I’ve lived in Austin, TX on and off since for 16 years! I love this city. Here’s a list of 21 fun, free things to do in Austin, Texas including best hiking trails, favorite outdoor museums, best playgrounds and where to see peacocks.
21 Free Things To Do in Austin, TX
This list of Austin adventures includes museums, hiking, and swimming holes. Currently some things are closed and/ or require a reservation, but you’ll see that noted throughout the list.
1. Austin murals
Here are a few of our favorite Austin murals:
- I love you so much (1300 S Congress)
- Willie Nelson for president (1415 S Congress Ave)
- You’re My Butter Half (2000 E MLK Jr Blvd)
- Smile! Even if you don’t want to (S Congress & Elizabeth
- Hi, How are you? (21st & Guadalupe)
- Don’t Hate (1415 S Congress)
- Greetings from Austin (W. 21st Street and Guadalupe Street)
- Love from Austin (Magnolia Cafe, 1920 S Congress Ave)
- Flamingo mosaic (Patterson Park, 4200 Brookview)
2. Mount Bonell
Hike up the 106 stone steps stair for beautiful views of downtown Austin and Lake Austin! This is a picture I took from the top of Mount Bonell and I loved it so much I turned into a canvas that still hangs in our house today. Here’s a 15 second video of my kids exploring Mount Bonell.
3. Zilker Park
Bring a picnic and blanket and explore the park! There are lots of things to do here including a playground, fly a kite, have a picnic, throw a frisbee, canoe, and stand up paddle boarding. My kids love to climb the boulders in the middle of the park. In December, be sure and check out the Trail of Lights!
Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a fun one hour or less adventure for kids. Its $7 per adult and kids 12 & under are free. Kids get a sculpture scavenger hunt complete with a pencil and the trail is shaded. Pro tip: It’s right next door to Zilker Park so consider pairing this adventure with a picnic in the park! Umlauf is closed on Mondays. Here’s a 15 second video of my kids exploring Umlauf Sculpture Garden.
The museum is located right next door to Mayfield Park, so consider visiting both on the same day. This museum is 100% outdoors. We like to bring notebooks and have the kids draw their favorite sculptures. My 6 year old loves the 33 foot tall “Tin Foil Man”. Currently, you need reservations to see Laguna Gloria and it’s open Thursday- Sunday from 9-3pm. Kids are 18 are free and adults are $10. Here’s a 15 second video of my kids exploring Laguna Gloria.
Mayfield Park is right next door to Laguna Gloria and always free. The park has free roaming peacocks, koi ponds, and nature trails galore. Mayfield Park is the perfect spot for a family hike and picnic. My kids favorite trail is a loop with multiple creek crossings and a giant tee pee to play inside. No reservations needed and the park is open 7 days a week. Here’s a 15 second video of my kids enjoying Mayfield Park.
There are 10 gorgeous miles of paved and unpaved trails bordering Lady Bird Lake. Here is an interactive map of the hike and bike trail with playground locations and parking details. The picture below is Andy and my mama walking the new boardwalk trail! Here’s a 15 second video of my kids exploring the trail.
The boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake was completed in 2014, and is part of the Ann and Roy Butler hike and bike trail. It’s my favorite section for walking with kids. There is 7.250 feet of boardwalk with 300 piers, 2,200 pre-cast concrete deck planks, and 7 viewing areas.
9. Explore The University of Texas
Bring scooters or roller skates and enjoy the paved paths and gorgeous architecture of the University of Texas. Here’s a 15 second video of my kids exploring campus.
Don’t miss our favorite spots on campus:
- Feeding the turtles and the turtle pond located behind the clock tower
- Clark Field
- Fossils on the Clock tower!
*The Nature Science Center is currently closed.
If you have little kids, the Austin Nature Science Center is a must do. There is a huge dinosaur pit complete with shovels and buckets for digging up dino bones. There are also wildlife exhibits including a fox, raccoon, owls, snakes, fish, and lizards. One of Maxwell’s favorite things to do at the science center is take off his shoes and play in the stream! Bring water, sunscreen, and snacks.
Note: The Hope Outdoor Gallery is in the process of moving to a new location.
I have also heard it called Castle Hill Graffiti Park. You can actually buy spray paint and graffiti the walls of this park. It’s a fun to place to explore and you never know what kind of graffiti you’ll find! We did Max’s one year photo shoot here. There are no stairs, so be prepared to hike up steep hills. I wouldn’t wear flip flops. Bring a blanket and a picnic and hang out awhile. The views of downtown Austin are pretty incredible too.
The Cathedral of Junk used to be totally free and you could go whenever you wanted, but due to city permits and other nonsense you have to schedule an appointment and there is a suggested donation fee. To see the Cathedral, you need to call Vince and set up an appointment at 512- 299-7413. The suggested donation is $10 per group. It’s a three story masterpiece in a residential neighborhood.
13. The Thinkery
This is another one of Max and I’s favorite places. Wednesday from 4-8pm is community night and admission is free! A few of Maxwell’s favorite exhibits are the giant lite brite room, rainbow maze, the water room, the market, and the outdoor playground and water feature. Max’s favorite thing changes weekly, but he is currently really into the wind room where you can fly airplanes and watch balls zoom through the wind maze in the exhibit below. Check out this 15 second video for an insiders view of the Thinkery.
It’s free from 5-8am and from 9-10pm. Otherwise this Austin gem costs 1,2, or 3$ depending on your age for residents and one dollar more for non Austin residents. For younger kids, Deep Eddy Pool is our favorite. It’s also fun to note that Deep Eddy is the oldest pool in Texas and the water for the pool comes from 3 on site wells. Austin also has 11 free splash pads that are always a hit with kids!
You can wander around the beautiful, shady grounds of the capital of Texas. All guided tours are currently suspended.
16. Hiking in Austin
There are so many fun hiking spots in Austin! If you’re looking for a stroller friendly hike, I’d recommend the boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake that I mentioned above. Many of the ones below are rocky and not great for a stroller.
Here are my top 5 hiking spots for families in Austin, TX
- Wild Basin Preserve
- Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake
- Mayfield Park
- River Place Trail
- Emma Long Park
- Bull Creek Greenbelt (Seen below)
17. Alliance Childrens Garden
The Alliance Childrens Garden is a brand new park in the heart of downtown Austin. It’s a 2 acre play area complete with rock walls, slides galore, a sand pit, swings with gorgeous views, giant ants to climb, and an incredible climbing tower! Here’s a 15 second video of our new favorite park.
Pro Tip: Next door is the Liz Carpenter splash pad… bring swim suits!
Keep Austin Weird Activities
Currently chicken shit bingo is live online ever Sunday between 4-68m.
(Excuse my French, but that’s the official name!) Every Sunday from 4-9pm at The Little Longhorn Salon, folks gather around to play a friendly game of bingo… with chickens! You can hang out in the backyard, watch the action from inside of the saloon, listen to a live band, or buy a ticket for $2 and join in on the Bingo playing fun. Ginny unleashes the chicken do their thing and the winner goes home with cold hard cash! Definitely an authentic Austin experience!
Seasonal fun, free things to do in Austin
This year from July 10- August 15, they are performing Hairspray every Thursday- Sunday evenings at around 8:30pm. It’s free and you can bring a picnic basket and cooler. You are allowed to start laying blankets down at 6pm, no earlier.
Every summer night (May-September), 1.5 million Mexican Free Tailed bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. The best bat viewing month is August when the young pups join their mamas for a night fly. I like the view from under the bridge especially with little ones since you don’t have to worry about them running into the street on top of the bridge.
This happens every Wednesday morning in the summer form 9-11:30 at The Austin Central Library. The picture below is when the event used to happen at Symphony Square Amphitheater. It’s free and there are usually musicians, story tellers, and magicians to entertain the kids! The kids get free balloons and cups of lemonade cost 10 cents!
If you’re thinking about visiting Austin, check out this post about the perfect weekend in Austin with kids! Have you ever been to Austin? What did you think? Did I miss any other really awesome fun things to do? I’d love to hear…