Are you wondering what to do when you’re broke AF at The University of Texas at Austin? When living in a city as lively and sensational as Austin, it is easy to liquidate your savings by splurging on ACL tickets, gourmet food, and Broadway productions. Sometimes it is a blessing and a curse to live with the music capital of the world at your doorstep… But don’t worry, there are plenty of fun things to do around the forty acres for little to no cost!
1. Visit a slam poetry sesh at Spider House Cafe
Be sure to experience the lively slam scene at the Spider House Cafe on Fruth Street. From laughing at the amateurs to admiring the experienced poets, these slam poetry competitions are guaranteed to give you a laugh as people deliver insightful yet humorously engrossing slam poems. All you need is $6 and a free Tuesday night!
2. Play capture the flag at the Texas State Capitol
Take advantage of the massive lawn in front of the Texas State Capitol and play capture the flag! All you need is a group of friends and hand-made flags or random objects to use and you’re set! Try adding glow sticks if you want to play in the dark!
3. Go window shopping in South Congress
SoCo is home to a plethora of unique stores featuring antiques, novelty items, costumes, and lots of clothes. From the stores Lucy in Disguise to Uncommon Objects, you’ll have a great time thriving in the “Keep Austin weird” culture by venturing into the diverse range of shops. Plus, when you’re tired and hangry by the end of the trip, you can grab a bite to eat from the many restaurants and food trucks scattered throughout the district.
4. Admire the artwork at Graffiti Park
Whether or not you want to view or contribute to the artwork, going to Graffiti Park at Castle Hill is always a fun time. It’s a great place to take photos, spray paint one of your own masterpieces, or be mesmerized by all of the vibrant artwork dominating the landscape.
5. Take a tour of the Blanton Art Museum (or try yoga)
Located next to the Brazos parking garage on south campus, Blanton Art Museum features many galleries containing over 17,000 works of art. The best part is that admission is free to all UT students so be sure to swing by sometime and admire the largst collection of art in central Texas! Also, be on the lookout for fun events hosted by the museum—they had a midnight showing of Dracula on Halloween and they host monthly yoga sessions in the galleries.
6. Explore Zilker Park
Zilker Park is home to an abundance of recreational areas including Lady Bird Lake/ Hike and Bike Trail, Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Garden (featuring the garden of dinosaurs–only $2), and the park fields where many Austinites play frisbee and walk their adorable dogs. If you’re missing your furry loved one at home, Zilker is a great opportunity to pet other dogs and hang with friends while burning some calories!
Take a trip to Pace Bend Park where you can ditch the glamor of the city for a night of camping on Lake Travis. All you need to bring with you are some Enos, marshmallows, Gramm crackers, chocolate, and your friends. Take it from my experience—it’s refreshingly nice waking up to the warm, pastel-colored sunrise cast over the lake. If you’re looking for more things to do, you can also explore the various trails and go cliff jumping.
8. Have a picnic on the South Lawn
Whether you want a cute date spot for you and your bf or you simply want to have lunch with some friends, kick it old school and try having a picnic. Bring a blanket, your lunches, and maybe a card game or two and enjoy the scenery of the luscious South Lawn and the distant capitol in the backdrop.
9. Catch a movie at the Texas Union
The Texas Union hosts weekly Blockbuster and Late Night Film Series, advanced movie screenings, singalongs, and TV premieres. Whether you want to check out the latest James Bond movie or watch a chick flick with your friends, the Union theatre is the perfect place to take a break and destress from classes (or avoid homework). Be on the lookout for postings on the University Events Calendar—everything is free!
10. Cheer on the Longhorn basketball team
With the basketball season starting, it’s the perfect time to watch a game on the courtside and cheer on your fellow longhorns. Admission is included with the Big Ticket and more often than not, going to the game will score you a free t-shirt/ goody to take home. Get pumped up and cheer on the team—they can always use extra support!
11. Visit the Blue Cat Café
If you’re a cat person, this is definitely a place you should check out. This vegan café is filled with cats prancing around the built-in cat toys and various structures lining the room. And all of the cats are friendly and adoptable from the Austin Humane Society! For only a $5 entrance fee, you can drink some coffee and bask in the feline companionship that is most likely lacking in your college life!
12. Watch the bats from Congress Avenue Bridge
Congress Avenue Bridge is one of the best places to view the massive flight of bats that takes place each day during sunset from March to October (sorry, you may have to wait a little for this one). The bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America so this breath-taking site should definitely be a top priority on your bucket list. I recommend going an hour before sunset to guarantee yourself a spot on the bridge.
13. Hike up Mount Bonnell
Want to view the stunning panorama of Downtown Austin for yourself? Hike up Mount Bonnell and complete part of your workout for the day while enjoying the exquisite scenery. You don’t need to worry about being an “expert” hiker to climb this 785 ft mountain… Mount Bonnell is a beginner-friendly and completely free destination that will leave you in awe once you catch a glimpse of its breath-taking view of the city.
14. Spend a day at the Austin Zoo
Choose a weekend when you’re not busy and treat yourself with a day spent at this well-renowned rescue zoo. It’s home to an eclectic range of animals and admission only costs $6 each with a group discount. Just be sure to schedule in advance and have 15+ people in your group and you’ll be good to go! Seeing these adorably crazy animals can brighten anyone’s day, especially when you’re broke af at The University of Texas at Austin.