Austin is one of my favourite cities to visit (or live in). Unfortunately, it can also be a pretty expensive place to visit. Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do that won’t break the bank. Here are a few of my favourite cheap things to do in Austin!
Cheap Things to Do in Austin
- Watch the bats emerge from Congress Avenue Bridge – Every night from March to October, 1.5 million free-tailed bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. It is a sight to behold. It looks like a huge plume of smoke coming from beneath the bridge and heading down the river. Plus, all those bats eat around 20,000 pounds of bugs every night! No wonder Austin’s bats are so popular. Plus, you watch them from the public walkway on the East side of the Congress Avenue Bridge so it is absolutely free.
- Take a walk on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail – When I lived in Austin, I spent every single weekend on this trail training. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be training to visit. There are different trail loop lengths depending on your time and training needs. Hit the 3-mile loop for a short jaunt with great green spaces, views of the lake and great people watching. Want to go further? No problem, there are also 7 and 10-mile loops. Plus there are lots of places you can stop (hello coffee) that are just a few steps off the path.
- Browse Central Market – Another suggestion that might not be all that cheap if you buy tons of stuff but it’s one of my favourite things to do. Central Market is a GREAT store with loads of variety. It’s a great place to find foods you should bring back to Canada from America and things you never even knew you needed like candied jalapenos.
- Blues on the Green – Austin is known for its live music. Blues on the Green is a great way to enjoy live music, outdoors for free. It’s an Austin tradition!
- Hit South Congress for a bit of browsing – Okay, so if you buy things this isn’t free. However, even if you aren’t planning on buying anything, SoCo is a great place to people watch. You’ll also find great street art, buskers, street artists and more. Plus you can check out the costume craziness at Lucy in Disguise! If you have a bit of money to spend, head to Guero’s for margaritas and chips and salsa. Yum!
- Rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard to explore Lady Bird Lake – Whether it is during the day or in the evening to see the bats, taking to the water gives you a whole other perspective for Austin’s downtown skyline. Rentals run around $10 – $15 per hour and there are a few different rental places on the lake to choose from.
- Take a swim at Barton Springs Pool – Barton Springs is a natural pool in the heart of Zilker Park. The pool is fed from an underground spring so it is 68-70 degrees all year round. While Barton Springs is not free, non-resident adults can visit for less than $10 per person.
- Head out to hear live music – You’ll need to do a bit of research or head to 6th street but free live music can be found all around Austin. We heard a great band at Friends on 6th Street last Saturday night. The calibre of musicians you will see in Austin in places not charging a cover is impressive. If you have a few dollars to spend, The Continental Club is always a good time.
- Chicken Shit Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon – Yep, this does involve chickens and poop. Tickets to buy your square to see if the chicken will “gift” you a prize are only $2 and you’ll get to say you did one of Austin’s quirkiest and fun things to do on a Sunday.
- Climb Mount Bonnell – I might be a little biased here since Mount Bonnell is where I got engaged. It’s a great place to get a lay of the land and there is a great view. Pack your water and your sensible shoes, though, because there are many stairs to climb on your way up.
- Head out for a free Movie in the Park – Austin LOVES an excuse to get outside and do something for free. The movies are family friendly and they are shown in various parks throughout Austin.
There are tons more things to do in Austin (many of which involve food which I’ve mostly left out of this list) depending on your budget. I love that there are so many cheap things to do in Austin without feeling like you are on a budget.
It’s a great place to visit no matter how much money you have to spend. Thinking of visiting? Bring your friends and have a look at my post about planning an Austin trip for a group. Oh, and if you have your kids in tow, you’ll want to check out Evan’s favourite kid-friendly places to eat in Austin. I hope you love these great ideas for cheap things to do in Austin!