When most people think of Austin, visions of things like tasty taco and musicians performing all over town come to mind. But the city is also known for its love of certain winged nocturnal animals that appear at sunset. Yep, those are the Mexican Free-Tailed Bats.  

Sunset over the Congress Avenue Bridge

A 1980 renovation transformed the Congress Avenue Bridge into an ideal bat cave, soon attracting migrating Mexican free-tailed bats. From late spring until early fall, get ready for the sunset show by heading to the grassy hill vantage point of the Statesman Bat Observation Center, adjacent to the bridge. Visitors and residents alike line up nightly on the Congress Avenue Bridge to witness a staggering 1.5 million bats fly out from beneath the bridge, forming a surreal dark cloud as they ascend into the night sky. It can take up to 45 minutes for all of the tiny bats to exit their cave.

But once the sun begins to set, get ready for the real show. Visitors and residents alike line up nightly on the Congress Avenue Bridge to witness a staggering 1.5 million bats fly out from beneath the bridge, forming a surreal dark cloud as they ascend into the night sky. It can take up to 45 minutes for all of the tiny bats to exit their cave.

You can get an incredible view of the bats from the water with Lone Star Riverboat or Capital Cruises, which put you right in the middle of the action on Lady Bird Lake. Or ply the waters yourself with Live Love Paddle or Austin Kayak Tours, which both offer nighttime bat-watching kayak excursions.

Austin celebrates its unofficial mascots every year in mid-August (which also happens to be peak bat migrating season) right on the Congress Avenue Bridge. Bat Fest has become the biggest bat-viewing party of the year. Expect loads of live music, local food and drink, more than 75 arts and crafts vendors, and a bat costume contest (of course!).

Embrace the wonderful weirdness of Austin and come out to see the spectacle of the Congress Avenue Bridge bats for yourself. Be sure to share your bat-watching experience by posting pictures on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #TrueAustin.