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9 free things to do on Black Friday in Austin

Alternatives for those seeking more fun and less stress on the day after Thanksgiving

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Red Bud Isle
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The joy of Thanksgiving, a holiday meant to evoke gratitude and starch-heavy side dishes, has given way to what some consider one of our country's less pleasant pastimes: Black Friday. Lines that snakes around the block for a door-busting sale (promising deals and discounts that are sometimes false) have become de rigueur. This kickoff to the holiday shopping season has become downright unpleasant, and, far worse, sometimes violent. If you need to unleash your consumer beast, don't let us stop you. But for those of you who want turn Black Friday into a less chaotic holiday, here are 10 alternatives to consider that are free, fun, and far less stressful.

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Star Party at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology

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From 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Friday, weather permitting (check the museum’s Facebook page to make sure skies are clear enough for the star party), you can stargaze on a state-of-the art, computer -guided telescope, take telescope assisted photos with your smartphone, and learn the major star, constellation, planet, and moon positions, how to read a star map, and more—all for free.

Model Train Show at ArtSpace

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Friday, Nov. 24, is the opening day of ArtSpace’s Annual Model Train Show featuring the Tinplate Trackers O-Gauge Model Train Clubmodel train show in Round Rock, and it's free. Anyone with a penchant for miniatures, dioramas, or (hey, Curbed readers!) architectural models will be a natural fan of the little worlds created by the sometimes very serious hobbyists of the model train scene—many of whom are fascinating in their own right.

A post shared by Rebecca (@roundtherocktx) on

Take a hike!

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Austin is loaded with many natural parks and other outdoor options for getting away from the Black Friday hordes. We chose St. Edward’s Park for its peacefulness, views, and options for different levels of runners and hikers—plus, it’s dog-friendly. For those who prefer a long walk rather than “hiking,” there are, of course several lovely parks and trails in the central city. Pick the one that’s right for you, get off the couch, and go!

A post shared by Ross Blair (@rossblair2704) on

Mozart's Coffee Roasters Holiday Light Show

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Enjoy Mozart’s free annual light show, located on its lakeside deck, 6:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m. nightly. The dazzling exhibit includes thousands of lights have been sculpted into giant iconic objects, custom-made in Greece, that evoke Austin’s culture and the holiday season: a dozen guitars, the State Capitol, and a tree filled with presents. There’s also an audio-activated wall of lights and even more lights strung in the trees, facades, and rooflines. If that’s not enough stimulus, more than 20 choirs from local schools and community groups have been tapped this year to sing Christmas songs that range from traditional to “rock-the-deck” tunes, spaced throughout the evening.

A post shared by Pia Sen✨ (@astrogal97) on

Harry Ransom Center docent tour

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The Ransom Center Galleries are always free (donations encouraged), but if you visit on Friday at noon, you’ll get a docent tour thrown in. The galleries will be also open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and it’s a great chance to see Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance, the first major exhibition drawn from the Ransom Center’s Edward Ruscha Papers and Art Collection.

Santa at the Long Center for the Performing Arts

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Santa returns to the Terrace at the Long Center to talk to the kids and take free photos (available for download later) in front of that drop-dead gorgeous Austin backdrop. There will be other family-friendly activities, entertainment, and treats as well. The event is weather-permitting, so check the Long Center’s social media if you have doubts before you head out.

SprATX Free Art Friday

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We're mapping the Spratx HQ here, but really FreeArtFriday—when artists make art, leave it in a secure location, drop clues on Instagram about its whereabouts, and then the discover Instagrams his/her finding (and gets free art!) takes place all over town. Check their website for more detailed instructions.

Adopt a pet! At Austin Animal Center

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Although adopting a dog or cat is not something to be done without some reflection and consideration, if you have been thinking about it and are duly prepared, this weekend offers a chance to save a buck or two while doing so. The Black FURiday Adoption Event (why not just “FURday”? We don’t know.) takes place at the Austin Animal Center Friday-Sunday (starting at 9 a.m. Friday). The center will waive all adoption fees for all animals during that time.

Bike the Veloway

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Get on your bikes and ride! When it comes to bike trails in and around town, we have an embarrassment of riches. The Veloway Circle C Ranch Metropolitan Park is a great place to start, though. It was built in the early 1990s and was the first facility of its kind in the United States: 23-foot-wide, 3.1-mile-long (5K) bicycle tract that traverses the natural terrain, the project was partially funded by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant and brings visitors from all over the world.

Upper McKinney Falls

Star Party at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology

From 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Friday, weather permitting (check the museum’s Facebook page to make sure skies are clear enough for the star party), you can stargaze on a state-of-the art, computer -guided telescope, take telescope assisted photos with your smartphone, and learn the major star, constellation, planet, and moon positions, how to read a star map, and more—all for free.

Model Train Show at ArtSpace

Friday, Nov. 24, is the opening day of ArtSpace’s Annual Model Train Show featuring the Tinplate Trackers O-Gauge Model Train Clubmodel train show in Round Rock, and it's free. Anyone with a penchant for miniatures, dioramas, or (hey, Curbed readers!) architectural models will be a natural fan of the little worlds created by the sometimes very serious hobbyists of the model train scene—many of whom are fascinating in their own right.

A post shared by Rebecca (@roundtherocktx) on

Take a hike!

Austin is loaded with many natural parks and other outdoor options for getting away from the Black Friday hordes. We chose St. Edward’s Park for its peacefulness, views, and options for different levels of runners and hikers—plus, it’s dog-friendly. For those who prefer a long walk rather than “hiking,” there are, of course several lovely parks and trails in the central city. Pick the one that’s right for you, get off the couch, and go!

A post shared by Ross Blair (@rossblair2704) on

Mozart's Coffee Roasters Holiday Light Show

Enjoy Mozart’s free annual light show, located on its lakeside deck, 6:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m. nightly. The dazzling exhibit includes thousands of lights have been sculpted into giant iconic objects, custom-made in Greece, that evoke Austin’s culture and the holiday season: a dozen guitars, the State Capitol, and a tree filled with presents. There’s also an audio-activated wall of lights and even more lights strung in the trees, facades, and rooflines. If that’s not enough stimulus, more than 20 choirs from local schools and community groups have been tapped this year to sing Christmas songs that range from traditional to “rock-the-deck” tunes, spaced throughout the evening.

A post shared by Pia Sen✨ (@astrogal97) on

Harry Ransom Center docent tour

The Ransom Center Galleries are always free (donations encouraged), but if you visit on Friday at noon, you’ll get a docent tour thrown in. The galleries will be also open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and it’s a great chance to see Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance, the first major exhibition drawn from the Ransom Center’s Edward Ruscha Papers and Art Collection.

Santa at the Long Center for the Performing Arts

Santa returns to the Terrace at the Long Center to talk to the kids and take free photos (available for download later) in front of that drop-dead gorgeous Austin backdrop. There will be other family-friendly activities, entertainment, and treats as well. The event is weather-permitting, so check the Long Center’s social media if you have doubts before you head out.

SprATX Free Art Friday

We're mapping the Spratx HQ here, but really FreeArtFriday—when artists make art, leave it in a secure location, drop clues on Instagram about its whereabouts, and then the discover Instagrams his/her finding (and gets free art!) takes place all over town. Check their website for more detailed instructions.

Adopt a pet! At Austin Animal Center

Although adopting a dog or cat is not something to be done without some reflection and consideration, if you have been thinking about it and are duly prepared, this weekend offers a chance to save a buck or two while doing so. The Black FURiday Adoption Event (why not just “FURday”? We don’t know.) takes place at the Austin Animal Center Friday-Sunday (starting at 9 a.m. Friday). The center will waive all adoption fees for all animals during that time.

Bike the Veloway

Upper McKinney Falls

Get on your bikes and ride! When it comes to bike trails in and around town, we have an embarrassment of riches. The Veloway Circle C Ranch Metropolitan Park is a great place to start, though. It was built in the early 1990s and was the first facility of its kind in the United States: 23-foot-wide, 3.1-mile-long (5K) bicycle tract that traverses the natural terrain, the project was partially funded by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant and brings visitors from all over the world.

Upper McKinney Falls