Best Places to Go with Kids in Austin
Exploring Austin is so much fun for curious and energetic kids of all ages. There are so many exciting things to see and do, all within a short drive from any part of the city. With the activities available, school holidays, vacations, and weekends will pass quickly but will last forever as memories. Plan a day trip to one place and then perhaps a picnic at another. Austinites know how unpredictable the weather can be at any time of year, but there are plenty of activities, indoor and out, for sunny or rainy days.
Peter Pan Mini Golf
This has been a South Austin institution since 1946 for a reason; it is pure fun! The kids will get to play golf around whales, pirates, and even dinosaurs. With two 18-hole courses you are bound to work up an appetite, so bring a picnic or a cooler. It is also a perfect destination for parties, just call in advance to rent the space. Even better is that they will be responsible for the clean-up, and the kids will be entertained for hours. Getting the kids away from their video games and letting them hit a bucket of balls gets them on their feet and interacting with their peers. Peter Pan Mini Golf is the perfect place to go on a sunny Austin day.
The Butler District Park
On a hot day, this hilltop park on the south side of Lady Bird Lake, near the Long Center, has a splash pad that is perfect for the kids to run through to cool off. The park is less crowded than Zilker Park or Auditorium Shores, and there are off-leash dog areas nearby, so bring your kid's four-legged best friend. You will find many places to grab a bite within the nearby Barton Springs restaurant row. Sandy's Frozen Custard is down the street so be sure make it a drive through stop on the way home and grab an old-fashioned Austin treat.
Ai Weiwei Forever Bicycles
This art installation is located on the water near the intersection of Caesar Chavez Street and Red River Street, on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. It puts a nice spin on bikes that your children will not soon forget. It is a temporary exhibition that will disappear in November 2018, so add it to your bucket list or lose this once-in-a-lifetime chance forever. There are bathrooms at the coffee house next to it, and many places for the kids to run around. Have them bring their kites to fly over the lake. It is a lovely place for a picnic, and while you can't touch the bikes, don't forget your camera to capture these lifelong memories. You will be glad that you found this hidden gem of an exhibit.
The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary
This unique sanctuary only houses animals that have been rescued from private homes or places where wildlife is not suitable. The zoo is small enough to see in about an hour and has a petting zoo with friendly goats and giant tortoises for the kids to interact with. Their rehab center is invaluable for animals, and it offers many enrichment activities. They also host fun events on the weekends that are family friendly. Some of the animals paint, so check out their art, which is also for sale.
Mueller Lake Park
A 30-acre park surrounding a six-acre lake, this beautiful space is conveniently located downtown. The kids will love the room to run, and there is a five-mile path that wiggles and winds its way through the park, great for your furry friends that need some exercise too. Feeding the ducks and fishing (catch and release) is encouraged. There is a fenced-in playground area with jungle gyms and whimsical sculptures that your kids won't want to leave. There are also plenty of restaurants nearby in the Mueller shopping area that help you end the day with a delicious meal.
It can be hard to have your kids get their energy out during bad weather, but with a fun indoor play space, Jumpoline Park can help. It features several rooms with wall-to-wall trampolines, an indoor dodgeball area, a bouncy basketball court, and a freestyle area where the entire family can do somersaults and practice their dance moves. The kids will come home exhausted and ready for bed.
The State Capitol
The Austin state capitol building is free and full of surprises. It is actually quite versatile and is a fun adventure on sunny or rainy days. The grounds of the building are lovely, and picnics are encouraged. There are free guided tours and a large underground section that has a very affordable cafeteria. The building is impressive with many rooms to explore. The Texas Legislature only meets every two years, so check the schedule if you are interested in seeing how the government operates up close. It is an educational experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Inner Space Caverns
If you are ready for your kids to have a true adventure but the weather is too hot or wet, go underground with this great Texas treasure. It was discovered accidentally by the Texas Highway's core drilling team in 1963 after sitting there quietly for over 10,000 years. There are cathedral-sized rooms where hundreds of thousands of visitors are left speechless by the natural beauty. There is an outdoor playground, a mining area, and a gift shop with a fossil display. No strollers, food, drinks, wheelchairs, candy, or gum are allowed and you'll want to wear your walking shoes as the paths are all natural and some bumps and uneven spots remain. It is perfect for the hot days of summer as it is a constant 72 degrees with 98% humidity inside the cave, so it feels more like 80 degrees. Between the walking and the temperature, you will stay cool and the kids will love being underground.
Austin is a very family-oriented city with many activities and events happening on a regular basis. For more information regarding family-friendly events, be sure to check out the 365 Things to Do in Austin blog or venture downtown and ask the locals. Even if there are no events going on the weekend you are planning your family adventure, there are always parks, restaurants, and museums that are open to the public year-round. With so much to do, the only problem will be choosing where to go.