15 Fun Free Things to Do in Austin TX

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Austin Texas is on every top 10 list these days it seems and with good reason. There’s always something fun to do in Austin.

What if you don’t have a lot of extra spending money for fun stuff in Austin? No worries, you don’t have to break the bank just so you can do cool things in Austin.

In this post I’m sharing with you my top 15 favorite free things to do in Austin.

And truth be told, some of the best things to do in Austin are FREE! What?!

YES! You could spend days wandering around Austin without paying for any entertainment. How cool is that?! You just need to know where to find the best budget friendly things to do in Austin.

15 Best Free Things to Do in Austin Texas

I lived in Austin for over 15 years before I took off for my long-term nomad life road trip. Austin is still my official home, even though I drive all the way to Canada each summer.

But I keep coming back to Austin to catch up with friends (while enjoying mild winters) and visit my favorite places in the Live Music Capital of the World. I always make some time to enjoy the hiking trails in Austin.

Austin keeps getting more expensive to live in, but the good news is there are still loads of free (and fun) things to do in Austin Texas.

Let’s have a look at the best free things to do in Austin TX now.

Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail

Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail in downtown Austin is a haven for nature lovers, joggers, cyclists, and anyone wanting to escape the office for some fresh air and  a change of scene.

You can go kayaking or paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake, but don’t go swimming in Lady Bird Lake. Why not? Swimming is not allowed. It’s an old Austin City ordinance. You can go swimming at Barton Springs Pool instead.

Railroad bridge over Lady Bird Lake and view of downtown Austin skyline

Mayfield Park

Magical Mayfield Park is one of the coolest places in Austin. The setting is unique to urban parks in Austin because Mayfield is home to a bunch of peacocks and peahens.

There’s a historic cottage, gardens, ponds, and hiking trails at Mayfield Park.

Mayfield Park is also a popular wedding venue because it looks like a fairy tale land with the beautiful peacocks roaming freely.

Peacock at the arch in Mayfield Park Austin Texas

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

You’re standing on Congress Avenue Bridge around sunset and then you start to hear the squeaky shouts and see the amazing sight of gazillions of small bats flying over Lady Bird Lake and into the twilight.

Even if you think bats are icky you’ve got to go watch the 1.5 million Mexican free tailed bats set out on their nightly journey to devour insects in Austin.

And don’t worry, unless you are an insect the bats should leave you alone.

When my mom visited me in Austin, and I took her to see the bats she exclaimed “Oh they’re so cute!” which totally surprised me. Because, my mom was no big fan of bats.

Austin’s bats are cute. Not cuddly cute. But cute from a safe distance cute.

March – November at Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge

Elizabeth Ney Museum

This is one of Austin’s amazing free museums that doesn’t get as much coverage as some of the bigger venues, like the Blanton or Bob Bullock Museum.

Elizabeth Ney Museum is in the hip Hyde Park neighborhood.

Pair it with a visit to Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery and you have yourself a perfect Austin afternoon. Quack’s also has great coffee, amazing pastries, cookies, and other baked goods to go with your morning cup of joe.

Elisabet Ney Museum Austin Texas

Harry Ransom Center

Harry Ransom Center is one of my fave Sunday afternoon places in Austin. Free admission and exhibit galleries open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Did you know that you can see the Gutenberg Bible at the Ransom Center? Yes, the Ransom Center has one of only 20 complete Gutenberg Bibles in the world, printed in the mid-1400s.

And you can see the first photograph ever taken! The only known surviving photo taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in the early 1800s in Burgundy France.

Another cool place for art lovers is the Blanton Museum, it’s free on Thursdays. And history buffs will want to visit the Bullock Museum – free admission on the first Sunday each month.

Etched glass windows of Ransom Center Austin TX

Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas

Texas State Capitol Tour

If you drive north on Congress Avenue when there is no traffic (better get up early) you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Texas State Capitol.

Take a free tour of the Texas Capitol building. Tours depart every 30 – 45 minutes every day of the week. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

Austin Texas Capitol building offers free tours

Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Showcasing Mexican American art and culture the facility includes exhibits, theatre, and classrooms. Explore the galleries, murals, and outdoor sculptures at the Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River Street in downtown Austin.

The gallery is open Monday – Saturday and admission is free.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

Outdoor enthusiasts get some space to explore the hiking and biking trails at Barton Creek Greenbelt. Another fun thing to do, go kayaking at Barton Creek.

Check out the Barton Springs Swimming Pool (entrance fee applies). It’s big and beautiful! Not quite as big as Balmorhea Solomon Springs out in far west Texas….

Austin TX Barton Creek Zilker Park

Zilker Park

Named after Andrew Zilker, the man who donated the land for this fabulous 350 acre park in central Austin. Zilker Park is the location of the big Austin City Limits music festival that takes place over two weekends every October.

Zilker Park is your outdoor wonderland in Austin with a bunch of fun things to do.

There are volleyball courts, disc golf, picnic tables, and the Austin Nature and Science Center is located in Zilker Park too.

Zilker Hillside Theatre brings free performances to Zilker Park from March through October. Enjoy free theatrical performances with Shakespeare in the Park and free music concerts.

Bring your blanket and settle in for some of the best free entertainment in Austin.

For a few dollars you can visit the Zilker Botanical Garden at Zilker Park.

Central Market – Free Music Events

One of the best venues for all ages music events (for free) is Central Market grocery store. What?! Isn’t that cool, the grocery store has live music in Austin!

I always have a good time at the Central Market music events. I love that this live music venue is outdoors, lots of room for dancing, plenty of tables to sit and people watch, and there’s a playground for the kids.

What makes it an even more perfect low-key casual, wear whatever you like, be yourself, and chillax kind of venue, is that you have a whole grocery store full of food, wine, beer, and desserts to buy that will keep you happy while you’re enjoying the tunes.

Check the schedule of events for North Lamar location or in south Austin at the Westgate location.

South Congress Avenue

Window shopping and people watching doesn’t get any better than South Congress (SoCo) neighborhood in Austin.

Hop across Lady Bird Lake from downtown via the Congress Avenue Bridge and you will find yourself in a new place to explore, window shop, people watch, and ponder your next adventure.

South Congress district is known for live music at the Continental Club (sometimes they have free early shows) and boutique hotels like the Hotel San Jose and the South Congress Hotel.

Austin, Texas - i love you so much

Murals in Austin

Instagram helped make a few of Austin’s murals famous. You’ve probably seen the “I love you so much” mural.

Take your cute self over to the Greetings from Austin mural to get your sweet souvenir selfie photo.

Then there’s the Austin classic “Hi How Are You?” mural by Daniel Johnston at the UT Campus. You can see this one when you visit the Ransom Center.

Greetings from Austin mural SoCo

Unplugged at the Grove

Unplugged at the Grove is a free outdoor concert series every Thursday during spring and summer at Shady Grove in south Austin. Bring a blanket and let the music wash your worries away.

Blues on the Green

Another free summer concert series in Austin that takes place at Zilker Park. Parking can be a hassle (and it costs $$) so ride your bike or take a bus, ride share, or walk to the park.

Read up on the FAQ for Blues on the Green before you go.

Free Movies in the Park

Summertime time wouldn’t be complete without Movies in the Park in Austin. This free movie event takes place at various parks around Austin throughout summer.

Austin Parks Foundation and Alamo Drafthouse team up to bring this fun outdoor entertainment event for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Check the Austin Parks Foundation Facebook page to get updates and to RSVP. Movies begin after sundown.

Best to ride your bike, rideshare, or bus it to the venues. Parking is limited and may cost you a few shekels.

Map of Free Things to Do in Austin

Check out the map below for the locations of free things to do in Austin mentioned in this post. For some reason the map doesn’t always show on mobile, sorry! You can use this link to the MyMaps page to view the map on your cell phone.

 

Art map of Texas with red heart marking Austin

Bonus 5 Fun Seasonal Freebies in Austin

SXSW event in March has a bunch of bargains for the budget conscious Austin traveler. From free booze and food to swag or souvenir items. SXSW is happening March 13 – 22, 2020. CANCELLED. They are trying to reschedule SXSW 2020 – check for updates on the official website.

Zilker Park Kite Festival is a fun family friendly event every year was scheduled for March 29, 2020 and would have been the 91st annual edition.

Pecan Street Festival is a (twice a year) big arts and crafts events with dozens of booths to shop for your favorite Austin souvenirs, edibles, and art work. Pecan Street spring festival is May 2 and 3, 2020. And Pecan Street fall festival is in September. Takes place at 6th Street downtown Austin – formerly known as Pecan Street.

Eeyore’s Birthday Party will hold the 57th birthday bash on Saturday April 25, 2020 from 11 am til dusk at Pease District Park. If that’s a rainy day the event will reschedule to Saturday May 2, 2020.

Wear your favorite costume and bring your (non-amplified) musical instruments to the party.

Austin Dragon Boat Festival is held on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. April 25 – 26, 2020 at Festival Beach at Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin.

Have fun in Austin!

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15 Best Free Things to Do in Austin

15 Free Fun Things to Do in Austin Texas

Best Free Things to Do in Austin

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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