ExecED | Participant Resources

Austin Cultural & Recreational Activities

Culture and Arts in Austin, Texas

Live Music

Austin, known as the Live Music Capital of the World, stands ready to entertain. With around 120 live music venues and nearly 1,000 musicians in residence, plus many more who frequently travel here, great music shows can be heard 365 days a year. Live music can be found in many restaurants and bars, as well as the airport, grocery stores, parks and cafés; it is a significant part of Austin's culture. Austin musicians perform in every genre of music from rock, country, folk and blues to jazz, classical, Latino and world music. While Austin's two main entertainment areas are both near downtown – Sixth Street and the Warehouse District – there are live music venues in any area of the city.

The Austin City Limits Music Festival, one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the world, is held in Zilker Park each Fall. And the internationally-renowned South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive/multimedia festival takes place across several Austin locations each Spring.

Visit AustinLiveMusic.com

Downtown Nightlife

Austin Downton EveningAustin’s nightlife is scattered throughout town. Many of the bars and clubs are along Sixth Street, the city's entertainment district, which is also home to various restaurants and souvenir shops. On weekend nights, Sixth Street swells up with thousands of people. Also, there are a number of swanky, hip, and more low key clubs and restaurants scattered around Fourth St. and Lavaca. From tapas bars, to dimly lit martini lounges, these venues are diverse and offer a variety of live music and entertainment.

Museums

LBJ Presidential Library and Museum

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is one of ten presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The library houses forty million pages of historical documents which include the papers from the entire public career of Lyndon Baines Johnson and also from those of close associates. These papers and the vast administrative files from the presidency are used primarily by scholars. The museum provides year-round public viewing of its permanent historical and cultural exhibits. Special activities and exhibits are sponsored privately by the Friends of the LBJ Library and its parent organization, the LBJ Foundation.

Harry Ransom Center

Harry Ransom CenterHere you will enjoy viewing the first ever photograph taken, alongside one of only 13 remaining Gutenberg Bibles created in 1456. Also showcased are rare compositions and manuscripts by Galileo, Beethoven, Hemingway and more. You will find a wonderful collection of theater arts pieces and a book library with over 800,000 priceless manuscripts. Take advantage of the free admission and experience many of the University's unique treasures.

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum 

Austin's newest museum features three floors of dynamic exhibits of the history of the Lone Star State. The museum's Texas Spirit Theater brings the story of Texas to life through incredible special effects. The museum is also home to Austin's only IMAX Theatre, which is also open in the evening.

Texas State Capitol

Austin Capitol BuildingThe Texas State Capitol is recognized as one of the nation's most distinguished capitol buildings, and is second in size only to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. It was initially completed in 1888 out of local Texas "sunset red" granite. It recently underwent a $180 million renovation and preservation project and now features an underground extension with open-air Rotunda. The grounds have been historically landscaped with gardens, statues and memorials surrounding the 26-acre complex. Tours are given approximately every 15 minutes.

Performing Arts

  • Local and touring theater and dance companies
  • World-renowned Austin Ballet and Austin Symphony
  • More than 35 art galleries and museums
  • 1,200 musical acts annually
  • 120 live music venues
  • South by Southwest (SXSW) annual Music, Film and Interactive festival

UT Performing Arts Center

Since 1981, the University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center has played host to the greatest performing artists in theater, music and dance to the thrill and delight of millions in Central Texas. We've brought out the welcome mat to artists from every corner of the globe - cultural ambassadors who have shared their gifts of song and dance with the people of Austin and surrounding communities.

The Austin Symphony

The Austin Symphony was founded in 1911 and is Austin's oldest performing arts group. The Symphony offers outstanding classical music through a series of eight concert pairs running monthly September through April in Bass Concert Hall and the festive Holiday and Promenade Pops Concerts at Palmer Auditorium. Austin's historic Symphony Square at 11th and Red River is home to the Symphony's offices as well as the popular restaurant Cafe Serranos and the Women's Symphony League office.

One Day Excursions

San Antonio

San Antonio captures the spirit of Texas. Now the eighth largest city in the United States, the city has retained its sense of history and tradition, while carefully blending in cosmopolitan progress. The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, when he established Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as The Alamo where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. Amidst the daily hubbub of the busy metropolitan downtown, sequestered 20 feet below street level, lies one of San Antonio's jewels - the Paseo del Rio. Better known as the River Walk, these cobblestone and flagstone paths border both sides of the San Antonio River as it winds its way through the middle of the business district.

Outlet Malls

San Marcos

Legendary among outlet centers, San Marcos outlet malls are located 45 minutes to the south, halfway between Austin and San Antonio:

Round Rock

The newest outlet mall is located just north of Austin:

The Austin Outdoors

  • 174 parks
  • 30 miles of urban hike-and-bike trails along scenic Lady Bird Lake and Barton Springs
  • 9 wilderness areas
  • 26 golf courses
  • 156 public tennis courts
  • #3 Best City for Mountain Bikers, MountainBike.com (2002)
  • 150-mile long chain of lakes
  • 11,800 acres of greenbelt for recreation
  • 300 annual days of sunshine
  • Mild winter climate and year-round outdoor recreation
  • North America's largest urban bat population—1.5 million bats

Lady Bird Lake / Downtown Hike & Bike Trail 

Lady Bird Lake (formerly called Town Lake) is an artificial lake on the Colorado River running right through downtown Austin. Along Lady Bird Lake, people flock to the hike-and bike trails to walk, jog, bicycle, or otherwise enjoy the beauty of the Colorado River and the downtown Austin park. This beautiful gravel pathway circles the lake and is very popular for off-road bicycling, outdoor running, and strolling through Austin by foot.

Zilker Park / Barton Springs Pool 

Austin's largest and most popular park offers swimming in Barton Springs, a 68-degree spring-fed pool, hike & bike trails, playground, picnic facilities, canoe rentals and a miniature train which runs seasonally. Open 5 a.m. - 10 p.m. everyday.

Zilker Botanical Gardens 

The various gardens are a montage in which flowers, shrubs, trees and ponds are integrated into a design that provides an environment of inspiration, beauty and tranquility. Hours: Open daily, 8:30 a.m.-sunset.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

A native plant botanical garden with numerous courtyards, terraces, arbors and meadows. Highlights include a Visitors Gallery, observation tower, cafe, gift store and nature trail. Award-winning architecture. Hours: Tues - Sun, 9 am - 5:30 pm; Visitors Gallery; Tues-Sat, 9 am - 4 pm.; Sun, 1 pm - 4 pm. Tours by appointment.

Mount Bonnell 

Climb the 99 steps and savor a violet-tinged sunset over Lake Austin and Westlake Hills from the most scenic and one of the highest points in the city limits (785 feet above sea level). Open daily, dawn until dusk.

Congress Avenue Bat Colony 

Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge is the summer home to over 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats. Their nightly exodus is among the most spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities in America. Bats are in residence from mid-March to late October and typically emerge just before dusk.

Lake Travis

Lake Travis is a sixty-five-mile-long artificial lake on the Colorado River in southern Burnet and western Travis counties. Lake Travis abounds with water recreation and naturally attracts water sport enthusiasts. From multi class sailboat and windsurfing regattas to competition ski boat, cruisers, cigarettes and mansion-like houseboats, Lake Travis maintains the marina facilities, public parks, boat ramp access.

Photos courtesy the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau

Page last updated: 5/23/2014