Austin on the Cheap

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Always-Free Activities in Austin

New to town? Just visiting? Check out these free or nearly-free events that are ongoing around Austin.

Zilker Park: Texas’ warm weather means that this 351-acre park is used just about year-round for a variety of activities. Have a picnic, use the hike and bike trails, or check out some of the park’s other features, like the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, which can be accessed for a minimal fee. Or visit the Botanical Garden, for free. The park is free on weekdays, but on weekends from March through Labor Day, there’s a charge of $3 per car. Still a great deal.

Free concerts: Every Thursday at noon, Central Presbyterian Church in Austin holds a free concert for the public. Artists are varied. Afterwards, a light lunch is served for a suggested $5 donation – if you want to eat, you must RSVP. Click here for details and upcoming schedule.

First Thursday: On the first Thursday of every month, the famed South Congress Street downtown comes alive with live music, street vendors, and special events.

Town Lake: Though it’s now officially called Lady Bird Lake, this body of water is surrounded by excellent jogging and biking trails. See a map of the trails. They are free to access. Don’t forget to stop by Auditorium Shores to see the famed statue of musician Stevie Ray Vaughan while you’re there.

Ruta Maya: This coffeehouse (3601 S. Congress Ave.) has a ton of free events almost every day. Free salsa lessons, free yoga, and tai chi are just some of the things you can participate in at Ruta Maya. (For the classes, they do ask that you make a purchase – but how much is a cup of coffee, anyway?) On Sunday mornings, the coffeehouse usually has a free kids’ show.

Kids’ Movies at the Drafthouse: The Alamo Drafthouse movie theater (1120 S. Lamar Blvd. location) has the Alamo Kids’ Club, featuring free movies for kids on the last Saturday of every month, and on Mondays through Thursdays during the summer. Info is here.

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats: In the summer around dusk, you can gather near the underside of the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch more than a million bats take flight. Click here for directions and info.

Star Parties: The University of Texas’ astronomy department hosts free “star parties” every Wednesday night while UT is in session. View stars and learn more about constellations. Click here for details.

Capitol Tour: Tour the Texas state capitol building for free. Self-guided tours are available anytime during business hours. Tours guided by others, which are also free, are available throughout the day. Click here for details and a brochure.

Texas Memorial Museum: This exhibit hall in the UT Natural Science Center features lots of dinosaur and other natural history exhibits. Admission is free. See here for location, directions and hours.

Third Thursday at the Blanton Museum: On the third Thursday of every month, you can go to the Blanton Museum of Art for a tour, lecture, and other activities that vary from month to month. You can also enjoy an extended happy hour in the museum cafe with a glass of wine and slice of gourmet pizza for just $5.

This page will be updated as new info is gathered.

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