Cool Things to Do in Austin This Fall

Enjoy the festival whirlwind, get creepy-crawly at Halloween events, and sail away with a great movie.

When you think of fall, the classic images that come to mind may include trees covered with crisp, orange and red leaves or chilly nights spent around a fire with a cup of hot cider. Considering the continuous nature of both its blooming plants and hot weather, Austin is not likely to provide on either of those stereotypical seasonal fronts. However, luckily for its residents, it does offer equally exciting activities from September through November—including a landmark music festival, a show celebrating all things ATX, and enough ghostly haunts to conjure up a ghoul or two. After checking out our list below, we bet you won’t even miss those old autumnal feels. And, if you do, just remember—cider comes in a chilled, alcoholic form as well.

Zilker Park
It’s the event Austinites wait for all year-long—and the one that will have your out-of-town friends hitting you up, asking if they can crash at your place. So pull out the air mattress, pre-hydrate, and pack your sunscreen, cause it’s time for the two-week bender that is the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Per usual, the lineup is giving us all the variety of genres and performers we’ve come to expect over the years. You can dig into those deep emotions about your ex with SZA, relive your emo years with Paramore, and get ready to run with The Chicks. It wouldn’t be an Austin party, though, without some local love—city darlings, Spoon, hit the stage both Sundays and you better believe they’ll get a big hometown welcome.

Pumpkin Nights
Pumpkin Nights

Dig into the spooky spirit at various Halloween-based activities

Various locations
If the Spirit Halloween around the corner from your house is any indication, the witching season is officially here. And, while Austin may be approximately 1,972 miles away from Salem, Massachusetts, you can still fulfill your Hocus Pocus-desires with a variety of activities happening around town—after all, this is Bat City. There’s the return of Pumpkin Nights, a Halloween-themed walking path filled with gourds-upon-gourds of Jack-O-Lantern art installations that takes over Pioneer Farms from September 22nd through October 30th. While you never know what masterpieces the pumpkin artists will conceive of on any given year, past visual displays include 40-foot dragons and life-size pirate ships. No matter what sights you catch on the trail, at the end of the tour, you can edit all your Instagram snaps while sipping on fall-favorite drinks at their festival center, The Village. Those looking for a little less treat and a little more trick, can get their screams in at haunted house complex, Bat City Scaregrounds. Your hair will stand on end as you enter, and hopefully emerge intact from, three horrifying haunted houses. And, with this year’s themes being vampire-based castles, ancient evils, and the terrifyingly-titled, “Clownocalypse 3D,” you’ll probably need a double-dose of melatonin to get to sleep for at least a week after attending.

Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In

Town Lake
Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “This is great, but why aren’t I on a boat right now?” Well, consider your highly-specific prayers answered—as, one Wednesday night every month, legendary drive-in movie spot, Blue Starlite, is pairing with iconic Town Lake boat purveyors, Capital Cruises, to provide exactly that. With the glistening skyline of the city as a backdrop, you can pound some popcorn on the upper deck of a Capital Cruise boat and enjoy everything from new releases, like much-anticipated horror-flick, Pearl, to classic Halloween cinema including Beetlejuice. You can bump the experience up a notch by booking your own cinema boat for a private movie night with the crew or your main squeeze. Also, every Thursday, these two Austin companies offer a smaller version of the same concept called Waterfront Floating Cinema, where you can take in all the celluloid action displayed on a 20-foot widescreen while sitting on a floating dock. And, for those lucky ducks with their own SUP or kayak, you even have the option to watch the flick from the convenience and comfort of your own watercraft.

Texas Craft Brewers Festival
Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Go all out at food and drink festivals

Various locations
Our city may have a lot of festivals, but if you haven’t been to a flavor-based one you (and your taste buds) are really missing out. First up this fall is the Texas Craft Brewers Festival on October 1st at Fiesta Gardens. This bazaar of bubbly is the state’s largest beer festival—and, with over 200 beers on tap from small and independent brewers around the Lone Star state, you shouldn’t make any plans for the following day that don’t involve your couch and a decent amount of hangover-recovery takeout. Then, there’s Austin Food & Wine Festival from November 4th through the 6th, when you can try delicious bites from some of the most exciting culinary talents in the state, sip on endless cups of roses, and twerk to “Get Low” at an end-of-the-weekend, festival-closing DJ set. Needless to say, it strikes the perfect balance between fancy and balls-to-the-walls and, this year, in addition to snacking on morsels from favorites like Aviary Wine & Kitchen and Austin Rotisserie, the “Rock Your Taco” contest is bringing together a variety of great chefs to compete for ultimate tortilla bragging rights.

The Paramount Theatre
ATXplained, a crowd-sourced reporting project from the folks at KUTX, is a must-know for anyone who wants to truly call themselves a resident of the Live Music Capital of the World. The popular website and podcast answers burning questions about the city from residents—such as, “What’s the story behind that weird sculpture next to MoPac?”—and digs deep into the the always interesting answers. This fall, the live show version of ATXplained returns to The Paramount on September 28th for a stage packed with stories, music, art, and a whole lot of hometown love. Not only is it bound to be one of the most fun and entertaining nights out you’ve had in the continuing pandemic years, but you’ll walk out with some city-based factoids sure to impress your usual happy hour crew or next Hinge date.

Hot Luck
Hot Luck

GTFO of the city for a country getaway

Various locations
Fall is the picture perfect time to dive into nature-focused staycation. Fortunately, there are wonderful spots close to Austin where you can be reminded that your life does not revolve around your inbox. For an individual adventure or a romantic couple’s trip, check out one of the Instagram-able vacation yurts at The Yurtopian. With locations in both Wimberley and Dripping Springs, you can take glamping to a whole new level with one of their private, remote yurts. Each one includes a personal hot tub, fire pit, bathroom, kitchen, and rooftop deck with hammocks. If you want the whole crew to get out of the city and get down, book a stay at Camp Hideaway in Fredericksburg. Their ranch house sleeps eight and comes with plenty of amenities including a private pool, hot tub, fire pit, and putting green to keep everyone entertained between sessions of hitting up the nearby, legendary Fredericksburg Wine trail. Finally, if you want to put some serious distance between you and the city (approximately 450 miles, that is), head to El Cosmico, the quirky desert paradise in Marfa. There, you can camp with your pups in one of their famous tepees, tents, trailers, or yurts, and take in the expansive, starry sky while soaking in one of their wood-fired hot tubs.

Uncommon Objects
Uncommon Objects

Hunt for vintage treasure

Various locations
Stock up on Fall ‘fits the sustainable way by pursuing Austin’s vibrant second-hand shopping scene. Dig through the racks at Pavement Vintage in search of single-stitch gems or let the curated wonders at Charm School Vintage and Feathers Boutique Vintage upgrade your pitifully stagnant wardrobe. And if you’re looking to revamp your living space for autumnal porch hangs, turn to Room Service Vintage and Uncommon Objects for fantastic furniture and decor.

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Yard Bar, austin texas
Yard Bar

Various locations
It often feels like Austin is a one-dog-minimum-per-person kind of city. For those lucky enough to count Man’s Best Friend among their households, there’s a plethora of opportunities for you to enjoy Fall with your pup. To start, there’s Yard Bar, an Austin classic that lets you enjoy an adult beverage while your dog goofs off in their very own dog park (hence the name). There’s also Armadillo Den in South Austin, where you can play a round of corn-hole while your furry friend roughhouses with fellow Fidos, and Easy Tiger East, where no one is going to judge you for bribing your dog to sit by offering them a bite of a fluffy, doughy baked pretzels.

Frida Friday ATX
Frida Friday ATX

Hit up an outdoor market

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If you want to build on your usual Sunday Funday—without sacrificing any of the opportunities for a pint or two before the Monday scaries hit—grab your crew and head to one of the amazing outdoor weekend markets in Austin. Looking for killer vintage or one-of-a-kind artisanal products? Follow Austin Flea for updates on their roving band of vendors. WoC-centered Frida Friday ATX is another local sensation—not only does it always feature vendors with amazing wares, but its mission to amplify BIPOC, WoC, and community creatives is just as inspiring as the artwork it hawks. Finally, for those who want to fit in some adulting, stop by the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller every Sunday for fresh groceries and wholesome times.

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Photo courtesy of Travel Texas

From mouthwatering food to the great outdoors, Texas is a vacation destination unto itself. Breathtakingly diverse landscapes, like Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas, offer a natural respite for outdoor enthusiasts while the San Antonio River Walk is a 15-mile oasis for the urban explorer. No matter your interests, the Lone Star State is waiting to be explored, so, plan accordingly.

Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek Greenbelt | Kim Hefner/Shutterstock

Barton Creek Greenbelt & Bull Creek Greenbelt
Time to bust out those hiking boots. With 12 miles of gorgeous manicured trails, rustic creek beds, and rushing waterfalls, the Greenbelt is a must-visit for every outdoorsy Austinite. Round up your buddies, pack some snacks, and leash up the pups for what should be an unparalleled weekend adventure. While you can’t go wrong with any of the Greenbelt’s access points, the Spyglass Trailhead is tough to beat—not to mention the fact that its proximity to a nearby Tacodeli easily facilitates a pre- or post-workout migas stop.

The Far Out Lounge and Stage
The Far Out Lounge and Stage

Check out some live music (duh)

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It’s not called “the Capital of Live Music” for nothing. Two-step to some bluegrass at Sagebrush, catch the best of the local scene at The Far Out Lounge, or discover your new favorite bands at Hotel Vegas. And don’t forget the city’s trademark venue, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, which never fails to keep a stellar lineup of performances on the docket.

Flickr/mrlaugh
Bats in Austin | Flickr/mrlaugh

South Congress Avenue bridge
“The bats!” are one of Austin’s simplest tourist attractions. Head down to the South Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin at the end of the day and pick a vantage point, either on top of the bridge or below on the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail—careful to stand six feet apart from other groups—and wait until dusk for the little creepy critters to emerge. About 1.5 million bats live underneath the bridge in what’s widely considered the world’s largest bat colony.

Flickr/michaelcummings
Mt. Bonnell | Flickr/michaelcummings

Mt. Bonnell
Challenge yourself to jog, bike, or walk through the gorgeous neighborhood on Scenic Drive through Covert Park to the top of Mt. Bonnell. The 775-foot peak is the highest point in Austin and overlooks Lake Travis and the rolling Texas Hill Country below. Pro tip: Bring a picnic to enjoy on the pavilion at sunset for a unique date night outing.

Flickr/josecdimas
Lady Bird Lake | Flickr/josecdimas

Lady Bird Lake
Whether your vehicle of choice is a paddle board, kayak, canoe, or inner tube, there’s plenty of buoyancy to be found on Lady Bird Lake. Bundle up, pop on your shades, and enjoy a few peaceful hours of serenity bobbing amid the tranquil waters. Before you pack the car for the day, make sure to check local listings for rental outlet locations and availability.

Nixta Taqueria austin
Nixta Taqueria

Various locations
Perhaps the only dish more famous in Austin than barbecue is the almighty taco. Breakfast taco connoisseurs already know that Veracruz All Natural, El Chilito, and Habanero Mexican Cafe can best the tired old bacon-egg-and-cheese any day of the week, while Nixta Taqueria’s Duck Carnitas and Granny’s Chilaquil will leave you drooling over your plate. And, of course, there are always the classics: Tacodeli and Torchy’s. You really can’t go wrong.

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Molly Moltzen is a contributor for Thrillist.