Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America! Seeing the bats in Austin is one of the top things to do in Austin for both tourists and locals…it’s just really cool to see millions of bats emerging right next to the Austin skyline.
It’s super easy to see the bats because they’re in a central location (the Anne W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, which I’m just going to refer to as the “bat bridge” for this article), but I’m going to share a few tips and tricks to help you out in case you’re new here.
Where To See The Bats In Austin
Part 1: FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTIN BATS
- They’re Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. They can reach speeds of up to 60 mph!
- There are about 1.5 million bats at the end of the summer (after the mama bats have birthed the babies)
- The concrete holes in the expansion joints of the the Anne W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge are the perfect size for a bat hiding place.
- The nursing mothers can eat up to 75% of their body weight in insects each night (WOWZA), which is super helpful for Austin!
- The bats eat up to 20,000 pounds of bugs every night.
Part 2: WHEN TO SEE THE BATS IN AUSTIN
- They call the bridge their home from March-Nov, but the best bat viewing happens in the summer after the May/June birthing season is over. For the best show, watch the bats in the months of July-Sep.
- They emerge at dusk (about 30 minutes before sunset). The sunset changes throughout the summer (duh), so just check your weather app on the particular day you want to see the bats to decide what time you should arrive.
Part 3: LOGISTICS OF SEEING THE AUSTIN BATS
- There’s paid parking available at the Austin American-Statesman parking lot (305 South Congress Ave.) Keep in mind that it gets crowded, so it might take a while to get out of the parking lot when you’re ready to go.
- I suggest setting up dinner reservations somewhere downtown (try Italic, Red Ash, Le Politique, Swift’s Attic, or La Condesa), and then walk to the bat bridge after dinner.
- You can walk to the Congress bat bridge from the shops on South Congress (check out my Ultimate Guide to South Congress). I love parking near Amy’s Ice Creams, getting a scoop of Mexican Vanilla with sprinkles, and walking to the bat bridge with friends.
There are a few viewing options:
- You can see them from the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the Congress Bridge. This is my personal favorite spot because I also get a view of the bats flying eastward over the lake.
- You can bring a blanket and sit on the lawn. There’s a pro/con list to consider with this… Pro: you get a great view of the bridge, so you can see the bats actually emerging from the bridge. Con: the bats might poop on you while they fly overhead!
- Stand on the observation deck on the north side of the Hike and Bike Trail.
- Rent a paddle board or kayak, or take a cruise with Capital Cruises. The cruise is fun because you’ll get a tour guide who can give you the scoop on all the bat trivia!
Keep in mind that bright lights can temporarily blind the bats, so don’t shine a flashlight directly at them.
Bats are an iconic part of Austin’s identity. (Just look around the city for all of the bat structures and memorabilia! I mean…we even have a bat fest, for crying out loud!
I think it’s pretty cool that the bats were attracted to their summer home in Austin from a random design quirk in a bridge expansion project in 1980, and now they’re not just one of the biggest tourist attractions in Austin….they’re saving our city millions of dollars in pesticides from all the insects they eat.
Looking for more Austin activities? Search for “indoor” or “outdoor” activities on my Austin Index!