15 Best Things to Do With Kids in Austin, Texas

'Le Bonheur de vivre' (The Joy of Life) mural by Doug Jacques at W 24th Street near UT campus.
Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

The Texas capital has no shortage of family-friendly activities for kids of all ages. While Austin has plenty to do outdoors (swimming at Barton Springs or playing outdoors at Butler Park are perennial favorites), the city is also home to interesting kid-friendly museums, like The Thinkery and the Austin Science & Nature Center. Whatever your family's needs are and whether you're with a toddler or a teenager, Austin will keep the whole family entertained during your Texas vacation.

01 of 15

Descend Into an Underground Cavern

Discovery Room at Inner Space Cavern
jollyphoto / Getty Images
Address
4200 S I-35 Frontage Rd, Georgetown, TX 78626, USA
Phone +1 512-931-2283

Right outside of Austin in the suburb of Georgetown is one of the state's most fascinating attractions: the Inner Space Cavern. There are a network of caves within the Texas Hill Country that make up the Texas Cave Trail, but the Inner Space Cavern is the easiest to reach from Austin. No matter how hot or cold it is outside, the naturally regulated cavern is always 72 degrees F, so it's a perfect escape whether the outdoor climate is frigid or sweltering. The different tour options range from easier to more difficult depending on the ages of the visitors, with an easy hour-long option open to all ages or a more challenging four-hour tour for kids at least 13 years old.

02 of 15

Climb, Splash, and Explore at the Alliance Children's Garden

Alliance Children's Garden in Austin

City of Austin

Address
1000 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704, USA

The much-awaited Alliance Children's Garden opened inside Butler Park in the summer of 2021, with the goal to create a space in Austin that the entire family could enjoy. The park was designed to be a "multigenerational play space" to appeal to young kids, older siblings, parents, and even grandparents. All of the features at the park are meant to be interacted with, from the giant ant sculptures to musical columns that can be played. The park was built with Austin summers in mind, so visitors will find plenty of shade as well as a water-spewing area to cool off.

03 of 15

Ride on the Zilker Eagle Electric Train

Zilker Eagle train in Austin

Austin Parks Foundation

Address
2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746, USA

The miniature train through Zilker Park has been a kid-friendly staple in Austin since 1961, so when heavy rain irreparably damaged the tracks in 2019, it took a community effort to bring the timeless landmark back. Known as the Zilker Zephyr for years, the brand new train was re-dubbed as the Zilker Eagle. Apart from the name, other changes included a fully electric locomotive and an alternative train route that includes a stunning view of the Austin skyline. Depending on the season, you may also see meadows filled with spring flowers or the bald cypress trees with their fiery fall foliage, making this one of the most scenic excursions in all of Austin.

04 of 15

Take a Plunge at Barton Springs Pool

Two girls jumping into the water at Barton Springs

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson

Address
2201 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746, USA
Phone +1 512-974-6300

In July and August, Barton Springs is the most popular daytime hangout for all ages in Austin. The 68-degree water provides welcome relief from the scorching temperatures. For kiddos, the three-acre pool has a huge shallow end and a designated area for floats. The diving board is low enough for small kids, and one of the original springs is near the landing zone, ensuring a constant supply of cold water. In the shallow end, water shoes are recommended since the bottom is rocky and sometimes covered in algae, which can be slippery. There are lifeguards on duty, but the pool is large so keep an eye on children.

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05 of 15

Play a Round at Peter Pan Mini Golf

A large statue of a dinosaur

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson 

Address
1207 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704-1007, USA
Phone +1 512-472-1033

It’s hard to miss the giant green Peter Pan statue as you drive by. A south Austin institution since 1948, the facility has two 18-hole courses full of dinosaurs, pirates, whales and other whimsical characters. The west course is challenging, but the east course involves mostly straight shots, and you’ll hear the occasional "whoop" signifying a hole-in-one. In keeping with its retro image, the course only takes cash, so be prepared. Adults are allowed to BYOB, so there may be a few mildly tipsy players, but they rarely get rowdy. There’s also a picnic area that can be rented for birthday parties.

06 of 15

Get Little Brains Whirring at Austin's Children’s Museum

Kids exploring the children's museum

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson 

Address
1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723, USA
Phone +1 512-469-6200

With the goal of challenging children’s brains while keeping them amused, The Thinkery is a children’s museum on steroids. Kids can learn about fluid dynamics (and get wet) in the Currents exhibit while tinkering with water walls and fountains. It’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes and water shoes. Fortunately, there are child-sized dryers available. Meanwhile, The Inventor’s Workshop invites kids to create by offering hands-on workstations for everything from woodworking to electronics. For younger kids, there are also story times throughout the day. The outdoor play area has ropes and a jungle gym for your little monkeys.

07 of 15

Get Wild at the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary

Iguana at Austin Zoo
The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary
Address
10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin, TX 78736, USA
Phone +1 512-288-1490

As educational as it is entertaining, the Austin Zoo houses only animals that have been rescued from private homes and other settings that were not suitable for wildlife. The zoo is also small enough to explore thoroughly in about an hour. The tiger, African lion, and Galapagos tortoise are must-sees. In the petting zoo, kids can feed some extremely friendly goats and even a capybara. Kids who like scary animals will appreciate the bizarre hyenas and iguanas. The zoo also has a coatimundi, a raccoon-like mammal that is actually native to Texas but is rarely seen in the wild.

08 of 15

Hike at Barton Creek Greenbelt

A creek surrounded by rocks and hilltops covered in green trees

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson

Address
Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail, Austin, TX 78746, USA

For the little hikers in the family, the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers miles and miles of unstructured fun. Make sure the little ones wear shoes with good traction because portions of the trail meander over big boulders that are slippery after a rainstorm. Also, beware of over-excited dogs running along the trail off-leash. In their exuberance, they can easily bowl over a small child, particularly on the narrow section of the route. Portions of the trail are shaded, but most of it is in full sun so bring plenty of water, hats, and sunscreen. The entrance to the trail is in the parking lot of Barton Springs.

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09 of 15

Hunt for Bones at the Austin Nature & Science Center

Kids inside the conservation center

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson  

Address
2389 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746, USA
Phone +1 512-974-3888

Kids love the Dino Pit, where they can dig up reproductions of actual dinosaur fossils found in central Texas. The giant sand pit is also dotted with informative signs that help children learn more about the ancient creatures and paleontology in general. The large dinosaur tracks are based on actual tracks found several years ago during the construction of a nearby building. The center also runs a wildlife rehabilitation facility that houses recuperating wildlife, such as bobcats, hawks and owls. The Small Wonders exhibit features lizards, fish, turtles and snakes you might encounter around Austin. Nature-oriented day camps are available throughout the summer.

10 of 15

Roam and Run at Mueller Lake Park

View of Lake Meuller

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson

Address
4550 Mueller Blvd, Austin, TX 78723, USA
Phone +1 512-703-9202

Located within walking distance of the Thinkery, this park in the heart of the Mueller neighborhood consists of 30 acres surrounding a six-acre lake. The kids will have plenty of open space to roam as well as five miles of gravel and concrete paths that wind through the park. While swimming in the lake is prohibited, catch-and-release fishing and duck feeding are allowed. The fenced-in playground area features standard swings and slides in addition to jungle gyms and whimsical sculptures. If you get hungry, food trucks are usually parked nearby, making for a great impromptu picnic.

11 of 15

Trek Up Mount Bonnell

People hanging out at the top of Mount Bonnell at sunset

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson

Address
Mt Bonnell, Austin, TX 78731, USA

One of the most scenic spots in Austin, Mount Bonnell is a 775-foot hill overlooking Lake Austin. The long stairway to the top is a snap for most kids, though parents may be a little winded by the time they reach the summit. The viewing area at the top has a few benches and partial shade, but it’s not really designed for an extended stay. Most people climb to the top, take a few pictures, have a snack or picnic lunch and head back down. In addition to great views of downtown Austin, you can see the city’s surprising amount of green space. 

12 of 15

Dive into Lake Austin

View of Lake Austin with the bridge

TripSavvy / Austen Johnson

Address
1706 City Park Rd, Austin, TX 78730-4201, USA
Phone +1 512-974-6797

Unlike Lady Bird Lake to the east, Lake Austin is mostly surrounded by commercial and residential property. However, public access is available at Emma Long Metropolitan Park. The park has about a mile of waterfront, a designated swimming area and plenty of open space for tossing around a football or a Frisbee. It’s also fun to sit and watch the ski boats cruise by. A small pier is available for fishing. If you’re looking for a more exciting way to experience Lake Austin, head to Keep Austin Wet to rent stand-up paddleboards, ski boats, and pontoon boats. 

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13 of 15

Shoot Ray Guns at Blazer Tag Adventure Center

Lazer tag players

Blazer Tag Adventure Center

Address
1701 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 78704, USA
Phone +1 512-462-0202

Located in a former movie theater, this multilevel laser tag facility gives kids a safe place to act out their war-hero fantasies. After watching a two-minute orientation, they’ll be ready to suit up and start shooting. Players get to come up with their code names, which are displayed on a scoreboard. A light-sensitive vest records the “shots” from light-emitting guns. The guns have a relatively long range, so it’s possible to shoot someone at the other side of the arena from the elevated Sky Trail. Participants can learn teamwork, patience and how to be downright sneaky when necessary. There’s also an on-site arcade and snack bar.

14 of 15

Gawk at Flying Mammals at Congress Avenue Bat Bridge

Austin-bat-bridge.jpg
Fritz Poelking/Getty Images
Address
100 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704, USA

Even hard-to-impress kids will be amazed by the sight of 1.5 million bats emerging from the underside of the Congress Avenue bridge. The bats make their nightly appearance just before sunset between March and October. If you arrive early enough, the best viewing is from the top of the bridge. That vantage point allows you to see the emergence as well as their continued flight to the east. However, the area below the bridge has a hillside that gives kids the option of running around or lying down. From that position, you’ll see only the initial part of the spectacle, but it’s still awesome. 

15 of 15

Reach New Heights at Mt. Playmore

Child playing in arcade

Mt. Playmore

Address
13609 N Interstate Hwy 35, Austin, TX 78753, USA
Phone +1 512-989-8886

Equipped with one of the largest indoor playscapes in town, Mt. Playmore is an ideal destination for rainy days. The ingeniously designed space features a central seating area for exhausted parents. For those who want to play along with the kids, the climbing features and tunnels are built with enough space for grown-ups. Security is a priority; kids and parents get matching blacklight stamps that are double-checked when you exit. Mt. Playmore also features an arcade, a toddler area, and a restaurant. For kids who love critters, there’s even a live reptile show every Wednesday. 

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15 Best Things to Do With Kids in Austin, Texas