In case you haven’t heard, I’m moving into my own place next week. I am super psyched about having an apartment, but the increase in rent means I will have about $200 less disposable income each month. Luckily I live in Austin, where there are lots of free things to do. These are some of my favorite free things to do in Austin!!
1. Watching the sun set over Ladybird Lake. Thanks to the Austin Trail Foundation, there is a well maintained walking trail around the perimeter of Ladybird Lake. I love walking a two mile loop in the evening and watching the sun set over the lake. The trail is dog friendly, so there is always great dog and people watching around the lake, and lots of benches where you can chill. Bonus: Run Tex provides free water at the Lake Austin entrance to the trail (near their south Austin store) and free trail maps at their website.
2. Eating free samples at Sun Harvest, Central Market, and Whole Foods. Not to sound chintzy, but sometimes I stretch out my weekend grocery shopping to include all three of these awesome stores just so I can maximize my sample-tasting opportunities. This allows me to purchase everything on special, too! The Central Market in central Austin (40th & Lamar) always has awesome produce and meat samples between 11 AM and 2 PM on Saturdays, and occasionally they have special events like the Hatch Chile Festival where the samples are even better than usual! Sun Harvest usually has samples of their prepared foods (chips, cookies, crackers) available on weekends, as does Whole Foods.
3. Looking at art at the Blanton. This is free for UT staff/students/faculty every day, and free for the general public every Thursday. Every Third Thursday of the month, they have special classes, Yoga, and meet-the-artist sessions which are free to the public. The Blanton is pretty much amazing, especially their collection of modern art and special exhibits. Here is my favorite painting at the Blanton. Look for it when you visit!
4. People watching at First Thursday on South Congress. It’s hard to go to South Congress without shopping at all the cute boutiques, but it is possible! Every first Thursday of the month all the stores on South Congress Avenue stay open until 10 PM; some have free live music and other activities. There’s inevitably a weird drum circle at the south end of SoCo and a really great vibe on the street. Lots of hippies, too. I usually tuck a snack and a bottle of water in my purse to help me fight the urge to buy food along the street. And whatever you do, DO NOT TAKE CASH to First Thursday. There are lots of cash-only street vendors who sell adorable jewelry and other handmade goods along SoCo. Having cash in your pocket makes it nearly impossible to keep this event free-of-charge.
5. Listening to concerts at the Butler School of Music. Almost all concerts at UT’s Butler School of Music are free for BSOM faculty/staff/students, but an enormous number of the school’s events are free for everyone. There is an event calendar on the school’s website where you can browse upcoming concerts and see which ones have free admission. Best bets include any doctoral recitals, which are always free to attend and feature professional-level players in most cases. Other awesome free groups include the UT Trombone Choir, Saxophone Choir, Concert Chorale, Bach Cantata Project, longHORN choir (a French horn ensemble), and the percussion ensemble.