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25 Essential Things to Do in Austin with Kids (2024)

Looking for kid-friendly activities in the Austin area? Austin, Texas has exciting historical sites, engaging museums, and mind-blowingly beautiful green spaces to enjoy. Maybe you’re a local Austinite looking for hidden gems that kids will love or maybe you’re a visitor seeking iconic Austin attractions. Keep reading for my list of the best things to do in Austin with kids!

25 Amazing Things to Do in Austin TX with Kids - Kids Are A Trip

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Things to do in Austin TX with kids

1. Learn about STEAM at The Thinkery

Austin’s premier 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 and a Light Lab where children can explore color, light, and shadows. Check out the Spark Shop where families discover aerodynamics. It’s the perfect spot for children to learn through play.

For families with younger kids visiting the Thinkery Children’s Museum, there are dedicated play areas where they can play safely and enjoy age-appropriate exploration. There’s Bloom for ages 0 to 3, and the Move! Studio for kids 6 and younger.

2. Explore Zilker Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park is a must-visit destination for families. The park covers over 350 acres in the middle of the city and offers endless outdoor activities. This is where you will find the Barton Creek Greenbelt, an excellent hike and bike trail. There are also kayaks and canoes for rent.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Austin with kids, no trip is complete without a swim in the icy cold water of Zilker Park’s Barton Springs Pool! A 3-acre recreational pool created by floodgates along Barton Creek, this natural water pool remains a chilly 68 degrees year-round.

Barton Springs Pool in Austin
Kids will love swimming at Barton Springs natural pool.

During the summer, see what performances are on tap at the Zilker Hillside Theater, or take a ride on a miniature train (the Zilker Zephyr). The park is home to the Zilker Botanical Garden, the Austin Nature and Science Center, a sculpture garden, and more! Plan on spending half a day at the park.

3. See the bats under the Congress Avenue bridge

Austin boasts the largest urban bat colony in the world. On summer evenings, tourists and locals alike line the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge to watch an estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge in search of food.

Bats usually emerge from under the bridge most evenings and create quite a scene (depending on the weather and time of year).

If you choose to base yourself near the bridge near nightfall, bring something to protect yourselves from falling guano!

Other options are a kayak tour on Lady Bird Lake, riding a Segway, or taking a boat ride to see the bats from a different point of view.

4. Learn about government at the Texas Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a sight to behold, as it’s the 6th tallest state capitol in the U.S. and larger than the capitol in Washington, D.C. Inside is just as stunning. Free tours are offered daily, departing every 30 to 45 minutes.

Texas State Capitol Building

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. Austin Zoo

For family-friendly adventures in Austin, the Austin Zoo should be at the top of your list. Located just a short drive from downtown, it’s one of the best places to get up close with a variety of animals in a setting that feels more like an animal sanctuary than a traditional zoo.

What sets the Austin Zoo apart is its commitment to providing a home for rescued and displaced animals. You’ll encounter creatures from around the world, from tigers and lions to lemurs and macaws. It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn about wildlife conservation and witness these exotic animals up close.

The Austin Zoo is a small sanctuary, so you’ll get through it in about an hour. Plus, the zoo is located near the Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, so you could combine your visit into a nature-filled day exploring the Texas Hill Country.

6. Soak up the local culture with a South Congress Avenue stroll

South Congress is perfect for strolling, eating, and getting a taste of Austin’s character. Kids will have so much fun at Big Top Candy Shop with its treats from floor to ceiling! You can play outdoor games at TOMS shoe and coffee shop or play dress-up at Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds (a costume shop).

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

Of course, there are plenty of fun spots in Austin for teens and parents. This is your chance to grab the perfect Texas souvenir at Allen Boots, where you can get personally fitted for boots and hats. Jo’s Coffee Shop is the best place to get delicious coffee and boasts a prime location for people-watching.

7. Have an Old-Fashioned Good Time at Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Peter Pan Mini-Golf has been a beloved landmark in Austin for 75 years, and playing a round is one of the most iconic things you can do here!

Open since 1948, this family-owned business was named a State Archaeological Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission. Why not take the kids for some nostalgic fun?

You can purchase 18 or 36 holes at a time, each with the classic green turf and fantastical sculptures that Peter Pan Mini-Golf is known for. There are picnic tables, and you can bring your own food and drinks (there’s also BYOB, just no glass!).

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If you’re bringing kids to visit The Lone Star State capital, and are feeling adventurous, strike out and explore beyond downtown Austin. You will be amazed at the beauty of the Texas Hill Country, and your kids will love it too!

8. 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.

One of the best things to do in Austin with kids is head to Home Slice for its massive pizza slices. Torchy’s Tacos is an Austin staple. And Hopdoddy Burger Bar is worth the lines that always seem to be out the door and down the street!

For sweet treats, there’s Gelato Paradiso and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, with unique ice cream creations.

Austin food truck

This is also the perfect place to check out the food truck scene since Austin’s has become quite legendary in recent years! Don’t miss some of the originals, including Mellizoz Tacos, TX Shawarma, and Gourdough’s (doughnuts).

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

9. Ooh and Aah at the Dinosaur Park

If you have dinosaur enthusiasts in your family, you’ll want to check out The Dinosaur Park in Bastrop. This prehistoric-themed attraction is a hit with both kids and adults.

Take the Dinosaur Trail and encounter life-size dinosaur replicas hiding among the trees! Kids will love playing I-Spy-A-Saurus and looking for clues along the trail. There are informative signs and displays along the way, including child-size dinosaurs they can climb on for a picture.

You’ll find outdoor pavilions along the trail that are perfect for picnics and birthday parties. There are also indoor exhibits and the Dino Dig, where you can unearth fossils and learn about paleontology. Of course, you will find dinosaur-themed souvenirs at the gift shop.

10. Try a street art scavenger hunt

If you or your kids love street art, Austin is a fantastic place to be. There’s the “Greetings from Austin” mural and the “Before I Die” wall where kids can write about their hopes and dreams.

Austin street art scavenger hunt - Kirsten Maxwell
Kids love this!

Austin is a fun place to get a map and go searching for all the spots! For a self-guided tour with the exact locations of many of the most popular street art in Austin, check out this post on Austin’s official website.

If you have tweens and teens who are into selfies, don’t miss the Ice Cream Museum or the Austin Selfie Museum.

11. Head up to Mount Bonnell for sunset views

Historic Mount Bonnell is the perfect spot for a panoramic view of Austin and the surrounding area. It only takes about 10 minutes to climb to the top, and seeing the city from this perspective is stunning.

Plan to arrive close to sunset before heading out for a bite to eat. The entire experience shouldn’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes.

12. Take a Swim in One of Austin’s Local Swimming Holes

One of the best things to do in Austin, Texas for kids is experience one of the area’s amazing natural wonders. A memorable way to explore is taking them swimming! 

About 45 minutes from the city is Hamilton Pool Preserve, a beautiful natural lagoon that has become quite popular. You need to make reservations to visit during the busy summer season (May to September). Also, make sure to wear good water hiking shoes, because it’s a 10–15-minute walk to reach it.

Hamilton Pool Reserve Texas with Kids

After an easy hike, you’ll come upon the collapsed grotto and waterfall at Hamilton Pool Preserve. It’s absolutely beautiful and it’s perfect for the whole family.

Small children enjoy wading along the pebble beach, and braver big kids can venture further into the depths of the natural pool for a swim.

That’s not the only natural swimming spot to consider! Of course, you can always head to Barton Springs Pool in Austin’s Zilker Park. A short drive away, there’s Krause Springs in Hill Country with 32 springs and two swimming pools.

The Blue Hole at Wimberley is a section of Cypress Creek that’s perfect for spending the day playing and swimming.

Texas State Parks are another great place to spend the day. McKinney Falls State Park offers a day full of outdoor fun, with hiking, biking, historic ruins, and a fun swimming grotto.

13. 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 the ability to trace the state’s history through interactive exhibits.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM, and there’s free admission for kids ages 3 and under.

14. Inner Space Cavern

If you’re looking for a unique excursion that will make a lasting impression, take a guided tour of Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown.

Inner Space Cavern in Austin

Explore caverns and natural wonders underground, then head up to the Inner Space Mine and pan for gemstones.

15. Hike at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center

For more outdoor activities for kids of all ages, head to Round Mountain northwest of Austin. Here, the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is a unique wildlife and nature preserve that features 2 distinct ecosystems: a savanna and a lower, more diverse canyon biosphere.

Not only is Westcave stunning to see, but there’s a lot you can learn about nature. The preserve is very popular and reservations should be made in advance.

You can see the park through guided tours, and there are a few different ones to choose from!

There are great educational programs for homeschoolers, daytime and nighttime hikes, as well as hikes themed around photography or bird watching. You won’t want to miss exploring the lush grotto and seeing the 40-foot waterfall!

16. Head to an Austin Waterpark or Splash Pad

During the summer months, one of the best things to do in Austin with kids is get in the water! In the greater Austin area, you can visit a splash pad that’s perfect for younger kids in every neighborhood near downtown. And Austin’s water parks are great for families with kids of different ages.

Just a short drive north is Typhoon Texas in Pflugerville, where you can enjoy a day of play at the combined water and adventure parks. There is also Rock ‘N River Water Park in Round Rock. Or you can take the family to the indoor Splash Shack in Cedar Park any time of year!

family friendly things to do in austin texas Schlitterbahn-
Photo: Heidi Gollub

Also, about an hour south of Austin is the ever-popular Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. This is the original Schlitterbahn, a 70-acre outdoor water park resort along the banks of the Comal River, known for having over 40 diverse water attractions that appeal to all kinds of visitors.

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17. Austin Nature & Science Center

If you’re looking for free things to do in Austin, Texas with kids, an excellent choice is the Austin Nature & Science Center inside Zilker Park! This nature center is a great place to take the kids if you want to burn an hour or two.

There are hands-on activities both indoors and outdoors. The hiking trails feature local wildlife and fun installations.

18. Kayak on Lady Bird Lake

A great way to do some sightseeing in Austin is on a kayaking tour of Lady Bird Lake. Along both shores of the lake, you can find multiple vendors offering hourly rentals of kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. They also provide life jackets and wet bags if you need them.

Downtown Austin with kids

19. Visit the Cathedral of Junk

The Cathedral of Junk is undeniably one of the best things to do in Austin, Texas with kids! This quirky attraction offers an unforgettable experience for families.

It’s all made of 60 tons of found objects and is the brainchild of the artist, Vince Hannemann. You’ll see the Cathedral of Junk on his private property which he opens to the public. He doesn’t charge visitors for entry, but donations are appreciated.

You can meet Vince and explore what he’s created. The whole place is like a unique playground for kids. They can climb, crawl, and wander through this towering structure made entirely of recycled materials. This is a great stop for anyone looking for Weird Austin, but especially kids who are interested in art.

20. See the Peacocks at the Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve

Austin has so many beautiful green spaces where you can enjoy nature, and all of them are unique. Take Mayfield Park, for example. A big reason families visit is for the resident peacocks! Plus, it’s free to visit.

These gorgeous birds roam freely throughout the park and are known for their calm nature. Kids can often get surprisingly close to the birds, making it a unique opportunity for young animal lovers to observe and interact with wildlife in a safe environment.

The park itself is worth the visit, boasting beautiful gardens, peaceful lily ponds, and picturesque walking trails. You can explore archways into hidden gardens, watch the Koi fish in the pond, or explore stone structures. Mayfield Park is also a great spot for family photos and picnics.

21. Visit the Austin Steam Train Museum

One of the best family things to do in Austin is head to the Austin Steam Train Association Museum and ride a vintage train! The museum itself is a treasure trove of vintage railcars and artifacts. You’ll get a glimpse into the rich history of railroading in Texas and how it helped shape the state.

Most people visit the museum to go on themed train rides. Whether it’s a seasonal holiday ride like the North Pole Flyer or a Wild West adventure on the Hill Country Flyer, the whole family will have a blast. Kids can dress up, enjoy onboard entertainment, and take in the Texas Hill Country scenery.

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22. Austin Aquarium

The Austin Aquarium is your chance to get up close and personal with a variety of marine life and exotic animals. It’s a small, local aquarium and the perfect size for a family. You can explore interactive exhibits featuring colorful fish, sharks, reptiles, birds, and more. There might even be animals that you can touch and feed!

23. Austin Toy Museum

For kids and adults who never grew up, the Austin Toy Museum is a must-visit location. You’ll find the storefront along Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, making it a quick, convenient stop for visitors and locals alike.

Parents will love introducing their kids to the toys they grew up with in the 80s and 90s. And kids will have fun playing vintage video and arcade games!

There’s an admission fee that gives you access to unlimited gameplay. Adults can stop by the bar inside for a local craft beer.

24. Dart’em Up

Laser tag can be a little too intense for younger players, but Dart’em Up is the solution! This unique foam dart arena is one of the coolest things to do in Austin with kids ages 5 and up.

It’s a new spot that’s become a popular destination for families, offering hours of fun with arcades, video games, ping pong, their amazing foam dart arenas, and more! Head to the armory to upgrade your weapon and enjoy hour-long games with friends.

Looking for a date night idea? There are adults-only nights with beer and wine! Just check the Dart’em Up website for times, because they hold different hours every season.

25. Austin’s

Austin’s is a fantastic family entertainment center in the Austin area, known for its exciting activities that cater to all ages. This sprawling destination offers a thrilling mix of amusement park rides, arcade games, and delicious pizza.

The park’s outdoor attractions include go-karts, bumper boats, and a miniature golf course, but that’s just the beginning. Indoors, you’ll also find a massive arcade with every game you can think of, as well as a rock-climbing wall!

Austin’s is known for its top-notch buffet that includes fresh pizza and a quality salad bar. There’s even a full bar with screens for watching the game while the kids play.

Where to Stay in Austin

  • Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa – This AAA Four Diamond luxury resort is located a half-hour west of downtown. With world-class golf, tennis, and spa facilities, as well as a variety of dining options, it’s a great option for families traveling with kids and teens and one of the best family resorts in Texas!
  • Hyatt Regency Austin – This property has a central location downtown, about 15 minutes walking to South Congress. There’s an outdoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center, and some rooms have river and downtown views!
  • Fairmont Austin – This upscale property has gorgeous swimming pools, a coffee shop, and a fitness center. Some rooms offer beautiful city views.
  • We have also stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown which has a convenient location and great free breakfast.

Try Out All the Fun Family Things to Do in Austin!

When you’re looking for things to do in Austin with kids, I encourage you to strike out and explore beyond downtown Austin. You’ll be amazed at the beauty of the Texas Hill Country, and your kids will love it too!

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