Free things to do in Austin Archives - 365 Things to Do in Austin, TX

Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve … You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love …” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Day, everyone! While I’m jealous of all the people that have the privilege of not working today, it’s important to remember and respect the holiday and the long road it has taken our country to get here.

Everyone is invited to join the march that will start at the MLK statue on the University of Texas campus and end at Huston-Tillotson University. Celebrations are then planned for the remainder of the day at the university. The celebration will include local vendors, music, and much more fun.

This is a great opportunity to get out and learn more about the history of this day and to enjoy what it’s all about.

This year they’re asking festival goers to bring canned goods and non-perishable food items to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Remember, dream big.

When: Today, Monday January 15th

March Time: 9 a.m. (But you can join at any point along the route.)

Festival Time:  When the march arrives – 3 p.m.

 See map


Seeing a show during Free Week should be part of the “becoming an Austin resident” initiation process. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Free Week  has been a celebration of music in Austin since 2003.

Legend has it that Emo’s was one of the first venues to start the tradition, but it’s now spread through most of the music venues down Red River and other select venues throughout the city. Now, it’s not only one week but TWO weeks.

Here are a few places offering Free Week:

The Mohawk


The Blackheart

Cheer Up Charlies

Spider House

Empire Control Room

When: Today through Sunday, January 15th

Cost: FREE

Tonight is the night! If you don’t have plans for NYE and you aren’t in the mood for total debauchery, the city’s giant celebration at Auditorium Shores is a great bet. Bring in the New Year with a free, fun, and family friendly celebration.

Austin’s New Year will have have three stages, 15 local and regional bands, food trucks, kid’s activities, and multiple art installations.

Check out the full music schedule here.

Capping off the festive evening, the traditional fireworks finale will start at 10 p.m.!

When: Today, December 31st

Time: 3:00-10:30 p.m.

Auditorium Shores
900 W Riverside Dr,
Austin, TX 78704

Mozart’s is one of the best coffee shops in Austin, mostly because they have a phenomenal location on Lake Austin and a great outdoor deck. It’s one of the best places in town to see some spectacular holiday lights.

Each year they take Christmas lights to the extreme with an extravagant display. They have a light show at the top of each hour starting at 6 p.m. One of the songs is Wizards in Winter by the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I love it and of course, the Texas Fight song!

Time: Top of every hour, starting at 6 p.m.

When: now – New Years

Mozart’s Coffee
3826 Lake Austin Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78703

Photo: Mozart’s Coffee

One of my favorite things to do each December is decorate/enjoy the decorated trees along 360. While hundreds of people like to participate in the act of decorating a tree, many people forget to go back and clean up their tree once the season has passed eventually causing litter and this fun tradition ends up taking a toll on our city.

This is a reminder that you should make some time today or this week to go remove all the decorations if you decorated a tree.

Photo Credit.



Barely just one-year-old, the Hotel Van Zandt in the Rainey Street District has become a fixture of Downtown Austin, winning all sorts of awards and offering gorgeous interiors and jaw-dropping sunset views of Lady Bird Lake. Now they are getting in on the holiday happenings in the city by starting their very own tradition: 12 Days of Christmas. From December 12-23, there will be all kinds of free events happening at the hotel, in what they call, “The Living Room.” It’s basically every great holiday activity packed into one place. Plus, each night there will be a roaring fire, vinyl holiday records playing in the background, a hot toddy bar, and light snacks for purchase. Yep, that sounds like a winter wonderland to us.

Throughout the 12 days, families, friends, couples, and pets are invited to come out and get into the spirit. Here’s a complete list of what’s happening each day. (Look at December 18th—that’s our favorite by far!):

December 12: Tree lighting and live music by Kate Priestley Holiday Trio (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 13: Movie night – It’s A Wonderful Life (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 14: Christmas classics on vinyl (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 15: Holiday Trivia with Austin’s favorite host: Taylor Ellison from We Are Austin (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 16: Live holiday music by Drew Davis & Ray Prim (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 17: Christmas classics on vinyl (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 18: Santa Paws – In partnership with Austin Pets Alive!, if you adopt a pet, you receive a two-night staycation for guest and pet at Hotel Van Zandt. Professional photos, $10 donation; iPhone photos, $1 donation (12:00-3:00 p.m.)
December 19: Cookie decoration (5:00-8:00 p.m.) -There will be a contest for a two-night stay on property
December 20: Movie night – Love Actually (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 21: Photos with Santa – Professional photos are available for purchase and proceeds will go to charity (5:00-8:00 p.m.)
December 22: Ugly sweater party – There will be a contest for a two-night stay at the hotel (6:30-9:30 p.m.)
December 23: Winter Wonderland on the Pool Deck with Snuggies and Motown Christmas music by The Argyles at Geraldine’s (5:00-10:30 p.m.).

Art Alliance Austin’s Art Breaks are always fun events. They give you a behind-the-scenes look at galleries, private collections, artist studios, and an introduction to the people who shape the city’s art scene. Guests learn something new while they have a drink and mingle. For the December Art Break, you will get an exclusive tour of Industry Print Shop. Meet co-founder Tony Diaz and learn how a print is made. Founded in 2007, Industry is one of Austin’s most prolific, artist-run print shops and has built a phenomenal reputation in the world of art and design with a keen eye for detail and outstanding customer service.

Guests will have the opportunity to purchase prints, fulfilling your holiday shopping needs. From small projects to international campaigns, their goal is to provide the highest quality screen-printed materials to bring your vision from an idea to a tangible product. Event goers will enjoy light bites, beer, wine and cocktails and a unique experience with an educational component.

When: Today, December 7th

Time: 6-8 p.m.

Cost: Free! Art Breaks events are complimentary to members and prospective members. To learn more or become a member, please click here.

RSVP by emailing

705 Wallingford Bend Dr #110
Austin, TX 78752

Omni Barton Creek is officially kicking off the holiday season tonight. An evening at Barton Creek is the perfect way to get in the holiday mood. They have s’mores, Christmas lights, and an enchanting atmosphere.

Tonight they are having their 9th Annual Gingerbread House and Tree Lighting ceremony. The holiday shop is so fun to get lost in Christmas cheer. They will also have hot chocolate, games, and the gingerbread houses on display. There will be prizes announced for first, second, and third place in each age group for the gingerbread houses.

Now go be merry!

When: Today, November 30th

Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa
8212 Barton Club Drive
Austin, Texas 78735


Thanksgiving is over and we are heading full speed into Christmas! Kick off the holidays tonight at the Four Seasons Hotel, a place that really knows how to do Christmas. The kids will love the famous Gingerbread Village. The fairy tale is set to become reality with this year’s theme, revealing several whimsical—and completely edible— scenes from classic children’s stories and nursery rhymes. There will be hot apple cider, cookies, photos with Santa, and the opportunity to meet the talented pastry chefs behind the village.

The Holiday Open House takes place in the lobby and is complimentary for locals and visitors.

When: Today and Tomorrow, November 28th and 29th

Time: 5-6 p.m.

Four Seasons
98 San Jacinto Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701

Tonight is the night, the famous Zilker Tree will be lit for the first time of the season..

I am so excited about the Tree Lighting this year as it is also a reminder that the Trail of Lights will be back this year as well. The Trail Of Lights will run December 10th – 23rd.

This 155-foot tall “tree” is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs totaling 3,309 lights. It’s really something to be seen and an absolute icon as you go past the park in December.

The Zilker Tree lighting dates back to December 10th, 1967.

The Zilker Tree will be lit every night from now – December 31st, 6 p.m. – midnight.

When: today, November 27th

Time: 6:00 p.m.

2100 Barton Springs Road
Austin, Texas 78704