I’ve lived in Austin, TX on and off since 2004 for a grand total of 8 years! I love this city. I mean where else can someone decide to build a 3 story cathedral out of junk in their backyard and then actually get the city to permit the crazy structure? Or has a park that is dedicated and even encourages random graffiti? There are so many fun, free things to do in Austin, TX that I decided to share a list of a few of our favorites. And by a few, I mean 20! Oh and if you like this list, check out the 30+ other lists of fun, free, family friendly things to do in cities all over the world!
20 Free Things To Do in Austin, TX:
1. Street Art Photo Ops: Here are a few of our favorite street art spots.
- I love you so much (1300 S Congress)
- Flamingo mosaic (Patterson Park, 4200 Brookview)
- 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)
And here is a giant list of tons of street art in Austin, TX!
2. Austin Nature and Science Center: Free admission! If you have kids, this is a must do! There is a huge dino pit complete with shovels and buckets for digging up dino bones. There are also wildlife exhibits including a fox, raccoon, lots of birds, 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!
3. Hope Outdoor Gallery: 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.
4. Cathedral of Junk: 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.
5. Mount Bonell: Hike up the long stair case for beautiful views of 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.
6. 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, stand up paddle boarding, or ride the Zilker Zypher train around the park for $2. (The train only accepts cash.) In December, be sure and check out the Trail of Lights!
7. The Thinkery: This is another one of Max and I’s favorite places. Wednesday from 4-8pm is community night and admission is free! A few of Maxwell’s favorite exhibits are the giant lite brite room, rainbow maze, the water room, the market, and the outdoor playground and water feature. Max’s favorite thing changes weekly, but he is currently really into the wind room where you can fly airplanes and watch balls zoom through the wind maze in the exhibit below.
9. Umlauf Sculpture Garden: Children 12 and under are free ad so are active military personnel and their families.
10. Barton Springs Pool: It’s free from 5-8am and from 9-10pm. Otherwise this Austin gem costs 1,2, or 3$ depending on your age for residents and one dollar more for non Austin residents.
12. The Contemporary Austin: The museum is located right next door to Mayfield Park, so consider visiting both in one afternoon. All of the museum exhibits are located outside on the properties shady grounds and there is free admission on Tuesday. Every other day kids under 18 are free and adults are $5. Here’s a cute picture of Maxwell exploring the exhibit on the lake. Here is another fun exhibit from the museum, this one is gone now.
13. Chicken Shit Bingo: (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!
14. Hiking: There are so many fun hiking spots in Austin! Here’s a great blog post with locations and descriptions. We typically baby wear Max that way we don’t lug a stroller over the rocks and through the woods, and we can let him get out and walk around easily enough. This is one of my all time favorite hiking pictures when Maxwell was a tiny baby.
15. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail: There are 10 miles of trail bordering Lady Bird Lake. Here is an interactive map with parks and places to park along the way. The picture below is Andy and my mama walking the new boardwalk trail!
Seasonal fun, free things to do in Austin:
16. Zilker Hillside Theatre: 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.
17. Bats on Congress Bridge: 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.
18. Children’s Day Art Park: This happens every Wednesday morning in the summer form 9-11:30 at Symphony Square Amphitheater. It’s not free, but costs on 50 cents 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!
19. City of Austin splash pads and pools: All 10 of the City of Austin splash pads are free and 28 neighborhood pools are free!
20. Blues on the Green: If you are visiting Austin in the summer, Blues on the Green is a free concert series that happens in Zilker Park featuring local artists. This annual event has been happening for 25 years!
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…