Free Austin, Free Fun Austin, Free Stuff Austin And Free Things Austin
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.
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.
Austin Convention and Visitors Center offers two free Austin guided walking tours of historical homes and places in downtown Austin. Both tours require 24 hour advance reservations and reservations may be made through the Austin Convention and Vistors Center website. The Historic Congress Avenue and Sixth Street tour times are 9 AM Thursday through Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday and include 19th century buildings such as the Old Bakery, the Driskill Hotel and St. Mary's Cathedral. The Bremond Block Historic District tour examines a collection of homes belonging to members of the John Bremond family built during the Victorian era and tour times are at 11 AM on Saturday and Sunday. The tour departure point for both these free things to do in Austin is the South entrance of the Capitol building at 1100 Congress Avenue.
The Austin Museum Partnership is an organization of Austin-area museums collaborating for the mutual benefit of the public and the museums. The Austin Museum Partnership has sponsored a free, city wide Annual Austin Museum Day every year in Austin since 1998. Participating sites include art and science museums, historic sites, history museums, nature preserves, natural habitats, botanical gardens, the University of Texas library and art repositories, the LBJ Presidential library, a children's museum, a museum about Texas music, the Texas State Capitol. The 2012 Annual Austin Museum Day is scheduled for Sunday, September 23, 2012.
Sponsored by the Austin Independent School District, the Annual Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival is the the nation's largest annual school event and largest American Indian annual gathering in Texas. Hundreds of Native American Indian dancers, singers and drummers gather each year in Austin on the first Saturday in November to celebrate American Indian culture. Dancers of all ages in full American Indian regalia compete for prize money and vendors sell traditional American Indian cuisine, including buffalo stew and roasted corn, and wares such as jewelry and pottery. The annual Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival always takes place on the first Saturday in November and admission is free. The date for the 2012 Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival is Saturday, November 3, 2012.
The free Austin Recovery Recovery Enrichment Workshops are on the second Saturday of each month and are open to all members of the Austin community. National and local speakers present on topics related to addiction and recovery. Refer to the Austin Recovery website for the schedule of speakers and topics. Austin Recovery is a non-profit alcoholism and drug treatment center offering affordable treatment for addiction problems.
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.
Taking place on the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, Batfest and Night of the Bat celebrates Austin's famous bat population. An estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Featuring arts and crafts, music, food, bat watching, children's activities and education display. the Batfest is ponsored by the City of Austin and admission is free. The 2012 Batfest includes live music from ten bands on two stages, more than 75 arts and crafts vendors and a bat costume contest. The live bats generally emerge from under the bridge at around dusk between 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM and the emerging flight can last for up to 30 minutes. The date for the 2012 Batfest and Night of the Bat was Saturday, August 25, 2012. The date for the 2013 Batfest and Night of the Bat is to be announced.
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.
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.
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 Free Day of Yoga in Austin is every Labor Day and has been held every year in Austin Texas since 1999. There are over 100 free yoga classes on the first Monday in September held from dawn to dusk at locations all over the city of Austin. Yoga teachers and studios say thank you to the Austin yoga community with this fun free thing to do in Austin once a year. It is also a way to introduce new students to yoga and different styles of yoga to current students. There is a listing of participating yoga teachers and locations published in the Austin Chronicle the Thursday before Labor Day. The Free Day of Yoga in Austin kicks off with an opening festival on Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 at Whole Foods Market on 525 N. Lamar featuring gift bag,vendors, a giveaway drawing and free classes for the whole family. The date for the 2011 Free Day of Yoga in Austin is Labor Day, Monday, September 3, 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.