From its vibrant music scene to its beautiful parks and lakes, there is something for everyone while living in Austin. And the best part is that many of these activities are free. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best free things to do in Austin. From taking a stroll along Lady Bird Lake to watching the Congress Avenue Bats fly out from under the bridge at sunset, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this great city without spending a dime. So, whether you’re a local looking for something new to do or a prospective homebuyer saving for a home in Austin, read on to discover some of the best free things to do in ATX.
1. Visit the Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol is a historic building that offers free tours to visitors, providing an inside look at the state’s government and history. The building was completed in 1888 and is a National Historic Landmark. It is made of pink granite and stands at a height of 308 feet (94 m). It is the 6th tallest state capitol and one of the most prominent features of the Austin skyline.
2. Explore the Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool is one of Austin’s most beloved and well-known attractions, drawing visitors and locals alike to its refreshing and clear waters. The park surrounding the pool has picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, and a large grassy area for sunbathing, games or events. The pool is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day and admission is free before 8:00 am and after 8:00 pm; otherwise, it has a daily admission fee.
3. Take a hike in the Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a 7.9-mile (12.7 km) stretch of natural land in Austin, Texas, featuring hiking and biking trails, rock climbing, swimming holes, and picnic areas. The greenbelt is located just west of the city and is considered one of the most popular outdoor recreational areas in Austin. The greenbelt offers a variety of trails, including easy hikes and more challenging terrain for experienced hikers and mountain bikers. The park also offers rock climbing at the Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls area. The greenbelt is also home to several natural swimming holes, such as Twin Falls, Campbell’s Hole, and Sculpture Falls, which are popular spots for swimming and relaxing during the summer. The park also includes picnic areas and playgrounds, making it a popular spot for families.
4. Visit the Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical Garden is a part of the Zilker Park and is considered one of the best public gardens in the state of Texas. The garden features a diverse collection of plants and gardens, including rose gardens, herb gardens, Japanese gardens and a butterfly trail. The garden is also home to several sculptures and other works of art.
The garden is divided into different sections, each with a different theme, such as the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, featuring life-size dinosaurs, a replica of a Pterodactyl nest, and a Cretaceous garden, also the Taniguchi Oriental Garden, which was designed by world-renowned Japanese garden designer, Ken Nakajima.
The garden also includes a greenhouse and a conservatory, which is home to a collection of tropical and subtropical plants. The garden is open year-round and has a small admission fee. It is a popular spot for visitors and locals, offering a peaceful and beautiful environment to enjoy nature and horticulture.
5. See the Congress Avenue Bats
The Congress Avenue Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The colony is estimated to consist of over 1.5 million bats, and during the peak of the season, more than 750,000 bats can be seen emerging from the bridge each night.
The Congress Avenue Bats are a unique natural attraction that visitors and locals can enjoy, but it’s important to remember that they are wild animals, and it’s essential to respect their habitat and follow the guidelines provided by the city and Bat Conservation International to ensure the bats’ protection and the visitors’ safety.
6. Check out the street art
The street art in Austin can be found on buildings, walls, bridges, and other structures, and can range from large-scale murals to smaller, more subtle pieces. Some of the most popular areas to see street art in Austin include the East Austin and South Congress neighborhoods, which are home to many murals and other works of public art. The city’s downtown area is also a great place to find street art, particularly around the 6th Street and Rainey Street districts.
Many of the street art pieces in Austin are created by local artists, but the city also attracts street artists from all over the world. The city also has many street art festivals and events, such as the annual East Austin Studio Tour, which gives visitors the opportunity to see art created by local artists and meet the artists themselves.
7. Visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum, located in Austin, Texas, is a museum dedicated to the history of the state of Texas. The museum was opened in 2001 and is named after the former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Bob Bullock. The museum is housed in a three-story building and features exhibits on the history of Texas from prehistoric times to the present day.
The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the state’s Native American heritage, its role in the American Revolution, its time as an independent nation, and its development as a state. The museum also has exhibits on the state’s culture, including its music, art, and literature. The museum is free to the public on Sundays.
8. Walk around Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a popular spot for a variety of outdoor activities, including running, walking, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. The lake has a 10.1-mile hike and bike trail, which is a popular spot for walking, jogging, and biking, and offers a beautiful view of the downtown Austin skyline. The lake is also home to several parks, such as Butler Park, where visitors can enjoy a picnic or a stroll. The lake is open to the public and is free to access. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in outdoor activities and nature.
9. Visit the Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art is located on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, and it is considered one of the top art museums in the state. The museum’s permanent collection includes over 18,000 works of art, spanning from ancient to contemporary art. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, prints and drawings, and photography.
The Blanton Museum of Art is known for its collection of American and Latin American art, which includes works by notable artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Diego Rivera, and Ellsworth Kelly. The museum also has an extensive collection of European art, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Velázquez.
The Blanton Museum of Art is open to the public and has an admission fee, however, it is free every Thursday from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. It’s a great destination for art lovers and anyone interested in learning more about art and culture.
10. Attend a free concert or music festival
Austin, Texas is known for its vibrant music scene and there are many free concerts and music festivals that take place throughout the year. Some popular free events include:
Free Week: Every January, a series of free concerts are held at various venues throughout the city, showcasing local bands and musicians.
Blues on the Green: This free concert series takes place during the summer months at Zilker Park, featuring local and regional blues acts.
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons: This free concert series takes place at the Four Seasons Hotel, featuring local and regional acts, during the summer months.
Levitation Fest: This annual festival of psychedelic music, art, and culture takes place in different venues around the city during the spring and features a mix of local and international acts.
Pecan Street Festival: The festival takes place twice a year, in the spring and fall and features live music, art, and craft vendors, and a variety of food.
Overall, the city offers a wide variety of free activities for residents and visitors alike. From outdoor adventures like hiking and swimming, to cultural experiences such as visiting museums and art galleries, there is something for everyone Austin.