One of the fun free things to do in Austin is on the last Saturday of every month when the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on South Lamar screens free kids movies. The free Austin Alamo Drafthouse movies for children are also shown Mondays through Thursdays during the summer months. Free films include 1950s science fiction movies and family classics like Swiss Family Robinson as well as more recent features. These films are sponsored by the Austin Chronicle, Ain't It Cool News and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Free Kids Club at Alamo Drafthouse was started more than ten years ago at the original downtown location by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and he continues to fund the series with a birthday party benefit each year.
Organized in 1969, a month after the first manned lunar landing of Apollo 11, the Austin Astronomical Society (AAS) is a club for people who are interested in any aspect of astronomy or the space sciences. The Austin Astronomical Society's monthly club meetings are free and open to the public and feature speakers on a variety of astronomy related topics. Monthly meetings are held on the second Friday of each month at 7:30 PM in the Robert Lee Moore Building on the University of Texas campus at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dean Keeton and Speedway. The Austin Astronomical Society also holds regularly scheduled observing sessions or star parties at the Society's Eagle Eye Observatory located on the upper branch of Lake Buchanan northwest of Burnet, Texas as well as many more astronomy related activities including astronomy tours at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. The Eagle Eye Observatory houses three telescopes and the area around the observatory building is a large observing field with 30 powered tables for AAS members to set up their observing equipment. Some of these star parties are open to the general public and others are only for members of the Austin Astronomical Society. Annual membership dues are $25 a year with discounts for students, seniors and families.
Austin Children's Museum, located in downtown Austin, is a museum devoted to helping kids learn to think, using hands-on exhibits. Featuring a rotating feature exhibit area, as well as several permanent exhibits. ACM offers free admission to families 4-5pm Sunday upon request.
The Austin City Limits studio moved from it's long time home at Studio 6A (which held less than 400 fans) on The University of Texas campus to a new facility at the W Hotel called the Moody Theater in 2010. The longest-running music program in television history and recognized by Time magazine as one of the 10 most influential music programs of all time, the original pilot for Austin City Limits was taped in October of 1974 with Willie Nelson. ACL had its final taping in Studio 6A with Lyle Lovett on November 8, 2010. The Moody Theater is a three-story venue that contains 85,000 square feet of studio space with a capacity of 2,700 people located at the corner of Lavaca and Second streets adjacent to the W Hotel. The stairs leading up to the venue are located on 2nd Street and Lavaca. Besides Austin City Limits television show tapings, the Moody Theater hosts 60 to 100 ticketed shows per year. The free Austin City Limits Tours on Friday mornings have been discontinued and replaced with tours on Monday through Fridays from 11 AM to noon. Tickets for the Austin City Limits tours can be purchased in person at the ACL Live Venue Box Office (open 10AM to 3 PM) or at the Austin Visitors Center located on 209 E. 6th Street. Tours will begin from the ACL Live Venue Box Office located on Willie Nelson Boulevard (West 2nd Street). Tickets are $10 per person or $8 per person for groups of 10 or more. The free Austin City Limits admission for television show tapings will be limited to about 800 fans to keep the more intimate atmosphere of the old studio. Tickets for tapings are free, but getting on the guest list requires connections to sponsors, staff or acts, or winning drawings posted on the Austin City Limits Upcoming Tapings page. Any announcements regarding ticket availability and giveaways for the public will be posted approximately a week before a taping. Free beer is no longer be handed out during tapings of Austin City Limits, one of the famous perks for the old TV audiences. State liquor laws covering the new commercial facility will no longer allow free beer, however bars selling alcoholic beverages will be open during ACL tapings. The garage under the building is for W Hotel guests and condo residents only. Concert-goers must use streetside spaces and parking garages. The City Hall garage and a state garage are all within easy walking distance.
Riding from one of their amphibious Hydra Terra vehicles, Austin Duck Adventures offers tours of downtown Austin from a different perspective. You will be treated to a 75 minute sightseeing tour including Historic Sixth Street, the State Capitol Building, Bob Bullock State History Museum, the Governor’s Mansion, and Lake Austin, from both land and lake! Advance reservations are recommended, and they are also available for corporate charter.
Departing from the front porch of the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill, Austin Ghost Tours will take you on a walking tour of some of Austin's spookiest places. Having extensively researched Austin's history, the tour guides will tell you the real stories behind some of the most chilling moments in the cities past and present. In over 10 years they have never canceled a tour due to weather, so if it's rainy and stormy, consider yourself in for an atmospheric treat.
Austin History Center is devoted to keeping and maintaining Austin history. In possession of over one million items, from manuscripts, maps, and news clippings, to recorded oral histories and photographs, Austin History Center has historical artifacts from before 1839, Austin's founding. Open both to the public and for research purposes, also available is a reference service online and over the phone.
Austin Museum of Art Downtown is the main exhibition location for the Austin Museum of Art. In the middle of downtown Austin, they feature continually changing exhibition and education programs that showcase a variety of 20th century and contemporary art. Includes a Community Room, which functions as a place for activities and private functions with gallery access.
The Austin Museum of Art Laguna Gloria location is the museum's original home. A blend of history, art, and nature, the AMOA Laguna Gloria is a recently restored 1916 Italianate-style villa that was the home of Texas legend Clara Driscoll, located on 12 acre grounds that feature a sculpture and historical gardens. Also home to "The Art School," a thriving hub of activity that teaches more than 400 classes yearly. Private parties and community gatherings are held year round.
The Austin Nature and Science Center is a "living museum," focused on the creative use of specifically planned interpretive exhibits, programs, collections, and trails. It has an animal exhibit, featuring more than 90 native animals that can't be returned to the wild. There is a Dino Pit, where you can dig up actual replicas of fossils found in Texas, follow dinosaur tracks, and view fossils from the 301 Congress construction site. Also featuring a naturalist exhibit, and an educational center. The Austin Nature and Science Center also has camps for both children and adults.
Austin Overtures specializes in providing "Austin in 90 minutes", an Austin sightseeing tour that familiarizes you with over 30 major historical, cultural, and and significant points of interest in just 90 minutes. The tour van is equipped with satellite activated narration, and is designed and powered by Mercedes Benz, so your wide will be smooth and safe.
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department calls Austin “A city within a park” and maintains more than two hundred parks, twelve nature preserves and twenty-six greenbelts on Austin area creeks and canyons. Most parks in Austin are open from 5 AM to 10 PM. The City of Austin Parks and Recreation website has information about swimming pools and lessons, programs for kids, teens and senior citizens, museums, municipal golf courses and tennis courts, volunteer opportunites and more including a “Park Viewer” interactive map to find parks and other recreation facilities in Austin.
The Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit that seeks to fill in the gap between what needs to be done to maintain and improve parks in the City of Austin and what the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department can afford to do. Established in 1992, Austin Parks Foundation has created physical improvements, new programming, and greater community involvement for Austin's parks including millions of dollars in volunteer time, in-kind donations, and financial support for city parks. The Austin Parks Foundation features a “Find a Park” web page to search for parks by search for parks by amenity, as well as by zip code, area, or name.
Founded in 2000 by Don Toner, Producing Artistic Director of the State Theater Company (formerly Live Oak Theatre), the Austin Playhouse presents professional productions of classic, contemporary and musical plays. For the 2011-2012 Season, the Austin Playhouse is performing in a temporary facility next to the building site of their new theatre in the Mueller Austin Redevelopment across from the Lake Park and adjacent to the new Austin Children’s Museum. The new theatre, designed by Dick Clark Architecture, will house two stages, a bar, a rooftop terrace with an art gallery featuring exciting new works by local artists, a cafe in the lobby and a full-service restaurant for dining before or after the show, plus classroom and meeting space. Construction is currently underway with an estimated grand opening in September 2012. Austin Playhouse produces an average of eight plays a year. The current 2011-2012 season includes The Lion in Winter by James Goldman (November 18 - December 18); Boeing, Boeing by Marc Camoletti (January 27 - February 26); A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (March 23 - April 22); and Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin (May 4 - June 3). Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh is scheduled to be the inaugural production of Austin Playhouse in the new theatre in the Fall of 2012.
Boarding in Austin at Saltillo Plaza and in Cedar Park off Highway 183, the Austin Steam Train Association operates a variety of train rides on vintage passenger trains through historic neighborhoods in the heart of Austin and in the Texas Hill Country. Staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers, the trains operate most Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year. Special entertainment excursions include holiday trips, murder mysteries for adults and story book specials for kids. No charge for children under 3 years old, however, each child must ride in the lap of an adult. Advance reservations are recommended.
Every summer for seven years the Austin Symphony has featured different ensemble concerts on Sunday afternoons. These free Austin Symphony ensemble concerts feature music from jazz and light classical to pops selections and film scores and are presented at the Hartman Concert Park in front of the Long Center City Terrace. The concerts start at 7:30 PM. Blankets and picnics are encouraged. Free parking is available at One Texas Center located on Barton Springs Road and South First Street. Paid parking is for $7 is available at the Palmer Garage with garage entrances on both Barton Springs Road and Riverside Drive.
With more than 300 animals across more than 100 different species, Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is a private, non-profit zoo rescuing animals and serving the Austin community. Located just outside of town, the Austin Zoo provides a beautiful, relaxed, experience up close with the animals to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The Zoo is always having special events or receiving new animals, so no two trips will ever be the same.
On the first Friday of every other month the Blanton Museum is open from 6 PM to 11 PM for a happening night of art, libations and live music by Austin bands and performers. Tickets are $12 for non-members and $5 for museum members and are available at the museum and online.
B.D. Riley's Irish Pub is a locally-owned authentic Irish pub with pints and classic pub food like fish and chips. The interior of the pub was built in Ireland and shipped and reassembled in Austin. B.D. Riley's Irish Pub features televised sports, Pub Quiz trivia night with prizes, no cover charge live music seven nights a week and a Sunday Irish Tune Session.
Absolutely the heart and soul of Austin, Barton Springs is the largest natural urban swimming pool in the United States with a surface area of three acres and a constant water temperature of 68 degrees. Human visitors have enjoyed Barton Springs for at least eleven thousand years. Wild horses shared the springs with native American tribes such as the Comanche, Apache and Tonkawa and at one time Indian artifacts were plentiful in the area. There is some evidence that the Spanish explorers Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado stopped at Barton Springs during their quests for gold and Franciscan friars later built a mission at Barton Springs. Uncle Billy Barton began charging admission to the Springs in the 1800's despite the occasional scalping by Indians as early Austinites made their way out to what was then the countryside surrounding Austin. The springs were sold to Andrew Jackson Zilker in 1907 and in 1918 Zilker deeded the springs and the surrounding thirty-five acres to the City of Austin. Located close to downtown Austin, Barton Springs is open year round except when the city closes the pool after heavy rains and for cleaning. To find out if the pool is open, call the 24 hour hotline number at 867-3080. Barton Springs Pool charges an admission and the City of Austin charges a fee in the Zilker Park parking lots on weekends and holidays, however free parking is available on the east side of the pool off of Robert E. Lee Road adjacent to the back entrance to the pool. Note: Beginning Wednesday, December 12, 2012, Barton Springs will be closed for approximately three months until repairs to the Barton Springs Pool bypass tunnel are completed sometime in March, 2013.
One of the iconic fun free things to do in Austin is to watch the world's largest urban bat colony fly out from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. The Congress Avenue bridge is one of three bridges linking the downtown area to South Austin across the Colorado River or what is sometimes referred to as Town Lake or more recently renamed Lake Lady Bird. Each night from mid-March to November, approximately a million or more Mexican free-tail bats emerge from under the bridge at dusk to blanket the sky as they head out to forage for food. The bats generally emerge before dark, but may fly late as the time of year and weather conditions affect bat emergence times. July and August are the best times to see the most dramatic flights when new born pups first begin to forage with their mothers. It is possible to view the bats from the bridge, but the bridge itself is a high traffic throughfare. The best way to see the bats is to bring a blanket or lawn chairs to the free Austin Bat Observation Center located at the Austin American Statesman offices at 305 South Congress Avenue on the southeast side of the bridge where there is a viewing area and an educational kiosk. If parking is not available at the Austin American Statesman, additional parking after 6 PM is located at Texas Department of Transportation offices located around the corner off Riverside Drive. Bat Conservation International Bat Interpreters are present Thursday through Sunday nights in the months of June, July and August. Please remember to look, but DON'T TOUCH THE BATS. Bats are free wild animals and like all free wild animals, they may bite in self-defense if handled.
Thursdays from 10 AM to 5 PM is FREE DAY at the Blanton Museum of Art. The Blanton Museum of Art is the largest art museum in Austin and features a substantial permanent collection of important works of art as well as traveling collections from around the world. Some of the free things to do at the Blanton on Thursdays include over 30,000 square feet of permanent and traveling collections and exhibits. The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the foremost university art museums in the country, and has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas. The Blanton features modern and contemporary art from both the United States and Latin American including the Mari and James A. Michener Collection of 20th-Century American Art Modern and the Barbara Duncan Collection of Latin American Art. There is also a notable collection of paintings of the American West.
Situated within an old movie theater, Blazer Tag offers massive laser tag games inside of a three story, ten thousand foot arena. With party rooms, a high tech video arcade, and food, Blazer Tag has been the host of many a child's birthday parties. They also offer occasional all night lock-ins, and are available for corporate or birthday rentals.
Well worth the hour drive from Austin, Wimberley is a picturesque community featuring one of the most beautiful swimming holes in Texas. The Blue Hole has been a popular spot for swimmers and picnickers since the 1920s and in 2005 was aquired by the City of Wimberley as a public park. Surrounded by ancient cypress trees and 126 acres of natural forests and native grass fields, Blue Hole is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day and there is an admission fee. No life guard is on duty and dogs are not allowed.
Traditional free stuff to do in Austin includes the Blues on the Green free Austin summer concert series presented by KGSR Radio at Zilker Park. KGSR has sponsored this fun free thing to do in Austin TX for over twenty years. KGSR's Blues on the Green has always been a free community event supported by Austin Parks and Recreation and Austin area businesses. The Blues on Green free music concert in Austin on Wednesday Nights at Zilker Park take place from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM during the months of June through August. Concert goers can bring their own food or purchase food or soft drinks from vendors on site. It is a good idea to bring chairs or blankets. Dogs on leashes are also allowed. Glass containers and alcohol are not permitted in City of Austin parks. Public parking is available either across the street by the Barton Springs pool or the big lot off of Stratford Drive by the Mopac Bridge. In addition, free parking is available at the One Texas Center after 5pm. Bike racks are located at the North and South ends of Zilker Park. Capital Metro buses also serve Zilker Park. The 2012 season of Blues on the Green free music lineup is Charlie Mars with Max Gomez on May 30; Rhett Miller with Wheeler Brothers on June 13; Ben Kweller with Amy Cook on June 27; Marcia Ball with Nakia on July 25; BoDeans with Sahara Smith on August 1; and an ACL Festival preview featuring Quiet Company with The Eastern Sea and Wild Child on August 8.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is named after former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the museum. It tells "The Story of Texas" with three floors of permanent, traveling and special exhibits on the history, traditional culture and popular culture of Texas including sports, business, performing arts and technology. It also features a "Texas Spirit Theater," which showcases movies filmed in Texas and the special effects show, "The Star of Destiny," a multimedia experience of the history of Texas narrated by the character of Sam Houston. It is also home to Austin's only IMAX theater, and plays "Texas: The Big Picture," a large-format film, as well as current commercially released movies. During the summer, there is a annual free concert series called "Music Under the Star" presenting popular Austin performers on the Lone Star Plaza under the 35-foot-tall bronze star. First Saturdays of the month are FREE admission at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum from 2 PM to 6 PM.
Deep under the heart of the University of Texas is the Texas Union Underground, a recreational facility open to the general public featuring bowling at the Texas Union Underground. The bowling alley at The Underground has 12 bowling lanes and shoe rental is available. A special feature of bowling at the Texas Union is "Glow Bowl" nights, bowling with black florescent lights, lasers and music. Reservations are accepted and league bowling is available. The Texas Union Informal Classes also offer five-week bowling lessons to learn etiquette, proper equipment and the fundamentals of the game including ten free practice games.
Bright Leaf is a natural area over 200 acres in size within the city limits of Austin, Texas. It is free and open to the public, and guided hikes take place every second Saturday and Sunday of every month. The Austin Chronicle Critics Picks 2008 awarded it the "Best Walk in the Park" of Austin. Bright Leaf is a natural area over 200 acres in size within the Austin city limits. In order to protect the fragile nature of Bright Leaf, all hikes in the park must be guided hikes. Free guided hikes on the second Saturdays and Sundays of the month at Bright Leaf Preserve are fun free stuff for both children and adults. Park visitors are to meet the guide at the parking lot off of 2222 and Creek Mountain Road. Hikes are approximately 4 miles long, last 2-1/2 hours and are free. Hikers should dress for the weather and bring a water bottle. Bright Leaf began as the inspiration of Georgia Lucas who purchased the land in 34 separate real estate transactions in order to put together the property she named Bright Leaf. To gather 216 acres of contiguous undeveloped land within the city limits of Austin today would be impossible. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has recently partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to offer a Best of Texas Backyard Habitats certification program. Wildscaping is an important concept for wildlife, water conservation, and an appreciation of the beauty of the native plants around us. Bright Leaf is a great place to see some of the native plants that can be used in wildscapes and are available at area nurseries.
The Cap 2K is an open water swim race and fundraiser for Friends of Deep Eddy Pool that annually takes place on a Sunday in May on Lady Bird Lake Lake, the section of the Colorado River that runs through the heart of Austin. The 2,000-meter race goes downstream from Red Bud Isle to the Texas Rowing Center near Austin High School and ends with an awards ceremony, picnic and celebration at Eilers Park adjacent to Deep Eddy Pool. First staged in 2003, the race averages 200 swimmers. It is illegal to swim in Town Lake without special permission from the City of Austin due to fluxuating currents from the dam release and lake traffic, so the Cap 2K is a rare opportunity to swim in Lady Bird Lake.
Capital of Texas Zoo offers children and families an affordable zoo experience in Cedar Park. They feature things from a nocturnal animal house with over 30 Fruit Bats, a European Boar exhibit, and over 100 Quaker Parrots, families can spend an entire day there learning about various animals and their habitats. They also offer to bring the party to your child's birthday party with a Zoo Show with exotic reptiles, mammals, or just a gentle animals petting zoo. For reservations please call (512) 303-6675.
Located inside Northcross Mall, Chaparral Ice is a family owned business seeking to share their passion of Ice skating with the Central Texas area. Their mission is to promote their passion by offering a fun, safe, service oriented experience to skaters of all levels. If you don't know how to skate, they offer a free 30 minute introductory lesson. Children interested in Hockey or Figure Skating can apply for their off-campus physical education program to receive PE credits.
The City of Austin BMX and Skate Park for skateboarders and BMX bicyclists (small, maneuverable bikes designed for spinning and doing tricks) is Austin's newest park and opened in June of 2011. The BMX and Skate Park is 30,000 square feet and features a skate bowl, a large plaza with streetscape elements, shade structures, unisex restroom and skateable public art pieces. The Austin skate park project was funded by 2006 Bond Election and designed by New Line Skateparks from British Columbia, Canada. The skate park is designed for all skill levels. Use of helmets and pads is encouraged. Admission is free. The City of Austin BMX and Skate Park is open from 5 AM to 10 PM daily.
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Division offers swimming lessons for both children and adults at all levels of skill. Instruction is on a progressive basis and advancement to the next class is contingent on successful completion of the preceding class or instructor approval. The fee for eight lessons over a two week session is $55. A complete listing of lessons and registration information is available online or in the Swim Lesson brochure available at any City of Austin Public Library, Recreation Center, the Parks and Recreation Department Administrative Office at 200 South Lamar Boulevard or the Aquatics Office at 400 Deep Eddy Avenue. Online and telephone registrations are NOT available. Registration forms must be faxed, mailed or dropped off at the Aquatics Office.
Recipient of the 2006 National Recreation and Parks Association "Excellence in Aquatics" Award, the City of Austin Aquatic Division operates and schedules forty-eight public pool facilities, which include twenty-seven neighborhood pools, six wading pools, ten splash pads, six municipal pools and Barton Springs Pool. The City of Austin Aquatic Division also offers a wide range of swimming lessons and water aerobics classes for ages six months to adult, including snorkeling at Barton Springs Pool. Many of the public pools in Austin were built by the Public Works Programs during the Great Depression between 1928 and 1937, including Pease, Eastwoods, Shipe, Metz, Rosewood, Palm, Big Stacy, Westenfield and Parque Zaragosa. The neighborhood and wading public pools are generally open from Memorial Day or the first weekend in June until school resumes in the Austin Independent School District. Barton Springs and Big Stacy are the only year round public pools open in Austin. Most of the City of Austin pools are free, but the larger municipal pools charge a fee. Forty visit swim tickets and season passes are available.
Listed as a historic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, Deep Eddy Pool has one of the best lap swimming pools as well as the largest wading pool in Austin. Deep Eddy Pool is fed by a 35 foot hand dug Artesian well and is the oldest swimming pool in the state of Texas. West of downtown Austin, the water for the pool comes from the Colorado River (or Town Lake as that portion of the Colorado River is locally known in Austin) and filters through sand and limestone to fill the pool with clear water at a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees. Originally built by Works Progress Administration in 1936, the original bathhouse recently reopened after being restored due to the efforts of The Friends of Deep Eddy, a non-profit association of swimmers and other parks advocates. Deep Eddy also features “Splash Party Movie Nights” on most Saturday summer nights starting in mid June. The family oriented movies begin at dusk and the regular pool entrance fee covers the movie and the pool entrance fee.
Dinosaur Park is an educational and fun place, where people can learn about the majestic creatures that ruled our earth millions of years ago. Unlike most museums, Dinosaur Park doesn't just show skeletons, but actual life sized dinosaur replicas, ranging in size from the 6-foot velociraptor to the 40-foot T-Rex, all in their natural habitat. Other activities include a fossil-dig, playground, picnic area, and a wonderful Dinosaur Store stocked with a variety of gifts sure to please any dinosaur fan!
The Elisabet Ney Museum is one of the oldest museums in Texas, and celebrates the life and works of Elisabet Ney, an early Texan artist. Following Elisabet Ney's death in 1907, her friends preserved the studio and its contents as the Elisabet Ney Museum, dedicated to honoring the memory of Elisabet Ney and to promoting her ideals and visions for the people of Texas. It is also a national, state and local historic landmark.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park commonly known as City Park has a designated swimming area on Lake Austin and a large sandy beach. This 1150 acre park features boat ramps volleyball courts, camping sites with water and electricity hookups and dressing areas with hot showers. The Emma Long Metropolitan Park is a 1150 acre park located right on the shores of Lake Austin. It has boat ramps, sand volleyball courts, a designated swimming area in Lake Austin and a large sandy beach. Men's and woman's rest rooms, hot showers, and dressing areas are also available. There are 20 camping sites with water and electricity hookup and 46 tent camping sites with water available every third site. Emma Long Park is named after the first woman elected to council in a major Texas city. Overnight camping is permitted.
Free Fun In Austin is a website run by a mother of four named Heidi with a degree in theatre arts. She does an excellent job of posting free things to do in Austin including food, events and coupons. Most of her notices come from her Facebook page so be sure to "Like" Free Fun In Austin there.
Ruta Maya Ruta Maya Coffee House presents free kids shows featuring quality children's entertainment and children's music every Sunday at 10:30 AM. Past performers have included Joe McDermott, Darren Peterson and Circus Chicken Dog, Magical Mystical Michael and Mr. Steve's Drumming Extravaganza.
Every morning between 5 AM and 8 AM swimming is free at Barton Springs Swimming Pool at Zilker Park but there is no lifeguard on duty. One of the best fun free things to do in Austin is the free swim from 9 PM to 10 PM at Barton Springs Pool. From 9 PM and 10 PM there is no charge for swimming at Barton Springs Swimming Pool at Zilker Park and lifeguards are on duty. For the evening swim, the best time to get to the swimming pool and find a convenient parking spot is about 8:30 to 8:45 PM. When the lights at the entrance flash on at 9 PM that is the sign that pool admittance is now free. During the summer, there is usually local music on the night of the full moon and the pool area is full of Austinites howling at the moon during free swim between 9 PM and 10 PM.
The non-profit organization Save Our Springs Alliance sponsors free yoga on Saturdays at 10 AM at Barton Springs Pool during the months of May through July. This community event is free to the public. Bring a yoga mat or towel and water. This free yoga class meets at the back gate area of Barton Springs Pool off of Robert E. Lee Road under the big tree outside of the Barton Springs pool area.
Ruta Maya Coffee House in South Austin offers free yoga classes with any $3 miniumum purchase from the cafe every day of the week except Sunday including Happy Hour Yoga at 5:30 PM on Monday and Wednesday and free Saturdayyoga 10 AM on Saturday mornings. All classes welcome all levels of students and use a unique approach which addresses each person at their own level of flexability. It is highly recommended that you bring a yoga mat, however a limited number are available at the cafe.
The French Legation Museum is a house-museum in east Austin. The French Legation Museum represents a conscientious effort to return to details authentic to the Dubois and Robertson eras. Many pieces remain from the Robertson family's ownership of the home in addition to items from Dubois’ Legation. The reconstructed French country kitchen, designed by architect Raiford Stripling, is notable for its extensive eighteenth and nineteenth-century equipment. Further archeological study also provided the location of the privy/outhouse site; there is now a recreation of this outbuilding on site. Also available for weddings and private events.
The George Washington Carver Museum was Texas' first African-American neighborhood museum. Located in the building that was Austin's first library, and later Austin's first branch library, it focuses on African-American history and heritage.
The German-Texan Heritage Society is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and preservation of the German cultural heritage in Texas. Headquartered in the German Free School and guided tours are provided every Thursday afternoon.
Under renovation since October of 2007, The Governor's Mansion was damaged by fire in June of 2008 and will be closed indefinitely for extensive repairs and rebuilding. Built in the Greek Revival architectural style, the original construction on the Texas Governor's Mansion was completed in 1856. Forty Texas governors and their families have occupied the Mansion. Fortunately at the time of the fire, all furnishings and historic aritifacts had been removed due to the scheduled renovation.
Formed when a cave over an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago to create a 45 foot waterfall and water filled grotto, Hamilton Pool is approximately 30 miles southwest of Austin. The Reimers, an immigrant family from Germany, bought the property in 1880 to raise sheep and cattle. Prior to the 1800s, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches lived in the area and there is evidence of humans in the area dating back over eight-thousand years. Operated by the Reimer family through the 1980's as a private recreational area, Travis County purchased 232 acres from the Reimer family in 1985 and today Hamilton Pool is operated as Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. Admission is charged and parking is only available for 75 vehicles. The parking lot is closed temporarily when capacity is reached and vehicles are then admitted on a one out, one in basis. During the summer months the lot is usually full by eleven. Swimming is periodically prohibited due to high bacteria levels in the pool and a heavy rain will typically close the pool to swimming for a week or so. Nesting cliff swallows contribute to high bacteria levels in the early summer. For updated swimming conditions, call the Preserve at 512-264-2740. The trail down to the pool is a over a quarter of a mile in length and includes a series of rock steps descending into the canyon. Sturdy footgear is recommended. To get to Hamilton's Pool Preserve, take Highway 71 west of Austin through the town of Bee Cave and turn left onto FM 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road). Travel 13 miles to the Preserve entrance on the right.
Admission to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin is free and open to the public. The major focus of the Ransom Center is the study of the literature and culture of the United States, Great Britain, and France. Free things to do in Austin at the Harry Ransom Center include include the exhibits at the center displaying manuscripts, rare books, photographs, works of art and major collections in theater and movie memorabilia including the David O. Selznick and Gloria Swanson archives. The Harry Ransom Center also offers a number of free special events including poetry readings, lectures and movies.
Located about a half hours drive from downtown Austin, Hippie Hollow is the only clothing optional public park in Texas. Hippie Hollow's tradition as a nude swimming hole began in the early 1960s in Austin and continues today despite court challenges. Entry to the park is restricted to those people 18 years and older. The swimming area is not a beach, but a series of limestone ledges leading down to the water.
Open for more than thirty years and the only remaining dive bar on the Drag across from the University of Texas, the Hole in the Wall features local music from country to punk to jazz. Most weekday shows are no cover with a $5 cover on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is located at the Austin Water Utility's Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant. It is hosted by the Austin Water Utility's Center for Environmental Research at Hornsby Bend. More than 350 birds have been recorded here. The complex consists of 4 lagoons, woods along the Colorado River, and fields. There are monthly bird walks, volunteer work, and bird counts at the Education Center. Be prepared for unpleasant odors during the summer.
Jourdan-Bachmann Pioneer Farms is a working farm showing what life was like in the 1800s. There are five historic sites spread over 90 acres to explore including an 1840s Tonkawa Encampment, an 1860s German Immigrant Farm, an 1870s Texian Farm, an 1880s Cotton Planters Farm and an 1890s Sprinkle Corner rural village, There are special events on a regular basis including a Halloween hayride.
Keeping Austin Free is a blog style website that updates on a regular basis with current free events and activities in the Austin area. Information on free stuff to do in Austin ranges from free kids shows to free food coupons to free admission to films, concerts and theater events.
Each May and June, tens of thousands of Austinites and visitors from all over the world make the two hour drive from Austin to converge at Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville for eighteen consecutive days of traditional folk, bluegrass, acoustic rock, blues, country, jazz, and Americana music. Founded by Rod Kennedy, the Kerrville Folk Festival has run annually since 1972 and is the longest continuously running music festival of its kind in North America. Many visitors camp at the ranch during the festival and almost all the staff are volunteers. One of the most unique aspects of the festival happens after the official shows when fans, volunteers and performers play music by the campfires, sometimes till dawn. The 2011 Kerville Folk Festival is scheduled for May 26 through June 12.
An oasis of classic days gone by amusement located on five acres in north Austin, Kiddie Acres is geared toward younger children under ten years old. This amusement park is open year-round with free admission and is a long-time favorite for birthday parties. Tickets must be purchases for rides and activities. Family owned and operated since 1979, Kiddie Acres features carousel rides, a ferris wheel and pony rides, as well as an 18 hole miniature golf course. Concessions including popcorn and cotton candy are available.
Situated on a bluff overlooking Cypress Creek, this privately operated recreational area owned by Elton and Jane Krause is on the National Historic Register as an undisturbed Indian burial ground. Krause Springs is located 35 miles west of Austin in Spicewood, Texas and has been in the Krause family for several generations. Elton Krause and his sons have done all of the beautiful landscaping and rockwork themselves, including the rock picnic tables. The Krause home sits at the edge of the parking lot with a spring-fed swimming pool behind the house. The overflow from the pool cascades 25 feet below into a towering cypress tree and fern lined natural swimming hole and creek. There are thirty-two springs throughout the campground as well as lush tropical plants and magnificent trees. Some of the cypress trees are estimated to be over one thousand years old and the live oak trees are between one and two hundred years old. Overnight camping is allowed with some hookups for recreational vehicles and admission rates vary depending on day use or overnight use. Krause Springs is also available by reservation for weddings, receptions, company parties and family reunions. To get to Krause Springs, take Texas Highway 71 west from Austin, cross the Pedernales River, drive 7 miles, turn right on Spur 191 at the Exxon Station, right on County Road 404 and look for the sign on the left.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was founded by Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson, First Lady of the United States from 1963 to 1969 during the presidency of her husband Lyndon B. Johnson, and the actress Helen Hayes in 1982 as the National Wildflower Research Center with the goal of protecting and preserving North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Since it's founding, the Center in southwest Austin has become one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for native plants became a University of Texas Organized Research Unit in 2006. The public gardens, woodlands and meadows display native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas, while the conservation program protects rare and endangered flora. The Wildflower Center hosts frequent events to help educate and entertain the public including book signings, art shows, photo exhibits, plant sales, gardening festivals, kid's events and annual parties and galas. The Wildflower Center also presents an informal education program called Go Native U with classes on sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, native plant gardening, the benefits of native plants and other topics related to sustainable landscape design. Some of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center informal classes are available as online webinars.
Austin Riverboats is Texas' longest running Riverboat rental service. Specializing in classic Riverboat experiences, they have two paddlewheel boats that can fit up to 220 guests. They also can cater upon request. Perfect for weddings, corporate, or special events.
Located approximately twenty miles from Austin, the drive to Lake Travis can take up to an hour depending on traffic conditions and destination. Lake Travis is sixty-five miles long with 270 miles of shoreline and has seventeen public parks and numerous private facilities. Although it is one of the most popular recreational lakes in Texas, Lake Travis is also considered one of the most dangerous due to its cloudy waters, narrow configuration and extremely heavy boat traffic. The lake can be unexpectedly deep at points and the bottom of the lake is uneven with brush, trees and rocks. The lake covers 18,929 acres and the lake elevation when full is 681 feet. While the lake's limestone cliffs and shoreline are the perfect backdrop for both sailing and power boating, be extremely cautious when swimming at Lake Travis, especially with children. There are on average four drownings a year on Lake Travis. As lake levels drop due to summer or drought conditions, the number of drownings usually increases as swimmers sometimes try to swim to now exposed “sometimes” islands and misjudge the distance. Alcohol is also often a factor in lake drownings as the motion of the waves and the intensity of the sun can magnify the effects of drinking. Life jackets are recommended for children and those who are not strong swimmers.
Lone Star Riverboat is a family owned business, operating the largest electric paddle wheel boat in the nation, as well as several smaller boats. They are available for private rental, as well as public tours and bat-seeing trips. They are also a city-concession, meaning that a portion of their gross sales go to preserving the park system.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) operate forty parks and recreation areas along the Texas Colorado River including the Austin area and several of these parks have swimming areas available. The LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) maintains 42 parks along the Texas Colorado River, from the Hill Country to the Gulf of Mexico. From camping to fishing to hiking, LCRA has many different varieties of park to offer. The website has a comprehensive list of all parks the LCRA maintains.
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Library houses forty-five million pages of historical documents which include the papers from the entire public career of Lyndon Baines Johnson and also from those of close associates. The museum provides year-round public viewing of its permanent historical and cultural exhibits. Special activities and exhibits are sponsored privately by the Friends of the LBJ Library and its parent organization, the LBJ Foundation. Beginning in December 2011, the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, will be undergoing a major redesign with a grand opening scheduled for December 2012, in celebration of what would have been Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday. The LBJ Library will remain open throughout the construction, but parts of the Library will be closed at times. Updates on construction and exhibit closures will be available on the Library website.
The Mexi-Carte Museum provides education programs and exhibitions focusing on traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture. Since its founding in 1984, Mexic-Arte Museum has been designated as the Official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas by the 78th Legislature of the State of Texas.
Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex is a facility with a 154-seat movie theater, a 16-lane bowling alley, video arcade area, a food court, and a 12,500 square foot roller skating rink. Serving as a safe place for east Austin youth to go, the complex hosts special events, job fairs, private receptions, and movie festivals on a regular basis.
The Moonlight Prowl is a tour of the University of Texas campus at night complete with anecdotes of student life, history and University of Texas legend. This fun thing to do in Austin is free. Reservations must be made online and confirmed by email. There are several versions of the Moonlight Prowl and the email confirmation includes the place to meet. Moonlight Prowls are held several times a month from March to early November. This activity is probably not suitable for young children. The Prowl is a mostly outdoors walking tour of the 40 acres as the University of Texas campus is sometimes called. All Prowls start at 8 PM and last 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
There's an old folk tale in Austin that if a couple walks up the 100 stairs to the top of Mount Bonnell they will fall in love, the second time they will get engaged, and the third time they will inevitably get married. Regardless of the actual statistics, Mount Bonnell is the oldest tourist attraction in Austin, and has been enjoyed by generations of Austinites since the 1850s. A great view of Austin, it is a bit of a hike, so be sure to wear appropriate shoes.
Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to building partnerships, advocacy and action for parks. In conjunction with Alamo Draft House, the Austin Parks Foundation sponsors a fun free thing to do in downtown Austin with free outdoor movies at Republic Square Park. Dogs, picnics and lawn chairs are welcome. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the park. Republic Square Park is located at 5th Street and Guadalupe Street. There is free parking on surrounding streets. There is also parking in the State Garage at San Antonio and 4th Streets for $5. Movies begin at dusk which is usually around 8:30 and there is pre-show entertainment starting at 7 PM. Check the Movies in the Park website for a schedule of upcoming movies.
The Neill-Cochran House Museum was designed and constructed by Abner Cook, the Master Builder responsible for Austin’s most elegant 19th-century houses, including the Texas Governor’s Mansion, Woodlawn, Sweetbrush, and Westhill. Filled with furnishings from 1780-1925 in period rooms: Colonial, Empire, Rococo Revival, Victorian, the Neill-Cochran House Museum provides a narrative for it's former occupants, most notably the Texas School for the Blind and Federal troops during Reconstruction
The mission of the O. Henry Museum is to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts and archival materials relative to the author, for literary, educational, and historical purposes that are accessible to the public. The museum was established in 1934, under the jurisdiction of the City of Austin, and is both a National Register Property and a National Literary Landmark.
Nestled under the trees at the top of a hill close to Zilker Park, family owned and operated Peter Pan Mini Golf has been the scene of birthday parties, teen outings and family fun for generation after generation of Austinites. Peter Pan's 36 holes are divided up into two courses and though the 15 foot Peter Pan and the 20-foot T-Rex are hard to miss, every hole features some kind of obstacle or character to put around or through. Many of these fiberglass and concrete characters have been on the course since it was originally built in 1948 by the Dismukes family. Often open till midnight, Peter Pan Mini Golf is also a great date destination.
Playland Skate Center has been offering skaters a safe, fun experience in Austin for the past 20 years. They are Austin's largest skating rink, 27,500 square feet! They also feature an impressive light show, fog machine, and state of the art sound system. Available for private rentals, they also offer public skating at an affordable rate, and if you are looking to get away from the kids for a while, Tuesday is 18 and up only.
REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a national retail cooperative selling outdoor gear and clothing, offers a variety of free classes, clinics and events for both children and adults at the store located in downtown Austin. Free Austin store classes include rock climbing, guided hikes, attracting outdoor birds, map and compass basics, bicycle maintenance and photography. Refer to the REI website for specific dates and details. Registration is generally required and class space is often limited, so sign up in advance. REI Austin-Downtown stocks gear and clothing for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling and more. REI in downtown Austin also has bike shop offering a full range of professional bike shop services. REI in downtown Austin also offers a wide selection of outdoor rental equipment. There is also an REI store in Round Rock and one in the Gateway shopping area.
At just under 2500 acres, Reimers Ranch Park is one of the biggest parks in the Hill Country. Located in Dripping Springs, the park is notable among rock climbers, as well as fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and swimming. There is a 10.00 entrance fee per vehicle, and the park is only open during the day.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas is an organization dedicated to the preservation of Texas Heritage formed in 1891. They own/operate several museums throughout Texas, including the Alamo in San Antonio. The Republic of Texas Museum is located at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas headquarters, and houses many artifacts from the Republic of Texas era.
The Rowing Dock on Town Lake offers recreational boat rentals right on the shores of Ladybird Lake. They rent kayaks, paddleboats, and stand up paddleboards at an hourly rate. They will assist with getting your boat in and out of the water, and with your paddles and lifejackets. Also available are summer camps, group rentals, and rowing and kayaking lessons.
Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels began as a camping resort on the Comal River in the early 1970s where campers floated down the river in large rubber inner tubes. That original campsite has grown to a 65 acre water theme park featuring miles of tube chutes, winding rivers, uphill water coasters, wave pools and kid-friendly water playgrounds. Food is available for purchase, but picnic coolers are also allowed in the park (no alcohol or glass). One day and two day admission tickets are available as well as season passes.
SXSW Interactive is a five day conference featuring presentations on cutting-edge and emerging technologies, networking events hosted by industry leaders and showcases of new websites, video games and startup ideas. SXSW Interactive primarily takes place at the Austin Convention Center with related events all over the downtown Austin area. SXSW Interactive has a reputation as a launching pad for new ideas and creative technologies and is credited with being a part of the success of Twitter in 2007 and Four Square in 2009. Past speakers at SXSW Interactive include Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. The dates for South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival is scheduled for Friday, March 7 through Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Registration will open in early August of 2014.Hotels in the downtown Austin area that are designated as official SXSW hotels require all SXSW reservations to be booked through the SXSW Interactive Conference and Festival.
Built by the Works Progress Administration between 1933 and 1937, Big Stacy Pool is located within the Travis Heights neighborhood close to the South Congress shopping district. The pool is called Big Stacy to differentiate it from Little Stacy, the wading pool located within the same city greenbelt. Popular with lap swimmers, Big Stacy Pool is free, open year-round and heated in the winter by water from an Artesian well located 2000 feet below the surface. The pool is wheelchair accessible and there is a handicap lift. Parking can be scarce in the late weekday afternoons when lap swimmers arrive after work, but there is additional parking in the neighborhood around the park. There are usually three lap lanes open in the summer and six in the winter. One of Austin's famed moontowers can be seen from Big Stacy Pool.
The Astronomy Department at the University of Texas sponsors free public star parties on the top roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall at the southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway every Wednesday night while UT is in session. Take the elevators at Robert Lee Moore Hall to the 17th floor and then follow the signs to the stairs up to 16 inch telescope used for teaching undergraduate astronomy majors and for graduate student projects. Parking is available at nearby UT parking garages for $3 after 6 PM. Viewing times change throughout the year so check the website first or call (512) 471-5007 for current times. If the weather seems questionable call (512) 232-4265 approximately thirty to fortyfive minutes before the scheduled start time to find out if the viewing is cancelled. A typical night will include a planet or two, binary stars, star clusters and some of the brighter nebulae.
The Astronomy Department at the University of Texas hosts free viewing on the Painter Hall Telescope every Friday and Saturday night while UT is in session. Painter Hall is located at the corner of 24th street and Inner Campus Drive just to the north of the UT Tower. At Painter Hall take the elevator to the 5th floor and exit to the left. Follow the 5th floor hallway to the end and take the staircase through the double doors on the left. At the sixth floor go to the right and follow the signs up to the telescope. Parking is available at nearby UT parking garages for $3 after 6 PM. Viewing times change throughout the year so check the website first or call (512) 471-5007 for current times. If the weather seems questionable for this fun free thing to do, call (512) 232-4265 approximately 30-45 minutes before the scheduled start time to find out if the viewing is cancelled. The Painter Hall telescope has been in place at Painter Hall since the 1930's and the lens in the telescope was ground at the turn of the century.
Located five miles southwest of downtown Austin, Sunset Valley is a small community of less than two miles square located close to the intersection of West Gate Boulevard and Highway 290. The Sunset Valley Arts Commission sponsors a series of summer concerts that take place twice a month in June, July and August in the the backyard of Sunset Valley City Hall at 7:30 PM on Sunday nights. The 2011 free music in Austin features Wendy Colonna Band on June 5; Butch Miles Jazz Express on June 19; John Arthur Martinez on July 10; John Mills Times Ten on July 24; Son Y No Son on August 7; and Vitera on August 21.
SXSW Eco is a three-day conference featuring sustainability experts from around the world to discuss the issues and challenges facing the environment, economy and society. The goal of the conference is to bring an international audience of executive level decision makers from the public and private sectors together with thought leaders from the academic world to bring discussion about sustainability and the environment beyond rhetoric and towards solutions. SXSW Eco will feature a variety of events, including keynote presentations and panels discussing topics including green energy, solar power, renewable energy, wind energy, sustainable living and other sustainability and environmental challenges facing business and society today. The registration fee for SXSW Eco includes three days of programming, an opening night reception, a conference banquet dinner and a closing party featuring live music. The inaugural SXSW Eco Conference is scheduled for October 4 through 6, 2011.
Operating under the Office of the Governor of the State of Texas, the Texas Film Commission has been assisting filmmakers and promoting the film industry in Texas since 1971 and more recently supporting the burgeoning Texas video game industry. The Texas Film Commission provides free information and assistance to projects of all types and all budgets. The Texas Film Commission also seeks to connect productions with personnel and service companies and provides a listing of current and upcoming professional film or commercial projects in Texas seeking crew members, actors and extras as well as animation and video game developer jobs and Texas film festivals and competitions seeking film entries. The Commission also assists media companies in location research, guidance on filming on State-owned property and other information relevant to media production in Texas.
Texas Memorial Museum is part of the Texas Natural Science Center at the University of Texas and admission is always free. Texas Memorial Museum has exhibits featuring dinosaurs and fossils, Texas wildlife and gems and minerals. Texas Memorial Museum also has a working Paleontology Lab where visitors can observe and ask questions as scientists work with real fossils. Exhibits of dinosaur fossils found in Texas include the largest flying creature ever found, the Texas Pterosaur, with a wingspan of nearly 40 feet, and the 30-foot Mosasaur that swam the shallow sea that once covered most of the state. The Texas Memorial Museum also has a gift shop with lots of fun and interesting gifts for kids.
The Texas Military Forces Museum is a free military museum located at Camp Mabry. The Museum focuses on Texas Military Forces from 1823 and the first militia musters in Stephen F. Austin's Colony to the present day in 5 different main exhibits, each of which highlights different parts of the Texas Military Forces story.
Free Capitol tours are conducted daily beginning in the Capitol South Foyer and concluding in the Capitol Extension. This tour features the Capitol, Texas history, and the Texas legislature. Tours are generally 45 minutes in length and are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Saturday from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM and on Sunday from Noon to 3:30 PM. These tours are conducted daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter.
Established in 1851, the Texas State Cemetery is the final resting place of Governors, Senators, Legislators, Congressmen, Judges and other legendary Texans who have made the state what it is today. It is located just blocks east of the Capitol and is still in use today. Guided tours are offered with reservations.
This local non-profit promotes the enjoyment and understanding of birds and wildlife in their natural habitats in Central texas. The Travis Audubon Society provides free field trips and programs on wildlife conservation and manages two wildlife sanctuaries, the 690 acre Baker Sanctuary for Golden Cheeked Warblers in northwest Travis County and the 10 acre Blair Woods in East Austin.
Many parks in the Travis County Park system surrounding Austin have swimming areas, including Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point, Pace Bend Park and Tom Hughes Park (Marshall Ford). Entrance fees are required at most parks and life guards are not on duty. Always use caution when visiting natural swimming areas due to possible rugged terrains, steep inclines and variable lake levels. Glass containers and fireworks are prohibited in all Travis County Parks.
Located right off of Zilker Park, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum features sculpture by 20th century American sculptor Charles Umlauf and other contemporary sculptors. It offers classes and workshops to the public, and is open Wednesday through Sunday. Open on Monday and Tuesdays from 10 - 4:30 pm for tour groups of 15 people or more. It is also available for weddings and other private facility rentals.
Closed for almost 25 years, the University of Texas currently offers tours of UT's landmark Tower atop the old Main Building on the UT campus. Accompanied by a UT student guide, tours are self-guided with approximately 45 minutes to view Austin from the observation deck. The schedule varies depending on the time of year, but generally tours take place Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Advance reservation of tickets is strongly recommended. Reservations can be made by phoning 475-6633 or in person at The Texas Union building on campus at 2247 Guadalupe Street. Tickets are $6.00 per person and tours are frequently booked a week or more in advance. Unclaimed tickets are sold to a waiting list 10 minutes before each tour time. You may sign up on this list on a walk-up basis at the Texas Union Information Center starting one hour before a scheduled tour. Bags and purses are not allowed on the tour, but lockers are available to rent for $1.
Unplugged at the Grove is a free, all ages Austin outdoor music series that runs each Thursday night from April to September at the Shady Grove restaurant on Barton Springs Road adjacent to Zilker Park. 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of free music in Austin at Shady Grove Restaurant from Unplugged at the Grove. Sponsored by KGSR Radio, Unplugged at the Grove always presents some of Texas most talented and accomplished musicians. Tables at Shady Grove Restaurant fill up fast, but folding chairs and blankets to sit on the lawn are okay to bring into Shady Grove for the free Austin concert. Parking is available in the Shady Grove parking lot, but do not park in the nearby neighborhoods. It's always a good idea to get there early for this free thing to do in Austin to get a good parking spot and a good seat. The 2013 free music in Austin series licks off on April 11 with Austin favorite Bob Schneider. The tentative 2013 schedule for Unplugged at the Grove is April 11 - Bob Schneider; April 18 - Suzanna Choffel; April 25 - Dirty River Boys; May 2 - Alejandro Escovedo; May 9 - Jimmy Lafave; May 16 - Carolyn Wonderland; May 23 - Whiskey Myers; May 30 - Special Guest To Be Announced; June 6 - What Made Milwaukee Famous; June 13 - The Trishas; June 20 - To Be Announced; June 27 - Reckless Kelly; July 4 - Alpha Rev; July 11 - Ruby Jane; July 18 - To Be Announced; July 25 - Cari Hutson; August 1 - Ray Wylie Hubbard; August 8 - Lincoln Durham; August 15 - James McMurtry; August 22 - Band Of Heathens; August 29 - Special Guest To Be Announced; September 5 - To Be Announced; and September 12 - To Be Announced.
Volente Beach Waterpark is located on Lake Travis and features a sandy beach on the lake, pool, water slides, kiddie pool with pirate ship, volley ball court and play ground. Volente Beach also has a marina with boat rental and restaurant serving seafood, burgers and sandwiches.
Independent music retailer Waterloo Records has been part of the Austin music scene since since 1982 and has won the Austin Chronicle “Best Record Store” almost every years since it opened. Besides being a great place to buy music, one free thing to do in Austin regularly presented by Waterloo Records is free live appearances and performances by both local and nationally-known artists. Most performances and CD autograph signings begin at 5:00pm and feature free refreshments courtesy of Shiner Beer. No flash photography is allowed during the in-store performances and the use of recording devices is prohibited. Waterloo Records carries an extensive selection of music of all styles and always has a exhaustive selection of local and regional Texas artists located at the front of the store. The staff can be very knowledgeable about the music carried by Waterloo and records are arranged alphabetically without division into genre. Waterloo has listening booths to listen to CDs before purchase and a liberal ten day return policy.
West Lake Beach is a privately owned park on Lake Austin that has been open to the public for over fifty years. No life guard is available, but a swim area is roped off from the shore of Lake Austin. Shaded areas, picnic tables, covered pavilions and BBQ pits are available. There is a volleyball court with net and ball. There are horse shoes and fishing areas, however horseshoes, stakes and fishing poles are not provided.
In August 1975, the City of Austin put $1.6 million into the purchase of land to lengthen the Barton Creek Greenbelt west of Loop 360, and the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was created. As an interdisciplinary laboratory for St. Edwards, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve provides one of the biggest examples of the Greenbelts that exist around Austin.
For over fifty years, the Zilker Botanical Garden has hosted the Zilker Garden Festival every spring as a fundraising event featuring plants and garden themed accessories for sale as well as educational displays and fun activities for kids.
A traditional free thing to do in Austin every summer is to take the family out to the Zilker Hillside Theatre summer musical. The Zilker Hillside Theatre is located in Zilker Park across the parking lot from Barton Springs swimming pool. The stage is located in a natural amphitheater under a stand of 100 year old pecan trees and in addition to the summer musical features numerous locally produced musical and dance oriented events including the Austin Symphony and Shakespeare in the Park. Admission to events at the Zilker Hillside Theatre is always free but there is a $3.00 fee to park in the Zilker Park parking lots. Most events start at 8 PM and blankets can be placed on the hillside after 6 PM. Theatre goers may bring a picnic or other refreshments, but alcohol is not permitted in the park. The 2011 Zilker Theatre Production Summer Musical is "Footloose." The free summer musical will open on Friday, July 8 and will be presented on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Saturday, August 13. Performances of the free Zilker summer musical start at 8 PM.
Located at 2100 Barton Springs Road, Zilker Metropolitan Park is considered "Austin's most loved park." This 351 acre park is home to a variety of recreation opportunities and special events for the individual or the whole family. The Hike and Bike Trail snakes through it, Barton Springs Pool, Austin's oldest, is open daily, Zephyr train rides for the family, soccer fields, multi-age playgrounds, picnic areas are all offered. Special events are held there on a regular basis. It is located in the heart of central Austin.
Hundreds of kites fill the sky the first Sunday in March at the Zilker Park Kite Festival. This annual event is free to enter and categories include the smallest kite, the largest kite, the highest flying kite and the most creative kite with both adult and children's divisions. Only homebuilt kites are eligible for competition, however you don't have to enter the competition to fly a kite during the festival. Admission is free. Free parking and shuttle rides are available from the state parking garage at 17th and Colorado. Sponsored by the Exchange Club of Austin, concessions are available and proceeds are donated to local children's charities. The Zilker Park Kite Festival always takes place the first Sunday in March. The date for the 2013 Zilker Park Kite Festival is Sunday, March 3, 2013.