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One Day In Austin Itinerary

How to spend one day in Austin, Texas when the sun is up.

Out of all the outdoorsy things to do in Austin in 24 hours, climbing Mount Bonnell should have been first. But instead, I’m here at the tail-end of my trip, struggling up the stairs (I really should work out more).

Huff. Huff. Huff.

I lean against the rail. Only 20 more steps to go. Or 50.

I sigh.

It’s okay, Anshula. You can do this.

I press my foot forward. A shot of pain ripples through my heel. I can’t do this. So much for my mini-motivational speech.

“Remind me to put working out on my New Year’s Resolutions,” I gasp. “I feel like the wolf from the Three Little Pigs right now with all my huffing and puffing.”

View from Mount Bonnell in Austin

I catch my breath. Mount Bonnell has always been at the top of my one day in Austin bucket list. Beautiful views of the Colorado River dotted with gorgeous homes? Yes, please!

So why did I opt to wind down a day of hiking, jogging, and kayaking in Austin with climbing 99 stairs?

No answer.

Good job, Anshula. Good job.

I attempt to take another step upwards. My legs feel like my homemade Jello – wibbly, wobbly, and a few seconds from collapsing inward.

I promise I’m not completely lacking in the physical adeptness department. Just a little.

But it’s been a long day. And luckily, this is the last check on our crazy, outdoorsy one day Austin jaunt.

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One Day In Austin Travel Guide

Texas State Capitol Building in Austin.

About

The capital of Texas, Austin’s trademark slogan (keep Austin weird) sums up the city in a nutshell.

Austin is a unique destination, a growing metropolis (in the middle of the Lone Star State) embracing counterculture with open arms.

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It’s a city carved up by college influence (mostly UT Austin influence), but the foundation is still historic. Even though there are over 50000 university students in the area, Austin has yet to divert into a quintessential college town.

It’s a great stop for travelers looking for a modern experience with a distant taste of the old-world.

Getting There And Around

Ah sing den is a cocktail lounge in Austin. This is the exterior.

Since I live in Dallas, I’ve always driven into Austin (and stopped by West, Texas for kolaches on the way).

But you can also fly into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. To get around, you’ll need a rental car.

Whilst there are several bicycling paths in-and-around the city, I decided a while ago biking was a no-go for me based on personal experience (over my past few trips to Austin, I’ve seen at least one cyclist, who had complete right of way, get hit by an aggressive driver – yikes).

Where To Stay

Austin motel sign

Known for its luxury service and splashed out rooms, The Driskill is one of the premier places to stay in Austin. It’s been in town ever since the late 19th century, making it one of the oldest hotels in Texas. Charm. Character. The Driskill has it all.

And from the HI Austin to HK Austin, Austin is not short on hostels either (making it one of the most affordable destinations in Texas).

To be honest, I don’t stay in Austin hotels (or hostels) very often (since I drive down from Dallas). And when I do, I usually crash at a family-friend’s place or book through Airbnb.

Travel Tips

bluebonnets in Austin in spring

The best time to visit Austin is in the spring, when all the bluebonnets are in bloom. Austin is surrounded by Hill Country, one of the most scenic parts of Texas. If you can extend your trip by a day, make your way down to Fredericksburg, a cute German town less than an hour away!

If it’s raining, there’s still plenty to do in Austin. With museums like the Bullock Texas State History Museum and giant indie bookstores like BookPeople, Austin is the perfect day trip even on a stormy Sunday.

One Day In Austin Itinerary

Like on all good weather days, my one day in Austin began with a stroll through a park.

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Stroll Through Zilker Park

A very awkward throwback photo to when I was a pouty teenager in Zilker Metropolitan Park. I used HATE having pictures of myself taken (this one was shot by my mum). I'm happy to report that I've since learned how to smile on camera!
A very awkward throwback photo to when I was a pouty teenager in Zilker Metropolitan Park. I used HATE having pictures of myself taken (this one was shot by my mum). I’m happy to report that I’ve since learned how to smile on camera!

Over 300 acres, Zilker Metropolitan Park is the most popular local hangout. The reigning king of Austin entertainment, Zilker is part event-venue and part recreation area.

Things To Do In Zilker Park (add these to your one day in Austin itinerary):

  • Austin City Limits: Almost half a million people rock to this annual music festival.
  • Zilker Botanical Gardens: From a rose garden to a succulent garden, this spread of flowers and shrubbery offers pretty views of Austin.
  • Barton Springs Pool: A recreational pool filled with natural spring water. What’s not to love?
  • Disc Golf Course: Join some locals and throw a disc at one of the targets.

General Info

Location: 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704

Visit Umlauf Sculpture Garden

A mother looking at her son statue in Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Tucked away in a small property within Zilker Metropolitan Park is Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.

From renowned artist Charles Umlauf comes a series of bronze sculptures capturing intimate moments in human life. While the statues are somewhat abstract, they actually represent basic concepts – mother and child relationships, Greek stories, and the inherent nesting of religious elements.

I fell absolutely in love with the wrought emotion enhanced by the bright, green natural frames!

General Info

Location: 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704

Grab Lunch At Torchy’s Tacos

Two brushfires, double order and some black beans from Torchy's Tacos

The tacos at Torchy’s are devilishly delightful, a mix of pale flour tortillas flush with fresh ingredients.

I ordered two tacos – the Brushfire and the Trailer Park.

The Brushfire is summer spilled into a wrap. In the center is a thin line of island-style chicken, spiced up with diablo sauce, a housemade fiery salsa that doubles in heat and flavor. Topped with cool-to-the-mouth chopped mangoes, the Brushfire is a rebel to the senses.

A fat and dirty taco, the Trailer Park is heaped in rough bits of fried chicken, green chiles, and lettuce. Topped over with a sloppy dressing of Poblano sauce and a handful of cheese, the Trailer Park is a classic messy eat.

If you just have one day in Austin, I highly recommend grabbing lunch at Torchy’s!

General Info

Location: 3005 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Hike Up To See Pennybacker Bridge

Pennybacker Bridge on a cloudy day in Austin

I wasn’t expecting a hike like this during my one day in Austin, but I don’t regret it one bit!

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The hike up to see Pennybacker Bridge (known locally as the Austin 360 point) is not a straightforward climb so be sure you wear the right shoes. I was clenching my teeth the whole way through (mostly because I was wearing sandals that got destroyed pretty quickly).

There are no stairs, here, just a loose path. I begin a steep(ish) uphill climb, scrambling slightly as I wasn’t dressed for the occasion (but since then, I’ve learned what to pack for Austin).

The landscape is rough, ungated and unbound.

But the sweeping views of the Pennybacker Bridge are incredible.

My feet dangle off the edge of the cliff. As I look down, my fear of heights starts to kick in. Austin 360 is not for the faint of heart.

Search For Peacocks In Mayfield Park

Peacock in front of small cottage at Mayfield Park

I’m a little intimidated by the peacock. Is that weird?

A part of me is worried that he’s out of my league. He cocks his head and swiftly moves away in agreement, distracted by a cute peahen.

Sigh.

I’ll wait for my photo-op.

Over twenty peafowl reside in Mayfield Estate, a quiet nature reserve. The park stands as one the most unique Austin bucket list attractions.  Peacocks freely roam the area, strutting down the sidewalk ramps, showing off their gorgeous feathers.

I think they missed the memo for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.

General Info

Location: 3505 W 35th St, Austin, TX 78703

Climb Mount Bonnell

girl looking over Mount Bonnell during her one day in Austin

Out of all the things to add to our Austin bucket list, climbing Mount Bonnell should have been first.

Huff. Huff. Huff.

I’ve arrived at the top of the hill, exhausted. But I also ticked off some crazy, outdoorsy Austin bucket list items, from strolling through botanical gardens to clawing my way up the Austin 360 vantage point (100% my fault).

97. 98. 99.

I made it.

I move past the sitting area, and lean against the gate. The sun is slinking behind a sea of green.

What was I complaining about again? Beautiful views of the Colorado River dotted with gorgeous homes? Ridiculous. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my one day in Austin.

General Info

Location: 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd; Austin, Texas 78731

Recommended Austin Tours

Did you enjoy this post on how to spend one day in Austin? Have you ever spent one day in Austin? Let me know in the comments below!

Avatar About Author

Just a 21-year-old Texas girl trying to navigate my way through this world. I share daily travel stories, musings, and book recommendations on Passport To Eden.

4 Comments

  • Avatar
    Lauren Monitz
    November 10, 2018 at 11:38 AM

    Lol I love that you said eating Torchy’s is outdoorsy. #onlyinTX

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Anita
    November 10, 2018 at 11:53 AM

    I have never been to Austin, so it’s so interesting to me. I would love to visit Umlauf Sculpture Garden and always bring my camera with me so lots of pictures always. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Julie
    November 10, 2018 at 12:08 PM

    I have always wanted to visit Austin! Seems like such a fun city and I love that there are outdoorsy activities to do too!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Mary Beth
    November 10, 2018 at 1:23 PM

    Our fam loves outdoor travel! (And eating tacos… hehe)! We’ll be stopping through Austin in a couple months, so this post comes at just the right time. Thanks!

    Reply

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