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Creating the perfect summer day for you and the kiddos isn’t an easy feat in the most normal of times – and these times are anything but normal. That’s why happyly has partnered with Free Fun in Austin to offer readers a bevy of curated activities for an active family day. It’s our mission to inspire fun and safe summer outings so you can spend less time planning and more time playing.
Before we continue, we want to remind you that with the rise of COVID-19, it’s best to stay home. We encourage you to consider the safety of yourself and your neighbors. Our family fun day features will remain online as a reference that you can access when you are able to safely experience the highlighted locations.
Free Fun In Austin continues to highlight Austin area locations and activities that may not be available at this time. We encourage you to take all safety measures to keep yourself and your neighbors safe. It is our hope that the stories and features on this site will help inform your plans in the future.
This week we’re taking you back in time with a trip to Dinosaur Park to bring your Jurassic Park dreams to life. Make it an even more perfect family day in Bastrop by grabbing cupcakes and enjoying an afternoon plunge at Bastrop State Park or Lake Bastrop.
Hold onto your butts, channel your inner Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant, and get ready for a Dinosaur Park safari! Unlike Jurassic Park, these dinosaurs are not real, but this outdoor museum is still a guaranteed kid-pleaser! (Really, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?)
Located 25 minutes outside of Austin (on Highway 71 en route to Bastrop), Dinosaur Park features a series of nature trails adorned with life-sized dinosaur replicas. Displaying nearly three dozen dino species – including Raptors, Triceratops, a T-Rex, and a 12-foot tall, 28-foot long Stegosaurus – the park’s lifelike models offer a glimpse at the prehistoric animals that once called Texas home. Depending on the season, hikers might also spot wild rabbits, roadrunners (beep beep!), rat snakes, and stick bugs enjoying the trail too.
What’s lovely about this park is that it was clearly designed with entertaining little ones in mind. At the trailhead entrance, one-day paleontologists are encouraged to pick up an I Spy checklist (you can also print the list at home, or save it on your phone) for a challenging game of “I-Spy-A-Saurus.” Throughout the trails, kids are encouraged to search for footprint clues to find hidden gems along the way.
The park also features a Dino Dig, where kids jump in the sandbox to uncover fossils of their own, though this could potentially be subject to COVID restrictions. Once you’ve finished your safari, take a break in the park’s covered picnic pavilion – picnickers are still welcome – and let the kids enjoy the area to run, or play on the swings, playground, and rideable dinos to your level of comfort.
Know before you go:
Park entry costs $9 per person ($8 for kids 2-12), but it’s a worthwhile adventure, and leashed dogs under 30 pounds are welcome to join. Explorers large and small are asked to stay on the trail at all times for everyone’s safety. Nothing spoils a good adventure like poison ivy. Guests are also asked not to disturb or remove any of the plants, flowers, or little critters that live in the park.
The gravel trail is under a mile long and baby strollers with big wheels can easily traverse the rocky terrain. Outside food and drink are welcome as there are no concessions on site. The picnic areas are available on a first-come/ first-served basis. So stock up the cooler for some cheap, from-home eats!
Please note, facemasks are required to enter any buildings on site, and visitors are asked to be diligent about maintaining a safe social distance from other guests. Only 55 people are allowed at a time, so guests may need to wait on busier days.
Location: 893 Union Chapel Road, Cedar Creek
Hours: Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. (please note the last trail entry is at 3:30 p.m.)
Price: Adults and teens – $9; Children (2-12) – $8; Children under 2 are free.
If you want more dinosaur fun in the ATX area, check out this post.
Refuel with some Simply Sweet Cupcakes
If spying for dinosaurs has left you and the kids craving something sweet, keep your Dinosaur Park wristband on and head into Historic Downtown Bastrop for dessert from Simply Sweet Cupcakes. The locally-owned shop offers Dino Park visitors a free mini cupcake each or $1 off a regular cupcake, with purchase. We’re partial to the lemon blueberry and the chocolate peanut butter. Yum!
Simply Sweet Cupcakes
Location: 1010 Main Street, Bastrop
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. through 6 p.m.
Price: $1.25 – $2.50 per cupcake
Bastrop State Park
Once the preferred sugar high has been achieved, release some of that energy at Bastrop State Park (a six-minute drive from Simply Sweet, and less than twenty minutes from the Dinosaur Park). Once inside Bastrop State Park, visitors can swim, fish, ride bikes or explore the park’s seven miles of trails. Camping and picnicking are also available. Like most state parks right now, reservations are recommended (call 512-389-8900) and social distancing measures are enforced.
In 2011, the State Park and its many acres of loblolly pines were hit hard by wildfires, the remnants of which are still visible to visitors. Today, the area is brimming with new growth pines and other native flora. It’s a great way for little explorers to learn about the resilience of nature while enjoying the many trails, which range from flat and smooth to steep and rocky.
Though the lake is currently empty due to a dam malfunction, the Bastrop YMCA runs a large swimming pool onsite. Due to COVID, the pool is only operating at 25% capacity (fifty people max) and reservations are required for entry; see website for details. Swimmers get an hour, plus 15 minutes to check-in and out. There’s an additional $2 to $5 fee for pool use.
Bastrop State Park
Location: 100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop
Hours: Daily 6 a.m. through 10 p.m.
Price: Adults – $5; Children 12 and under – Free.
Lake Bastrop South Shore Park
If a pool doesn’t feel right during COVID, but you’re craving a dip, swimming is also available at Lake Bastrop. The South Shore Park is less than 10 minutes from Downtown Bastrop, and six minutes from the State Park entrance. Hiking and fishing are also options at this park, as are watercraft rentals – think kayaks and canoes – for a longer time out on the lake. For the putt-putt lover in your life, minigolf is also available.
Lake Bastrop South Shore Park
Location: 375 South Shore Road, Bastrop
Hours: Daily sunrise to sunset
Price: Adults – $5; Children 12 and under – Free; People with disabilities and Seniors (65 and older) – $2.
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sunscreen, a hat, and/ or insect repellent if desired
- A picnic lunch
If you’re looking for more ways to have a family day in Bastrop, here are our favorite things to do in downtown Bastrop!
Happyly is the country’s only mobile-first family activity planning app focused on helping families live their best life.
We are passionate about supporting families in a fulfilling, balanced, and active outdoor lifestyle. How? By developing resources and delivering inspiration to fit your personal needs, whether it be for planning an afternoon or a long journey. With the help of happyly, you will save hours of wasted time planning, as well as the frustration and disappointment your tribe feels when your plans don’t turn out as you hoped.
By doing the leg work and endorsing our favorite activities based on first-hand knowledge, our expert team saves valuable time for our community, empowering parents to be fully present when it matters most. Working parents spend an average of twelve waking hours a week with their children. When you break it all down, it’s not a lot. So even just one or two hours a week spent searching or planning is just too many. Let us help you spend less time planning and more time experiencing life together.
If you have ideas for our next installment in our Family Fun Day Austin Series, we welcome them at [email protected]. Enjoying our content? Please download the free happyly app for fast access to all of our blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.