Few cities in the US are as vibrant and unique as Austin, Texas. Blending Texan, Southern, and big-city culture like no other, Austin is the perfect place to go if you are looking for an inexpensive vacation. Austin is home to many important political and cultural sites, as well as natural parks and other areas that you’ll want to see firsthand.
In this guide, we’ll go over eleven of the best free unique things you can do in Austin, Texas. Keep reading to find out how you can make your next vacation truly special and remember that Austin is on our list of the best vacation spots in the USA.
1) The Austin Aqua-Dome
Despite its name, the Austin Aqua-Dome is not an aquarium. Rather, it’s a truly unique marine supply store where families can go and buy fish and fish supplies. That being said, there are large tanks of fish throughout the store, and many families come from afar just to get a look at the fish. This makes it a great free destination if you are looking for a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon in Austin. Because it’s free, it’s something you can try with the entire family!
2) Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is one of our favorite free spots in the city simply because it offers a view like no other. The site towers above sea level at a height of 770 feet, offering a great view of the Austin skyline and an incredible look at the intersection of the Colorado River and Lake Austin.
If you’re looking for a place where you can truly take in the natural beauty of the city, you can’t go wrong with Mount Bonnell. Depending on your purpose, this can be a romantic destination or a great spot to visit with your family. No matter what, you can count on the experience to be one that you’ll remember forever!
3) Zilker Metropolitan Park
Containing Zilker Botanical Garden and the Austin Nature and Science Center, Zilker Metropolitan Park is a free, 350-acre park that has something for everyone. Spend a day enjoying nature, good food, and wonderful scenery at one of the biggest parks in Texas. This is a great spot for solo travelers and groups alike and should definitely be in considering for your next vacation. Go hiking, biking, or simply relax at this incredible location unique to Austin!
4) Bull Creek District Park
Bull Creek District Park truly has it all. Originally established in 1971, the park now houses several basketball courts, volleyball courts, rock climbing sites, and more. If you’re looking for the perfect way to spend some recreation time,
you don’t want to miss out on a chance to visit this great location. Go with the family for extra fun! You’re sure to have a blast with all that’s offered at this unique Austin destination!
5) The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River at Congress Avenue, is one of the more unique Austin landmarks—and not simply because it’s one of the oldest bridges in the area. Originally constructed in the 1800s and remodeled to its current form in 1910, the bridge was renamed after Austin citizen and former Texas governor Ann Richards. The massive structure is beautiful and a must-see just for these reasons alone. You may be surprised to learn, however, that around 1.5 million bats reside under the bridge, the largest collection anywhere in America’s urban centers. This establishes the bridge as a truly unique Austin symbol.
6) The Texas State Capitol
A National Historic Landmark that was built in the 1800s, the Texas State Capitol still serves as the office of the governor and the legislature. Architecturally, the building is an incredible feat and worth a look even without going inside.
Still, guided tours are available that will take you throughout the capitol and show you where all the state’s most important work goes on.
7) The Austin Fire Museum
The Austin Fire Museum is one of the most unique destinations on this list. Originally constructed as Central Fire Station Number One in 1938, it now serves as a museum that’s open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5pm. The museum is free and showcases many historical tools and equipment that was used in the station throughout the years. If you’re into this sort of thing like we are, we know you’ll have a great time at this free museum!
8) Historic Oakwood Cemetery
Operated since the 1850s and perhaps even prior, the Oakwood Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Austin. Entombed there are several of the city’s leading figures and some of the area’s earliest residents.
Though it may seem a bit spooky, a trip to this cemetery can tell you a lot about the history of Austin. For this reason, we recommend a trip to this unique destination!
9) The Texas Independence Parade
If you happen to be in Austin on March 2, you don’t want to miss out on the annual Texas Independence Day Parade. This parade is held in honor of the state’s independence from Mexico in 1836. Parties, great food, and other celebrations are available all throughout Austin on this festive day. Make sure to participate in the free event if you are in the area!
10) Mayfield Park
Mayfield Park is one of the most beautiful locations in all of Austin. Boasting botanical gardens, koi ponds, and other natural wonders, the park is free to the public and a popular
destination for travelers who wish to relax. Spend all afternoon at this wonderful park, which is known for its peacocks and other interesting animals.
11) The Governor’s Mansion
The Texas Governor’s Mansion is one of the oldest in the United States, having been built in the 1850s. Still in use today, it sprawls over 8,000 square feet in a majestic Greek Revival style that stuns viewers and shows off the majesty of the office. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning, free tours of the mansion are offered to visitors. These tours last around twenty minutes and are a great way to learn about the history of the mansion and of the city of Austin itself.