Spend the day exploring some of the city’s fascinating hidden gems.

Austin Parks & Recreation has been a steward of iconic Austin places and historic sites since 1928. While you’re visiting the Capital City, set aside a day to discover our many hidden gems, ranging from must-see museums to scenic nature preserves and diverse cultural places. We’ve put together a top 10 list to help you plan.

Aerial shot of Oakwood Cemetery with downtown skyline in the background

  1. Pay a visit to historic Oakwood Cemetery, established the same year as the city of Austin itself (1839), and view the graves of early pioneers. Be sure to stop by the stunningly renovated, Gothic Revival Oakwood Cemetery Chapel Visitor Center, where you can learn about the cemetery’s history and sign up for a tour. Also explore historic Evergreen Cemetery, the final resting place of prominent African American civic leaders of Austin.

  2. Housed in what was once the German-born sculptor’s 1890s studio, the Elisabet Ney Museum displays the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world, including sculptures of notable 19th-century Texans such as Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Don’t miss Ney Day in the spring or Polkapocalypse in the fall.

  3. Visit the Brush Square Museums, including the Susanna Dickinson Museum, home of one of the few Anglo survivors of the Battle of the Alamo; and the O. Henry Museum, the quaint, Victorian residence of the famed short story writer. Catch the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships in October.

Couple lounging atop Mount Bonnell at sunset, overlooking Lake Austin

  1. Nature lovers can easily spend the day at two outdoor destinations that are just slightly off the beaten path. Start at Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve, a beautiful green space known for its historic cottage, lush gardens and vibrant peacocks. Then, head over to Covert Park at Mount Bonnell and hike up the flagstone steps to reach the awe-inspiring views of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline. Be sure to see the restored 1938 Covert Monument, the oldest man-made feature of the park.

  2. Spend the day exploring the 385-acre Zilker Park, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, with its historic Art Moderne bathhouse, is an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing on the grassy hillside. Then, tour the 12 different gardens of Zilker Botanical Garden, featuring butterflies, waterfalls and a recreated prehistoric dinosaur habitat. Stroll past the historic Ashford McGill House at the Austin Nature and Science Center to enjoy hands-on nature exhibits, educational programs and recreational activities. 

Baseball players in action during a game at Downs Field

  1. Downs Mabson Field has been synonymous with baseball and the East Austin African American community since the 1940s. The Austin Black Senators, which included National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Willie Wells, played on the original stadium site. Today, Downs Field is home to the Huston-Tillotson University Rams. Check out Downs Field’s amazing murals and catch a game. 

  2. Historic Rosewood Park was founded in 1929 as a public park for Austin’s African American community. Today, Rosewood Park is still a recreational hub for the East Austin neighborhood, offering a pool, tennis courts and baseball fields. Be sure to check out the Doris Miller Auditorium (established by the USO for Black troops during WWII) and Henry Madison Log Cabin — Madison was Austin’s first African American council member, appointed in the 1870s. Join in the annual Juneteenth Park Celebration, held in June.
  3. The Old Bakery & Emporium, an Austin landmark on Congress Avenue, began life as a Swedish bakery in 1876. Today, the building houses a tourist information center, a curio shop with fun souvenirs, an upstairs museum housing the previous bakery owners’ antique baking tins and giant oven, and an art gallery exhibiting works by local artists.

Historic Haskell House with blooming flowers around the exterior

  1. Make an appointment to tour the storied Hezikiah Haskell House in Clarksville, a Freedom Colony established by formerly enslaved people after the Civil War. The 1879 home stands as a reminder of the community’s historic roots, and is named for former resident Hezikiah Haskell, a Black U.S Cavalry member who served as both a Union and Buffalo soldier.

  2. Wooldridge Square, with its Classical Revival bandstand, has been a mainstay of Austin’s outdoor social, musical and political life since the park was revitalized in 1909. Explore nearby historic sites, including the 1931 Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse (named for the first African American student to attend the University of Texas School of Law), the Austin History Center and an 1890s moonlight tower, located at the corner of Guadalupe and 9th Street.