Austin has a host of cultural and exciting family-friendly experiences for free.


By Jenny Hoff, Photo by Tomek Baginski

For parents, summer is arguably the most expensive and financially stressful season of the year. Camps range from $250 to $500 per week per child. Overnight camps are triple that amount. Flights for vacation have gotten pricier. Credit points have been diluted, and it seems that even going out to grab an ice cream can set a family of four back $50. For a single parent or a family living on a tight budget, what should be the most laid-back time of year is one that can leave someone in the red by the time school comes back in session.

But it is possible to experience the magic of summer without having to break the bank for every activity. There are many incredible experiences that are 100% free for the family to enjoy, and they are full of culture, fun and great talent.

Summer Musical Magic

If you’re a fan of high-caliber musical theater, you are lucky to have a couple of options to see incredible performances in the great outdoors for free. Magnolia Musical Theatre, based in Bee Cave, Texas, will be putting on its inaugural Broadway-style musical on a grand stage in the Hill Country Galleria starting on July 19 and lasting until Aug. 13. Wednesday through Sunday nights starting at 8 p.m., Belle, Gaston, the Beast and all the other lovable characters will take the stage and perform Disney’s classic version of Beauty and the Beast for the public.

Attendees do not need to register, but are encouraged to get there a bit early to get a spot on the lawn. Bring a picnic blanket, some snacks and drinks and enjoy a glorious evening out without having to even pay for parking. The founder of the Magnolia Musical Theatre was the former executive artistic director for Zilker Theatre Productions, so you know the show will be fantastic.

Speaking of Zilker Theatre Productions, you can also enjoy a wonderful free musical on the Hillside at Zilker Park this summer between July 7 and Aug. 12, Thursday through Sunday at 8:15 p.m. The beloved Roald Dahl story Matilda will come to life on the Zilker Hillside stage for all to enjoy, and once again all you need to bring is a blanket and whatever snacks you’ll want while watching the show. The professionalism of these shows truly makes you feel like you’re watching a Broadway production, but they are all free and outside under a starry sky.

Independence Day

If you’re looking for Independence Day festivals, there will be plenty of opportunities to listen, dance and have fun for free at events around town. The H-E-B Austin Symphony Fourth of July Concert and Fireworks will be held at Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores). The pre-show starts at 5 p.m., and the symphonic concert and fireworks are scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. If you want to get out of the crowds of downtown for the holiday, head on over to the Hill Country Galleria for its annual Fourth of July celebration, including live music, free parking and plenty of food and fun to enjoy.

Additionally, your credit cards might have perks you don’t know about. For instance, Bank of America cardholders can gain free entry to a wide variety of museums on the first full weekend of every month. In Austin, both the Thinkery and Bob Bullock Texas History Museum are on the list.

Other places to search for free activities in Austin include and



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