We’ve all heard the saying that “everything is bigger in Texas”. Yes, maybe most things are larger, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do for the little people in our lives (i.e. kids). Even though Austin is known for its beautiful scenery and weird nature, kids may not appreciate it the same way adults do. They need to see the city through a different perspective, through more entertaining and exciting activities. Don’t worry, the list below has got you covered on activities that cater specifically for children. And just because the list is kids-oriented, it does not mean that adults can’t join in the fun and enjoy family time as well.
1. Feed the animals at the Austin Zoo
Located just 30 minutes away from the city, Austin Zoo is a small non-profit zoo that works to help animals in need. Today, they have over 350 rescued animals of over 100 species within their compound. It is also home to numerous exotic animals—such as 4 wolf hybrids that were abandoned during a hurricane in 2008, and what is believed to be the extinct Barbary lion that was a private donation to the zoo. Kids can feed goats, deer, llamas, and sheep with animal feed sold at the Gift Shop for 2.50 USD per bag. Stroll through the zoo and find your kids’ favorite animal. There is also a 15-minute optional train ride through Texas Hill Country where animals can be seen along the route if that interests you.
Address: 10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin, TX, 78736
Opening Hours: 9:30am - 6pm (February to October), 9:30am - 5:30pm (November to January)
Duration: Around 2 hours
Price: 11 USD (adults), 8 USD (children) *Additional 2.50 USD for optional train ride
Website: Austin Zoo
2. Explore the rides at Kiddie Acres
Kiddie Acres is an amusement park and miniature golf complex designed specifically for children 10 years old and younger. It features several kiddie rides, such as the carousel and ferris wheel, and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Since large theme parks like Six Flags cater few rides for little kids, Kiddie Acres provides kids with activities designed just for them. Your children will have a blast going on rides and exploring the park. While entrance is free, tickets must be purchased for rides that require a specific number of tickets each. Tickets are sold individually, and in packages of 10, 25, or 100. Buy a package for a better deal on the tickets.
Address: 4800 W Howard Lane, Austin, TX 78728-6304
Opening Hours: 10am - 6pm (Tuesday to Friday), 10am - 7pm (Saturday) [April to October]; 12pm - 6pm (Sunday). Closed on Mondays *Park opens 2 hours later everyday (except Sundays) between November to March
Price: 2.25 USD (single ticket), 18 USD (10 tickets), 35 USD (25 tickets) *5 USD for children under 12 (miniature golf)
Website: Kiddie Acres
3. Enjoy a day of family fun at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
The Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex is an entertainment facility, owned by the City of Austin, with a skating rink, bowling center, arcade, and 154-seat theater. It encompasses a variety of activities all under one roof. The best day to visit is Friday, which the complex has deemed as ‘Family Fun Day’, because they give discounted prices for all activities for both adults and kids. You could spend an entire day in there just moving around from activity to activity without spending too much.
Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
Address: 1156 Hargrave Street, Austin, TX 78702
Opening Hours: 10am - 7pm (Wednesday to Thursday), 10am - 11pm (Friday to Saturday). Closed from Sunday to Tuesday *Note that individual activities within the complex may open later or close earlier than the given opening times
4. Innovate and create at The Thinkery
Formerly known as the Austin Children’s Museum, The Thinkery is a museum that encourages children to connect with ideas through a hands-on approach. It emphasizes particularly on the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) fields. Within the museum, there are various exhibitions that focus on a range of topics, such as Innovators’ Workshop, Light Lab, Kitchen Lab, and more. It is a great place for kids to have fun and learn at the same time.
Address: 1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723
Opening Hours: 12pm - 5pm (Monday), 10am - 5pm (Tuesday to Friday), 10am - 6pm (Saturday to Sunday)
Price: 10 USD
Website: The Thinkery
5. Roam free among nature at Zilker Park
Located in the heart of the city, Zilker Park is known as the crown jewel of the Austin parks system. It is a popular park for families to spend an entire day in. Pack some food and head out to the park for a little picnic. Surround yourself with vast grass patches that are perfect for kids to run around in. Within the park, you can also visit several attractions, such as Austin Nature and Science Center to learn about nature, Zilker Botanical Gardens to explore plant life, or Barton Springs Pool for a swim.
Address: 2100 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78746
Opening Hours: 5am - 10pm
Duration: At least 1 - 2 hours
Website: Zilker Park
6. Gape at life-sized dinosaurs at Dinosaur Park
Dinosaur Park is located approximately 20 miles or 32 km (30-minute drive) away from downtown Austin. With the life-sized dinosaur replicas and realistic depictions of skin color variations, kids can learn about these historical creatures and understand what they looked like. They can also uncover ‘fossils’ from the sand at Dino Dig, ideal for kids who are particularly interested in dinosaurs. Note that it is an outdoor exhibit and museum, so remember to slather on sunscreen before you head out.
Address: 893 Union Chapel Road, Cedar Creek, TX 78612
Opening Hours: 10am - 4pm. Closed on Mondays
Duration: Around 1 - 2 hours
Price: 7 USD
Website: Dinosaur Park
7. Learn about the ins-and-outs of a farm at Boggy Creek Farm
Explore farm life right in the middle of the city at the Boggy Creek Farm. Located within the city, this East Austin original urban farm is great for a quick little getaway. They host an organic market stand selling fresh fruits and vegetables four days a week. Arrive as early as possible to get the freshest goods. The farm is also open for visitors to explore at any time during these market days, where kids can roam around and see the farm’s crops, compost area, hen house, and more. If you’re particularly interested in the workings of the farm, attend one of their free guided tours that is offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. Kids are not only encouraged to eat healthier here, but they also get to see a different aspect of urban life.
Boggy Creek Farm
Address: 3414 Lyons Road, Austin TX 78702
Opening Hours: 8am - 1pm (Wednesday to Saturday) *Guided tours only offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am
Website: Boggy Creek Farm
8. Grab dinner at a food trailer park
Austin is known for its food trailer parks that feature a collection of food trucks in one space. These parks are the easiest way to get a variety of options that your kids can choose from, especially with picky eaters or large families. Don’t worry if one child wants to eat a burger, while the other wants to eat tacos, and the third wants Asian stir-fry. Chances are the food trailer park has got you covered. In essence, it makes for an affordable and delicious meal. I recommend checking out The Midway Food Park — not only is there a wide range of food, there is also a playground adjacent to it that your kids can play in after the meal.
The Midway Food Park
Address: 1905 S. Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746
Opening Hours: 11am - 9pm (may vary depending on individual trailer’s hours)
Website: The Midway Food Park
9. Take a ride on a historic steam locomotive at the Austin Steam Train Association
The Austin Steam Train Association (ASTA) aims to to preserve and re-create the experience of historic steam locomotive transportation. Kids with a particular interest in trains and locomotives will thoroughly enjoy this experience. With its primary purpose being enjoyment and education, ASTA offers various routes that are suitable for all age groups. The duration of these train rides ranges from 2.5 – 6 hours for a round trip, with some including a layover. For a long ride, go for the Hill Country Flyer, a 66-mile (106 km) trip that takes you through the Texas Hill Country. And for a shorter journey, take the Bertram Flyer, a 3-hour journey through the town of Bertram. Note that certain rides have a minimum age limit and are not suitable for children.
Austin Steam Train Association
Address: 401 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste C-100, Cedar Park, TX 78613
Opening Hours: See website below for train schedules
Duration: Between 2.5 and 6 hours
Price: 30 USD and up (depends on route and car class) *Kids fare is lower than adults for all routes
Website: Austin Steam Train Association
10. Enjoy live, interactive performances at the Austin Scottish Rite Children’s Theater
Established in 1871, the Austin Scottish Rite Theater is Austin’s oldest theater and has seen the performances of numerous famous operas, circus acts, live music, and children’s programs. It serves primarily as a family theater, with a specific children’s theater dedicated to kid-friendly interactive shows. Let your kids mingle with other children and potentially make new friends. Do note that the theater’s shows are constantly changing. Be sure to check the website to find out which shows are currently showing. If you are lucky enough to spot a show your child is interested in, book it quickly. Each show only runs for a short period of time, and it might be over by the time you check again.
Austin Scottish Rite Children's Theater
Address: 207 W 18th St, Austin, TX 78701
Opening Hours: See website below for show schedules
11. Watch the bats emerge from Congress Avenue Bridge
The Congress Avenue Bridge over Lady Bird Lake is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. During the summer, it is home to around 750,000 – 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. They usually emerge daily at dusk and has become a must-see for anyone in Austin, adults and kids alike. The bats can be seen from the bridge, or beside the lake. Your kids may prefer to view it from a boat (i.e. Capital Cruises), as a fun way to experience this classic Austin attraction.
Capital Cruises: Bat Watching and Sunset Tours
Address: Capital Cruises Dock, Hyatt Regency Boat Dock, 208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704
Opening Hours: varies, but generally 30 minutes before sunset (March to mid-November). Closed from mid-November to February
Duration: Around 1 hour
Price: 10 USD (adults), 5 USD (kids)
12. Go underground at the Inner Space Cavern
This is an activity made for the adventurous kids who love to explore new ground. Hidden for approximately 10,000 years, the Inner Space Cavern is one of the best preserved caves in Texas. While several miles of the cave have been ventured into, many parts still remain unexplored and are hence closed off to visitors. Tours are offered for those who are keen to explore the underground caves, where skeletons of prehistoric creatures can be found. Different tours are available for various age groups and skill level, which take you through the tunnels with a guide explaining how this natural wonder occurred. Note that the intermediate (Hidden Passages) and advanced (Wild Cave) tours have a minimum age requirement.
Inner Space Cavern
Address: 4200 S. I-35, Frontage Rd, Georgetown, TX 78626
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm (Monday to Saturday), 10am - 5pm (Sunday)
Duration: Around 1.5 - 4 hours (depending on tour choice)
Price: 19.95 USD (adults), 11.95 USD (kids) *Note that prices above apply only for the beginner tour. See website below for prices on other tour options
Website: Inner Space Cavern
13. Climb through obstacles at Mt. Playmore
Mt. Playmore is a huge indoor play center with a playscape, arcade, and toddler area. It is a place for kids of all ages to have fun. Described as “Texas Sized” (i.e. massive), it allows you to play alongside your children in the playscape. Or you could also sit on the benches in the middle to relax while your kids run around. There is also a restaurant within Mt. Playmore, which means that your family could spend the whole day inside without even having to leave for food. It is the most convenient place with everything under one roof, perfect for a day of family fun.
Address: 13609 North IH35, Austin, TX 78753
Opening Hours: 10am - 8pm (Sunday to Thursday), 10am - 10pm (Friday to Saturday). Closed on Tuesdays
Price: 4.95 USD (2-3 years old), 10.95 USD (4+ years old), 1.50 USD (19+ years old)
Website: Mt. Playmore
14. Channel your inner Tiger Woods at Peter Pan Mini Golf
Mini golf has always been a great family activity. But what’s better than mini golf itself? The answer is a mini golf course with fun features along the way. Consisting of two 18-hole miniature golf courses, Peter Pan Mini Golf is an icon of Austin. With its statues of turtles, dinosaurs, and more scattered around the park, it has earned the reputation as a place where people of all ages could enjoy themselves at anytime of the day. Even if your kids have never tried it before, they will have a blast just hitting the balls around, and being surrounded by some of their favorite animals and characters.
Peter Pan Mini Golf
Address: 1207 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704
Opening Hours: 9am - 12am (Monday to Thursday), 9am - 1am (Friday to Saturday), 9am - 11pm (Sunday)
Price: 7 USD (one course), 11 USD (both courses) *Prices are 2 USD less for children who are 5 years old and younger
Website: Peter Pan Mini Golf
15. Have a blast at the Blazer Tag Adventure Center
Home to the largest laser tag arena in Texas, Blazer Tag Adventure Center is the activity for high-energy kids. With 3 stories of towers and ramps, it is sure to give anyone a rush of adrenaline. Once you start with one game, you won’t want to stop. It is an activity that becomes more fun with more people playing, so don’t be shy to join your kids in the arena. The Blazer Tag Adventure Center also has a neon ropes course called the Austin Skytrail, which will take you to new heights and challenge your courage. Note that both are fast moving and thrilling activities, making them suitable only for kids who are at least 7 years old.
Blazer Tag Adventure Center
Address: 1701 W. Ben White Blvd. Austin, TX 78704
Opening Hours: 4pm - 9pm (Monday), 4pm - 10pm (Thursday), 4pm - 12am (Friday), 10am - 12am (Saturday), 11am - 9pm (Sunday). Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Price: 8.99 USD (laser tag/sky trail) *Note that prices are charged on a per person per game/trek basis
Website: Blazer Tag Adventure Center
An ideal city for kids
Did you know that Austin is recognized as a clean-air city for its strict ‘no smoking in public places’ law, and is consistently named within the top 5 safest major city in the US by the FBI? On top of that, the fun activities mentioned serve as the cherry on top that makes Austin one of the best cities for kids. It is clean, safe, and fun — you can’t really ask for much more in a large city. So if you weren’t convinced before that Austin should be the destination for your next family trip, hopefully you are now.
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