6 Fun, Free Things to Do in Austin

I moved to Austin, Texas, about six months ago. I had a few friends here but no job. I wanted to see the city but didn’t want to pay to do it. Turns out Austin is really good for that! Here are the top six things I love doing in Austin.

1. Zilker Park – Seriously, this place never gets old. The possibilities of this place are endless. If you want to walk your dog in a park, go to Zilker. If you want to catch a kite festival, go to Zilker. If you want to have a picnic, go to Zilker. If you want to toss a frisbee around, go to Zilker. If you just want to sit in the sun and not talk to anybody, well … you can do that at Zilker, but there will be other people around.

2. Zilker Botanical Gardens – I can’t believe this place is free. Any time of year, this place is open. You can wander around and look at the pretty flowers, marvel at the pointy cacti … maybe even spill a little blood by testing how sharp those needles really are. From experience, let me tell you, they’re sharp. There are fish in the pond, nice walking trails and a velociraptor. I wouldn’t lie to you, folks. There is a velociraptor.

3. The bats – I lived here for several months and often wondered why Austin was associated with bats. Well, I figured it out. Under the Congress Bridge, there lives the largest urban population of bats in the world. There are 1.5 million, give or take. At sunset every night, the bats fly out to feast on the oodles of bugs that hang out by the river. 1.5 million seems like just a number, but once you see it, you will begin to appreciate how staggering that number is. I went down there on a photography adventure and was told that the grassy knoll on the southeast corner of the bridge was the best vantage point. I beg to differ. There were trees and it was hard to get a good visual on the bats with the camera. My recommendation for pictures is that you either stand on the bridge or on a boat (which will cost). It really is worth seeing.

4. The Pennybacker Bridge – also called Austin 360 Bridge. There is a little spot on the side of the road where you can park and head up a hill (I wouldn’t recommend wearing high heels for this little trek). At the top of the hill, there is an awesome view of the bridge and the river. It really is worth seeing. Last time I was up there, I had a picnic with a friend.

5. The Capitol – Well, Austin is the capitol of Texas, which means it has a capitol building. It’s really easy to find, and if you don’t want to actually wander around the building, the grounds around it are really nice to mosey through. Occasionally, there are festivals and rallies at the capitol building. In November 2010, they did a live feed of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Definitely worth seeing

6. South Congress – South Congress, occasionally called SoCo, has its own feel. If you need to kill some time or just want to browse through some awesome, unique shops, then this is the place for you. There is a little food trailer park where you can find most things, including cupcakes. Into unique objects and antiques? I would recommend taking a look through Uncommon Objects. You’ll be able to spot it because it has a large rabbit above the business name. Want to wander around incognito? Stop by Lucy in Disguise. Again, pretty easy to spot because there is a large, colorfully dressed zebra above the business name.