Although the cost of practically everything in Austin, Texas appears to be rising, there are plenty of free things to do in town. You can enjoy free music while viewing art, exploring Austin’s natural beauty, learning about the town’s colorful historical figures, or enjoying the city’s natural splendor. Here are some of Austin’s top freebies.
1. Climb Up Mount Bonnell
A solid climb up a long staircase is a great way to keep active on a hot day. However, no one seemed to be able to find common ground on the number of steps. Some sources claim 99, while others claim 102, while yet others claim 106. You’ll be treated to a magnificent view of the city and Lake Austin when you reach the summit. Because the observation area at the summit offers limited shade, pack a large hat, sunscreen, and plenty of drink.
2. Picnic, Hike, or Just Relax at Zilker Park
There is plenty of green space to discover in the 350-acre park. Visitors can feed ducks along Barton Creek or stand outside the pool area and watch dogs play in the water. Although admittance to Barton Springs is charged, a stretch of the creek can be accessed for free just outside the gates. The water is equally as chilly and soothing, however, there are few places to relax along the banks, and you’ll be battling overexcited dogs for space.
3. Bike or Hike at the Ann and Roy Butler Trail
The hike and bike-track around the lake are still known as the Town Lake or Lady Bird Lake hiking and bike trail, but the actual name is Ann and Roy Butler. The entire path is a 10-mile loop that runs from west Austin’s Mopac highway to east Austin’s Pleasant Valley Road. The trail’s eastern section is less popular and includes the trail’s newest feature: a boardwalk over the water. This ingenious method was devised to avoid having the route come to a halt and start around apartments built near the river. Rather than destroy the apartments, the city decided to extend the route over the river.
4. Soak in Latino Culture at the Mexican American Cultural Center
The Mexican American Cultural Center honors Mexican Americans’ and Native Americans’ artistic and cultural achievements in the United States. Two galleries feature recurring displays of modern Latino artists’ work. The center also hosts book signings, film screenings, artist receptions, and other community events.
5. Swim Laps at Big Stacy Pool
Big Stacy is a medium-sized community pool tucked away in the tree-lined Travis Heights area. The pool is closed for lap swimming in the early mornings, however, it is open for recreational swimming after 9 a.m. on most days. The pool is located amid Stacy Park, which is a long, narrow park with a creek that runs through it. Tennis courts, picnic tables, grills, a volleyball court, and a baseball backstop and field are all available at the park.
6. Explore Art and Texas History at Elisabet Ney Museum
The sculptures created by Elisabet Ney, who came to Austin in 1892, adorn the castle-like mansion. She sculpted Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, as well as well-known individuals from her own Germany. Several busts and life-size statues are included in the collection. Other shows go into detail about Ney’s complicated sculpture-making process. During her lifetime, the structure served as both a residence and a studio (originally called Formosa). The museum is small, but it offers a fascinating peek into the life of an aristocratic German woman who lived and worked among some of Texas’ most renowned early residents.
7. View Artistic Graffiti at Hope Outdoor Gallery
A few years ago, an abandoned construction site on a hillside was converted into a constantly changing public art project. Colorful images, ranging from graffiti to large murals, cover the multilevel concrete walls. Local artists and art students are only permitted to participate in the installation as part of organized events, although everyone is welcome to view the artwork during daylight hours.
8. Walk a Dog or Dog-Watch at Red Bud Isle
Red Bud Isle, tucked away on a small island in Lake Austin, is most known for its leash-free dog park. Near the park’s entrance, there’s an open play area specifically for dogs. It’s also a wonderful area for an easy hike if you don’t have a dog. The main trail circles the island, but there are additional minor trails that cut through the bush near the island’s center. The park also provides a fantastic view of Austin’s wealthy and famous residences. Several huge houses sit above cliffs overlooking Lake Austin.
9. Take a Long Stroll at Pease Park
Pease Park, located just west of the University of Texas and along Shoal Creek, is one of Austin’s hidden beauties. As the journey travels north, you’ll encounter a mix of built and undeveloped trails. You can take a stroll under a canopy of trees or scramble over boulders, based on which route you go. The walk is leash-free from 24th to 29th Streets, and there is a designated open area at 24th where dogs can play with each other. There are large areas of green space along the path that are great for throwing Frisbees or playing soccer. There are additional sand volleyball courts available, however, these must be booked in advance.
10. Browse or Attend a Reading at BookPeople
BookPeople is not just one of Austin’s few remaining independent bookstores, but it’s also one of the largest. In addition to a large collection, the store has a skilled team that can assist you in finding the correct books for you. BookPeople organizes book signings, readings, and book club meetings regularly. A modest cafe serves coffee, sandwiches, and sweets on site.