4 Free Things to Do in Austin, Texas
Put away your wallet, because Austin, Texas has a wealth of free activities for outdoors enthusiasts, political junkies, and lovers of art and culture.
Austin, Texas has one of the widest ranges of free things to do in any U.S. city. There’s something fun and free for everyone. So, strap on some cowboy boots and explore historical sites, political attractions, artistic events, the outdoors, and so much more.The next time you pack up a wheeled suitcase or backpack to visit the most exciting city in Texas, keep these cost-free, fun things to do in mind.
Watch the Nightly Bat Show
From March to November, witness an unusual sight. Every night at dusk, up to 1.5 million(!) Mexican, free-tailed bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge downtown. Join the many onlookers who gather to see the nation’s largest urban bat colony. Have your camera ready, because the bats form swarming black clouds in the sky as they begin their evening search for insects.
Explore Texas Political History
If you're a political junkie, take a self-guided tour of the State Capitol building—an impressive structure that’s even taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Another idea: Book a free, guided tour, of the Governor’s Mansion. Tours are held Wednesday through Friday, and advance reservations are required. Meanwhile, admission to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, which normally costs $8, is free on various holidays throughout the year.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
With a nature preserve, a natural spring-fed pool, a popular botanical garden, a sculpture garden, and a theater for concerts and plays, the 351-acre Zilker Park is a can’t-miss free attraction for those who are into the outdoors. Zilker Park is also the start of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, an 8-mile (13-kilometer) recreational landscape. Grab a backpack and head to the greenbelt to bike, hike, swim, or climb limestone cliffs.
Across town sits Mount Bonnell, one of the highest points in the city. Many Austin visitors make the short hike to its 780-foot (238-meter) summit, which provides beautiful views of the area and is one of the most fun things to do in the city.
Get Your Fix of Culture
Austin, Texas owns a well-deserved reputation as one of the best live music cities in America, so it should come as no surprise that the city has free concerts throughout the year, including dozens of small shows every March during SXSW and ensemble concerts by the Austin Symphony on summer Sundays.
The Austin Parks Foundation hosts free outdoor movies all year long in Republic Square Park. Other free cultural attractions in Austin, Texas include the O. Henry Museum (a site dedicated to the literary giant) and the Mexic-Arte Museum, which is free every Sunday and for the entire month of December.
The Blanton Museum of Art, located on the University of Texas campus, offers free admission every Thursday. The museum boasts an impressive of array of European, American, and Latin American art, ranging from classic to contemporary, plus rotating temporary exhibits. The museum also boasts Austin, the only building ever designed by the artist Ellsworth Kelly. The unique 2,715 square foot sculptural space boasts colorful stained glass, a totemic wooden sculpture, and 14 marble panels.
What free activities have you done—or want to do—in Austin? Share your favorites below!
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By Scott Shelter on February 22, 2019
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, offbeat destinations, urban adventures, and everything in between. He blogs about his travels at http://quirkytravelguy.com.