Spring is almost here! And with it comes loads of outdoor fun in Austin. From picnics in the park to scenic biking trails and alfresco patios, you’ll find that our town knows how to make the most of this sunshine season. Here are 12 fun things to do in spring for your Austin, Texas bucket list.
Credit Pierce Ingram.
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 (open by reservation only, with limited capacity). 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 (temporarily closed). In Burnet, known as the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas,” snap a selfie with the giant bluebonnet statue. Visit April 9-11 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 at Waterloo Records (open by appointment), and grab a bite to eat at the Whole Foods Market flagship store. Or slip into a theater seat and catch a blockbuster or an art house flick at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema or Violet Crown.
Barton Creek Greenbelt. Credit Victor Mata.
3. Attend a Spring Festival
Some of Austin’s most exciting events happen during the springtime. Tune in to see international speakers, up-and-coming bands and emerging films at SXSW Online, happening from March 16-20, 2021. The Moontower Comedy Festival, will be held over three weekends from April 16-17, May 15-16 and June 25-26, brings some of the funniest and oddest comics from around the globe to The Paramount and Stateside Theatre stages. The Hot Luck Festival, held over Memorial Day Weekend in various venues around Austin, features chef-driven food experiences and events with live music. This Spring, the Circuit of The Americas track will host NASCAR for the first time from May 21-23, 2021. Expect race weekend to include four series over three days of racing and fun.
4. 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.
The Contemporary Austin – Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. Credit Brian Fitzsimmons.
5. Explore Must-See Museums
The Blanton Museum of Art (advance timed tickets required) features the dazzling 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 Diedrick Brackens: darling divined, showcasing intricately woven textiles by the Texas artist that speak to the complexities of Black and queer identity in the U.S., on view through May 16. See the outdoor installation by internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, nestled on the Lake Austin waterfront (advance ticket reservations required).
6. Drink & Dine on a Patio
Spring is the perfect time to dine outdoors. P6 offers some of the best rooftop views in the city at the stylish LINE hotel. Watch a live band as you savor a craft brew in the sprawling outdoor beer garden of the new Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden outpost at South Lamar. In the Clarksville neighborhood, kick back under the shade of a historic heritage tree on the patio at Bar Peached. Soak in the backyard barbecue vibe at Loro, an Asian smokehouse and bar. Dine on some of Austin’s tastiest tacos under the oak trees on the sprawling patio at Fresa’s South First (reservations suggested).
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, free music and live plays at Zilker Hillside Theater, plus it’s home to Zilker Botanical Garden (advance tickets required), Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum (indoor gallery temporarily closed) and Barton Springs Pool (limited capacity), 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.
Whiskey Garden. Courtesy of Still Austin Whiskey Co.
9. 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. Or, make a Sunday morning trip to the idyllic Texas Farmers Market at Mueller.
10. Dine at a Food Truck
Post up at The Picnic, a food trailer park offering plenty of picnic tables and must-try eats from trucks like Coat & Thai and The Mighty Cone, located just down the road from Zilker Park. Dig into fresh-pulled pasta and homemade Italian sauces at Patrizi’s. At Ranch Hand, try the organic grain bowls filled with locally sourced meats and vegetables. The Vegan Nom, Austin’s original all-vegan taco truck, serves up breakfast tacos all day long. Grab creative Southern fare like a grilled pimento cheese sandwich or the savory cheesecake from the new Bearded Baking Company food trailer in the whiskey garden at Still Austin.
Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. Courtesy of Visit Austin.
11. Get 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 Treaty Oak Distilling, featuring Alice’s Restaurant and the Rickhouse Cocktail Bar, an open-air 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 (temporarily no swimming allowed; reservations required). 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.