Austin with Kids: 35 Best Things To Do in Austin, Texas

In winter, visit Luminations at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo by Ann Alva Weiding Photography, at
In winter, visit Luminations at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo by Ann Alva Weiding Photography, at
5/24/24 - By Ashley Jones

Austin, Texas might be known for it's live music and college scene, but it's also an amazing city for a family weekend trip. It's the state's capital, which means it's rich with historical sites, museums, and iconic landmarks. Plus, it's full of opportunities to swim, hike, and eat Tex-Mex. This list of things to do in Austin, Texas includes quirky toy shops, breathtaking outdoor sites, unique museums, and even a collection of old "junk" in one man's backyard.

Stopping in Austin on the way to the Hill Country? We have a Texas Hill Country with Kids guide as well. And don't forget to check out our Houston Day Trips and Family Getaways Guide for more easy travel ideas.


Things to do in Austin Texas
Light Lab photo courtesy of Thinkery

Best Things to Do in Austin with Kids

1. Visit Thinkery

Thinkery is filled with hands-on exhibits that encourage kids to explore how things work to foster creativity and innovation through play. A light lab, art space, innovators' workshop, and massive outdoor play structure give kids plenty of opportunities to learn about topics in science, engineering, math, and art. 

​2. Climb Mount Bonnell

Climb the 102 stairs to the top of Mount Bonnell for an amazing view of Lake Austin. Hiking to the top of the city's highest point (775 feet!) may sound like a tall order, but this trek is perfectly kid-friendly at only about one-third of a mile long. Much of the stair portion features handrails.

3. Check out the UT campus

It might feel too early to start thinking about college, but The University of Texas at Austin's campus features gorgeous historical statues and architecture, the famous UT tower, the Texas Memorial Museum, and the Henry Ranson Center. While you're there, be sure to hit The Drag (on Guadalupe, the main street directly across from campus) to shop the school store, The Co-Op, explore quirky retail shops, and nosh on some ice cream at Amy's

4. Play Putt-Putt

Peter Pan Mini Golf has two courses to explore. They've been keeping Austin weird since 1948 with larger-than-life character statues (like a giant Peter Pan and T-Rex) throughout the park, which provide the perfect backdrop for fun impromptu photos. 

5. Tour the State Capitol

Learn about the Texas government, Texas history, and more on a guided tour of the Texas State Capitol building. Fun tip: Try standing directly in the center of the building's rotunda on the star on the floor and whisper your name while looking up to the star located on the very top of the ceiling. You can hear your whispered name echoed back to you!

Related: 9 Things to Do in New Braunfels, Texas, Besides Schlitterbahn

Things to do in Austin Texas: Barton Springs
Cooling off at Barton Springs

6. Go swimming at Zilker Park

Explore the natural beauty of Zilker Park. While you're there, take a dip in the natural spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, rent a kayak to take out on the water, or dig in the "dino pit" at the Austin Science and Nature Center.

Things to do in Austin Texas: Austin Toy Museum 
See vintage toys and games at Austin Toy Museum. Photo courtesy of the Austin Toy Museum

7. Visit Austin Toy Museum

Explore a bevy of vintage toys, video game consoles, and action figures at Austin Toy Museum. Take the tour and let your kids play vintage arcade games until their heart's content.

8. Dinner and a movie

Catch the latest flick, a film festival favorite, or an all-time classic movie at Alamo Drafthouse. With several locations throughout the capital city, families can enjoy dinner and a movie all at once at this family-friendly dine-in theater.

​9. Tour an ever-evolving "museum"

See one of Austin's most unique sites, the Cathedral of Junk, almost 30 years worth of "treasures" collected by a local man in his back yard. The collection consists of statues built from everything you can think of, including bicycle wheels, tin cans, surfboards, and many other gadgets. Because this landmark is located at a private residence, tours are by appointment only. 

Things to do in Austin Texas: Volente Beach
Volente Beach lilypad crossing. Photo courtesy Volente Beach

10. Spend the day at a water park resort

Located on beautiful Lake Travis, Volente Beach offers a lakefront water park with ample slides and pools for splashing and lounging, as well as their own family-friendly restaurant, Beachside Billy's, where you'll find burgers, pizzas, and sandwiches. They even curate fun events like movie screenings where patrons float on inner tubes. 

Things to do in Austin Texas
Austin's postcard mural is perfect for selfies. 

​11. Visit the city's murals

Take Instagram-worthy photos with the many, many murals around town including the every popular "i love you so much..." wall painting on Congress Avenue and the "Greetings From Austin" postcard mural on 1st Street.

12. See the South Congress Bats

Watch approximately 1.5 million bats emerge from underneath the South Congress Bridge at sundown. Mexican free-tailed bats swoop and swirl in spectacular fashion each night for almost an hour and can be best seen while standing directly on South Congress Bridge.

13. Visit the Aquarium

The Austin Aquarium's interactive exhibits are unlike any you'll find at other venues. They allow kids to touch and feed fish, pet stingrays, and more while learning about their natural habitats, migration patterns, and life cycles. The aquarium's ever-popular rainforest exhibit is home to a host of reptiles and exotic birds. 

14. Interact with rescued zoo animals

Austin Zoo is home to animals that can no longer return to the wild, and houses large cats, primates, mammals, reptiles, and native animals of all kinds. Kids can feed deer, goats, and llamas, as well as listen to zookeeper talks throughout the day to learn more about certain animals. 

Things to do in Austin Texas: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

15. Stop to smell flowers

See beautiful blooms at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home to native Texas wildflowers including the state flower, the bluebonnet. If you visit during the spring season, you'll likely catch a sea of sparkling blue as the bluebonnets typically bloom in early April.  

16. Visit a historic farm

The 1800's farmhouse at Boggy Creek Farm is one of the two oldest houses still in existence in Austin. Shop the farm's produce, or take a tour.

17. Try rock climbing from the safety of the AC

Climb at Austin's premier indoor rock climbing facility, Crux Climbing Center. This fun venue even offers a climbing room just for kids under 12. The gym features plenty of course options for all climbers from beginner to advanced, including adults.

18. Go for a garden stroll

Watch colorful peacocks flaunt their plumes at the nature preserve at Mayfield Park and see restored historic cottages, natural ponds, artistic sculptures, and blooming gardens. 

19. Learn about the great state of Texas

View rare documents and see ancient artifacts at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Because everything really is bigger in Texas, the museum is home to the state's largest IMAX screen, where you can catch special screenings of popular new releases or watch captivating educational films. 

Related: Top Things to Do In Galveston, Texas, With Kids

Things to do in Austin Texas: Austin Central Library
Special exhibits at Austin Central Library. Photo courtesy Austin Central Library

20. Spend the afternoon at the library

At six stories tall, the Austin Central Library isn't just any library. Take in the sweeping lakefront views while your kids explore the well-stocked children's area, play with hands-on kids exhibits, or attend storytime with enthusiastic library hosts and guests.

21. Chill out at Chaparral Ice

Chaparral Ice is home to recreational and competitive ice skating, hockey, and curling programs. Free skate times are open to the public each day and Chaparral has ice skate rentals available for a nominal fee. 

22. Play laser tag

Blazer Tag Adventure Center features the largest laser tag arena in the Lone Star State. While you're there, be sure to check out the stellar arcade games and try your hand at the 20-foot-high ropes course, Austin Sky Trail. 

23. Hike, bike, or skate around the lake

Stroll down the ADA accessible Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk and take in gorgeous views of Austin's city skyline. The wide boardwalk as it winds its way through the urban landscape, past neighborhoods, city buildings, waterfront and park spaces.

24. Skate the day away

Playland Skate Center is a retro-style roller rink with the largest skating surface in the capital city. In addition to the pristine wooden-floored skating area, Playland also features a fun video game arcade to enjoy.

25. Introduce the kids to the games of yore

Play on Texas' largest collection of pinball machines at Pinballz Arcade. This eclectic venue features old-school arcade and video games, modern arcade games, and an escape room, as well as a cafe that serves breakfast tacos all day long. 

26. Watch history come alive

The 90-acre Pioneer Farms has five themed areas to explore that include replicas of Native American encampments, rural farm demonstrations, a cotton farm, and even a petting zoo. 

Things to do in Austin Texas: Typhoon Texas 
Splash pads and wade pools perfect for smaller kids at Typhoon Jr. Photo courtesy of Typhoon Texas

27. Visit a nearby water park

Slip and slide through Typhoon Texas water park in nearby Pflugerville, about 20 miles outside of Austin. Typhoon Texas opens for the season each Memorial Day Weekend, and features fast slides, miles of tubing adventures, splash pads and wade pools for smaller kids. In addition to the traditional water park attractions, Typhoon Texas boasts ropes course challenges and a zip line to ramp up the fun. 

28. Head to a show

Watch a variety of top-notch performances at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Diverse programming at this unique venue offers 80 percent local artist performances of theater, dance, comedy, and music. Free community events are often held throughout the year. 

29. Shop til you drop

While The Domain is filled with high-end stores, it also boasts three free children's play areas to help keep kids entertained throughout your visit.

Kid-Friendly Austin Restaurants

30. Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex reigns supreme in Austin.  Try Torchy's Tacos (fast), Maudie's (6 convenient locations), and Matt's El Rancho (worth the wait).

31. Texas BBQ

Ok, here's the deal on eating at Franklin Barbecue in Austin with kids: Instead of waiting in line for hours for brisket, preorder it from Franklin's, pick it up curbside, and take it to go. It's a must-eat Austin restaurant, but it's hard to recommend lining up at 8 am and waiting with your kids until they open at 11.

We also love The County Line, which has two kid-friendly, scenic locations in Austin.

32. Whole Foods Austin

Yes, it's a grocery store, but the flagship Whole Foods on Lamar has a secret rooftop patio with shade and a playground, so grab a slice of pizza (or any of the premade food options) and a six-pack of craft beer, and head to the roof for a casual, kid-friendly meal.

Where to Stay in Austin with Kids

33. Budget Hotel in Austin - Aiden by Best Western at Austin City Hotel 

Aiden by Best Western at Austin City Hotel has a charming boutique style backed by a major name brand. Kids will love the large outdoor pool with a wading area for little ones and parents will enjoy the hot tub. A complimentary full breakfast is provided with stay, and rooms are equipped with an in-room fridge to store drinks and snacks. Cribs and rollaway beds are available upon request, and rooms are pet-friendly with an additional fee. 

34. Moderately-Priced Hotel in Austin - Lakeway Resort & Spa

Located on the shores of Lake Travis, Lakeway Resort & Spa has pools for all ages including a splash pad for the smaller kids and an Adventure Slide for everyone. If parents want to indulge in a pampering spa treatment, you can drop kids over 5 at the Kids’ Zone for up to two hours where they can play mini golf, ping-pong, air hockey, and tons more. The resort also hosts seasonal events and outdoor film screenings in the evenings.

35. Kid-friendly Luxury Hotel in Austin - Fairmont Austin

If you want to stay in the vibrant Downtown area of Austin, the Fairmont Austin brings family-friendly luxury to your vacation. This splurge-worthy pick boasts a heated swimming pool, five onsite restaurants, and prime location steps away from Downtown Austin and close to Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs Pool.

All photos courtesy of Visit Austin unless otherwise noted.

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Places featured in this article:

The University of Texas at Austin Visitor's Center

Bullock Texas State History Museum

"Greetings From Austin" Postcard Mural

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center