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Mount Bonnell Sunset | © Enoch Lai / WikiCommons
Mount Bonnell Sunset | © Enoch Lai / WikiCommons | © Enoch Lai / WikiCommons
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12 Free and Cheap Date Ideas to Try in Austin

Picture of Jessica Devenyns
Updated: 30 March 2018
Date night is quite possibly one of the best nights of the week. The only downside is that it can get pricey quickly. However, in Austin, it is very possible to have a fun and/or romantic time with your S.O. for little if not zero money. Here’s how you do it.

First dates at First Thursday

On the first Thursday of every month, South Congress Avenue turns into a mile-long block party. Shop, listen to music, people watch or sit on the patio of the Hotel San Jose and sip on a drink. No matter where you turn there is always a something to see that will keep the conversation from running dry. Just make sure to stay arm-in-arm so you don’t get lost in the crowd.

Become an art critic at the Blanton Museum

Take in all of the culture with none of the expense every third Thursday at the Blanton Museum. Austin’s premier art museum has a permanent collection that is accentuated by rotating collections throughout the year. Make some room in your schedule for every time a new exhibition comes in. On its free Thursdays, the museum stays open until 9 p.m., which is perfect for even those with demanding work schedules.

200 East Martin Luther King Blvd, Austin, TX 78701

Blanton Museum of Art | © Ethan Lundgaard/Flickr

Sing your heart out at karaoke

No matter where you are in town, there are quite a few great options for karaoke. Up north there is Hi Tunes Karaoke and down south there is The Highball. Hi Tunes is BYOB and open late, so there’s no excuse not to take the after-party there. At The Highball, you can have a date in a variety of different themed rooms that are free to rent from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekdays.

Traverse the paths of history with the Radiolab Austin Detour

Take a dark twist on dating by following the path of a mysterious serial killer who prowled the city’s streets in the 1880s. Narrated by a free downloadable audio program, Radiolab takes you on a journey free of charge but not for the faint of heart. In order to visit all the stops, it is suggested that you complete the tour Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 12:30 to 5 p.m. Tour starts at the corner of 5th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.

Take a hike up Mount Bonnell

For those looking for a romantic getaway in the middle of the city, look no further than Mount Bonnell. With 102 steps to the top, you can admire a gorgeous view of downtown Austin with the sun coming up or going down. For those wishing for an extended stay, bring a blanket and a picnic and enjoy the amazing views over dinner. Just don’t be surprised if you’re accompanied by other couples who had the same idea.

3800 Mt. Bonnell Road, Austin, Texas 78731

Mount Bonnel, Sunset sony f505v water
Mount Bonnell Sunset | © Enoch Lai / WikiCommons

After-hours swim at Barton Springs

You’ve probably already swum half a dozen times at Barton Springs, but did you know that you can avoid the crowds and get in there for free? If you’re a night owl or an early bird, you can enjoy the serenity of Barton Springs free of charge. Unguarded swim hours occur from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It’s always so much more romantic to drift through the water unencumbered by splashing children.

Barton Springs | WikiCommons

Gaze at the stars from atop a tower

When you’re on a date, you feel on top of the world, but now you can actually get a little closer to that point. Every Wednesday when the University of Texas at Austin is in session, the astronomy department hosts a star party on the roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall. Free and open to the public, you do have to make it up to the 17th floor to participate. Up there, you’ll find a viewing telescope with directions on how to use it. As long as it’s not a cloudy evening, you and your love can gaze endlessly into the heavens. Or each others’ eyes. The choice is yours.

2515 Speedway, Austin, Texas 78712

Experience summertime love at Blues on the Green

Do like the locals and spend your summer Wednesdays at Zilker Park for Blues on the Green. Although you might not be able to hear each other over the roar of the crowd and the beat of the music, this is a quintessential Austin summer experience that you won’t want to miss. Plus it’s probably the biggest free concert that you’ll ever attend.

Blues on the Green | © Derek Morrison / Flickr

Marvel at bats

After dinner and about a half an hour before sundown, make your way to the Congress Avenue Bridge and get comfortable. Underneath this major thoroughfare lives the largest urban bat colony in North America and when the sun sets, they will come out for dinner. If you haven’t been, this is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The bats appear like a plume of smoke and drift through the air for 20 minutes before they disappear into the night.

300 S. Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78704

Congress Bridge | © Eric/Flickr

Two-step your way

If you’re in Austin, inevitably one of your dates will involve you going two-stepping. So if you’re not a great dancer, it can be intimidating to see seasoned couples whirling and twirling in time up and down the dance floor. It’s OK, though. Before you try to show what you can do and drop your date during a dip, take a class. Fortunately, at The White Horse you can do that for free. Every Saturday at 7 p.m., dance instructors from Two Left Foots are there to help you step out of your comfort zone and into the realm of two-steppin’ masters.

The Broken Spoke | © Heather Cowper / Flickr

Show off your mad trivia skills

This date should be reserved for when you know you like someone enough to introduce them to your entourage. Alternatively, this could be a double date. Just make sure you round up at least four people who have a good grasp on pop culture and useless knowledge about American society and find out where Geeks Who Drink is hosting trivia. They’re all over town every night of the week, so you’re sure to find a time that works for everybody.

Test your balance at SUP

If it’s warm out – like it is most of the year in Austin – head over to the lake and rent a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). There are several rental shops up and down Lady Bird Lake where you can rent a couple of boards and paddle out into the cool water and enjoy nature. If you’ve never been, it’s not as hard as it looks. In fact, the boards are stable enough that you might see people out there doing their evening yoga on them.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding | © SURFit/ Flickr