Free, Cheap, & Fun in Austin, TX

On our way from Houston, TX to Albuquerque, NM, we spent a couple days in San Antonio, then headed a few hours north to Austin for 3 nights.

As usual, we looked for as much fun stuff that’s free and cheap in Austin as possible.

LBJ Library

Thanks to another good suggestion (thanks, Turney!), we started out by heading over to the LBJ Library on the northeast corner of the University of Texas, the only free Presidential library (there are currently 13 of them). The Presidential libraries aren’t “libraries” in the sense of what most of us know as libraries. They are more like museums dedicated to the life of the particular President.

The LBJ museum covers the early life of Lyndon Baines Johnson up through his years as the President. It gives a good overview of a lot of historical eras, from the Roaring 20s to the Vietnam War, the assassination of John F Kennedy, and the numerous pieces of legislation that the LBJ administration passed.

There’s also a 7/8 scale replica of the Oval Office as it stood when LBJ was in office, as well as a replica of Lady Bird Johnson’s office and even an animatronic LBJ telling jokes. It’s rather interesting to see the whole of a Presidential administration laid out with real letters, newspaper articles, and news reports.

When you’re in Austin, the LBJ Library is a great way to spend 3 or 4 hours getting some history education for the superb price of free.

Food Trucks

As that old Rally’s commercial used to say, “ya gotta eat”. Well, we don’t advise eating at Rally’s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some good quality, local, fairly fast food at a good price. Austin is crawling with food trucks. They’re seemingly on every corner. You can get most any kind of food you want, too.

We went to Gourdough’s for some ridiculously indulgent donuts, but right next door, there was a taco truck. Just down the street were Thai, BBQ, and Pizza. You can also get Cuban, Chinese, and pretty much any other cuisine you can think of.

You should grab at least one meal from a food truck.

Capital Building

You probably already know this, but Austin is the capital of Texas. Right in the center of downtown is the Capital Building. We didn’t actually go in because we had Knox with us, but even outside, the Capital offers a few things to see. It sits on 22 acres of land, so if nothing else, you can just grab some food from the food truck and go have yourself a picnic.

There are also 15 or 20 statues and monuments to give you a bit more Texas history. And the building itself is quite beautiful to look at. If you happen to not have a dog with you, you can head on in and tour the building.

Sixth Street

Sixth Street is Austin’s entertainment district. It’s certainly not free, but if you’re looking for live music, drinks, dancing, or restaurants, you have options. From the Jackalope to the The Chupacabra Cantina (which we visited), the options are unlimited.

Excellent Barbeque

No visit to Texas is complete without eating barbeque once…or twice…or six times, if possible. We ended up at Stubb’s Barbeque at the corner of Red River St and 8th Street (just outside of the Sixth Street Entertainment District). That’s just one of numerous options in and around Austin to get your fill of smoked meat.

Lady Bird Lake

We noticed that Austin is a very young and active city. Everywhere we were, someone was running, biking, or just enjoying the nice weather. We tried to go hiking at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, but it turns out you can’t take pets, even on a leash. So we headed to Lady Bird Lake instead.

Lady Bird Lake is right in the middle of Austin and has hiking and biking trails, plus on-lake activities if you’re so inclined. Even better is that they have an off-leash area for dogs to run and play. The dogs can even jump in the lake, though Knox hates water and wasn’t about to do that.


Of course, Austin has tons more to offer than we could cover in 2.5 days. It would be a great place to spend a week or more to really explore the city.

Naturally, we took plenty of pictures in Austin. Here are some of our favorites.