Free Parking Downtown Austin - 3 Ways To Save Money

Updated: 19 hours ago

Austin TX has a lot to offer, especially in the bustling downtown area. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy endless activities exploring fascinating history museums, state-of-the-art theaters, beautiful parks as well as unique nightlife and festivals. “Keep Austin weird” is the city motto. And while they do a pretty good job at that, what’s not weird is that there’s nowhere to park.


With so much going on, finding somewhere to park in downtown Austin is hard, almost impossible, and if you want to save money, expect to compete with a considerable amount of people for a free parking spot near your destination. But there's still hope. You just have to know where to look.


Read on to find out where you can park for free (if you’re up for the challenge), plus, we'll talk about a hassle-free option that's here to save the day.


Note: Save time and make it simple! Reserve your parking spot in advance with Smarking. With your daily or monthly SmartPass you'll have in/out access to our parking garage conveniently located in the heart of downtown Austin.


3 Ways to Find Free Parking in Downtown Austin

To help you on your quest for free parking, here are three alternatives you can try. Of course, always be on the lookout for parking signs and stay up-to-date with parking rules and regulations to avoid wasting money on tickets.


1- Street Parking

For starters, there’s a chance you might find a free parking spot if you have enough time and patience to look around. Here are some streets where you might have some luck.


1132 Colorado Street - Near the Austin Capitol

222 E 6th Street - Near the Westin Austin Downtown

1508 Lavaca Street - Near the Hampton Inn & Suites

336 E. 14th Street - Near the Moody Amphitheater

201 E. 17th Street - Near the Bullock Museum

819 Congress Avenue - Parking near the Omni Austin Hotel


Keep in mind, due to the crowds gathering in the downtown area over the weekend, parking is not allowed on 6th Street between Brazos and Red River Street from Thursday to Sunday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Look out for signs as the Austin Police Department will tow vehicles parked in this area.


2- Out-Of-Hours Metered Spaces

You can also find free parking practically everywhere in the city if you wait until after the meters are no longer charging. Parking meters are enforced in downtown Austin Monday - Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday - Friday from 8 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and on Sundays, parking in metered spaces is free.


If you are looking for overnight parking, keep in mind parking meters in downtown Austin have special buttons so you can add an overnight fare. Otherwise, make sure you get your car before 8 a.m. or get ready to pay a ticket.


Finally, you can also park for free in metered parking spaces during select official holidays. The parking holidays are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas day.


3- Garages with Free Allowance

Another good alternative, if you’re not spending a long time in the area, is to look for garages and parking lots that have a free allowance with a time limit. Here are some options in the downtown area.

  • Capitol Visitors Garage

The Capitol Visitors Garage, located on E 12th St and E 13th St., offers free parking for the first two hours with a rate of $1 for each half hour after that. Keep in mind the garage is only open Monday - Friday 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m and access may be restricted during special events.

  • Austin Central Library

Located on 710 W Cesar Chavez Street, the Austin Central Library parking garage allows free parking for one hour, with a cheap parking rate of $5 for up to two more hours. The garage entrance is on West Avenue and it follows the library schedule.

  • City Hall

For an even shorter visit (or if the Central Library garage is full) try the Austin City Hall parking garage located on 301 W 2nd Street. They offer the first 30 minutes of parking for free and charge $5 an hour afterwards. It’s open Monday - Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 a.m.

It’s also a good idea to check with the venue or business you’re visiting in the downtown area as many of them will validate your parking ticket for certain garages and parking lots nearby. Don't forget to always confirm the free parking allowance before you enter the garage as they may not apply during special events in the area and keep in mind most of these options only operate during daytime hours.


On-Street Parking Rates

In order to encourage the turnover of street parking spaces and improve community access to tourist destinations, Austin parking uses a tiered price structure. The parking rates start at $2 per hour for the first 2 hours. After that the rates start going up to $3 for the 3rd hour, reaching a limit of $5 per hour for up to 10 hours. Motorcycles and scooters are allowed free street parking for up to 12 hours.


Get Home Safe - Ticket Waiver Program

Had a little too much fun? Don't worry, you are entitled to waive a parking ticket from Austin Transportation if you parked your car overnight at a parking meter in order to find a responsible ride home. To be eligible, you must submit the Ticket Waiver Form during the following business day after getting the parking ticket.


You must also include a copy of the parking ticket and a "receipt of responsible ride" such as a public transportation, taxi, or ride-hailing service, showing the time and date.


Skip the Hassle and Park Smart - Choose Smarking

While a free parking spot in downtown Austin may sound tempting, it can quickly become a nightmare. From endlessly driving around looking for a good spot, to paying expensive tickets, or -what’s worse- having your car stolen, this should really be your last option. So what is your best bet for parking in the area?


Reserve Your Spot at the Indeed Tower Garage

Plan your visit ahead of time and reserve your parking spot online with Smarking. You will find 24/7 parking at the Indeed Tower garage on 200 W 6th Street, which is conveniently located near many popular destinations and landmarks of downtown Austin. You’ll be just a short walk away from Congress Avenue, Waterloo Park, the University of Texas, The Paramount Theater, Austin Convention Center and many well-known hotels.


With a daily or monthly SmartPass, you decide which days you pay for and we will have a safe parking spot waiting for you in the heart of downtown Austin. Once you make your payment, you will receive a QR code which grants you in and out access to our garage throughout the day so you can enjoy your visit without having to keep track of time. Here are a few locations you'll find within walking distance.


The Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bob Bullock Museum is a must-see if you want to learn about Texas history. To get there, you'll take a nice walk along Congress Avenue, where you'll have a great view of the Texas Capitol, adorable eccentric boutiques, and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. The museum features an incredible laser IMAX theater and three levels of exhibitions that honor Texas history and culture.


Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake is a great place for outdoor activities including hiking, biking, river cruise, stand-up paddle boarding, and yoga. This Colorado River reserve has a renowned promenade offering beautiful views of the city skyline and a great place to witness a magnificent dawn or sunset.


6th Street

Austin's 6th Street is the city's entertainment hub and a must-see location for both tourists and locals. The fantastic dining establishments, pubs, clubs, and retail areas are not to be missed. 6th Street is the place to go if you want to experience the local flavor and character of the city.


Republic Square

Republic Square is a public green space located in the heart of Austin. It's one of the city's most active parks, where you'll find everything from coffee shops to workout sessions, public art, live music and even an outdoor cinema. Everything you need for a great family day trip. The Sustainable Food Center (SFC), one of Austin's top farmers' markets that sells only locally produced goods and artisanal crafts, takes over the park on Saturdays.


For a hassle-free visit to all these and many more attractions in downtown Austin, get your Indeed Tower Parking SmartPass today!