Spring is finally 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 10 spring musts to put on your Austin bucket list.
Windmill and Bluebonnets in the Morning. Credit Rob Greebon.
1. Go wild for wildflowers.
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 13-15 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 big spring event.
Some of Austin’s most exciting events happen during the springtime. During SXSW® Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals, held March 9-18, noted filmmakers, musicians and multimedia artists from around the world converge in Austin. Rodeo Austin, held March 10-24, features 10 pro rodeo events, plus a fair and concerts. The Moontower Comedy Festival, held April 18-21, brings some of the funniest and oddest comics from around the globe to Austin’s stages. Fusebox Festival, presented April 18-22, 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 27-29. During the Pecan Street Spring Festival, held May 5-6, Sixth Street is turned into a lively art fair. The West Austin Studio Tour, held the weekends of May 13-14 and 20-21, is a self-guided tour through the working studios and galleries of Austin artists.
5. Explore must-see museum exhibits.
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. 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 on Lake Austin.
There are several restaurants with docks along Lake Austin, including Mozart’s Coffee Roasters with an incredible shaded patio overlooking the lake; Hula Hut, a low-key Mexican restaurant that offers dockside dining; and Abel’s on the Lake, a restaurant and bar offering pub fare on the water.
Umlauf. Credit Studio Uma.
7. Have a 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 a mount and peek at peacocks.
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. Find fresh eats at food trucks and a farmers market.
Post up at The Picnic, a food trailer park offering plenty of picnic tables and must-try eats from Hey Cupcake! and The Mighty Cone. Then browse the homemade treats and gourmet snacks at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown, held Saturdays in Republic Square Park.
Yoga in the park at the SFC Farmers Market. Courtesy of Downtown Austin Alliance.
10. Get active 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.