101 Free Things To Do In Austin (2023!)
Austin, Texas isn't cheap, but there are still plenty of free things to do in Austin if you know where to look!
So if you love hunting for a deal and scoping out budget-friendly travel ideas, this post is for you. From music to festivals, to museum exhibits, concerts, free zoo events, guided tours, kid-friendly attractions, and parks…we’re loading up this guide with tons of FREE stuff!
There’s a huge number of free things to do in the Austin area. Even if you’re visiting with your fam and you’re on a pretty strict budget, you can definitely fill every day without spending too much money. (Austin is one of the most popular travel destinations for young people, and for good reason.)
Here’s our list of 100+ free things to do in Austin, Texas.
101 Free Things To Do In Austin
1. See the Austin bats! If you’re visiting in the summer, stop by the Congress Avenue Bridge and watch the largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge for their nightly feeding. It happens just before sunset, and you can view the Austin bats for free from the top of the Congress Ave bridge or below the bridge at the observation deck. Parking can be a bit tricky, so check out this guide to the Austin bats before you go to get all the details. It includes insider tips like the best places to eat near the bat bridge.
2. Go hiking! Here are 15 of the best hiking trails in Austin.
While Austin definitely doesn't have mountains (despite having a really famous spot called "Mount Bonnell"), Austin is on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, so there are some beautiful hikes that offer views for days.
Pro tip: autumn is the very best time to go hiking in Austin. If you can manage to get out on a weekday morning when the most popular trails aren't quite so packed, you're golden!
3. Visit the shops in South Congress. Even if you don’t want to spend any money, there’s some really great window shopping on this street.
SOCO is also home to tons of famous murals (like the iconic "I Love You So Much" mural on the side of Jo's Coffee and the "Willie For President" mural on the side of STAG clothing), so be sure to do some mural photo shoots, too. Bonus: it's another FREE thing to do in Austin, Texas!
4. If you’re in Austin in the summer months, you have to check out Blues On The Green! It’s a FREE concert series in Austin that happens every summer at Zilker Park.
Blues On The Green typically hosts concerts in June and July. Check out the ACL Radio website to see this year's BOTG schedule.
5. If you own a paddleboard, head out on the lake! It’s completely FREE FUN in Austin. You don't have to pay any sort of fees to use Lady Bird Lake, and there's even free parking in nearby streets and lots (depending on the day.)
6. Visit Austin Nature and Science Center with your kids. It’s a completely free experience!
The Nature and Science Center is an 80-acre park that has hands-on nature exhibits and experiences for kids and adults of all ages.
7. Wander a farmers market. The Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller is a great one. It happens every Sunday from 10 am - 2 pm.
Another awesome farmers market in Austin is the Sustainable Food Center (SFC) farmers market. Both of their Austin locations (downtown Austin and Sunset Valley at the Toney Burger Center) happen every Saturday morning.
8. If you love art museums, you can visit the Blanton Museum of Art every Thursday for FREE!
The Blanton is an impressive art Museum at the University of Texas at Austin. At nearly 190,000 square feet dedicated to art galleries and exhibitions, the Blanton is one of the largest art museums at a university in the entire country.
Here are some other fun museums in Austin, many of which have free days as well.
9. Visit Zilker Park. It’s a 350-acre park in the middle of Austin, Texas, with a beautiful view of the downtown Austin skyline. It’s totally free to visit!
Bring a soccer ball or a frisbee, a picnic lunch, or maybe a hammock for a nap, and enjoy this free Austin activity.
10. Hike to the top of Mount Bonnell and watch the sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunset in Austin, it’s very romantic, and it’s completely free (including free parking.)
11. Visit The Thinkery, an amazing kids' museum in Mueller.
Although there's typically a cost associated with admission, The Thinkery offers FREE community nights from 3-5 pm on Sundays.
12. Check out the splash pad at Pease Park.
They recently did a massive renovation to this super cool Central Austin park, and it’s a beautiful place to bring the family.
13. Go take a picture by the I Love You So Much mural on South Congress.
You can't get more "iconic Austin" than this mural, y'all!
14. Cool down and splash at the Liz Carpenter Fountain.
It has an awesome view of downtown Austin!
15. Wander through the flagship Whole Foods Market in downtown Austin.
You can walk through it for free, and you might score some free samples.
Regardless of the samples, it’s the original Whole Foods, and it’s pretty fun to see. Be sure to take a picture at the ATX sign outside.
16. Visit Austin's iconic Waterloo Records to catch free in-store performances by local musicians.
The performances typically start at 5 pm but check out Waterloo Records’ events page to check the schedule.
17. Swim at Barton Springs in the early hours for FREE!
Did you know that if you enter between 5-8 am, you don’t have to buy a pass?
This gorgeous spring-fed swimming pool in Austin is about 68 degrees year-round, so lots of athletes enjoy swimming for fitness in the early hours of the day before tourists overtake it in the afternoon.
18. Go on a bike ride. Relax and unwind as you ride your bike around the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in Downtown Austin.
The bike trail goes around the lake and offers an amazing view of the city skyline.
There are 10+ miles of trails, but you can completely customize your bike ride based on which bridge you choose to cross.
Don't have a bike? There are a bunch of great bike rental companies in Austin that have reasonable rates if you'd like to rent a bike for a few hours.
19. Visit the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. It’s a 227-acre nature preserve that was founded by 7 women in 1974 as Austin’s first nature preserve.
You can enjoy hiking, views, and even a small waterfall after the rainy season! (Don't expect to see too much water if you're visiting at the end of the summer...just FYI.)
20. Say hi to the beautiful peacocks at Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve. This beautiful park in central/west Austin is an oasis.
It's typically fairly quiet because it's just far enough away from downtown to not be in a touristy zone.
Mayfield Park has walking trails, a view of the lake, and, of course, a close-up view of the peacocks!
21. Enjoy a free live theater show from July to August at the Zilker Hillside Theatre.
It was founded in 1959 and offers a different FREE musical to the public every single summer. Check out the schedule here.
22. See a real Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center.
Located at the University of Texas, this awesome museum, library, and archive have all sorts of cool artifacts you can see. Admission is completely free.
23. The Texas Military Forces Museum. See old tanks, planes, and other war transportation in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
24. Take a tour of the Texas State Capitol building.
Tours are free, and you’ll learn a little bit of Texas history trivia knowledge. This is a very popular field trip activity for schools around Texas, so if you go on a weekday morning, you can expect to be joined by a few school buses full of kids.
25. Take a nice picture at the Greetings from Austin Mural.
It’s located on South First Street, not too far from South Congress Ave.
26. Go trail running in the amazing Barton Creek Greenbelt.
It’s a beautiful green space that runs through the middle of the city.
27. Kids 3 & under eat FREE at Salt Lick BBQ with the purchase of an adult family meal.
While Salt Lick isn't necessarily one of the very best bbq spots in Austin, it is pretty iconic and has a fun ambiance. And free bbq is free bbq, you know?
28. If you’re in Austin in July, be sure to go to the epic downtown Austin 4th of July party.
The Austin Symphony performs a free concert on the Long Center lawn, and fireworks explode over the lake.
It happens every single 4th of July. Plan on arriving early (parking is madness), and be sure to bring earplugs for any sensitive ears!
29. Tour the Governor's Mansion.
It’s about a 20-minute tour that you have to reserve a week in advance, but it’s totally FREE. See more details here.
30. Bring the kids to play at the $6 million Alliance Children's Garden. It’s a 2-acre park with a hill country garden, rock climbing wall, giant sand pit, cement slides, and more! (Psst: it’s right next to the Liz Carpenter Fountain if you need to cool off afterward.
31. Visit the Cathedral of Junk. You do have to call (yes, call...) ahead to set up a private tour, but if you can manage to make it happen, this is still one of the weirdest things in Austin.
(The Cathedral of Junk of actually in someone's backyard...hence having to call ahead for a private tour.)
32. Do a free self-guided walking tour from Preservation Austin. Explore various parts of Austin like the South Congress, historic Austin churches, and east Austin landmarks.
Click here to download your free map and tour guide.
33. Get your flow on! Waterloo Greenway offers all sorts of free yoga and fitness classes throughout the year.
The schedule changes based on the season, but check out their website to see what current events they have going on right now.
34. Get some free dance lessons at the White Horse in east Austin!
Learn how to swing, two-step, or dance the blues FOR FREE at this iconic Austin dance honky tonk. as you move your feet along to the music of live bands at White Horse.
35. Visit The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center every Thursday for free admission.
36. Attend the Pecan Street Festival for free music and art booths every fall.
Learn more about this iconic Austin festival here.
37. Saxon Pub offers FREE MUSIC most days. Check out their schedule.
38. Discover Latino arts every Sunday in Mexic-Arte Museum. They offer free admission, as well as free tours.
39. Stop by the Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue, one of the most iconic sculptures in Austin.
40. Walk around the University of Texas campus to experience some real Austin vibes.
41. Round up some friends and play a round of disc golf at Roy G Guerrero park in east Austin.
42. Play at Mueller Lake Park, an awesome park in east Austin with a pond, playground, walking trail, and ducks.
For more photos and information on this gorgeous green space in the middle of Austin, check out our guide to Mueller Lake Park here!
43. Listen to hundreds of live bands perform music during Free Week.
It happens in the Red River Cultural District every January!
44. Stop by the Elisabet Ney museum. It’s where the German artist created lots of her art in the 1800s, including a sculpture of Stephen F Austin.
Admission is completely free, although donations are accepted at the door.
45. For another free museum in Austin, go to FREE FIRST SUNDAY at the Bob Bullock museum. You and your family can explore the story of Texas through three floors of Texas history.
46. Attend the Sound and Cinema at The Long Center.
It’s a summer event with free films shown on the Long Center lawn.
47. Kids eat free at Central Market N Lamar every Tuesday evening.
Bonus: this grocery store has a fun outdoor playground!
48. Go lay in the giant hammock at Pease Park. This beautiful park in central Austin underwent a massive renovation a few years ago. It's one of the most instagrammable spots in Austin now!
49. Go hiking at River Place Nature Trail. There are lots of stairs and hills, so bring some water!
50. Go down the super fast cement slide at Waterloo Greenway.
51. Head to the top floor of the parking garage at the Long Center for an amazing view of the Austin skyline.
52. Go down the waterslide at Bartholomew Municipal pool!
53. The ABGB offers FREE CONCERTS almost every weekend. Check out their schedule.
Head to this award-winning Austin brewery, grab a pint of beer, and enjoy some free music on a Friday night.
Some of the best Austin vibes out there!
54. Hang out at the Austin Public Central Library. It’s located in downtown Austin and offers sweeping views of Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake. Time Magazine called it one of the World’s Greatest Places.
55. Attend one of the Longhorn Women’s Soccer matches. Admission is free!
56. Listen to some free jazz music.
If you love jazz music, The Elephant Room has no cover from Sunday - Wednesday.
You can check out their monthly calendar here.
57. Play at the newly renovated Circle C Metropolitan Park. Psst: they have an amazing frisbee golf course, too.
58. Check out the Leander Dinosaur Tracks It's not too far from Austin (about 30 miles north) and it's totally free!
59. Go on an Austin mural tour.
You've probably already seen a bunch of them in photos (I love you so much, Greetings from Austin, You're my butter half, etc.), but it's so much cooler to see these Austin murals irl!
60. Fareground is an epic food hall in downtown Austin, and they often have free events like yoga, live music, and masterclasses. Check out their event schedule here.
61. Head to storytime at your local Austin library branch.
62. Ride your bike on the Southern Walnut Creek bike trail.
63. Morning Glories is a weekly early childhood education series in Waterloo Park that offers hands-on play and learning on Tuesday mornings.
They have really fun events for toddlers, like painting, interactive music, fun book readings/signings, and more!
You can find the details on their events page.
64. Climb up the 360 Bridge overlook to watch the sunrise.
65. Do a workout with 50+ age group! If you're in the 50-and-older age group, head to the Stay Strong 50+ workout to move your body and meet some new friends!
66. Bring your pup to the off-leash park at Auditorium Shores and connect with other dog owners.
It’s located in the heart of Austin and has a beautiful view of downtown Austin.
67. Cool off at Big Stacy Neighborhood Pool. Admission is free!
68. If you're in Austin, you need to visit a good honky tonk! Here's a guide to all of the best honky tonks in Austin.
Little Longhorn Saloon has no cover charge and offers free music almost every night. |WEBSITE|
69. Go take a picture by the iconic El Arroyo sign.
70. Stop by the Texas Book Festival in the fall.
It’s a free annual book fest, and it’s one of the top book festivals in the United States. |WEBSITE|
72. Walk the Violet Crown trail. It’s the first regional trail system in central Texas and it’s great for long walks, bikes, or runs.
73. Visit the butterfly garden at Waterloo Greenway.
74. If you’re in Austin during the holiday season, attend the Zilker Tree Lighting.
It’s a really sweet little ceremony that kicks off the Trail of Lights holiday season.
The moonlight tower in Zilker Park is transformed into a giant Christmas tree that you can see all the way from Mopac.
75. Another fun (FREE) holiday event: the Blue Genie Arts Bazaar has free admission.
Wander around and see some of the fun, locally made gift ideas you can find in Austin.
77. If you love FREE OUTDOOR MUSIC in Austin, Meanwhile Brewing is one of the best places to enjoy the Austin outdoors and listen to some fun local bands perform.
78. Bluebonnet pictures! Visiting Austin in the spring? Take a photo with the beautiful Texas bluebonnets.
You can truly find them all over the city. But if you're looking for the best and densest fields of bluebonnets, here are some of the best places to take bluebonnet pictures in Austin.
79. Check out an Austin pumpkin patch! Visiting Austin in the fall? Head to a fun pumpkin patch!
The Tarrytown United Methodist Church has a free one where you can wander and snap photos at no cost, and then purchase pumpkins to take home.
80. Pack a picnic and enjoy it at Auditorium Shores. It’s a beautiful place at dusk!
81. Head out to Sweet Berry Farm at any time of the year!
Admission is free and you can purchase the things you want to pick (flowers, berries) or experience (hay rides, mazes, etc.)
82. Kids eat for free at Kerbey Lane on Tuesdays!
Just purchase an adult entree, and kids 12 and under can eat free. Must be 12 & under.
83. Head just north of Austin to the Quarry Splash Pad.
It’s an absolutely epic place for kids to cool off in the summer months!
84. Window shop at The Domain NORTHSIDE. It’s where you can find the best of the best shopping.
85. Take a photo at the iconic “You’re My Butter Half” mural.
86. Go to the rooftop garden at the Central Austin Library and take a photo of the view.
From this rooftop garden, you can take in views of the lake, South Austin, and glimpses of the Austin downtown skyline.
87. Head to the free part of Barton Springs.
Just a few feet north of the pool, on the other side of the fence, you can jump in the water for free!
It’s always busy with families (including kids and dogs) splashing around in the summer months for a $0 entry fee.
88. Go to the Round Rock Chalk Walk Arts Festival. |WEBSITE|
89. See some east Austin street art.
Walk up and down the streets of East Cesar Chavez or East 6th Street and search for hidden street art.
90. Austin Museum Day happens every September!
You get free access to many free Austin museums.
91. Head to the amazing splash fountains at Lakewood Park in Leander.
92. Go to the Wildflower Center for free!
Every July 23 is Lady Bird Day when you can get FREE admission to the Wildflower Center.
93. Play in the giant tree house at Katherine Fleischer Park.
94. Hike Enchanted Rock.
95. Wander through Book People. It's the largest independent bookstore in Texas.
They have story time on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings!
96. Go to Secret Beach in east Austin (park at Roy G Guerrero Park to find it.)
97. Go on a family bike ride in South Austin.
Load up your fam and your bikes in the car and bring everyone to The Veloway.
It’s a 3-mile loop that’s great for the whole family.
98. Head to the epic splash park at the new City Park in Buda.
99. Go to the GIANT slide at Walnut Creek Park.
100. Kids eat free at Modern Market every Sunday and Monday after 5 pm! Just purchase an adult entree.
101. Volunteer at the Cap10K (Texas’ largest 10k race!) to hand out water or other race-related tasks.
It’s a great way to watch the running crowd, experience Austin, and cheer on your community.
PS: looking for some fun stuff to do in San Antonio? Check out our sister site, TheSanAntonioThings.com!
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