Whether you’ve just moved here or you love being a tourist in your own town, one of the best things to do in Austin is to experience a handful of Austin tours. From helicopter tours to boat tours to brewery tours at Austin’s best breweries, you’ll be able to visit some of the city’s most popular sites—or partake in one of the capital’s under-the-radar experiences. Either way, you’re sure to learn a little bit more about Austin—and have a seriously good time along the way.
Best Austin tours
One of Austin’s most distinguishing features is the stretch of water that cuts through downtown and goes by three different names: Lady Bird Lake, Town Lake and the Colorado River. Besides being a pretty place to jog or bike around, it’s also great spot to take in the sights aboard one of the Lone Star Riverboat Cruises. They have a sunset bat watching cruise on one of their smaller boats, along with an afternoon sightseeing cruise and a Friday night moonlight cruise, both on their signature boat named The Lone Star. The cherry on top? All the tours are BYOB.
Food is life in Austin, and sometimes it can seem that for every local eatery you try, two more pop up that are begging to be added to the bucket list. To kill a few birds with one stone, tag along with Austin Eats Food Tours. They have different trips to choose from depending on which area of town you want to explore or what type of food you’re jonesing to try, including East Austin, brunch/bbq, South Congress, pub and grub and Austin’s best food trucks. All the food is included on every tour, while the amount and type of drinks included varies. Come with an appetite and leave with a full stomach.
Two Hives Honey started as a small honey company and has since turned into full-fledged operation with an apprenticeship program, beekeeping classes, hive installation service, various workshops and hive tours. On the roughly hour and a half tour, you’ll don protective gear, get up close and personal with thousands of bees at work, and even get a taste of honey fresh from the hive. This intimate, hands-on experience is fun and educational (dare we say, the bee’s knees) for both children and adults. In fact, you can choose between the kid-friendly tour and the adults-only tour.
Cruising around town on a bike has a number of benefits like, say, avoiding crazy Austin traffic and not going around in circles looking for parking. But what if you don’t want to get all hot and sweaty? Electric bikes are the answer. Rocket Electrics offers Lady Bird Lake, brunch, foodie and Barton Springs tours on their sweet ebikes. These bad boys can get up to a max speed of 20mph, and their motors can last up to 20 miles on a single charge. If you’re completely sold on ebikes by the end of your tour, ask them about buying one!
Segways aren’t just for lazy mall cops. These two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters also serve as a much more interesting (albeit slightly nerdy) way to explore downtown, allowing you to glide past everyone else traveling on their own two feet. Segway Nation offers three different tours: a Capitol of Texas sightseeing tour, a historic downtown and Capitol tour, and a haunted ghost and bat tour. The length of the experience ranges from one and a half hours to two and a half hours, and each includes some time for training—just in case you’re a Segway newbie.
When you think of the University of Texas campus, chances are you think of the iconic tower that stands as its centerpiece. Students and employees mainly use it for the library and administrative offices inside, but did you know you can actually go up to its observation deck on a Tower Tour? These 45 minute-long tours are self-guided but escorted, and they are the only way to access the observation deck. At the top, you’ll get a spectacular, 360-degree view of the campus, the Capitol and the surrounding areas downtown. Don’t forget to reserve your ticket ahead of time!
Gain a new perspective of the city from a HELOaustin helicopter tour. The city skyline, rolling hills and lakes that make up Austin are already impressive enough at ground level, but from far above, the views are sure to take your breath away. HELOaustin has a number of tours available, including those of downtown and the Circuit of The Americas. There’s also a sunset tour for all you romantics out there. If none of their offerings strikes your fancy, you can go ahead and customize your own tour—just tell them what you’d like to see and they’ll make it happen.
You’ve probably been on a haunted tour before, but have you ever done it in a hearse? Embrace the spookiness by riding along in a classic Cadillac hearse on one of Haunted ATX’s tours, which last around two and a half to three hours. Self-proclaimed as the only mobile haunted tour in Austin, they’ll drive you around to the city’s paranormal hotspots and share local ghost stories, making for one spooktacular evening. Haunted ATX kindly provides complimentary water, soda, ice and cups, and you’re free to bring your own adult beverages.
Want to know how Austin came to be regarded as the Live Music Capital of the World? Hop on an Austin Music Heritage Tour. There are plenty of stories from the psychedelic and blues scenes from years ago to today’s SXSW and Austin City Limits festivals. Choose from two tours: a one-hour downtown walking tour, and a two and half-hour tour that adds on stops in South Austin. Both are kept to small groups and led by a knowledgeable guide who’s happy to customize each tour based on your interests.
You don’t have to stop the party when traveling between bars and breweries if you’re on Hipside Peddler’s 15-passenger, pedal-powered bike. Instead, you can continue to imbibe your beer, wine and malt beverages while pedaling to your next drinking destination. It truly is riding in style: they have an iPad DJ station with streaming music access, premium sound system, karaoke mic, USB charging stations and comfortable, adjustable seats with seat backs. Oh wait, did we forget to mention they have a keg Co2 tap system on board, too? From pub crawls to bachelor/bachelorette parties to plain ol’ Sunday Funday, Hipside Peddler takes the fun directly to the streets.
You don't have to choose between a land or water tour of Austin—you can have both with Austin Duck Adventures. These family-friendly amphibious tours take place on a Coast Guard-inspected Hydra Terra vehicle and are offered seven days a week, all year round. Over the course of 75 minutes, you’ll be shown the highlights of downtown ATX before heading into the water to check out the lake and beautiful Hill Country. While on board, adults can take in interesting tidbits about Austin from the tour guide’s narration, while kids can have a grand ol’ time blowing those little duck whistles, or wacky quackers.
To the delight of beer lovers all across town, Austin’s brewery scene has seen a big boom in recent years. With so many to choose from, why not let ATXcursions handle the logistics for you? On one of their public brewery tours, you’ll be shuttled to three different local breweries where you’ll get to enjoy a plentiful number of samples over the course of roughly five hours. The sober ride between spots is an extra plus to the tasty brews you’ll be sipping on. Hey, maybe you’ll even find your new go-to watering hole.
Amy’s Ice Creams is a beloved Austin institution known for having over 350 flavors in rotation (including their famous Mexican vanilla) and fun employees who often incorporate tricks into their scooping. For a behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens, you can join a free factory tour at their production facility. They have one tour per day, Monday through Friday, and they last about 20 to 30 minutes. Of course, a tour of Amy’s wouldn’t be complete without some ice cream. You can enjoy some chocolate or vanilla ice cream for $2 a scoop at the end of the tour (non-dairy option available with prior notice).
Seeing the Congress bridge bats that make up the world’s largest urban bat colony emerge is a signature Austin experience. Many people watch the action by lining up along the side of the bridge itself (or trying to catch a glimpse from the sides of the river), but Live Love Paddle offers a different, less-crowded way to experience the event: a kayak tour. You’ll paddle out with a guide, learn some local history and see for yourself what gives Austin the nickname “Bat City.” You’ll probably get to watch an amazing sunset while you’re at it, too.
Austin Cluetivity takes tours to a new level by adding an interactive GPS scavenger hunt and augmented reality to the mix. If that wasn’t quirky enough, one of the tours they offer is a Tiny House Tour (yes, tiny houses, like the ones you see on HGTV). Rent one of their iPads, answer questions and riddles and follow GPS markers to three secret destinations to explore seven tiny houses. If you’re planning on doing it with friends, know that you only need to pay for one iPad rental per group of four. If ever there were an out-of-the-box tour, this would be it.