austin arts

Dive into Austin’s cultural scene at Fair Market. (Photo: Nick Simonite)


Museums, Boutiques and Unusual Tours: A Perfect Day of Arts & Shopping in Austin

With its Texas-sized museums, galleries galore and unique boutique shopping, Austin is a prime destination for art and shopping lovers alike. Stroll the shops, take a Segway art tour and shop till you drop with this expansive guide to Texas’ creative capital city.

Arts in Austin

austin arts
Yoga at the Blanton Museum of Art. (Photo: Blanton Museum of Art)

Everything is bigger in Texas, so it’s no surprise that Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art is the largest university museum in the country. It’s Central Texas’ largest public-owned art collection, with 18,000 works ranging from ancient pottery to European paintings and modern expressionism. Visit on summer Fridays for Late Till 8, where evening admission pairs with live performances.

Celebrate and see local Austin art at the free Elisabet Ney Museum, which is housed in the artist’s former home and studio. If you’re not familiar with Ney, she was a German sculptor who moved to Austin in 1882 and created a vibrant collection of art over her lifetime.

Make your way to Austin’s African American Cultural Historic District (AACHD) and visit the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of African American history and research. Check the four art galleries for current exhibitions, see a performance at the center’s theater, and discover its dance studio, photo lab and darkroom.

Rare art and cultural finds are on display at Harry Ransom Center, including a Gutenberg Bible, the Watergate papers and the world’s first photograph.

austin art museums
Get a contemporary art fix at The Contemporary Austin. (Photo: The Contemporary Austin)

Experience more contemporary art at The Contemporary Austin, which has two distinctly different locations: one at downtown’s Jones Center and the other at Laguna Gloria, a 14-acre site with historic landmarks and outdoor art and sculpture.

But museums aren’t the only places to see Austin’s vibrant art scene in action. Find indie art at local boutique galleries like Volcom Garden, a gallery/live-music venue welcoming artists and musicians, or Canopy, a warehouse gallery and coffee shop with 45 artist studios.

austin street art
Check out the Sixth Street mural. (Photo: Courtesy of Visit Austin)

Unusual Tours and Outdoor Art Adventures

The city’s “Keep Austin Weird” ethos extends to its art scene with the Austin Street Art Segway Tour, a guided two-hour adventure to Austin’s famous murals, graffiti and odd street art.

See the sights by Segway quicker than you would on foot, zipping by the river and through delightful neighborhoods as a guide shares all the local secrets.

Austin Detours specializes in art tours with a three-hour option that pairs street art with street food and a separate Weird Austin Tour focusing on the city’s oddest art delights.

More of the strolling sort? Don’t miss the South 1st Sip & Stroll, a monthly art amble on one of Austin’s strangest streets. Enjoy free coffee and champagne paired with shopping deals at only-in-Austin vendors.

austin arts
Admire the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. (Photo: Courtesy of Visit Austin)

Find an art oasis in the city at Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum in Zilker Park. Home to the highest number of publicly displayed sculptures in Texas, this local outdoor hot spot features tranquil gardens, permanent bronze sculptures and a rotating sculpture collection in a peaceful, lush setting.

Adjacent to the popular Barton Springs Pool, this garden is the perfect stop to pair with a pre- or post-swimming dip.

Shop Austin’s Eclectic Neighborhoods

Whether you’re a high-fashion fiend or seeking funky local goods, Austin’s diverse retail scene and numerous shopping districts offer plenty to savvy spenders.

One of our favorite hip shopping spots is a half mile south of the river on South Congress Avenue (SoCo). Called the “Main Street of Texas,” here you’ll find quirky boutiques, delicious Austin food truck options and incredible restaurants in the heart of downtown. Buy made-to-order cowboy boots at Heritage Boot, vintage apparel at Feathers Boutique and locally crafted art and gifts at Parts & Labour.

Find a distinctly Austin vibe in the 2ND Street District, a walkable downtown strip of shops, restaurants and live-music joints. Explore 50 specialty stores and Austin-based boutiques like Austin Rocks Texas, an edgy shop specializing in rocker apparel and gifts by Austin artists, or Prize, a curated collection of art, apparel and gifts.

Modern Malls Featuring Local Austin Flair

austin art
Stroll through the HOPE. (Photo: Courtesy of Visit Austin)

For high-end retail in a stunning outdoor setting, head to North Austin’s The Domain, where tree-lined walkways, a town-square vibe, art elements, live music and a bevy of luxury retailers make shopping a delight. Come in early October to catch Art @ The Domain, a free fine and contemporary art festival hosting more than 90 artists.

On the other side of Domain Drive, find Domain NORTHSIDE, a 600,000-square-foot shopping area that commingles homegrown favorites and national brands. Don’t miss Rock Rose, an energized, emerging district packed with bars, restaurants and public mural installations by HOPE Outdoor Gallery.

South of downtown Austin, find Barton Creek Square Mall, a family-friendly indoor mall that’s home to more than 180 retailers. An in-progress renovation project is refocusing the space on community fun and social gathering. Every Saturday, find locally made baked goods and from-the-farm produce at the Barton Creek Farmers Market.

For more outdoor shopping, head northwest of Austin to The Arboretum. It’s surrounded by greenery and is home to 40 shops and restaurants, featuring classic names like Pottery Barn and Gap alongside local Austin eateries Manuel’s and Honest Mary’s.