Every evening as the sun sets over the downtown Austin skyline, something magical happens on the Congress Avenue bridge.
Thousands of bats emerge from under the bridge and take to the skies, delighting onlookers of all ages.
Tourists and locals alike flock to the Bat Bridge in downtown Austin to watch the city’s famous winged residents.
It’s a truly unique experience that you can only find in Austin during the warmer months…
…and it’s something that nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss.
Also Read: 14 Amazing Things to do in Austin at night
Here’s everything you need to know about the Congress Avenue Bats Austin.
In this post, you’ll find all the information you need to know about bat watching in Austin, including the best time to watch the bats, where to watch them, and the history of the Congress Avenue bat colony.
After all, Congress Avenue bats in Austin are one of the best bat colonies in Texas!
Best Months to Visit Austin Bat Bridge
Visitors often ask wonder when they can see the bats in Austin!
The best time to watch one of nature’s most impressive shows is from late March to early September when the bats live under the bridge.
That’s when Austin’s weather is warm enough for the bats to migrate to Austin since there are plenty of insects for them to eat.
If you want to catch the Congress Avenue bridge bats emerging from their roosts, plan to be at the bridge around sundown.
Another thing to keep in mind is that bad weather can keep them roosting under the bridge, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before you go.
Best Time to Watch the Austin Bat Colony
The earliest bats typically start emerging from their roosts about 30 to 40 minutes before sunset.
The entire colony continues to emerge with the last stragglers leaving around 30 minutes after sunset.
This makes 45 – 60 minutes before sunset an excellent time to reach the shores and stake your spot.
That way, you can get settled in before the action starts.
The bats will continue to emerge for around 45 minutes to an hour or so, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the show.
While the time varies daily, you can generally expect to watch the bats anywhere from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The bats fly east over Lady Bird Lake.
Can you see the bats year-round?
Summer evenings are the best time to see the bats take flight.
The bats migrate to Austin during the summer months and hence, the colony is mostly empty for the rest of the year.
You might be able to spot some bats in the winter months however, it is nothing compared to the peak bat flights in August.
Where to Watch the Bats
There are a couple of viewing areas for the bat flight at Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin.
You can watch from the south bank of Lady Bird Lake, from the boardwalk trail, from the bridge itself, or from one of Austin’s many bat-viewing boat tours.
All offer great views, but if you want to see the bats on a budget without crowds, we recommend finding a spot on the south side.
That being said, both options tend to get crowded during peak bat season (generally March-October), so getting there early/booking tickets in advance is key no matter what you choose.
Best Places to watch the bats for free in Austin, Texas
Seeing the bat flights is one of the best things to do in Austin, Texas.
You can watch the bat flight for free with a little planning from the below areas.
The Statesman Bat Observation Center
Located on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake adjacent to the bridge, this bat observation center offers stunning views of both the lake and the bridge.
The center is also home to a variety of interactive exhibits that teach visitors about the importance of bats in our ecosystem.
Best of all, admission is free!
If you choose to watch from here, we recommend bringing a blanket or lawn chair so you can relax and enjoy the show.
Get plenty of toys for the kids as you will need to wait for the bats to emerge.
Just remember to get there early, wear comfortable shoes, and bring along some mosquito repellent – after all, this is Texas!
Also, be sure to bring a camera and/or binoculars to capture this amazing natural phenomenon!
Parking – The paid parking lot is available for visitors at the Austin American Statesman building.
From the top of Congress Avenue Bridge
For those who want a more unique experience, there’s also the option to watch the bats from the sidewalks of the Congress Avenue Bridge.
This is one of the most popular viewing spots since it offers a unique view of the bats flying from under you and darkening the sky.
However, it can also be quite crowded during peak season, so again, we recommend heading up to the bridge around 30 minutes before sunset.
Ann & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
For those who want to watch the bats while getting some exercise, the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail is the perfect spot.
The trail runs along the lakeshore for 10 miles, offering breathtaking views of the skyline and ample opportunities to see the bats in action.
Spots close to the east side of Congress Avenue Bridge are perfect for watching the Austin bats.
From the water
Many visitors like to launch their personal kayaks, canoes and paddle boards at sunset to see the bats.
There are many places along the lakeshore near Congress Ave with ramps to launch your watercraft.
Lady Bird Lake Bat Tours
If you’re looking for a more up-close-and-personal encounter with the bats, then take advantage of the bat-viewing boat tours that operate nightly during peak season.
These cruises depart at dusk and give you incredible views of the Congress Bridge bats as they fly overhead.
You’ll also learn all about these fascinating creatures from your knowledgeable tour guide.
Just be sure to bring along some cash to tip your captain!
Remember to book your tickets in advance, as these tours can fill up quickly with bat watchers during peak season.
A Brief History of the Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge
The bat colony at Congress Avenue Bridge is the largest urban bat colony in North America.
Did you know, that an estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge?
During the day, you won’t spot a single flying mammal but come sundown and the sky will turn black with these remarkable creatures.
The colony first started roosting under the bridge in 1980 after renovations created new crevices for them to roost in.
Today, the bat colony is considered an important part of Austin’s ecosystem.
They play an important role in controlling Austin’s mosquito population—consuming up to 20,000 pounds of insects each night!
The bats also help to pollinate native plants including our precious wildflowers.
Organizations such as Austin Bat Refuge and Bat Conservation International have been established to help educate the public about bats and rehabilitate injured or grounded bat.
The Bat Statue
Another must on your weekend in Austin itinerary?
Taking a picture with the Bat Statue located at 300 South Congress Avenue at the Barton Springs Traffic Island!
This larger-than-life sculpture, called Night Wings, was installed in 1998 and is a popular photo spot for visitors.
The statue was created by sculptor Dale Whistler and is meant to represent the millions of Mexican free-tailed bats in Austin that live beneath the bridge.
Austin Bat Fest
Each year in August, Austin celebrates its flying furry friends with the Austin Bat Fest.
This free, family-friendly event features live music, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, and of course – Austin’s bats!
Not only do the bats make Austin better for everyone, but they also attract tourists from all over the world!
There’s no better place to watch bats than Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge!
Have you seen the Congress Avenue Bats Austin, Texas? Let us know below!