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Looking for kid-friendly things to do around town? We’ve got you covered. Check out our top 10 things to in Austin, Texas with kids!
Whether you’re a native, a newbie, or a tourist, Austin is jam-packed with activities your whole family can enjoy together. Indoors, outdoors, artsy, educational, or just plain weird, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our go-to list of the ten most Austin-tastic things to see and do with kids in our city.
- Bats! Austin proudly hosts the largest urban bat colony in North America. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats call the Congress Avenue Bridge their summer home. Hundreds of people gather nightly to see and hear the bats’ emergence into the sky, where they will gobble literal tons of insects before returning to the roost. Viewing times vary depending on weather and other factors, so we suggest you check BCI’s website before heading out. See Nicole’s tips for bat-viewing success here.
- Street Art and Murals: You’ve almost certainly seen photos of Austin’s most famous murals–“Greetings from Austin” and “i love you so much” to name a couple–and those are practically obligatory souvenir photo ops. But don’t stop there! One of many beautiful things about Austin is that art can be found nearly everywhere you look. Our city is blanketed in street art of both the commissioned and the illicit varieties. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore and you’ll find photo-op worthy spots as unique as you are. To get the most bang for your buck (it’s free!) don’t skip HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a three-story, ever-changing, and always amazing art project.
- Mt. Bonnell – Mayfield Park – Laguna Gloria: This trifecta of outdoor fun is an unbeatable way to spend a sunny morning. Start with an early climb of the 100 stairs to the top of Mt. Bonnell. At 775 feet, the highest point in Austin offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Just a few minutes’ drive down the mountain you’ll find the entrance to Mayfield Park, a peaceful garden and nature preserve inhabited by dozens of peacocks. Right next door sits Laguna Gloria, the former estate of philanthropist Clara Driscoll. Now part of The Contemporary Austin, the lush grounds are open for the public to enjoy. Read about Leigh Ann’s, Katie’s, and Heidi’s experiences.
- Cathedral of Junk: Looking to take a walk on Austin’s weird side? Don’t miss local yardist Vince Hannemann’s backyard ode to discarded treasures. Imagine a multi-story outdoor I Spy museum of times gone past. It’s like that, only weirder. You must call to arrange a visit and be sure to bring along a $10 donation for your group. Read about Catherine’s experience here.
- The Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake: This 1.3-mile ADA-friendly boardwalk skirts the edge of Lady Bird Lake, connecting to the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. The scenic path offers amazing views of the city, the lake, and the wildlife. Sunsets here are hard to beat. Read about Nicole’s experience here.
- Texas Capitol + Downtown walking tour: You don’t have to be interested in history or politics to appreciate a visit to the Capitol. Whether you take a free guided tour of the building or wander on your own, you’d be remiss not to spend some time in the rotunda. The ceiling is breathtaking and the “whispering gallery” acoustics are a blast to play around with. The building, clad in distinctive pink granite, sits on 22 acres of grassy lawn with several hills ripe for rolling kiddos. The Capitol Visitor Center is worth your time, too. Several downtown guided walking tours begin at the Capitol. If you prefer to go the self-guided route, the Historic Austin Tours app (for iPhone or iPad) can point the way. Read about Heidi’s experience here.
- Zilker Park: This 350-acre wonderland will keep your brood busy for days. Zilker Botanical Garden displays an impressive array of plants, ponds, waterfalls, and an assortment of pioneer buildings. Kids can dig for dinosaur bones and explore hands-on nature exhibits at the Austin Nature & Science Center. Cool off with a dip in Barton Springs Pool’s 70-degree spring-fed water before hopping on the Zilker Zephyr for a 20-minute ride through the park. Relish a rest in the shade while the little ones go wild on the playground before finishing your day at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden. Be sure to check for free shows coming up at the Zilker Hillside Theater. Need help navigating? You can find a handy map of Zilker Park here. Read about some of our authors’ experiences here, here, here and here.
- Thinkery: Designed for families to play and learn together, the Thinkery succeeds in being fun for kids and grownups alike. The STEM-based exhibits encourage creative problem solving through hands-on projects and tons of activities. It’s likely that the kids will end up wet, so a spare set of clothes may come in handy. Or just let them dry off at one of Austin’s coolest playgrounds, right across the street. Read about Emily’s experience here.
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Don’t let the name fool you–this special place is so much more than wildflowers. Gardens, trails, wildlife, and award-winning architecture all in a gorgeous setting. The Luci and Ian Family Garden alone is worth the trip. Check the calendar for special events and celebrations throughout the year.
- Live music: It’s no secret that Austin is the live music capital of the world. Just because you’ve got kids in tow doesn’t mean you have to miss out on that experience. These venues offer shows the whole family can enjoy together. Check the calendars for kids’ and all-ages shows: Central Market North, Central Market Westgate, Threadgill’s, Guero’s Taco Bar, Hill’s Cafe, Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Stubb’s, Nutty Brown Cafe, Broken Spoke, The Belmont, and Radio Coffee & Beer.
Bonus (because you’ve gotta eat): Food trucks! No trip to Austin is complete without a meal at one of the city’s 1000+ food trucks. Unbelievable gastronomic adventures await even the pickiest of eaters. There are so many options–and most of them are always on the move–so your best bet is to ask a local or look to Yelp for advice. Whatever your taster’s up for, chances are you can find it nearby.