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10 ways to make Austin awesomely free

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
Photo of the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo courtesy of South By Southwest,

Photo of the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo courtesy of South By Southwest.

The South By Southwest music, interactive and film festival kicks off March 7, which means a boatload of free parties, concerts and swag is about to invade Austin, Texas. Lucky for penny-pinching travelers, Austin is already rife with free entertainment. Here are the ten coolest free finds in town.


Party up

Even if you don’t buy a SXSW badge, the fest still provides a smorgasbord of free fun ranging from a video game expo to eco art installations. contains the official events open to the public, but net-savvy travelers can also get the deets on free private events by keeping up with local publications like,, and


Take a dip

Barton Springs, the mother of all pools, charges an entry fee, but there are still plenty of spots along the city’s greenbelt that you can visit without paying a dime. Throw on your bathing suit and hit up local faves like Lost Creek, Sculpture Falls or Secret Beach.


Go gaming

Get a gander at brand new games at the SXSW Game Exposition or head to Kung Fu Saloon in downtown Austin to kick it old school. This ninja-themed bar boasts an impressive selection of 80s and 90s arcade classics, all of which are free on Sundays.


Grab a paddle (board)

If you’ve never tried stand up paddle boarding, now is your chance. SUP ATX offers free lessons every Sunday morning for beginners of all ages.


Get historical

A few museums in town are perma-free and bless them for it. You can always peek at the fossilized remains of dinos at the Texas Memorial Museum located at the University of Texas, Austin, or hop over to Camp Mabry just north of the city to see the Texas Military Forces Museum. A trip to Austin would be remiss without boning up on the state’s history. Thankfully the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum offers free admission the first Sunday of each month.


See some art

Historical museums aren’t the only place where you can score a deal. You can also slip in to see exhibits at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas every Thursday, the Mexic-Arte Museum every Sunday or at The Contemporary Austin modern art gallery every Tuesday on the house.


Go batty

Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony and it’s basically a crime to leave town without seeing them. Living under the Congress Avenue Bridge, an estimated 1.5 million bats take flight at twilight. Bring a blanket and nab a seat near Lady Bird Lake for prime viewing.


Catch a flick

The illustrious Alamo Drafthouse runs free screenings of kids movies the last Saturday of each month during the school year and provides gratis children’s films every Monday through Thursday during the summer. You can catch the occasional non G-rated freebie at the Alamo locations, but you’re more likely to score complimentary films at Spider House Cafe and Ballroom or through the Austin Film Society.


Take a tour

Austin is the capital of the great state of Texas and you can learn all about it through the Texas State Capitol’s free guided tours. If you’d rather hoof it on your own, the Austin Visitor’s Center can hook you up with self-guided tours of downtown Austin and the Texas State Cemetery.


Take in some tunes

With more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the country, you simply can’t leave town without getting your groove on. There are far too many free shows to list here, but head to to bask in the overwhelmingly awesome selection of no-charge concerts at your disposal.

5 ways to score free vacation entertainment

Friday, January 17th, 2014


You ponied up for the flight. And you ponied up for the hotel. Now save big on your vacation fun with these five tips and tricks to score free activities and entertainment.

Work it

Taking tickets and passing out programs can score you gratis entry to film fests, concerts and live theater. Many year-round playhouses including New World Stages located off-Broadway in New York City and Briar Street Theater, home to the Blue Man Group in Chicago, allow volunteer ushers to see shows without paying a dime. Larger festivals like the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Bonnaroo music fest in Manchester, Tennessee, offer loyal volunteers free entry to events they’re not working. Not all volunteer opportunities are advertised. To find out what’s available, call local theaters and cultural institutions several weeks or months in advance.

Go public

From concerts in the park to Saturday morning workout programs, cities offer a variety of publicly funded fun, especially during warm months. Many towns post events on their community calendars, but public libraries and budget-friendly blogs are also great sources for finding freebies.

Take a tour

New York, Paris, Moscow and a wealth of other destinations offer complimentary guided tours in English led by locals. If you can’t track down a greeter tour program, create your own by heading to iTunes and check out the hundreds of free walking tour podcasts available for download.

Try something new

What do the Samarya Center yoga studio in Seattle, the Rick Steves’ Travel Center in Edmonds, Washington, and the Chicago Underwater Hockey Club have in common? They all let newbies come test the waters for free. A little research and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone can translate to fee-free introductory dance and cooking workshops, language classes, guest lectures, crafting courses, history lessons, photography seminars, fitness classes and more.

Use your connections

You may also be able to get perks through your bank or credit card provider. Bank of America, for instance, offers all of its credit and debit card holders free entry to more than 150 museums throughout the country two days per month, while Citi card members can use their Thank You points to score concert tickets through Live Nation. Contact your financial institutions and ask about their perks.

Disneyland on a dime: 7 money-saving tips

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012


Catch Disneyland's new Mickey's Soundsational Parade, one of many freebies within the park.

By Amanda Ficili

There’s never been a better time to visit the Disneyland Resort and with the upcoming openings of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, you’ll want to get those bags packed and ready for an unforgettable summer vacation. (more…)

Low-season Orlando: Cool weather, cool deals

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Light Up UCF’s free Holiday Light Show illuminates the arena several times a night. Credit: Kathryn Page.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the holidays are in full swing, Orlando experiences low season — the cool slice of fall through mid-December, then again in January and February. Park lines are shorter, humidity’s a distant memory, and cheap Orlando hotels abound. From campfire sing-a-longs at Disney to SeaWorld Orlando, stretch your vacation dollar further with some of these budget-friendly options:


Child’s play: 5 kid-friendly attractions in Portland

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Discover a youthful Portland. Credit: Travel Portland.

By Derek Brown

Through the eyes of a child, Portland is a city teeming with opportunities for exploration. So round up your little Lewis and Clark and experience all the City of Roses has to offer: museums, fountains and an aerial tram.  Here are 5-kid friendly attractions in Portland. (more…)

Free travel vouchers: Share your seat for a treat

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

By Derek Brown

Volunteer your seat on an oversold flight for an airline voucher. Credit: Pylon757.

We all know that planes are packed, and the airlines need a little help when they overbook a flight. The solution: Make this summer vacation pay for your next airline ticket with a volunteer bump. The process — which works by volunteering to give up your seat in exchange for a later flight and travel voucher — can be especially fruitful during the busy summer travel season.


Steal away on a Caribbean vacation with package deals

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Find luxury for a steal on a cheap Caribbean vacation to Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, Montego Bay.

By Vince Font

You can find a good number of cheap Caribbean vacations that’ll make you do a double-take of disbelief when you view the final price tag. But with so many resorts to choose from, how do you find the best resort for the money? Minimize your risk: book a package — hotel plus flight — and go with one of these three cheap Caribbean vacation steals.


Cheap flight of the week: Last minute deals on Virgin America!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Get out of dodge in a pinch with last-minute flight deals from Virgin America, and you’ll find adventure in destinations across the U.S.

Virgin America for last minute fares!
Book by September 27, 2010, and travel through December 15, 2010, for cheap round-trips fares to popular U.S. destinations. Super cheap, sample fares include:

  • Los Angeles to San Francisco: $98
  • Boston to Las Vegas: $278
  • New York to Seattle: $298

See individual flight sale for complete terms and conditions.

Related resources

Cheap flights of the week: Coast to coast on Virgin America

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010


This week we’re smiling from ear to ear with an amazing flight sale from Virgin America! Book your trip by August 23, 2010 and travel through November 17, 2010 for fantastic flight deals from sea to shining sea.

Virgin America flights on sale to New York, Las Vegas and more:

  • San Francisco to Las Vegas: $98
  • Washington to San Francisco: $238
  • New York City to Las Vegas: $258

This sale ends on Monday, so be sure to book your trip soon. For more details, see Virgin America’s complete terms and conditions.

Related resources

9 Thrifty travel tips for cheap souvenirs

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Souvenirs. By meddygarnet.

Souvenir shot glasses. Credit: meddygarnet.

Like bringing home a little piece of paradise as a vacation memento? Smart travelers know there’s no need to empty your wallet for expensive souvenirs.  We’ve got the scoop from our budget-savvy travelers on the secrets to bringing home the best memories–without breaking the bank.

9 Thrifty travel tips for souvenir shopping from CheapTickets travelers:

  1. “Invest in a digital camera and snap shots of funny gifts. You can make e-cards to send to friends! They’ll laugh just as hard–for free!”
  2. “Buy souvenirs the US dollar is stronger than that country’s currency, but don’t forget to save some room in your suitcase for your gifts!”
  3. “It never hurts to ask. Many attractions (like the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame) charge to snap a photo.  Ask the staff to use your own camera for free.”
  4. “Instead of buying postcards, use the hotel stationary to write a letter and send a photo along with it. It’s more personal, plus you save more money!”
  5. “Always keep a journal!  Pictures are great but can be costly to print out but it’s free to keep a written record of all your experiences.”
  6. “Souvenirs are usually way overpriced so find some cute gifts for your friends at home to avoid tourist traps. But shhhh… don’t tell your friends how much you saved.”
  7. “Stay away from tourist traps. They’re not authentic and are usually overpriced.  Venture off the beaten path to discover the true gems of the city.”
  8. “Be Thrifty!  Bring clothes you can discard or donate after your trip.  You’ll have more room for souvenirs and a lighter load all in one.”
  9. “Curb your impulse shopping!  Set a daily budget and stick to it. We promise you’ll get the most out of your vacation.”

Want to share your thrifty travel tip with us?  Comment below or Tweet it to @CheapTickets and it might appear in our next list!