Free Austin Museums, Galleries, & Activities

 Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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Laguna Gloria

It's cold! Not many of us Texans are built for this weather. We like to stay indoors, where it's warm and toasty! On that note, let's check out some museums and galleries in and around Austin that are either always free or have special free days/hours this month.


Blanton Museum of Art -- The museum offers free admission every Thursday, including public tours at 12:30 p.m. The third Thursday of each month features extended hours and multiple programs, including artist talks and screenings, Yoga in the Galleries at 6:30 p.m., and tours. Children 12 and under are always free, along with current UT faculty, staff, and students. If you visit with a child, be sure to ask to borrow a kid's art conservation box. You can check them out free and take them around the museum. The boxes have laminated cards that explain different things. One has them get their grubby fingerprints all over the mirror in the box, to show them that our fingers have oil and dirt, which is why we shouldn't touch the art. Another one explains the painted silks and has a piece of silk and a wooden dowel so kids can roll and unroll the silk, just like the Buddhist monks who use the painted silks to teach about their religion. Another one explains the use of texture in modern art and has a tiny canvas (3"x4") that is painted with thick and thin paint. Of course, kids are allowed to touch that canvas. Another fun tool to take along is Having Fun at Home's Blanton Museum of Art's Scavenger Hunt.  Just note that the work of art featuring horses has since been removed from the Museum's collection. (200 E MLK -- MLK and Congress)

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center -- The Wildflower Center is not a completely indoor activity, but it is free and open to the public for the month of January. Regular hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. On Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., join the center for the annual Tree Talk Winter Walk and explore the beauty and benefits of native trees and shrubs in the new Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum. (4801 La Crosse Ave)

LBJ Presidential Library -- LBJ Library has started charging admission, but will offer several free days throughout the year.  The next free admission day is Martin Luther King Day, which is Monday, January 21, 2013. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Parking is free. (2313 Red River St.)

Austin Children's Museum -- The children's museum is free and open to the public on Sundays from 4 - 5 p.m. and any time upon request through their Open Door Policy. Wednesday evenings from 5 - 8 p.m. are Community Nights where admission is by a suggested donation of $1 per person. (201 Colorado St)

Upcoming free events at the Bullock Texas State History Museum -- Butterfly Family Day: Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Watch Flight of the Butterflies in 3D, create a butterfly garden with free milkweed seeds (while supplies last), create butterfly crafts, and listen to stories about creepy crawly creatures. This free event does not include admission to the exhibits. First Saturdays: February 6, 2013 is the next chance to get free admission to the exhibits from 2 - 6 p.m. Boy Scout Day: Also on February 6, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Boy Scouts can earn their My Story is a Texas Story patch. Scouts can choose from over eight activities to help with the different sections of the My Story is a Texas Story patch requirements; some activities can also apply toward the Cub Scout Heritages belt loop/pin and the Boy Scouts' Genealogy Merit Badge. Patches will be available for sale for $1 at the ticket counter. (1800 N Congress Ave)

Storytime at the French Legation Museum -- The French Legation Museum offers a free 30 minute storytime on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. Feel free to bring snacks, blankets, and your imagination! (802 San Marcos St)

Mexic-Arte Museum -- The museum is free on Sundays from noon - 5 p.m., but is currently between exhibits. The next exhibit, Masked: Changing Identities, opens Friday, January 25, 2013. (419 Congress Ave)

Julia C Butridge Gallery at the Dougherty Arts Center -- Butridge Gallery features Austin-area artists and arts organizations in exhibitions that include all mediums and address diverse subject matters. The current exhibition, Contemporary Interpretations in Wax from Austin Encaustic Arts, will be on view through January 29, 2013. Admission to the gallery is free. (1110 Barton Springs Rd)

Texas Military Forces Museum -- Always free, the Military Forces Museum offers 45,000 square feet of uniforms, weapons, tanks, artillery, aircraft, helicopters, and more, showing the history of the Texas Military Forces from 1823 to the present. The museum is open Wednesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Photo ID required for adults to enter Camp Mabry. (2200 W 35th Street)

Texas Memorial Museum and Natural Science Center -- Texas Natural Science Center, located on the UT campus, is always free. Exhibits focus on dinosaurs and fossils, Texas wildlife, gems and minerals, and a working Paleontology Lab where visitors can interact with scientists as they prepare fossil finds. You'll also find spectacular specimens found in Texas, including the Texas Pterosaur, with a wingspan of nearly 40 feet, and the 30-foot Mosasaur that swam the shallow sea that once covered most of the state. Upcoming events include: Identification Day, January 27, 2013, 1 - 4:45 p.m. -- Scientists and experts from all over Central Texas will be on hand to look at and identify natural objects and archaeological materials. Darwin Day, February 10, 2013, from 1 - 4:45 p.m. -- Investigate how Darwin’s observations led him to develop fundamental theories of evolution and learn more about Darwin’s influence on modern day science. (2400 Trinity St)

AMOA-Arthouse -- Both the Laguna Gloria and The Jones Center locations offer free admission, but donations are encouraged. The museum provides rich environments for a wide range of audiences to investigate and experience excellence in modern and contemporary art. Visit the AMOA-Arthouse website to see hours for both locations. (The Jones Center: 700 Congress Ave; Laguna Gloria: 3809 West 35th St)

George Washington Carver Museum -- The Carver Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material. On Thursday, January 17, 2013, join the museum for the opening reception of "Delta Sigma Theta: 100 Years Exhibit," celebrating 100 years of a Greek-lettered sorority of college educated women who perform public service. The exhibit will be up through March 30. Admission is free. (1165 Angelina St)

Emma S Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center -- The Mexican American Cultural Center is dedicated to the preservation, creation, presentation and promotion of Mexican American cultural arts and heritage. Upcoming gallery openings: "Heaven & Earth: New Works by Fidencio Duran." In his new series, Fidencio continues his personal investigation into the relationship between mankind and the landscape we inhabit. On display January 19 - March 30, 2013, located in the Main Gallery. "The Big Red Bus:" A retrospective by music legend Oscar Martinez, on display January 19 - March 20, 2013, located in the Community Gallery. Admission is free. (600 Red River St)

Austin Science & Nature Center -- Always free, with plenty of fun activities both indoors and out.  Inside, kids can visit the Trade Counter and Naturalist Workshop Before venturing outside, ask at the front desk of the Visitor's Pavilion about renting Eco-Detective Kits. These kits are free to borrow and contain binoculars, a microscope, a ruler, a compass, and a magnifying glass. All in a handy kid-size fanny pack.  Outside, kids can visit with wildlife and dig for dino bones in the sand pits.  Click here to see photos of the Center. Coming up on Sunday, January 20, 2013, from 1 - 3 p.m., you can meet a White Tree Frog and Ring-Necked Dove in the Visitor's Pavilion. (301 Nature Center Dr.)

Elisabet Ney Museum -- Always free. The house was built by Elisabet Ney and her husband at the end of the 19th century and became the center of the Austin art scene at that time.  Click here to read Katey's review of the museum, with 5 interesting things to look for. (304 East 44th Street) Update: The Elizabet Ney Museum is closed for roof replacement until January 31, 2013.  Go here for details.

Cedar Park

Austin Steam Train Association Public Tours -- Every 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month Austin Steam Train offers the public an opportunity to take a free guided tour of the train as it awaits its weekend journey. Tours are from 1 - 1:45 p.m., with a maximum of 20 people. Call (512) 477-8468 ext 201 or email to guarantee a spot on a tour. (401 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste A-103, Cedar Park)


The Williamson Museum -- The Williamson Museum offers free and exciting hands-on educational programs to the public through innovative exhibits, tours and outreach. Free tours of the Williamson County Courthouse: Fridays & Saturdays at 1:30, 2:30 & 3:30pm. Please call 512-943-1670 to confirm tours. The museum is open Wednesday - Friday, noon - 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. On Saturday, January 19, 2013, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., celebrate Texas Confederate Heroes Day with information tables, a formal ceremony, and the new Artifact of the Month exhibit. (716 South Austin Ave, Georgetown)

New Braunfels

New Braunfels Railroad Museum -- Check out a variety of artifacts and historical photographs from the golden age of railroading, restored train cars, and model railroads at the New Braunfels Railroad Museum. On the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., the museum offers Kids Fun Day, where kids can get a chance to run the trains and become a Junior Engineer. Admission to the museum is always free. Normal hours are Thursday - Monday, noon - 4 p.m. (302 West San Antonio Street, New Braunfels)


Heritage House Museum -- Learn about the history of Pflugerville. The Heritage House Museum is free and open to the public the 1st Sunday of each month from 1 - 4 p.m. (901 Old Austin Hutto Rd)

Round Rock

Andrew J Palm House -- Visit the home of Andrew J Palm, who emmigrated to Texas from Sweden in 1853 with his mother and brothers. The Palm family settled about three miles north of Round Rock at Palm Valley, where Palm built this residence about 1873. (208 E Main, Round Rock)

For more museums in the Austin area, visit the Austin Museum Partnership website. Click on the links for each museum to discover which offer free admission. 

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