Downtown Austin: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Heading to the Lone Star State for a vacation? Be sure to spend some time in the buzzing state capital and soak up all the charms of vibrant Downtown Austin. Spread around the iconic Texas State Capitol in the heart of Austin, this dynamic district has a deep-rooted history and a thriving entertainment scene.

Situated on the banks of the picturesque Colorado River, Downtown Austin has an energetic atmosphere, reflected in its lively streets and diverse attractions. Beautiful late-19th-century architectural landmarks like the elegant Driskill Hotel stand shoulder-to-shoulder with modern marvels.

The neighborhood is also a cultural hotspot with celebrated venues like Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater and Stubbs BBQ. The famous East 6th Street boasts high-energy bars where revelers party late into the night.

Ready to hit the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’? Start planning your adventure with this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Downtown Austin.

Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.

What to see & do

Texas Capitol

Make your first stop in Downtown Austin, the glorious Texas State Capitol. The building’s imposing presence and breathtaking architectural beauty make it a magnificent testament to the state’s rich history, grandeur, and enduring democratic spirit.

Take a moment to admire the stately neoclassical design of the Texas State Capitol. Constructed from sunset red granite from nearby Marble Falls, the building’s exterior emanates strength and permanence. Intricate Renaissance Revival style detailing and ornate carvings add a touch of elegance.

Texas State Capitol

The best way to explore the Texas State Capitol is on a guided tour. Dive into the vibrant political history of Texas as you wander through the halls that have witnessed pivotal moments in the state’s development. Explore the chambers of the Texas State Legislature, the House of Representatives, and the Senate and museum exhibits that offer a glimpse into Texas’s rich heritage.

Stroll through the magnificent gardens around the Capitol and soak up spectacular panoramic views of Austin from the observation deck.

ACL Live at The Moody Theater

When it comes to live music performances, there’s no better place to catch a show than at ACL Live at The Moody Theater. Located in the vibrant 2nd Street District, Austin City Limits Live is an iconic destination for music lovers and artists and one of Austin’s must-see attractions.

Boasting state-of-the-art technology and acoustics, this world-class live music venue hosts hundreds of concerts annually. The theater has also become synonymous with the legendary television show Austin City Limits, which has featured countless iconic performances over the years.

ACL Live at The Moody Theater

From rock to folk, country to jazz, and everything in between, ACL Live at The Moody Theater has something for everyone. Relax over a drink at one of the many bars around the venue before your show.

Whether you’re here for a sold-out concert by a world-renowned artist or to discover a rising star, ACL Live is one of the must-do activities in Austin and promises an exceptional and unforgettable experience!

Mexic-Arte Museum

Delve into Mexico and Latin America’s rich artistic traditions and heritage at the Mexic-Arte Museum. Dedicated to the enduring legacy of these cultures and the power of art, this vibrant cultural institution is the perfect place to explore contemporary and traditional art forms.

Explore a diverse range of artwork, from traditional to contemporary, in various mediums. Each exhibition at the Mexic-Art Museum is carefully curated to provide a thought-provoking and immersive journey through the artistic expressions of Mexican and Latin American cultures.

The museum’s Mexican and Latin American folk art collection is a treasure trove of exquisite craftsmanship and cultural significance. Intricate textiles, vibrant ceramics, intricately carved wooden sculptures, and captivating masks will transport you into the world of indigenous traditions and folklore.

Pop into the Mexic-Arte Museum store to pick up some memorable souvenirs from the unique arts and crafts, jewelry, books, and other cultural artifacts on sale.

Waterloo Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and spend some time in the lush oasis of Waterloo Park. Spanning over 11 acres, this urban green space provides a tranquil retreat where nature, culture, and community converge.

The meticulously landscaped gardens, adorned with vibrant flowers and towering trees, create a serene and picturesque setting at Waterloo Park. Stroll along winding pathways that follow the meandering Waterloo Greenway through the park’s landscape.

Waterloo Park

Fitness enthusiasts can take advantage of the park’s jogging and cycling trails, while families can enjoy picnics on the spacious lawns or engage in friendly games on the sports fields. Waterloo Park also features a children’s playground, inviting the little ones to explore and play.

Admire thought-provoking sculptures, murals, and interactive art installations by local and international artists or relax on one of the many benches and watch the world go by.

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Learn the ‘story of Texas’ at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Located just a few blocks from the Texas State Capitol, this dynamic institution explores the state’s rich cultural heritage. The history museum documents the stories that have shaped Texas into what it is today.

Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bullock Museum brings history to life through a vast collection of artifacts, documents, multimedia presentations, and interactive displays. Wander through the museum’s fascinating exhibits that bring history to life, providing a deep understanding of the triumphs, challenges, and defining moments that have shaped the Lone Star State.

Don’t miss the Texas Spirit Theater, an awe-inspiring 200-seat venue combining state-of-the-art technology and captivating storytelling. Be transported to pivotal moments in Texas history through immersive films and multimedia presentations, and experience the sights, sounds, and emotions of the past.

Museum of the Weird

Embrace the strange, the mysterious, and the downright bizarre at the Museum of the Weird. Situated on 6th Street, this one-of-a-kind museum boasts a unique collection of oddities, curiosities, and paranormal phenomena.

Founded by Steve Busti, the Museum of the Weird celebrates the bizarre and unexplained, inviting visitors to journey into the realms of the supernatural, the macabre, and the extraordinary. Immerse yourself in a world where reality blends with fantasy, leaving you both fascinated and slightly unsettled.

Museum of the Weird

The Museum of the Weird is a paranormal and supernatural treasure trove. Ogle vampire-killing kits and shrunken heads, gaze at vintage horror movie posters, and get up close and personal with the Fiji Mermaid—a mind-bending creation that’s part monkey, part fish!

Don’t miss the live shows where talented performers take the stage, engaging the audience with mind-bending illusions, jaw-dropping sideshow acts, and death-defying feats.

Shoal Beach at Town Lake Metropolitan Park

Take some time out from exploring and spend a few hours at the pretty Shoal Beach at Town Lake Metropolitan Park. Nestled along the shores of Lady Bird Lake, Shoal Beach is a little slice of paradise with greenery, towering trees, and scenic trails.

Town Lake Metropolitan Park

Stroll along the beach, picnic with friends, or unwind with a good book. If you’re feeling adventurous, grab a kayak or a paddleboard and explore the crystal-clear waters at your own pace. Soak up spectacular views of the Downtown Austin skyline and the surrounding nature as you glide along the lake.

Lady Bird Lake is home to various birds, turtles, and even the occasional playful otter. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready for that special shot!

Republic Square

Head to the beating heart of Downtown Austin: Republic Square. This lively urban park and hub of activity is a beloved gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Located at the intersection of Guadalupe Street and 4th Street, the park’s central location makes it perfect for community events, celebrations, and everyday relaxation.

The plaza’s lovely green spaces are adorned with shady trees, manicured lawns, and ample seating areas. Republic Square is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, take a leisurely stroll or find a quiet corner to relax and soak up the ambiance. The kids will love the splash pad with colorful water jets shooting up from the ground and whimsical sculptures.

Republic Square

Republic Square is one of Austin’s oldest public spaces, with a rich history dating back to the 1830s. It’s witnessed the city’s growth and transformation, serving as a gathering place for generations. Today, the plaza stands as a reminder of Austin’s past and a symbol of its thriving present.

Built up an appetite on your Austin itinerary? Grab a bite at one of the many food trucks and local vendors around the park serving delicious treats, from artisanal coffee to gourmet tacos.

Where to eat & drink

Begin your wanderings around Downtown Austin with a hearty breakfast or brunch at the Corner Restaurant. Nestled in the JW Marriott Austin, this beloved spot has a laid-back, clubby vibe. The cafe is the perfect place for fluffy buttermilk pancakes drizzled with local maple syrup, savory breakfast tacos filled with delicious fillings, or a classic eggs Benedict with a twist.

For the tastiest Southern comfort fare in town, head to the Moonshine Grill in the historic Waterloo Compound on Red River Street. Tuck into classics like fried green tomatoes, chicken and waffles, Creole shrimp and grits, and Yukon mashers. End off with banana cream pudding if you have the space!

Traditional Mexican with a modern twist is what you can expect at ATX Cocina. Boasting contemporary décor and a casual, chic atmosphere, this upscale eatery serves a mouthwatering selection of crudo, masa, and pequeños. Try the Tepache Snapper with ginger-pineapple agua chile and avocado crema or the Pork Tomahawk with charred pickled piña.

Restaurant in Downtown

Kick back on the large outdoor patio at Corinne Restaurant Austin and enjoy everything from brunch to afternoon sundowners. The casual restaurant serves a menu of classic American fare with dishes like succulent steaks, hearty burgers, fresh seafood, and plenty of sides. Pair your food with a fantastic selection of beer, wine, and craft cocktails.

Put on your best threads and head to Midnight Cowboy for a one-of-a-kind evening. One of Austin’s hippest and most exclusive bars, this brothel-turned-speakeasy is reservations-only, so book ahead! Snuggle down in beautiful tufted-leather booths and sip expertly crafted Prohibition-Era cocktails while you watch the who’s-who float in. For something potent, order the Oaxacan Negroni or the Millennial.

Driskill Bar

Tucked away inside a parking garage on Colorado Street, the aptly-named Garage is a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar that promises an intimate evening of fine libations and good vibes. Grab a seat at the bar and order the Queen Anne’s Lace, made with herbaceous botanical gin and a subtle blend of Calvados, lemon, Malbec, and decanted bitters. You won’t be disappointed!

Another must-visit bar in Downtown Austin is the revered Roosevelt Room. Widely regarded as one of the city’s best bars, this stylish spot pays homage to the golden age of cocktails while infusing its own modern twists. Expect a sophisticated ambiance with its dimly lit space, plush seating, vintage décor, and a meticulously crafted cocktail program to match. The bar boasts over 100 classic and contemporary cocktails from an Old Fashioned to Negroni.

Located in the historic Driskill Hotel, the Driskill Bar offers a unique blend of sophistication, charm, and Texas hospitality. Rich wood paneling, ornate chandeliers, and plush seating exude an old-world elegance in which to unwind over a drink. Savor rare and limited editions of top-shelf whiskies or indulge in fine wines from around the world.

Where to stay

As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Austin. The accommodation selection here is vast, with everything from budget-friendly chain hotels to luxury boutique hotels.

If you want more options, extend your lodgings search to neighboring areas like South Congress (SoCo) or Central Austin.

Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown, an IHG Hotel

Casual and relaxed, the Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown, an IHG Hotel, offers cozy, soundproofed rooms with modern amenities and free Wi-Fi. Unwind at the funky cocktail bar or next to the rooftop pool and lounge. It’s a short walk to the Texas State Capitol and the Blanton Museum of Art, and your furry friend is welcome!

Canopy By Hilton Austin Downtown

Canopy By Hilton Austin Downtown

Just a mile from the Texas State Capitol in the heart of the vibrant West 6th Street district, Canopy By Hilton Austin Downtown offers an exclusive retreat with a gorgeous rooftop pool. Elegant rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with city views, Nespresso machines, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Stay fit in the gym and explore the area on loaner bikes.

JW Marriott Austin

JW Marriott Austin

The upmarket JW Marriott Austin is ideal for exploring Downtown Austin. Enjoy comfortable guest rooms and suites with flat-screen TVs and coffeemakers. Upgrade to a club room to enjoy complimentary breakfast and evening appetizers in a private lounge. Dine in a casual Italian restaurant, a regional eatery, or a laid-back burger bar. Unwind with a massage in the hotel spa.

The Otis Hotel, Autograph Collection

The Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection

Sophisticated and stylish, the Otis Hotel Austin Autograph Collection is within walking distance of several great eateries. Hip rooms have record players, flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers. Stay connected with free Wi-Fi and grab a bite at the casual tapas bar or burger place. Kick back next to the pool on the rooftop terrace.

Hotel ZaZa Austin

Hotel ZaZa Austin

Located in the Warehouse District, Hotel ZaZa Austin is an elegant hotel with chic accommodations and upscale amenities. Individually decorated suites have private balconies, city views, kitchenettes, and spacious living rooms. Relax in a plush lounge with outdoor seating or at the rooftop pool and bar. Treat yourself to a massage at the in-house spa.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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