Let’s face it, a visit to Austin can be expensive, especially if you’ve come for a major event or show.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of cheap and free things to do while in Austin. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Mt Bonell. You can’t get cheaper than free, and it costs nothing to walk up Mt Bonell and enjoy the view. For the best experience, you’ll want to do this at either dawn or sunset. But it’s a fun walk any time of day.
- See the bats. Yes, you can pay money and go on a bat-watching tour, but you can also simply stand on South Congress Bridge or find a spot in the park to the east of the bridge and watch the bats take off for free. It happens around sunset each evening and runs from March to November. Austin and Mexico have joint custody of the bats, and they live under a bridge in Mexico from December to March.
- Speaking of living under bridges, Austin has many more homeless folks than we’d like, but you don’t have to join them under a bridge. We have plenty of cheap hotels y’all can enjoy instead.
- Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. This trail is 10 miles long and is a great place for an early morning run, a beautiful walk, or you can rent a bike if you’re short on time. The hike and bike trail is a must-visit in Austin, even if you only do the boardwalk section. And best of all it’s so cheap it’s free!
- Barton Springs Pool. For a couple of bucks in summer (free in winter) you can take a dip in Barton Springs Pool, which is seriously one of the best cheap activities in Austin. They limit the number of people, so even in the height of summer, the experience is still fantastic. The pool itself is 3 acres and fed from a natural spring. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning. Barton Springs Pool opens at 5 am. Or alternatively, around sunset, the change of light makes it a magical experience. If you’re there to see and be seen, then you’ll want to go mid-afternoon.
- UMLAUF Sculpture Garden. For only $7 an adult and $1 each for kids, this is a really cheap way to kill a few hours. It’s also pretty cool, especially if you like sculpture and or gardens. I found the museum a little boring but enjoyed the gardens. As good as the gardens are, they’re WAY better on a healthy dose of mushrooms. Make sure you keep it together while you are getting in.
- Cathedral of Junk. First off, the Cathedral of Junk is at a private house and only open by appointment, so don’t be a dick and turn up unannounced. Admission is by donation, so it’s as cheap as you are! It’s well worth a visit though, you really won’t see another Cathederal like it.
- Disc Golf. Head to Zilker Park for a round of disc golf. It’s a great way to get some exercise and a perfect lazy day activity after a big night out.
- Texas Farmers Market. Mueller Park’s Farmers Market runs from 10 am to 2 pm every Sunday. There’s live music, great food, and a relaxed vibe.
- The Little Longhorn Saloon. There’s live country music with no cover charge, and best of all if you are on a budget $1.50 longhorn beers during happy hour 6 days a week. There’s no happy hour on Sunday as it’s the Lords Day, so they have chicken shit bingo instead!
- Waterloo Records. The best record shop in Texas has a fantastic selection of Vinyl from Texas artists (and everything else you’d expect). This is a great place browse for an hour or two if you’re a music fan. You’ll need to exercise some self control though, it’s only free to browse until you find something you ‘have to have’.
- Taquerias Arandinas. Eat some authentic mexican food. Not only is the food at Taquerias Arandinas amazing but the prices are so low you feel like you’re stealing. You can still get a taco here for less than $2. With food this good priced this low I am amazed that only 42% of us are obese!