Free Things to Do in Austin: Your Guide to Free Kids Activities

Everything is getting more expensive lately, but that doesn’t mean you need to go broke doing fun things with your kids! Austin is such a family-friendly town that there are plenty of free activities you can do with your kids around town. And some of them are my favorite spots!

I love a good free outing. Not only do you save money, but you don’t feel bad if you can’t stay too long. No need to get your money’s worth!

Free things to do in Austin with kids

Free Indoor/Outdoor Places to Go in Austin

1. Austin Nature and Science Center

Even since my kids were little, this has been one of my favorite spots to go. It’s fun to be downtown, the parking is usually easy (unless it’s a super busy time of day at the hike and bike trail), and there’s so much to see and do. And it’s totally free!

There’s an indoor nature center with a trading post where you can trade nature treasures (check its hours online) and check out all kinds of animal bones, fossil replicas, and all kinds of interesting nature pieces. There is also an active beehive, live axolotls and some fun science displays.

Dino dig at Austin Nature and Science Center

Outside, there are rescued animals, including a whole section of large birds, a bobcat, porcupines, and reptiles. You can walk around the pond or play in the creek, and dig in a big shaded dino dig area.

Parking: There is a parking lot under Mopac by Lady Bird Lake. It’s off of Stratford, so turn onto Stratford from Barton Springs Rd. to find it. Then you walk across Stratford to the Austin Nature and Science Center archway and up the path.

Free Indoor Places in Austin

2. Central Library

The Central branch of the Austin Public Library is worth a visit (or a hundred visits!). It’s so dreamy and peaceful. The kids section has giant chess and giant letters to climb in the atrium, coloring pages and sometimes activity bins, computer games, and the best reading porch overlooking Cesar Chavez. Head to the top floor to see the rooftop deck with its view of Lady Bird Lake!

Reading porch in the kids area of Austin Public Library central branch

The library is free, but the parking options are mostly paid. There is a garage underneath the library that is very convenient, but you have to pay for it. It’s free under an hour, $5 under 2 hours, $9 under 4 hours and so on. You can also look for street parking or use a nearby city lot.

3. Living Spaces

Living Spaces in Pflugerville is a furniture store, but it also has a free indoor play area! The idea is that you can leave your children in the supervised play area while you shop, but you can also hang out in the room with them (though the play structure is supposed to be kids only). There’s a big indoor playscape to climb around in, some digital games, coloring and a movie room.

4. Texas Military Forces Museum

If you’ve ever driven on Mopac on the north side of town, you’ve probably driven past Camp Mabry. It has some cool airplanes and helicopters to see from the highway, but did you know there’s a free museum on the base? It explores the history of Texas Military Forces from 1823 to now. There are uniforms and weapons and even tanks!

5. BookPeople Story Time

Support local independent bookstores and check out what events BookPeople has going on. You can filter their events just for children’s events — and definitely check for the Tiny Tails petting zoo story times that happen as often as once a month!

Also check other local bookstores and shops, like Paper Bark Birch, Letterpress Play, First Light (Wednesdays at 10 am), and Lark and Owl.

6. Blanton Museum of Art Free Days

Expose your kids to art at the Blanton! On Tuesdays, entry is free (and includes Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin building). Ask for a family activity box when you check in at the front counter — it’s free and you can borrow it for your visit. There are lots of art supplies for your kids to use when inspiration hits.

Children 5 and under are free daily.

7. Bullock Texas State History Museum Free Days

Visit the Bullock Museum on the first Sunday of every month for free admission to the exhibits. This state history museum is a fun one to explore — the kids will love some of the interactive exhibits and you’ll enjoy the history.

You can also get free admission on the second Sunday of July each year, in honor of Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock’s birthday.

8. Texas Science & Natural History Museum Free Fourth Sundays

See a T. Rex skeleton, the Onion Creek mosasaurus, and lots of animals and fossils at this museum on the UT campus. HEB is sponsoring free fourth Sundays, so every month you have the chance to visit the museum free of charge (4 years old and under are always free). Be sure to check the hours, because they’re limited on Sundays!

9. Library Story Times and Activities

The Austin Public Library branches have all kinds of fun story times and kids activities throughout the year. Check your local branch or search all branches to find baby book times, Lego hours, preschooler story times and more.

You can also find events at Round Rock Public Library, Cedar Park Public Library, Kyle Public Library, Buda Public Library, Lake Travis Community Library, or whatever your local library is.

Free Outdoor Activities in Austin

10. Pease Park

Tree house at Pease Park

This lovely park is in the middle of Austin and has so many fun features! The wooden playgrounds are good for small kids and big kids who can climb, there’s a nature building area, a seasonal splash pad, a creek crossing, a trail system, and tons of picnic tables or greenspace for picnics.

The truly special elements here are the treehouse and the troll sculpture. The big sphere-shaped treehouse has a rope hammock center where you can hang out (or kids can jump and run across), or you can go underneath the orb and look up through the ropes.

The troll was built in spring 2024 by Thomas Dambo, an artist who builds giant trolls all over the world. The Austin troll is 18 feet tall, named Malin, and made largely of repurposed and recycled wood.

There is limited parking in a small lot and street parking at Kingsbury and Parkway, more street parking up Parkway near 24th, free daily parking at Austin Rec Center, and free weekend parking at ACC parking garage.

11. Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve

Peacock at Mayfield Park and Preserve

Choose your adventure at this pretty, free spot in Central Austin. You can go for a hike (even to the edge of Lake Austin!), stroll through the big garden at the house, or just stop by to see the flock of peacocks and peahens.

There are 23 acres with plenty of nature, historic buildings, cute little ponds and landscaping.

12. Mount Bonnell

View from Mount Bonnell in Austin

Get the best view in Austin (at least the best that doesn’t include the skyline!) at the top of Mount Bonnell. It’s not a hike exactly, but you do have to take about 100 steps up to the top of this overlook. Once you’re at the top, you can explore a bit, with a great view of Lake Austin and the rolling hills.

I sometimes like to combine a Mount Bonnell outing with a trip to Mayfield Park (above) because they’re in the same area of town.

13. Alliance Children’s Garden

If you’re visiting Austin and staying near downtown, this is the playground you’ll want to check out. It is very centrally located, has an amazing view of the downtown skyline (thanks to the hill with a spiral path up to the top), and has so many different play area that your kids will be entertained for as long as you let them be!

There’s a huge rope climbing structure, a salamander to play on (based on the endangered Barton Springs salamander), giant slides on the side of a hill, climbing walls, big turf hills and tunnels, a sand pit, musical instruments, and a splash pad that is open year-round.

And of course, checking out all the great playgrounds around town and the suburbs is a great free way to entertain your kids. Here’s a post rounding up all the best ones.

14. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail

View from Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin

The best way to see the heart of the city is the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake (or Town Lake, if you prefer). Its official name is the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and it’s a 10-mile loop where you can walk around the lake for exercise or scenery.

15. Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk

The whole hike and bike trail at Lady Bird Lake is a great free outing with so many different areas to explore, but the boardwalk in particular feels special. It feels a little less crowded and busy, and has amazing views of the skyline.

You can find trail entrances at: the corner of the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, at Riverside and Blunn Creek, at Riverside and I-35, and at International Shores Park.

16. Dixie Friend Gay Sculptures in Mueller

Take a little tour around the Mueller area to find Dixie Friend Gay’s 3 giant creatures. This public art is so fun, and your kids will enjoy spotting these monsters.

The most well-known is Nessy, the sea monster at Mueller Lake Park just across from Thinkery. Kids love climbing all over her and spotting all the little sea creatures that decorate her body.

Head to Jessie Andrews Park at 2601 Philomena St. to see Ocho the octopus. He’s a giant octopus sitting on top of a building with his legs cascading down over the sides. There’s a little playground with opportunities to climb there as well.

Arachnophillia by Dixie Friend Gay

Lastly, Southwest Greenway is home to a monstrous spider Arachnophillia (and by “monstrous,” I mean big but very beautiful). It’s straddling the walking path, so you can stroll right under it. Keep going around the path to find even more public art.

17. Watch the Airplanes

Did you know there’s a family viewing area at the Austin airport? Type in “Family Viewing Area” or the address 10316 Golfcourse Rd. into your maps app, and it will take you to a secluded spot with parking, a picnic table and a little gravel area by a chain link fence where you can see big commercial planes and small private planes taking off and landing at ABIA. If your kid is especially sensitive to loud noise, you may want to bring headphones/ear protectors.

18. Free Live Music in Austin

Obviously the Live Music Capital of the World is going to have some great concert options, and lots of them are free!

Rock the Park

KUTX hosts free concerts in Mueller Lake Park. Bring a picnic and a blanket and find a spot on the lawn.

Blues on the Green

ACL Radio puts on a free concert series each summer in Zilker Park. Family- and dog-friendly!

Central Market

The Central Market locations at both North Lamar and Westgate have live music throughout the year, on Thursdays through Sundays. You can check the schedules on their websites.

St. Elmo Grassy Thursdays

Every single Thursday night from 7-10 pm, you can enjoy live bluegrass music at St. Elmo Brewing.

South x San Jose

Head to South Congress, to the parking lot between Hotel San Jose and Jo’s Coffee, every March for the free music festival, South x San Jose. There’s vendors, food and a full lineup of musicians.

The Drop-In

Celebrate those long summer nights with this free music series, every Thursday night during the summer at the Long Center.

19. Splash Pads

Lakewood splash pad

From as early as April 1 all the way to October 31 in some locations, you can play for free in fun splash pads. Perfect for the super hot Texas weather. You can find the most up-to-date information about which splash pads are open and operating properly in the Austin Splash Pads Facebook group.

Year-round:
Liz Carpenter Splash Pad in downtown Austin

Open in April:
Prete Plaza in Downtown Round Rock
Georgetown splash pads
Wetzel Park in Liberty Hill
Robin Bledsoe in Leander
Garey Park in Leander
Lakewood Park in Leander

Open May 1:
Austin splash pads
Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park

Open mid-May:
Buda splash pads

Opening Memorial Day weekend:
Pflugerville splash pads
Quarry Splash Pad in Leander

20. Laguna Gloria Free Days

You can get free entry to Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center (the two locations of Contemporary Austin) every Thursday and every second Saturday. Laguna Gloria is next door to Mayfield Park; you can explore the grounds and find lots of large-scale art pieces as you walk around outside.

AND people 18 and under can get free admission daily, so even if you have to pay for yourself, the kids are always free!

21. Meanwhile Story Times

Drop in to Meanwhile Brewing on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month for a free story time in partnership with Austin Public Library. 10-11 am.

22. Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Days

Explore this centrally located garden every second Sunday of the month on Umlauf Sculpture Garden’s Family Days. There are sculpture scavenger hunts, art activities, performers and more.

23. Free Train Rides on the Zilker Eagle

Every third Wednesday of the month, you can ride the Zilker Eagle mini train in Zilker Park for free between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.!

Find out where kids eat free throughout the week in Austin!

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