Spring is almost here! And with it comes loads of outdoor fun in Austin. From picnics in the park to scenic swimming holes and awesome events, you’ll find that our town knows how to make the most of this sunshine season. Here are 12 spring musts to put on your Austin bucket list.
Windmill and Bluebonnets in the Morning. Credit Rob Greebon.
1. Witness Wildflowers in Bloom.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in southwest Austin displays 650 native Texas plant species in gardens and on nature trails. Or take a day trip out to Texas Hill Country, where the meadows and valleys burst into a colorful carpet of bright bluebonnets every spring. Be sure to stop in historic Fredericksburg and visit Wildseed Farms, a family-owned wildflower farm featuring blooming fields. In Burnet, known as the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas,” snap a selfie with the giant bluebonnet statue. Visit April 12-14 during the annual Bluebonnet Festival, featuring live music, parades and a wildflower show.
2. Rock a Rainy Day.
Don’t let a few raindrops ruin your good time in Austin. Go shopping in the trendy West Sixth District, where you can wander the bookshelves at BookPeople, thumb through the rare vinyl and catch an in-store performance at Waterloo Records, and grab a glass of wine at the Whole Foods Market flagship store. Or slip into a theater seat and catch an art house flick at AFS Cinema, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema or Violet Crown.
3. Make a Splash at a Swimming Hole.
The Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls areas of the Barton Creek Greenbelt are local secrets. Hike for about a half-mile and you’ll find Twin Falls, known for its relaxing shallow stream waters and rocky areas for climbing. Hike a mile further and you’ll reach Sculpture Falls, another hidden gem watering hole.
Courtesy of Austin Food + Wine Festival.
4. Attend a Spring Festival.
Some of Austin’s most exciting events happen during the springtime. During SXSW® Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals, held March 8-17, noted filmmakers, musicians and multimedia artists from around the world converge in Austin. Rodeo Austin, held March 16-30, features 10 ProRodeo events, plus a fair and concerts. The Moontower Comedy Festival, held April 24-27, brings some of the funniest and oddest comics from around the globe to Austin’s stages. Fusebox Festival, presented April 17-21, is a hybrid arts festival that celebrates adventurous theater, dance, film, music, literature and visual arts. Some of the hottest chefs and winemakers from across the country create an unforgettable epicurean experience during the Austin Food + Wine Festival, held April 26-28. During the Pecan Street Spring Festival, held May 4-5, Historic Sixth Street is turned into a lively art fair. The West Austin Studio Tour, held the weekends of May 11-12 and 18-19, is a self-guided tour through the working studios and galleries of Austin artists. The Hot Luck Festival, held from May 23-26 in various venues around Austin, features chef-driven food experiences and events featuring live music.
5. Explore Must-See Museums.
The Blanton Museum of Art recently unveiled its new permanent exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Austin, a 2,715-square-foot stone building with brilliant colored glass windows and a totemic wood sculpture. Also on view at the Blanton is Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton, showcasing works from the museum’s extensive collection of Latino art, through May 26, 2019. See the amazing outdoor installations by internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the Waller Creek Delta and The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, nestled on the Lake Austin waterfront.
6. Dine Alfresco.
Spring is the perfect time to dine outdoors. There are several restaurants with docks along Lake Austin, including Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, boasting an incredible shaded patio overlooking the water. P6, offering some of the best rooftop views in the city, makes its debut this month at the stylish LINE hotel. Watch a live band as you savor a craft brew in the sprawling outdoor beer garden of the newest Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden outpost at The Linc. Shady Grove's spacious, pecan tree-shaded patio is the perfect place to enjoy a laid-back lunch with a cocktail in hand.
Umlauf. Credit Studio Uma.
7. Picnic in the Park.
Pack a picnic and amble over to Zilker Park, a 360-acre oasis in the heart of downtown that’s the site of festivals and free music at Zilker Hillside Theater, plus it’s home to Zilker Botanical Garden, Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum and Barton Springs Pool, a spring-fed swimming spot that’s also great for people watching.
8. Hike Mount Bonnell.
Austin is pretty as a picture in springtime, so you’ll want to find the best photo spots. Head to Pennybacker Bridge out on 360 to get a perfect sunset snap, hike Mount Bonnell’s gentle slope for a bird's-eye view of the lake or drop in at Mayfield Park for a glimpse of their famous peacocks.
9. Dine at a Food Truck.
Post up at The Picnic, a food trailer park offering plenty of picnic tables and must-try eats from Acai Hut and The Mighty Cone. This food trailer park is conveniently located just down the road from tons of activities and things to do in Zilker Park, so stop by with friends and family before or after your afternoon adventures.
10. Shop Local at the Farmers Market.
There are few things as refreshing as a sunny morning surrounded by fresh produce, colorful bouquets, hot coffee and the sound of a local musician wafting through the stalls at one of our many farmers markets. Browse homemade treats and gourmet snacks at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown, held Saturdays in Republic Square Park. Or, make a Sunday morning trip to the idyllic Texas Farmers Market at Mueller.
Yoga in the park at the SFC Farmers Market. Courtesy of Downtown Austin Alliance.
11. Go Outdoors.
Double your fun with a yoga-and-hike session at the Barton Creek Greenbelt with Sanctuary Yoga. Or strap on a helmet and bike along the leafy 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which winds along shimmering waters and has picturesque views of Austin’s skyline. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is also a great destination for mountain bikers, offering varied terrain within a beautiful landscape of cliffs and shaded groves alongside scenic Barton Creek. Road riders will want to bicycle from downtown to Mount Bonnell, peddling Scenic Drive along the waters of Lake Austin and catching an awesome sunset view from Pennybacker Bridge. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Lake Travis Zipline Adventures offers five pulse-pounding ziplines (one being the longest in Texas) to take you on an exciting outdoor adventure.
12. Head to the Hill Country.
It’s easy to take a day trip out to beautiful Texas Hill Country, located close to Austin. In Dripping Springs, sip your way through the Distillery District and make a stop at the recently expanded Treaty Oak Distilling, featuring Alice’s Restaurant and The Cocktail Lab, an intimate lounge mixing up craft cocktails made with Treaty Oak gin and whiskey. Afterwards, cool off in the aquamarine waters of Hamilton Pool Preserve, featuring a 50-foot waterfall. In Driftwood, dig into family recipe brisket and pork ribs at The Salt Lick BBQ, a cash-only barbecue destination. Then head off on the Driftwood Wine Trail, where you can sample award-winning wines at popular spots like Duchman Family Winery and Fall Creek Vineyards.