Ten Tips for Visiting the Bats of Austin

by Jessica on September 19, 2011


There are three things you can count on if you are spending the summer in Austin, TX: hot, humid weather, mosquitoes the size of small birds, and the flight of the bats from the Congress Avenue Bridge.  In fact, it is the weather and the insects, that make Austin the home to more the 1.5 million bats.  Each March, the largest colony of urban bats returns to their summer home under the Congress Avenue Bridge to give birth and raise their pups in a climate that provides them with ample insect dinners.   Why the Congress Street Bridge?  It seems as though a remodel to the bridge in the 1980s created narrow, but deep trenches that are perfect for daytime bat roosting.   Each evening as the sun sets, over 1000 visitors gather around the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the bats make their mass exodus in a looping arch towards the east.   Follow these tips for the best bat experience.

1.The absolute best place to see the flight is from the Congress Avenue Bridge.  To get a spot on the rail, you need to plan to be there about an hour before the flight.  

2.You also need to consider that Congress Street is a very busy street.  If you feel skittish about your kiddos standing on the side walk next to the street, you should probably pick another spot. 


3.One word of "don't say I didn't warn you" about viewing from the bridge.  You will get the closest views of the bats from this vantage point, but that means there is the risk that you could get too close and personal with a bat or bats. There is always a group or two that gets a bat dive bomb, followed by screaming and wild flailing.  This could be you.

4. On the water is the next best place to see the bats if you don't mind spending a little cash.  There is no shortage of water craft that are at the ready for flights each night.   Large paddle boats, kayaks, even surf boards are available as a floating viewing platform.  The one drawback here is that you will be under the bats as they take their flight.  You may want to bring an umbrellas and it's not in case of rain.  Think about it.

5. Have dinner along with your bat viewing at TGI Fridays or Shoreline Bar and Grill.  TGI Fridays accepts reservations for Lakeside dining, but porch dining is first come first served.  If you want to watch the bats from Fridays, call and ask for the Bat Man and he will hook you up with the best seats and all the info you could ever want about the bats.  Parking is validated for four hours, so this is a great place to park, eat, see the bats, and even have time to look around downtown.

6. Call the Bat Hot Line at 512-416-5700 Ext. 3636 to determine when the bats will be taking their flight.  Bats usually fly around sunset, but as bats have yet to begin using alarms, the flight can happen up to 30 minutes before or after the scheduled time.  Be prepared to arrive early enough that you don't miss the flight.

7. Bats can be viewed from March through October, with the best flights occurring in late August and early September when the baby bats join their mothers in the flight. 

8. Be sure to allow plenty of time to find a parking spot in downtown Austin, an activity that is sure to try one's patience.   If you find you are running late, park in the Radisson Parking Garage and climb to the top floor of the garage.  You can get pretty great views here for only a $2 per hour parking fee. 

9. As the stream of bats slows to a trickle, take a walk over to Congress Street Bridge and take a deep breath.  That pungent odor, somewhat like ammonia, is the unmistakable smell of bat guano.  It's a part of the experience and a part that you will never forget.

10. After the final bat flight, there is plenty of activity to enjoy along Congress Street.  Nightlife of the college variety is hopping on the famed Sixth Street and tamer nightlife is available on Fifth Street.  The Capitol Building is within an easy walk from the bridge and is a great and picturesque way to end the night.


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Mar'ah September 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm

The first time I saw that I was running errand with my husband.  No one ever told us about the bats and we were so far away we thought it was a fire with gigantic plumes of smoke rising.  As we drove closer we saw the bats and we were speechless!  It is quite the sight!

Barbara September 20, 2011 at 4:23 am

I think that would kind of freak me out a little bit!  My husband and son would love it though!

Rebecca R September 20, 2011 at 8:15 am

So creepy!  Gives me chills just to look at that.  I'm a new follower and would love it if you could follow me back :) 

Chell September 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I so did not know this about Austin!  Very interesting! May be a "vacation" thing to do one time….

Good Girl Gone Green September 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Now that is a lot of bats! :)

Lisa September 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I'll just skip on down to #10 in your list! :)

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