What are the best free things to do in Austin?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Hayley Bosch

Courtesy of its mild climate, there are amazing activities to do year round in Austin — even free ones. As the capital of Texas, this laid-back city has made a name for itself in both the music and culinary worlds. But Austinites are proud of everything that their city has to offer, from its many lakes to the legendary bat colony. The best part about this vibrant college town is that a lot of the main attractions are free. Here’s are list of the best things to do in Austin without spending a dime:

1. Take a hike. It sounds bizarre to go on a hike in Texas, but Austin is in the middle of the good old Texas Hill Country. You will find plenty of hiking trails; we suggest the 7.9-mile Barton Creek Greenbelt, which will take you throughout more than 800 acres of lush forest — assuming that the area has gotten rain in the past month or so.

2. Run the lake. Affectionately known by Austinites as "Town Lake," Lady Bird Lake sits at the south end of downtown. With a dirt trail looping the lake, you can join the locals for a leisurely walk or jog in the great outdoors. Of course, we don’t recommend that you do this in the scorching heat during the summer (if you do, there are some water pit stops along the way). But any other time of year, you will feel oh so healthy jogging here, and you just might spot fellow Austinite (and major Longhorns fan) Matthew McConaughey.

3. Watch the bats soar. With the largest urban bat colony in North America, Congress Avenue Bridge is quite a sight between March and November. As the sun sets, more than a million bats take flight to find their dinner. Though it is quite noisy and certainly not for those terrified of birds or bats, the nightly exit is a vision. While we prefer to watch the tiny mammals scatter from the safety of our window, enjoy the flutter as close as you want.

4. Step into the State Capitol. As one of the most famous buildings in Austin, and Texas, for that matter, the state capitol is definitely worth a visit. Donning a chocolate-milk brown exterior, the Renaissance Revival building is picturesque come sunset. But you don’t just have to admire from afar; tour the legislative building for free. Our favorite view of the capitol is from the south end of downtown right as the sun is setting — it’s breathtaking.

5. Hook ’em Horns. Not only is Austin home to a top-notch university, but it is home to the University of Texas. With a long history of football, Greek life and highly ranked academics, UT is worth a trip through campus. As you pass by the famous clock tower and spot the humongous football stadium in the distance, you’ll know why it’s many little Texans’ dream to be a UT Longhorn.

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