Our family finally made it to Texas and because of all the amazing things we heard we made Austin our first stop! Austin has grown tremendously in the last 10 years and with their amazing restaurants, music and outdoor landscape it was the perfect city for us to explore. Plus their breweries are mostly family friendly so parents can have all the fun they want too! Here are some of our favorite things to do in Austin with kids.
How to Get to Austin with Kids Affordably
With 16 airlines servicing Austin International airport there are endless opportunities to find flight deals. Whether you choose to fly budget airlines like Spirit (read tips here), Frontier and Allegiant, mid-range airlines like JetBlue or the main airlines like American, Delta and United your choices are endless. Coming from an international destination? British Airways, Air Canada, Aeromexico, and Lufthansa all service Austin. There is even an Amtrak station in Austin if you’re not ready to fly.
Things to do in Austin with Kids
One of the most popular attractions in Austin for anyone regardless of age is Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park. The pool is 3 acres and has diving boards, a lap section and more. The water is always a cool 68-70 degrees no matter what time of year you visit.
Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Colony
If you’re visiting Austin with kids from late March to early fall you have to take them to see the bats, who live under the bridge. The best time to see them is around sunset when they wake up and take their night flight but honestly this could be anywhere from 7:30-9:45pm. If you want to find parking and a spot on the bridge to watch or below it on the grassy patch you must arrive early. The parking lot at Austin American-Statesman at 205 S. Congress Ave. fills up quickly.
Another option to watch the bats is to take a bat tour on the water. There are two companies, Lone Star Riverboat and Capital Cruises that offer nightly bat tours in a boat. If you want to get a little exercise in while you watch them you can do a bat-watching kayak excursion with Love Love Paddle or Austin Kayak Tours.
Lady Bird Lake Hike or Bike
The Lady bird is surrounded by the 10 mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. We biked it after renting bikes from Barton Springs Bike Rental and Tours across the street. If the weather is good bring bathing suits as there is a splash pad at Butler park along the trail. If you’re walking and need a stroller the trail is stroller friendly!
We didn’t get to visit the Thinkery on our trip because it was closed during our visit but it was all the things to do in Austin with kids article that I read so that must mean it’s good, right? It’s a hands-on children’s museum and from what I read on their website similar to my daughters’ favorite museum in Las Vegas. Hopefully we’ll get to experience it on our next trip but if you get to before then drop a comment and let us know how it was.
Explore McKinney Falls State Park and Horseback Ride at Renegade Trail Rides
Did you really go to Texas if you didn’t get on a horse? While the downtown area of Austin is very popular, the city has an entire beautiful countryside. We explored McKinney Roughs Nature Park on horseback at the ranch on the Hyatt Lost Pines property. Kids 6 and up can go on the big horses but younger kids are not left out as they can ride the ponies. Don’t forget to ask to feed the miniature horses!!
Splash Around at the Indoor Waterpark at Kalahari Resorts
The perfect activity year round but especially on a rainy day or if it’s cold outside but you still want to have some water fun. We first enjoyed Kalahari Resorts indoor water parks on our winter trip to Wisconsin Dells. It was amazing, we’d go snowboarding one day and the waterpark the next (check out that itinerary here). Believe me the kids will love it if you take them to the one in Austin.
Take in Austin’s Street Art
You won’t find a block in Austin that doesn’t have street art and well that’s due to a local ordinance that requires each one to have public art accessible to everyone. Since street art is such a huge part of Austin we took a tour with Austin Detours. This two hour tour took us all around the city visiting some of the more famous art pieces Austin has to offer. Our guide taught us about the different types of street art, about the artists and she even had a surprise for us at the end.
When we finished the exploration part of the tour it was time for the hands on part at Something Cool Studios. Here we had a professional graffiti artist give us a lesson on graffiti and we had the opportunity to create our own piece of street art. Instead of on a wall we did it on a canvas so we could take it home with us!
Lake Travis Zipline
If you have adrenaline junkie kids like I do you’ll have to head to Lake Travis for ziplining. My girls first ziplined at 3 years old in Costa Rica and have been hooked since now having ziplined in Costa Rica, Orlando, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, and South Dakota. The ziplining at Lake Travis has 5 ziplines, one of which is the longest in the entire state of Texas.
Whenever I’m traveling with my girls my plan is to always tire them out during the day so they go right to sleep when we get in for the evening. This is why I think visiting Mount Bonnell is one of the best things to do in Austin with kids. You can not only see the entire city from the highest point in the city at Covert Park there is so much open space for the kids to run around and play. Don’t forget to pack snacks and water and you do have to climb quite a few stairs to get to the top.
Have Lunch in Pease Park
Pease Park is the perfect park to have a lunch picnic. Even if you don’t have a blanket for the grass there are plenty of picnic benches. The playground is huge with multiple sections and something for everyone. You can’t leave the park without finding the tree house!
Inner Space Cavern
If your kids have never been in a cave or even if they have they might enjoy the Adventure Tour at Inner Space Cavern. They’ll see fossils and they’ll be able to mine for gemstones outside after the tour.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a Formula 1 track here’s your chance. Home to the only one in the United States, COTA Karting lets you go karting at up to 55 MPH. Kids do need to be 14 and at least 58”to drive and 48”to be a passenger. There is a Junior Kart for those at least 12 years old and 48”. Besides the go karts they also have a zipline on site which most kids can ride.
Chase Waterfalls Hiking at McKinney State Park
Usually when people think of cities like Austin they definitely don’t think about nature but if you and your family love the outdoors McKinney State Park is for you. There are tons of hiking trails to fit every fitness level. For younger kids who won’t be able to hike the trails themselves, be sure to bring a carrier as a stroller won’t work here. We used this hiking stroller on our most challenging family hike at Pedro de Telegrafo but when our children were younger our Ergobaby carrier sufficed!
Where to Eat in Austin with Kids
If you don’t eat anywhere else in Austin with kids make sure you eat at The Picnic. It’s Austin’s food truck park and I don’t know about you but we love food trucks. It’s the perfect place for picky eaters because they literally have something for everyone! Personally, my favorite was the Thai food truck!
Everyone told us the best BBQ in Austin was at the Salt Lick. Now it is a little out of the way but we went there after visiting COTA Karting as it’s close to there. They are known for having a tremendous wait time. I recommend ordering ahead for take out and sitting at the open picnic field they have. They sometimes have live music here. If you do have to wait, rest assured there is a playground with swings and slides to keep the kids busy.
Where to Stay in Austin with Kids
We’ve always been a fan of vacation rentals when traveling with kids and Austin is no different. We love the space, ability to wash clothes if needed and hang out comfortably after a day of exploring. There are tons of Airbnb’s in Austin, we personally love the South Congress area, check out my 8 tips to guarantee a great Airbnb experience.
If Airbnb’s aren’t your thing there are plenty of hotels to choose from. The only ones I’ve personally stayed in are the Aloft and the JW Marriott both in downtown. Personally I don’t like staying downtown with kids due to the extremely overpriced parking which is valet only and always takes forever to get your car. At night with the tons of bars and the party scene it’s not my ideal place to walk around with younger kids. However, out of the two hands down the JW Marriott. The Aloft was not my favorite at all, the bathrooms are on the smaller side and it just wasn’t well kept in my opinion.They do have a nice restaurant on the property though!
We had a great first visit to Texas, there are just so many things to do in Austin with kids. If you found this article helpful please share it. If you’ve been to Austin and think we left something off, drop your suggestions in the comments.