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Austin, Texas is an all-around fun city to visit regardless of whether you’re with your partner, a group of friends, or your family. A lot of people know Austin for its nightlife and live music scene, but it is also a great place to bring kids for a family vacation because there are so many things to see and do here – both indoors and outdoors.
Here are some top picks for family-friendly things to do in Austin so you can start planning your next trip.
What Is It? Zilker Park is a 351-acre city park that is located where Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake meet. It is a historic park with lots of recreation opportunities and the site of various festivals. Meanwhile, the botanical garden is within the park and has themed gardens to explore with your kids.
Why Do It? These popular sites are a great way to get to know the city of Austin and explore local life. You can get active with hiking and biking, learn about plants, and find a bit of peace in the busy city.
Good to Know: It is free to visit Zilker Park, but the botanical garden charges an admission fee. Check local websites to see what events are going on here when you’ll be in town.
What Is It? Thinkery is the children’s museum in Austin that welcomes local families or those who are just traveling through town. Exhibits here feature trains, light, storytelling, physical activity, fresh food, and much more.
Why Do It? The museum is open every day except for Mondays and is a great way to spend a day with your kids as they learn something new.
Good to Know: The general admission fee for everyone over the age of two is $16, but younger infants are admitted for free. Or come on Sundays from 3-5pm for community night when admission is free.
What Is It? Austin is the capital of Texas, and you can visit the capitol building while you are here. Both guided (free) and self-guided options are available.
Why Do It? This is an opportunity to learn about Texas state history and provide an educational opportunity for your kids.
Good to Know: Guided tours are typically offered on weekdays from 9:30am to 4pm, and on weekends between 12:30pm and 4pm. Alternatively, pick up a free self-guided tour brochure to move at your own pace.
What Is It? There are various boat tour options in Austin that let you see the city from the water while learning about local history and getting to relax a bit. Boat captains serve as your tour guide as you soak up the views and learn about other places to visit during your trip.
Why Do It? Austin has a unique location along the water, which makes it perfect for exploring by boat. The scenery is very social-media-worthy if you’re into snapping photos with your kids.
Good to Know: The tour boat option featured here includes a two-hour boat ride, the use of life vests, the park entrance fee, and hotel pickup and drop-off. Every tour’s offerings are a bit different, however.
What Is It? Families can get outdoors and active by renting bikes or bringing their own to tour around the city. Bike tours typically involve narration about top city sightseeing attractions and take you around Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, and more under-the-radar hotspots.
Why Do It? Many families are already comfortable with biking and feel confident allowing their kids to pedal along on two wheels with supervision. Bike tours provide opportunities for you to meet other travelers and get some exercise as you go sightseeing.
Good to Know: If you sign up for a guided bike tour, it will typically include the bike and helmet. The pace is pretty slow to accommodate people of all skill levels and ages.
What Is It? The Barton Springs recreational pool is filled with water from natural springs and located in Zilker Park. It’s a perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.
Why Do It? Families love visiting the Barton Springs Pool year-around. It’s about three acres in size, so there’s plenty of room even on busy days.
Good to Know: Depending on when you visit, there may be a fee to use the pool. The water is about 68 to 70 degrees at all times.
What Is It? Mount Bonnell is one of the best hiking areas in Austin that requires climbing steps and walking along a gravel trail. It’s a prime spot for outdoor adventure in Covert Park for traveling families.
Why Do It? The view from the top of the mountain offers great views of downtown and the bridge. The trail is also free to hike and has free parking.
Good to Know: Sunrise and sunset are great times to hike the trail for the best views. There are picnic tables in the area, so pack some food to refuel your family after the hike.
What Is It? A good way to experience Austin from the water is to rent a kayak or bring your own to see the sights. You and your family can book a kayak tour on Lady Bird Lake to see the architectural highlights and have a unique outing that everyone will enjoy.
Why Do It? Kayaking on the lake is a great way to see Austin in a new way while getting some exercise at the same time. This is an experience that’s better with older kids who are comfortable with open water and have some paddling experience.
Good to Know: Kayak tour companies will provide you with a professional guide, life jackets, a paddle lesson, and safety instructions. Some of the sights you can expect to see are Austin City Hall, the Austin Public Library, and the many downtown hotels.
What Is It? Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms is a living history museum in Austin that offers educational opportunities, workshops, and programs. Families come here to learn about real Texas history and to enjoy some wholesome entertainment.
Why Do It? This is a very unique way to spend a day in Austin and a fun idea for learning about history with kids.
Good to Know: Pioneer Farms is open for the general public Tuesdays through Sundays from 10am to 5pm. Admission for adults is $8, and it is $6 for youth ages 3 to 17.
What Is It? There are lots of interesting stores and quirky boutiques, including a circus-themed sweets shop, to check out along South Congress Avenue. Families can spend an afternoon just browsing around the shops.
Why Do It? Learn about the homegrown character of Austin while also putting yourself near some great restaurants, music venues, and galleries with a walk along the shops here.
Good to Know: A few of the many shops to check out include Parts and Labour, Allens Boots, and Prototype Vintage.
What Is It? There are some great mini golf venues in Austin, including Peter Pan Mini Golf, which has been around since 1948. It’s at the intersection of Barton Springs and South Lamar, with giant statues and a very family-friendly vibe.
Why Do It? Miniature golf is a fun way to get the whole family involved in something active and as challenging and competitive as you like. It’s also an affordable activity and can be enjoyed by family members of all ages.
Good to Know: If you like, you can bring your own cooler with drinks to the mini golf course. Pets are also allowed here as long as they are leashed and under control.
What Is It? Austin is home to a group of Mexican free-tailed bats that migrate here from central Mexico each spring. One of the best ways to see the bats is to take a kayak tour around the Congress Avenue Bridge. There are around two million bats here during peak season.
Why Do It? When you go out to view the bats on kayaks with your family, you won’t have to fight the crowds on the riverbank. The views from the water are excellent, and you’ll also get the opportunity to see the city lights after dark.
Good to Know: Congress Avenue Bridge bat kayak tours come with a lesson to get you safely out on the water, so no prior paddling experience is needed.
What Is It?: From what started out as a food truck has now turned into a must-visit restaurant in the Austin area. A game-changer in the donut world, Gourdough’s unconventional donut creations are more than just fried dough.
Why Do It?: The food from Gourdough’s is straight from a donut lover’s dream. Outrageous and fried donut creations make up the menu at Gourdough’s. This Austin establishment started out as a food truck, but when Gourdough’s started to gain the hearts of both Austinites and tourists, a brick-and-mortar location was born. For anyone wanting more than just a simple donut, Gourdough’s is the place for you.
Good to Know: Pleased customers doted over concoctions like the Funky Monkey, a donut topped with brown sugar, grilled bananas and cream cheese icing. Rave reviews were expressed about the Flying Pig, which contains a maple-iced donut topped with bacon. In 2010, Anthony Bourdain even featured the food truck in his show No Reservations. Soon enough, the long lines found at the food truck signified to owners Paula Samford and Ryan Palmer that a brick-and-mortar location was necessary.