City Guide

The 15 Best Outdoor Activities in Austin

By Landing | Apr 18, 2024
People enjoying a sunny day having picnics at the park with Austin's city in the background

Grab your hiking boots and sunscreen and get ready to enjoy these outdoor activities in Austin. From zoos to days on the lake, we’ve got you covered.

Austin is more than an eclectic music scene and foodie paradise. Its warm Southern attitude and gorgeous natural spaces make it the ideal playground for adventurers of all ages. 

Nestled in the heart of Texas, Austin’s unique landscape is dotted with lush parks, serene lakes, and busy outdoor venues. And with year-round sun and warm weather, you won’t spend any season stuck inside. 

Whether you’re paddling around Lady Bird Lake or discovering hidden views along the Greenbelt, there are plenty of adventures in Austin to entertain anyone. 

If you’re eager to explore all of Austin’s natural charm, these are 15 of the best outdoor activities in Austin for the entire family. 

The 10 Best Outdoor Activities in Austin

The city’s natural playgrounds cater to adventure enthusiasts and those happy floating around the river. Here are 10 Austin outdoor activities to add to your Texas to-do list.

1. Enjoy a Serene Day Paddling Along Lady Bird Lake

Kayakers and paddleboarders enjoying a nice day at Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake, a dammed portion of the Colorado River, offers a peaceful contrast to the buildings of downtown, creating a gorgeous backdrop for outdoor family activities in Austin. Its calm waters are ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. And the kids will love watching turtles lounge in the sun and fish dart below the water’s surface. 

The five-mile artificial lake is close to downtown Austin, with plenty of boardwalk for jogging and biking. The south perimeter also offers easy access to Travis Heights, one of our favorite Austin neighborhoods. It’s full of restaurants and shops to explore after a day at the lake. 

2. Play on Lake Austin

Person on wakeboard flipping at Lake Austin

Motorized boats are prohibited on Lady Bird Lake, so locals head to Lake Austin for water sports. If you don’t own a boat, there are plenty of businesses that rent or provide tours for water skiing, wakeboarding, and wake surfing. And although bank fishing is limited, Lake Austin has several designated areas where you can cast your line. 

3. Canoe the Lower Colorado River

Three people canoeing at Lower Colorado River

The Lower Colorado River cuts through downtown Austin. Along the river, you’ll spot diverse wildlife, lush vegetation, and quiet spots perfect for a picnic. Kids and adults alike can learn about the natural surroundings by joining a guided tour. There are even guided nighttime kayak tours in clear boats lit with LEDs run by Glow Row, a company offering family-friendly tours. 

4. Stargaze at Pedernales Falls State Park

The milky way rising over Pedernales Falls State Park
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Just outside Austin city limits, Pedernales Falls State Park is a quick escape for nature lovers. Full of stunning waterfalls, clear streams, and hiking trails, it’s a go-to destination for camping trips — and you’ll want to stay until sundown. When night falls, the park offers one of the best stargazing spots in the area, with skies full of constellations. It’s a great place to share stories and make memories under the vast Texas sky. 

5. Zipline Through Treetops at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures

Woman ziplining with Lake Travis in the background
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For a welcome dose of adrenaline, Lake Travis Zipline Adventures offers an exciting way to experience the landscape’s natural beauty. And it’s only a short drive from Austin. As you soar through the treetops on the longest and fastest ziplines in Texas, you’ll experience breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding hill country.

6. Never Get Bored at Zilker Park, Barton Springs, and Zilker Botanical Garden

People enjoying a day out at Zilker Park. In the background, Austin's buildings arise.
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Zilker Park is Austin’s most-loved park for good reason. With 350 acres of green space, it’s a community hub for events, festivals, and other outdoor attractions in Austin. Enjoy a spring-fed Barton Springs swimming hole, miniature train, and volleyball sand courts — and you’ll barely scratch the surface. 

Nature lovers can also enjoy wandering through the Zilker Botanical Garden, which features educational tours for the whole family to learn about botany. 

If you’re thinking of staying in Austin for a while and love the proximity to big green spaces, nearby South Lamar is one of our favorite places to stay in the city. 

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7. Hike and Rock Climb in the Greenbelt

A man hiking in Barton Creek Greenbelt with his dog
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The Barton Creek Greenbelt, known by locals as the Greenbelt, is a beloved outdoor paradise stretching over 12 miles. And it includes some of the best hikes in Austin

The Greenbelt is an oasis for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike — anyone eager to explore dense forests and rugged terrains. In the summertime, hidden gems like Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls are great spots to cool off after a hike. 

8. Explore Hidden Wonders at Inner Space Cavern

A group of students examining the "flow stone of time" at Inner Space Cavern
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Did you know there’s a hidden expanse of subterranean caverns underneath the north suburb of Georgetown? The Inner Space Cavern is a series of intricate networks of limestone formed more than 20 million years ago. It was discovered during highway construction in the early 1960s and quickly opened to the public to explore. These caves are filled with prehistoric animal bones and towering stalactites that everyone can enjoy.

9. Take a Dip in the Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Something you should know before moving to Austin is that locals have a thing for swimming holes. And with summers that swelter with high temperatures and higher humidity, we don’t blame them. 

If you want to get out of the city, the Hamilton Pool is a hidden grotto and swimming hole just 30 miles outside of Austin. Although it’s a bit more rustic than the city’s manmade pools, it’s a lovely private escape worth the hike. Just make reservations ahead of time and ask about swimming conditions, as the pool is often closed after rainy days. 

10. Watch the Bats Emerge from Congress Avenue Bat Bridge

People observing from Congress Avenue Bridge how the bats fill up the sky
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During spring and summer, the Congress Avenue Bridge becomes the sight of a unique natural phenomenon. At sunset, thousands of bats fly into the evening sky in search of food. Many Austinites and tour boats fill the river with kayaks and canoes. You can also catch a glimpse from the observation decks next to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. 

5 Outdoor Things To Do in Austin With the Kids

If you’re looking for kid-centric activities, here are five options for outdoor adventure and learning.

1. Visit Wildlife at the Austin Zoo

Little girl feeding two deers
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The Austin Zoo is a rescue zoo with a big focus on education and conservation. It houses over 300 animals representing 100 different species, most of which have been rescued or rehabilitated. There are plenty of interactive exhibits, hands-on encounters, and a train ride — all teaching kids the value of protecting the natural world. 

2. Learn About Flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Families and kids enjoying a nice day at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s whole ethos is to bring kids closer to nature. But parents who love gardening will enjoy learning about native Texas plants and landscapes, too. There are several family-friendly trails, parent-child yoga classes, and a children’s garden with a shrub maze to keep the kiddies entertained. Plus, there’s a watering hole to cool off. 

3. Immerse in the Arts at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Families strolling around and visiting Umalauf Sculpture Garden
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The outdoor museum hosts the largest collection of Austin transplant and sculptor Charles Umlauf. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is family-forward — and not just because the gardens offer a tactile art experience for kids. Family programs like a summer camp, monthly family days, and storytime events in the garden all let children experience creativity and curiosity. 

4. Visit the Peacocks at Mayfield Park

Peacock at Mayfield Park

West Austin residents have some wild neighbors. Literally. Mayfield Park is a 21-acre nature reserve with beautiful ponds, walking trails, and free-roaming peacocks. Understandably, dogs aren’t welcome, but well-behaved children are. 

5. Cultivate a Love for Learning at the Austin Nature and Science Center

Kid standing next to a dinosaur skeleton
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If you’re hanging out in Zilker Park, you might as well make a day out of it with a visit to the nearby Austin Nature and Science Center. It’s full of hands-on exhibits and educational programs, like dinosaur digs and naturalist workshops. The center also has year-round day camps during school breaks and a preschool center to keep children immersed in the natural world. 

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