While Austin is known for its vibrant art, music and food scenes, it also has a ton of great activities and attractions to offer young families. With beautiful parks, farms, preserves, animal attractions and museums, there’s always something to do in Austin. If you’re traveling to the Texas capital city, check out these twelve exciting, family-friendly activities.
Top Places To Stay For Your Family Getaway
With so many great activities and attractions, your family may have a hard time deciding on where to set up camp. Be sure to check out this article on some of the best neighborhoods in the capital city to consider when choosing your stay. Like most cities, downtown keeps you right in the heart of all and close to a majority of most activities, while somewhere like Barton Hills will keep you and your family outdoors in a cozy, quiet neighborhood. There are a ton of great lodging options in Austin, TX.
Texas State Capitol
While you’re in the capital city of Texas, be sure to stop by the State Capitol building, which was once the seventh-largest structure in the world. Take a free guided tour through the gloriously appointed rooms to hear about the building’s history and past political characters who worked there. If your family prefers going at a slower speed, try a self-guided tour through the Capitol to explore the building at your own pace.
Guided tours begin in the Capitol’s South Foyer and end in the Capitol Extension. Stop by the Capitol Visitors Center, then head outdoors for a walking tour of the Trail of Trees and the rest of the 22-acre grounds surrounding the Texas State Capitol.
Grab A Bite After The Tour
If you and the kids are getting restless after the tour, it might be time for a bite. In that case, be sure to check out the Sour Duck Market at 1241, 1814 F. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. It’s a great outdoor spot with picnic table-style seating and plenty of room for the kids. They are open from Wednesday to Sunday and host a few private events. Check their website before making the trek to ensure their open to the public.
If your tour of the capital is later in the afternoon, be sure to head over for a happy hour at Gourmands. Although this is generally a recommendation for adults, Gourmands has an enormous patio and pub fare that’s sure to satisfy you and the kids. With sandwiches, soups, and some of the best nachos you’ve ever tasted, this cute spot won’t disappoint. It’s also a great spot for the adults to grab a cold beer or glass of tasty wine. Happy hour prices run from 4 to 7 pm.
Lady Bird Lake
See Austin from the water when you and the family visit Lady Bird Lake. Two dams on the Colorado River form the ends of the lake, which is popular with tourists and locals for its outdoor activities. There are 10 miles of easy hiking trails on both sides of the lake. Enjoy the incredible views of the water and the Austin skyline from the Lady Bird Lake Trail.
Rent a kayak, canoe, electric boat or stand-up paddleboard to cruise the calm waters of Lady Bird Lake. After your water adventure, head out to the trails and find the restaurants in downtown Austin that are close to the footpaths. Rent bicycles for a wheel around the nearby bike trails to visit even more of the area including Deep Eddy Pool and the Botanical Gardens.
A Tasty Meal After The Park
El Mercado is a wonderful option for you and your kids after taking in the lovely scenery at the lake. They offer a great patio atmosphere with tons of delicious Mexican food and a playground for the kids to work off that last little bit of energy.
And if you aren’t feeling Mexican food, go grab a slice at Home Slice Pizza. Upon seating, the kids will get a ball of pizza dough to play with, and after the meal, your server will bring you a roll of smarties with the check. Don’t worry about the kids getting bored. With pizza dough and smarties, there’s no way they won’t have a blast! And you won’t be disappointed either. The pizza is sensational!
Make a Visit to Pioneer Farms
Located in northeast Austin, Pioneer Farms offers families a chance to learn about south-central Texas history with themed exhibits dedicated to Texan farmers, once residents of Mexican Texas before statehood– cotton planters, German immigrant farmers and the Tonkawa Indians. More sights to see include Sprinkle Corner, a replica of a rural village, and Scarborough Barn, where kids can pet their favorite farm animals.
Head Southwest For Some Ramen
A long day on the farm is cause for a pretty substantial appetite. If you’re in the mood for some tasty noodles, get over to Ramen Tatsu-ya. Understanding that not all kids want to experience a bowl of ramen, but you can! The kids can eat a simple bowl of plain ramen with noodles. No frills, just broth, and pasta.
Spend the Day in Zilker Metropolitan Park
Within walking distance of many downtown hotels, Zilker Metropolitan Park is the home of popular Austin events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Spanning 351 acres, this beautiful park offers loads of amazing amenities.
Visitors can kayak, canoe or paddleboard on Lady Bird Lake or walk or ride the trail that surrounds it. Barton Springs Pool is a top place to cool off on a hot Texas day, and the open green space is ideal for picnicking or a game of Frisbee. In the summer, there’s usually a concert series in the park and attendees can bring kids, dogs, blankets, chairs and umbrellas.
Experience the Austin Aquarium
Families always enjoy a visit to the Austin Aquarium located in the northwest part of the city. Favorite stops include the stingray touch tank, the reptile rainforest, the parakeet aviary and visits with the ring-tailed lemurs and coatimundis. More animals to see include sharks, jellyfish, bearded dragons, tarantulas, scorpions and others.
The aquarium is open year long and features special kids prices, making it an affordable activity to enjoy as a family!
Other Fun Things To Do Around the Austin Aquarium
iFly gives you and your family the chance to experience what it feels like to skydive without getting in a plane! Their staff is extremely knowledgeable, and you’ll be able to supervise the whole thing from their gallery seating right next to the action.
If staying vertical sounds more your speed, get outside and run around a bit at St. Edwards Park. This beautiful park offers hiking, mountain biking, and swimming. It’s even dog-friendly! Make sure you bring your bathing suits, so you can jump in the river for a dip.
Connect with Nature at Mayfield Park and Preserve
When you’re traveling to Austin with kids, Mayfield Park and Preserve makes for a popular stop. Located in the center of the city, this attraction is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Donated by local resident Mary Mayfield Gutsch, the site features a historic cottage, six ponds and beautiful gardens that are home to dozens of peacocks, peahens and their chicks. Extending beyond the home and gardens, the natural preserve features 21 acres with walking trails and wildlife.
Other Fun Things To Do Around Mayfield Park and Preserve
Interact and Learn at Thinkery
Families looking for attractions that foster imagination, learning, and creativity in children can enjoy a visit to Thinkery, formerly the Austin Children’s Museum. Located near the University of Texas in the Mueller Tower District, this facility features 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space designed especially for kids. Through various interactive exhibits, kids can build, invent, create, experiment, jump, tumble, crawl, read, learn and pretend to their heart’s content.
Grab A Snack Ater You Vist Thinkery
Contigo is a fabulous choice for you and the family after running around and learning at Thinkery. They offer outdoor seating, yard games for you and the kids while the food is being prepared, and some of the best burgers in the state!
Channel Your Wild Side at the Austin Zoo
With a mission to rescue and rehabilitate animals and educate the public, the Austin Zoo makes a fun stop for families. Located in southwest Austin, this 15-acre facility invites visitors to have up-close encounters with many of the inhabitants. After viewing the big cats, monkeys, birds, reptiles and other animals, take a 20-minute tour of the zoo by train.
Visit Dinosaur Park
For kids and kids at heart with a fascination for all things prehistoric, Dinosaur Park is the place to go. Although it’s 12 miles east of Austin, this fun park is worth the trip. Walking along a mile-long path, visitors encounter full-scale replicas of dinosaurs, from the Compsognathus measuring a mere two feet to the Brachiosaurus measuring 85 feet from nose to tail. For more enjoyment, kids can dig for “fossils,” check out the playground, have lunch at the picnic area and visit the gift shop.
SFC Farmers’ Market
Browse the farm-fresh foods at Republic Square Park at the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Market. Held every Saturday in downtown Austin, the SFC Farmers’ Market offers you an abundance of meats, produce, cheeses and baked goods. Best of all, it’s free to wander around and check out the endless stands of food including homemade jellies and salsas.
Find a wide array of local crafts and artisan goods like goat-milk soap, artwork and honey at the SFC Farmers’ Market. Enjoy the free samples and buy some ready-to-eat foods for a picnic lunch in Republic Square Park. Local musicians provide plenty of tunes while you shop and dine on your goodies. Kids can enjoy the Imagination Playground at the park.
Grab some popcorn and cold drinks from the bar and settle in for one of the funniest vaudeville-style shows you’ve ever seen. Esther’s Follies is an Austin tradition that’s been playing to packed audiences for over 40 years. Enjoy Vegas-style magic acts, political satire and comedy skits with the eclectic Sixth Street as the backdrop to the stage action.
Esther’s Follies is close to a wide variety of restaurants in downtown Austin from upscale to casual establishments, so you can enjoy a meal before or after the hilarious show. While in the eclectic Texan city, be sure to sample some of the best BBQ in the South. The humor in Esther’s Follies’ sketches is suitable for older teens in your group. You may however wish to leave the younger ones at the hotel for this one. The shows are not raunchy, but the jokes may go over the heads of kids younger than 16 or 17
Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History
Bob Bullock was Texas’ 38th Lieutenant Governor and a devoted fan of Texas. His love of the state’s history led to the creation of the Bob Bullock Museum, located between the State Capitol and the campus of the University of Texas. Exhibits feature 500 artifacts from 13,000 years ago to the present age. The displays showcase the struggles, victories and cultures of Texas past and present.
See historical documents, photographs and a restored 17th century ship in the Bob Bullock Museum. If the kids get bored with the displays, mosey on over to the Texas Spirit Theater where you can watch the latest hit movie on the IMAX theater screen complete with multi-sensory special effects. An on-site cafe offers snacks and other food items for the hungry people in your group.