Lots of people are surprised to learn that the lone star state actually boasts a little-known natural wonder known as “Texas Hill Country.” Indeed, even Austin itself is home to a few steep cliffs and staggering views. Perhaps the most visually arresting one is seen from the vantage point atop Mt. Bonnell, in a little spot known as “Covert Park.” After parking for free at the highest point on Mt. Bonnell Road, visitors can climb a steep set of limestone stairs — Austin’s answer to Machu Picchu, you might say — and take in breathtaking vistas over Lake Austin; on a clear day, you can look to the left for a clear view of the downtown skyline. It’s one of Austin’s most popular sightseeing spots for a perfectly good reason: indeed, it’s quite a sight to see.
Covert Park at Mt. Bonnell, 3800 Mount Bonnell Road
Open to the public for free from sunup to sundown
It’s no secret that Austin wears its weirdness like a badge of honor. There’s perhaps no greater bastion of oddity than the Cathedral of Junk, which is, quite frankly, exactly what it sounds like. The owner of a private residence in south Austin has taken bric-a-brac and random trinkets and fashioned them, quite literally, into a cathedral in his backyard. It’s open to the public during daylight hours; admission is free, although donations are accepted. In recent years, an architect was brought in to assure the structural soundness of the ‘cathedral,’ which includes a few creative sets of stairs and tunnels; it was given the all-clear, and kids and adults alike are free to roam through the history-filled labyrinth of junk safely. Be sure to bring a camera; this treasure trove of found and donated items is a photographer’s dream come true.
4422 Lareina Dr. (south Austin, between South First & South Lamar)
Open to the public 7 days a week; free or donated admission
See the cathedral’s Facebook page for more details
Each summer on the south shore of Town Lake, the Austin Symphony hosts a free series of mini-concerts on the lawn of the Long Center, courtesy of the Hartman Foundation. Revelers dot the grass with picnic blankets and baskets, cheese and wine, taking in the sights and sounds of the city’s finest classical musicians. There’s something for the kiddos, too: the illuminated tiles at the front of the stage tend to transform into a dance floor for the elementary school set during the summer series, making a sweet evening outing even more adorable. Midway through the series, the event will continue taking place each Sunday through the end of August.
Free admission: Sundays, August 12, 19 and 26, 7:30 pm
Long Center front lawn, 701 West Riverside Drive
Learn more about Austin Symphony events here
Every summer, the beautiful and historic Paramount Theater opens its doors for an exhausting array of classic movies, shown in twos and threes as themed events sharing a lead actor, director, style or genre among them. On Sunday, July 22, the hills will come alive onscreen (twice!) as Julie Andrews swirls and sings her doe-eyed way through The Sound of Music following Saturday’s showing of Grease — a family-friendly weekend full of sweet musical classics.
The Paramount Theater, 713 Congress Avenue
Saturday, July 22; shows start at 2 pm and 6 pm
Tickets: $10 at door, $8 online
Details at the Paramount website
The theater troupe known as Austin Shakespeare celebrates its 28th year bringing the Bard to the Texan masses with its Free Shakespeare in Zilker Park series. This year, the troupe is giving Twelfth Night a Bollywood-inspired treatment with new music from local singer/songwriter Naga Valli and choreography by Prakash Mohandas. The series runs every Thursday through Sunday evening in May, and performances begin at 8 pm each night; it’s the perfect venue for a picnic on the lawn with free theater at your fingertips. Admission is free.
Zilker Park, every Thursday-Sunday in May at 8 pm
See official website for details