Visiting Austin on a budget? Try these five fun and free sightseeing activities while you're visiting Austin.
View the Congress Bridge Bats
We outline a few ways to view the Austin bats that are well worth their bang for the buck. But many people still choose to view them while standing on the bridge looking down towards the water or by standing in a viewing area located on the southwest corner of Congress and Lady Bird Lake. Clearly the most popular tourist attraction in Austin, both of these free ways to view the bats can get crowded and aren't quite as fun as the boat and kayak tours. But if you’re travelling on a budget, working in some free bat watching is well worth it as this is Austin's most popular attraction.
Tour the State Capitol
A work of art with a lot of history, the state capitol building is open to the public. The grounds outside the building are well manicured and picturesque providing a lot of photo opportunities. Try going inside to lay down on the star and look up into the dome for a cool interior photo before taking a look around the different rooms that are open. There are also free guided tours provided by the State Capitol Visitor Center that you can learn about here.
Explore Lady Bird Lake
Austin’s most popular hike and bike trail goes around Lady Bird Lake in the center of town. The full trail is 10.1 miles and goes from Mopac to the Longhorn dam at Pleasant Valley. That can be a few more steps than the average fit bit user is targeting and a lot of people choose shorter loops. Many people park beneath Mopac on the Northwest edge of Zilker Park and do a 4.1 mile loop to Congress Avenue and back. Another stretch gaining in popularity is from I-35 to the Lamar Walking Bridge. This will take you over a very scenic view of Austin on the walking bridge and along the new floating boardwalk on the south side of the river between Congress and I-35. You can read more about the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail here.
Visit the Waterfalls on Barton Creek Greenbelt
Austin's second most popular hike and bike trail is home to a few popular waterfalls that are packed full of Austin’s younger crowd when the water is flowing. The easiest waterfall area to get to is known as the Flats and the trailhead is located where Barton Skyway dead ends into Spyglass drive just West of Mopac Blvd. At the Flats a large platform of rock lifts a few feet above Baron Creek where some falls pour into Campbell’s Hole. The next set of popular spots are Sculpture and Twin Falls further upstream. Cars will park along a turnaround as you head South towards the Mopac entrance just past Capital of Texas Hwy. Don’t enter Mopac, just park and walk to the trailhead where the road goes under the highway. Twin Falls is about a 15 minute walk and Sculpture Falls is another 15 minutes past Twin Falls.
Hike Mount Bonnell
On the West side of Austin lies a hidden viewpoint known as Mount Bonnell. Considered the highest point in Austin, it’s actually a little lower than the next mount over, which is technically located in Westlake. There’s a lengthy stair climb to get to the summit that is enough to leave the fit a bit winded and the unfit more likely frustrated. But getting to the top is worth it as you get fantastic views of Lake Austin and downtown at the same time. You can learn more about Mount Bonnell here.
Author: Ivan Collins