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Austin Bats Tour: Where to Watch and Park 

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Austin’s got a lot to brag about – the music, food, culture… But nothing’s as unique as the city’s unofficial mascots residing under the Congress Avenue Bridge. If you want to catch the best views of their spectacular sunset flight, try an Austin Bats Tour. Pick your viewpoint on or near the bridge, and we’ll help you find a parking spot nearby.  

Did You Know? Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The Congress Avenue Bridge across the Colorado River is their bat cave, at least since the 80s. The Mexican Free-Tailed bats migrate and nest in the city for at least 7-8 months, and their flight at sundown is quite a spectacle that attracts locals and tourists. It might not sound like much, but give it a shot the next time you explore downtown Austin.  

So, where can you get the best views of the Austin bats flight? Let’s check out the options and also find a cheap parking spot nearby: 

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What is the Austin Bats Tour? 

Every year, from late spring to early fall, Mexican Free-Tailed bats nesting under Austin’s Congress Avenue bridge put on a natural spectacle at sunset. Watching the bat colony fly east from under the bridge is one of the unique things to do in Austin.  

The bats migrate from Mexico in spring and nest under the concrete arch bridge in downtown Austin. The dark spaces under the bridge are perfect nests; young bat pups are born and nursed here. June is the birthing season, and when the colony returns to Mexico by fall, their numbers can reach as high as 1.5 million!  

Thousands of visitors come to watch the Austin bats every year – the warmer months are the busiest. The colony takes flight just as the sun sets, leaving pups behind until they are ready to fly. They fly east over Lady Bird Lake to hunt insects and small pests.  

Cameras at the ready – the dark silhouettes against the Austin skyline is a must-have shot! And there are a few places to catch a front-row seat – including Austin Bat Tours on a boat. They take you on a sunset cruise down the Colorado River before anchoring right below the bridge at sunset to watch the bats.  

Austin bats tour boats

What months can you see the bats in Austin?  

The bats are in Austin from spring to fall; you’ll see them from late March until November. But the numbers are highest during July and August – right after the birthing season in June.  

What is the best time to see the bats in Austin? 

July-August is the best time to watch the Congress Avenue Bridge bats in Austin. The colony takes flight every night by seven. 

At what time do the bats come out in Austin? 

From April to October, visitors and locals start lining up on and around the Congress Avenue bridge just before sunset. You’ll usually see the bats in flight between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm – there’s plenty of time for a 10-minute stopover during a downtown Austin Tour. But if you are watching from the bridge, get there early for a good spot right at the center, and don’t forget to face east.  

How can I watch the Austin bats? 

The bats nesting under the Congress Avenue Bridge fly east over Lady Bird Lake. So, the sidewalk on the bridge’s east side is a popular viewing spot. It is a quick walk from downtown Austin hotels and attractions like the Convention Center and Sixth Street. So, arrive before sunset if you want the best spots.  

Already watched the Austin bats from the bridge? Try a boat tour or the Statesman Bat Observation Center below the bridge for a different perspective.  

Austin Bats Tour Boats 

Tour companies like Lone Star Riverboat and Capital Cruises organize Austin bat-watching tours, starting late March to October. The check-in docks are along the lake and usually start with a river cruise during sunset. The boats arrive below the bridge by dusk as the bats start flying out. You’ll get to see them with the sky, the bridge, and the city skyline in the background. The boats may also have high-powered red lights to help you see the nesting bats – don’t worry, the light doesn’t bother them. You can also learn more about the bats from your tour guide.  


How long is the bat cruise in Austin? 

Austin bats tour boats set out by sunset, and the guided cruises last about an hour. 

Statesman Bat Observation Center 

The grassy hill is below the Congress Avenue Bridge – on the southeast side. You can take the steps from the corner of Barton Springs Road and Congress Avenue. It’s open to the public and free – but has paid parking.  

Butler Hike & Bike Trail 

The trail runs along the downtown waterfront area near Congress Avenue Bridge, and there are several good spots for bat-watching. Just make sure you aren’t blocking the path for joggers and cyclists. Also, you must be on the bridge’s east side to see the bats.  

Watch from the Lake 

Don’t want to pay for an Austin Bats Tour by boat? Try kayaking or paddle-boarding in the lake instead. You can also rent out canoes and water bikes.  

Austin bat tour on the Lady Bird Lake paddleboard

When is the Austin Bat Fest? 

Bat watching is now a popular attraction in Austin. The city now organizes an annual Austin Bat Fest in mid-August to celebrate its seasonal guests. August is peak bat-watching time right after the birthing season under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The one-day festival is considered the “biggest bat-viewing party of the year,” with live music, arts and crafts, kid’s activities, food and drink vendors, and even a bat costume contest.  

Austin Bats Tour Parking 

Austin is a car-friendly city, and you’ll find plenty of parking in the downtown area where the bat tour boats dock. However, downtown Austin is always busy as the city’s most popular attractions are within walking distance of the Lady Bird lakefront. So, if you don’t want to risk a last-minute parking spot hunt, try an Austin parking app or website to pre-book your spot.  

July and August are the most popular months for the Austin bats tour. So, if you are planning to visit the Congress Avenue Bridge, Statesman Bat Observation Center, or go on a boat tour at this time, make sure you have enough time before sunset to park the car.  

Is there parking at Statesman Bat Observation Center? 

Paid parking is available at the on-site lot and other locations nearby. But parking at Statesman Bat Observation Center will be limited; you’ll have to arrive early for a guaranteed spot.  

You can also try other paid parking lots near the Congress Avenue Bridge, such as: 

  • Aviation Division TXDOT lot on E Riverside Drive, east of Congress Avenue 
  • Palmer Events Center Garage at Auditorium Shores at Town Lake 
  • One Texas Center Lot at 505 Barton Springs Road 

Hotels on both sides of the river also offer paid parking spots. But drive-up parking rates at these garage spaces could be expensive as demand rises. However, if you pre-book your spot, it’s easy to find cheaper rates online. 

night view of downtown austin

How to find cheap parking near Congress Avenue Bridge? 

Congress Avenue Bridge is in downtown Austin and easily accessible from several garages/parking lots around Congress Avenue and East/West Cesar Chavez Street. You’ll also find metered and free street parking nearby.  

Pre-booking a parking spot is the sure shot to cheap parking in Austin, especially near Congress Avenue Bridge during the bat-watching season. Keep in mind that downtown Austin also has several event venues and attractions like the 6th Street entertainment district.  

How to Find Easy Parking in Austin: Best spots near top destinations 

Try apps like Way.com to book your Austin Bats Tour parking spot near Congress Avenue Bridge. If you are not taking the tour and want to spend only 10-15 minutes on the bridge, you can also pay for a metered street parking spot with the app. Search the neighborhood for available spots, enter your license plate number, and feed the meter for the time you need.  

Find out more about how to pay for Austin street parking using the Way.com app here.  

For the cheapest rates at top-rated downtown Austin parking garages and lots, check out these deals on Way.com: 

Parking Lot Name/Location Parking Rate Book a Spot 
Hampton Inn and Suites – 200 San Jacinto Blvd $5/Hour Book Parking 
2021 Guadalupe Street Parking $6/Hour Book Parking 

Also See: How to Book City Parking on Way.com: A Step-by-Step Guide


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