Set in the heart of Texas, Austin is known for its world-class music, film and cultural attractions. But you don’t have to flash the cash in order to experience the best of this buzzing city. From free festivals and museums to hiking trails and biking tracks, Austin offers plenty to do for those on a budget. Take a look at our guide to the best free things to do in Austin on your next trip.
Witness North America’s largest bat colony
Every evening at dusk between March and October, a stream of bats fly out from under Congress Avenue Bridge. Home to one of the biggest bat colonies in the world, it makes for an extraordinary sight. Watch for free from on top of the bridge or head to the Austin-American Statesman park to catch a glimpse of this unique display.
Visit Blanton Museum of Art
Part of the University of Texas at Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art brings together more than 17,000 works dating from the 14th century to the present day. You’ll find art from the US, Europe and beyond alongside a roster of exhibitions, and if you go on a Thursday you can experience it all for free.
Climb Mount Bonnell
For a peaceful retreat away from the buzz of the city, climb the steps to the top of Mount Bonnell. It offers far-reaching views over Lake Austin and is especially beautiful at sunset, when the sky takes on its pinkish hues and sparkling lights illuminate the city.
Create some street art
If you’re looking to get creative, head to the Graffiti Park at Castle Hill and admire this colourful display of local street art before creating your own vibrant masterpiece (bring a spray can). The murals are constantly changing, which means there’s always something new to see.
Hiking, cycling and skating
Austin and its surrounding areas offer various options for outdoor enthusiasts, including the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail, a 10-mile circuit with charming lakeside views that lure in runners, walkers and cyclists from across the city. There’s also the Barton Creek Greenbelt – a popular trail for hiking, swimming and rock climbing – and the Veloway, a scenic 3.1-mile track designed for cycling and roller-blading.
Texas State Capitol
Home to the Governor’s Office, the Texas State Capitol is a beautifully ornate work of architecture, and you can explore its elaborate interiors for free with a half-hour tour. There are verdant grounds to wander through as well as a large Visitors Center, and if you’re there from 2pm – 4pm on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, you can also take a tour of the Governor’s Mansion.
Sound & Cinema fesitval is hosted at the Long Center © Long Center for the Performing Arts
Every year from May onwards, Blues on the Green brings a series of free summer concerts to the 350-acre Zilker Park, drawing in large crowds with an impressive line-up of artists. Sound & Cinema, hosted at the Long Center, kicks off in June, with free music and film events taking place on the lawn every other Wednesday throughout the summer months.
If that’s not enough to entice you, there’s the bi-annual Pecan Street Festival, a huge music and arts event (taking place on 7th and 8th May 2016) that features live bands and craft exhibitors from across the world.
It’s not just in the spring and summer though; every January, local bands take to the streets as part of Free Week, kicking off the New Year with a bang and blasting the January blues as only Austin knows how.
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Have you experienced any of these free things to do in Austin? Let us know in the comments section below.