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.
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 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.
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.
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 many more. On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, 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.
Every Thursday at 8:15pm, the Austin Swing Syndicate offers a free intro to swing dance class. Expect a lively crowd, with up to 300 people attending each class. You do not need to bring a partner, just your dancing shoes!
There are many farmers markets in Austin, but a local favorite is SFC Farmers Market, which is held in downtown on Saturdays from 9am-1pm. 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. Do a complimentary beer tasting at Independence Brewery or take a brewery tour of Thirsty Planet or Hops and Grains – just make sure to reserve your space in advance.
For even more free activities, check the HI Austin activities board or talk to the staff. There may be 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 the HI USA Free For All.