Let me start by stating the obvious: we live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Austin has so much to offer that my list of must-see places and must-do things keeps growing, even though I’m constantly exploring.
While I try to keep up with the latest restaurants and music festivals, there are a number of places in Austin I’ve been neglecting. You know, the kind of places at the top of TripAdvisor, where the tourists go.
So many times, I’ve thought of visiting these places, only to tell myself, “Oh, I live here. I can always go later.” For many people, years go by and they never make the time.
Last year, I was lucky to be visited by friends and family who flew to Austin from all across the U.S., and even from other continents. In the course of showing the city to my guests, I ended up learning a lot about Austin myself. That’s why I invite you to spend at least one day doing all the touristy things you’ve been putting off.
1/ Swim at Barton Springs Pool
Tourists have no time to waste in a new city, so today we are waking up early. Start the day with a refreshing swim at Barton Springs Pool. Come before 8 a.m. and not only will you have the pool to yourself, but you won’t have to pay an entry fee. Save those dollars for breakfast tacos!
2201 Barton Springs Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Guide to Barton Springs Pool, Soul of Austin
2/ Have Breakfast at Torchy’s Tacos
A touristy day in the capital of Texas would be incomplete without breakfast at this Austin staple! Head to Torchy’s Tacos’ South Congress location, the flagship, and you’ll be in position for the next part of our tour.
1822 S. Congress Ave. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: You Can’t Miss Torchy’s Tacos Flagship Location on South Congress
3/ Wander Down South Congress Avenue
You’ve probably been to South Congress on many occasions, but today I want you to slow your pace and take in all the greatness and weirdness of the neighborhood.
Stop by Prima Dora gift shop to find quintessential Austin souvenirs like an Austin coloring book, or “Butter Half” and “Greetings from Austin” ornaments to decorate your Christmas tree. As you wander north, eat some candy samples at Big Top Candy Shop, then try on cowboy boots and a hat at Allens Boots.
South Congress Avenue between Johanna Street and Elizabeth Street
4/ Have a Cup at Jo’s Coffee
I’ve brought all of my friends to take a photo in front of the iconic “I love you so much” wall, but I never stopped to have a cup of coffee at Jo’s afterwards.
When I returned to correct this unfortunate mistake, a couple approached me and asked if I could take their picture. Long story short, the picture turned into a proposal right before my eyes! Magical moments happen when you change up your routine.
1300 S. Congress Ave. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: The 14 Most Inviting South Austin Coffee Shops
5/ “Greetings From Austin” Mural
I personally have brought at least five of my friends to take pictures with the “Greetings From Austin” mural before I realized I didn’t have one of myself! Mistake corrected.
1720 S. 1st St.
➡️ Keep reading: Everything You Don’t Know About the Best Murals in Austin
6/ Write a Wish on “Before I Die” Wall
This wall is two minutes away from South Congress and its main attractions, yet so few people know about it. Even on a weekend when crowds are flooding the area, and the line at Hopdoddy goes out the door and around the corner, you’ll only find one or two people writing their sacred wishes on this wall.
Chalk is stored in a box near the wall, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own.
206 E. Elizabeth St.
7/ Tour the State Capitol Building
You must have driven past the Capitol a thousand times, but have you ever been inside on a tour? It only lasts 30 minutes, but you’re guaranteed to learn something new about the building and our city. The guides take you to remote corners of the Capitol you will most likely not find on your own.
1100 Congress Ave. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Creative Ways to Explore the Texas State Capitol in Austin
8/ Explore Cathedral of Junk
It wouldn’t be a perfect day in Austin without doing something weird. One cannot explain all the awesomeness and strangeness of Cathedral of Junk in words. Pictures don’t do it justice, either. You have to see it for yourself, meet the owner Vince, and wander around the rooms full of broken mirrors, beheaded dolls, vintage car parts, and whatnots.
Be sure to make an appointment beforehand and bring $10 cash for your group.
4422 Lareina Dr. – Yelp
9/ Watch the Sunset at Hula Hut on Lake Austin
Hula Hut serves up blended margaritas and tropical-themed libations drenched in a festive ambiance. Tex-Mex food with a satisfying Polynesian twist makes this an Austin classic among students, families, and tourists alike. For 26 years, patrons have treasured the lakeside life, delicious menu, and serene views.
3825 Lake Austin Blvd. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: 9 Laid-back Waterfront Restaurants in Austin (Besides the Oasis)
11/ Catch a Concert at The Continental Club
I hope you still have energy after all our exploring because you’ll need it to finish your day at this legendary Austin music venue. Around since 1955, The Continental Club is one of the oldest continuously-operating clubs in the city. You can catch a show on any day of the week, usually late into the night.
1315 S. Congress Ave. – Website
One day is definitely not enough to cover all the amazing places in Austin that locals often overlook. If you want to spend more than one day pretending to be a tourist, here are a few other ideas:
- Visit Umlauf Sculpture Garden
- Explore Austin’s museums, like Blanton Museum of Art, The Bullock Texas State History Museum, or Harry Ransom Center
- Take a sunset boat tour to watch the bats fly under Congress Avenue
- Go kayaking on Lady Bird Lake
- Watch the sunset from the 360 Bridge overlook
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are your favorite touristy places in Austin?
The original version of this article was published June 12, 2017.
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