Honestly, I had never heard of the Austin bats before visiting Austin, Texas on our cross-country road trip. Since we were only in town for the day, we wanted to do something truly unique to the city. So while enjoying our complimentary breakfast at The Best Western Plus Austin City Hotel, I started doing some research on how best to spend our one day in Austin. The thing that kept coming up was the Austin bats bridge and how it was a must-see when visiting the city of Austin. I always associated Austin with live music, but apparently the Austin bat is a pretty big deal. In fact, there is even an annual Austin bat fest. It became quickly apparent that we needed to see these bats and the best way to do that with our multi-generational group was with an Austin bat cruise. Specifically, a Lone Star Riverboat bat cruise.
See what it is like on a moonlight cruise on lady bird lake on a Lone Star bat cruise:
About the Congress Bridge Austin Bats:
Starting in the spring about 750,000 pregnant Mexican Free-Tailed bats migrate from the Yucatan to the Austin bat bridge, where South Congress bridge crosses the Colorado River, to give birth. Each mama bat births one tiny pup, doubling the Austin bat population to around 1.5 million!
That’s a lot of bats and it is no wonder that locals were apprehensive about the Austin bats at first. They worried that there would be a rabies outbreak in the city. However before the bat colony was destroyed, there was research showing how contraction of rabies from the bats was highly unlikely as they become paralyzed and then die within a couple days, making human contact very improbable.
Since then there has been a strong movement for Austin bat conservation as the bats actually control the overwhelming insect population in the city. I was told during our Austin bat tour that without the bats that people would be eaten alive by bugs. So thanks to a little research, not only are the bats no longer feared, but they are celebrated and revered. And thankfully, Austin bat watching has become a major attraction.
Austin Bat Festival:
Speaking of celebration, every August Roadway Productions puts on the annual Austin bat fest. It is an all night party starting at 4:00pm to midnight featuring bats, live music, food and activities. The great thing is that Bat Fest Austin, TX is completely family-friendly with numerous arts and crafts, activities and even a bat costume contest! It sounds like a really great event, but unfortunately we were in town about a week too early to catch all the fun.
Austin Bat Season:
If you want to see this amazing display of swarming bats, you will want to make sure you visit during the right time of year. Austin bats season starts around March and lasts until about mid-November. They like to migrate as the weather gets warm and peace out at first sign of cold.
April through May the mama bats are pregnant and hungry. Although the population is half the size, there are a lot of great nights to catch these hungry mama bats flying out for dinner.
June is when all the mamas give birth. The babies aren’t ready to fly until about mid-August, making this peak Austin bat season. So if you want to see all 1.5 million of these bats soaring over head, visit in August. That’s when we visited and it was a truly amazing sight!!
Austin Bats Time:
So what time do the Austin bats come out? Well, there are no specific Austin bat flight times as they are wild animals. They will come out when they want to. However, there is a general time of day that is best for Austin bat watching. Generally, the bats leave South Congress Bridge around sunset. Sunset during the summer in Austin, Texas is later in the evening than one might expect. Bats can take flight anytime between 7:00pm and 8:45 and many Austin cruise tours don’t start until 7:00pm and hangout in the water into the night to ensure that the guests see the bats take flight. It can be a waiting game, but the views on the river are so lovely at sunset you won’t be in a rush to leave.
Austin Bat Boat Tour:
There are many ways one can choose to view the Austin bats. You can stand along South Congress Bridge, hangout on the lawn at the park, rent a canoe or kayak, or dine at one of the restaurants along the north side of Lady Bird Lake.
We booked an Austin sunset cruise with Lone Star Cruise Austin. An hour tour was less than $10 a person, making it a great value. We were actually on the boat longer, because Lone Star Riverboat Cruises will wait until the bats emerge before returning. Not only are you guaranteed to see some bats, you will also be given a ton of interesting information about the bats themselves on the guided river tour. You are also welcome to bring your own beverages, including adult beverages too, making it even easier to relax and enjoy the view. However, there is only a toilet on the bigger boat. If you board the smaller one, beware and potty before departure.
Another Austin bat cruise experience is through Capital Cruises. What is cool about this company is that they offer different packages. You can take the standard Austin bat watching cruise or you can upgrade to a private Austin dinner cruise.
That’s a Wrap!
Sitting under a bridge as 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats swarm overhead, is not something we thought we’d be doing during our time in Austin, Texas, but we are sure glad we did! What an amazing experience it was to float on the beautiful Lady Bird Lake at sunset, taking in gorgeous views of the cityscape just before the cloud of bats filled the colored sky.
All of us enjoyed watching the bats, but the kids really got a kick out of the Austin bat cruise. I know it sounds gross, but they were particularly thrilled whenever a bat would sprinkle them with bat pee. It just feels like little drops of rain, but the kids found it thrilling. I have to say the whole experience was fascinating. I would definitely recommend seeing the bats to any family visiting Austin during the spring or summer.
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