20 Best Free Things to Do in Austin
Austin is home to some of the best outdoor activities from Zilker Park to Barton Springs to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Town Lake. There are tons of free activities both indoor and outdoor across Austin.
While the Texas heat still blisters in March and April, Spring is probably the best time to visit Austin because you can enjoy cooling off at the pool but not worrying about heat exhaustion quite yet. Here’s our list of the 20 best free things to do in Austin.
List of 20 Best Free Things to Do in Austin, TX
- Visit Zilker Park
- Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
- Cathedral of Junk
- Go swimming on the Free Side of Barton Springs
- Play Disc Golf
- Umlauf Sculpture Garden
- Visit Mount Bonnell at Sunrise
- See the Austin Bats at Sunset
- Take a Mural Tour
- See a Free Symphony
- Visit the Blanton Museum on a Tuesday
- Window shop on South Congress
- Visit a Farmer’s Market
- Visit Pease Park
- Visit Mayfield Park and See the Peacocks
- Visit the Harry Ransom Center on UT campus
- Visit the Austin Public Library
- Walk up to the 360 Bridge Overlook
- Have a Picnic at the Auditorium Shores
- Visit Book People
20 Best Free Things To Do in Austin – In Detail
1- Visit Zilker Park
Zilker Park is a must-have for any visit to Austin. Join locals and tourists alike at the 361-acre park right in the heart of the city. The park has sand volleyball courts, tons of field space, a playground for kids, and holds the entrance to Barton Springs – the 68-degree spring-fed pool.
Entrance to Barton Springs is not free but every other part of the park is. This iconic park is great for picnics, throwing a ball with friends, or bringing your dog.
2 – Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
Location of one of many entrances: 2350 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail spans a 10-mile loop through downtown Austin and around Lady Bird Lake. With a small boardwalk section and multiple spots to turn around and cut your loop shorter or make it longer, this a great trail for running, walking, or biking. Although, it’s definitely best to get out there early in the morning because it can heat up quickly.
While there are multiple entrances and exits to the trail, one of the most easily accessible is under Mopac by Zilker Park.
3 – Cathedral of Junk
Location: 4422 Lareina Dr, Austin, TX 78745
Another iconic free spot in Austin is the Cathedral of Junk located in a quiet neighborhood south of downtown Austin. The Cathedral is a life-size art piece built out of trash and junk in the backyard of the artist, Vince Hannemann. You can walk through the gorgeous cathedral and even see Vince as he is constantly adding new pieces and sections to his artwork.
4 – Go swimming on the free side of Barton Springs
Location: Austin, TX 78704, USA
While Barton Springs Pool does require an admission fee, there is a free side where the water spills out into the creek. Join groups of people sipping on drinks and hanging out with their dogs in the cool rushing water on the other side of the fence and cool off in the Texas heat.
Definitely recommend water shoes if you have them though, the frequently visited best swimming area has seen its fair share of broken bottles and glass pieces.
5 – Play Disc Golf
- Zilker Disc Golf Course – 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746
- Roy G. Guerrero Disc Golf Course – 517 S Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin, TX 78741
- Circle C Metro Park Disc Golf Course – 6301 W Slaughter Ln, Austin, TX 78739
Austin has 27 different disc golf courses around the city and was ranked the No. 2 city in the nation for the rising sport. A few of the more popular courses include the Zilker Disc Golf Course, the Roy G. Guerrero Disc Golf Course, and the course at Circle C Metro Park. Bring a set of discs, and some water and you’ve got a great day planned.
6 – Umlauf Sculpture Garden
Location: 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704
On a day with good weather, take a walk through the Umlauf Sculpture Garden which displays the works of Charles Umllauf and other visual artists. They offer educational and cultural experiences as well and it’s a great place to take kids. The garden is peaceful and beautiful and shows off some great art.
7 – Visit Mount Bonnell at Sunrise
Location: 3800 Mt Bonnell Dr, Austin, TX 78731
Don’t be intimate by the 102 stairs. Mount Bonnell is a beautiful picture or picnic location once you make it through the mini hike. One of the best times to visit is early in the morning as you can see the sunrise over Lake Austin. Mount Bonnell is completely free to access and even has free parking.
8 – See the Austin Bats at Sunset
Location: Congress Avenue Bridge
The Austin bats are one of the most well-known attractions in the city. At anywhere from 7:30 pm – 9:45 pm, tons of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge to fly out for the night. The spectacle happens every night starting around mid-March through the end of Fall.
There are a few places to go to see the bats. You can line up along the Congress Avenue bridge, but make sure you get there early because it fills up fast. There is also the Statesman Bat Observation Center but parking at the Austin American Statesman is paid. Many people like to paddleboard or kayak out to watch the bats from the water, but you can also see the bats on a few spots along the Ann and Roy Butler hike and bike trail.
9 – Take a Mural Tour
Austin is home to tons of street art and murals. There are a few iconic ones like the “Greetings from Austin” mural on S 1st Street or the “I love you so much” mural on the side of Jo’s Coffee on South Congress, and definitely the colorful rainbow corner at Brazos and 2nd streets. But, there are also tons more less-known ones scattered throughout the city. One quick Google will give you a list of the best ones to visit.
10 – See a Free Symphony
Location: 701 W. Riverside Drive
In the summer, the Austin Symphony holds free concerts at the Hartman Concert Park in front of the Long Center City Terrace every Sunday night starting at 7:30 p.m. Bring a picnic blanket, some snacks, and some drinks and listen to the beautiful concert from the Austin Symphony.
11 – Visit the Blanton Museum on a Tuesday
The Blanton Museum of Art, which sits on the University of Texas’s campus, holds over 21,000 works spanning all the way from Ancient Greece to modern times. On Tuesdays admission to the massive art museum is completely free to everyone. Stop by and enjoy Austin’s primary collection of art and the museum’s ever-changing traveling exhibits.
12 – Window shop on South Congress
Location: South Congress Avenue
South Congress is a big strip of stores and restaurants right in the middle of downtown Austin. But, you can walk down SOCO and enjoy your time without having to spend a dime. Window-shopping, wandering and people-watching are just as entertaining when it comes to the iconic street that has a direct view of the Capitol.
13 – Visit a Farmer’s Market
Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market Downtown – 422 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701
Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller – Browning Hangar, Austin, TX 78722 in Mueller Lake Park
Austin has tons of farmer’s markets in every neighborhood. Stop by one or a few on a weekend and see what there is to buy or just wander through. Two of the most popular farmer’s markets in Austin include the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market Downtown, which is every Saturday from 9 am-1 pm at Republic Square Park, and Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller, which is every Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm at the Browning Hangar.
14 – Visit Pease Park
Location: 1100 Kingsbury St, Austin, TX 78703
Pease Park got a makeover in 2014 and the park offers activities and areas to play in the south end of the 74 acres and as you travel north provides beautiful trails and a great experience appreciating nature. The makeover included the addition of the giant hammock that they call the Tree House.
It’s a big open sphere with a netted hammock in the center that you can lay down, sit or stand on. It’s a great place for family and kids and has something for everyone.
15 – Visit Mayfield Park and See the Peacocks
Location: 3505 W. 35th St., Austin, TX 78703
Mayfield Park is 23 acres of historical buildings, colorful scenery, and lively peacocks. It’s a peaceful getaway that doesn’t require you to travel far from the city. It’s a great place for walking or a picnic and has a wide variety of wildlife other than the famous peacocks.
16 – Visit the Harry Ransom Center on UT Campus
The Harry Ransom Center is perfect for any history buff. It holds one of the world’s few Gutenberg Bibles and Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait, along with many other famous pieces of art and literature. Admission is completely free and it’s a great spot to explore when you want to escape the heat of Austin.
17 – Visit the Austin Public Library
The Austin Public Library (the Central library) is a super fun location to wander around and explore or find a quiet corner and read a book or study. There is a beautiful rooftop garden that overlooks downtown and Lady Bird Lake and various other outdoor patios and seating areas. The library itself seems like a work of art with all the colors and whimsical pieces of decor.
18 – Walk up to the 360 Bridge Overlook
Location: N Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78730
A little further west, the 360 bridge goes over Lake Austin and is an iconic rust-red color with it’s arches on either side. The 360 overlook is just on the North side of the bridge and gives a beautiful view of the lake, the bridge, and Austin in general. It’s a very short uphill climb to the top (not difficult at all) and provides breathtaking views.
19 – Have a Picnic at the Auditorium shores
Location: 800 W Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78704
Auditorium Shores is a beautiful spot by Lady Bird Lake in the middle of downtown Austin. It has big open grassy areas and great spots to set up a blanket and read or have a cute picnic. Sometimes there are events at the shores but most of the time it’s a nice open space to hang out and enjoy a little bit of nature in the middle of the city.
20 – Visit Book People
Location: 603 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78703
Book People is the perfect local bookstore to check out in Austin. They have been the leading independent bookstore in Texas since 1970 and have a wide selection of books. They also often have author visits and events making them a great stop on your next visit to Austin.
Whether you’re looking to explore free things to do in Austin, Texas, Austin has it all. There are tons of free activities to do across the city and hopefully, help you beat the scorching heat the next time you visit the capital of the Lone Star State. Let us know if you’ve done these activities before or if you’re planning to the next time you’re in Austin.