Traveling doesn’t have to mean spending more money than you can afford. From the great outdoors to some beloved local murals, here are some budget-friendly places to consider checking out when you’re spending time in Austin.
Whether you’re traveling solo or with family, there’s nothing like driving through the hill country and heading towards Mount Bonnell on a nice day. Once there, take the short hike up the rocky terrain until you come across a series of openings that offer the best panoramic views in Austin. Take a moment to gaze at the rolling landscape that makes Texas famous and the river and mansions beneath you. We recommend packing a picnic and inviting a group of friends to share the experience.
Make sure to visit the Texas Capitol Building – one of Austin’s architectural gems – which is full of history and also completely free. Take a self-guided tour through the building’s various rooms and halls, or enjoy one of the Capitol tours that take place every 20 to 30 minutes all week long; the exact schedule can be found here. The tour guides are extremely knowledgable and will gladly answer questions related to the building or Texas history. Once you’ve checked out the Capitol Building, it’s time to try out all the other fun things to do in Austin.
While in Austin, don’t forget to make a pitstop at the ‘Greetings From Austin’ street-art display to snap an Instagram photo. This mural is a prime example of 1950s and 1960s-era domestic tourism postcards and offers an opportunity to create your own perfect retro snapshot.
End your evening admiring the sunset on the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk. Watch the kayakers glide by and witness one of the best views of the Austin skyline. If you walk down the trail far enough, you’ll run into Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the largest urban bat population in the United States – their dramatic nightly flight in search of evening supper is a sight to behold.
Austin offers a bunch of budget-friendly spots where you can grab a meal. For lunch, head to South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery. You can grab three tacos at a fairly reasonable price at Torchy’s Tacos and sip on a cup of their free water. Austin loves its food trucks and the locals live off tacos. At Torchy’s you can find some of the best around, with fillings that range from all-vegan to juicy barbacoa meat. Another food truck making the trailer park home is Holy Cacao, where you can grab a cake pop, shake or hot chocolate for a nice post-meal dessert.
For a weekend brunch full of Southern comfort, take a trip to Threadgill’s World Headquarters. Every Saturday and Sunday, Threadgill’s hosts free live music and a fabulous southern brunch buffet – at a rate of $12.95 for adults and $5.95 for children – that buys you access to an all-you-can-eat spread of glorious Southern food. There’s an omelette station, or you can choose between items such as sweet-potato pancakes, biscuits and gravy, garlic cheese grits, fruit and bacon.
Pizza is always a viable option when on a budget, and East Side Pies is not only affordable, but wholesome as well. It sources all its toppings from local Austin farms that practice organic and sustainable farming. The pizza offerings depend on the season, but some examples include bacon with green chili, and butternut squash with yellow squash, carrots and green beans; all are delicious.
Despite the high cost of living, Austin offers visitors a number of hotels and hostels for the budget-conscious traveler. Just off 6th Street – Austin’s liveliest stretch for nightlife – is the very affordable Firehouse Hostel. Built in 1885, it now serves as an updated hostel and lounge. They provide free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and various room options. Depending on how much you’re looking to pay, they offer rooms with shared or private bathrooms, deluxe dorm style and economy dorms.
Right off the serene shores of Lady Bird Lake sits HI Austin. This hostel gives you the feeling of being out in the country but it’s still in very close proximity to downtown and all of Austin’s fun activities. Lodging prices range from about $30 per person for shared rooms and around $70 per person for private rooms. You can’t beat the location, free breakfast and Wi-Fi included in your rate.