Want to get away for the day and keep the kids learning while having fun? These eight educational day trips from Austin are close enough to home that you’ll be back in time for bed, so you won’t have to spend much time or money on your getaway. For extra inspiration, check out Our Favorite Family-Friendly Daytrips from Austin, Free Museums in Austin, or 100+ Things to Do with Preschoolers in Austin.
Updated July 2019.
The City of Austin has temporarily banned public gatherings. Please stay home. The Free Fun in Austin calendar is only for live digital events at this time.
Cedar Creek – Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park (893 Union Chapel Rd, Cedar Creek) is probably the closest road trip from Austin. 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 the “I-Spy” scavenger hunt game, included in the price of admission. There are 13 checkpoints to look for along the way, where guests try to find hidden clues in the forest. Admission: $8-9 per person; children under 24 months are FREE. Need more dino adventures? These are Our Top Spots for Kids Who Love Dinosaurs in Austin.
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 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, you’ll have a great time learning and playing. Regular admission is $14 for ages one and up. The DoSeum is FREE on the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30-8:30 p.m. (they also add a few more free nights during the summer – be sure to check the website for more info).
For more fun adventures while you’re in town, make sure to visit the Witte Museum (FREE on Tuesdays 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 $6-8. Children under two are FREE.
To make the most out of your trip to Waco, check out the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum (100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco), Cameron Park Zoo (1701 N 4th St, Waco), and Dr. Pepper Museum (300 S 5th St, Waco). Read more about a day trip to Waco here.
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 $11 for adults, $9.50 for ages 3-18 (or with student ID), and FREE for children under three 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. 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, 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!” Admission is $13.50-$24.50. Children under three are FREE.
Glen Rose – Dinosaur Valley State Park
You can get to Dinosaur Valley State Park (1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose) 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 admission 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 in the spring every year. To save money on admission, they offer the discounts mentioned here. You can also save money on tickets buy purchasing them in advance at participating stores. Although we’ve used Google Maps to get us there just fine, the website says not to trust GPS. Go here for specific directions. Open from 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. It’s typically open in the fall.