Rich with local history and filled with new discoveries around every corner, Austin, Texas is a haven for families with curious kids looking for fun things to do on vacation. Seated deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country, it’s not just a city dotted with lakes and parks – it’s a sprawling wonderland of new things to learn and explore. Read on for a list of ideas for family-friendly fun in the capital of the Lone Star State.
See the Sights
To get the lay of the land, Austin Duck Adventures is always a delight for kids and kids at heart. Hop aboard an amphibious vehicle – aka “duck boat” – and cruise the city by land and by water, dipping into the lake as you take in the sights with commentary from a knowledgeable tour guide. Enjoy up-close encounters with rescued wildlife at the Austin Zoo, and, for a subterranean adventure like none other, take a quick drive up the interstate to tour Inner Space Cavern, where underground caves remain a cool but humid 72 degrees all year long.
Learn Cool Things
Formerly known as the Austin Children’s Museum, Thinkery is a world-renowned 40,000-square-foot imaginarium featuring an interactive light lab, spark shop, innovation space and indoor/outdoor splash zone. Certified as an autism-friendly business by the Autism Society of Texas, the museum has sensory-friendly hours each month to keep the experience comfortable for children on the spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities. At the edge of Zilker Park in the heart of town, Austin Nature & Science Center connects visitors to the natural world through exhibits and activities, all of which are free of charge. Just two miles north, the Texas Capitol Building also offers free learning experiences through its guided tours, led twice daily. Several blocks north of the capitol stands the Bullock State History Museum, which features glimpses into the stories of Texas dating back to its colonization in 1820.
Try Something New
Sometimes, the most memorable vacations are the ones that provide an opportunity to experience something new together. To expand your family’s horizons while in Austin, Check out Austin Bat Cave‘s ongoing roster of storytelling programs around town, or plan in advance to take advantage of a class, camp, or special performance from Austin Children’s Theater. Or, to stretch yourselves more literally, gear up and try your strength at North Austin Rock Gym, where a 24-foot indoor bouldering wall awaits.
No family trip to Austin is complete without some fun in the Texas sun, and opportunities abound in that department. Zilker Park is home to several large music festivals throughout the year and otherwise serves as a local gathering spot for picnics, sand volleyball, hiking, biking, and outdoor relaxation. In north-central Austin, Covert Park at Mount Bonnell requires a steep climb up a series of limestone steps, rewarded by sweeping views of the city from its highest accessible point. For a truly unique recreational experience, NLand Surf Park is home to a manmade lake with mechanical waves, complete with surf lessons to get your family hanging ten in no time. For more fun in the water, splash around and shoot down the slides at Typhoon Texas, a festive water park in suburban Pflugerville.
Enjoy a Treat
Barbecue and Tex-Mex are a given when visiting this food-centric town, but for the rest of your meals and treats in between, the kid-friendly environs of Phil’s Icehouse and the throwback charm of Hut’s Hamburgers can keep the whole crew fed. A stop at any of the city’s dozen Amy’s Ice Creams locations (including one at the airport) is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth, as the beloved local institution has been serving up handcrafted scoops for more than 30 years. For a Saturday snack and cinema for the whole family, the Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp series is an affordable way to enjoy a day at the movies and give back to the community, as all ticket proceeds go to local nonprofits.
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