8 Fun Things to Do in Austin with Kids
Traveling to Austin with kids? Don’t worry; this city is not just about late-night gigs on 6th Street and midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There’s plenty to do with kids in Austin, whether your little ones love adventures in nature, splashing in the water, or educational experiences.
From hands-on museums to large outdoor spaces where everyone can play, you have a wide variety of family-friendly options to choose from. Immerse yourself in Austin’s culture, meet the local wildlife, and make some lasting memories on your family vacation. Discover the most fun things to do in Austin, Texas, with kids!
1. Spend the Day at Zilker Metropolitan Park
You probably came to Austin for outdoor fun, and the 358-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park delivers just that. Located south of the Colorado River, this beloved park offers something for all ages, from playgrounds and volleyball courts to a large spring-fed pool.
Explore the entire park on the Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train tour, then spend some time at your favorite attractions. Here are just a few of the things you can do:
- Stroll through the Zilker Botanical Garden: This 26-acre space has multiple themed gardens, including koi ponds, live oaks, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a cactus garden, and more. It’s the perfect combination of interesting discovery for the little ones and relaxation for the adults.
- Discover the exhibits at the Austin Nature and Science Center: Established in 1960, this museum is dedicated to the exploration of the natural world. It has a wildlife exhibit, dino pit, naturalist workshop, forest trail, pollinator garden, and even a honey bee observation hive!
- Cool off at the Barton Springs Pool: One of the top gathering spots in the city, this 3-acre pool is the perfect place to swim any time of year. The pool figures prominently in the city’s history — it’s where Robert Redford learned to swim as a child and where legislators have come up with state laws.
- Catch a performance at the Zilker Hillside Theater: Stick around after your splash in the pool for a performance at this outdoor stage, just steps from Barton Springs. Between March and October, the theater hosts a variety of family-friendly productions, like Shakespeare in the Park and the Zilker Summer Musical. Spread out on the lawn and end the day with a nice dose of art and culture.
- Marvel at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum: This calm oasis is the ideal place to slow down and take in your surroundings. It features a permanent collection of bronze figurative sculptures by Charles Umlauf as well as rotating exhibits in the garden and indoor gallery. The kiddos will especially enjoy the garden’s pond and waterfall.
2. Enjoy the City’s Lakes
Thanks to its location at the end of the Colorado River, Austin has several reservoir lakes that offer endless fun on the water. Some of the local favorites are Lake Georgetown, Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake.
Choose your own lake adventure, whether you want to rent a boat for a memorable day on the water or are looking for something more active. If your kids are a little older, opt for a kayak tour or SUP rental and enjoy an exciting adventure!
Paddle sports are a great way to enjoy the sights, learn about the area, get a little exercise, and tire out the whole family. This is a favorite activity among the locals, so you get to see what Austin life is all about. After your paddle, relax by the edge of the water and soak in the beautiful city skyline.
3. Visit the Austin Zoo
What kid doesn’t love a zoo? Austin’s zoo is special because its mission is to assist animals in need with rescue, conservation, and education initiatives. A visit to the zoo provides the perfect mix of education and exciting animal encounters, making it the ideal family activity in Austin.
From native Texas wildlife to big cats and impressive primates, kids have the chance to learn about wildlife from around the world. If they want to get up close and personal, check out the Galapagos tortoise encounter and hand-feed some lettuce to these fascinating creatures. Then meet the adorable capybara and fall in love with these friendly rodents. Visit the zoo early, when the animals are active, for the best experience.
4. See the Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge
If your kids are animal lovers, you absolutely can’t miss Ausin’s number one attraction: bat watching at Congress Avenue Bridge. Every night between mid-March and late October, millions of Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from the bridge, covering the sky in a dark cloud of flapping wings at dusk.
The underside of the bridge is the perfect summer home for the roosting bats and their pups, which are typically born in late June. Their nightly flight is a delight for all ages. Enjoy the show from the bridge, from the water on Lady Bird Lake, or pack up a picnic and head to The Statesman Bat Observation Center for a pleasant family evening.
5. Explore the Austin Aquarium
Can’t get enough animal adventures? Keep the educational fun going with a visit to the Austin Aquarium, where you can meet thousands of species including amphibians, birds, tropical fish, reptiles, stingrays, and sharks.
Some of the kids’ favorite exhibits include the floating jellyfish and the interactive encounters with lemurs and sloths. They can even help feed the octopuses, stingrays, tortoises, and more. Don’t forget to take a selfie with a mermaid!
6. Learn About the History of Texas
If you have a history buff in the family, Austin has you covered with some iconic institutions. Start with a visit to the stately Texas Capitol, where you can enjoy a free 30-minute tour and learn about this historic building. You can also opt for a self-guided tour and explore at your own pace with a tour pamphlet from the Capitol Visitor’s Center. Check out the exhibits to learn about cowboys and cowgirls, Texas traditions, and more.
This is the largest capitol building in the country, with a sprawling three stories built with Sunset Red Texas Granite. It stands a full 14 feet higher than the U.S. Capitol Building! Get up close to appreciate the more intricate details, like the brass door hinges and imposing chandeliers. Keep your eyes peeled in the House of Representatives Chamber as you look for the light bulbs that spell out T-E-X-A-S. This is a challenge kids of all ages can get involved in.
The fun doesn’t end with the building. The Capitol grounds span 22 acres full of landscaped lawns, imposing trees, 17 monuments, and more historic buildings. Be sure to bring a camera!
Next, head a block north of the Capitol to the Bullock Texas State History Museum for even more culture and history. Make your way through the history of Texas as you ascend through each floor. Learn about the early development of the area, colonization, the struggle for racial equality, the state’s oil and gas history, the history of music in Austin, and so much more. There’s even an exhibit on the history of the guitar.
Plan your visit on the first weekend of the month to take advantage of Free First Sundays. Your kids’ are sure to get an A on their “what I did this summer” reports!
7. Play to Your Hearts’ Content at the Texas Toy Museum
Even the most studious of kids can get a little bogged down with too much history, so liven up your day with a visit to the whimsical Austin Toy Museum! This unique museum on Congress Avenue celebrates vintage toys, games, and action figures. The museum is a delight for every member of the family — adults get to walk down nostalgia lane as kids discover a vast array of fun toys.
Many of the exhibits are interactive, including the arcade games. Show your kids how it’s done with a round or two of Pac Man, Space Invaders, or the classic Mortal Kombat. You may even get a chance to add your name to the high score board! This affordable and fun museum promises a memorable day of non-stop play.
8. Take a Walk Down South Congress Avenue
An exciting family outing can be as simple as walking down an iconic street to see what you discover. Austin’s SoCo district is the place to be on a sunny day. Check out the vintage shops for funky souvenirs, stop at a restaurant for a delicious lunch, and take pictures at the famous “I Love You So Much” mural. Your family holiday card is sorted!
The kids’ favorite stop is sure to be the circus-themed Big Top Candy Shop. Opened in 2007, this quirky shop is an experience unto itself. Check out the circus memorabilia, head to the old-fashioned soda fountain for a refreshing drink, and let the kids choose from the vast selection of penny candies. Sugar rush alert!
There’s no other city in the world like Austin, with its unique mix of culture and outdoor fun. This is the place to let your kids be themselves and enjoy their favorite activities, whether they love sports, wildlife, or video games. That’s what “Keep Austin Weird” really means — embracing the things that make you one of a kind.
Plan the perfect family vacation with this list of kids’ activities in Austin, and get ready to come back for more. Find all the best tours and activities in the city to make your vacation unforgettable.