Want to get away for the day, and keep the kids learning while having fun? These Austin daytrips are close enough to home that you can go and be back in time for bed, so you won’t have to spend much time or money on your getaway. With gas prices so low, this would be a great time to take a little road trip! For extra inspiration, check out more day trips from Austin, free museums in Austin, or our Austin Area Bucket List for Preschoolers.
Cedar Creek – Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park (893 Union Chapel Road, Cedar Creek) is probably the closest road trip from Austin. This one was a favorite for my boys! You are sure to learn a lot about dinosaurs while having a great time. The “outdoor museum” offers life-size replicas of dinosaurs throughout the park, each accompanied by an information plaque. The fun part is playing an “I-Spy” scavenger hunt game, provided when pay the admission fee. There are 13 checkpoints to look for along the way, where guests try to find hidden clues in the forest. My boys loved racing off to find the next stop in the game. Read more about Dinosaur Park here. See the calendar for hours of operation. Admission: $7 per person; children under 24 months are FREE.
San Antonio – The DoSeum
San Antonio makes a great little day trip, but there’s so much to do there that you might want to spend the night!
The brand new DoSeum is a must-see. San Antonio’s world-class children’s museum, the amazing DoSeum features a large indoor exhibit area filled with things to do, plus an outdoor area with a huge water table, winding trails, an adventure playground, and gardens. The hands-on interactive exhibits are fun for kids all of all ages (parents too!). Whether flying kites in the wind tunnel, talking to Baxter the interactive robot, climbing the musical stairs, solving math challenges in the spy academy, playing in the ball room, exploring Little Town, or splashing in the water area, we had a great time learning and playing. Regular admission is $12 for ages one and up. The DoSeum is FREE on the third Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
For more fun adventures while you’re in town, make sure to visit the Witte Museum (free on Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m.), the San Antonio Zoo, Japanese Tea Garden, the fabulous Hemisfair Park, and of course, the Alamo.
Waco – Mayborn Museum
Waco isn’t that far from Austin (about an hour and a half), and there’s a ton to do there! The Mayborn Museum (1300 S. University Parks, Waco) is a children’s museum that’s fun for kids of all ages. Learn some history and have hands-on fun in one of their 17 discovery rooms. General admission is $4 – $5. The Mayborn Museum Complex offers FREE admission on the first Sunday of each month, from 1-5 p.m.
Johnson City – Hill Country Science Mill, LBJ Ranch and Historic Park
The Hill Country Science Mill (101 S Lady Bird Ln., Johnson City) is packed with educational fun for the kids! The Science Mill is housed in a community landmark, a feed mill built in 1880. The renovated building now houses a museum full of fun hands-on STEM exhibits that will keep everyone learning and playing. Admission is $8 for adults, $6.50 for ages 2-18 (or with student ID), and FREE for children under two years old.
If you’d like to extend your road trip a little further, the LBJ Ranch and Historic Park is just 15 minutes away (driving directions here). You can drive through the ranch, hike on a nature trail, check out what life was like in the past on the Sauer-Beckmann farm (make your own butter!), and visit a working ranch. Pedernales Falls State Park is also nearby.
New Braunfels – McKenna Children’s Museum; Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Just south of Austin, the McKenna Children’s Museum (801 W San Antonio St., New Braunfels) is a great museum for small children. Bring a change of clothes if you dare to enter the outdoor Splash Zone! The unique net playscape is also a blast for kids. Admission is $7.50 for guests age 12 months and up.
For added adventure, the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch (26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio) is only a little more than 20 minutes further. See the rare set of giraffe twins and have safari animals come right up to your car! Just be careful of the ostriches – they’re not shy and they don’t mind poking their heads into your car to say, “hello.”
Glen Rose – Dinosaur Valley State Park
You can get to the Dinosaur Valley State Park (1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose) in Glen Rose State Park in a little under three hours from Austin. Walk in real dinosaur tracks while you hike this beautiful park. Stay for a swim in the river if it’s warm enough and bring a picnic to enjoy in the great outdoors. Adult Day Use is $7; children 12 and under are FREE.
Killeen – Mayborn Science Theater
The Mayborn Science Theater (6200 W Central TX Expy., Killeen) is about an hour away from Austin. One of the few planetariums in Central Texas, the theater features star shows projected onto a 30-meter dome in high definition. Learn about astronomy and see the night sky like never before! See the website for list of shows and times. Pricing varies. If your family is especially interested in stars, check out our list for the top spots to star-gaze in and around Austin.
McDade – Sherwood Forest Faire
The Sherwood Forest Faire is a fun way to teach your kids about the days of yore. Watch a jousting competition, learn archery, go through a maze, and more. Indulge in giant turkey legs (and mead for the adults!), while you wander the grounds and soak it all in. Bonus points if you go dressed in costume! The Faire is open on Saturdays and Sundays through April 3, 2016, plus Friday, March 18th. To save money on admission, the first seven Sundays you can buy one ticket, get one free, from 10 a.m. to noon at the gate (both parties must be present). You can also save money on tickets buy purchasing them in advance at participating stores. The website says not to trust GPS, so go here for specific directions. Open 10 a.m. until dusk.
If you’re looking to visit a Renaissance Festival in the fall and are willing to take a longer road trip, check out the Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston.