How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Meeting or Event in Austin

Are you planning a meeting in Austin but working with a tight budget? We’ve got some cost-saving tips that can make your event more affordable. From venues with built-in entertainment and decor to places that are within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center (saving on transportation costs), we’ve got great ideas to help make your meeting or event more cost-effective without skimping on the all-important wow factor.

Bar with television at Punch Bowl Social Austin texas
Courtesy of Punch Bowl Social Austin.

Enjoy Built-in Entertainment

Let the venue itself be your attendees’ entertainment. Take time for team building and working together to complete a mysterious mission at The Escape Game Austin. Or let your attendees play at Punch Bowl Social, where they can engage in some friendly competition while bowling or playing putt-putt. Other game spots include the indoor/outdoor Bouldin Acres (with two pickleball courts and lawn games), Electric Shuffle (high-tech shuffleboard) and High 5 (with bowling, axe throwing and virtual reality experiences).

Save on Transportation

What better way to save on transportation costs than by booking a venue that’s within walking distance of the downtown Austin Convention Center? You can’t get closer than The Sunset Room, an airy gallery-style event space with exposed brick walls and original wood rafters located near the front steps of the Convention Center. Located in the Hilton Austin (adjacent to the Austin Convention Center), The Reverbery is modeled after a hip recording studio and features a performance stage. Across the street is the new Austin Marriott Downtown, featuring 18 event rooms and 27 breakout rooms, including flexible outdoor space boasting breathtaking city views, such as the rooftop Zanzibar lounge. Just one block away is HiHello, an underground venue with a speakeasy vibe that can accomodate parties of 35-400 in its three event spaces that feature exposed brick walls. Or plan a private party at Wanderlust, where your guests can try wines from around the world from self-pour taps.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at Geraldines during SXSW in Austin Texas
Geraldine's. Credit Courtney Pierce.

Tap Into Live Music

Austin’s hundreds of live music venues offer cost savings with the entertainment already built in. Tap into entertainers scheduled for a later public show in the same space and you’ll save on set-up and breakdown costs. At the happening Culinary Dropout there’s free live music with a focus on up-and-coming artists. The three-story Speakeasy features two live music stages with shows presented five nights a week in a retro atmosphere. Geraldine’s, located on the fourth floor of the Hotel Van Zandt, features live music daily on its in-house stage and offers breathtaking views of Lady Bird Lake.

The Austin Music Office can also connect you with local musicians of all genres who are available to perform for everything from keynote luncheons to evening receptions.

Minimize Decor

Avoid decorating costs altogether by letting a venue’s decor set the stage. Panoramic Austin skyline and Lady Bird Lake views are all you need as a stunning backdrop for an event held on Capital Cruises or Lone Star Riverboat. Or go for land-based venues with a city view from the Sixth Street rooftop of Maggie Mae’s (currently undergoing renovation and reopening January 2023) or the colorful second-story private perch of Malverde (located above the award-winning La Condesa). Take in sweeping Lake Austin views at the tiki-inspired Hula Hut or the deck of Abel’s on the Lake. Or slip into the sultry speakeasy vibe of The Eleanor, the sister private event space of the acclaimed Roosevelt Room in the Warehouse District.

Deep Eddy Vodka Tasting Room near austin texas
Courtesy of Deep Eddy Vodka.

Bring in Your own Catering

Save on food costs by controlling your choice of caterer. Several great venues in Austin allow you to bring in your own catering. Set up a buffet or plan a cocktail party at places that include Inn Cahoots, a four-story boutique hotel located in the heart of East Sixth Street’s entertainment district that offers more than 8,000 square feet of event space, including a sprawling rooftop deck overlooking downtown Austin. Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery and Tasting Room in Dripping Springs offers picture-perfect Texas Hill Country views and private vodka tastings. Or pick up mouthwatering barbecue by the pound from acclaimed Franklin Barbecue, known for its brisket, ribs and pulled pork. Don't forget sides like potato salad and pinto beans, along with delicious pies that include pecan and bourbon banana.

Book Microbreweries, Wineries & Distilleries

Go straight to the source for local craft beer, wine and spirits to enhance your event, with microbreweries, wineries and distilleries that often offer private tours and tastings as part of their packages. St. Elmo Brewing Company features everything from American IPAs to German pilsners, along with acclaimed Pan-Asian food truck Spicy Boys parked on its patio. Live Oak Brewing Company, located along the scenic Colorado River in Del Valle, offers a shady biergarten for enjoying its lagers and ales. Plan a beer pairing dinner at The Brewtorium, where the modern pub grub is designed to complement the handcrafted house brews. Arrange for tasting flights of the small-batch wines at The Austin Winery, with a barrel room and lounge that can accommodate events of all sizes. Reserve a private seated tasting experience with winemaker Randy Hester in the Dripping Springs tasting room of Texas winemakers C.L. Butaud. Or plan a private tour and tasting at Still Austin Whiskey Co., the first whiskey distillery located within Austin city limits since Prohibition. A true grain-to-glass distillery, everything is done in-house, from mashing to barreling and bottling.

Meeting at Dell Medical School in austin texas

Reduce Rental Costs

Reducing the rental cost of a venue is another cost-saving measure for meeting planners, and Austin offers a range of diverse options. There’s no rental fee for use of the picturesque Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, just the cost of food from on-site food trucks like the celebrated LeRoy and Lewis barbecue and beverages that can include craft cocktails and brews. Places like the vibrant Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and local libraries, including the stunning Central Library that features a rooftop garden, offer venue discounts for nonprofit groups. Reasonable venue rental rates are the norm at Native Hostel (located in a former 1890s railroader hotel) and the full-service St. David’s Meeting and Event Center in downtown Austin.

Pick a Venue That Shares Your Mission

Make your meeting even more impactful by holding it at a venue that aligns with your organization’s mission. The renowned Dell Medical School offers space for small meetings and offers access to medical experts and speakers. The Capital Factory is an ideal venue for entrepreneurs, featuring an open plan with co-working spaces, meeting and event rooms, and a video recording studio. Conveniently located just down the road from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the TCEA Conference Center offers a state-of-the-art venue that’s perfect for training seminars and meetings.

People standing in field outside of a blue bus, with buckets of flowers on the outside.Courtesy of The Bouquet Bus.

Activations That Won't Break the Bank

Add an affordable activation to bring an element of surprise to your next event. Looking to add a lovely floral touch? The Bouquet Bus will provide the perfect back drop for your gathering with a beautiful portable flower wall or schedule a floral arranging workshop for a fun and creative break in the schedule. Enchantment will design a lush plantscape or vertical garden customized for your venue. Or plan a wellness-focused gathering with a sound bath, group meditation or yoga by Sound Flow with Audra.

Check out Austin Insider Deals for more great discounts on local dining, nightlife and attractions.