Going to college in a new city is exciting, especially when that city is Austin, Texas. Austin is a global force, tech innovation hub and culture capital. But it’s also a lot of fun — home to great ice cream and coffee (both key to late-night studying), outdoor activities (key to health and wellness) and more. Check out some favorite Hilltopper spots and why college in Austin is great. 

1. Zilker Park

3.5 miles from St. Edward’s

A 351-acre gem in the middle of town, Zilker is Austin’s Central Park. Home to the iconic music festival Austin City Limits, Barton Springs pool, sand volleyball, canoe rentals and an entrance to the hike-and-bike trail. Its magical great lawn is perfect for dogs, picnics with friends and everything you need for stress relief against the backdrop of Austin’s gorgeous and ever-changing skyline.

Dog running to catch a frisbee at Zilker Park
Oh, to be a dog frolicking at Zilker



2. Lady Bird Lake

3 miles from St. Edward’s

Get a different view of Austin by renting a kayak on Lady Bird Lake! Enjoy the lush green hills as you paddle upstream. Once you hit Red Bud Isle, try to spot all the cute pups on the island's dog park! If you crave a more urban view, cruise through the heart of downtown, checking out one of Austin’s most popular lakeside parks, Vic Mathias Auditorium Shores. Life on land more your thing? Take a stroll through the new boardwalk trail that lets runners and walkers go over a portion of the lake.

A person kayaking in front of downtown Austin
Now that's a nice view of downtown (kayak not included)



3. Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge

3 miles from St. Edward’s

This bridge is like an outdoor living room in the middle of the city. Yes, it can get you from one side of the river to the other (if, for example, you’re heading from the Seaholm District to Barton Springs) and help you complete the 3-mile hike-and-bike trail loop between Mopac and Pfluger. But it’s also a prime spot to people watch, take photos with downtown as a backdrop (hopefully the train runs by for the perfect shot), listen to a random musician play guitar for tips, or, on a cooler day, sit and read.

People walk across the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
10/10 view, 11/10 corgi skills



4. Greetings From Austin Mural

1.5 miles from St. Edward’s

The quintessential Instagram and TikTok spot, this mural captures iconic scenes like the State Capitol, the Barton Springs diving board, and the Congress Avenue bridge. Take your photo in front of the mural for a digital postcard you can treasure forever. Then grab some good food from the plethora of options on South First Street.

A person walking in front of the Austin Mural
There’s a joke about an NFT somewhere in here



5. Music Venues

Exploring live music has never been so easy! Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, an identity that seeps through to every part of the city. You’ll never know if a beloved artist is stopping by soon! We’ve compiled a shortlist to get you started:

  • ACL Live at the Moody Theater
  • Waller Creek Amphitheater at Stubb’s
  • Antone’s
  • Emo’s
  • Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park
  • Moody Center

Austin City Limits historic sign
Hey, is that Willie Nelson?



6. Barton Springs

3.5 miles from St. Edward’s

This natural spring-fed pool measures three acres in size! That’s plenty of room to enjoy yourself alone or with a group of friends. All year long Barton Springs stays a cool 68-70 degrees. Beautiful grassy areas encapsulate the pool if you just want to take a blanket and some snacks to hang out. Be sure to enjoy a lovely Austin sunset on these grounds.

People enjoy swimming in the water of Barton Springs
No professional swimming capabilities needed



7. Cosmic Coffee

1 mile from St. Edward’s

Our Hilltoppers love Cosmic Coffee. It’s outside. It has coffee. It has amazing food truck options and is only a short walk from campus. Equipped with big chairs and shade, you can spend time however you want. It often has live music, markets and trivia nights. Cosmic is also a dog-friendly space! Take your dog there (or pet someone else’s dog).

A person eats chips at Cosmic Coffee
Guac and chips are a quintessential Austin snack



8. Capitol

3 miles from St. Edward’s

Made of pink granite quarried outside nearby Marble Falls, the Capitol dome is the second-largest in the country. But it’s what happens under that dome that shapes life for Texas’ 28 million people. Take a tour, join a rally for the cause of your choice on the south steps or get involved during Texas’ every-other-year legislative session. If you’re interested in political science, among other relevant majors, it’s a great place to intern. (But anyone can have an impact by signing in for a bill you support or stopping by representatives’ offices to make your case.)

Texas State Capitol
It's even cooler on the inside



9. Bats

2.5 miles from St. Edward’s

If you’re not convinced that seeing a giant cloud of bats fly by your face is awesome, you have to try it. Free, unique and mosquito-killing, the nightly flight of 1.5 million bats who live in the crevasses of the Congress Avenue bridge is a must-see. As the city’s unofficial mascot, you’ll also see art with bats and references to Bat City around town.

Tip: Park your kayak near Congress Avenue bridge for a prime spectator spot to watch the bats.

Bats fly over the Congress bridge
Robert Pattinson or Christian Bale, you decide



10. Amy’s Ice Creams

3 miles from St. Edward’s

Amy’s Ice Creams is an iconic gem that is local to Austin. There are over 300 flavors in rotation at each location. Grab a cup, a cone, a pint, or even a cake! The South Congress location is not far from campus, and once you pick up your treat, you can explore the shops and murals up and down the hill.

People enjoy ice cream at Amy's Ice Cream
Belgian Chocolate, you’re welcome




There are reasons well beyond the cool factor that make Austin a great place to go to school — and home to St. Edward’s. Think world-class internships, innovative research activities, rewarding service opportunities and professors who part of the Austin scene. Check out 17 ways Hilltoppers are taking advantage of all that the city has to offer.