Best things to do with kids in Austin

From exploring caves to frolicking through public parks, Austin is perfect for families © Dwayne Hills Photography / Getty Images / Tetra images RF

Austin, Texas, is known as a great outdoor destination, the live music capital of Texas, and the center for all things ‘weird’ in the Lone Star State. Although it may not be renowned for being a family-friendly destination, the reality is that families with kids of all ages will discover that the capital of Texas is an exciting and enjoyable place. Dive into our list of Austin’s top kid-friendly sites that include everything from museums to tours and animal encounters.

An aerial view of Zilker Park downtown in Austin Texas
An aerial view of Zilker Park downtown in Austin with a clear blue summer sky © Trong Nguyen / Getty Images

Zilker Park

You’d be hard-pressed to do everything in one day at Zilker Park. In addition to a disc golf course and volleyball courts, the 351-acre park is home to Barton Springs Pool and the Zilker Hillside Theater, which hosts live concerts and shows like Zilker Summer Musical and Shakespeare in the Park.

Take the kids to the Austin Nature & Science Center for hands-on nature experiences that will teach children about the natural world around them. Zilker Botanical Garden covers 28 acres and has a lovely array of koi-filled ponds and waterfalls, as well as beautiful gardens with different themes – the Hartman Prehistoric Garden features the same plants that covered the Earth during the time of the dinosaurs.

Thinkery_museum_austin_texas.jpg
Thinkery childrens' museum outdoor playground in Austin, Texas © Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock

Thinkery

As their name implies, Thinkery is a children’s museum that inspires kids to think. The 40,000-sq-ft museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits that cater to children between 0 and 11 years of age. In the "Light Lab," kids learn about the impact of light and how to manipulate color with circuits.

The "Currents" exhibit teaches about the dynamics of water and sound, while the "Earth, Wind, Inspire" exhibit focuses on climate, the sun, and weather phenomena like tornados. By providing hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs and exhibits, Thinkery engages the minds and hearts of your little ones.

Bats nesting underneath Congress Avenue Bridge take flight at night in Austin during sunset
Bats nesting underneath Congress Avenue Bridge take flight during sunset in Austin, Texas © Kushal Bose / Shutterstock

Bat Bridge

Congress Avenue Bridge, located right next to downtown, is home to a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Since settling under the bridge in the 1980s, the bats have become the largest urban bat population in North America and have amassed a following of curious onlookers who arrive in the late evening to see them fly away in search of food.

Take the family to see this phenomenon between late March and early fall. Unfortunately, the bats exit the bridge anywhere between 7:30 and 9:45 pm, so you’ll have to arrive early to get a good spot on the grassy hill of the Statesman Bat Observation or on the Congress Avenue Bridge. Make it an even more unique experience by renting kayaks or canoes and paddling onto Lady Bird Lake to watch the bat show.

Lights show off a stalactite in the back of Inner Space Caverns
Lights show off a stalactite in the back of Inner Space Caverns outside Austin, Texas © TriciaDaniel / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Inner Space Cavern

To see one of the best-preserved cave systems in the US, visit Inner Space Cavern. It’s located right outside of Austin, in the college town of Georgetown. There are a variety of cave tours – some of which are easier than others – but no matter which tour you take, you’ll see a range of magnificent geological formations and even some prehistoric animal bones! Once you’ve taken your Inner Space Cavern Tour, go above ground and pan for gemstones and fossils or take a ride on the Saber Tooth zipline.

Swimmers at the Barton Springs pool in Austin
Swimmers at the Barton Springs pool in Austin © stock_photo_world / Shutterstock

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool is the perfect spot to have a family swim day in Austin. Located within Zilker Park, the three-acre pool is fed from an underground spring. The pool is as deep as 18ft in some spots and maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, so you can swim here year-round. Although access to Barton Springs Pool usually comes at a price ($9 for adults and $5 for kids), it is free every day from 5-8 am and 9-10 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Pack the swimsuits, a cooler packed with lunch and drinks, and make a day of it for the whole family.

Purple golf ball being putted for miniature golf
Loads of fun for the entire family awaits you at mini golf © youngvet / Getty Images

Peter Pan Mini Golf

Take the kids for a round of mini-golf in Austin at Peter Pan Mini Golf. This landmark has been around since 1948 and offers two 18-hole mini golf courses full of quirky old-fashioned statues like a gigantic T-Rex, Captain Hook, and a larger-than-life blue-colored Converse shoe. Before you go, remember that you can only pay with cash on-site (although e-tickets are available to purchase online in advance) and you're welcome to bring your own food and drink, as long as you leave any glass at home.

Austin Duck Adventures

Get ready for the most interesting and fun-filled tour in Austin with Austin Duck Adventures. Once you and the kids pile into Austin Duck Adventure’s UNSINKABLE, a U.S. coast-guard Hydra Terra vehicle, it will take off on a 75-minute tour of Austin’s best sites – on ground and in water. The tour will inform the whole family about the history of the State Capitol Building, discuss the Historic Sixth Street and Bob Bullock State History Museum, and even take you for a ‘dip’ in Lake Austin. Kids and adults will be equally delighted on this unique city tour.

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