Free & Budget-Friendly Field Trips in Austin and Surrounding

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The more Austin grows, the more opportunities we have to get out and learn about our historic buildings, discover new favorite spots, and even learn how to make ice cream! Here are our favorite FREE and budget-friendly field trips in Austin.

Editor’s Note: This list has been updated as of September 2019. Additional reporting by Christina Boudreaux.

 

FREE Tours:

Austin Energy Power Plant Facility Tours – Austin Energy offers group tours at two natural gas power plants in Austin, as well as a few of the utility’s district cooling plants which use chilled water to cool buildings. Power plant tours are hosted by Austin Energy power plant employees who provide an inside look at how electricity is produced and transmitted via high voltage power lines to homes and businesses. District cooling facility tours include an inside look at how district cooling works and the thermal storage tanks which allow Austin Energy to produce chilled water during off electric peak hours. To request a tour, email [email protected] Tours must consist of a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 25 people, grade 4 or higher. One supervising adult is required for every 8 minors.

Austin Fire Department – AFD will accommodate visits to fire stations for small groups. No minimum number of visitors is required. Normal hours for station visits are 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 6 p.m. To arrange a tour, contact the Public Education Office to schedule at least a week in advance.

Blue Baker – Take a tour of Blue Baker in The Arboretum. During this FREE bakery tour, kids go behind the scenes to learn about the artisan baking process, see how the equipment works, and get some flour on their hands by shaping their own loaves of bread. After each tour, Blue Baker will let the loaves slowly rise, bake them in the oven, and have them ready for pick up. A minimum of 10 children are required to conduct a tour, but groups of up to 20 children with adult supervision are welcome. Tours last up to an hour and they wrap up with warm, freshly baked-from-scratch cookies. If you have an interest in a bakery tour, please email [email protected] or fill out the form here. 10000 Research Boulevard, Austin.

Bullock Texas State History Museum – All students and teachers in reserved school groups receive FREE exhibit admission and discounted group rates for films and programs. To be considered a school group, you must have at least 10 students of similar age, grades K through 12; be enrolled in an educational institution (includes organizations such as home schools); make a reservation at least two weeks in advance; and have at least one teacher/chaperone for every 10 students. Students and teachers get in free, but chaperones must pay $12. Note: Admission to the theatres at the Bullock cost $4 to $5 per student. 1800 North Congress Avenue, Austin.

Colorado River Foundation and the Wilkerson Center for Colorado River Education at Redbud Center – On a Redbud Field Trip, students learn about the geology and geography of Texas, drinking water sources, healthy watershed attributes, pollution and the water cycle, physical properties of water, and water conservation methods. The program utilizes materials in both English and Spanish to support bilingual students.

The Redbud Field-Trip Program teaches elementary-school students and other visitors the importance of protecting our community’s economic and environmental lifeblood, the Texas Colorado River. Launched in 2009 in collaboration with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the program takes place at LCRA’s Wilkerson Center for Colorado River Education, a five-acre, riverside, outdoor exhibit space that focuses on the history and importance of the Colorado River. Registration is now open for booking Fall 2019- Spring 2020 Redbud Field Trips: https://coloradoriveralliance.formstack.com/forms/yesregistration
Please email [email protected] for more information. 3601 Lake Austin Boulevard, Austin.

Governor’s Mansion – FREE guided tours of the Texas Governor’s Mansion are available Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m. Tours last 30 minutes and are subject to availability. Reservations must be made at least one week in advance and no walk up tours are available. To schedule a tour, visitors can call the Mansion Reservationist at 512-305-8524 or send an email to [email protected] Read about Leigh Ann’s experience with the tour here. 1010 Colorado Street, Austin.

Harry Ransom Center – Tours offer an in-depth guided experience of the current exhibitions and the Gutenberg Bible and the First Photograph, which are on permanent display at the Ransom Center. Admission and tours are FREE! Your donation supports the Ransom Center’s exhibitions and public programs. To schedule a prearranged tour or to alert Ransom Center staff of your visit, click here for a tour request form or contact [email protected] Public tours take place at noon daily; 7 p.m. Thursdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Private tours can be scheduled to take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and between noon and 5 p.m. on weekends. Teachers can use this helpful list of special exhibitions to help with planning! 300 W 21st Street, Austin.

H-E-B – Be A Healthy Buddy! is a FREE, educational field trip to promote smart food choices, good nutrition, and physical activity. Content includes building healthy habits, understanding portion size, making balanced meal choices, and the benefits of staying active. Trips vary in length and content based on upon the grade level of the participants.

KUT – The local radio station can accommodate many types of educational student tours which focus on specific areas within KUT. All tours are led by wonderful volunteers and require a reservation made at least two weeks in advance and are for groups of 20 or less. Tours are provided (with a prior reservation) during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information on group tours, please contact [email protected] 300 West Dean Keeton Street, Austin.

LBJ Presidential Library – Guided tours are available FREE of charge, September through May, on weekdays to school groups with reservations. Guided tours generally last ninety minutes and cannot be provided to groups smaller than 15 or larger than 60 students at a time. Guided tour reservations must be made at least six weeks in advance. Start times for tours must be between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. School tours generally last 90 minutes. One adult, 18 or older, is required per eight students. If interested, fill out this online Group Tour Registration Form. 2313 Red River Street, Austin.

Leander Fire Department Tours (Leander) – The Leander Fire Department offers tours to residents in the Leander fire district by reservation. During the tour, firefighters explain the equipment on the trucks so kids gain an understanding of the gear and learn about the role of firefighters as first responders. Tours are available on a first come, first served basis after approval from the on-duty Battalion Chief. To schedule a station tour,  open and complete this request link.

O’Henry Museum — The O. Henry Museum is the former residence of William Sydney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry, the short story writer who authored such classics as “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” and “The Last Leaf.” The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts and archival materials relative to Porter for literary, educational, and historical purposes. The museum offers free guided tours Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 409 East 5th Street, Austin.

Texas Capitol Tours – Tours are generally 30 to 40 minutes in length and are available during the following times: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3:30 p.m. Capitol tours are conducted daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter. Reservations for groups of 10 or more should be made in advance by calling (512) 305-8402. Special group tours are also available through the Capitol Visitors Center. Check the website for specialty tour times, which vary by month. Read about the tour here. 1100 Congress Avenue, Austin.

Texas Military Forces Museum – Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The 45,000-square feet museum displays uniforms, weapons, tanks, artillery, aircraft, helicopters, and more. Admission is FREE! Adults must show photo ID to enter Camp Mabry. 3038 W 35th Street, Austin.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum – The UMLAUF provides guided tours to public, private, and independent schools, serving 4,000 AISD students annually. Docent-led tours are available Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours are approximately one hour in length and are recommended for students first grade and above. In addition to touring our permanent collection, students receive admission to our special exhibitions and are invited to participate in a sculpture scavenger hunt around the garden. The UMLAUF provides free tours and admission to all Austin public school groups, as well as transportation assistance through bus reimbursements to Austin Independent School District. School groups located outside AISD may call or e-mail for information regarding admission fee waivers. Please schedule your tour at least three weeks in advance. Click here to schedule a tour. 605 Robert E Lee Road, Austin.

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Williamson County Courthouse (Georgetown) – Tours of both the Williamson County Museum and the Williamson County Courthouse are available for school groups. School tours of the Museum can be accommodated with a maximum of 40 students per tour, but can be combined with the Courthouse and downtown walking tours for larger groups. One accompanying adult chaperone is required for every 10 students on tour. To schedule a tour contact [email protected] or 512-943-3856. 710 South Main Street, Georgetown.

Low-Cost Field Trips ($7 or less):

Austin Nature and Science Center – The Austin Nature and Science Center is a regional environmental education center that offers a variety of quality informal science experiences to support and enrich classroom curriculum. The ANSC environmental educators engage students in TEKS-based activities integrating the rigor of the classroom science experience with the relevance of the field experience. Cost $4 to 6 per student. Registration form available here. 301 Nature Center Drive, Austin.

Ballet Austin Field Trip – Gain an insider’s perspective into Ballet Austin by taking a field trip to the Butler Dance Education Center. Observe a dance class or a rehearsal, see real ballet costumes and pointe shoes, learn more about dance companies and programs, and have all of your questions about ballet and Ballet Austin answered by knowledgeable Community Education staff. Tours last 45 minutes to one hour and cost $5 per person ($100 minimum). Tours can be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (depending on studio schedules). This tour will give you a better understanding of all elements that help bring a ballet to the stage. Sign-up here to schedule a field trip to Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center. Butler Dance Education Center, 501 W 3rd Street, Austin.

Austin Zoo — Learn about wild life with a hands-on adventure at the Austin Zoo! School programs are designed for Pre-k through fifth grade. Rates for September 1 to January 31 are $5.50 per person, February 1 to May 31 are $6.00 per person and June 1 to August 31 are $6.50 per person. Bus Drivers plus one teacher per seven students will be admitted free of charge. A minimum of 15 people and one person must pay for the entire group. Interested in riding the train? Contact Jeanne Polk at (512) 970-2987 or by email at [email protected] Note that Austin Zoo does NOT have water fountains, so make sure to bring plenty of water bottles to stay hydrated. To make reservations, fill out our online field trip reservation form. 10808 Rawhide Trail.

Blanton Museum of Art – The Blanton provides engaging, interactive, and inquiry-based tours. Pre-K through 12 tours are available for $2 per student. Teachers are free with school ID. Guided tours are available Tuesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and are 50 minutes in duration. Schools that demonstrate financial need are eligible for the Blanton Art Access program, which seeks to increase K through 12 student access to the museum by offering funding for transportation and tour fees on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more about this opportunity, email [email protected] or call 512-471-5025. To schedule a visit, please fill out the online form at least three weeks in advance. The University of Texas at Austin, 200 E Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Austin.

Boggy Creek Farm – This working urban farm offers guided tours when it’s feasible. On market days (Wednesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) you are welcome to freely walk the farm and see the crops, compost area, hen house, and the chickens at no cost! For large numbers of visitors, please let the farm know in advance that you are coming since parking might be an issue. Guided tours cost extra and need to be arranged ahead of time. Farm tours are 45 minutes long and include a guided walk through the farm with discussions on the history of the farm and historical farmhouse, horticultural practices, and age appropriate activities. Tours cost $10 per person with a minimum charge of $100 for the first 1 to 10 persons. Additional persons $10 each. Tour the farm, field and historic homes for $20 per person with a minimum charge of $200 for up to 10 persons. Additional persons over the first 10, $20 each. Email [email protected] for availability. 3414 Lyons Road, Austin.

The Contemporary Austin – The Contemporary Austin offers age-appropriate, engaging, and interactive tours for a range of audiences led by friendly and knowledgeable docents. Spanish-language tours are also available. Please book your tour at least two weeks in advance during gallery hours or at [email protected] You can find the Tour Request Form here. Laguna Gloria (3809 W 35th Street) and The Jones Center (700 Congress Avenue).

Crowe’s Nest Farm — Located in Manor, TX, just east of Austin, Crowe’s Nest Farm is a 100-acre working farm filled with hundreds of domestic farm animals and a wide, ever-growing array of Texas wildlife, gardens, and educational exhibits. The farm hosts over 40,000 children for school field trips each year and frequently holds other special, family-oriented events. Group tours by appointment only. These tours can be scheduled for 9 a.m., 10 a.m., or 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, during the primary field trip seasons of the school year (October through mid-December and March through July). Certain scheduled Saturday tours at 11 a.m. are also available during these seasons for groups of 20 people or more. Individuals, families, and groups under 10 people are always welcome to join a pre-scheduled tour on weekdays. Click HERE to book a tour!

Admission is $7 for adults (13+), $6 for children (3-12), and $3 for 2-year-olds. Children under 2 and full-time school staff (e.g. teachers & bus drivers) are free. 10300 Taylor Lane, Manor, Texas.

Dell Diamond – A guided ballpark tour is available year-round. Take a behind-the-scenes look into the press box, luxury suites, Intel Club, and other exclusive areas of Dell Diamond, the home of the Round Rock Express. Guided tours last approximately 30 to 45 minutes. There is a $7 charge per person (free admission for teachers, bus drivers, and children under 2 years old). There is a minimum of 10 guests for a personalized tour. Tours are available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at three different time slots: 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. During the season, tours are given when the express is on the road. Click here to book your tour online. 3400 East Palm Valley Boulevard, Round Rock.

Dinosaur Park – The Dinosaur Park features a unique outdoor museum setting. While most museums have dinosaur skeletons, The Dinosaur Park’s realistic life-size dinosaur replicas show skin and color variations to give a better understanding as to how they looked when alive. The Park is available on a daily basis for reserved schools and groups. Please email [email protected] or call 512-321-6262 for reservations. Admission is $5 per child for groups of 15 or more or $6.00 per child for groups of 15-49. One teacher for every 10 students receives free admission. Reservations are for a two hour period. 893 Union Chapel Road, Cedar Creek.

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm – Field trips are designed for Pre-K to 5th grade students. The cost is $6 per reserved student; $8 for all others (2 years to adult). One teacher receives free admission per class of 20. Field trips start at 10 a.m. and can last 3 to 4 hours. The field trip includes an educational talk on the plant cycle and farming. 120 Nature’s Way, off Roy Davis Road, Elgin.

Gault Homestead – The Gault Homestead is available for tours by reservation only for schools, groups, and Wells Branch residents. The tours focus on pioneer life in the mid to late 1800s. Tours can be geared towards kindergarten children through adults. Most tours require a minimum number of participants. Tours are conducted September through December and March through May. To book a tour, click here. Tours cost $1.50 per student or a $30 minimum. 2106 Klattenhoff Drive, Austin.

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Mexic-Arte Museum – Guided tours of Mexic–Arte Museum exhibitions provide students and adults with a unique cultural experience. Tours are an engaging way to expose all age groups to current exhibitions and a fun opportunity to learn about Mexican and Mexican American art from Mexic–Arte Museum’s knowledgeable staff. Admission for kids age 12 and under is $1; students 13 and up are $4; adults are $7. 419 Congress Avenue, Austin.

Neill-Cochran House Museum – The Neill-Cochran House Museum welcomes students of all ages, including fifth-grade Civil War students, seventh-grade Texas history students, and high schoolers studying American History or Interior Design. Teachers from public and private schools and parents engaged in homeschooling may express specific areas of interest for the focus of their individualized tours. Reservations may be made with this form or by calling 512-478-2335. Admission is $2 per student with a minimum rate of $40 for field trips. There is no additional charge for teachers, staff, and parents serving as chaperones. 2310 San Gabriel Street, Austin.

Pioneer Farms – Students learn about history, science, and nature on a nearly 100-acre working farm featuring three fully restored 1800s farmsteads and three historic sites. Hands-on, inquiry-based learning takes place during numerous programs for school groups. Tour fees start at $6 per person. 10621 Pioneer Farms Drive, Austin.

Sweet Berry Farms — Sweet Berry Farms offers budget-friendly field trips in both the spring and fall. Fall field trips are available from September 26 through November 8 with no bookings on Wednesdays or October 14. Spring field trips are offered March 26 through May 8 with no bookings on Wednesdays, April 10 or 13. Activities are seasonal, and include visits to the pumpkin patch or strawberry field. Prices range from $5.00 to $6.50 per child. For more info and to fill out the group reservation request form click here. 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls, Texas.

Sweet Eats Fruit Farm — Have a group interested in visiting the farm? Sweet Eats Fruit Farm will arrange for the kids to have a fantastic educational experience while enjoying pre-selected activities. Pricing depends on the number of kids and the length of anticipated stay. Click here to fill out the request form for more info. 14400 East State Highway 29, Georgetown, Texas.

Texas Memorial Museum – Organized groups of 15 or more are encouraged to register at least seven days in advance before visiting the museum. To request a date and time for a self-guided group visit, request a time and date online with the reservation request form. If a response is not received after a week, call 512-232-5505 or email [email protected] Be sure to check out the free curriculum resources. The Museum now charges admission. View the fee schedule here. 2400 Trinity Street, Austin.

ThinkeryGroups experience Thinkery through a 90-minute hands-on tour of exciting exhibits and activities. Tours are divided into groups of 15 to 20, each led by a Thinkery staff member. Groups explore six different galleries in 10 to 15 minute rotations. To ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all, Thinkery requires one adult for every five students, and chaperones in the 1:5 ratio will receive complimentary admission. $3 to $7 per student (based on Title I status); Teachers receive free admission with badge. Chaperones and siblings pay $10 each. A $25 non-refundable reservation fee will secure date and time. Submit your tour request online. 1830 Simond Avenue, Austin.

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve – Students travel in small groups with a trained guide on a two-hour hike through Wild Basin’s Hill Country 227 acre habitat. Guided hikes for schools give students a hands-on outdoor experience and can be correlated to classroom studies in natural sciences. Programs are appropriate for Pre-K (Tiny Footprints is a shorter hike created especially for the littlest nature walkers) through 12th grade, and can accommodate up to 40 students. School tours are a suggested donation of $3 per student. There is no charge for adult chaperones. A non-refundable fee of $25 will be applied towards the balance. Please contact [email protected] to sign up or for questions. This program waiver will need to be filled out before the visit. 805 North Capital of Texas Highway, Austin.

Wildflower Center – To request a Self-Guided Youth Group Visit, you can fill out an online form. Admission is $4 to $5 per person. Designated picnic areas are available for lunch and snacks. 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin.

Zilker Botanical Garden – Individual docents will bring their special knowledge to each 90-minute tour. All docents are avid gardeners and very familiar with the gardens. Each is trained to work with a variety of student groups. Some are especially facile with special needs children or ESL kids. March, April, and May are especially busy months, so make your reservations early. Requested donation of $1 per student in addition to the required admission. Tours are given for group of 15 to 18, for grades preschool to high school. Please talk to the president of the Zilker Docents if that presents a hardship to your school. Review the garden rules for school tours here. Reservations can be made using this form. 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin.

Low-Cost Field Trips in Central Texas:

Hill Country Science Mill (Johnson City) – The Science Mill will be open to field trips Tuesday through Friday when school is in session. Field trips begin at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. The museum closes at 4 p.m. Field trips are $6 per person; extra chaperones are $7. Learning Lab is an additional $6 to $11. 101 South Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City.

Mayborn Planetarium & Space Center (Killeen) – Educators may reserve K through 12 school programs in a variety of astronomy, science, and social-studies related disciplines on weekday mornings during the school year. School group tickets cost $5 per ticket (per program). One teacher is free for each 10 paid tickets.  Showtimes are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Shows start on the half hour. Reservations are required. 6200 W Central Texas Expressway, Killeen.

For more educational resources, including local DIY learning opportunities and printables, head over here!

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