Not all the best things in life are free, but there are still pretty good options when it comes to free things to do in Austin this summer. Here are 20 things to check out that won't cost you a dime.
Unplugged at the Grove
Returning for its 24th season, KGSR's Unplugged at the Grove is Austin's longest-running free live music series. Every Thursday night from April through September, saddle up at Shady Grove to hear exceptional local, regional, and national acts, including Rhett Miller, Bob Schneider, Swimming With Bears, Bee Caves, and Eric Tessmer. Everyone is welcome, and there's no cover charge.
Blues on the Green
If you're a native, BOTG is a tradition; if you're new to Austin, it's a rite of passage. Every summer KGSR has kicked off and ended the season with this free music series. Take your family, friends, and Fido out to Zilker Park for a night of homegrown music from diverse artists. Remaining shows are June 14, July 12, and August 2.
Summer Family Film Series
All summer long, the Bullock Museum is presenting the Summer Free Family Film Series with the theme, "A Magical Fantastical Adventure." From Alice in Wonderland to Where the Wild Things Are, these programs are free and open to the public with preferred seating for museum members. Shows run June 3 through August 12.
Round up your family for the annual Bubblepalooza on June 3. Enjoy live music, chalk art, food truck eats, and, of course, tons of bubbles at the Long Center. Not to mention you can also make an "I Love Austin" button with Do512 Family, get your face painted, learn how to make giant bubbles, jump in the foam pits, tour an ambulance, stop by the coloring station, take pictures with your favorite local characters, and more.
ATX Television Festival
The entire four-day ATX Television Festival is not free, but the Parks and Recreation outdoor screening at Hotel San Jose on June 9 is. Listen to some awesome music, check out Harvest Festival-themed activities, and nosh delicious food and drink from Jo's Coffee before you watch two episodes of Parks and Rec.
Sound & Cinema
Grab your blanket, snacks, kids, and dogs and get ready to watch flicks under the stars on the lawn at the Long Center. The four-show Sound & Cinema series will take place June 21, June 28, July 19, and July 26. Doors and food trucks open at 6 pm, and the movies start once it gets dark (usually around 9 pm). Before each screening there will be a live concert.
African-American Book Festival
Now in its 10th year, the Austin African-American Book Festival promotes empowerment through literature, reading, and writing within the African-American community. Highlighting authors and cultural leaders who have been influenced by African-American literature, the event includes a keynote address, local author showcases, and author interviews and discussions. The free book fest takes place at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center on June 24.
Zilker Summer Musical
In its 59th year of production, Austin's Zilker Theatre Productions brings The Wizard of Oz to the outdoor stage. The classic tale will be performed under the stars at the Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater from July 7 through August 12.
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
Give the Texas heat a run for its money at the annual Hot Sauce Fest on August 20. What began as a small hot sauce contest in 1990 has grown into the largest competition of its kind, and one of Austin’s largest and best-known food showcases. Get in free by donating three cans of nonperishable food items to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Free Day of Yoga
It seems like every time you turn around there’s another yoga studio popping up, which can make difficult to decide which studio to join. Lucky for you, many studios offer free yoga classes during Free Day of Yoga on September 4. This is your chance to try yoga for the first time, check out a new studio, or try a different style.
Who can pass up a free day at the museum? There are over 50 museums set to participate in the free Museum Day on September 17. Also, if you're a Bank of America card-holder you can get free access into various museums across Austin (and the rest of the country) on the first full weekend of every month.
From camp cooking basics and learning what you’ll need for your first backpacking trip to learning the right way to stretch and strengthen your body for your next paddling trip, REI offers free classes to the community every month. All you have to do is register for the classes ahead of time.
Self-guided walking tour
Act like you know little about your city the next time your family or friends come into town and check out one of these self-guided walking tours. The expert-designed tours range from Congress Avenue architecture to nightlife venues, even an Austin art gallery tour. Download the GPSMyCity App for turn-by-turn walking directions to lose yourself without getting lost.
Bingo at the Brixton
Monday doesn’t have to be dreadful if you have Brixton Bingo to play after work. Free to play, you could win some seriously sweet prizes. Bingo at The Brixton starts around 9 pm every Monday night, not matter what your #mondaymood is.
Shake your fitness schedule up a bit and join a running group. These are less focused on competing (though friendly competition is always welcome among runners) and more focused on running with a group of like-minded people.
- Austin Runners Club has group runs just about every day of the week at various locations throughout the city and at different paces.
- Austin Beer Run Club meets every Wednesday at 6:30 pm at Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery.
- If it’s trail runs you're after, check out Austin Trail Running or Hill Country Trail Running.
Trivia with Geeks Who Drink
Just about every night in Austin, you can find Geeks Who Drink hosting trivia at a local bar. This Denver-based company doesn’t host your typical “trivia night” like other bars. Their quizmasters create the questions (that are well fact-checked) and the environment is much more playful.
Austin Park’s Foundation offers free workout classes throughout the week on a first-come, first-served basis. Options include bootcamp, kids' yoga, bilingual Zumba, and more. The Hyatt Regency Hotel offers a Pints and Poses class that combines yoga and beer (not at the same time) and FX Fit puts on a yoga class at The Domain. Join Camp Gladiator and Austinites from all over town for a fierce bootcamp workout, the Big Mega Workout, utilizing the grounds and architecture of the Long Center. All you need is a mat (or towel), some water, and yourself!
Moonlight Hike at Colorado Bend State Park
Experience the trails of Colorado Bend State Park after the sun goes down during a ranger-guided moonlight hike. The night stroll will take you up Spicewood Canyon Trail for a great view of the canyon below. While the actual hike is free, you do have to pay to get into the park (or use your State Park Pass).
Craft brewery tour
Are you in the pursuit of hoppiness? There are a handful of breweries in town that offer free brewery tours and even a sample of their craft beers:
- Hops & Grain Brewery
- Jester King Brewery
- Thirsty Planet Brewing Company
- Twisted X Brewing Company
- Real Ale Brewing Company
Apple Camp (for kiddos)
Apple Camp for children is a sure thing. Sign up your kids (ages 8-12) for a three-day, 90-minute Apple Camp experience where they can work on their digital creativity through hands-on projects with experts at Apple.