Austin is a busy and growing city with so much to offer. While there is so much to do here, much of it costs at least some money. If you are tired of paying for entrance fees and tickets for activities, read this list to learn about some of the most fun things you can do in Austin without spending a dime.
This 21-acre park in the Barton Springs area is open year-round and free to visit. There are multiple themed gardens, such as a romantic rose garden, butterfly garden, and Japanese garden complete with a koi pond. There is also a prehistoric garden; dinosaurs actually once roamed this area, so there is a life-sized dinosaur statue and plans from the Crustaceous period.
Each year, anywhere from 750,000 to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Austin, usually in March or April. They stay in Austin until early fall, and are the largest urban bat colony in North America. When in Austin, they camp out under downtown’s Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge. You can stand on the bridge at dusk and watch the bats emerge like a black cloud as they search for insects for dinner.
3. Mount BonnellMt. Bonnell has been a major attraction in Austin since the 1850s. This scenic overlook is the highest point in the Austin City Limits. It requires a climb up many steps, but once you get to the top, the view over Lake Austin is stunning. You can also see downtown and the 360 bridge from up here. It is a very romantic spot, perfect for a date night or picnic. There is no entry fee. There is a legend that Mount Bonnell was once called Antoinette's Leap, named after a woman who leaped to her death to escape being captured by Native Americans who had just killed her lover.
Emily Starbuck Gerson
Wander about this historic college campus for a fun and free activity. You can see the University of Texas tower, which was made famous for the 1966 shootings but remains a proud symbol of the university. Enjoy the majestic Littlefield Fountain. Check out the behemoth football stadium. You can also go into the Harry Ransom Center for free, which holds many of the world’s prized possessions; upon walking in, you can take a look at the world’s first photograph and an authentic copy of the Gutenberg bible. You can also enter the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, which is free and features many historical and cultural exhibits. Also on campus is the free Texas Memorial Museum, which includes real dinosaur tracks.
Emily Starbuck Gerson
Austin is not only the home of the University of Texas, but the Texas State Capitol Building. The Capitol grounds span 22 acres and feature historical buildings, 17 monuments, and beautifully landscaped lawns in addition to the Capitol building itself. It is free to explore the grounds, which are great for picnics or fun photo opps. All guided tours of the Capitol building are completely free. Come see where Texas history was made and continues to be made each day!
Blues on the Green is Austin’s largest free concert series. The concerts are hosted by 107.1 KGSR and occur each year from June through August, every other week. Blues on the Green is usually in Zilker Park, but due to construction, 2009’s concert series is held in Waterloo Park. Blues on the Green features beloved local musicians such as Marcia Ball, Los Lonely Boys, and Jimmie Vaughan. Bring out blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy free music on summer nights!
Usually held from May through August, this annual summer music event is another great way to spend summer nights. Each Sunday evening, a free concert is held in the Hartman Concert Park in front of the Long Center City Terrace. Each week, a different ensemble of the Austin Symphony performs here. They play everything from classical to pops to jazz to film scores. You are encouraged to bring a blanket and make it a picnic.
If you love being outdoors, you will love exploring the Barton Creek Greenbelt, which consists of 809 acres of land. It is near downtown but offers a secluded escape from the city. The Greenbelt has dozens of hiking and biking trails at a variety of levels, and there are several natural swimming holes. Some people also use the limestone cliffs for rock climbing. Dogs are welcome. Best of all, enjoying the Greenbelt is entirely free.
The Austin Parks Foundation often holds free movie nights in Republic Square Park, which is located in the middle of downtown Austin. The movies are projected on a huge outdoor screen, and attendees sit out on the grass lawn to watch. Dogs, lawn chairs, and picnic tables are allowed, though alcohol is not. The movies start at dusk.