Welcome to Austin! The star of the Lone Star State has quite a lot to offer tourists and natives. There’s plenty for everyone in the family to do and see in the city. In fact, you can find free activities, budget-friendly experiences, and some unique ways to get around the city. In case you’re looking for some travel inspiration, we’ve put together a list of family-friendly things to do in Austin. These activities will prove super useful if you want to get your kids off their devices while on vacation. Get the family together, find the kid-friendly activity that you’re the most excited about, and let the adventure begin!
Scratch-Off Your Next Adventure
There’s something truly magical about sharing new experiences with your family, and there’s no better way to do it than with Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition. This interactive book has 50+ scratch-off challenges that you can try in any city, not just Austin. Enjoy some gadget-free quality time with the entire family as you uncover unique ideas and have some family fun!
23 Family-Friendly Things To Do In Austin
1. Playdate at The Thinkery
Put your family’s grey cells to use at the Thinkery, an interactive museum on Simond Avenue. This premium museum is the perfect place to enjoy some play-based, hands-on learning. At this children’s museum, you’ll be able to learn new things as you understand why and how things work. The difference between Thinkery and other places is that adults can be involved in the learning too. You’ll sit right beside your kids as you tinker with STEM games and build things from scratch. In case you’re looking to get your child interested in engineering, math, or science, this is the place to be!
2. Watching Fish at the Austin Aquarium
Dive right into the action at the Austin Aquarium, one of the largest in the sea. This haven of aquatic life has 35 huge exhibits of fish from around the world. On one side, you’ll be able to watch colorful tropical fish dart around coral reefs, while on the other, you’ll see cold-water fish swim towards their food.
Larger sea creatures like rays, sharks, and huge jellyfish swim past sea anemones and carefully placed shipwrecks. The stingray petting area will have your children squealing with joy. The best part of the aquarium is the color-changing UV area, where you’ll find bioluminescent jellyfish!
3. Learning at Pioneer Farms
Transport yourself to the heart of rural Texas at Pioneer Farms, where you’ll come face-to-face with the beauty of central Texas. This farm holds guided tours, animal petting sessions, and hay games every day for kids of all ages. You can pre-book a tour online or stroll around the property for a self-guided tour.
You can also go horse-riding, creek-hunting, and watch as expert blacksmiths forge tools of iron. Here, we recommend checking out the Girls of Grit tour, which will tell you all about the brave women of the farm and their epic adventures. You’ll also come across the history of the Tonkawa Indians and how they shaped the culture of Austin.
4. Kayaking at Lady Bird Lake
Nestled in the middle of Zilker Park, tranquil Lady Bird Lake is a haven in the middle of the city. The stark green water is a stunning contrast to the city skyline. At Lady Bird Park, you’ll find kayak and canoe rentals so you can take all the nature in. This is why this is one of our most favorite family-friendly things to do in Austin.
Originally built as a reservoir for a power plant, this manmade lake is more than 50 years old. A whopping 416 acres wide, this is the perfect place to rent a paddle and boat around. The lake connects to the Colorado River, where you can spot local birds, scurrying squirrels, and take in the gorgeous evening views.
5. Strolling through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
If you’re a fan of nature, you’re certain to enjoy what the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has to offer. This park is home to more than a thousand species of plants, trees, herbs, creepers, and shrubs. Spread over a modest 284 acres, we’re certain you’ll enjoy strolling through the greenery. In addition, your kids will learn all about the diversity of plants in the state of Texas.
Nature lovers are sure to spot some exotic and endangered flowers hiding in the bushes. Even if you’re not into learning the scientific names of these flowers, you’ll be blown away by the pleasant fragrance. The center also has a preschool program where your toddlers can get some hands-on gardening experience.
6. Hiking at Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is definitely one of the top spots you should visit in Austin (quite literally). At a height of 775 feet, hiking Mount Bonnell will give you some spectacular views of the city. After you’re done getting some cute family photos against the skyline, you can take in the cool breeze and the history behind this Texas Historic Landmark.
The best part is that this spot is an easy hike for families. This means that nobody has to be left behind as you make your way to the top. We think you’ll love the sunset views here. Climb up to 100 steps, lay down a picnic blanket, and enjoy the views with the whole family!
7. Enjoying Dessert at Amy’s Ice Creams
Amy’s Ice Creams needs no introduction. This Austin favorite is always buzzing with locals and tourists alike for a scoop of some signature Mexican vanilla ice cream and tacos. There are multiple branches all around the city, so you’re bound to find something near you. In case you want to get some history while you’re at it, head over to the original location at Guadalupe. Here, you’ll giggle at the employees’ cute hats and their antics as they serve you one of their 350 ice cream flavors.
In case you have younger kids, we recommend heading over to the Burnet Road Branch because it has a playground within the premises too. A game of tag and some delicious ice cream right after—sounds like one of the most perfect family-friendly things to do in Austin!
8. Exploring Inner Space Cavern
Take the adventure underground as you check out the cool limestone formations at Inner Space Cavern. This huge natural formation was discovered by a construction worker while building a freeway. After it caught attention, it was transformed into a tourist attraction that families love. Here, you can marvel at limestone formations that are millions of years old. These rock formations are a great hands-on geology lesson for kids of all ages. While you’re there, we recommend taking a guided tour so that you can spot some special limestone formations.
P.S. Can you tell the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite? Here’s a clue—stalactites hold on tight to the roof, while stalagmites might touch the ceiling one day!
9. Learning at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
Get a dose of history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Although the museum is relatively new (it was established in 2001), it gives you a fascinating insight into the last 400 years of the state’s history. As you walk through the exhibits and the artifacts, you’ll get some info about the Indians that lived before the Europeans came, and how the landscape of Texas has changed ever since. This is one of the most budget-friendly and family-friendly things to do in Austin.
Some of the exhibits are interactive; children will feel right at home with the immersive attractions. Children will love the 4D Texas Spirit Theater experience where they will sit through an amazing IMAX show of the story of the Lone Star State.
10. Ice Skating at Chaparral Ice
Where can you find ice in the middle of Texas? At the Chaparral Ice rink, of course! Formerly a mall, this location was turned into an ice skating rink much to the delight of the locals. The huge rink is a crowd-puller every day of the year, particularly on weekends.
In case you’re not too sure about skating on ice, check out the free skating arenas where you can build your skills. Depending on the time of the year, the arena also holds ice skating and hockey competitions for children, so head out for some cheering if you’re in town.
In fact, we think ice skating here should be a bucket list activity; you’ll love our family bucket list inspiration ideas!
11. Birdwatching at Mayfield Park
In case you’re in the mood to spot some stunning tropical birds, there’s no better place to be than Mayfield Park. Established in 1922, this 23-acre-large park is home to some spectacular birds from around the world. Located in the heart of Austin, you’ll feel right at home next to Indian Blue peacocks, black-shoulders, and other exotic birds of paradise. Then, make your way to a glorious period cottage that is right next to a vast pond. Your children will love looking for turtles and fish in the pond. Keep your eyes peeled for herons and ducks. The paths lining the pond are dreamy!
12. Playing Games at Dinosaur Park
Although Dinosaur Park is around 12 miles away from the city, we think the drive is worth it. especially if you’ve got some dinosaur geeks in the family. Dinosaur Park is an interactive exhibit that doubles as an outdoor museum. Here, you’ll get more than fossils and old bones.
The entire park is full of life-sized dinosaur exhibits that are scattered through a mile-long trail. After you’re done spotting some T-Rexes and raptors, make your way to the Dino Dig zone, where you can uncover some huge fossils and bones. Dinosaur Park is home to various contemporary creatures too, so you’re likely to run into lizards, rabbits, and roadrunners along the way. We love such exciting family-friendly things to do in Austin; now that’s a Texan adventure!
13. Taking Photos at the Texas Capitol
Arguably the most popular historical landmark of Austin, the Texas State Capitol building is so much more than an administrative center. Located right in the middle of Downtown Austin, the state capitol is an imposing structure that is also a National Historic Landmark. Adorned with a pink façade and soft lighting at night, this is one of the most beautiful capitol buildings anywhere in the country. Take one of the free tours available in the building to get your daily dose of interesting history and culture. Then, stroll with your family around the scenic grounds and get some photos for the ‘gram.
14. Swimming at the Barton Creek Greenbelt
Become one with nature at the Barton Creek Greenbelt, one of the hidden beauties of Austin. This creek is the best place to go hiking, swimming, or bike riding, especially if you’re with family. If you’re just getting started, we recommend beginning with the Twin Falls trail. This beginners’ trail is ideal for families with younger children. Since the trail has several access points along the Belt, you can start anywhere in the city. The region has eight miles of active hiking trails which will keep the kids busy all day.
15. Exploring Austin Zoo
This one is a no-brainer. Treat your little ones to an exciting day at the Austin Zoo, where you can come face-to-face with more than 300 animals. The most heart-warming part about this zoo is that all of the animals are rescues. With more than 100 breeds of animals at the ready, your children will have a ball of a time spotting tigers, lions, and other big cats.
There is also a petting zoo at the premises, where you can feed the animals and play with some baby animals. This is a wonderful place to introduce your children to some huge animals in case they haven’t seen any yet.
16. Trekking at the Laguna Gloria and Nature Preserve
This is our top spot to go trekking and hiking. The national preserve is home to some pristine, untouched vegetation that will calm your mind. Meanwhile, the Laguna Gloria Museum, built in 1916, rests on a stunning lakeside villa. This means that you’ll get some breathtaking views as you marvel at the art and architecture of the villa.
After you’re done, step outside to go around the Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, which is an outdoor exhibit full of quirky, modern sculptures. Then, take a stroll through Mayfield Park to watch peacocks and other birds strolling past.
17. Picnic at Patterson Park
Traveling with toddlers can get tricky real quick, especially when they get fussy. If that is the case, look no further than Patterson Park. This comfortable park is the perfect destination for stroller picnics. Located at the heart of Austin, this park is a haven for relaxed family picnics, making it one of the most popular family-friendly things to do in Austin.
Grab a picnic basket, some fruit, and orangeade, and make your way to this luscious green park to soak up some sun. Don’t forget to take a frisbee or a skipping rope along so you can play some games too. The park also has a volleyball court and some playgrounds where you can host a friendly match. Your toddler will love playing outdoor games here.
Bonus: You can also go picnicking at Zilker Park’s Zilker Botanical Garden!
18. Jumping at Jumpolene Park
Jumpolene Park is no doubt the best location to go to if your kids are bubbling with energy. Since the entire activity is indoors, this makes the Jumpoline Park an ideal rainy day outing. At this special park, you’ll be able to hop, skip, and jump the energy away on safe premises. This indoor complex is also home to bounce houses, obstacle courses, and slides in addition to giant trampolines.
This is also a fantastic location to host birthday parties, family events, and other get-togethers with children.
19. Playing at Peter Pan Mini-Golf
What’s smaller than golf but twice the fun? Mini golf! Peter Pan Mini-Golf is a playing area that the entire family is sure to enjoy. This establishment is more than 60 years old, which means it has plenty of retro references and vintage props right alongside the modern course. The mini-golf park is home to two 18-hole golf courses, which makes it ideal for family get-togethers. This classic weekend getaway is right next to Zilker Park, making it easily accessible. We love the adorable statues of Peter Pan and the resident T-Rex (it’s almost as cool as Dinosaur Park!)
20. Drawing at HOPE Outdoor Gallery
In case your kid is the artsy kind, we think you’ll love HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Formerly home to Graffiti Park, HOPE is now an outdoor gallery and conservatory that holds some of the most stunning pieces of modern art. Here, you’ll be able to look at a vibrant mix of colors, patterns, and styles. If you’re lucky, you might also run into a mural artist doing a live demonstration. In addition, you can set up your own painting stand by the grass and sketch out what hope means to you and your children. This will spark some meaningful and hopeful conversation!
21. Learning at the Austin Nature & Science Center
If you’re in the mood for some immersive learning, head over to the Austin Nature and Science Center for some hands-on learning. Located in the corner of Zilker Park, this center will have you exploring nature outdoors in the best way possible. The outdoor programs on astronomy, biology, paleontology, and geology are great for kids. Additionally, entry is free. This means that you’ll be able to go on a budget-friendly family trip and learn something new at the same time.
22. Hiking at McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is truly a magical location for all families. The pristine park looks spectacular during the summer, with gurgling streams and falls gushing through. Located near Central Austin, this park comes alive during the rains. Even if you find the falls dry when you go, you’ll find water down at the pool near the hiking trail. Here, you can take a dip and refresh after you eat some picnic snacks.
P.S. This trail is not recommended for young children as the trails may be a tad complicated to navigate.
23. Exploring the Texas Toy Museum
Action figure fans unite! Whether you grew up loving action figures or your children can’t get enough of them, the Texas Toy Museum is the best place to explore these toys and collectibles. Both parents and kids will enjoy this museum, which is why we think this is one of the top family-friendly things to do in Austin.
This location is home to some of the most well-maintained vintage toys and action figures in the state. You’ll also be able to look at some old video games, studio setups, and many more. What’s more, you can play some games too!
If you want to visit Austin with kids, we’re sure our guide will help you pick the right spots for day trips. There’s plenty to explore around the Austin area, but make sure you take some sunscreen along too. Don’t forget to carry a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition for a dose of excitement wherever you go. The kiddos will love it!
Which of these family-friendly things to do in Austin did you like the most? Give us your travel recommendations in the comments section!
Frequently Asked Questions
There are lots of family-friendly things to do in Austin! If you’re on a budget, head over to Zilker Park’s Nature Center or a picnic at Patterson Park. Toy lovers will love the Texas Toy Museum.
There are wonderful things to do with the family in Austin! For a night out with your crew, try Peter Pan Mini Golf. Then grab some soft serve from Amy’s Ice Creams.