The Congress Avenue bridge spans Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin and is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America known as the Congress Bridge Bats. This colony is estimated at 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats. Each night from around mid-March to earnly November, the Congress Bridge Bats bats emerge from under the bridge to blanket the sky as they head out to forage for food. This event has become one of the most spectacular and unusual tourist attractions in Austin Texas. The most spectacular bat flights are during hot, dry August nights, when multiple columns of bats emerge. During a rainy season (rare in Austin), there are more insects out and the bats do not have to leave as early to forage for food and you may not see as many bats. If you're on a boat looking up at the bats, the contrast against the evening sky helps show them better. There is a decent spot to watch the bats along the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail just East of the bridge on the South side of Lady Bird Lake. Many people will watch them from the bridge above. Both spots can get very crowded and neither provides as good of an experience as watching it from the water on one of the tours lilsted below.
Cool Ways to View the Congress Bridge Bats
1. Capital Cruises Bat Watching Tours
Capital Cruises is home of the largest electric paddle wheel boat in the country and the now famous Sunset Bat Watching excursion that offers a spectacular view of the Congress Bridge Bats as they fly out overhead where the contrast against the evening skyline helps them stand out. This tour fills up nearly every night during bat season some times a few days in advance. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for kids. You need to arrive about 30 minutes before sunset to get on the boat and buying tickets in advance is highly recommended during peak summer months as they sell out nearly every night, including weekdays. You can buy tickets online here or Capital Cruises Bat Watching and Sightseeing Tour listing for more info.
2. Kayak Bat Watching Tours from Live Love Paddle
In the heat of the summer, watching the bats from a Live Love Paddle Kayak Bat Watching Tour is the way to go as the cool water of the river beneath drops the temperatures nearly 10 degrees. If you're new to Texas, the need for this will make sense when you get here! We absolutely love this tour for more than just the bats. The view of downtown at sunset can make for some spectacular photos to post on Facebook and is almost as amazing as the bats themselves. Tours start at 1602 East Riverside Drive on Lady Bird Lake where you kayak up the lake to see the bats emerge. The minimum weight on bat-watching tours is 30 lbs and maximum weight is 275 lbs. Some people don't realize that means THIS TOUR IS KID FRIENDLY. The tour operators carry tow ropes, so if your child gets tired, you can tow them back to headquarters. Tours start just before dusk so times vary with the season. Prices are $45 per person (tax included) and tandem boats are available. These tours can fill up and buying tickets in advance is also suggested. You can buy ticket directly , we highly recommend you buy your tickets online here.
3. Bat City Bridge Tour from Gliding Revolution
The Bat City Bridge Tour by Gliding Revolution is the perfect way to learn about Austin's history and enjoy a view of the Austin Bats from Congress Avenue Bridge. The tour includes historical information about Austin with a focus on the State Capital of Texas grounds, 6th Street, and South Congress Avenue (SoCo). On this tour, you'll venture over to see the Austin bats emerge towards the end of your tour. This tour runs daily at 5:30 pm March to October and is $73 per person. Segway count is limited, so make sure you buy tickets in advance. You can buy tickets online here.
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