Free Things to Do in Austin | Hostelling International USA

HI Austin Hostel

2200 South Lakeshore Blvd
Austin, Texas 78741
Call 1 (512) 444-2294

Free For All: Austin

Lady Bird Lake in Austin
Updated June 2019

This spirited city is bursting with character, charm, and endless things to do. Whether you’re looking for a late party with up-and-coming bands or a quiet place to relax in nature, there is something free for everyone.

Coldplay at Austin City Limits

Live Music

This is what Austin is known for, and there’s no shortage of places to find it. For free shows, check out the White Horse Tavern. Almost all their shows are free, but double check their calendar before you head over. Whipin is also a hidden gem in Austin and always has a packed lineup.

The Great Outdoors

The City of Austin is filled with parks, trails, and beautiful landscape. At Barton Creek Greenbelt, a city park, you can hike, mountain bike, cliff dive, swim, or explore caves. HI Austin is located directly on the Butler Trail, a 10-mile path that winds along the water and through the city. Jacob’s Well Natural Area and McKinney Falls also offer great outdoor recreation opportunities.

Mount Bonnell

As the highest point within Austin city limits, Mount Bonnell is the best spot for panoramic views of the city. Visit this summit for a remarkable sunset and check out the amazing rock formations that line the area.

Art & Culture

To get a taste of Austin’s unique art scene, check out the Hope Outdoor Gallery, a three-story educational art project developed to provide muralists, graffiti artists, and community groups the opportunity to display large-scale art pieces. Explore the rich history and culture of the Austin live music scene at the South Austin Popular Culture Center. The Center conserves and exhibits vintage posters and live music ephemera from the 1960s through today. An exploration of art and culture in Austin wouldn’t be complete without a little something weird so a visit to the Cathedral of Junk is not to be missed.


As one of the top university museums in the country, the University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art has over 17,000 pieces in its permanent collection. Featuring American, European, and Latin artwork, the museum offers free admission every Thursday. Also part of the University of Texas is the Harry Ransom Center, a cultural research and preservation center that has rotating exhibitions and is always free to visit.

Austin City Limits

Be part of the live studio audience for Austin City Limits (ACL), a weekly live music show on the Public Broadcast Station (PBS). Boasting performers such as Willie Nelson, B.B. King, and the Foo Fighters, ACL is the longest-running music program in television history. Tickets are granted on a lottery basis, just enter your name and try your luck for an epic Austin experience!

Dancing in Austin

There is a vibrant and diverse dance scene in Austin including traditional, country-western, two-step, swing, salsa, blues, and much more. On Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., head to the Hancock Recreation Center for an Austin barn dance known as contradancing. A live band leads the set, calling out different types of movement, as 40-60 people move to the beat across a large dance floor.

Austin Farmer's Market

Farmers' Markets

There are many farmers' markets in Austin, but a local favorite is SFC Farmers Market, which is held downtown on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. You can also visit a working farm inside the city limits at Boggy Creek Farm – just check their schedule in advance, as it varies based on harvest season.

Brewery Tours and Tastings

Austin is known for its craft beer and has more than a dozen breweries right in town. Take a brewery tour of Hops and Grain Fridays at 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. – just make sure to reserve your space in advance.

Hostel Activities

For even more free activities, check the HI Austin activities board or talk to the staff. Chances are, there's a neighborhood tour, community dinner, or group outing that you can join where you can also meet other travelers staying at the hostel.

Find more free things to across the country in HI USA's Free For All series.

You Might Also Like:

greetings from austin mural

5 Instagrammable Street Art Murals in Austin

Thanks to a resurgence of local artists celebrating the cultures and identities of their hometowns, street art has popped up all around Austin, Texas. Around nearly every corner, you can find public art installations or murals that bring the vibrancy of this city to life.