Texas is such a vast state filled with diverse country, friendly people, and amazing food. You will find that the state capital of Austin, Texas is no exception to this rule.
Austin is overflowing with live music, excellent food, and a great art scene. One of the things I love about this city is that there are so many free things to do in Austin that you are sure not to break the budget.
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Free Things to do in Austin
Tour the Capital
Everything is bigger in Texas, including our capital building. Really!
The Texas Capital building is the largest state capital building in the United States. This is one of the many fun facts about Texas that we love, and one of the reasons we had to include a tour of the capital on our list of free things to do in Austin.
The Texas Capital offers free 30-minute tours Monday-Friday from 8:30 am- 4:30 pm. Of course, if you prefer to tour the capital at your own pace, you can always choose to take a self-guided tour instead.
See Some Art at the Blanton Museum of Art
Located at the University of Texas at Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art is one of the largest university art museums in the United States. The museum houses a permanent collection containing over 18,000 works of art.
The best part? The museum is free to visit on Thursdays, hence the reason it made our list of free things to do in Austin.
Get in the Spirit at the Austin Trail of Lights
If you are visiting Texas during Christmas, then the Austin Trail of Lights should be on your list of free things to do in Austin. This awesome light display features over a mile of lights for visitors to enjoy.
Kids will enjoy the photo ops with Santa and parents will love the live music and food vendors.
Enjoy Nature at Zilker Park
Zilker Park is over 350-acres of outdoor pleasure. Located just south of downtown Austin, Zilker Park is a great little escape from the city. You can relax in the grassy areas, feed the ducks, or just people watch.
At the center of the park, you will find Barton Springs Pool, a popular swimming area for locals and tourists.
While there is a fee to get into Barton Springs, you can enjoy the park with all of its amenities free of charge.
Cool Off in Barton Springs
Barton Springs is actually where four natural water spring come together forming Barton Creek in Zilker Park. Like we said above, there is a fee to swim in Barton Spring Pool, but you can access the creek from the park for free.
Just be ready for a cold plunge as Barton Creek has a year-round average temperature of 68 degrees.
I know there are signs posted not to swim there, but there are also signs posted to keep your dog on a leash and clearly that doesn’t happen. So, swim at your own risk.
See the Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge
From spring to fall, Austin becomes home to over 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats, and they all take shelter under the Congress Avenue Bridge. This phenomenon has taken place since the 1980’s renovation of the Congress Avenue Bridge which crosses over Lady Bird Lake in Austin.
Be sure to head down by the lake around sunset to witness the bats take flight for their nightly feeding.
Plan ahead and arrive early though as this is a popular event and parking is sometimes hard to come by.
Visit the Hope Outdoor Gallery
Hope Outdoor Gallery is an ever-changing public art project at an old abandoned construction site. Lovers of street art and graffiti will feel right at home at Hope Outdoor Gallery.
The walls are packed with colorful images including graffiti and murals and is free to visit.
Be sure to snap pictures while you are here because more than likely, the wall will change soon!
Hike at Lady Bird Lake
Head to Lady Bird Lake on a gorgeous Texas day and you will find that you aren’t the only one with those plans. Locals and visitors love being outdoors at Lady Bird Lake making it one of the most popular free things to do in Austin.
In addition to all of the hiking and biking trails, you can easily watch the bats on their nightly flight from here as well.
Visit the Peacocks at Mayfield Park
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mayfield Park has to be on your list of free things to do in Austin. This estate was presented to the city of Austin in 1971 and has been a joy for visitors ever since.
Mayfield Park includes 2-acres of gardens, trees, and beautiful land.
In addition to this great natural area, there are also peacocks that call Mayfield Park home!
Play Giant Chess in Woolridge Park
Woolridge Park is one of Austin’s original city parks. The park is home to numerous events throughout the year including concerts and celebrations. A unique thing to do while visiting the park is to play giant chess.
Pose in Front of the Greetings from Austin Mural
We love the Greeting tour project and you can see us posing in front of several “greetings from..” signs on our Instagram page. The greetings from Austin mural can be found at 1720 S. 1st street.
Tour Amy’s Ice Cream
On a hot summer day in Texas, there is nothing better than a delicious cold ice cream, well air conditioning might be better, but ice cream is great! While visiting Austin, take a tour of Amy’s Ice Cream to learn all about how they whip up this delicious treat.
Tours are available Monday-Friday and last about 20-30 minutes.
Check Out a Local’s Farmers Market
Head out and find a local farmers market while visiting Austin. You will find that there are several to choose from and each offers a great selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to you to choose from.
You will also find locally made and sourced products at these markets as well.
Tour the Governor’s Mansion
This historic home has housed Texas governors and their families since 1856. Although the home was severely damaged by an arsonist in 2008, the home was restored and brought back to its glory to continue housing the Governor and welcoming guests to tour it.
Free tours of the mansion are available Wednesday-Friday from 2:00-4:00 pm. Tours last about 30 and reservations are required at least one week in advance.
Visit the Austin Fire Museum
Located in Austin’s Fire Station No. 1, the Austin Fire Museum is housed in a truly historic building in Austin. The station was built in the 1930’s and today serves as home to Austin’s busiest fire station and the fire museum. The museum is open to the public twice a year or you can contact the fire department to schedule an appointment to view the artifacts housed there.
Stroll Through Austin’s Oldest Cemetery
You know that we find cemetery’s fascinating. I mean, we visited one in Paris, Ireland, and of course, New Orleans. Austin’s oldest cemetery is Oakwood Cemetery, located just east of I-35. Stroll through this beautiful cemetery to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and to experience some of Austin’s history.
Learn About Texas at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
History lovers will love a visit to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Here you can explore more than 16,000 years of Texas state history. From the early-Americans that once called Texas home to the current day, you can learn all about Texas here!
Check Out the View from Mount Bonnell
Know as the highest point in Austin, Mount Bonnell is a great place to hike to and see the sweeping views from the top of Mount Bonnell. Once on the top, Mount Bonnell allows visitors to see Austin, Lake Austin, and the surrounding hill country.
Learn About African American History
Head over to George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center to learn more about African American History. This historic building has been serving the community since 1926.
Texas Military Forces Museum
Head to the Texas Military Forces Museum to take in all of the awesome military equipment that is on display in this 45,000 square foot museum. Here you will see uniforms, weapons, aircraft, tanks, and more!
Catch Some Live Music at Callahan’s General Store
Not only can you browse all of the unique farm items at Callahan’s General store, but you can also catch some live music here. Live music has to be on your list of free things to do in Austin.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial at the Texas State Cemetery
You can visit the 9/11 memorial at the Texas State Cemetery to honor all of those who died during the September 11 attacks on the United States. Included in the design of the memorial are two steel columns from Ground Zero.
Learn to Dance at a Texas Honky Tonk
Not only can you come and enjoy a true Texas honky-tonk, but you can also enjoy free dance lesson at the Broken Spke in Austin. Nightly Wednesday-Saturday, guests can take two-step or swing lesson for free.
Tour the Neil-Cochran House
While there is normally a change to visit the Neil-Cochran House, visitors can enjoy the historic home for free on Sundays. This historic home has seen quite a bit of history and is an interesting tour, making it a grat addition to our free things to do in Austin.
Watch the Sunset at the Oasis on Lake Travis
The Oasis on Lake Travis is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Granted, you will have to pay for food or drink if you choose, but if not, just hang out on the grounds and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Take a Historic Walking Tour
The Austin’s Visitor’s Center offers free walking tours to help you to get to know more about Austin. Visit their website to check the schedule and learn more.
Explore the Cathedral of Junk
Austinites are proud to ‘keep Austin weird’ and it probably doesn’t get any weirder to most people than a cathedral made of junk. Located in the backyard of a suburban area, the cathedral of junk has been made entirely from other people’s unwanted stuff.
This is definitely one of the most unique free things to do in Austin.
Take a Self-Guided Mural Tour
Austin is full of awesome murals, including the “greetings from Austin” and the “I Love You So Much” mural. Doing a self-guided mural tour is a great way to spend the afternoon and one of the fun free things to do in Austin.
Catch a Live Music Performance at Unplugged at the Grove
You can catch some great live music performances with Austin City Limits Radio at the Grove. For 23 consecutive week, they bring you live music that is has no cover charge.
Just a good time under the beautiful Texas sky is the reson this made our list of free things to do in Austin.
Dance the Night Away
Head to Barbarella to dance the night away for free. Voted the best place to dance in Austin, people come from all around to enjoy the dance party happening at Barbarella.
Enjoy the Contemporary Art Museum
The Contemporary Art Museum in Austin, often referred to as ‘The Cotemporary’, houses numerous works of art ready for you to enjoy. Visitors can enjoy the museum for free on Tuesdays, making it a great addition to the free things to do in Austin.
Attend a Festival
Austin has festivals year round and heading to one is one of the great free things to do in Austin. Austin’s festivals range from the Austin Lobster Festival to the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Just take note that not all festivals are free, so be sure to do your research before heading out.
Take a Self-Guided Studio Tour
Twice annually, visitors are invited to take a self-guided studio tour through either east or west Austin. Hosted by the non-profit organization, Big Medium, these self-guided tours allow the public to meet the artists of Austin in their creative spaces.
This is a great addition to your list of free things to do in Austin.
Zilker Hillside Theatre
Located in Zilker Park, across from Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Hillside Theatre has been putting on events, shows, and concerts for years. Be sure to check out their schedule to see what is playing during your visit to Austin.
Window Shop on South Congress
Southe Congress is a popular area in Austin for trendy shops. Don’t worry though, this can still be on your list of free things to do in Austin.
You are just going to window shop instead of spending money!
Check Out the Light Show at Liz Carpenter Fountain
Located in Butler Park, this large interactive fountain that is not only a great way to cool off while visiiting Austin, it also puts on a nightly show for you!
During the day you can jump and splash in the water to cool off, and then at night you can watch the fountain’s colorful light show.
Feed the Ducks
Head over to Lady Bird Lake and enjoy their great hiking and biking trails but before you go, don’t forget to grab some bread. You see, the bread is for you to feed the ducks that you are going to find at Lou Neff Point.
Not only do you get to feed the ducks, but this area also has an amazing view.
Go to a Star Party
If you are into astrology and the stars, then will love this suggestion. The University of Texas hosts star parties where participants are allowed to come and view the stars!
Times vary depending on the season, so be sure and check their schedule before going.
Visit the Austin Visitors Center and pick up one of the many brochures on the self-guided walks through Austin. They have everything from art to history to choose from. While you are there, why not inquir about the free walking tours that they sponsor as well.
See Tropical Fish
That’s right, you can see tropical fish for free when you visit Austin’s Aqua-Dome. If you look really closely behind the hot rod garage and other businesses on Fortview Road, you will see a dome-shaped building that looks as if it has been painted with mud.
This is the Aqua-Dome. Inside you will find rows and rows of tropical fish for your viewing pleasure.
Where to Stay in Austin
While you’re here, why not check out our post on all of the best places to stay in Austin. Each Austin neighborhood has it’s own vibe, so we have broken down the feel of each for you.
We have also included things to do and the best hotels in each area.
Final Thoughts on Free Things to do in Austin
Well, there you have it, our list of free things to do in Austin. Austin is truly a great Texas city to visit. It is so full of life and has such a unique, vibrant culture that you are sure to find somehing that appeals to you.
Please comment below and add more to our list of free things to do in Austin!
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.