30 Fun & Free Things to Do in Austin

Austin Riverside ducks in sun

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Looking for free things to do in Austin, Texas? This guide shares the best free attractions to get the most out of this hip city without breaking the bank.

Whether you are a visitor on a budget or a local looking for something cheap to do, our article explores affordable options without skimping on fun.

If you are on a tight budget but would still like to experience Austin’s art galleries, plan your trip to include a Thursday! We’ll explain why below…

You might also like our food guide to ATX and our article on unique things to do.

Things to Do for Free in Austin

Since this Texan city enjoys lots of warm summer weather, let’s look at free stuff to do via Austin outdoor activities.

This section includes walks, parks, and water sports.

Free Outdoor Things to Do in Austin

Enjoy Zilker Park All Year Round

The jewel in the heart of Austin, Zilker Park, is a 351-acre space at the juncture of Barton Creek and the Colorado River.

Stone block with Zilker Park on it in Austin Texas

Locals spend sunny days lazing around on the grass with friends, walking their dogs, or getting into the water, which we’ll discuss in the next free Austin activity.

In winter, a 155ft string of lights decorates the park during the Trail of Lights!

There are a handful of restaurants, such as Chuy’s and Green Mesquite, near the park at Barton Springs Road if you get peckish.

Austin Christmas Trail of Lights

Hike Barton Springs Greenbelt

Starting in Zilker Park, you can walk the 7 miles of trails, which also offer biking, climbing, and swimming opportunities.

Perfect for those who like the outdoors and nature.

Twin Falls is a popular part of the trail, a rocky route ending in natural water.

There are no restrooms, so prepare before you set off.

Sunbathe and Swim at Barton Springs

Inside Zilker Park is the free swimming area, Barton Springs.

The official 1000-foot-long pool has a cover fee, but just outside is another area where you can swim for free.

The water is pretty cold, so get ready for cool temps!

Barton Springs sunbathing blue skies

Lady Bird Lake and The Boardwalk

Along Lady Bird Lake is the official city ‘Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail’ and Boardwalk.

This well-used path sees footfall from walkers, joggers, and pedal bikes.

E-bikes are not allowed on the Boardwalk.

Views include the large stretch of water, bridges, and the Austin Downtown skyline.


Lou Neff Point at Lady Bird Lake is where we got married.

It’s a free wedding location!

Lou Neff Point, Ladybird Lake, Austin kayaks skyline

Enjoy Art at Pease Park

Austin is an arty city, but it isn’t just about its street art murals.

Pease Park (1100 Kingsbury St) is a free, 84-acre green space with huge art installations.

The trails, volleyball court, and tennis facilities make it a decent option for outdoor sports fans, and kids enjoy the play park and splash pad.

Dog-Friendly St Edward’s Park

St Edward’s 80-acre park features over 4 miles of trails that lead to Bull Creek.

The park has dog-friendly trails.

Mount Bonnell at Sunset

Enjoying the sunset over the city is one of the best free things to do in Austin that costs absolutely nothing.

Mount Bonnel is a super sought-after spot with views across the Colorado River and Hill Country.

At 775ft above sea level, it is the highest point within Austin City Limits.

You have to walk up just over 100 steps to get to the viewpoint.

A free car park is available at the base of Mount Bonnell.

A dreamy date night idea.

Mount Bonnell. Austin. Sunset.

Bats at South Congress Bridge

Did you know that Austin sees a mass exodus of flying bats every evening at sunset from mid-spring?

Thousands of free-tailed bats fly from under South Congress Bridge located over Lady Bird Lake!

Check the best times to see the bats via Austin Bat Refuge.

One of the free things to do in Downtown Austin that most tourists enjoy.

Congress Avenue Bridge bats. Austin. Sunset with crowds

360 Bridge Overlook

The 360 Bridge, also known as the Percy V. Pennybacker Jr. Bridge, is a popular place for photographers.

To get the best shot on the bridge, park your car on the northwest side and take the very short hike to the viewpoint.

Check out our guide to Austin’s best photo spots for more photography tips.

360 Bridge Austin. Over river.

Free Yoga in Austin

Several yoga classes run throughout the year.

Some meet in parks, others are indoors.

These yoga classes are often free, acting as a taster session for future events.

Some yoga classes also include meditation and a mimosa meet-up!

Watch Eventbrite or Facebook communities for the latest free yoga sessions.

Free Live Music in Austin Outdoors

Have you even been to Austin if you didn’t listen to live music?

Austin is the world’s live music capital, and there are a whole host of outdoor venues, including Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden (79 Rainey St), Cheer Up Charlies, and Lazarus Brewing Co (1902 E 6th St).

The Only Truth Is Music Motel Austin

Rainey Street Historic District

Rainey Street is an interesting stretch of buildings built before or around the 1930s, which have caused a fair amount of conflict with locals.

The area once housed residents in its historic homes, but now it is a mix of gentrified bars and shiny, towering hotels.

This is a lively street at the weekend and during city events.

There’s a nice mix of food here, including BBQ, Mexican, and food trucks.

Dirty 6th

You have to see 6th to believe it.

A main street lined with bars, bars, and more bars (and the occasional pizza shop) makes up this high-energy area.

Sticky floors, rooftop bars, and lit-up retro signs – Dirty 6th tends to be avoided by locals but is something first-time visitors should see for themselves.

Dirty 6th from second floor bar Austin


South Congress is another famous street and neighborhood you’ll want to devote an hour of wandering to.

This upmarket street is a stark contrast to the dingier Dirty 6th!

Dotted along SoCo, you’ll find brunch spots like South Congress Cafe for biscuits, cowboy boots shops like Allens, and take-out ice cream at Big Top Candy Store.

Allens Boots red sign with blue skies South Congress Austin

While you’ll need a little pocket money to enjoy SoCo, you can get by not spending a penny if you are there just to people-watch as you walk down it.

Look out for the topless dude on a horse.

SoCo is where you will find the popular ‘I Love You So Much’ wall.

Austin South Congress

I Love You So Much Wall & Other Street Art Murals

As mentioned above, the ‘I Love You So Much’ wall is located on the South Congress and is one of the many murals in the city.

The story has it that the owner of this shop split with her partner, and they wanted to show some love on a wall.

The ‘I Hate You So Much’ wall used to be at Bungalow Bar, 92 Rainey Street before it closed down.

I love you so much Austin mural

Greetings from Austin Postcard

If you’ve spent time in any US city, you will be familiar with the ‘Greetings From’ murals.

Austin’s is located at 1720 S 1st St, which is a little out of the way compared to other unplanned murals you will stumble across.

Greetings from Austin Postcard Mural

You’re My Butter Half

‘You’re My Butter Half’ is really popular with couples doing engagement shoots!

It has also been made into many Austin souvenirs, such as postcards and house decor.

The mural can be found at United Way for Greater Austin (2000 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd) and was part of a rebranding strategy for the community organization in 2012.

It is a little out of the way, so you may need a car to get there.

We discuss more of ATX’s murals in our photography locations guide as they make Austin a very photogenic city!

Free Indoor Things to do in Austin

If it’s raining, cold, or the sun is too strong, you will want to plan fun things to do in Austin for free that are inside or under a cover!

Texas State Capitol Building

Texas State Capital is a very attractive building located at 1100 Congress Ave.

It is located on 22 acres of land, and are 17 monuments dotted around the Capitol!

If you want to learn more about its architecture, you can join the free guided 30-minute tour.

If you like history, continue reading for more free attractions in Austin that explain more about the city and the state.

LBJ Presidential Library

If you are a student under 12 years old or your name features the word ‘Lyndon’, then you can visit the LBJ Presidential Library (2313 Red River St) for free!

You can still visit for a small entry fee if you don’t meet these criteria.

This historically significant Austin museum shares the story of the 36th President of the United States (1963-1969), Lyndon B. Johnson, and his wife, Lady Bird, Claudia Alta Taylor, Johnson.

Pick up your free “I Vote” enamel pin on August 6 to celebrate President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act 1965!

Bullock Museum

The state’s official history museum, the Bullock Museum (1800 Congress Ave), has three floors of exhibition galleries, IMAX® Theater, Texas Spirit Theater, Story of Texas Cafe, and Bullock Museum Store.

While there is an admission fee for most areas, you can enjoy free entry to exhibitions on the first Sunday of every month and every year on July 10th for Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock’s birthday.

One of the free things to do in Austin with family.

Blanton Museum of Art

Enjoy the exhibitions at Blanton Museum in Austin (200 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd) for free every Thursday!

Here, you can look at the permanent collection by American painter, sculptor, and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly and temporary and seasonal exhibitions.

The Contemporary Austin

The Contemporary Austin has two locations, the Jones Center Downtown and Laguna Park, which are free on Thursdays.

The Jones Center offers temporary exhibitions throughout its 8,000 square feet of museum space, including the rooftop deck—the Moody Rooftop.

The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria exhibits permanent outdoor art installations.

Free Days in Austin

Some of the Austin museums, such as the J Presidential Library, offer free admission on the following holidays:

  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Explore UT
  • Juneteenth (June 19)
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • August 27 (LBJ’s birthday)
  • Austin Museum Day
  • Veterans’ Day

Cheap Things to Do in Austin

Some activities are worth paying for if they save time or tap into local knowledge!

Check out the inexpensive things to do in Austin and book your ticket.

Austin: City and Hill Country 90-Minute Tour

Discover over 50 points of interest and their stories told by a local guide during this tour.

See the major sights of Austin, East Austin, and some of the beautiful Hill Country.

Tour operates via a 4-passenger Mercedes-Benz sprinter.

You may also like our Austin to Big Bend road trip itinerary.

Ghost Tour and Pub Crawl

A cheap thing to do in Austin at night if you are traveling alone or would like some company is to join this pub crawl, which also talks about the ghosts in Austin!

Vibrancy Guitar Austin Texas

Free Things to Do in Austin in Winter

While most people visit Austin when it begins to thaw out from March onwards, there are still plenty of things to do around Christmas.

Zilker Trail of Lights and Tree 

As mentioned above, there is a light installation show at Zilker Park, which is free to enter.

Minor Mishap’s Winter Solstice Lantern Parade

Follow the 25-piece renegade brass band as they put on a mobile show along the banks of Austin’s Lady Bird Lake in December.

Chuy’s Holiday Parade Downtown

The popular Tex-Mex joint Chuy’s hosts Austin’s annual holiday parade.

Expect school marching bands, festive decor, and maybe a visit from the big man himself.

Find out more about Austin at Christmas here.

Guitars lit up in dark

Free Events and Festivals in Austin

Pecan Street Festival

Pecan Street Festival is a free street food event in the Sixth Street Historic District.

Visitors can gorge on food from local vendors, listen to live music, and pick up crafts from artists.

The street festival occurs twice during the year, once in spring and again in fall.

Honk! TX

Ready to get loud?

For one weekend, community street bands from all genres meet up to blow their horns and bang some drums during Honk! TX.

There’s a mix of indoor and outdoor events during the three days of the festival.

SXSW Festival

If you are a big music fan, South By Southwest has to be on your bucket list.

This 10-day music, film, and interactive festival takes over the city, and many of the events can be attended without a badge if you have a little patience and can do some planning beforehand.

While there are many shows in bars and venue spaces, the free activities don’t just center around music, so you can hear speakers and eat for free.

Most locals leave the city when SX kicks off as it becomes rammed with instruments, session leaders, and party people!

If you want to learn more, read our guide to SXSW for free and where to stay for SX.

Affordable Accommodation in Austin

For those on a budget, check out the Days Inn, which has rooms under $100 in summer.

Alternatively, consider this 2-bed apartment in East Austin.

Or if you don’t mind sharing space, Firewater Hostel in Downtown is one of your cheapest options.

River Cruise in Austin Boat Buildings Bridge

How to Get Around Austin on a Budget

The cheapest way to get around Austin is by foot.

The streets are organized in blocks, so getting around is pretty easy.

You’ll find e-bikes and scooters all over the city.

If you want to get a location quickly, you can just use the app to fire up the device and pedal away, leaving the bike or scooter at your end destination.

Uber and Lyft operate in Austin, so you can use those apps to book a taxi.

Alternatively, consider the bus system, CapMetro, which operates from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Man on horse South Congress buildings

Have we missed any free tourist attractions in Austin? Tell us in the comments below.

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