The Lone Star State is famed for its cowboys, cookouts, and country music. And there’s no better place to experience them all than by spending one day in Austin, the state capital of Texas. Located on the edge of the Hill Country region, Austin offers travelers a vibrant culture, beautiful parks and lakes, and a wealth of interesting attractions.
The inland city of Austin is packed with activities from top-class museums to rockin’ live music venues. Students at the University of Texas flagship campus give the city a youthful, energetic vibe as witnessed in its lively cafés, restaurants, and bars.
Even if you only have 24 hours in Austin, you can enjoy the great outdoors, biking, hiking, and swimming in the many tranquil parks. Explore art galleries, history museums, and the famous State Capitol building. End the evening soaking up Austin’s eclectic live-music scene at one of the many bars and event venues scattered around the city.
Not sure where to begin exploring Austin in one day? Make the most of your 24-hour visit with this easy-to-follow 1-day Austin itinerary!
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Where to go in Austin in one day: A complete itinerary
Enjoy breakfast in Downtown Austin
There’s nothing like a good breakfast and a strong coffee to energize you for a day of exploring and sightseeing. Downtown Austin is jam-packed with charming coffee shops and cafés, buzzing breakfast bars, and laid-back restaurants, so you’ll have plenty of choices to start your trip.
Nestled in the Driskell Hotel on E 6th Street, the 1886 Cafe & Bakery is a charming Victorian-style tearoom that serves freshly baked pastries and classic American fry-ups. Grab a sweet treat from the beloved bakery or sit down to one of their famous Texas-shaped pecan waffles.
Another great downtown breakfast spot is Phoebe’s Downtown. Close to the Texas State Capitol, this lovely neighborhood diner serves classic Texan breakfast dishes like shrimp and grits and chorizo hash.
There are a few sidewalk tables at Phoebe’s Downtown, but why not grab a breakfast-to-go, and find a quiet spot in the park surrounding the State Capitol for a peaceful start to the day?
Just looking for a light snack and a caffeine boost? You’ll find Jo’s Coffee all over the city, and it’s the go-to spot for freshly brewed java and light fare. Head to West 2nd Street in Downtown Austin to get your fix!
Admire the magnificent Texas State Capitol
Your first stop on your visit to Austin should be the Texas State Capitol to admire the beautiful architecture and see government in action. Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and built in 1882, the Texas State Capitol is the seat of government for the state of Texas.
Constructed in an Italian Renaissance Revival style, the building is seen as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols. The magnificent edifice features a symmetrical design, a vast central dome, and beautiful interiors.
The Texas State Capitol houses the chambers and offices of the Texas Legislature and the Governor of Texas. The best way to explore the beauty of the building and the intricate workings within is on a self-guided tour.
Head to the Texas Capitol Visitors Center in the General Land Office building, the oldest in Texas, to get more information about taking a self-guided tour of the State Capitol.
Explore the past at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
A short stroll north up Colorado Street will take you to the Bullock Texas State History Museum, a wonderful Austin museum that tells the story of the Lone Star State. Located on the edge of the University of Texas at Austin’s campus, the museum is anchored by a massive Instagram-worthy three-story bronze star.
The three floors of interactive exhibits of the Bullock Texas State History Museum take visitors through the state’s rich history with immersive exhibits and interactive elements that illuminate and celebrate Texas history and culture. Watch short films about Texas in the IMAX® with Laser theater and check out the life-size bison statue in the permanent exhibits area.
Take a break from exploring the museum at The Star Café on the second floor. Browse the gift shop for something special, from bluebonnet-adorned plates and leather goods to Texan-grown pecan nuts. Grab a cowboy costume and a pair of longhorns for the kids.
Another fantastic museum in the area to explore is the Blanton Museum of Art. Just across Martin Luther King Boulevard on the University of Texas campus, the teaching museum is home to a compact but impressive collection.
You’ll find a variety of genres in the collection at the Blanton Museum of Art, from early Renaissance paintings and Roman-era pottery to Native American and Latin American works. A contemporary gallery houses modern works in stark white spaces brightened with skylights and a small series of sculptures stand sentry in a round rotunda.
The museum also hosts rotating exhibits showcasing mediums photography to print by big names like Andy Warhol. Visit on a Thursday for free admission.
When you’re done, take a stroll around the university campus’s beautiful grounds. Wander up to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum to admire its unique architectural design.
Fuel up with lunch on South Congress Avenue
Time for lunch! Head back down past the Texas State Capitol and over the Colorado River to South Congress Avenue, where you’ll find a fantastic variety of cafés and restaurants.
For classic diner-style food and a laid-back atmosphere, try the Magnolia Café. Still going strong after 43 years, this quaint family-owned café has a lovely patio where you watch the world go by over lunch.
A block away is June’s, another friendly neighborhood bistro that serves contemporary American fare, from salads to burgers and brightly colored cocktails.
If you have hankering for Mexican food, head to Guero’s Taco Bar for some of the best tacos in town. Kick back on the patio of this funky restaurant and sip icy, hand-shaken margaritas.
Just across the street is Hopdoddy Burger Bar for great burgers, greasy fries, and ice-cold craft beer. This Austin-born franchise is a go-to for fresh, handmade burgers and a vibrant atmosphere with live music.
Enjoy your burger and beer in, or take them to go and have an impromptu picnic lunch in Butler Metro Park.
Chill out in Butler Metro Park
Wander back up South Congress Avenue to the river, and you’ll find this lovely urban space a block over on your left. Formerly known as Town Lake Metro Park, Butler Metro Park is a beautiful green urban space on the banks of the Colorado River. Hugely popular with locals and visitors alike, the park is packed with activities and attractions for the whole family.
A calm reservoir on the Colorado River, the tranquil Lady Bird Lake offers cool respite in summer, where you can enjoy water-based activities like stand-up paddling, kayaking, and river cruises. There are hiking and biking trails around the lake and a boardwalk for watching picture-postcard sunsets.
Other top Austin attractions in the park include a children’s garden and a splash pad for fun in the sun. You can walk your pooch in an area dedicated to doggies and practice your putting skills at Butler Pitch & Putt.
Pay tribute to one of America’s greatest musicians with a visit to the Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue and catch the Austin Symphony Orchestra, opera, or ballet in action at the Long Center for Performing Arts.
Take a break at Zilker Botanical Garden
While you’re in the green zone, head east on Baron Springs Road to the Zilker Metropolitan Park to spend an hour in the Zilker Botanical Garden. This incredible oasis in the heart of downtown Austin is home to themed gardens, Koi ponds, and gurgling streams and is the perfect place to take a break!
Take a gentle stroll through themed gardens like the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Riparian Streambed. Admire plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs in the Hartman Prehistoric Garden and relax in the shade of heritage live oaks while you soak up views over the Colorado River.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of nature and science, follow Stratford Drive beneath the MoPac Expressway to the Austin Nature & Science Center. This fantastic nature center has interactive, hands-on nature exhibits and activities that focus on the exploration of the natural world. Kids will love the fun, immersive displays like the Dino Pit and the Pond Walk.
If you have the time, head south to the Barton Springs Pool for a refreshing dip. Located within Zilker Park’s 358 acres, the three-acre pool is fed from underground springs and is the perfect temperature for a swim year-round. It’s also a great spot to relax and people-watch.
Chow down on dinner in Rainey Street Historic District
All that walking has no doubt worked up an appetite. One of the best spots in Austin for dinner is the Rainey Street Historic District. Situated on the west bank of the Colorado River just north of Lady Bird Lake, the Rainey Street Historic District is a lively area with beautifully maintained early-20th-century bungalows housing casual eateries, stylish restaurants, food trucks, and hip bars.
Make your way across the South Congress Avenue Bridge to get to the district, where’ll you have a fantastic choice of wining and dining spots.
For somewhere casual and relaxed, there’s no better place than Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden. Sausages, beer, and live music in a leafy garden setting? What more could you want? Dine in the rustic cottage if you prefer indoors, and kick back to some live music after dinner.
If you prefer something quieter, head to Emmer & Rye in the SkyHouse Austin Apartments. This stylish restaurant serves farm-to-table fare in an elegant setting within a beautifully restored warehouse.
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Another classy spot is Geraldine’s on Davis Street. Sleek and sophisticated, Geraldine’s serves contemporary cuisine against a backdrop of spectacular views of Lady Bird Lake and the rhythmic beat of live music.
Experience Austin’s nightlife in East Cesar Chavez or on 6th Street
Spending one day in Austin wouldn’t be complete without a nightcap at one of the many bars in the famous East Cesar Chavez district. Home to craft cocktail lounges, industrial-chic brewpubs, and live-music rooms, this is the place to be when the sun goes down.
Located in East Austin, just next to the Rainey Street Historic District, this area is packed with fantastic spots to sip cocktails and dance until dawn.
Set on the top floor of the Austin Downtown Marriott hotel, Zanzibar is an opulent oasis of decadence. Boasting breathtaking views over the city, the rooftop terrace transports you to the tropical jungles of the island with lush greenery, kaleidoscopic cocktails, and a sleek and sophisticated ambiance.
For something less glam but just as fun, head to Shangri-La, where you’ll find a laid-back dive bar with a dog-friendly patio and classic jukebox tunes. The Native Bar & Café is another relaxed bar with a convivial atmosphere and a menu featuring craft beers and signature cocktails.
If you want to experience the vibrancy of Austin and its local characters, take a stroll down 6th Street. Distinctly Austin, the street is lined with a bustling array of bright bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues and is the go-to for a night on the town.
For a classic sports bar with live television, thumping music, and a bar lined with every drink you can think of, Little Woodrow’s West 6th is the place to be. One of Austin’s most popular watering holes, this vibrant bar offers simple pub grub, tall drinks, and endless specials.
The breezy Key Bar has a lovely outdoor bar and patio area for relaxing over a drink. It’s a popular spot with the cool crowd who sidle in throughout the night to sip handcrafted cocktails and craft beer.
For fine wines and European-style tapas plates in a stylish setting, try the Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen – Downtown. It’s chic and cool, with a beautiful outdoor garden for alfresco wining and dining.
Other downtown options for nightlife include the bustling 2nd Street District, where you’ll find the iconic music venue ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The venue is the backdrop for Austin City Limits, the longest-running American music TV show.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Austin
For visiting Austin on a quick layover, the top choice for where to stay in Austin is Downtown. If you’re okay with staying a little further from the action, South Congress (SoCo), Central Austin, and East Austin are great choices, too.
Located near the University of Texas, the Moxy is a wonderful choice to add a little flash to your Austin trip itinerary. The hotel centers around its trendy bar & lounge, offering guests a cool social vibe. Just outside the door, you’ll find plenty more restaurants and bars, along with vintage stores and boutique shops.
For a modern stay in downtown, you can’t go wrong with booking a night at the Canopy by Hilton. Fuel up with a buffet breakfast and launch your journey through the city with one of the hotel’s free bike rentals. After your layover, cool down with a relaxing dip in the rooftop pool, illuminated by the Austin skyline.
Add a dash of elegant style to your trip with a night at The Otis Hotel, Autograph Collection. With its prime location just a half mile from the Texas State Capitol, this 5-star luxury hotel offers stylish digs mashing modern and retro design elements. You’ll also benefit from a swath of luxurious amenities, from a romantic outdoor pool on the roof to a suave cocktail bar.
When to visit Austin
The best time to visit Austin is between March and May. In these spring months, the weather is pleasant, making it easy to enjoy a walking tour through the city. Traveling to Texas’s capital city in the spring means missing out on its hot & humid summers and cool, wet winters.
If you can’t fit in a spring visit, fall is another great alternative. Although not quite as sunny as the spring, the autumn season still offers warm temperatures and is perfect for tackling Austin’s slate of outdoor activities.
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