Experience the best of Austin—without putting a serious dent in your wallet—with our suggestions for 50 free and cheap things to do while you’re here. Stretch your travel dollars with everything from affordable food truck eats and outdoor adventures to free live music and fun tours.
Texas State Capitol. Courtesy of the Texas State Preservation Board.
1. Go on a Historic Tour
Get out there and experience Austin history. Take a free, self-guided historic walking tour from Preservation Austin and explore the stately Capitol building on Congress Avenue, iconic music venues, noteworthy African American historic sites and more.
2. Rent a Bike
Zip around town and do some sightseeing on your own with a bike rental from Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop. Bikes start at $30 for full day rentals.
3. Visit Zilker Park
Stop and smell the roses at Zilker Park, a 360-acre oasis in the heart of the city that’s home to the blooming Zilker Botanical Garden (advance online ticket purchase required) and Barton Springs Pool (advance reservations required).
4. Play a Round of Disc Golf
Enjoy a round of disc golf in scenic settings like the Zilker Disc Golf Course in Zilker Park, the Roy G. Guerrero Disc Golf Course in East Austin, and the Mary Moore Searight Disc Golf Course in South Austin.
5. Explore the Texas Hill Country
Drive out to the Hill Country for spectacular hikes, state parks and picnic spots. Spend the day at picture perfect parks like Emma Long Metropolitan Park (online reservations required), Reimers Ranch Park (daily use fee payable in cash only), Lockhart State Park (online reservations required) and more.
Courtesy of UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum.
6. Hear Live Music Outdoors
7. See the Cathedral of Junk
Explore the multilevel part-tree fort, part-modern sculpture Cathedral of Junk, a dense tangle of jungle-like foliage intertwined with an estimated 60 tons of unusual items and tchotchkes (call ahead for availability).
8. Visit the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden
Walk the leafy trails that lead to outdoor artworks by Charles Umlauf at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum. The Sculpture Garden is temporarily limited to 75 guests at a time and masks are required. The indoor gallery is temporarily closed.
9. Tour Austin City Limits Live
For the ultimate Austin music tour, visit Austin City Limits (ACL) Live at The Moody Theater and get a behind-the-scenes look at the place where America’s longest-running television music series is taped. Masks and a brief wellness check are required.
10. Bike the Hike-and-Bike Trail
Rent a bicycle from Barton Springs Bike Rental and bike the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail that skirts the glittering waters of Lady Bird Lake. Insider tip: snap a selfie with the statue of Austin music legend Stevie Ray Vaughan stationed along the route.
Courtesy of the Mighty Cone.
11. Sample Food Trucks at The Picnic
A food truck stop is a must. Post up at The Picnic, offering plenty of picnic tables and a variety of food trucks, including Coat & Thai and The Mighty Cone. Takeout and dine-in options are available, with spaced outdoor seating.
12. Hike Mount Bonnell
Take a hike up the stone steps to Mount Bonnell and get a panoramic view of the Austin area. This Lake Austin landmark has been a popular tourist destination since the 1850s.
13. Explore the Greenbelt
Hike or bike along the Barton Creek Greenbelt to reach Gus Fruh, a swimming hole known for its famed Urban Assault limestone rock wall that’s a favorite of climbers. Explore further to discover the hidden Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls areas.
14. Discover the Tejano Walking Trail
Take off on the Tejano Walking Trail, a self-guided tour of more than 20 culturally significant Hispanic sites in the East Cesar Chavez and Holly neighborhoods.
15. See the Neill-Cochran House Museum
Visit the Neill-Cochran House Museum, one of the few Antebellum-era buildings open to the public in Austin. The museum showcases the city's cultural, economic and architectural transformation from 1855 to present day. Masks are required.
Bat Watching from Rowing Dock Kayaks. Credit Jeff Campbell.
16. See Austin's Famous Bats
Head over to the Congress Avenue Bridge to witness a staggering 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly into the sky from beneath the bridge nightly from spring through fall.
17. Watch a Movie at the Drive-in
Motor over to the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In to catch an indie film or cult classic at Austin's only drive-in movie theater. This mini version of a traditional drive-in typically features two films per night.
18. Go Dancing at the Broken Spoke
Do some two-stepping at Broken Spoke, an old-fashioned honky-tonk known for its chicken-fried steak and free dinner show, with live bands Tuesday–Saturday evenings.
19. Swim in a Spring-fed Pool
Take a dip in one of Austin’s most popular spring-fed swimming holes, located in the heart of the city. Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park maintains a refreshing temperature of 68 degrees year round, and has plenty of grassy areas for people watching (advance reservations are required).
20. Take the Kids to Mueller Lake Park
Grab a healthy snack and listen to live music at the Texas Farmers Market on Sunday mornings, then explore Mueller Lake Park. The park features a food truck park, paved walking trails and a large playground that kids just can’t resist.
ABGB. Credit Jody Horton.
21. Sip a Pint on a Patio
22. Shop South Congress
Take a shopping stroll along South Congress, known for its funky stores and chic boutiques. Check out the kicks at Allens Boots, affordable jewelry by local artists at Parts & Labour, and beautiful gifts from around the world at Tesoros Trading Company.
23. Dive Into Deep Eddy Pool
The huge Deep Eddy Pool is the state’s oldest pool. Sunbathe on the grassy hill overlooking Lady Bird Lake in scenic West Austin, then stop by neighboring Pool Burger for burgers and tiki drinks after your swim.
24. Explore the Whole Foods Flagship
Be sure to stop at the original flagship Whole Foods Market, where you’ll find four restaurants, a beer and wine bar, a food truck, and live rooftop tunes and events.
25. Happy Hour at The Little Longhorn
Courtesy of Contiki.
26. Go on a Mural Tour
Take a self-guided tour of Austin’s iconic murals, including "Greetings from Austin" at South First and Annie Streets; "Hi, How Are You" at Guadalupe and 21st Streets; and the “I love you so much” mural painted on the wall of Jo's Coffee on South Congress.
27. See a Live Show at Guero's
On Wednesday evenings, order a cold margarita and find a seat in the Oak Garden at Güero’s Taco Bar to see musicians performing as part of Sun Radio’s Texas Radio Live series.
28. Enjoy an Outdoor Performance
Enjoy free shows in beautiful outdoor settings around Austin. The annual Zilker Summer Musical offers live theater from July-August on an outdoor stage at the Hill Country Galleria. ACL Radio and the Long Center have teamed up to present a free, weekly outdoor live music series. The Drop-In will showcase a diverse lineup of Austin’s favorite and emerging artists from May – September in the heart of downtown.
29. Search for Vintage Treasures in North Loop
North Loop stores Room Service Vintage and Blue Velvet Vintage Clothing are fantastic vintage finds. Room Service has bigger items and kitsch, while Blue Velvet stocks mostly clothing and accessories. Stop into Monkies Vintage & Thrift for retro tees and western wear.
30. Visit Mexic-Arte Museum
The Mexic-Arte Museum houses an evolving collection of traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino and Latin American art and culture in downtown Austin. Explore the galleries and be sure to check out the exterior mural along Fifth Street.
31. Paddle Lady Bird Lake
32. Explore St. Edward's Park
Experience a lush hidden escape within the city limits at the quiet, 80-acre St. Edward's Park, with lots of easy trails and a swimming hole with an old-fashioned rope swing.
33. Get a Burger to Go at Sandy's
Taste an Austin tradition at the roadside Sandy’s Hamburgers, open since 1946. Must-orders include the double cheeseburger with fries, frozen custard and frosty root beer.
34. Shop an Iconic Record Store
With a soft spot for Texas musicians, Austin’s iconic Waterloo Records often presents free in-store performances by emerging local musicians. Take time to flip through the shop’s extensive selection of vinyl.
35. Dine at a Convenience Store
Make like an Austinite and stop in at Quickie Pickie, a neighborhood market and eatery featuring breakfast tacos, locally roasted coffee and 24 taps.
Auditorium Shores. Credit Jody Horton Photography, courtesy of The Trail Foundation.
36. Plan a Picnic at Auditorium Shores
Bring the kids and the dogs for a picnic at Auditorium Shores, along Lady Bird Lake. Fly a kite at the expansive, grassy park or ride a bike to catch a picturesque view of the downtown skyline.
37. See the Peacocks at Mayfield Park
Originally an early 1900s summer retreat for the family of prominent Austin politician Allison Mayfield, today Mayfield Park is a beautiful public green space known for its colorful strutting peacocks.
38. Tour the Governor's Mansion
The elegant Texas Governor’s Mansion was built in 1927 by the state’s first female governess, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, and offers free guided tours.
39. Experience a Free Music Fest
Every January, venues on Red River join in Free Week, a showcase of mostly local music that has every bar packed and every stage rockin’. Besides catching popular acts, you’ll have the chance to sample scrumptious food from local eateries.
40. Experience a Free Symphony
Classical music lovers won’t 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.
41. Shop Local at a Farmers Market
42. Try Tacos from a Food Truck
43. Visit the Bullock
Spend a day of exploration at Austin's Bullock Texas State History Museum, which features fascinating exhibitions, films at the Bullock IMAX Theatre and Texas Spirit Theater, plus the Museum Store for great Texas-themed gifts to take back home.
44. Take the Kids to Thinkery
Kids can paint, climb and make a splash at Thinkery Austin's interactive children's museum. Currently open Friday through Sunday, with timed sessions and masks required.
45. Opt for an Affordable Upscale Happy Hour
Courtesy of Mean Eyed Cat.
46. Drink at a Dive
Pair your margarita with sizzling fajitas at El Arroyo (famous for its hilarious sign out front). Or, toast the man in black at the Mean Eyed Cat, a Johnny Cash-themed bar that has a happy hour Monday through Friday.
47. Watch an Art House Flick
AFS Cinema is reopening this summer, presenting classic, independent and global films on its two big screens. Don’t miss the full bar, with beer on tap, as well as concessions that include snacks from local purveyors like Lick Honest Ice Creams.
48. Catch a Classic Flick
The Paramount Theatre is a century-old performance venue and movie theater located in the heart of downtown Austin. Originally opened as a vaudeville house, today the eclectic entertainment ranges from music to comedy shows.
49. Visit Austin's Cultural Campus
The University of Texas at Austin is home to an impressive collection of museums, including the Blanton Museum of Art (advance timed tickets and masks required), the Harry Ransom Center (temporarily closed) and the LBJ Presidential Library (temporarily closed).
50. Listen to Live Gospel Music at Brunch
Make a reservation for Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubb’s 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.