We know downtown has a reputation for being a little bit on the pricier side, but there are several ways to combat that and spend a fun day downtown without breaking the bank. Here are some of our favorite free things to do downtown.
Free Days at the Museum
Austin Museum Day is one day a year where any participating museums provide free access to the public; you just need to reserve your spot in advance. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for Museum Day to get in free to some of our favorite museums downtown. The Contemporary Jones Center has free admission on Thursdays, Mexic-Arte is free on Sundays and the Blanton Art Museum offers free admission on Tuesdays.
Free workouts are happening in parks around downtown throughout the week. Republic Square hosts yoga and dance cardio classes taught by Swift Fit Events on Saturday mornings during the SFC Farmers Market. The park is also home to the Summer Sunset Series with YTX during the summer. Waterloo Greenway hosts a weekly rotation of classes with Castle Hill Fitness that include yoga, cardio and strength workouts as well as a rotation of dance lessons on Thursdays evenings, all for free.99.
Free Movies and Concerts
Waterloo Greenway hosts Friday Flicks throughout the summer, where they show family-friendly films in the park on a giant inflatable screen for a fun night. Fareground also hosts outdoor movie nights in their gorgeous space. Both are known to host musicians and events that include free music throughout the year. Keep an eye on their schedules. Speaking of free concerts, the Red River Cultural District hosts two free music festivals a year, Free Week in early January and Hot Summer Nights in July. Several venues in the district participate and host a variety of local musicians with free admission.
Site-Seeing for Free
One of Austin’s greatest treasures is the Bat Bridge, aka the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bats emerge from the hiding spots under the bridge almost every night around sunset between March and November. You can watch from the east side of the bridge or in the grass next to the hike and bike trail under the south side of the bridge.
We have put together a couple of different mural tours you can take when you are downtown to see some beautiful artwork without paying a dime. Take the self-paced Art and Parks tour or our first mural tour and enjoy the public art.
Learn more about Texas history and take a free tour of the largest Capitol building in the country. The Capitol Visitors Center is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30am -4:30pm. Professionally-led tours begin every 10 minutes to visit the Crypt, the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall.
We love using the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. The trail is a ten-mile loop with several shorter loop options thanks to the bridges, and it includes several beautiful views of downtown. We also love watching the trains comes over the trestle at Seaholm for a more laid back day. For a more adventurous day, you can bring a board or your skates to the 9th Street BMX park for some adrenaline-filled fun. Waterloo Greenway is home to beautiful gardens worth walking around to enjoy as well as a playground made to accommodate children of all sizes and ages (including children at heart). You can play basketball, play on the playground or chill out in the giant egg at Pease Park.
Check Out Central Library
If you have yet to go to the Central Public Library, you are missing out. Our library is absolutely gorgeous, with an abundance of natural light, artwork, books, movies, CDs, zines, games and more. The staircases remind us of a modern Hogwarts and the rooftop garden provides a nice view of downtown, the lake and the Long Center. Any time spent at this library is time well spent.
We hope this helps you figure out how best to spend time downtown without breaking the bank. See you down here!
Helpful hint: Getting downtown doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. If you are driving, street parking is typically the most affordable way to park downtown. Even more exciting, street parking is FREE downtown on Sundays. If you want to find affordable, alternate ways to get downtown, check out our getting downtown guide here.
Helpful hint: There are several public restrooms and water fountains available to everyone while downtown. We maintain three of them. Here are their locations.