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15 Totally Free Things to Do in Austin

Austin Insider Guides Budget Travel
by Alisha McDarris May 19, 2017

Austin, has great things to do that don’t cost a penny. If you think Texas’ capital city is all expensive music festivals and overpriced attractions, think again. Keep your wallet in your pocket – you won’t be needing it.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Traveling to Texas? Check out Matador’s Texas accommodations guides:

Go for a dip. Or a skinny dip

 Barton Springs PoolAustin, United StatesYou’ve probably not experienced anything like Barton Springs, unless you live in a large city and your city has a spring-fed pool very close to the city center. Like I said; unusual.

Barton Springs is one of a kind, and feeds the “unique Austin” feel. It’s a rather large pool, so plenty of room for the whole family, if you want. Since it’s spring-fed, the temperature stays close to the same temperature all year, which is nice in the summer. Very refreshing!

Great place to take the family to chill and cool down on a hot afternoon. They even have lifeguards and a diving board. The thermal springs are kept at a nice 68F. Just be careful when walking in the pool and around the pool it can get slippery.

There are loads of free places to cool off on a 104-degree Texas afternoon. While Barton Springs Pool may charge admission, the creek right next to it that leads out to the river doesn’t, and you can even bring your dog. Pack a tube and head to Barton Creek Greenbelt and enjoy a float while you watch the hikers, bikers and climbers. Prefer to leave the suit in the dresser? Go to Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis and take it all off.

Get cultured

 HOPE Outdoor GalleryAustin, United StatesThe HOPE Outdoor Gallery is a community paint park located at 11th & Baylor St. in downtown Austin. This educational project started in 2011 and is the managed by the only paint park of its kind in the USA. It was developed to provide muralists, street artists, arts education classes and community groups the opportunity to display large scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive & educational messaging.

Over the past 5 years the scope of the HOPE Outdoor Gallery has broadened based on the response from local families, community members and the Austin Creative Class. It has become an inspirational outlet and creative destination for all that come to visit and is recognized as one of the Top 10 Artistic destinations in Texas. #gallery #gallery

Enjoy free art at the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus or the HOPE Outdoor Gallery downtown. There are regularly changing exhibits and a copy of the Guttenberg Bible. Or visit the popular Blanton Museum of Art any Thursday for free entry.

Learn some Texas history

Admission to the Bullock Texas State History Museum is free the first Sunday of every month. You’ll still have to fork over a wad of cash for the IMAX theater. But knowledge is power – and that’s almost as good as a three-story movie screen.

Smell – I mean watch – the bats

 Congress Avenue BridgeAustin, United StatesCongress Bridge, Bats at dusk, Austin TX

Every evening from spring through fall tourists and locals gather beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and along the sidewalk to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony take flight at dusk. Watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats swirl into the sky.

Try something new

Checkout where you’ll find loads of activities. Not afraid of dangling upside down in the river and want to try kayak water polo? You can do that in Austin. Knees already scarred up, so you might as well learn to ride a unicycle? Just want to do a little early morning yoga in the park (perhaps to calm yourself down after dangling upside down in the river)? Sort the listings and find something perfect for you.

Take a hike

 Barton Creek GreenbeltAustin, United StatesThis is at the Spyglass Drive entrance where you can swim in Campbell’s Hole or The Flats (the latter is my favorite). You can also walk along the trails and make your way down to other parts of the Greenbelt. #trailrunning #hike #river #swimming

Walk to the top of Mount Bonnell for a stellar view of the city and all the waterfront mansions below; explore miles of trails in the Barton Creek Greenbelt or take a short hike on Turkey Creek Trail. Opt for a leisurely stroll complete with panoramic views of the city on the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake.

Watch the peacocks at Mayfield Preserve strut their stuff

 Mayfield Park and Nature PreserveAustin, United StatesGo get screamed at by peacocks. Didn’t know peacocks screamed? Then you haven’t been to Mayfield Park. There’s an historic home, hiking trails, and lots and lots of peacocks just wandering around the property. Take a stroll around the gardens, spot the peacocks in the trees, and don’t forget the camera to capture the guys showing off their feathers (and I don’t mean hipsters with hair accessories). #animals #hiking

Watch the males try to seduce a mate – and usually fail miserably; wander through the gardens, and hike in the woods.

Brush up on your olde English

Austin for Shakespeare. Present Company does productions on the roof of the flagship Whole Foods Market downtown or at a local farm several times a year. Free Shakespeare in Zilker Park does the same. The shows are always free (though donations are welcome.

Grab some popcorn and catch a free flick

See a movie under the stars at any of several venues in the city. Community First Village screens movies every Friday in the warmer months at their property in East Austin. The Austin Parks Foundation shows free films at various parks around town. They range from family-friendly to better-call-a-sitter.

Laugh out loud

Free comedy abounds in Austin. Several venues offer free improv or standup shows, including Austin Java on Saturdays, The New Movement on Mondays, and Wednesday at The Buzz Mill.

Test your trivia smarts

Trivia contests across all themes and eras take place throughout the week in Austin. From the Volstead Lounge to Pluckers Wing Bar, get a team together and put all that useless information floating around in your heads to good use.

Listen to the music

 Rainey StreetAustin, United StatesThe Rainey Street Historic District is a street of historic homes, many of the bungalow style, in downtown Austin, Texas. Old bungalows have been fixed up and turned into bars and cocktail lounges with ample backyards and porches.

Rainey Street includes 31 buildings built before 1934, giving the neighborhood a historic character relative to other areas of the city.

Tourist in Austin often head straight to Sixth Street, with its jammed-together nightclubs, restaurants and bars advertising drink specials and Jell-O shots.

But local Austinites know that some of the city’s best bars are nowhere near that famous strip. #casual #livemusic

Austin is the live music capital of the world. There is free music at hundreds of venues across the city. It would be impossible to list them all, but grab a free copy of The Austin Chronicle at any restaurant or local store-front, check the calendar and rock on, man.

Wander the markets

Austin is known for its abundant farmers’ markets. And not just on the weekends. Bring your reusable shopping bag (‘cause that plastic garbage is outlawed in these parts) and stock up on everything from just-picked veggies to locally made chocolate to fresh kombucha on tap (Bonus points if you bring your own jar.)

Surf the web

Austin has an entire site dedicated to helping you find free stuff to do on any given day or night. Quit binge-watching Orange is the New Black and get out there!

Go on a street art safari

 Graffiti Park at Castle HillAustin, United StatesSo much fun! Go grab a couple cans of spray paint and head over for some (lawful) tagging.

Austin is home to iconic street art, from the Hi, How are You mural to the You’re my Butter Half painting. Start at Hope Outdoor Gallery where you might just catch an artist in action at the ever-changing graffiti wall, then put yourself in the picture at the Greetings from Austin mural and go from there.

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