Austin, Texas is a beautiful city to visit in the Southwest. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, there are many activities to do and sites to see in the city. For instance, hundreds of people head to Austin every year to attend the famous and prestigious SXSW Film Festival. But if your budget is limited and you’re looking for free things to do in the city, you’ve come to the right place. Here are nine free things to do in Austin, Texas that will surely make your visit fun and worthwhile…
- Free Things to Do in Austin, Texas
- 1. Tour the State Capitol
- 2 . Chill out at Barton Springs
- 3. Get lost in the Blanton Museum of Art
- 4. Walk across the Congress Avenue Bridge
- 5. Get artsy at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery
- 6. Play on Lady Bird Lake
- 7. Hang out at Mayfield Park
- 8. Hike up Mount Bonnell
- 9. Relax at Zilker Park
Free Things to Do in Austin, Texas
1. Tour the State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol, or simply The Capitol, is located in downtown Austin. Built in 1882, the construction of this historic building took six years to complete.
The Capitol is the best place to learn about the state’s history. There are free 30-minute tours conducted at the Capitol every day that you can join. And even if you’re not a history lover, you should still visit the Capitol and enjoy this beautiful architectural point of interest. Lounge at the park, sit at a bench, or take a walk around the building – and take lots of pictures!
2 . Chill out at Barton Springs
Barton Springs is a three-hectare municipal pool in Austin. It was named after William Barton, the first known private owner of the property after the city was incorporated in the 1830s.
Its last private owner, Andrew Zilker, transferred the deed to the city in 1918. Two years later, the city began to create a bigger pool in the property by damming the springs, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that the current municipal pool was constructed. You can take a dip at Barton Springs free of charge from 5AM to 8AM and 9PM to 10PM daily. But if you want to swim between 8AM to 9PM, there is a small admission fee, from $2 to $5 for residents and $4 to $9 for non-residents.
3. Get lost in the Blanton Museum of Art
Are you a University of Texas faculty, student, or staff? A K-12 teacher? A child under 12 years old? Maybe you’re currently serving in the military or a veteran? If you qualify under these categories, then you can visit the Blanton Museum of Art any day of the week without an admission fee.
Or, if you don’t fit in any of these categories, just go here on a Thursday when everyone can enter the museum for free! It is located within the University of Texas at Austin and is open until 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday. You can see 18,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient Greek pottery to modern sculptures and paintings.
4. Walk across the Congress Avenue Bridge
The Congress Avenue Bridge, now named the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, is a popular Halloween destination in Austin, Texas. Why? Because hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats fly out in the evening between March to November, which earned the name “bat season” in Austin.
People love heading to the bridge at sunset to take pictures in their Halloween costumes with hundreds of bats flying behind them. It’s the perfect spot to take spooky pictures during the spookiest time of the year. And even if you’re in Austin during non-bat season, the Congress Avenue Bridge still offers a spectacular view of Lady Bird Lake, the city skyline, and the sunset.
5. Get artsy at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery
An abandoned construction project turned to an outdoor gallery for graffiti artists, HOPE Outdoor Gallery was a unique art spot that embraced creativity, camaraderie, and community.
The site used to be in Baylor Street, but a developer bought the property in 2017, forcing the famous gallery to close officially in January 2019. But HOPE has good news for its fans – it will be moving to a new location next to Carson Creek Ranch. In addition, SubVRsive, an Austin-based tech company, has made the original Baylor Street location eternal by transporting its graffiti art into virtual and augmented reality.
You can still experience the first HOPE Outdoor Gallery when you visit Baylor Street by using your mobile device.
6. Play on Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a river-like reservoir in Austin, Texas. It’s a beautiful area to visit, take a stroll, or jog around in. When you’re by the lakeside, you’ll have a great view of the Austin city skyline. It’s also the perfect spot to watch Mexican free-tailed bats during bat season.
People have free access to the water to go stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing. If you don’t have the equipment for these activities, there are boat rentals available around Lady Bird Lake. River cruises during lunch and dinner hours for small and large groups are also available via Capital Cruises or Lone Star Riverboats.
7. Hang out at Mayfield Park
Mayfield Park is a public park in the city of Austin that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It used to be a private estate, but it was presented to the local government in 1971 by Mary Mayfield Gutsch. Since then, the two-acre park has been open for the public to enjoy.
Here you can see a historic cottage, colorful flower gardens, thick forests of trees, vibrant peacocks, and other natural sights of beauty. The park is also surrounded by 21 hectares of untouched and undisturbed nature where you can find walking trails and local wildlife.
8. Hike up Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is home to Covert Park, a 5.1-acre historic linear park that overlooks part of the city and the eastern shore of Lake Austin. Native American tribes used to live in the area, but it is now a popular spot for hiking.
9. Relax at Zilker Park
Last on this list is Zilker Park, also known as Zilker Botanical Gardens, a beautiful park that looks like it came out of a children’s storybook. Trees provide enough shade so you can take a leisurely stroll around the park to appreciate the flowers and picturesque scenery.
These nine sites in Austin, Texas provide you with a long list of free things that you can enjoy while in the city. For history nuts, art enthusiasts, nature lovers, and everyone in between, there are more than enough activities to fill your day in Austin.