Driving around Austin is hassle-free; the city is car-friendly with plenty of parking options. However, visiting some of the busiest neighborhoods like downtown Austin might need some planning. Nobody loves driving around in circles looking for a parking spot at the last minute.
Here are the top five most-visited places in Austin. Let's find out how you can quickly get safe and affordable parking near them.
Events @ Austin Convention Center
The Austin Convention Center is a major crowd-puller with a packed schedule of events throughout the year. Occupying over 800K square feet in the heart of Austin, the event hub features five enormous column-free exhibition halls, two grand ballrooms, and 50+ meeting rooms. From art and music showcases to film festivals and international conventions, a variety of high footfall events are held at this downtown Austin landmark. Proximity to downtown hotels, along with easy accessibility from the airport and interstate, makes the Austin Convention Center ideal for business gatherings as well. The annual South by Southwest Film and Music Festival held here also attracts visitors from across the country.
Reaching the Austin Convention Center is hassle-free; you can drive over and leave your car at the nearest parking lot. The Center's two onsite garages hold about 1500 parking spaces and charge $5 for a couple of hours – you'll find them at 201 East Second Street and 601 East Fifth Street. During special events and weekends, a flat rate is applicable with pre-payment upon entry. It's best to keep your options open during public events; there are plenty of affordable and secure downtown Austin garages within walking distance -- make sure to pre-book using a parking app for a guaranteed spot at the lowest rates. Metered parking is available on East 6th street but comes with a time limit of two hours until 9 pm. Leaving your car by the curb is not a good idea unless you are running a quick errand.
Tours @ Texas Capitol
The impressive 308 feet tall Capitol building is a staple on downtown Austin city tours. While it houses the offices and chambers of the State Governor and Legislature, visitors are allowed into the 22-acre grounds to admire the monuments. Take the ‘Great Walk’ tour down a tree-lined path to see the Vietnam War monument, the bronze statue of a Texas Ranger, the Texas African American History Memorial, and a miniature Statue of Liberty presented by Boy Scouts. You can opt for free guided or self-guided tours of the grounds.
Parking is free for the first two hours on weekdays at the Texas Capitol Visitors Garage. $1 will be charged for each hour after that, with a daily maximum of $12. Overnight parking is not allowed, and on weekends, a pre-paid parking fee for special events might be applicable, with the daily charge going up to $25. There are plenty of metered parking spaces on the streets around the Capitol building, however, it might not be easy to find empty spaces during office hours. Downtown Austin garages on Trinity Street and Colorado Street are excellent alternatives for low-priced hourly parking.
Sunsets @ Congress Avenue Bridge
Sunset views from Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge are a treat for the eyes; Austin residents and travelers love to take relaxed strolls across the Colorado River here. The underside of the concrete arch bridge is home to the world's largest urban bat colony. From May to October, the sunset sky becomes a backdrop for their spectacular show -- imagine over a million Mexican free-tailed bats taking flight from their nests!
The show goes on for about an hour, but you only need 10-15 minutes to enjoy the view and click pics. Downtown restaurants and attractions are all close by – walk across the bridge and take your time to explore the neighborhood. You can drive up to Congress Avenue and leave your car at a parking lot on East/West Chavez Street. Avoid street parking, and book your parking in advance to quit worrying about time limits and safety.
Museums @ University of Texas
Several top tourist attractions in Austin are located inside the University of Texas campus. The Natural Science Center on the campus houses the Texas Memorial Museum, featuring the Lone Star state’s natural and cultural history. Over 17K American, Latin American, and European exhibits make up the permanent collection at Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. You’ll see the Wichita County meteorite, gems, and minerals alongside fossils and dinosaur displays here. The Harry Ransom Center is another interesting museum on campus, housing rate literature and prints like the Gutenberg Bible. For a 360-degree birds-eye of Austin city, climb up the UT Tower.
University of Texas campus garages offer convenient parking spaces near these Austin attractions. Daily parking is available for visitors at both staffed and unstaffed parking lots on campus. There is are over 10 parking garages on the UT campus operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Parking rates start at $3 and go up to $21 a day. Street parking on the University campus might require various permits; check parking rules and regulations before leaving your car at a free parking spot.
Day Out @ Zilker Metropolitan Park
Austin’s urban oasis spread across 350 acres is a local favorite – the public parkland where Barton Creek and Colorado River meet in south Austin has large open spaces for hiking, biking, swimming, and even exciting events. The Limits Music Festival and the Zilker Park Kite Festival are held on the park grounds. Fitness enthusiasts find plenty of space for outdoor activities throughout the year; Lady Bird Lake has a hike and bike trail around it. The Barton Springs Municipal Pool is a hotspot for families and tourists. The pool’s water, fed by a natural spring, stays a cool 68 degrees, summer or winter. It is the ideal space to laze around in the middle of the city.
Parking near Zilker Park is tricky; street parking spots and nearby Austin parking lots fill up quickly; you can expect this any time of the year. Check out garages on Campbell Street, West Avenue, and Nueces Street to book your parking in advance. You can easily find a garage space just a short walk away from the park.