Free Fun for an Adults’ Night Out

If you’ve been visiting Free Fun in Austin for more than a few minutes, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that it’s all about free (or cheap) fun activities for families to enjoy together. But a family just wouldn’t be a family without the parents. And parents need a night off sometimes! Hey, it’s not all about the kids, right? Every once in a while, we all need a date night out with our honeys, or an LNO (Ladies’ Night Out!), or an MNO (Moms’ Night Out!), or a DNO (Dads’ Night Out!), or a NOWOAAAIDCWJNK (Night Out With Other Adults, Any Adults, I Don’t Care Who, Just No Kids!!!)… Well, you get the idea.

Without further ado, here are some of the best free (or nearly free) Adults’ Night Out events and activities that Austin has to offer, including upcoming events on specific dates as well as recurring events and perennial Austin favorites:

Fourth Friday at The Art Garage

Friday, June 27, 6–10 PM: Paint-your-own art studio The Art Garage hosts Fourth Friday every month for adults to come “create and be happy.” Bring your own drinks and snacks, or enjoy those provided at the store, while you and your friends paint, work with clay or exercise your right brain in a variety of other ways. This summer’s Fourth Fridays happen June 27, July 25 and August 22. Check the events calendar or call 512-852-9900 for more information.

Saturday, June 28, 7 PM: Celebrate NEST Modern’s 10th birthday from 7 PM till whenever at the Austin showroom (1009 W. 6th St., Austin 78703). Visit their Facebook page for more information on this event that will feature Tribeza, Deep Eddy Vodka, burlesque dancers from The Burlesquerie, and more.

Monday, June 30, 5–7 PM: See Leopold & His Fiction play live at the Moody Theater as part of The Wine Down, Austin City Limits’ free music series that is happening every other Monday throughout the summer.

Sound and Cinema
at the Long Center

• Wednesday, July 2, 6 PM: Enjoy a performance by the Urban Achievers Brass Band followed by a screening of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on the lawn at the Long Center, as part of Sound and Cinema. This free live music performance and film screening series features bands playing tributes to the movies being screened on the Alamo Drafthouse’s giant inflatable outdoor screen. Upcoming films include E.T. (Weds. 7/16), Raiders of the Lost Ark (Weds. 8/13), and more.

• Wednesday, July 9, 8 PM: See Grupo Fantasma play with Greyhounds at Blues on the Green in Zilker Park. Hosted by Austin’s KGSR (93.3 FM), Blues on the Green is a free concert series featuring a wide variety of Texas musicians who play on select Wednesday evenings throughout the summer.

• Thursday, July 10, 5–9 PM: The monthly Wine Walk at the Hill Country Galleria happens every second Thursday. This unique wine and social gathering experience starts at Twin Liquors, where participants pick up maps to guide them along.

• Wednesday, July 16, 8 PM: See Shinyribs play with Tameca Jones at Blues on the Green in Zilker Park. Hosted by Austin’s KGSR (93.3 FM), Blues on the Green is a free concert series featuring a wide variety of Texas musicians who play on select Wednesday evenings throughout the summer.

Recurring weekly and monthly events:

Tuesday evenings in July, 7 PM: Go dance your heart out onstage at the Long Center with Rhythm on Stage, the Long Center’s free dance lessons held on the Meredith Family Stage in Dell Hall. Upcoming featured dance styles include Zumba (Tues. 7/1), Bollywood (Tues. 7/8), Hip Hop (Tues. 7/15) and West African (Tues. 7/22). These events are free, but do require an RSVP to reserve a spot; visit the event page for more information and to submit your RSVP.

Any Wednesday evening, 6–8 PM: Head to the Oak Garden at Guero’s Taco Bar on Wednesday evenings to enjoy some tacos, a margarita and Texas Radio Live, a free live radio broadcast featuring Texas musicians like Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison (who played at a live broadcast in May), Blue Squeezebox and Charlie Pierce (coming up Weds. 7/9), and more. This is a family-friendly event, but it’s also great for an adults’ night out sans kids.

Any Thursday night through Sept. 18, 8 PM: For more free live music, head to Shady Grove on Barton Springs Road for Unplugged at the Grove, a free concert series happening Thursday nights from now through Sept. 18. Sponsored by Austin’s own KGSR (93.3), upcoming shows include Reckless Kelly on Thurs. 6/26, and Joe King Carrasco on Thurs. 7/3. Dale Watson and Ray Wylie Hubbard are coming up in August and September, too.

Third Thursdays of the month: Visit the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas on a third Thursday (admission is free on Thursdays, and the museum stays open until 9 PM every third Thursday of the month). The current exhibit, on display through August 17, explores pre-Inca cultures among the coastal Andes of South America.

Thursdays until 7 PM: If you want to make it a whole UT cultural outing, combine your visit to the Blanton with a stop at the Harry Ransom Center, where you can explore the Gutenberg Bible, the very first photograph, early editions of Shakespeare’s works, and so much more. Admission to the Ransom Center is free and it stays open until 7 PM on Thursdays, making it the perfect pre-Blanton stop on a third Thursday (see above).

Every Thursday night at 10 PM: Head to the Hideout Theatre on Congress Ave. to enjoy some free adult improv with The Free Fringe! Every week is dramatically different, and seats fill up fast, so be sure to reserve your free tickets in advance.

Select Sunday evenings through the summer, 7 PM: Enjoy outdoor film screenings of premiere indie films fresh off the festival circuit with Cinema East. Ride your bike to the French Legation, bring a blanket or a lawn chair — and even your dog, and take in the film beginning at 9 PM, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker. Then keep the fun going at the afterparty (locations for each afterparty change with the films, and are announced at each event). This film series isn’t quite free, but close — your $2–5 donation gains you admission.

And finally, a couple of perennial Austin favorites that make great date night activities:

• In spring and summer months, head to the South Congress bridge at sunset to check out the bats. You can stand on the bridge with the rest of the crowd, or even bring a blanket and some yummy nibbles to enjoy picnic-style on the grass at the south end of the bridge as you watch the clouds of Mexican bats stream out over the water in search of food.

View from atop Mt. Bonnell.
Image from Austin Parks website.
• Bring a picnic up to Mount Bonnell, and enjoy good food and company along with spectacular views of the lake and the mind-bogglingly fancy spreads sparkling hundreds of feet below you. Seriously, looking down at those waterfront properties makes you feel as if you’re viewing what should have been an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Sunsets are particularly pretty at Mt. Bonnell. Note that mornings or sundown are about the only bearable time of day on top of that rock during the summer. But during the fall, winter and spring, almost any time of day or evening is a nice time to climb those 98 stairs to the top.

• Enjoy a free nighttime swim at Barton Springs Pool during the pool’s daily free hour, from 9–10 PM. (You can also get in for free in the mornings from 5–8 AM.) There is something timeless and magical about taking a dip in that blessedly cold water in the darkness of a summer night. It’ll keep you cool for the rest of your evening.


Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, most of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two kids, toddler Pearl and baby Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.

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