Guest article by Michele Eilertsen
From feasting on delectable dishes at local restaurants to laughing until your eyes well up with tears at over-the-top comedy shows, living in a city as quirky as Austin provides a plethora of options when it comes to dating. Planning a fun outing with your romantic interest is a surefire way to show them how much they mean to you. However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to impress your partner. Truth be told, there are an abundance of places in Austin that make excellent choices for date night (or afternoon), and won’t break the bank.
So if you’re ready to bid adieu to fancy, three-course dinners and say hello to dating on a budget, this article is catered to you. I’ve compiled a list of 12 timeless and free date ideas Austin offers, divided into two sections: year-round and seasonal. Cheers to love!
Free Date Ideas in Austin, Available Year-round
1/ Find Your New Favorite Exhibit at Blanton Museum of Art
Every third Thursday of the month, Blanton Museum of Art opens its doors for a few extra hours–until 9 p.m.–to allow spectators to relish in the boundless beauty that is art. With over 18,000 captivating displays, you and your companion are pretty much guaranteed a few solid hours of entertainment. Admission is free every Thursday.
200 E. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. – Website
2/ Sing Your Heart Out at Common Interest Karaoke Bar & Grill
Known for an expansive choice of music and smokin’ hot wings, Common Interest Karaoke Bar & Grill is a renowned spot for lovebirds to let loose after a grueling day at work. The great thing about this venue is it offers private rooms, which are free until 7 p.m. with the purchase of two menu items. So instead of embarrassing yourself in front of an entire bar, you can save the honors for your significant other.
8440 Burnet Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “Sing Along at These Austin Karaoke Bars”
3/ Relish the Mesmerizing Views From Mount Bonnell
Don your comfiest pair of shoes and prepare for a steep, albeit short, trek up a tall, limestone staircase. Once you reach the top, you’ll find a memorable spectacle awaiting you. Veer to the right to find an overlook offering stunning views of Lake Austin. Saunter to the left to be greeted by one of the paramount views of the skyline that Austin has to offer. As an added bonus, Mount Bonnell is pet-friendly, so feel free to make it a family affair!
3800 Mt. Bonnell Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “Do You Know the History Behind Austin’s Mount Bonnell?”
4/ Tour the Texas State Capitol Building
You don’t need to be an aficionado of politics for this one. The intricate architecture of this stunning, 1800’s-era building alone will wow you. For those wishing to immerse themselves in a mini history lesson of the Texas State Capitol, free, self-guided tours are available until 8 p.m. on weekends and 10 p.m. on weekdays. Fun fact: Every time a new state governor is elected, the staff must shift each portrait over one slot to the left, all the way up the walls of the rotunda, to make room for the most recent portrait at ground level.
1100 Congress Ave. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “Creative Ways to Explore the Texas State Capitol in Austin”
5/ Bask in the Tranquility of Mayfield Park
Dubbed “Austin’s Best-kept Secret” (until now), Mayfield Park offers a slice of serenity for those wishing to relax and unwind in an urban oasis. Boasting 21-acres of greenery, several walking trails, and a troop of vivacious peacocks, this place just screams romance. The park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and there is no admission fee.
3505 W. 35th St. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “7 Peaceful Escapes Within Austin City Limits”
6/ Take a Late Night or Early Morning Dip in Barton Springs
This popular landmark can get rather crowded on the weekends. But if you and your date are night owls (or early birds), you not only have a better chance of scoring a coveted spot by Barton Springs, but you can also swim free of charge. Free, unguarded swim hours occur from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
2131 William Barton Dr. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “11 Best Picnic Spots in Austin”
7/ Go on a Scavenger Hunt, Austin Street Art Style
One of the factors that contributes to Austin’s unrivaled level of awesomeness is the surplus of well-designed street art scattered throughout the city. From the iconic “I love you so much” etched on the side of Jo’s Coffee, to the lesser-known “Puppy Love” painting that appropriately resides next to a pet shop, there are hundreds of murals located around town. Most–if not all–are totally Instagram-worthy. Make it a personal mission to take sappy pictures in front of as many as you can during your free date in Austin.
➡️ Keep reading: “Everything You Don’t Know About the Best Murals in Austin”
8/ Embark on the Radiolab Austin Detour, If You Dare
Not for the faint of heart, the creepy audio program Radiolab allows listeners to retrace the path of a mysterious serial killer who prowled the city’s streets in 1885. The tale of the “Servant Girl Annihilator” is dark, graphic, and downright disturbing at times. But in the spirit of keeping Austin weird, it could make for an interesting date night. It’s free to download and is best completed Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 12:30 to 5 p.m. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tour starts at the corner of 5th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard – Website
Free Date Ideas in Austin, Available Seasonally
9/ Attend a Free Public Stargazing Party Atop UT’s Robert Lee Moore Hall
Every Wednesday while school is in session, The University of Texas at Austin hosts a weekly star party on roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall. Admission is free. Once you make it to the 17th floor, you’ll find directions to the viewing telescope, where you and your love can take turns gazing into the stars and each other’s eyes all night long. Aww.
2515 Speedway – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “4 Favorite Spots for Stargazing Near Austin, Texas”
10/ Jam to Some of Austin’s Most Talented Artists at Blues on the Green
An Austin staple, Blues on the Green four times during the summer on Wednesday, and brings thousands of people together under the night sky for a common cause: the love of music. Grab your date, a couple of blankets and/or lawn chairs, and enjoy the show. Live music starts promptly at 8 p.m., so be sure to arrive early enough to snag good seats.
2100 Barton Springs Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “Complete Guide to Free Summer Concerts in Austin”
11/ Catch a Dog Flick During Movie Mondays at Yard Bar
Another local favorite, this whimsical event takes place at Yard Bar every other Monday evening from June to November. Admission is free, and Yard Bar offers a full menu with popcorn, s’mores, and other delicious food and drink specials. Bring the pup with you for this outing because all movies are canine-related. I hear it’s pretty pawesome.
6700 Burnet Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “8 of Austin’s Most Dog-friendly Patios”
12/ Watch a Bat Colony Emerge From Congress Avenue Bridge
Convene under Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at approximately 20 minutes before sundown, and prepare to witness a phenomenon unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. From March to October, the largest urban bat colony in North America takes flight right here in Austin. If you’re lucky, you and your date will be able to catch a glimpse of them in action.
300 S. Congress Ave.
➡️ Keep reading: “Guide to Bat Season in Austin”
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite free date idea in Austin?