Your Essential Guide to the Top 7 Indoor Activities in Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas: A city famous for its bustling outdoors, live music, and feel-good vibes. But what happens when you’d rather stay indoors? Fear not – the heart of Texas boasts an equally captivating indoors. With a wealth of museums, bookstores, and other relaxing spaces, Austin has a variety of indoor activities to keep you entertained no matter the occasion. Are you ready to explore the best indoor activities in Austin? Let’s walk through the door and see what awaits.

1. Traverse through the Cosmic Arena of Art at the Blanton Museum of Art

Enter the Blanton Museum of Art and step into a universe of historic and contemporary art. Home to over 18,000 works, the museum’s vast collection spans continents and eras. Occupying a total of 189,340 square feet, the Blanton ranks among the largest university art museums in the country.

  • The vast permanent collection showcases art from Europe, Latin America, and the United States.
  • Its impressive collection features Renaissance and Baroque pieces, along with 20th-century American and contemporary art.
  • The Blanton also hosts temporary exhibitions, often bringing world-renowned art to Austin.
  • An unusual but can’t-miss highlight of your visit is Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin”—a bright, modernistic 2,715-square-foot building filled with shimmering color and light.
  • After a day of exploring, enjoy a delicious meal or cup of coffee at the on-site Blanton Café.

2. Time Travel Back to Texas at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Experience the full spectrum of Texas history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. It’s not just about gazing at old artifacts; here, history comes alive!

  • Each floor of the museum is dedicated to different eras of Texas history, covering everything from early native civilizations to the 20th century.
  • The museum’s Texas Spirit Theater offers a unique multisensory film experience, complete with special effects.
  • Be sure to check out their IMAX Theater, which showcases immersive documentaries as well as the latest Hollywood films.
  • The museum also offers regular special events and programming for children and adults, including the popular “H-E-B Free First Sundays” when admission is free!

3. Submerge into a Sea of Books at BookPeople

For literary enthusiasts, BookPeople is more than just a bookstore—it’s a cherished Austin institution.

  • Nestled in the heart of Austin, it hosts an extensive collection of genres for all ages, including a well-stocked section of local authors and Texana.
  • Visitors can also enjoy author presentations and book signings. Past literary luminaries have included the likes of Molly Ivins, Tom Wolfe, Jon Stewart, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton.
  • Whether you prefer curling up with a good mystery in their smartly outfitted lounge area or want to discuss the latest bestseller with other bookworms, BookPeople has something for everyone.

4. Strike it Right at Dart Bowl

Channel your inner ‘The Dude’ from the Big Lebowski as you enter Dart Bowl, a vintage bowling alley that’s ingrained itself in Austin’s history.

  • Dart Bowl has kept that vintage feel intact, complete with modern amenities like automatic scoring machines.
  • Its old-school charm extends to its legendary Dart Bowl Café, which dishes up some of the best enchiladas you’ll ever find in a bowling alley!
  • Regularly organized leagues and tournaments ensure an ongoing dose of competitive fun.
  • There’s something really magical about a night of bowling at Dart Bowl – good friends, great food, a couple of drinks, and of course, the thrilling potential of a strike.

5. Encounter the Unconventional at the Museum of the Weird

Affectionately known as “Austin’s own little corner of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, the Museum of the Weird is a trip down the rabbit hole of the odd and macabre.

  • This museum is something of an homage to classic dime museums of old, housing a collection of oddities ranging from real mummies to shrunken heads, and eerie waxworks.
  • Maintaining Austin’s reputation for being unusual, each exhibit has a bizarre character that will engage your curiosity and perhaps baffle your mind.
  • Their daily live sideshow acts promise to leave a long-lasting impact. Regularly scheduled shows might feature sword swallowers, fire eaters, and more!

6. Play with Science at the Thinkery

Combining play with education, the Thinkery is an inspiring place for children and adults alike.

  • Through their exhibits and programs, the Thinkery encourages creativity, innovation, and most of all, having fun!
  • One of the key exhibits is the Light Lab—incorporating hands-on activities that involve refraction, color mixing, and shadow creation.
  • Plus, the Farmer’s Market exhibit in the Let’s Grow area offers children a fun and interactive way to learn about sustainable farming.
  • But the wonder doesn’t stop indoors—the Thinkery also has an amazing outdoor playground, perfect for when Austin’s gorgeous weather invites you outside.

7. Jet Off to the Stars at the Austin Planetarium

The stars shine brightly in the heart of Texas at the Austin Planetarium, making it a must-visit indoor activity in Austin for all astronomy lovers.

  • It features a museum, planetarium, and makeshift observatory to bring both education and awe to visitors.
  • The planetarium’s digital projection system takes you on an immersive cosmic journey.
  • Enjoy celestial viewing events from the traveling portable domed theater, and gaze into the cosmos through the Starry Nights telescope.
  • Beyond the visual spectacle, the Austin Planetarium also offers a variety of hands-on exhibits, fun science demonstrations, and educational presentations.

Tampering with their tagline a little, we encourage you to “keep Austin indoors”. As you have seen, there’s just as much to enjoy off-stage and indoors as there is outdoors in Austin. Surely, these top 7 indoor activities in Austin make it clear there really is no place quite like the ATX.

So, the next time you’re waiting out a summer thunderstorm or just fancy spending a day in the cool AC, remember this list. Art, literature, history, mystery, science, and even a spot of bowling await. It’s time to open the door to a different side of Austin – who knows what you’ll discover?

Remember, Austin is more than a destination—it’s an experience, with opportunities to create unforgettable memories around every corner. Make every moment count, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, and don’t forget to ‘Keep Austin Weird’!

Lauren Critzer

I was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and after college, I moved to San Francisco to explore new opportunities and broaden my horizons. I fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and unique atmosphere, but eventually, I moved again, this time to Austin, Texas.

As much as I loved living in different parts of the country, having a baby boy brought me back to my hometown in Charlottesville, where I now live with my husband, our little one, and two furry friends. I enjoy going to wineries, taking my pups everywhere, and spending quality time with my family.

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