30 Fun Things to Do in Austin with Kids

Heidi Gollub Avatar

Find time to kick back in Austin! Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

If you’re looking for a family getaway filled with sunshine, live music and breakfast tacos, boot scoot on over to Austin, Texas. Kids and adults alike love this laid-back city full of outdoor adventures and good eats galore.

From a lake in the middle of the city perfect for hiking, biking and boating, to a small zoo, a pinball arcade, bats under a bridge and some really scrumptious ice cream, these are our favorite things to do in Austin with kids.

Read More: The Best Family Resorts in Texas

The Hike and Bike Trail, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids
The Hike and Bike Trail along Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

1. Lady Bird Lake Trail

Start your tour of the capital of Texas on the right foot, with a stroll along downtown Austin’s 10-mile hike-and-bike trail and boardwalk. Walking the trail fronting Lady Bird Lake is a pleasure. Expect to see bikers, runners, dog walkers, and picnickers on the banks and kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on the water. If you have bikes, even better! My kids love to cruise along the trail, looking for turtles and unusual birds.

SheBuysTravel Tip: You can also rent bikes and helmets from Barton Springs Bike Rentals. The trail is a 10-mile loop, or you can try a shorter ride from Zilker Park to the boardwalk and back.

Barton Springs Pool, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids.
Beautiful Barton Springs Pool. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

2. Zilker Park

Where Lady Bird Lake meets Barton Creek, you’ll discover 350 green acres of Austin’s crown jewel, Zilker Park. This is the place to go to get a real feel for Austin. On our visits to the park, my kids and I have seen aerial silks, drum circles, and lightsaber battles.

On weekends, resident DJs fill the park with music while impromptu games of Spikeball and volleyball take over the Zilker Great Lawn. BYO sports equipment and join in the fun.

The stunning spring-fed ​​​​Barton Springs Pool is the stand-out in Zilker Park, but there is so much more than swimming.

Find a large, shaded playscape, a hillside theater, and information about the springs at the Splash Exhibit. Head over to nearby UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the park. Or, try my kids’ favorite activity and rent a kayak or canoe from Zilker Park Boat Rentals.

Zilker Park also hosts seasonal activities throughout the year, like Zilker Summer Musical, ABC Kite Fest, Austin City Limits Music Festival and holiday favorite, Trail of Lights.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Parking is free during the week, but you’ll need to pay to park on the weekends and during special events.

Read More: Turn these things to do in Austin with kids into a weekend visit with our weekend itinerary for visiting Austin with kids.

3. Zilker Botanical Garden

Located at 2220 Barton Springs Rd., across the street from Zilker Park, this botanical garden has rose, herb, and Japanese gardens and is beloved by Austinites. There are 26 acres to explore, with waterfalls, stepping stones, and koi that mesmerize little ones (big ones too!).

Don’t miss the woodland fairy garden or the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, which recreates a dinosaur habitat. Look for a life-size Ornithomimus sculpture on Dino Island. Be sure to pack a stroller and a picnic because you’ll be covering a lot of ground!

SheBuysTravel Tip: There are no bathrooms once you leave the parking lot, so be sure to take a pit stop before trekking down the hill into the gardens. Trust me when I tell you it’s no fun having to race back up that hill with a kid in tow.

4. Austin Nature & Science Center

Located on the edge of Zilker Park in the Zilker Park Nature Preserve, this free nature center offers both indoor and outdoor fun. Dig for dinosaur bones and visit reptiles and birds of prey. Be sure to bring water so you can explore the hiking trails.

Head into the Zilker Nature Preserve and Trails and make the trek to the overlook for great views of the city! With rock walls, steps, and tree stumps, my boys think these trails are the ultimate park playground.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Bring nature items like fossils and feathers to trade at the indoor Trade Counter (check hours of operation before you go). You can also ask at the front desk to borrow an Eco-Detective Kit to use during your visit.

Looking for bats on a weekend itinerary for Austin Texas
Looking for bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

5. Congress Avenue Bridge

Each spring, more than a million bats move into the South Congress Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. As the unofficial mascot of Austin, the bats fly out each sunset in a dizzying pattern munching on bugs.

Choose your viewing spot carefully since the sleepy bats like to relieve themselves first thing after leaving their roost. Watching from the water is fun if you book a boat tour in advance. Try Lone Star Riverboat or Capital Cruises.

My boys loved the nighttime boat tours and the possibility of getting bat guano on their heads. (Thankfully, that never happened).

SheBuysTravel Tip: The time bats commence their flight varies greatly by season. Call the Bat Hotline at (512) 327-9721 for a prediction of what time they will emerge.

6. Thinkery

Austin’s children’s museum, the Thinkery, encourages STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning, for babies on up. The fun-filled facility is an interactive science and technology center. Arrive early to play at the playground across the street, and visit with the ducks in nearby Mueller Lake.

My kids also enjoy cruising around the Mueller neighborhood to check out its unusual public art, including “Nessy” the lake monster, a giant spider sculpture and a humongous purple octopus.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Bring spare clothes for small children as they’re bound to get soaked in the indoor water exhibit. Thinkery is quite a ways from downtown, so this adventure may take up much of the day.

chicken food truck in austin, a fun thing to do with kids
There’s no shortage of food trucks in Austin, so finding one your whole family will enjoy is pretty easy to do. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

7. Austin Food Trucks

Austin famously has a huge variety of food trucks. From donuts to tacos to Thai, Austinites enjoy high-quality cuisine from food trucks. Look for food truck lots, with several trucks clustered around outdoor seating, to find something to feed everyone’s taste.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Park on South Congress to combine street art, live music and eclectic shopping with your food truck experience! My kids’ favorite SoCo food truck is Hey, Cupcake!

8. Texas Radio Live Broadcasts

Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, so don’t leave town without seeing a show. Guero’s hosts free Texas Radio Live broadcasts in the Oak Garden on South Congress, Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m.

You can enjoy delicious TexMex like a Texan with great music and people-watching. I’m a big fan of Guero’s guacamole.

Amy's ice cream is the place to stop for a treat in Austin Texas
Amy’s ice cream is the place to stop for a treat in Austin. Photo courtesy of Visit Austin

9. Amy’s Ice Creams 

Amy’s is an Austin original. The ice cream is so creamy and rich that most adults grab a cone. One popular location is at 1301 S. Congress Ave., conveniently walkable from Guero’s.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The employees here love to perform. They practice all year for Amy’s Ice Creams Trick Olympics. Ask if they’ll throw your ice cream and see what they can do! My daughter still talks about the tricks they performed with her ice cream when we visited Amy’s for her birthday.

greetings form austin postcard mural
A popular stop for tourists and locals alike, the Greetings from Austin postcard mural is a great photo spot. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

10. Greetings From Austin Mural

Did you even visit Austin if you don’t take a picture here? This giant retro postcard mural is a hot spot for selfies and photographs. Located at 1720 S. 1st St., it’s on the side of the Roadhouse Relics building.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The mural is located in a high pedestrian and vehicle traffic area so be careful when crossing the street. It’s easiest to find a nearby parking spot if you go early in the morning. For incentive, plan to grab a baked good from La Patisserie next door! My kids recommend the colorful macarons. 

Boy in front of the Texas State Capitol
Touring the Texas State Capitol is one of the best things to do in Austin with kids. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

11. Texas State Capitol

This is an elegant, impressive building. Take the free guided tour during which you’ll learn that Texas has been part of six different countries—including Spain, France, Mexico—as well as its own country.

You’ll also learn that Texas had Black elected officials after the Civil War, but their numbers dwindled to zero by about 1900. No Black served as a state legislator for years – until Barbara Jordan was elected in the 1960s.

If you prefer to go it alone, take the self-guided tour of the Capitol building, Capitol grounds, and the Trail of Trees. Be sure to follow the sidewalk across the grounds to the Capitol Visitors Center and don’t miss the free interactive exhibits on the second floor.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Parking in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage is convenient. I park in this garage whenever visiting downtown because it’s easy and affordable.

12. BookPeople

If you’re looking to spend a low-key morning in downtown Austin, head to the largest independent bookstore in Texas for storytime.

My kids love the tunnel under the storytime theater, and all the wacky toys and gifts for sale. The entire second floor is fun to explore.

SheBuysTravel Tip: There is a little playground on the roof of the Whole Foods Market flagship store across the street. Head there next, buy the fixings for a picnic and let the kids play.

13. Downtown Farmers’ Market 

Open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round, rain or shine, the Sustainable Food Center’s downtown farmers’ market at Republic Square Park (422 Guadalupe St.) is the place to find farm-fresh foods from local growers, as well as baked goods and arts and crafts from local artisans.

Enjoy treats, live music and maybe some performance art. Once, I met a poet with a typewriter who was typing original poems for tips.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Street parking is $2 per hour; garage rates vary and the City Hall parking lot is free for the first 30 minutes.

14. Bullock Texas State History Museum

Head to this museum to learn the history of Texas. Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month, from noon to 5 p.m. You may want to pay extra to watch an IMAX movie.

The theater sometimes screens blockbuster films, which can be a lot of fun to watch on the giant screen. My older kids loved seeing Transformers there.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Blanton Museum of Art is right across the street and is always free for kids 12 and under. It’s worth a visit too if you have the time.

Barton Creek Greenbelt, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids
The Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

15. Barton Creek Greenbelt

There are so many kid-friendly hikes in the Austin area, but finding the trailheads can be tricky. Search online for information on where to park before heading out.

A fan favorite for locals and tourists alike is the Barton Creek Greenbelt. When my kids were little, we liked the Sculpture Falls trail for an easy outing with kids and the reward is a view of a small waterfall.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re visiting in early summer, be sure to bring a bathing suit. My kids can’t get enough of the rope swings over the water! But, in the heat of summer, the creek will dry up.

16. Mayfield Park

Peacocks, sculptures, and a beautiful view! Mayfield Park is one of our favorite fun things to do in Austin with kids. It’s like two parks in one. The central area is a formal landscaped water lily garden with a vintage cottage.

The show stopper is the flock of peacocks that roam the property, perching in the trees. Outside the landscaped area, there are another 21 acres of wilderness area to explore.

TMOMTip: Plan to picnic with peafowl for some amazing photo ops. Just be careful where you step! My toddler’s misstep into peacock poop ruined one of our visits. I’m still a little traumatized. 

17. The Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria

Right next door to Mayfield Park, Laguna Gloria offers more stunning grounds to explore. With 14 acres on the shores of Lake Austin, this outdoor contemporary sculpture garden is a great place to roam while enjoying works of art.

My eldest daughter loves this outdoor art museum. She could spend hours here.

SheBuysTravel TipThere is art indoors as well. If you’d like to see that, I recommend requesting a docent tour. We did this once and our docent did an excellent job of making it interesting for the kids. 

View from Mt Bonnell. 3 day itinerary for Austin Texas.
Hike up Mount Bonnell for a view of downtown Austin. Photo credit: Catherine Parker

18. Mount Bonnell

Climb Mount Bonnell’s 106 steps for sweeping views of Austin. You can look down on the Lake Austin section of the Colorado River, watch the sunset and see the downtown Austin skyline. The pavilion area has a fence but the trail back doesn’t so keep an eye on little kids.

I enjoy visiting Mount Bonnell because you get to also get a nice view of the mansions lining the water. It’s fun to imagine who lives there.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Mayfield Park, Laguna Gloria and Mount Bonnell make a nice combined outing as they are located close to each other. Visit on a Thursday and admission to Laguna Gloria will be free. 

19. Central Market North Lamar

Ever had dinner on a grocery store patio? Give Central Market North Lamar a try! My kids love the playground and I love the live music and food.

It’s a nice, relaxed place to grab a good meal and listen to a band while the kids make instant friends on the playscape.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Kids eat free on Tuesdays after 5 p.m. Check the live music calendar online before you go.

20. Pinballz

Show kids something even better than video games: pinball machines! Visit the largest pinball collection in Central Texas at the Original Pinballz Arcade. Adults can BYOB and kids can play at a classic arcade.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re traveling with older kids, they may prefer the Cidercade. This arcade bar is family-friendly during the day. It’s my 20-year-old daughter’s favorite and has the added benefit of being right next to the boardwalk, overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

21. Mexic-Arte Museum

Founded in 1984, the Mexic-Arte Museum has been designated the Official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas by the 78th Legislature of the State of Texas. The museum is free on Sundays.

22. Peter Pan Mini Golf

An Austin tradition since 1948, Peter Pan Mini Golf offers a retro Austin experience. Look for Peter Pan himself, then pick one of two courses to play.

If you want to know where to find Texas Bluebonnets, SheBuysTravel has you covered!
Texas bluebonnets. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

23. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

If you’re in Austin in the spring, don’t miss the Texas bluebonnets at the Wildflower Center. It makes the perfect Texas Hill Country photo op.

But, that’s not all there is to see at this outdoor center, which is owned by the University of Texas at Austin. My kids love the interactive play areas in the Family Garden and climbing all over the Fortlandia exhibits, which change each year. The Wildflower Center is always a hit with my active kids!

Girl feeding at alpaca at Austin Zoo, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids.
Feeding an alpaca at Austin Zoo. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

24. Austin Zoo

The Austin Zoo is an animal sanctuary and petting zoo located south of the city. It’s on the small side, which is actually nice with small children.

I recently took my eight-year-old and we saw all of the animals in less than two hours. Her favorite part was feeding the goats and alpacas, so be sure to buy some animal food at the kiosk across from the petting zoo.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Plan to ride the miniature train for an additional fee. It’s worth it for the hill country views. 

Read More: The Best Zoos in Texas for B-I-G Fun!

Donkeys at Pioneer Farms, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids
Donkeys at Pioneer Farms in Austin. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

25. Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms

Another place to see animals is Pioneer Farms, home to donkeys, horses and longhorn cows. The farm is an outdoor living history museum. Plan to meander through the grounds and pretend you are in Texas in the 1800s.

Check the website to plan your visit because the farm hosts a lot of special events. We especially love exploring the grounds at night in the fall during the spooky Halloween festivities.

boys walking past a waterfall at McKinney Falls Park, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids.
Hike next to a waterfall at McKinney Falls Park. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

26. McKinney Falls State Park

Located near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, McKinney Falls is a lovely spot for an easy hike. Check out the upper or lower falls—you can’t go wrong! This is one of my kids’ favorite spots to swim in natural water.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Swimming in the falls is allowed, but the water can get deep quite quickly, so proceed with caution.

27. Kalahari Resorts Texas

Kalahari Texas is a kid’s dream come true with indoor and outdoor water parks, laser tag, arcade, and ropes course. It’s located north of Austin in Round Rock.

My kids couldn’t get enough of Kalahari’s huge indoor water park. The water attractions are wild, thrilling, and open late. They can’t wait to go back.

SheBuysTravel Tip: It’s about the same price to stay at the hotel (which includes water park passes) as it is to buy day passes for the water park. Just note that a $39.99 resort fee will be added to your hotel bill upon arrival. 

Girl in an inner tube at Typhoon Texas, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids.
Floating on the lazy river at Typhoon Texas waterpark. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

28. Typhoon Texas

Another summer favorite for families is this outdoor-only water park, located north of Austin in Pflugerville. It’s a great place to cool off and has attractions suitable for all ages.

My 8-year-old loves Typhoon Texas so much, we get season passes. She likes to go at night for the swim-in movie screenings at the wave pool.

Boys clowning around at the Inner Space Caverns gift shop.
Boys clowning around at the Inner Space Caverns gift shop. Photo credit: Heidi Gollub

29. Inner Space Cavern

This is getting more into day trip territory, but Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown is definitely worth the 30-mile drive. Plus, the cavern offers a cool respite from the summer heat!

Allow extra time during your visit to try gem mining. My kids never let me leave with buying them a bag of Pay Dirt to mine outside.

30. The Dinosaur Park

Also a bit of a hike from the city center, this “outdoor sculpture museum” is a blast if you have dino-loving kids. It’s about 22 miles southeast in Cedar Creek.

The life-size dinosaur statues have to be seen to be believed. They are huge and colorful.

My kids loved tracking them all down in the woods, following tree-lined trails with the park’s free scavenger hunt challenge card in hand.

Find Places to Stay Near Austin

There are lots of options for hotel stays near Austin, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.

Booking.com

Heidi Gollub Avatar
When not running around on adventures with her five children, Heidi Gollub volunteers for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and creates content for the local news. She frequently appears on television and was recently a speaker at Mom 2.0 and the Texas Conference for Women.
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *