Cheap Things to Do in Austin

Located in the heart of the “Lone Star State” and known as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin, Texas, is a city brimming with culture, outdoor activities, and a vibrant food scene. Renowned for its eclectic music venues, historic landmarks, and scenic landscapes, 

Austin offers a wide variety of experiences that cater to all ages and interests. From its legendary festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits to its unique blend of cuisines, the city is a melting pot of arts, history, and gastronomy.

Exploring Austin doesn’t have to be expensive. The city is packed with affordable, if not free, activities that showcase its charm without breaking the bank. The ideal seasons to delve into these inexpensive adventures are spring and fall, when the weather is most pleasant, making outdoor activities highly enjoyable. Spring brings wildflowers blooming across the city, while fall offers comfortable temperatures and beautiful foliage.

Whether you’re strolling through busy streets. Hiking scenic trails or cooling off in natural spring pools, Austin’s temperate climate during these seasons offers the perfect backdrop for exploration.

9 Best Cheap Things to Do in Austin

  1. Texas State Capitol
  2. LBJ Presidential Library
  3. Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail
  4. Barton Springs Pool
  5. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  6. Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Watching
  7. Zilker Metropolitan Park
  8. Mount Bonnell
  9. South Congress Avenue

1. Texas State Capitol

Address: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701

Phone: (512) 305-8400

The Texas State Capitol, an architectural wonder, stands as a testament to Texas’ rich history and governance. It is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols, being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Offering free tours, visitors can explore the stunning grounds, delve into the history of Texas’ legislative processes, and admire the building’s intricate details and artwork. Tours of the Texas State Capitol are offered Monday through Friday, periodically, from 9:30 AM to 4 PM and weekends from 12:30 PM to 4 PM, with the last tour being at 3:30 PM every day. The Capitol’s expansive grounds also provide a perfect setting for a leisurely picnic or a peaceful stroll, making it an ideal destination for those looking for inexpensive things to do in Austin with family.

Image Courtesy of The Bullock Texas State History Museum

2. LBJ Presidential Library

Address: 2313 Red River St, Austin, TX 78705

Phone: (512) 721-0177

The LBJ Presidential Library provides an intimate look into the life and legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson, one of the most significant figures in American history. Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, serving from 1936 to 1969. With a minimal admission fee, visitors can explore the significant impact of LBJ’s presidency on civil rights, education, and social welfare through immersive exhibits and vast archives. It’s a captivating experience for history enthusiasts and an educational adventure, offering a deep dive into one of America’s most transformative periods. The LBJ Library is open 7 days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM, only closing on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

3. Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail

Address: Lady Bird Lake, Austin, TX

Embrace the natural beauty of Austin with a visit to the Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail. The scenic trail offers miles of paths that wind around the lake, providing breathtaking views and a tranquil escape from the city bustle. It’s free to use and serves as a haven for runners, bikers, and anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely walk, a vigorous run, or a fun, cheap activity to do in Austin for couples, the Lady Bird Lake Trail is a must-visit spot that promises tranquility and scenic beauty.

Image Courtesy of Visit Austin

4. Barton Springs Pool

Address: 2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746

Phone: (512) 974-6300

Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed pool, is a refreshing oasis in the heart of Austin. With a nominal entrance fee, visitors can plunge into the invigorating waters, which maintain a year-round temperature of about 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists, offering a cool respite on hot Texas summer days. The pool’s expansive grassy areas are perfect for sunbathing, making it a top choice for affordable things to do in Austin.

Image Courtesy of City of Austin

5. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Address: 4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739

Phone: (512) 232-0100

Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes, the Wildflower Center is dedicated to preserving native Texas plants and showcases the beauty and diversity of the region’s flora. With affordable admission, visitors can explore gardens, meadows, and walking trails. It’s a beautiful and serene place to learn about conservation and enjoy the outdoors, making it a great option for affordable family fun. The Wildflower Center is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Image Courtesy of Visit Austin

6. Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Watching

In 1980, renovations to the Congress Avenue Bridge created a perfect habitat for bats, turning it into the home of the largest urban bat colony in North America. Starting in late March and continuing through early fall, visitors can gather at dusk to watch as over 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge for their nightly feast. This spectacular natural event is free to witness and offers a unique, memorable experience of Austin. The best time to see the bats is around sunset, but the nightly show can take place anywhere from 8:30 to 9:45 PM.

Image Courtesy of Austin Monthly Magazine

7. Zilker Metropolitan Park

Located in the heart of Austin, Zilker Metropolitan Park comprises over 350 acres and stands as a testament to Andrew Zilker’s land donation. Considered an urban oasis, Zilker Park offers a variety of activities. From having a picnic, to disc golf and volleyball to local events, the park has something for everyone. The Zilker Botanical Garden also invites visitors to immerse in natural beauty, while the Austin Nature and Science Center provides interactive learning opportunities. Open from 5 AM to 10 PM, Zilker Park is a fantastic place for cheap fun, whether you’re with family, on a date, or exploring solo.

Image Courtesy of Visit Austin

8. Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell, one of Austin’s most treasured natural landmarks, offers unmatched panoramic views of the city skyline and the Colorado River from its 781-foot peak. Accessible from dawn to dusk, from 5 AM to 10 PM, it provides a perfect backdrop for both early risers and those seeking the glow of sunset from one of the highest points in Austin. The climb to the top involves a 102-stair climb, taking you to a space ideal for picnics, photography, and sightseeing. Despite its accessibility, the reward at the top is a breathtaking view that showcases Austin’s landscape and vibrant city life in one glance. 

9. South Congress Avenue

Affectionately known as SoCo, South Congress Avenue, pulses at the heart of Austin’s vibrant spirit and cultural richness. The avenue is known for its wide range of boutiques, restaurants, bars, and events that embody Austin’s unique blend of old-school charm and modern flair. From the iconic “I love you so much” mural to the historic Continental Club, SoCo offers endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. For families, couples, and solo adventurers alike, it’s a prime destination for affordable things to do in Austin, ensuring an unforgettable experience without breaking the bank.

Image Courtesy of Texas Monthly

Conclusion

Austin, Texas, a city celebrated for its dynamic cultural scene, live music, and picturesque landscapes, offers an abundance of experiences that are both enriching and accessible to budget-conscious travelers. 

Among the broad range of options, my top three favorites for affordable adventures in this vibrant city include the historic Texas State Capitol, the tranquil Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail, and the vibrant South Congress Avenue. 

Each location offers its unique charm: the Capitol provides a deep dive into Texas’ rich political history with free tours, Lady Bird Lake offers scenic beauty and outdoor activities at no cost, and South Congress Avenue immerses visitors in the heart of Austin’s eclectic shopping, dining, and entertainment scene. These activities exemplify the city’s ability to offer memorable experiences without a hefty price tag, embodying the spirit of Austin’s accessible and inclusive atmosphere. 

Whether you’re exploring the serene outdoors, delving into history, or soaking up the local culture, Austin proves that fun things don’t always have to come with a high cost.

Texas Tasty Team

The Texas Tasty Team is a dedicated group of writers and editors who love all things Texas. From food to culture, they share the best of the Lone Star State through engaging articles and captivating stories. Their mission is to inspire readers to explore and embrace the rich heritage and diverse offerings of Texas.