Austin, Texas is a city that effortlessly combines southern hospitality with a vibrant cultural scene. Known for its live music, food trucks, and stunning outdoor spaces, Austin offers a variety of activities that cater to every age and interest.
This blog post will explore an extensive list of free things you can do in Austin. Each of these are free things you can do in Austin with family or just as adults.
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Discover Austin Without Spending a Dime: 15 Free Things To Do In Austin
In a city as dynamic as Austin, it’s easy to find activities that won’t cost you a single cent yet offer memorable experiences.
1) Visit The Thinkery For free
The Thinkery in Austin, Texas is an interactive science and technology center that offers a plethora of engaging activities for kids and families. My family loves to go. I actually started writing this blog post while drinking coffee outside of The Thinkery!
But did you know there are ways to experience the Thinkery for free?
The Thinkery has an Open Door Initiative that provides free and discounted admission to their play-based learning programs. This initiative aims to make the Thinkery accessible to all, regardless of economic status.
Additionally, members of Thinkery enjoy free general admission all year round. If you’re planning on visiting more than once, obtaining a membership could be a cost-effective option.
But perhaps the most compelling opportunity for free admission comes with the Thinkery’s Community Hours. Every Sunday from 3 pm – 5 pm, and every Tuesday from 3 pm – 7 pm, the Thinkery opens its doors for free to children and families from all over Central Texas.
This is an excellent opportunity to explore the exhibits without worrying about the admission cost. If you are going at a time that isn’t free, visit our page: Thinkery Austin Children’s Museum Coupons and Discounts.
Remember, while admission is free during these times, donations are always welcomed and go towards supporting the Thinkery’s mission of providing an innovative learning experience to all visitors.
So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, educational, and fun outing with your kids in Austin, the Thinkery is definitely worth considering!
2) Stargazing at UT’s Telescope
The University of Texas at Austin offers an exciting opportunity for astronomy enthusiasts to stargaze using their high-powered telescopes.
The Department of Astronomy hosts free viewing on the Painter Hall Telescope every Friday and Saturday while UT is in session. This is an excellent chance to observe celestial bodies and learn more about the universe from the experts.
In addition to the weekend viewings, the university also sponsors free public star parties on the top roof of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy building every Wednesday night while UT is in session.
These star parties are open to the public and provide a unique opportunity to explore the night sky amidst the company of fellow astronomy lovers.
3) Free Attractions at SXSW: Maximizing Your Festival Experience
South by Southwest (SXSW) is known for its diverse array of events spanning music, film, and interactive media.
But the festival isn’t just about ticketed shows and exclusive parties – there are plenty of free SXSW attractions.
Music Showcases: Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of SXSW is the opportunity to enjoy music from a broad spectrum of genres. With free music showcases taking place throughout the festival, you can discover emerging artists or enjoy performances from established acts without spending anything.
Exhibitions and Special Events: SXSW also offers a range of free exhibitions that provide insights into various creative industries. These events offer a chance to network, learn about the latest trends, and engage with innovative ideas.
Interactive Experiences: For those interested in the intersection of technology and creativity, SXSW hosts a series of free interactive experiences. These events allow attendees to engage with cutting-edge tech and gain insights into the future of digital media.
Community Concerts: SXSW isn’t just about industry insiders. The festival also hosts free community concerts, which are family-friendly and open to everyone. These concerts provide an opportunity to enjoy a picnic while listening to local musicians, creating a welcoming atmosphere for all attendees.
Swag and Giveaways: Freebies are a festival staple, and SXSW is no exception. Keep an eye out for giveaways and swag that add an element of surprise and delight to the festival experience.
4) Enjoying Free Outdoor Theater in Austin, TX
One of the city’s highlights is its vibrant outdoor theater scene, which allows locals and visitors alike to enjoy high-quality performances in beautiful open-air settings completely free of charge.
One of the most popular venues for outdoor theater in Austin is the Zilker Hillside Theater. All performances and cultural events at this theater are open to the public free of charge.
From musicals to plays, the theater offers a wide range of performances that can be enjoyed under the open sky amidst the scenic beauty of Zilker Park.
The annual Zilker Summer Musical, held from July through August, offers live theater in an enchanting outdoor setting. It’s a must-see event for anyone visiting Austin during the summer months.
If movies are more your speed, you’re in luck. Sound & Cinema at the Long Center combines live music with outdoor movie screenings, providing a unique entertainment experience that’s absolutely free.
Similarly, the Movies in the Park initiative by Austin Parks Foundation brings films to neighborhood parks across Austin, ensuring that residents of all backgrounds have access to free outdoor entertainment.
Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake are another great opportunity to enjoy free performances. These concerts are open to the public and offer a stunning view of the Austin skyline as a backdrop.
5) Taking a Dip in Barton Springs Pool for Free
One of Austin’s most beloved attractions is the Barton Springs Pool. This natural spring-fed pool in the heart of Zilker Park maintains a refreshing temperature of about 68-70 degrees year-round, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.
The best part? You can experience the clear, cool waters of Barton Springs Pool for free during specific hours. From 5 am to 8 am and then again from 9 pm to 10 pm, the pool opens its gates to everyone at no charge.
These “free swim” hours allow early birds to start their day with a refreshing dip or for night owls to unwind with a late-night swim under the stars.
Don’t forget to bring your water shoes!
6) Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day: A Creative Oasis in Austin
Looking for a family-friendly event that combines art, nature, and interactive activities? The Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day is the perfect fit.
Held on the second Sunday of each month at 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704, this event invites families to explore and create art in a beautiful outdoor setting.
From sculpture searches that encourage appreciation of the stunning works throughout the garden, to craft activities that ignite creativity, there’s something for everyone.
Best of all, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day is free and open to the public. You can enjoy free admission to the garden and partake in all the activities without any charge.
We just went to Umlauf. We spent about two hours walking around exploring the various sculptures. It was raining, and that added a new feel.
I know walking in the rain doesn’t sound like fun, but I’d recommend visiting Umlauf on a rainy day or right after it rains. The sculptures take on a different vibe, some almost appear to be crying.
7) Experience the Nightly Bat Flight
One of Austin’s most unique and popular attractions is the nightly flight of the Mexican free-tailed bats from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge.
From late March to early fall, around sunset, spectators gather to watch this natural spectacle as the bats emerge in a swirling cloud to hunt for their dinner.
8) Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art, located in Austin, Texas, is one of the foremost university art museums in the country. It offers an extensive collection of art, ranging from European paintings and prints to American and contemporary Latin American Art.
One of the best things about the Blanton Museum of Art is that visitors can enjoy free admission every Tuesday, thanks to the generous support from the Moody Family Free Day Endowment.
Note that check-in is required. The museum also used to offer free admission every Thursday, but this was discontinued as of May 4, 2023.
So, if you’re planning a visit Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art, remember to mark your calendars for a Tuesday!
9) HOPE Outdoor Gallery
The HOPE Outdoor Gallery, or the Graffiti Park as it’s commonly known, is a unique community paint park located in downtown Austin.
The gallery, which began as a temporary art project in 2011, has since evolved into a prominent tourist attraction and a hub for local artists to showcase their creativity.
While the HOPE Outdoor Gallery is open to the public daily, it’s important to note that painting at the park requires a membership.
However, admiring the vibrant murals and ever-changing graffiti art is completely free. This makes the HOPE Outdoor Gallery a great place to explore Austin’s dynamic art scene without spending a dime.
10) Visit Mount Bonnell In Austin
Mount Bonnell, also known as Covert Park, is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Known as the highest point within Austin city limits, Mount Bonnell offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Colorado River. That is why Mount Bonnell made my list of best views in Austin.
Visiting Mount Bonnell is completely free! You can hike up the trail, have a picnic at the summit, or simply enjoy the stunning sunset views without any admission fee.
The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., providing plenty of flexibility for planning your visit.
It’s easy enough to just drive to the top if you don’t feel like hiking. I recommend packing lunch when visiting Mount Bonnell. It’s a nice time to slow down and just soak in the beauty.
11) Discover Elisabet Ney Museum
The Elisabet Ney Museum is a remarkable historical landmark nestled in the heart of Austin, Texas. This museum was once the home and creative sanctuary of the wildly iconoclastic German sculptor, Elisabet Ney.
Ney moved to Austin in 1882, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s cultural and artistic landscape.
The museum itself is housed in “Formosa,” the artist’s former home and studio. Here, visitors can explore the life and work of Ney through various exhibitions, events, and tours designed for art lovers of all ages.
An interesting feature of the museum is the second floor, where visitors can delve into the life of Edmund Montgomery, Elisabet Ney’s husband. Edmund was a successful man in his own right, and his story adds another layer of depth to the museum’s narrative.
The museum also hosts community art events, incorporating elements from the Elisabet Ney Museum collection into these activities.
For those unable to visit in person, the museum offers digital collections to educate individuals about art, history, science, and more.
The Elisabet Ney Museum is a property of the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department. It was established in 1892 by European portrait sculptor Elisabet Ney herself, creating a living testament to her artistic legacy.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Elisabet Ney Museum is that it’s free to the public. This makes it an accessible resource for all, promoting widespread appreciation for art and history.
12) Attend the Austin City Limits Radio’s ‘Unplugged at the Grove’
If you’re a music lover in Austin, Texas, don’t miss the chance to attend the Austin City Limits Radio’s ‘Unplugged at the Grove’. This event is a staple of the city’s vibrant live music scene.
‘Unplugged at the Grove’ is that it’s completely free! There’s absolutely no cover charge, making this an excellent opportunity to enjoy some fabulous music without breaking the bank.
It takes place every Thursday evening at the iconic Shady Grove Restaurant, featuring an eclectic mix of musical talent.
In addition to the music, attendees can take advantage of the cheap beer and a menu filled with local classics. The scenic outdoor setting under the Texas sky adds to the overall experience, making ‘Unplugged at the Grove’ a must-visit for both locals and tourists.
When visiting Unplugged at the grove, I recommend that you:
- Arrive early: The event is popular and can get crowded, so arriving early ensures you’ll get a good spot.
- Make use of public transportation or ride-sharing services if possible, as parking can be limited.
- Don’t forget to bring a blanket or lawn chair for comfort during the performances.
- Lastly, keep an eye on the Austin City Limits Radio website or social media pages for updates on the lineup and any changes due to weather conditions.
13) Visiting the Austin Capitol
As one of the city’s most historic landmarks, the Austin Capitol is a must-visit for both residents and tourists alike.
This impressive architectural marvel is not just the hub of Texas politics, but it’s also a symbol of Texan history and pride.
The best part? Admission to the Austin Capitol is completely free! You can explore the stunning rotunda, visit the legislative chambers, and even take a guided tour at no cost.
Free guided tours are available throughout the day, providing valuable insights into the history and workings of the Texas Legislature.
Visiting the Austin Capitol isn’t just about politics and history though. The surrounding Capitol Grounds also provide a peaceful green space perfect for picnicking or relaxing.
14) Exploring Austin’s Scenic Hikes
The city of Austin, Texas, is not just known for its vibrant music scene and delicious food, but also for its abundance of scenic hiking trails.
For those who love the outdoors, exploring these trails is an excellent free activity that combines exercise with stunning views of Austin’s natural beauty.
The Emma Long Motocross Loop is one of the most popular trails in Austin. With a 4.2-star rating from over 150 reviews, this trail is known for its challenging terrain and beautiful scenery.
It’s worth noting that this trail may be more suited to experienced hikers due to its difficulty level.
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a fantastic option for those looking for a more leisurely hike.
This trail offers a relaxing walk or bike ride along Lady Bird Lake, providing beautiful water views and plenty of opportunities for bird watching.
Nature lovers will appreciate the Mayfield Nature Preserve, which offers tranquil hiking trails and a chance to see the park’s famous peacocks.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is another excellent choice, featuring a 7.8-mile trail that takes hikers along creeks and through lush greenery.
If you’re looking for a longer, more challenging hike, consider the Goodwater Trail around Lake Georgetown. This trail features challenging terrain and elevation changes, making it an excellent option for more experienced hikers.
15) Immerse Yourself in Art At The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria
The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria is a unique, fourteen-acre art museum and historic landmark site located only five miles from downtown on beautiful Lake Austin.
With its outdoor sculptures by renowned international artists and exhibitions of contemporary art, this destination is a must-visit for art lovers and families alike.
One of the best ways to experience The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria for free is by planning your visit for a Tuesday.
Admission to the museum is free every Tuesday, allowing visitors to explore the art installations and natural beauty of the site without any cost.
Another option to consider is becoming a member of The Contemporary Austin. Members enjoy unlimited free admission to both museum locations (Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center), along with other perks such as discounts on programs and in the museum shop.
While entry is free during these times, donations are always appreciated and help support the museum’s mission to provide an innovative art experience to all visitors.
Have Fun For Free In Austin, TX
Austin, Texas is a city that’s alive with culture, art, music, and nature’s beauty. The great part? Experiencing all these doesn’t require a hefty budget.
So, if you’re an Austinite looking to discover more of your city on a budget, or a traveler hoping to immerse yourself in the heart of Texas without any cost, these attractions and events make Austin a city accessible to all.