Mckinney Falls State Park
5808 McKinney Falls PkwyAustin, TX 78744 243-1643
Why Youve Got to Go: The falls are a great way to spend late summer days. McKinney Falls is located near central Austin and though the creek may be dry for a large part of the year because of drought, there is a pool at the end of the hiking trail that offers some respite from the Texan heat.
What to Do: Pack a hiking bag full of refreshments, first aid, and water and choose a hike based on the level of difficulty you and the family can navigate.
For: Ages 6 and up
Cedar Creek, TX 78612 321-6262
Why Youve Got to Go: Very few kids go through their childhood without a fascination for dinosaurs and what that world was like. Dinosaur Park is the perfect place to encourage these curiosities.
What to Do: Enjoy the life-size dinosaur replicas at this park. There is a path lined with replicas that also follow an educational trajectory. I think younger kids may even enjoy digging for dinosaur bones and frolicking in the playground.
For: For all ages
Recommended Hotel Nearby:Archer Hotel Austin
Get In The Festive Spirit At The Carpenter Hotel
The Carpenter Hotel is hosting their third annual Holiday Happening, a bazaar and celebration to kick off the winter season. Spend Saturday afternoon exploring the holiday market, which includes homemade goods from local vendors, a pop-up vinyl shop, games, live music from Honky Tonk Amnesia, boozy hot chocolate, and more. Rumor has it you could even win a free nights stay at the hotel
Get A Sugar Hit At Big Top Candy Shop
If youre looking for a sugar hit in Austin, head to Big Top Candy Shop. This sweet shop is circus themed and also sells ice cream and floats. Its a great idea for things to do in Austin with kids as there are some super unique things in this Austin store.
I mean this isnt a dinner stop, but its one of the most unique places to eat in Austin thats for sure.
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Hike To The Top Of Mount Bonnell
Outdoor lovers will find the view from the top of the citys highest point, Mount Bonnell, just breathtaking! Gaze out over the top of the hill overlooking picturesque Lake Austin for 360-degree views of the entire city and surrounding area.
Officially called Covert Park, the entrance to the limestone staircase is located in a small residential neighborhood with free parking for hikers. Stairs with handrails have been installed along the trail to guide hikers through the steepest areas. Plus, the 102 steps are relatively easy to ascend, even for the most novice of hikers.
Though the 775-foot trek sounds long, the entire hike is actually only about a third of a mile long, putting you a whopping 775 feet above sea level on top of the limestone-specked hill.
Hike later in the day to catch a gorgeous sunset and snap a few breathtaking photos of the Hill Country landscape. From the top, you can view the famous arches of the Pennybacker Bridge and a portion of the Colorado River.
Tour The Texas State Capitol Building
Take a guided tour of the Texas State Capitol building to learn all about the interworkings of the Texas government. Hear snippets of rich Texas history while you take in the stunning architecture of the Capitol dome, spiral staircases, senate chamber skylight, and more.
Tours depart every 20 to 30 minutes, but you can also take a self-guided tour to explore the various halls and rooms within the building. See where the Texas Supreme Court takes place, explore the Governors public reception area, peek inside the Secretary of States office, and take a look at the Legislative Reference Library.
Take a look at some of the notable artifacts and paintings on display in the Capitols artifacts, documents, and artwork galleries. Also located inside of the Capitol is the Texas Agricultural Museum, where you can browse displays filled with products grown in the state and information about the history of agriculture in Texas.
Stand on the star in the direct center of the buildings rotunda and whisper something while looking directly up at the star on the top of the ceiling above you. Its so much fun to hear whatever you whisper echoed back to you!
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Toy Joy Store Austin Texas
Toy Joy Store is one of Austin’s top family attractions, named as one of the top independent toy stores in the world by USA Today and Travel and Leisure magazine. The store was originally opened in 1987 and moved from its original University of Texas district location to a new location in the city’s downtown on 2nd Street in 2013. The store is open to the public every day of the year with the exception of major national holidays and stocks a unique collection of eclectic and nostalgic toys and gifts. While the store is a family-friendly favorite, adult visitors will also find much to enjoy, with collectibles and items stocked for both children and kids at heart. Since 2014, the store has been a part of the Wild About Music retail group and has increased its stock of collectible items.
403 W 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701, Phone: 512-320-0090
Watch A Movie At The Alamo Drafthouse
The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin is the place to watch a film. We watched Trainspotting 2 here and loved the atmosphere. You can get dinner and drinks delivered to your seat so its even better than movie night at home.
Top tip: Weird Wednesday at The Ritz location shows movies too outrageous for prime time.
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Hear Live Music On 6th Street
Another cant-miss spot in Austin is 6th Street. Hear up-and-coming artists sing in bluesy dive bars and let street performers keep you entertained as you stroll down the historic street.
The area has been a mainstay of the citys music scene since the 1970s, thanks in large part to the efforts of the National Register of Historic Places to preserve the area. At night, the street closes to motor vehicle traffic, which makes it feel a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans!
The Red River Entertainment district is the part of 6th Street best known to have live music flooding out of every open door you pass. You can also catch a live comedy performance at Esthers Follies or The Hideout Theatre. Then, head to Petes Dueling Piano Bar to hear piano artists battle for the mic.
You can absolutely sip on a cocktail at one of 6th Streets many dive bars, but if youre looking for something a little more upscale, head to East 6th Street, where youll find trendier bars like Whislers with craft cocktails and an upscale mezcal bar on its top floor.
Hike In Mckinney Falls State Park
Venture about 10 miles south of downtown Austin and youll reach a natural oasis of cypress-tree lined creeks and waterfalls cascading over limestone ledges. Congratulations, youve found McKinney Falls State Park. Explore the sprawling parks nine miles of hiking and biking trails, go bouldering on limestone outcroppings, and snap a few photos of the famous waterfalls. Fishing, birding, and camping are popular things to do in the park as well, so dont forget your gear.
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Cheap & Free Things To Do In Austin
With a world-famous live music scene, beautiful parks and natural areas, and a wealth of bars and restaurants, Austin truly has something for everyone. There are more things to do in Austin than you can imagine, including a plethora of options that wont impact your pocketbook. Jog along an urban riverside trail, swim in a massive spring-fed pool, take in stunning graffiti art, and enjoy the view from the highest elevation in town. These are just a few of the cheap and free things to do in Austin that you can experience while youre in the capital of the Lone Star State. Plan your trip to Austin by checking out these cant-miss Austin activities.
Cruise Out To Hill Country For Beer And Barbecue
Hill CountryWhen you grow tired of the urban landscape, refresh your spirits with a trip out to Hill Country. It may only be 45 minutes away, but the mesmerizing vistas and dramatic sunsets will make you instantly forget all those emails you have sitting in your inbox. Start by making a reservation at Jester King Brewery, where you can sip on their section of sour beers in the breezy, crisp sunshine. Then grab dinner at nearby Salt Lick, where the legendary barbecue constantly ranks as one of the countrys very very best.
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Get Into The Holiday Spirit With Twinkling Light Displays Broadway Blockbusters And More
While it may never exactly be a Silent Night over here in the Live Music Capital, theres something about Austin from mid-November onwards that seems surprisingly peaceful. It might be because the college kids have gone home for winter break, or because the constant onslaught of music festivals finally slows to a stop, or maybe its just that the goodwill-towards-all spirit takes over the city. Tranquil atmosphere notwithstanding, Austin is still buzzing under the surface with activities. From both festive and aesthetically pleasing light displays to the most in-demand musicals to the usual Texan creature comforts , the citys pace might be restful, but you dont have to be.
Cure Your Need For Speed At Cota
Buckle up: the MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas is about to take off at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend. Watch as some of the fastest bikes in the world compete during the premiere motorcycle racing series only North American stop. Purchase tickets to the three-day event here. Friday-Sunday, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
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The Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol is Texas’ official seat of government, housing the state’s legislature and the offices of the Governor of Texas. The capitol building was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed between 1882 and 1888, with substantial additions and renovations added to the complex in 1993. Since 1986, it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, recognized as the sixth-tallest state capitol building in the United States at a height of over 302 feet. Self-guided tours of the capitol building are permitted seven days a week throughout the day for visitors of all ages, with self-guided tour materials available in eight languages for exploration of the building and its grounds. Docent-led tours are also offered seven days a week at specific times throughout the morning and afternoon hours, departing approximately every 45 minutes and lasting approximately half an hour. Themed tours available at select times throughout the year include a Women in Texas History Tour, an African-American Trailblazing Texas Tour, and a Holiday Capitol Tour in December.
1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: 512-463-4630
Jam Out At Austin City Limits
If you happen to be in Austin during ACL but for ACL, good luck. This is the biggest music festival that brings people from all over the world on two consecutive three-day weekends Oct. 6-8 & Oct. 13-15, 2017. If youre not here for ACL, avoid Zilker Park at all costs. If you want to check out, you can usually buy a wristband from someone at the entrance.
If you want to experience live music, visit Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater.
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Watch The Bats Fly Out From The Congress Bridge
Wondering why there are hundreds of people standing at Congress Bridge at sunset? Over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge almost every night. Austin has the largest urban bat colony! Its a pretty incredible sight to watch the bat colony fly out thats worth standing for.
Walk over to the Mexic-Arte Museum to see an evolving collection of traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino and Latin American art .
Koko Tip: Go to P6 at the Line Hotel to watch the bats fly out with a cocktail.
Spend The Day With Your Furry Friend
Various locationsIt often feels like Austin is a one-dog-minimum-per-person kind of city city and, for those lucky enough to count Mans Best Friend among their households, theres a plethora of opportunities for you to enjoy winter with your pup. For starters, theres Yard Bar, an Austin classic which lets you enjoy an adult beverage while your dog goofs off in their very own dog park . Theres also Armadillo Den in South Austin, where you can play a round of corn-hole while your furry friend roughhouses with fellow Fidos, and Easy Tiger East, where we wont judge you for bribing your dog to sit by offering them a bite of a fluffy, doughy baked pretzels.
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Communicate With The Dead On A Paranormal Investigation
Brought to you by our friends at Haunted ATX, their Paranormal Investigation tour is managed by the team behind the hit YouTube series the Unearthly Paranormal Investigation Experience. They’ll meet you at one of three locations where they’ve communicated with spirits before and show you how to use the Spirit Box , a Paranormal Puck , an EMF reader , and a SLS camera . You might want to shave the hair on the back of your neck before this experience as things can go way off the charts quick.
Organize Your Own Taco Crawl Through Austin
Various locationsPerhaps the only dish more famous in Austin than barbecue is the almighty taco. Breakfast taco connoisseurs already know that Veracruz All Natural, El Chilito, and Habanero Mexican Cafe can best that tired old bacon-egg-and-cheese any day of the week, while Nixta Taquerias Duck Carnitas and Grannys Chilaquil will leave you drooling over your plate. And, of course there are always the classics: Tacodeli and Torchys. Theres truly no going wrong.
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Listen To Live Gospel Music At Brunch
Make a reservation for Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubbs Bar-B-Q, an Austin music institution that serves up lip-smacking barbecue along with some of the best live bands around, all for one reasonable price.
Snap A Selfie With Artistic Street Art Murals
One of the coolest things to do in Austin is to sightsee by way of the giant street art murals around town! Many of the citys neighborhoods boast fantastic works of street art plastered on the sides of buildings, creating the ideal backdrop for fun selfies and photographs.
From the Historic 6th Street Mural that boasts the famed Dont Mess With Texas slogan to the iconic I Love You So Much on the side of Jos Coffee on South Congress Avenue, there are a number of places to snap a photo throughout the city. Check out the Greetings From Austin postcard mural on 1st Street, or see the largest mural in the city honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment on the side of The LINE hotel.
Look for Big Chiller Blues on 5th Street, a blue tile wall by artist Ann Adams that makes a splashy gradient, or the Technicolor Tau Ceti mural with a rainbow of multi-dimensional color at Brazos and Second streets. Music lovers shouldnt miss the tribute to Texas artists Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson on East Seventh Street or the Willie For President mural on South Congress.
If youre looking for a way to see a bunch of outdoor artwork without driving all over the city, head to HOPE Outdoor Gallery. This trendy spot is an outdoor graffiti park near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where you can glimpse large, colorful murals and plenty of graffiti art in one spot.
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Cheap And Free Things To Do In Austin Texas
In every city we visit, we want to see the big things, of coursethe wonders, monuments, exit-through-the-gift-shop establishments that the city is known for.
But one of my favorite parts of visiting a new city is to discover what the locals love about their hometown. I dont mind paying an admission fee for a renowned museum, but the real life of a people is in the cheap and free things they do on the weekends.
Now, part of my ritual has become setting aside some time a day or two before we arrive to crack open my trusty nomad laptop, to try to find some local intel. I tell you: Its worth it.
I am one of those locals in the great State of Texas. So whether youre passing through on your way around the world, or just stopping by for the weekend, here are some of my favorite cheap and free things to do in Austin.
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Austin is a great city to visit with lots of cheap things to do.