Smell The Flowers At Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
COVID-19 update: currently open for reservations only
Lady Bird Johnsons Wildflower Center is the home to sustainable, native plant gardens and education, conservation, research and consulting programs. The Wildflower Center is always blooming with plants that are in season.
4801 La Crosse Ave, wildflower.org
Enjoy Nature At Zilker Park
Zilker Park is over 350-acres of outdoor pleasure. Located just south of downtown Austin, TX, Zilker Park is a great little escape from the city. You can relax in the grassy areas, enjoy the hike and bike trail, feed the ducks, or just people-watch in this metropolitan park.
At the center of the park, you will find spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, one of the popular swimming holes for locals and tourists. Zilker Park also offers great views of the Austin skyline.
In addition, you can pick up the trail to the Barton Creek Greenbelt near the pool area. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a gorgeous hike and bike trail in South Austin. Along the trail, you will find Campbells Hole, a popular swimming hole, Gus Fruh, another swimming hole, and Twin Falls.
Zilker Park is also home to Zilker Botanical Garden. While the botanical garden is not free, it does offer some free days, just check their website.
While there is a fee to get into the springs, you can enjoy the park with all of its amenities free of charge.
Rainey Street Historic District
Kelly Jobe / Shutterstock
The Rainey Street Historic District is one of the most unique places to go in Austin.
Formerly a residential neighborhood of old bungalows and southern-style ranch houses, its been converted into a hip, trendy community with bars, bistros, pubs, cafes, restaurants and even a speakeasy or two.
Lights are strung between houses and porches that have been transformed into outdoor dining spaces.
Live music spills out of the buildings.
In true Texas style, youre never far from a cold beer, especially at night when the sun sets and the cowboy boots get propped up on tables.
The Rainey Street Historic District is located in downtown Austin, so if youll be touring the hot spots of the city, consider a detour into one of the coolest little neighborhoods in Texas.
You wont regret it!
Address: Rainey Street, Austin, TX 78701, United States
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Lady Bird Lake Hike And Bike Trail
Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail in downtown Austin is a haven for nature lovers, joggers, cyclists, and anyone wanting to escape the office for some fresh air and a change of scene.
You can go kayaking or paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake, but dont go swimming in Lady Bird Lake. Why not? Swimming is not allowed. Its an old Austin City ordinance. You can go swimming at Barton Springs Pool instead.
Free Things To Do In Austin: Movies In The Park
Summertime in Austin is perfect for outdoor movies at night! The Austin Parks Foundation puts on movies in different neighborhood parks around Austin all summer long for free with the help of Alamo Draft House and it is an enjoyable time to be had if you are around for one of the showings.
While summer days can be extremely hot, getting out at night is the thing to do so why not take advantage of seeing a free movie?!
If you are looking for a tour of Austin, check out these options on GetYourGuide:
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Catch A Show At The Paramount
The Paramount Theatre is an Austin institution.
The Paramount Theater is more than 100 years old, and has hosted every kind of celebrity, performer, and even U.S. Presidents. Today, it hosts more than 200 performances every year, so theres almost always something to see!In addition to music, you may be able to catch some comedy or a classic film. Get more information here.
Swim At Hamilton Pool
This natural swimming pool was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.
Reservations are required during the summer from May to Sept. No reservations during the fall but be prepared to wait up to 45 minutes to enter. The entrance fee is $15 per vehicle when entering, cash only. There is a small bike trail but Ive always headed straight to the pool.
McKinney Falls State Park is a popular swimming spot too.
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs, TX, parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool
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Visit The Cathedral Of Junk
Is it a tree house or a landfill? Artistic or just weird? Youll have to decide for yourself. It is more than 60 tons of junk arranged as a kind of growing, evolving clubhouse, that hassince 1988merged with the dense backyard jungle of its creator: Vince Hannemann.
Theres no fee to get in, but admission is by appointment only, so call ahead. Your kids will love it. Get more information here.
Soak In The Sun At Mckinney Falls State Park
Probably the least known outdoorsy area in the Austin city limits, McKinney Falls is hidden between IH35 and the Austin Airport on the Southeast side of town. We like to go here because it’s less crowded than the Barton Creek and offers some great views, moderate hiking, and a nice swimming hole. It’s a state park so expect to pay $5 to enter.
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Get The Party Started At Rainey Street District
Rainey Street District is probably the most unusual nightlife scene in Austin. The first bar to open in Rainey was Lustre Pearl located in an old home. Not too long after other homes converted into bars and now the area is covered with bars, hotels, restaurants, and food trucks, offering one of Austin’s most unique nightlife districts.
Enjoy Outdoor Live Music
If you are visiting during the summer months, there are many venues that host free music events. Two of the best are Unplugged at the Grove and Blues on the Green. The former is a series of free events held on Thursdays between April and September. The latter is held monthly between May and August at Zilker Park. If you want to enjoy either of these events, take along a picnic and blanket.
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Mckinney Falls State Park
Daniel Mullins / Shutterstock
McKinney Falls State Park is one of the hottest tourist spots in Austin.
In the summertime, this is quite literal temperatures can climb high in Texas, so people flock to the streams and pools of state parks to get a little relief.
In terms of activities, however, McKinney Falls State Park is still pretty hot.
It boasts more than 80 campsites, and youll have the option of sleeping under the stars or living the life of luxury in a wooden cabin.
You can also swim, fish, hike, bike, picnic, bird watch and even geocache.
Amenities are available if you want them.
Otherwise, you can enjoy the rugged natural beauty of McKinney Falls State Park by exploring it in your own way.
Its one of the major points of interest in Austin, so you wont be alone.
Thousands of visitors flock to its scenery each year, and thousands more are subjected to the vacation photos of their friends and family as they explain, This is where we rented a paddleboat, and this is where Johnny scraped his knee on the rocks
Address: 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744, United States
Things To Do In Austin Texas: Sparky Park
Sparky Park is one of Austin’s most notable public art installations, located on the grounds of a former electrical substation constructed in the 1930s. The station consists of a utilitarian lot and an Art Deco-style municipal building which formerly housed city electrical machinery. Following an overhaul of the city’s electrical grid in the mid-2000s, Austin artist Berthold Haas was commissioned to develop a large public art installation to convert the station’s grounds into a public park space. Today, the station is decorated with a unique junk art display reminiscent of Spanish Art Nouveau pieces, 1960s psychedelic culture, and 20th-century Midwestern Grotto Culture. The resulting effect is a whimsical stone grotto on the station’s grounds, reminiscent of a fairytale land or underwater mermaid grotto. Visitors of all ages are welcome to explore the structure and touch and take pictures of its artistic elements.
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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.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.
Austin is a great city to visit with lots of cheap things to do.
Dig For Fossils At Austin Nature & Science Center
The Austin Nature & Science Center is located next to Zilker Park. The aim of this museum is to raise awareness of the natural environment. There are many interesting exhibitions and some educational workshops to enjoy. However, the highlight of a visit here, especially for children, is the chance to dig for real dinosaur fossils.
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Experience A Free Symphony
Classical music lovers wont want to miss Austin Symphony’s Concerts in the Park, held on the lawn at the Long Center. On Sunday evenings during the summer, bring a lawn chair or blanket and kick back under the stars, listening to classical music while soaking in city skyline views.
SFC Farmers Market. Courtesy of the Sustainable Food Center, credit Buff Strickland.
Hike/bike Trail Ladybird Lake
This one is another great free option for nature lovers and those who like to get a little outdoor workout. The 10 mile loop around Ladybird Lake, officially named the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is a wonderful path offering a mix of urban and nature views.
A portion of it is a boardwalk that takes you over the waters edge, most of it is a dirt path that is great for biking or walking on. You are treated to lush landscapes and even a skyscraper backdrop. While you dont have to do the entire ten miles, you can pick a portion to stroll on or find a bench in your favorite spot and just take it all in.
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Shopping On South Congress Avenue
South Congress Avenue is one of the coolest places in Austin and is home to many weird and unique stores in Austin. In fact, whether youre a first time visitor to the city, or have been many times, youll find plenty to entertain you in this neighbourhood.
Our favourite stops along here were Uncommon Objects, a shop selling all sorts of antiques and oddities, home for the type of objects youd find in your Grandparents attics but they somehow manage to look cool here South Congress books, specialised in Texas and Austin based books and Parts and Labour which has some awesome prints in and Austin slogan T-shirts.
The Best Free Things To Do In Austin
A perfect sunset with pinks and blues across the colorful sky large green escape public green space … at Zilker Park with landmark skyline cityscape view of Austin , Texas , USA
A trip to Austin, Texas doesn’t have to be expensive. The city is full of low-cost and free attractions to occupy all ages any time of day! Year-round outdoor weather allows for plenty of natural attractions within the city limits, as well as indoor cost-free activities in the case of inclement weather. Below, a few completely free highlights to hit up in Austin.
Oft called the “Central Park” of Austin, this massive public green space is indeed the central gathering area for Austinites. Hike and bike around the expansive area, lay out a blanket to catch some sun and snack the afternoon away, and in the summer, get treated to free outdoor concerts. Swimming in the popular Barton Springs Pool will cost a few bucks but the minor spend is worthwhile if you need to cool off like a local. 2100 Barton Springs Road
People watching bat leaving the Congress Ave bridge at sunset in Austin, Texas.
Guided tours are completely free at the Texas State Capitol building. Guides talk visitors through the history of Texas, the state’s legislation as well as the importance of the opulent building during half hour tours every day of the week. 1100 Congress Avenue
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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.
Bullock Texas State History Museum
Take a trip through Texas history and discover the role this region played throughout American history at the Bullock Museum. The museum features three floors and an on-site IMAX theater to help people understand and discover the history of the lone Star state. The museum features an easy to understand layout with the bottom floor featuring exhibits on the land and early settlers. Second-floor exhibits focus on the creation of Texas while the top floor emphasizes modern Texas history.
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Go For A Hike Along The Barton Creek Greenbelt
Starting at Barton Springs Pool, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of Austin’s best treasures with areas known as the Flats, Twin Falls, and Sculpture Falls. The Flats is known to host large gatherings, even the occasional drum circle. Twin Falls offers one of the better waterfalls, and Sculpture Falls is known for a little solitude. There’s also great rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities that appeal to a wide array of outdoorsy types. It’s best when the water if flowing, even if it’s low just 15 – 20 cfs.
Boating On Lake Travis
There are two lakes on Austin that you can go boating on Lake Travis and Lake Austin. I recently went boating on Lake Travis with Float On Boat Rentals loved how easy it was to get to the dock and they even help you load up your stuff into a wheelbarrow to the boat. We booked the sunset cruise and it was just perfect.
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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.
Antique Shopping At Uncommon Objects
If youre wanting to shop local boutiques, South Congress is the spot to go. Uncommon Objects, Allens Boots, and Tesoros are all located on this strip. Uncommon Objects is an antique and vintage shop that is filled with relics. You can easily spend hours here!
1512 S Congress Ave, uncommonobjects.com
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Childrens Day Art Park
This happens every Wednesday morning in the summer form 9-11:30 at The Austin Central Library. The picture below is when the event used to happen at Symphony Square Amphitheater. Its free and there are usually musicians, story tellers, and magicians to entertain the kids! The kids get free balloons and cups of lemonade cost 10 cents!
If youre thinking about visiting Austin, check out this post about the perfect weekend in Austin with kids! Have you ever been to Austin? What did you think? Did I miss any other really awesome fun things to do? Id love to hear