The Texas state capital is home to the Capitol Building but is also as one of the most exciting, progressive, and “weird” cities in the entire state. In recent years, Austin has fostered an environment of creative uniqueness focusing on incredible art, fantastic food and spectacular music.
Due to its youthful population, the city is also a hub for fun yet affordable activities. So if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be happy to discover there are lots of free things to do in Austin.
- Austin, Texas
- 20 Free Things To Do In Austin
- 1- Go Swimming At Barton Springs Pool
- 2- Go Hiking At Zilker Park
- 3- Listen to Local Music At An Open Mic Night
- 4- Explore UT Campus
- 5- Admire The Works At Blanton Museum of Art
- 6- Visit The Bullock Texas State History Museum
- 7- Walk Through The Texas Governor’s Mansion
- 8- Enjoy The Views From Mount Bonnell
- 9- Discover The Treasures At Harry Ransom Center
- 10- Wander Around Oakwood Cemetery
- 11- Relax At Bull Creek District Park
- 12- Go Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge
- 13- Enjoy Lady Bird Lake
- 14- Picnic At Mayfield Park
- 15- Admire Public Art In Sparky Park
- 16- Listen To Music At The Texas Community Music Festival
- 17- Discover History At The Texas State Capitol Building
- 18- Visit Elizabet Ney Museum
- 19- Discover Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center
- 20- Enjoy The Central Market Music Events
- 20 Free Things To Do In Austin
20 Free Things To Do In Austin
1- Go Swimming At Barton Springs Pool
The Barton Springs Pool is a massive three acres fed by underground springs that keep the water at a comfortable 68 to 70F all year round (even in the winter).
The pool’s grassy banks provide the perfect spot for relaxing with friends and admiring the sunset.
Barton Springs Pool is a popular space and a hub of activity that is the perfect spot for socialising, no matter the season.
Whether you’re looking for an activity to enjoy with friends or some peaceful relaxation all alone, this is truly the place to go.
The Barton Springs Pool is at 2201 William Barton Drive, Austin, Texas, 78746.
2- Go Hiking At Zilker Park
Another popular outdoor spot for lively gatherings, biking, hiking or quiet contemplation is Zilker Metropolitan Park.
The Austin Nature and Science Center and the Zilker Botanical Garden both reside within the park limits and are free to the public.
Whether you bring a book and relax on the grass, hike the trails, or brush up on your science fasts at the Nature and Science Center, a day out at Zilker Park is guaranteed to be a free day of fun for the entire family.
Zilker Park is at 2207 Lou Neff Road, Austin, Texas 78704.
3- Listen to Local Music At An Open Mic Night
Austin is famous for its incredible music, so what better way to enjoy and experience talented local musicians than an open mic night?
Some of the best open mic venues include Kick Butt Coffee, the Elephant Room and Firehouse Lounge.
The Elephant Room is an underground jazz bar and so if you’re looking to listen to some smooth jazz or perform some tunes of your own, make sure to check out the Jazz Jam on Mondays.
Kick Butt Coffee is at 5775 Airport Boulevard Ste 725, Austin, Texas 78752. The Elephant Room is at 315 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, 78701. Firehouse Lounge is at 605 Brazos Street, Austin, Texas, 78701.
4- Explore UT Campus
UT holds the prestigious title of one of the most famous universities in Texas and a stroll around campus is an absolute must for lovers of architecture and nature.
The UT Campus is also home to the Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center.
Make sure you visit the UT Tower and inside the Life Sciences Library, as this library was the original first library on campus and truly is a beautiful sight to behold.
The University of Texas (UT) Campus is at 2405 Robert Dedman Drive, Austin, Texas, 78712.
5- Admire The Works At Blanton Museum of Art
While visiting the UT Campus, pay a visit to the Blanton Museum of Art, located on UT’s campus and renowned as one of the United States’ largest University Art Museums.
The museum hosts an incredible 18,000 pieces of art ranging from Ancient Roman times to the modern day.
Although not free all the time, the museum offers free entry on the third Thursday of the month, every month of the year.
The Blanton Museum of Art is at 200 East Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78712.
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6- Visit The Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum offers free entry to everyone on the first Sunday of each month (12 pm to 5 pm), allowing visitors of all ages to learn about the social history and culture of the state of Texas.
A hidden gem within this museum is the Goddess of Liberty statue that originally resided in the state Capitol building.
The museum also houses an authentic NASA capsule!
The Bullock Texas State History Museum is at 1800 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78701.
7- Walk Through The Texas Governor’s Mansion
Walk through the Texas Governor’s Mansion on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning to step into a living part of history and experience the grandeur and beauty of this stunning building.
The mansion was built in 1854 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1074.
However, note that you must schedule your visit at least a week in advance to pass through the proper security protocols before visiting the mansion.
The Texas Governor’s Mansion is at 1010 Colorado Street, Austin, Texas, 78701.
8- Enjoy The Views From Mount Bonnell
The origin of Mount Bonnell’s name is frequently disputed between the newspaper CEO George W. Bonnell or the Texas army Captain Joseph Bonnell.
Whichever gentleman it was named after, what cannot be disputed is the breathtaking beauty of the views from the peak of this natural viewpoint over the city.
The peak is accessible by climbing a reasonable 102 stairs and when you reach the top, you will be greeted by a viewing deck and pavilion, which provide space for relaxing and socialising.
Mount Bonnell is at 3800 Mount Bonnell Road, Austin, Texas 78731.
9- Discover The Treasures At Harry Ransom Center
The Harry Ransom Center is another attraction on the grounds of the University of Texas (UT) campus.
The centre functions as a library archive and museum with over 36 million literary treasures worldwide.
The collection includes a Gutenberg Bible and the world’s oldest photograph, “View from the window at Le Gras” by Nicéphore Niépce.
The Harry Ransom Center is at 300 West 21st Street, Austin, Texas, 78712.
10- Wander Around Oakwood Cemetery
Oakwood Cemetery is Austin’s oldest public cemetery and has existed since at least the 1850s.
The large cemetery is home to the graves of famous Texan historical figures such as Susanna Dickenson (an Alamo survivor), Thomas Green (a Civil War general), and multiple late Texas governors.
The Oakwood Cemetery is at 1601 Navasota Street, Austin, Texas, 78702.
11- Relax At Bull Creek District Park
Bull Creek District Park is one of the lesser-known hidden gems of Austin.
Due to this, you’ll find that the park is less busy than some of the city’s more popular locations, but by no means less beautiful.
The park is home to 48 acres (19.5 ha) of stunning rivers, waterfalls, plants, trees and wildlife.
The park also has a hiking trail (the Bull Creek Trail) and limestone ridges for rock climbing.
The Bull Creek District Park is animal friendly, so you’ll see many dog walkers along the trail.
Bring your swimsuit as you will want to take a dip in the breathtaking waterfall pools.
Bull Creek District Park is at 6701 Lakewood Drive, Austin, Texas 78731.
12- Go Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge
Mexican Free-Tailed bats make up North America’s largest urban bat population between March and early Fall.
In Austin, they hang around beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, attracting crowds of onlookers each evening.
Catch the bats around sunset, when they fly around in the sky in an amazing spectacle of nature, but the timing is not guaranteed, and it’s possible to see them flying from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.
This sight is absolutely an essential must-see for visitors to the city.
Words cannot describe this magnificent experience and you’ll have to see it for yourself.
The Congress Avenue Bridge is at 100 S Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, 78704.
13- Enjoy Lady Bird Lake
The Lady Bird Lake was originally known as Town Lake, but its name was changed in 2007 in honour of the First Lady Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson.
The lake is a massive 416 acres (168 ha) and has a 10-mile (16 km) hiking and biking trail and a boardwalk that wraps around its exterior.
The lake was created in 1960 to function as a cooling system for the nearby power plant but is currently used for flood control and recreation.
As scenic as the lake is, you’d never guess it was an artificial creation.
Lady Bird Lake is at 1820 South Lakeshore Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78741.
14- Picnic At Mayfield Park
Mayfield Park was created as a public park on the grounds of the former Texas Secretary of State Allison Mayfield’s estate after these grounds were donated to the city of Austin.
The park has a botanical garden, water lilies, koi ponds and even peacocks.
Pack a picnic basket and enjoy a peaceful and scenic lunch at the shaded picnic table or on benches scattered throughout the park.
Mayfield Park is at 3505 West 35th Street, Austin, Texas 78703.
15- Admire Public Art In Sparky Park
Sparky Park is a public art installation compiled of pieces from the Spanish Art Nouveau style and those that pay tribute to the psychedelic culture of the 1960s and 20th-century Midwestern Grotto culture.
The art installation gives off a unique, almost alien feeling that is in every way just as weird as it is wonderful.
For this reason, the park is just one of many public art displays that adds to and supports the “keep Austin weird” motto of the city.
Sparky Park is at 3701 Grooms Street, Austin, Texas, 78705.
16- Listen To Music At The Texas Community Music Festival
The Texas Community Music Festival is free to the public and has occurred annually for 10 days in April since 2006.
The festival showcases local talent from a vast range of genres, such as jazz, rock, and classical and is held at the Central Market North store.
The Texas Community Music Festival is at 4001 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78756.
17- Discover History At The Texas State Capitol Building
The Texas State Capitol Building was designed by the architect Elijah E. Meyers and completed in 1888 after six years of building work.
The building measures an incredible 302 feet (137 m), making it the sixth-tallest capitol building in the United States (with Louisiana’s capitol building being the tallest at 450 feet high).
The Texas State Capitol Building is at 1100 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, 78701.
18- Visit Elizabet Ney Museum
Elizabet Ney is a widely celebrated German sculptor who lived in Austin during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Her work and impact on the local art scene and community are explored and celebrated in the museum, located in the late artist’s home and studio.
The Elizabet Ney Museum is at 304 East 44th Street, Austin, Texas 78751.
19- Discover Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center
The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center’s main mission is to preserve and display art from Mexican American and Latino artists.
It also provides education and exploration of the Mexican American and Latino cultures and their histories.
The centre hosts film screenings, live music, and Day of the Dead festivals.
The Emme S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is at 600 River Street, Austin, Texas 78701.
20- Enjoy The Central Market Music Events
The Central Market store on Lamar Boulevard hosts live music shows almost every weekend.
You can hear various musical genres and artists here, including country, jazz, blues and rock.
The shows are held in the cafe area of the store, and entry is free for everyone.
The Central Market Music Events are at 4477 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas, 78745.
For more places to visit in the Southern states, see:
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- 20 Landmarks in Louisiana
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