5 Can’t Miss (and Free) Events in Austin

5 Can’t Miss (and Free) Events in Austin

Going to Austin without a penny to your name? Fear not, Daring Penguin has some exceptional free events for you to hop along to!

If you are visiting Austin, Texas, on a budget, you are in for a treat. This city is chock-full of free, fun events all year around. Here at Daring Penguin, we bring you five of the best!

1. Bats Feeding from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge

Austin is home to one of the world’s largest urban bat colonies and if you are visiting in the Summer or Fall, you can see them come out at night to feed from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. There are many options to pay to see the bats from a boat, but most locals just park up and hang out on the bridge from about half an hour until dusk. At around dusk, up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats swarm out to eat the mosquitoes and other insects who also like Austin’s muggy climate. The air is filled with swarms of the bats, swooping and whirling, trying to eat all the insects they can. Hurray for bats!

March-November, at dusk—aim to arrive and have picked a spot by about half an hour before dusk.

For further information on the bats themselves, check out:


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“Fun fact: Austin is home to the world's largest urban bat colony. Happy Halloween! 👻”

2. The Zilker Kite Festival

If you head over to Zilker Park on the first Sunday in March, you can catch the Zilker Kite Festival. The festival has been running since 1929 and was set up to encourage children to be more creative. The event is completely free to watch and includes the Zilker Kite Tournement, which is completely free to enter as well. There are many different competitions, all with separate children and adult’s categories. The one rule all of the contests share is that the kites themselves must be 100% homemade. If you are in Austin before the event, you might be able to catch one of the kite making workshops. Otherwise, check out their official website for tips on making your own kite. Of course, the sheer sight of the kites flying is well worth the trip to this unique event alone.


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See this Instagram photo by @zilkerkitefest

3. Pecan Street Festival

If you are in Austin for the first weekend in May, or the last in September, you should head over to The Pecan Street Festival. Located in the Sixth Street Historic District, between Brazos Street and Interstate 35, the Pecan Street Festival hosts many stalls featuring arts and crafts, and music. There are over 300 stalls and plenty of music to keep you going all day.

For more information, please go to http://pecanstreetfestival.org/

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“It's that #sixthstreet LOVE! We LOVE U #AUSTIN #huge #amazing #crowds #free #fest #atx #texas”

4. Trail of Lights

The Trail of Lights in Zilker Park is a spectacular festive light display and yule log burning that takes place over the Christmas season in Austin. For the first part of the season, admission is free, and only $3 after. There display features over 100 lit trees and includes many features including Santa’s House and the lighting of the Zilker tree, which takes place nightly at 6pm. As well as the fantastic light displays, visitors can also enjoy delicious food and drink from over 30 vendors. There are also activities, including letter writing to Santa, a Ferris wheel, and a carousel. There are some package options if you want to splash out, including a special pass for couples and groups, but you can enjoy the Christmas lights absolutely free.

Information for 2015:
FREE from Tuesday, December 8 – Tuesday, December 15
$3 admission ages 12+ from Wednesday, December 16 – Tuesday, December 22
Open December 8-22, 2015
ADA and special group entry at 6:00pm
General Admission at 7:00pm
ZiP Pass entry at 6:00pm
For further information on parking, opening times, public transport and more, please visit:

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“3rd Trail of Lights!”

5. SXSW (South By South West)

What? I hear you ask, I’ve dreamed of going to SXSW but whenever I look it up, the tickets are really expensive! Well yes, if you go to the ticketed events, this music festival, one of the largest in the USA, can break the bank. However, there are a number of ways to enjoy this behemoth of a music festival for free.
The first event to mention is the SXSW open air stage at Lady Bird Lake. This stage features three days of free music and the acts are not second rate. This stage has seen the likes of The Strokes, The Flaming Lips, The Shins, and Bright Eyes play. You have to get a free festival wrist band which you can register for in advance or pick up on the day—visit guestpass.sxsw.com for more information.
There are also numerous sponsor-run stages in the day-time that not only feature free music, but free food and booze too.
Read this article from The Guardian about how you can eat, drink, and see some great acts by going to the unofficial SXSW parties:

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“Our friends Ratatat and Hot Sugar are on tour y'all! This spectacular light show was captured by our own @sarah_nichole27 during their set at @acllive…”

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