Austin, Texas is one of the most exciting and cool cities in Texas and the country. As the state’s capital, it serves as the political and cultural center of Texas.
It may not be as big as some of the other Texan cities such as Dallas or Houston, but it makes up for it with its quirky personality.
Known as the state’s weird city, Austin is a haven for artists and hippies. It’s famous for its tacos, lakes, and cool festivals. It’s a hub for startups and it houses offices of companies like Amazon, Google, and Dell.
Keeping up with this weird city can be difficult, so we’ve come up with a list of the things that the city is most known and famous for to keep you in the loop.
Table of Contents
1. Texas State Capitol
As the capital city of Texas, Austin is also home to the Texas State Capitol building, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful capitol buildings in the country and is the monument for which Austin is most known for.
Using the same model as the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the building has a very classic, Renaissance revival aesthetic.
Atop the rotunda there is a statue of the goddess of liberty, and inside there are paintings and monuments honoring famous Texans. The Capitol also has a controversial monument to Confederate soldiers featuring a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.
The capitol is open to visitors and offers guided tours, and the grounds are also a popular location for protests and political rallies.
2. University of Texas
While Austin does not have a professional sports team, the Texas Longhorns have more than enough fans.
The University of Texas is one of the largest in the country and is well-known for its football team, stout academics, and iconic mascot.
The university has a longstanding rivalry with Texas A&M, the other large state university in Texas, which is located in College Station.
3. Johnson Presidential Library
President Johnson was a Texas native, and his presidential library is housed in Austin.
The library is more museum than a library. Inside, you can learn all about Johnson’s presidency and see several artefacts such as state gifts from his tenure. There is also a replica of the Oval Office in which you can take your picture at the president’s desk.
4. South Congress
This famous nightlife area is sometimes referred to as SOCO, and it is the place to be in Austin on a weekend.
If you want to try some authentic Tex-Mex or BBQ or taste some locally brewed beers, there’s no better place to do it than here. The area also has a lot of crafty shops and hosts food trucks.
During the day, the area is much more family-friendly, and there are plenty of restaurants to take your kids or do some exploring.
If you go to Austin and don’t have a taco, you weren’t really in Austin.
Some consider Austin to be home to the country’s best breakfast tacos, though as a San Antonio native, I would contest this claim. Though, some of the best tacos I’ve ever had have been in Austin.
My personal recommendation is a breakfast taco, but tacos are good any time of day and with just about any topping.
6. Nearby Hill Country
This isn’t technically in Austin, but Hill Country is one of the most famous areas of Texas. By car, it’s less than half an hour outside of the city. The Hill Country is known for its beautiful hills, as the name implies, and charming small towns.
It’s also one of the country’s fastest-growing wine regions and has some of the most authentic cuisines in the state. From BBQ to chicken fried steak to pastries, you’ll have no trouble finding something to eat.
My favorite town is Fredricksburg, but New Braunfels is also worth a trip and is where the oldest bakery in the state is located.
7. Barton Springs
Austin is known for its heat, and in summer the temperatures are almost unbearable. It’s no surprise then that these natural springs are a favorite swimming spot.
The springs are the only place where you can find the Barton Springs salamander, an endangered species of salamander.
Austin has the largest urban bat population of any city in the United States, and you won’t have any trouble finding them if you head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk.
The colony has a population of about 1.5 million bats that take off as soon as the sun goes down, making it the perfect spot for a spooky picture.
9. Keep Austin Weird
There are plenty of cool slogans that Austin is known for, the most famous being “keep Austin weird.”
Austin has been known as a haven for artists and hippies for a long time, and the slogan dates back to the 1980s. You can find it almost everywhere on t-shirts, souvenirs, and even billboards.
Other famous slogans that originated in Austin are “Don’t Mess With Texas,” which was part of an anti-littering campaign started by the city.
10. Cool Festivals
Since Austin is home to so many artists, it’s no surprise that it’s known for its festivals. The most famous festivals in Austin are Austin City Limits, abbreviated as ACL, which is a music festival attracting thousands of visitors every year.
Austin also hosts South by Southwest, which is abbreviated as SXSW, a film festival that attracts some of Hollywood’s most famous directors and artists. Several big films have had their world premiere here, and visiting the festival is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet your favorite stars or learn about film.
11. Cathedral of Junk
The so-called cathedral of junk is one of Austin’s most famous and quirky attractions.
Located in the artist’s backyard, the cathedral is a bit out of the way from the main sights, but it’s a sight worth seeing.
The city has done several checks to make sure it’s structurally sound, so you can explore the cathedral’s vaults without having to worry about it collapsing.
12. Umlauf Sculpture Center
For even more art, the Umlauf Sculpture Center has some incredible pieces of modern and contemporary sculpture.
It’s mostly outdoors, but thankfully the weather in Austin makes it perfect for a visit any time of year. The indoor collection is impressive as well.
In addition to sculpture, the museum has over 2000 drawings and there are constantly new exhibits and events going on.
13. The Lakes
Austin is close to two lakes, Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake.
Both are ideal for family outings and swimming, though Lady Bird Lake is probably better for kayaking and paddleboarding, whereas Lake Travis is favored for sailing and faster water sports.
14. Texas State History Museum
Close to the Capitol, the Bullock Texas State History Museum is dedicated to, unsurprisingly, Texas history.
Texas history dates farther back than you would think, and the museum has information on the Gault archaeological site north of the city, which was inhabited about 16,000 years ago.
In addition, the museum features exhibits on Native American contributions to Texas and displays on more contemporary cultural events, such as Austin City Limits.
15. Whole Foods
This high-end grocery chain with a focus on organic and natural products is now a national success, but it has its roots in Austin, where the first Whole Foods was founded in the 1970s.
The original owners started the grocery store to be solely vegetarian and all-natural, and when they were evicted from their apartment for storing food products, they decided to live in the store. However, since it was a commercial property, they weren’t allowed to have a shower and had to use the hose attached to the dishwasher to clean off.
Since then, the store has expanded across the country and even internationally.
16. Silicon Hills
Austin has become a hub for high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Tesla, Amazon, and Google along with many other companies have headquarters or regional offices in or near the city, and the area where these companies are located has taken on the name Silicon Hills.
Austin has always been a center for business and for technology. Dell was first founded in the city when Michael Dell was a student at the University of Texas. Given how many companies are moving here, it’s bound to keep growing.
17. Mexic-Arte Museum
This art museum was founded in the 1980s and is home to many impressive works of Mexican and Latin American art across a multitude of media.
The museum hosts many cultural festivals and educational workshops and, for those who can’t make it in person, you can check out their online exhibition.
18. Austin Zoo
The Austin Zoo is a shelter home for rescued animals and is devoted to animal and wildlife conservation, meaning you don’t have to worry about how the animals are being treated.
In addition to more familiar animals like pigs and llamas, the zoo is home to more exotic animals like lions, monkeys, and tigers. They also have many animals native to Texas, including the classic longhorn and the more frightening rattlesnake.
The zoo frequently hosts educational events and is a great family destination.
19. Hippie Hollow
Hippie Hollow is known as Texas’s only nude beach, though the term beach is a bit misleading.
This clothing-optional bathing area is on a limestone cliff above Lake Travis, and depending on the water level, you might have to do some climbing to make it down to the water. But at least then you won’t have to worry about tearing your bathing suit.
20. Pun-Off World Championships
If Hippe Hollow isn’t to your taste, don’t worry. Austin has a number of clothed cultural events such as the O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championships.
There’s always something to laugh about at this spoken word competition. If you’re curious to see what it’s like but can’t make it in person, check out some videos of the event on the event’s website.
21. Eeyore’s Birthday Celebration
Though it may seem like a silly party, there is much more to one of Austin’s most famous celebrations. Sure, it might have been started as an excuse for college students to party, but the event is now an iconic festival in Austin.
On top of that, its cause is entirely charitable, with the proceeds from the event going to the Friends of the Forest Foundation.
Waterloo was the original name for Austin until it was decided that the capital city should be named for one of the state’s founding fathers, Stephen F. Austin.
Shortly after Texas was established as its own country, the founders had trouble determining a capital city. After a buffalo hunting expedition in the area, one of the founding fathers decided the capital should be moved from Houston to Austin, and he decided to name it Waterloo.
The name didn’t last long, but the city’s status as capital did.
23. Formula One Racing
Though Austin isn’t home to any professional sports team, it is home to the only Formula One race in America, the United States Grand Prix. The race is held at the Circuit of the Americas racing track and is an annual event.
24. Filming Locations
Given Austin’s popular film festival, it isn’t surprising that it has inspired some of Hollywood’s top directors.
From Dazed and Confused to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which was partially filmed in the pictured Capitol rotunda, Austin has made its way into a number of notable hits.
25. Growing Population
For the past few years, Austin has constantly been on the list of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
According to the U.S. Statistics Bureau, the city has been growing on average by about 1.68% per year for the past decade, making it one of the most exciting places in the country to be.
Austin: In Conclusion
Whether you’re interested in art, high-tech, or you just want to find a good taco, Austin has something to offer for everyone, so long as you’re willing to embrace its weirdness. But given the friendliness of its residents, it’s hard not to love this city.
Since Austin is constantly changing and growing so quickly, it’s hard to keep up, so let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed! Or shoot me a recommendation as to where I should grab a taco next time in town!