Austin – Bergstrom International Airport is the third busiest in Texas and is an important regional hub. If you find yourself on a stopover here, you may well be tempted to make the most of your time by exploring some of the city. Especially once you learn that the airport is only five miles from downtown Austin, making it perfectly feasible to pop into the city even on a short Austin airport layover.
Of course, Texas isn’t generally known for its excellent public transport links. The airport is close to the city, but the only way to get there other than a taxi or a car service is via Route 20 bus, which leaves from the arrivals level of the airport every 15 minutes. Despite the short distance, the bus takes around 45 minutes to reach the center of Austin, so plan accordingly.
One way to save time on your Austin layover is to drop off any unnecessary bags at a luggage storage service. That way, you’ll be able to travel light and see much more of what the city has to offer.
6 hour layover in Austin
Due to how long it takes to get from the airport to the city, a six-hour Austin layover doesn’t give you a lot of time to explore. You’ll need to factor in time to clear customs and collect your bags, then drop them off at an Austin luggage storage. And of course, you need to plan for around an hour to get to the city in the first place, then another hour to get back to the airport to make your next connection.
Still, six hours is enough to see something. The number 20 bus stops at Capitol Station, which is close to the center of Austin and within walking distance to many attractions. For instance, right outside the station, you’ll find the Texas Capitol, the impressive neoclassical home of the state legislature. You can pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour, or book a free guided tour which takes around 30 minutes to explore where Texas laws are made. It’s a great quick stop on a short layover.
- Take Bus 20 to Capitol Station.
- Choose from a self-guided or guided tour, which takes around 30 minutes.
- Scene important part of Texas history on a short layover.
8 hour layover in Austin
Eight hours in Austin give you a little more time to play with. After you drop your bags off at an Austin luggage locker, you can stay in downtown and see a quirkier side to the city.
Keep Austin Weird is the city’s unofficial motto, and weirdness is certainly celebrated at Austin’s Museum of the Weird. This museum of oddities continues a long tradition of dimestore museums includes dubious exhibits like a feejee mermaid, shrunken heads, and the mysterious Minnesota Iceman. The museum also holds a small theater where you’ll be treated to a sideshow performance. All in all, it’s a very entertaining and slightly odd way to spend an hour or so on your Austin trip.
- Walk less than a mile from the Capitol to the Museum of the Weird.
- See shrunken heads, taxidermy animals, and other strange exhibits.
- Watch an old school freak show performance in the attached theater.
10 hour layover in Austin
With another couple of hours in Austin, you can add another attraction to your itinerary. Heading back north past the State Capitol will bring you to the museum district and the University of Texas at Austin. The University is home to the Blanton Museum of Art, one of the largest university art museums in the country. The collection holds works by Parmigianino and Rubens, and is also known for its extensive collection of Latin American art. The museum also contains a performance space, and is free to visit on Thursdays. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours admiring the art here.
- Head to the Museum District and visit the Blanton Museum of Art.
- Admire paintings from Europe, Latin America, and the Western US.
- Expect to spend a couple of hours to do the museum justice.
12 hour layover in Austin
If you have a little more time on your hands, you could stretch your legs and get some fresh air at Waterloo Park. This city park is fairly small, but it has plenty of walking trails that lead you through the shade of the trees let you get some exercise before your next flight. Also, the park often hosts performances and festivals in the summer, so there’s usually something going on here. If nothing else, it’s a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet and recharge your batteries before heading back to the airport.
- Take a walk around Waterloo Park.
- Keep your eyes peeled for performances and festivals during the summer.
24 hour layover in Austin
An overnight layover in Austin means you can really explore the city. As befits a city that prides itself on its weirdness, Austin’s nightlife is vibrant and exciting, buoyed by the large student population. The Drag, a stretch of Guadalupe Street that borders the University of Texas, is a great place to explore as night falls, full of quirky bars and restaurants with a lively youthful vibe.
But don’t stay out too late. Depending what time your flight is the next day, you may have time to visit McKinney Falls State Park. The park is only a 15-minute drive from the center of Austin, but it feels like a world away. The impressive waterfall makes a great swimming hole, and the park is also full of trails for walking and mountain biking. It’s the perfect place to rejuvenate yourself in nature before heading back to the airport to get your next flight.
- Take a 15-minute drive or cab ride to McKinney Falls State Park.
- Go for a swim next to the waterfall or enjoy the hiking trails.
- Rejuvenate yourself before your next flight.