How to Spend a Weekend in Austin with Kids

While Austin is known for its live music scene and fantastic restaurants, there’s plenty in the city that appeals to families. Whether you have young ones or teens, they will have plenty to do in the Texas capital. Here’s some of our favorite things to help you plan a weekend in Austin with kids:

While Austin is known for its live music scene and fantastic restaurants, there’s plenty in the city that appeals to families. Whether you have young ones or teens, they will have plenty to do in the Texas capital. Here’s some of our favorite things to help you plan a weekend in Austin with kids.-Kids Are A Trip

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What to Do in Austin with kids

1) Learn about STEAM at The Thinkery

Austin new children’s museum, The Thinkery, takes hands-on exploration to the next level. The museum’s exhibits revolve around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

There’s a Kitchen Lab where food meets chemistry, a Light Lab where children can explore color, light, and shadows, and Spark Shop where families discover aerodynamics. It’s the perfect spot for children to learn through play.

2) Explore Zilker Park

Zilker Park is a must visit destination for families. The park covers over 350 acres in the middle of the city and offers endless outdoor adventures. There’s a hiking/biking trail, an outdoor pool fed by a natural spring (Barton Springs Pool), kayaks and canoes for rent, and even a miniature train (the Zilker Zephyr).

Zilker is also home to a botanical garden, Austin Nature and Science Center, a sculpture garden, and theatre. Plan on spending half a day at the park.

Weekend in Austin with Kids Zilker Park Barton Springs-Kids Are A Trip
Kids will love swimming in this natural pool.

3) See the bats under Congress Avenue bridge

The largest urban bat colony in the world can be found in Austin (1.5 million Mexican free tailed bats to be exact), and most of them make their home beneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge.

Bats usually emerge from under the bridge most evenings and create quite a scene (this is weather and time of year dependent). If you choose to base yourself near the bridge near nightfall, bring something to protect yourselves from falling guano. Other options are kayaking, riding a Segway, or taking a boat ride to see the bats from a different point of view.

Weekend in Austin with Kids Congress Avenue Bridge Downtown Austin-Kids Are A Trip
The bridge is the best place to spot the bats.

4) Learn about government at the Texas Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a sight to behold as it is the sixth tallest state capitol in the U.S. and larger than the capitol in Washington, D.C.. Inside is just as stunning and free tours are offered daily, departing every 30 to 45 minutes.

Best Things to Do in Austin with Kids

It’s the perfect way to introduce older children to the legal system as they have an opportunity to view the Supreme Court and the Senate and House chambers. Bring your camera to take in the beautiful architectural details inside and out!

5) Soak up the local culture with a South Congress Avenue stroll

South Congress is perfect for strolling, eating, and getting a taste of Austin character. Kids will love the Big Top Candy Shop with treats from floor to ceiling, playing outdoor games at TOMS shoe and coffee shop, and playing dress up at Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds (a costume shop).

Of course there are plenty of fun spots for mom and dad too, like Allen Boots (a chance to grab the perfect Texas souvenir) and Jo’s Coffee Shop with its delicious coffee and prime location for people watching.

Weekend in Austin with Kids Big Top Candy Shop-Kids Are A Trip
Don’t miss Big Top Candy Shop!

6) Hit all the best Austin food spots

Of course I need to mention South Congress has some of the most amazing food options in the city. Kids will love Home Slice for its massive pizza slices, Torchy’s Tacos (an Austin staple), and Hopdoddy Burger Bar (where the lines always seem out the door and down the street).

For sweet treats, there’s a food trailer park just down the street from Home Slice called Hey Cupcake! and the other direction is Amy’s Ice Cream where everyone makes their own ice cream creations.

Food trucks are quite popular in Austin, so don’t miss the ones on South First, including Mellizoz Tacos, Little Thai Food, and Gourdoughs (doughnuts).

If you want traditional Texas staples try Franklin Barbecue (frequently voted one of the best BBQ in Austin), Terry Black’s BBQ, or Lamberts Barbecue. For Mexican food head to Chuy’s, Fonda San Miguel, or Licha’s Cantina.

Weekend in Austin with Kids Food Trucks-Kids Are A Trip
So many decisions…

7) Try a street art scavenger hunt

If you or your kids love street art, Austin is the place to be. From the “Greetings from Austin” mural to the “Before I Die” wall where kids can write about their hopes and dreams, it’s a fun place to get a map and go searching for all the spots! My friend Rebecca at R We There Yet Mom, has a wonderful post that shares exactly where the popular murals can be found. Check it out here!

Weekend in Austin with Kids Mural Scavenger Hunt-Kids Are A Trip
Kids love this!

8) Head up to Mount Bonnell for sunset views

Mount Bonnell is the perfect spot for a panoramic view of Austin and the surrounding area. It takes about 10 minutes to climb to the top, but seeing the city from this perspective is stunning. Head over close to sunset before heading out for a bite to eat. The entire experience shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes.

9) Take a swim in the natural pools of Hamilton Pool Preserve and other outdoor spots

About 45 minutes from the city is this beautiful natural lagoon that has become quite popular. You have to make a reservation to visit Hamilton Pool and wear the right shoes because it’s a 10-15 minute walk to reach it. Other natural swimming spots to consider are Krause Springs in Hill Country with 32 springs and two swimming pools and Blue Hole at Wimberley, a section of Cypress Creek perfect for swimming, located in the Hill Country as well.

Weekend in Austin with Kids Blue Hole Regional Park-Kids Are A Trip
Blue Hole Regional Park Photo: Creative Commons

10) Visit the essential museum of Texas history, The Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bullock Museum tells the history of Texas through its collection of artifacts, photos, and hands-on experiences. Kids will love the IMAX movie theatre, the La Belle shipwreck exhibition, and ability to trace the state’s history through interactive exhibits. The museum also features rotating exhibits on the history of other subjects such as computer gaming and a collectors’ gallery.

Where to Stay in Austin with Kids

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown which has a convenient location and great free breakfast, other places to consider are the Four Seasons, The Omni, and The Driskill.

Hopefully, you’ve found more than enough ideas to entertain everyone during a weekend in Austin with kids, but don’t miss these other things to do in Austin with kids, San Antonio at Christmas, and the best weekend getaways from Dallas.

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