Planning a visit to Austin with kids? Here are some don’t-miss local favorites!
- Thinkery – Austin’s brand new 40,000 square foot children’s museum focuses on “STEAM” learning – science, technology, engineering, art, and math – as well as healthy living. The fun-filled facility is a hybrid science and technology center/children’s museum that will entertain all ages for hours. Admission is by donation (suggested $1) on Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m.
- Butler Park – By day, get the perfect family photo from atop Doug Sahm Hill, with Austin as your backdrop. By night, splash in the Liz Carpenter Fountain as the water jets perform a colorful light show. The fountain operates year-round.
- Cathedral of Junk – If you want to take a walk on Austin’s weird side, this is one stop you don’t want to miss! Kids love walking through this backyard ode to discarded treasures. It’s like an outdoor I Spy museum of times gone by, housed in local yardist Vince Hannemann’s backyard. You must call to make an appointment to visit and be sure to bring along a $10 donation for your group.
- Zilker Park – This destination could have a top ten list all its own! Explore nature at Zilker Botanical Garden ($0 – $3), Austin Nature and Science Center, and UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum ($0 – $5). Cool off with a dip in Barton Springs ($0 – $4), explore by train on the Zilker Zephyr ($0 – $3), and spend some time on the playground! See the sights by boat with a canoe or kayak rental. Be sure to check for free shows coming up at the Zilker Hilldside Theater. Need help navigating? You can find a handy map of Zilker Park here.
- Mayfield Park, Laguna Gloria & Mt. Bonnell – Peacocks, gardens, and a beautiful view! This threefer is a perfect outing for a sunny day when you have a few hours to enjoy some outdoor exploration.
- Central Market North – With local live music out on the sprawling patio and a large playground where children can burn off steam, Central Market is an ideal spot to grab a meal with kids in tow. Kids eat free in the cafe on Tuesday evenings, starting at 5 p.m. Save a few crumbs from dinner to share with the ducks at the nearby pond.
- Capitol + Historic Walking Tour – Explore the Texas State Capitol and Capitol Visitors Center, then take a guided, interactive walking tour down Congress Avenue to 6th Street. All free! The Historic Walking Tours depart from the south side of the Capitol. You can also take a walking tour on your own schedule by downloading the free app.
- Take a Hike – Hikes are best when they end with a waterfall! Enjoy a nature walk along the Barton Creek Greenbelt to Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls. Another great spot for an urban hike is McKinney Falls State Park ($6 for guests age 13 and up), where you can discover both the majestic Upper Falls and the more secluded Lower Falls. For a remarkable waterfall experience, head southwest of town to Hamilton Pool Preserve ($15 per car). Here is a list of easy strolls and hikes in Austin!
- See the Bats – Austin is home to the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in North America. Each night, from April to October, an estimated 1,500,000 bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge at sundown on their nightly search for food. There are several free ways to view the bats (on the banks of Lady Bird Lake and from atop the bridge), but for tourists I’d recommend the guided bat watching tours given by Capital Cruises and Lone Star Riverboat.
- The Dinosaur Park – Just east of Austin, you will find life-size dinosaur replicas – from the 6-foot long Velociraptor to the 85-foot long Brachiosaurus – hiding around every corner at this outdoor “museum.” Make sure to pick up a scavenger hunt and enjoy a search through the woods for prehistoric clues. Admission is $7 for all guests age 2 and up.
A big thanks to our friends on Facebook for sharing their favorite family-friendly destinations in Austin. If you want to see all of their suggestions, head over here. You may also be interested in reading our FREE e-book, Family Fun in Austin!
Photo: The Roadhouse Relics’ “Greetings from Austin” mural can be found at the corner of S. 1st & Annie Street.