Austin is a fantastic, world class city. It is the capital of Texas. It is the Live Music Capital of the World. Many large corporations now call Austin home. It should be no surprise that there are so many great family activities in Austin Texas!
Since we moved to Texas in 2012, Austin has been one of our favorite cities to visit for weekend trips. Before we had kids, we would go to check out the bars on 6th Street. We would check out the dining and shopping on South Congress. Live music was always on the itinerary. Would things change once we started having kids? Absolutely not!
Austin (and its business owners) is a city that has really figured out how to make things fun and entertaining for parents and their kids. I would dare say that Austin has this figured out better than any other large city we have ever visited. Whether it’s the parks or the museums or the festivals or the restaurants, we never feel like we have to compromise when we visit Austin with our kids.
Ready to learn about some of OUR favorite family activities in Austin Texas? Read on to learn about what we like to do and where we go on our adventures!
Austin Area Parks
We could literally come down to Austin for a weekend just to visit the parks and playgrounds! In fact, we have a previous article that discussed two of our favorite playgrounds in Round Rock. You can find that article HERE.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park is another favorite of ours. The park is HUGE. It has an impressive web of hiking and biking trails. The trails are particularly popular with mountain bikers. We walked along a small portion of a trail and it was very picturesque. We enjoyed walking along the banks of Walnut Creek. There are sports fields. There is a swimming pool. The playground equipment is modern and FUN. We highly enjoy visiting this park!
Zilker Park is the crown jewel of the Austin parks system. You can easily spend an entire day wandering Zilker Park. Its location along Lady Bird Lake allows park patrons to have amazing views of the lake and Austin’s (ever growing) skyline. It is no wonder that Zilker Park is known as Austin’s most loved park. Volleyball, hike/bike trails, disc golf, playscapes, Barton Springs Pool (a natural spring fed pool), and a botanical garden are just a fraction of the amenities here. Zilker Park is also home to special events such as ACL Music Fest and Trail of Lights. We have a dedicated Trail of Lights and Christmas article HERE.
Museums and Attractions
The Thinkery is an outstanding children’s museum. This museum is highly interactive. It encourages children to have fun while also learning and inspiring creativity. The Thinkery has over ten exhibits focusing on engineering, math, science, story time, building, play, and more. We wrote about The Thinkery and other Texas children’s museums in this article HERE.
The Bullock Museum of Texas history is a must stop whether you are a Texas native or a transplant. This museum tells the history of Texas from the time of our earliest inhabitants through modern times. In addition to traditional museum offerings, the Bullock also offers special events geared towards children. Examples are viewings of The Polar Express in 3D and a Muppet Christmas Carol. The theater often features Texas themed movies and concerts on the large IMAX screen.
The Austin Science and Nature Center is located at the far western edge of Zilker Park. Open for over 60 years, this Science and Nature Center has been teaching visitors of all ages about the science of nature. Exhibits include a wildlife viewing area, a dino pit, forest trail, honey bee viewing hive, a pond walk, and more. Even better? The Austin Science and Nature Center is completely free, but donations are welcome.
The Cathedral of Junk in South Austin is one of those attractions that is just so odd and bizarre, that you just need to check it out. From the street, this just looks like a normal home in a very unassuming neighborhood. But once you enter the backyard, be prepared to say “OMG!” By appointment only. Call for availability.
The Museum of Ice Cream located at The Domain is just as amazing as it sounds. Your admission gets you access to 12 multi-sensory installations that teaches you the history of ice cream. Play in a giant sprinkle pool and ride on an animal cracker carousel. Probably the best park??? UNLIMITED ICE CREAM.
One of the best ways to see many of the sights and tastes of downtown Austin is with a “Full Day Hop On Hop Off Double Decker Bus.” A guide narrates as you get driven around Austin. You can hop off at the sights that interest you, grab a bite to eat, or shop. Then when you are ready, hop on the next bus that comes by!
There are so many outstanding family activities in Austin Texas.
Murals and Photo Ops
If you don’t fill your friends’ social feeds with pics, did your trip even happen?? Lucky for you, the Austin area is FILLED with Instagram worthy photo ops. Here are some of our favorites.
Probably the most famous is the “Greetings From Austin” postcard style mural located at 1720 S 1st Street. For the complete list (and there are a TON), visit this site HERE.
The Pennybacker Bridge Overlook is another iconic Austin photo. Located where The Capital of Texas Highway crosses Lake Austin, this is a photo op you have to work a little to get. You see, it is a pretty decent hike up the side of a rocky bluff. It isn’t an easy climb, but trust me, the views are worth it!
The Oasis restaurant is an Austin icon and for good reason. This multilevel, mostly outdoor patio restaurant is known as the sunset capital of Texas. Expect fairly long waits when the weather is nice, but the views are absolutely worth it!
Did you know the Texas State Capitol building is taller than the US Capitol Building in DC? It is, but don’t get too cocky, Texans. The Texas Capitol building is just the 6th tallest in the US. Regardless, it is an impressive building both inside and out. It is definitely worth a visit not just for the photo ops. There is plenty to learn about inside as well.
Restaurants and Such
As I mentioned earlier, Austin businesses have really figured out this whole “parents can have a good meal while the kids play” thing. There are so many restaurants, food truck parks, ice houses, and more that offer good food, good drinks, and plenty of activities and playscapes to keep the kids occupied. Here are some of our favorites.
Waterloo Ice House– Huge menu of delicious food. Great beer selection. Food the kids love. Our older boy says these are the best chicken fingers he has ever had (but he has said that like 7 times). All three locations have areas for the kids to play. We go to the Southpark Meadows location. The playscape is HUGE.
Rudy’s BBQ– There are locations all over, but the location on Ranch Road 620 has a playscape, rock climbing wall, and slides connected directly to Rudy’s patio.
Salt Lick BBQ– The Round Rock location is perfect for dining with kids. Live music. A playground area. They offer family platters so everyone can eat as they please.
Doc’s Backyard Grill– While the kids run around and have fun playing on the huge backyard playscape, adults get to enjoy their delicious cocktails, juicy burgers, and huge and tasty chicken tenders.
Bouldin Acres– Food trucks. Beer garden. Pickleball courts. Lawn games. Playground. Free wifi. All of these things come together to give families a great dining out experience.
Central Market North Lamar– Leave it to Austin to make grocery shopping fun for the family. Their cafe has a ton of options that are tasty and healthy. After ordering, take your food outside where you will find a huge playground, live music, and plenty of shade to enjoy your meal.
Phil’s Ice House– Three locations across Austin. All locations have a playground for the kids. Phil’s is known for their burgers. They have “Parent’s Recess” Monday-Friday from 3-5:30 where parents can enjoy discounted beer and wine. Added bonus: All Phil’s locations have an Amy’s Ice Cream attached.
Hat Creek Burgers– Burger chain that is quickly growing across Texas. All locations have kids playgrounds. Each playground is a bit different, so go ahead and visit them all!
Culinary Dropout– Located at The Domain, Culinary Dropout has outstanding food and a good kid’s menu that your kids will love. The bonus draw for families is the outdoor space with lawn games, foosball, and corn hole.
This is literally the tip of the iceberg. There are SOOOO many other family friendly options for dining or going out to have a few beers. These are just some of our favorites that we can vouch for ourselves. Even going out to eat become great family activities in Austin Texas.
Best Austin Lodging
After a full day of exciting family activities in Austin Texas, you need a place to rest and recharge! Here is a sample of some of our favorite hotels around the Austin area to get some much needed sleep. I mean, you need to get up and do it all again the next morning!
Drury Inn and Suites– One of our favorites. Rates are always competitive and it’s a really nice hotel. 9.2/10 guest rating. Free breakfast and outdoor pool.
Homewood Suites near The Domain– Another favorite when we plan on spending time near The Domain. 9.2/10 guest rating. Free breakfast and outdoor pool.
Hampton Inn near The Domain– Another budget friendly option when staying near The Domain. 8.8/10 guest rating. Free breakfast and a pool.
Element Austin at The Domain– When staying near The Domain and looking to splurge a little. 9/10 guest rating. Outdoor pool.
Holiday Inn Express Austin Downtown– There generally aren’t many budget options in central Austin, but this is close. 8.0/10 guest rating. Outdoor pool and free breakfast.
Fairmont Austin– If you are looking to splurge, this would be a good choice. 9.2/10 guest rating. Outdoor heated pool with great views of the Austin skyline.
Aiden by Best Western @ Austin City Hotel– Quirky, boutique style hotel with tons of Austin style. 8.6/10 guest rating. Reasonably priced. Outdoor pool and free breakfast.
Staybridge Suites Austin South– Great option for South Austin or if going to Circuit of the Americas. Plenty of nearby dining. Free breakfast and outdoor pool.
Book That Trip To Austin!
So you have planned all of your family activities in Austin Texas. You know where you want to eat. You have picked out where you want to stay. Now all you need to do is book it! Our travel guides make it easy to plan and book your trip! Now do your part to “Keep Austin Weird!”