Nestled in South Central Texas, Travis County hosts plenty of wonderful tourist attractions and scenic spots.
It also ranks fifth among the Texas counties with the highest population.
You’ll be amazed at what you can find in Austin, the county seat and largest city in the area, also known as the Live Music Capital of the World and fittingly called Silicon Hills, being referred to as the next Silicon Valley.
Other cities in the county also offer family-friendly attractions and popular events like Formula 1 and the SXSW Conference and Festivals.
If you love the outdoors, I bet you’ll love the parks and nature attractions here.
There are also lots of great cultural and art spots around that you wouldn’t want to miss.
So, let’s have a tour around the county and I’ll share with you some of the best things to do in Travis County, Texas.
Take a Tour of the Texas Capitol
When you look at this historic granite capitol, you’ll definitely agree with me that it’s one of the most distinct statehouses in the country with its remarkable architectural details.
It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
As I entered with other tourists, our free thirty-minute guided tour started with the staff sharing with us the building’s history; one of the interesting displays on the first-floor level is the Agricultural Museum showing the Texas agricultural heritage.
On the second floor, you’ll find the Senate Chamber on the east wing, while the House of Representatives Chamber is located on the west wing.
I was impressed with the classic paintings displayed around the Senate Chamber room, including Stephen F. Austin’s self-portrait, which I learned was one of the oldest pieces at the statehouse.
The House Chamber, the Capitol’s largest room, is equally grand and impressive; did you check the brass chandeliers at the Chamber and found the bulbs spelling out the word T-E-X-A-S?
There were other rooms I got to take a peek into including the Governor’s Public Reception Room and the Texas Supreme Courtroom on the third floor’s north wing, formerly used by the judiciary and now converted to a meeting room.
Also included in the tour are the Secretary of State’s Office, the Legislative Reference Library, the former Treasurer’s Business Office, and displays at the South Foyer.
I also got to walk around the Capitol Grounds, enjoyed the stunning landscapes, and visited some monuments like the Texas Children, the Price of Liberty, and African American History dotted around the area.
And of course, I ended up buying some souvenirs at the Gift Shop and Visitors Center and gave myself a delicious lunch treat at Museum Café, after touring the Texas Capitol.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Zilker Metropolitan Park
It’s just right on Barton Springs Road spanning about 350 acres and certainly offers lots of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
I took the free shuttle service going to the park which is available at the One Texas Center parking area every weekend and then dropped off at the Zilker Playground.
The picnic sites and shelter areas are perfect for any family gathering, plus the sports amenities like the Disc Golf Course and volleyball courts are excellent, too.
There’s a fun outdoor space called the Zilker Playscape for kids and different programs to do at the Austin Nature and Science Center.
I visited the Botanical Gardens and was delighted to see the different elements at the Taniguchi Oriental Garden and the colorful blooms at the Austin Area Garden Center.
I’m sure summer at Zilker Metropolitan Park is enjoyable and I’d love to catch the annual events here like Shakespeare in the Park and the Zilker Summer Musical.
Enjoy the Fun Attractions at Lago Fest
Running for more than five years, Lago Fest is an annual April event that surely spells fun.
Famous for its tagline “Beats, Eats, and Arts”, you’ll expect nothing but the best music, good food, and amazing art at this event.
And the best thing is I didn’t need a ticket because the entrance was free, plus I got to enjoy the scenic view of Lake Travis with the festival grounds set up at Lago Vista’s Bar K Park.
You’ll expect lots of fun kiddie attractions like a petting zoo, face painting, corn hole, train rides, and games.
But in my case, my personal highlight was the helicopter ride over the beautiful lake and Lago Vista area, and of course, I didn’t miss taking shots of some picture-worthy views.
Also, one of the main attractions of the festival was the Annual Turnback Regatta where you can watch the beautiful boats sail to the finish.
And there’s unending music played by local bands that kept me on my feet and lots of art displays that caught my eye.
I also had my fill of delicious festival food like Tejano Cookers’ family-style BBQ, South African Food Affair’s authentic African flavors, and Cannone Gelato Italiano’s fresh Italian gelato.
Experience Calming Nature at McKinney Falls State Park
Nature escapades, for me, are such a breather and McKinney Falls State Park can be one of the relaxing nature spots you can enjoy, too.
It’s along Austin’s McKinney Falls Parkway offering the best spots to explore nature.
The cool waters at Onion Creek are great for swimming and you’ll see some park visitors throwing their anglers for a catch; Williamson Creek is also open for fishing and you don’t even need a license to fish at the state park.
Though they have cabins for rent, it was more exciting to try camping out at the sites.
The Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail, stretching more than two and a half miles, was a great way to see some scenic views around the area; the park’s Rock Shelter Trail is also open exclusively for hikers.
I also had the chance to learn about the park’s natural history and heritage at the Visitor Center, then got to see a stunning view of the Upper Falls after.
I suggest you go and explore the bat caves, too! The friendly guides also shared how anyone can contribute to protecting nature’s night skies.
McKinney Falls State Park is also a great venue to host a large get-together with a full kitchen, outdoor grill, and plenty of seating area to cater to your needs.
Relax and Swim at Barton Springs Pool
When you visit Zilker Park, you can’t miss one of Austin’s crown jewel attractions.
Barton Springs Pool is among the most enjoyable relaxation spots I can recommend when you head out to Travis County.
The three-acre pool is fed by underground springs averaging around 68-70 degrees in temperature.
The pool is also ideal for swimming any time of the year, so it’s no wonder why visitors often flock to this nature location.
My visit here was well-spent and nothing really beats feeling the waters on your feet while wading and lounging in the grassy areas.
But this is more than a spring pool because the area is also a protected habitat where endangered Barton Springs Salamanders live.
Dropping by the Splash! exhibit, I also discovered the history and ecology facts of Barton Springs Pool and learned about the Edwards Aquifer, the body of water feeding it.
Have Fun with the Family at Typhoon Texas Waterpark
If you’re looking for a fun water attraction to bring the family, Typhoon Texas Waterpark in Pflugerville is one for the books.
What’s great about this waterpark is they have something for everyone, from tiny swimmers to the most adventurous in the family.
For your little ones, the Buckaroo Bayou, Howdy Hollow, and Rain Fortress are perfect to keep their feet splashing and the fun going; they also have The Gully Washer for older kids built with play structures.
If you’re the thrill-seeker type, you better try the Lone Star Racers, the Duelin' Daltons, and the Snake Pit.
As for me, I prefer to relax so the Lazy T River and the Tidal Wave Bay were enough to help me beat the heat.
The waterpark also offers excellent lounges from Standard, Plus, to Premier Cabanas you can rent and concessions offering a variety of food and snacks.
For some adult beverages, you have a wide range of beer and cocktail selections from Circle T Bar and Typhoon Saloon.
Water fun and activities await you at the Typhoon Texas Waterpark.
Embark on a Nature Trip at Hamilton Pool Preserve
The 232-acre Hamilton Pool Preserve is one of the county’s scenic nature preserves running a quarter mile upstream from the Pedernales River.
What you’ll see at the pool is a 50-foot waterfall plunging into a sharp canyon with water spilling from Hamilton Creek and gushing over limestone outcrops.
There are times when park managers won’t allow swimming at the pool especially when there are falling rocks in the area, rain, or when the bacteria level is high.
But at that time, I was allowed to get into the water from the beach since that was the limited area open to visitors.
Plus, I got to appreciate the calming sight of diverse flora, some of which are arid and riparian varieties.
The uplands have lots of junipers and oak savannahs as well as lovely wildflowers and lush native grasses; the canyon area also features rare plant varieties like canyon mock-orange, chatterbox orchid, and red bay.
The guided hike along the trails was also worth it, with soothing views of rich vegetation all around, one can’t help but connect with nature.
After the trek, it was nice to just relax on a picnic and enjoy the fresh air.
So if ever you plan to visit Travis County, Hamilton Pool Preserve is a delightful nature spot you’ll really enjoy.
Learn about Historic Texas at the Bullock Museum
Bullock Museum is the best place I got to learn about the great stories of Texas history.
This museum along Congress Avenue has an amazing display of over 700 original artifacts that shows you the unique and colorful traditions of Texas.
I came across several exhibits at the Becoming Texas gallery on the ground floor which gave me a picture of the state from the time the earliest inhabitants occupied the land until it gained Mexican Independence in 1821.
The second-floor gallery greets visitors with lifesize statues of Sam Houston, Elisabet Ney, and the Goddess of Liberty that used to sit on top of the Texas Capitol; it was really interesting to read about the different people, places, and events that made Texas what it is today.
I was also fascinated with stories of the Texas Revolution’s Runaway Scrape, the state’s booming cotton industry during the Civil War era, and other industries like ranching, oil, and gas, that Texas became famous for.
There was also an exhibit of Hyrum Wilson, an expert clay pot maker and one of the earliest African American businessmen in the state, along with interesting artworks like Fannie Shaw’s Texas Centennial wood carving piece; these were significant as issues of racism were rampant during the early 1900s.
On the third floor, the suspended World War II AT-6 training aircraft caught my eye and discovered that it represented the state’s contribution to the military.
I browsed other exhibits which included the role of Texas music and sports both on the national and international scenes and watched some of the memorable Austin City Limits performances over the past 40 years.
The Jim Crow and NAACP exhibits, along with Austin’s Pride celebrations and Houston’s women’s conference will also open your eyes to stories of many marginalized groups that have impacted Texas society.
The interactive exhibits were also fun and stirred my curiosity, some of which were the Texas landscape exhibits and displays of American Indian art and traditions.
After the Bullock Museum tour, I capped off my visit with a tasty lunch at The Star Cafe located on the second floor; I particularly liked the Garden Vegetable and Fruit Cups, by the way.
Savor Artisan Wines at Bent Oak Winery
All their Texas wines are made from their winery with grapes grown mostly on the High Plains of Texas, while some of their California wines are produced in Healdsburg, California.
The winery welcomed us with a cozy and homey Tasting Room area where we had five wine samples to try.
I enjoyed sipping a glass of Texas Petit Verdot and loved the fruity notes of blueberry jam; my other favorite was the ‘19 Sauvignon Blanc giving out a distinct lemongrass aroma and citrus note.
The California ’18 Zinfadel also had intense savory flavors of dark fruit and pepper with some hints of smoke and leather.
The tasting menu was also superb with a la carte food you can pair with your wine servings.
I ordered the hummus snack, a plate of carrots and crackers served with tasty hummus dip, and also liked the mozzarella-wrapped prosciutto with crackers, and homemade Sweet & Spicy Pecans by Sister Winemaker.
But since I also wanted to try their food specials for the week, I thought I might as well dig into some Grilled Shrimp Tacos and enjoy the tangy pineapple mango salsa and chipotle crema that goes with it.
If time permits, I’d come back to join some of their fun events, maybe drop by on a Monday for Game Night Trivia or grab some friends to enjoy the music on Wine Down Friday.
Of course, I did take home a bottle of Petite Verdot and Texas Rosé by Bent Oak Winery to remind me of my memorable visit and enjoy their wines at home.
Admire Various Artworks at the Blanton Museum of Art
If you love arts, it’s a great place to drop by on a weekend, and they have lines of art exhibits throughout the year ranging from ancient artifacts to modern abstract paintings.
As Austin’s primary art collection and housing the largest of Central Texas’ public collections, touring this art location is definitely enough to inspire and spur your love for art.
The museum building in itself is art, designed by famous artist Ellsworth Kelly, which he also named Austin.
The stone building stands at 2,715 square feet adorned with luminous multicolored glass windows, a wood totem sculpture, and marble panels.
Stepping inside the museum, I had the opportunity to see the permanent collections which included several contemporary and modern American, Latin American, and European art, along with arts of the Spanish Americas.
There were also large-scale artworks and contemporary artworks from around the world, and I also found rows of interesting plaster-cast pieces at the William J. Battle Collection.
I was immersed in the themes from different eras and found several paintings, prints, and drawings very appealing.
A visit to the Blanton Museum of Art is truly a meaningful experience.
Explore the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Straddling across the Edwards Plateau and the Texas Blackland Prairies, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers opportunities to explore various ecoregions.
The 284-acre nature center is right on La Crosse Avenue and presents its mission of conserving native plant species, creating sustainable structures, and promoting conservation efforts.
From the entrance, you’ll easily spot the lovely Entrance Garden, several eco-sustainable buildings at the Central Complex all lined and adorned with native plants, and the Courtyard, which is a frequent venue for live music performances and private events.
My visit began with a tour of the Great Hall and discovering some of the plants native to the area, then I watched a short film about Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson at the Legacy Theater; there was also a portrait of the famous environmental icon by Norman Rockwell and the lady’s old guide and gardening gloves on display.
From the Great Hall, you’ll have a view of the rural Savanna Meadow on one side and the lovely Courtyard on the other side.
I strolled around the gardens and found the Wetland Pond, which is a nice tranquil spot to sit around and reflect; it’s filled with aquatic plants native to Texas and some feeders like gulf toads, red-eared sliders, and ribbon snakes roaming around the pond.
Climbing to the top of the Observation Tower led me to Robb’s Roost, the lovely roof garden with lime-colored tables and chairs, a classic pergola made of wood and steel, along with native grasses, succulents and wildflowers adorning the area; the garden is a perfect spot for a picnic.
Moreover, it gives you a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the beautiful center and nearby countryside; the tower was uniquely designed with brown sandstone sourced from Lampasas and its style is similar to old Spanish watch towers.
I found some unique souvenirs at the Wildflower Center Gift Store and enjoyed al fresco dining at the Wildflower Café, then peeked into the Wildflower Center Library and the charming kiddie Little House on the southwest corner of the Central Courtyard.
The Wildflower Center, a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, is truly a must-see attraction I’ll recommend.
See the Interactive Exhibits at Wonderspaces Austin
I happen to come across an interestingly fun attraction called Wonderspaces Austin on Sheldon Cove.
It features 16 amazing art installations that will surely keep you entertained with full shows running for more than an hour.
It was intriguing to think how you can playfully control the rising and setting of the sun at Philip Schütte’s Sun exhibit.
Rules by Paola Ibarra Llano was also interesting as it depicts the dynamics of human connections, while Submergence was totally a fun experience, seeing all the colorful lights dance to the different music.
I was amazed at John Edmark’s 3D-printed Blooms sculptures and the Sewing Machine Orchestra, which featured twelve sewing machines synced in continuous movement and creating a unique electro-acoustic melody.
I finally know what it feels like to be an art subject and have myself sketched by robots at the Human Study #1, 3RNP installation, and was also entertained by the songs of the cosmos in the Spheres exhibit.
You won’t notice how time flies inside the exhibit area because all the other audio-visual installations are so amazingly put together, from the Body Paint, Eli, and Daydream v.2, to the Sweet Spot, The Last Word, Swing, Arc, and Killing Time.
By the way, make sure to arrive at Wonderspaces Austin 15 minutes before your entry time to keep your ticket valid.
Visit the Scenic Mayfield Park
A lovely urban oasis is how I would describe Mayfield Park.
Filled with lush gardens, gigantic palm trees, and dazzling peacocks wandering around the park, I found a respite in this park after hours of strolling downtown.
The 23-acre park simply gives you an incredible experience and a great way to have a quick nature escape in the city.
I got to drop by the 1800s-style garden cottages, saw some blue and green herons hopping about the trees, and met the koi and turtles swimming at the ponds.
Of course, who wouldn’t feel relaxed with the sight of bright-colored blooms coupled with the soft breeze and cool shades of trees?
Mayfield Park is also historic as citizens of Austin paid tribute to Allison Mayfield and her daughter Mary Mayfield Gutsch in founding this lovely park; when Mary died in 1971, the property was left to the City of Austin as a park.
Meet the Amazing Animals at Austin Zoo
It’s always a fun time when you see animals at the zoo, I paid a visit to Austin Zoo on Rawhide Trail.
This rescue zoo facility focuses on animal rescue programs, promoting conservation efforts and educating the public to preserve wildlife.
They have over 300 animals housed in this Hill Country location.
It was really a fun up-close experience seeing the Big Cats like lions and tigers; just hearing their big roars from a distance makes you realize how powerful they are.
Other unique mammals that caught my attention were the Coatimundi, Genet, and Binturong.
The Black and White Colobus Monkey, Brown Lemur, Marmoset, as well as Capuchin Monkeys, and Ring-Tailed Lemurs, were all too amusing as they climbed the trees and posts.
Guinea fowl and peacocks were also wandering around the zoo area, and of course, you would hear other exotic birds like the Blue and Gold Macaw and Emu calling out in their distinct sounds.
Then, there are the charming tortoises and turtle species peaking out of their shells and other reptiles like Iguanas, Leopard Geckos, Red Tailed Boa, and Ball Pythons showing off their unique features.
Domestic animals also greeted us at Austin Zoo like goats, sheep, llamas, donkeys, deer, and others; if you buy them animal food, you’ll get to feed these animals on your next zoo visit.
Enjoy a Great Dining Experience at Oasis
Sitting on a deck, enjoying the sunset view, and savoring every bite of my meal, I couldn’t ask for anything more with my Oasis experience.
Popularly known as The Sunset Capital of Texas, they surely have one the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen; no wonder hundreds of visitors come to enjoy the view.
I arrived an hour before sunset at this popular food stop on Austin’s Comanche Trail and grabbed a drink at one of the bars.
I still had time to roam around the Sculpture Garden and caught bands playing at Beau's Backyard and Starlight Terrace since it was a weekend; I also dropped by the Oasis Gift Shop and bought some lovely items for souvenirs.
When I was finally seated, I started with a serving of Cod Bites, fried golden brown and paired with chipotle mayo and a lemon wedge; the Grand Quesadilla and Shrimp Ceviche looks good, too.
And since I’m a big fan of salads, I was delighted to have a plate of Chicken Pecan Salad with slices of grilled chicken, fresh mixed greens, red onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes, plus candied pecans, grapes, and strawberries that added more flavor; the sweet and tangy Strawberry-Lemon Vinaigrette really made this salad a winner.
The mango-glazed Grilled Salmon exceeded my expectations and was amazingly flavorful, topped with mango salsa, and served with coconut rice and a mix of vegetables on the sides.
I wanted a simple but indulging dessert so I ordered the Signature Flan, drizzled with caramel sauce and strawberries on the side.
When I get back, I’m going to try their Smokey Bleu Burger or have one of the Chef’s Specials like the Chicken Fried Steak which all looks delicious by the way.
The good food and the spectacular view aren’t all there is to this dining location because guests can enjoy a few Oasis traditions like the Sunset Bell and Lover's Locks, where you’ll buy a lock from the gift shop and get to lock it on the deck’s balcony area.
Lots of fun and interesting attractions await you at Travis County.
You’ll surely enjoy plenty of stunning nature parks, remarkable museums, and enjoyable events around the different cities, particularly the city of Austin.
My take on this trip, bring your family along, get to relax, and explore this Texas location.
And of course, enjoy the best things to do in Travis County together.