most notable athletes and teams. The stadium itself, an iconic fixture in college football, offers tours that include visits to the Hall of Fame, providing a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation’s most prestigious athletic programs. Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or simply appreciate the spirit of collegiate sports, the University of Texas Hall of Fame at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is an engaging journey through the UT Longhorns sports history. Hook ’em Horns!

East 11th Street Has Lots of Things to Do in Austin

7. East 11th Street

Website, 900 – 1200 East 11th Street, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

Bookended by world famous Franklin’s BBQ east of Interstate 35 and ending 3 blocks later at Hillside Farmacy, a farm to market restaurant housed in a charmingly restored pharmacy, East 11th Street offers a unique blend of historical significance and interesting things to do in Austin. Part of the Austin African American Cultural Arts District, East 11th Street was recently named the third coolest street in the world by Time Out, a London-based global magazine. “In Austin, there is no other street that captures the city’s spirit more than East Eleventh,” according to Time Out. Besides Franklin Barbecue, other things to do on East 11th Street include shopping, coffee shops, restaurants, museums and music venues. Free parking can be a little hard to find, but there is paid parking available through the Park ATX app on side streets throughout the area. Besides the Texas Music Museum on East 11th Street, other nearby historical attractions include the French Legation, the Carver Museum, and the Texas State Cemetery.

french legation austin west side of house

8. French Legation

Website, 802 San Marcos Street, (737) 226-1399, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

Originally completed in 1841 as the diplomatic outpost for the French ambassador to the Republic of Texas, the French Legation is one of the oldest framed structure in the Austin. Today it operates as a museum, meticulously preserved to reflect the lifestyle of  the Dr. Joseph W. Robertson family and the period they lived in. Dr. Robertson purchased the estate in 1847 and members of the family lived in the home until the 1940’s, when the State of Texas purchased the home as a historic property. The history of the French Legation is closely tied to the history of East Austin. The estate originally consisted of over 21 acres and in the late 1800’s, the family began to sell property to African Americans at affordable prices.The manicured grounds and the historic building offer a picturesque setting for learning about both Texas early history and the history of East Austin. The view of the Texas State Capital from the front porch of the French Legation has been protected under state and local law from obstruction by tall buildings since 1983. For anyone interested in early Texas history, the French Legation is a must on a list of things to do in Austin.

carver museum austin

9. Carver Museum

Website, 1165 Angelina Street, (512) 974-4926, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

The Carver Museum is dedicated to African American history and culture, making it a important inclusion in any exploration of things to do in Austin. This museum celebrates the contributions and achievements of African Americans, with a particular focus on local history and the broader national narrative. Exhibits range from historical artifacts and documents to contemporary art and multimedia installations, providing a comprehensive and immersive experience. The museum also serves as a community hub, offering educational programs, workshops, and cultural events that foster dialogue and understanding. Visiting the Carver Museum not only offers insight into the African American experience, but also highlights the diversity and richness of Austin’s cultural landscape, making it a must-visit for those seeking a deeper understanding of the city’s heritage.

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10. Texas State Cemetery

Website, 909 Navasota Street, (512) 463-0605, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

A visit to the Texas State Cemetery goes beyond a typical cemetery tour, offering a reflective journey through Texas’s rich history and making it a meaningful addition to any list of things to do in Austin. This hallowed ground serves as the final resting place for many of Texas’s notable figures, including governors, senators, and historical icons. The cemetery’s meticulously landscaped grounds and solemn monuments provide a serene backdrop for exploring the legacies of those who shaped the state. Guided tours and self-guided options are available, allowing visitors to delve into the stories of Texas’s heroes and their contributions to the state and the nation. The Texas State Cemetery is not just a place of rest, but a living museum of Texas history, offering a unique perspective on the state’s past and its impact on the present.

austin city limits tour backstage acl live

11. Austin City Limits Live Tour

Website, 310 West Willie Nelson Boulevard, (512) 404-1300 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

Experiencing an Austin City Limits Live Tour is a journey through the heart of Austin’s vibrant music scene! This iconic venue, home to the longest-running music series in American television history, offers behind-the-scenes tours that provide an insider’s look at where countless legendary performances have taken place. Visitors can learn about the show’s history, explore the state-of-the-art facilities, and maybe even catch a glimpse of musicians preparing for their performances. The tour encapsulates the spirit of Austin as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” making it a highlight for anyone seeking things to do in Austin that resonate with the city’s musical legacy. Whether you’re a fan of the show or simply passionate about music, the Austin City Limits Live Tour offers an unforgettable experience that embodies the soul of Austin’s music culture.

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12. Book People

Website, 603 North Lamar Boulevard, (512) 472-5050, 1 Mile from Downtown Austin

BookPeople on Lamar Boulevard is an Austin landmark and one of the largest independent bookstores in Texas, making it a must-visit for book-lovers seeking literary rich things to do in Austin. This beloved bookstore is renowned for its extensive selection, knowledgeable staff, and commitment to fostering a vibrant literary community. With regular events, including author readings, book signings, and discussion groups, BookPeople offers more than just books—it provides a space for cultural exploration and community engagement. Whether you’re searching for the latest bestseller, a rare edition, or simply a cozy corner to lose yourself in a good book, BookPeople delivers an enriching experience that reflects Austin’s eclectic and intellectual spirit, making it an essential stop for readers and culture enthusiasts alike.

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13. Continental Club

Website, 1315 South Congress Avenue, (512) 441-2444, 2 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Continental Club stands as a pillar of Austin’s live music scene, boasting a legacy of iconic performances and musical innovation that make it a must-stop for music lovers exploring things to do in Austin. Since its opening in 1955, the club has evolved from a swanky supper club to a revered live music venue, hosting an eclectic mix of genres, from rockabilly and country to jazz and soul. The club’s retro ambiance, combined with its stellar lineup of local and touring acts, provides an intimate setting for experiencing live music. The Continental Club is more than just a venue; it’s a cultural institution that embodies the spirit of Austin’s music scene, offering a genuine and electrifying musical experience that’s integral to understanding the city’s cultural fabric. Here’s an insider’s tip for visitors looking for things to do in Austin – check out the Continental Club’s online calendar of events for no cover music shows in the afternoons and early evenings. Read more here about the Continental Club Austin.
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14. Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library

Website, 2313 Red River Street, (512) 721-0200, 2 Miles from Downtown Austin

The LBJ Presidential Library is located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Lyndon B. Johnson was born in the Texas hill country and was the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. The Johnson Presidential Library is a fascinating look into the life and legacy not only of President Johnson, but of his wife Lady Bird Johnson. whose accomplishments stand on her own. The library and museum not only chronicle the tumultuous 1960s and Johnson’s presidency, but also provide insights into his significant contributions to civil rights, education, and healthcare reform. As First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson had a profound impact on beautification and environmental conservation efforts across the United States, as well as in education and social reform. The exhibits include personal artifacts, historical documents, and interactive displays. Almost everyone who visits the Johnson Presidential Library comes away saying that it really was one of their favorite things to do in Austin, especially those who grew up in or experienced living in the 1960’s themselves. 

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15. Lone Star Riverboat Bat Watching Cruise

Website, 208 Barton Springs Road, (512) 327-1388, 2 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Lone Star Riverboat Bat Watching Cruise offers a way to experience one of the things that make Austin special, putting it on the must-do list for things to do in Austin. This cruise provides an up close opportunity to see one of Austin’s most mesmerizing natural spectacles – the evening flight of over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. As the sun sets, the riverboat glides  along Lady Bird Lake, offering spectacular views of the city skyline and the natural phenomenon above. The Lone Star Riverboat Bat Watching Cruise is a great opportunity to observe urban wildlife and to see Lady Bird Lake from a unique point of view.

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16. Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Website, 605 Azie Morton Road, (512) 445-5582, 3 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum stands as a serene oasis in the heart of Austin, blending the natural beauty of the outdoors with the artistic elegance of Charles Umlauf’s sculptures. Umlauf, an influential 20th-century American sculptor and long-time University of Texas professor, donated his home, studio, and a vast collection of his works to the city, leading to the creation of this garden and museum. The sculptures, ranging from bronze to stone, capture various forms and emotions, allowing visitors to reflect on the human condition and the beauty of artistic expression. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a haven for art lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat, making it a  addition to the things to do in Austin list, especially for those visiting the Zilker Park area.

barton springs swimming pool striped bathing suit

17. Barton Springs Swimming Pool

Website, 2201 Barton Springs Road, (512) 974-6300, 3 Miles from Downtown Austin

Barton Springs Swimming Pool in Zilker Park is a natural spring-fed pool and an iconic Austin landmark revered for its crystal-clear waters and green surroundings. This three-acre pool maintains a refreshing temperature year-round, drawing swimmers and sunbathers from all walks of life. The pool’s history is deeply intertwined with the city’s, serving as a communal gathering spot and recreational haven for generations. Whether you’re looking to cool off on a hot Texas day, enjoy a leisurely swim, or simply relax in a scenic setting, Barton Springs Swimming Pool offers a quintessential Austin experience, embodying the city’s love for outdoor living and natural beauty. Please note the parking lot directly in front of the entrance is closed due to renovations on the Bathhouse. The area below the spillway from Barton Springs Swimming Pool into Barton Creek is known locally as “Barkin’ Springs” (pictured at the top of the article). This informal swimming spot outside of the city swimming pool area is popular with locals and their dogs, but there are no lifeguards on duty outside of the spillway. Barton Springs Swimming Pool is one of five Austin swimming pools open year round

18. Zilker Botanical Garden

Website, 2220 Barton Springs Road, (512) 477-8672, 3 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Zilker Botanical Garden, located in Zilker Park in the heart of Austin, offers a lush sanctuary and stands as a must-visit for those exploring things to do in Austin. This 26-acre garden features an array of themed areas, including the prehistoric ambiance of the Hartman Prehistoric Garden and the tranquility of the Japanese Garden, each offering a unique botanical experience. The garden’s diverse flora, from the colorful blooms in the Rose Garden to the exotic plants in the Green Garden, highlights the rich biodiversity of the region. Open to the public throughout the year, the Zilker Botanical Garden not only provides a picturesque setting for leisurely walks but also serves as an educational hub with various programs and events designed to engage and inspire visitors of all ages. This urban oasis is a testament to the beauty of nature amidst the cityscape, making it an essential destination for anyone seeking a peaceful retreat and a touch of natural beauty in Austin. Read more here about Zilker Botanical Garden.

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19. Boggy Creek Farm Farmers Market

Website, 3414 Lyons Road, (512) 920-2310, 3 Miles from Downtown Austin

Open four days a week and located in East Austin a short distance from Downtown Austin, most of the food available at Boggy Creek Farmers Market is grown on the farm. The farmhouse at Boggy Creek Farmers Market dates back to the Republic of Texas and is one of the oldest structures existing in Austin. This urban farm opens its gates to the public, offering a bounty of fresh, organically grown produce directly from its fields. The market stands as a hub for local farmers and artisans to showcase their goods, from seasonal fruits and vegetables to artisanal breads, cheeses, and more. Visiting the market not only supports the local economy but also offers a chance to connect with the community and learn about the importance of sustainable agriculture. For food enthusiasts and those seeking an authentic taste of Austin’s farm-to-table culture, the Boggy Creek Farm Farmers Market offers a delightful and educational experience. Read more here about Boggy Creek Farm.

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20. Rowing Dock

Website, 2418 Stratford Drive, (512) 459-0999, 4 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Rowing Dock on Lady Bird Lake is a gateway to outdoor adventure and leisure in the heart of Austin, making it a popular destination for those seeking active things to do in Austin. This facility provides access to a variety of watercraft rentals, including kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards, allowing visitors to explore the waters of Lady Bird Lake at their own pace. The lake’s calm waters and scenic downtown skyline views offer an idyllic setting for both novice and experienced paddlers. The Rowing Dock also serves as a launching point for guided tours and fitness classes, enhancing the outdoor recreation experience. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful solo paddle at sunrise or a fun group outing, the Rowing Dock on Lady Bird Lake caters to all levels of adventure, embodying Austin’s active lifestyle and love for the outdoors.

Prometheus Bound Is One of the Large Scale Elisabet Ney Sculptures in the Museum

21. Elisabet Ney Museum

Website, 304 East 44th Street, (512) 974-1625, 4 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Elisabet Ney Museum, housed in the historic studio of the renowned 19th-century sculptor Elisabet Ney, is a cultural gem that offers insight into the life and work of one of Austin’s most intriguing artistic figures. This museum, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, preserves Ney’s legacy through her captivating portrait sculptures and personal memorabilia. Visitors can explore the studio where Ney crafted lifelike statues of notable Texas and European figures, gaining an understanding of her artistic process and the impact of her work on the art world. Her significant contributions to art in Texas include the life-sized marble statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin located in the south foyer of the Texas State Capitol. These statues were not just artistic achievements but also symbols of Ney’s unique path as an artist and her ability to forge a career in a field that was not commonly pursued by women of her time. The museum also hosts exhibitions, workshops, and events that celebrate art and community, reflecting Ney’s spirit of creativity and innovation. For those interested in art history and the stories of influential women in the arts, the Elisabet Ney Museum provides a unique and inspiring experience, making it a noteworthy addition to any cultural itinerary in Austin. Read more here about Elisabet Ney Museum. 

Lammes Pralines Were First Sold in Austin in 1892

22. Lammes Candies

Website, 5330 Airport Boulevard, 512) 453-2899, 4 Miles from Downtown Austin

Lammes Candies, with its rich history dating back to 1885, is a sweet staple in Austin’s culinary landscape, offering a taste of tradition that’s as delightful as its confections. This beloved candy store is famous for its Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines, a recipe that has enchanted taste buds for generations. Stepping into Lammes Candies is like entering a bygone era of candy-making, where the emphasis on quality ingredients and time-honored techniques is palpable. Visitors can indulge in a wide array of sweets, from chocolate truffles and toffee to caramel apples, each crafted with care and a touch of Texan charm. For those seeking things to do in Austin that satisfy their sweet tooth while connecting them to the city’s history, Lammes Candies is a must-visit, offering a delectable link to Austin’s past and present. Read more here about Lammes Candies. 

matts el rancho fajita platter

23. Matt's El Rancho Mexican Food Restaurant

Website, 2613 South Lamar Boulevard, (512) 462-9333, 4 Miles from Downtown Austin

Matt’s El Rancho Mexican Food Restaurant, an Austin institution since 1952, is renowned for its authentic Tex-Mex cuisine and warm, welcoming atmosphere, making it a culinary landmark in the city. Known as “The King of Mexican Food,” this family-owned restaurant serves up a menu of classic dishes, from sizzling fajitas and hearty enchiladas to their legendary Bob Armstrong dip. The vibrant décor, lively mariachi music, and lush outdoor patio create an inviting setting for enjoying a meal with family and friends. Matt’s El Rancho not only offers a taste of traditional Tex-Mex but also embodies the spirit of hospitality and community that defines Austin. For those exploring things to do in Austin, a meal at Matt’s El Rancho provides a flavorful and festive dining experience that’s deeply rooted in the city’s culinary heritage. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of burnt orange at Matt’s. Besides the napkins and general decor, it is a favorite of University of Texas students, former students and UT supporters.

There Are 279 Acres of Native Plants at Wildflower Center Austin

24. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Website, 4801 La Crosse Avenue, (512) 232-0100, 12 Miles from Downtown Austin

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, dedicated to the conservation of native plants and natural landscapes, showcases the beauty and diversity of Texas wildflowers. Founded by former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes in 1982, the center is a leader in native plant research and education. Visitors can explore an array of themed gardens, walking trails, and exhibits, all designed to inspire sustainable gardening practices and appreciation for the natural world. The center’s efforts to preserve and restore native ecosystems offer a poignant reminder of the importance of environmental stewardship. For those seeking things to do in Austin that connect them with nature and conservation, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers an enlightening and beautiful outdoor experience. Read more here about Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

Pedernales River Runs Through Reimers Ranch

25. Milton Reimers Ranch Park

Website, 23610 Hamilton Pool Road Dripping Springs, (512) 264-1923, 29 Miles from Downtown Austin

Reimers Ranch, a sprawling natural area located just outside Austin known for its scenic beauty, features miles of hiking and biking trails, rock climbing opportunities, and access to the Pedernales River for fishing and swimming. The diverse landscape of limestone cliffs, wandering trails, and riverbanks provide a stunning setting for outdoor recreation and relaxation. Whether you’re an experienced climber looking to tackle challenging routes or a family seeking a day of picnicking and exploring, Reimers Ranch caters to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. For those compiling a list of things to do in Austin that embrace the great outdoors, Reimers Ranch is a destination that promises adventure and natural beauty in equal measure.

Hamilton Pool Reservations Do Not Guarantee Swimming Will be Allowed

26. Hamilton Pool And Nature Preserve

Website, 24300 Hamilton Pool Road Dripping Springs, (512) 264-2740, 30 Miles from Downtown Austin

Hamilton Pool Preserve is one of Austin’s natural treasures, offering visitors a notable outdoor experience with its stunning collapsed grotto and crystal-clear pool. Formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion, this natural wonder has become a sought-after destination for swimming, hiking, and nature photography. The preserve’s lush vegetation and dramatic rock formations create a tranquil and picturesque setting, ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life. Due to its ecological significance and popularity, reservations are required to visit, ensuring the preservation of its natural beauty for future generations. For those looking for things to do in Austin beyond an urban setting, Hamilton Pool Preserve is an enchanting choice that encapsulates the natural splendor of the Texas Hill Country. Read more here about Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve.

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27. Krause Springs

Website, 424 County Road 404 Spicewood, (401) 236-7554, 36 Miles from Downtown Austin

Krause Springs is often celebrated as one of the best swimming holes in Texas. This 115-acre family-owned property boasts 32 natural springs, a man-made swimming pool, and a natural pool that flows into Lake Travis. This idyllic spot is located in Spicewood, Texas, and is about a 45 minutet drive from Austin. With its lush gardens, towering cypress trees, and gentle waterfalls, Krause Springs has been a popular swimming and camping site for decades, inviting visitors to unwind in the cool, clear waters and explore the serene surroundings. The amazing butterfly garden adds a touch of enchantment, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and nature walks. For those venturing beyond the city in search of things to do near Austin, Krause Springs presents an opportunity to immerse in the natural beauty and soothing waters of the Hill Country, providing a picturesque escape for swimmers, campers, and nature enthusiasts alike..