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Planning a visit to or through Austin with kids? These tourist stops are some don’t-miss local favorites!
**Editor’s note: this list was published prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Some of this info may not be accurate. Please confirm details before planning a stop.
- Thinkery – Austin’s 40,000 square foot children’s museum focuses on STEAM learning – science, technology, engineering, art, and math – as well as healthy living. The fun-filled facility is a hybrid science and technology center/children’s museum that will entertain all ages for hours. Thinkery is proud to participate in Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Association of Children’s Museums’ Museums for All program: Thinkery invites all families with Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, WIC cards, STAR cards, CHIP cards, Medicaid cards and MAP identification cards to show their card(s) to receive FREE General Admission tickets. (Special programs and events excluded.) Thinkery’s Museum for All discount can only be applied at Admissions, not online.
- Butler Park – By day, get the perfect family photo from atop Doug Sahm Hill, with Austin as your backdrop. By night, splash in the Liz Carpenter Fountain as the water jets perform a colorful light show. The fountain operates year-round.
- Cathedral of Junk – If you want to take a walk on Austin’s weird side, this is one stop you don’t want to miss! Kids love walking through this backyard ode to discarded treasures. It’s like an outdoor I Spy museum of times gone by, housed in local yardist Vince Hannemann’s backyard. You must call to make an appointment (512.299.7413) to visit and be sure to bring along a $10 donation for your group.
- Zilker Park – This destination could have a top ten list all its own! Explore nature at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin Nature and Science Center, and UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum. Cool off with a dip in Barton Springs or spend some time on the playground! See the sights by boat with a canoe or kayak rental. Depending on the time of year, be sure to check for free shows coming up at the Zilker Hillside Theater. Need help navigating? You can find a handy map of Zilker Park here.
- Mayfield Park, Laguna Gloria & Mt. Bonnell – Peacocks, gardens, and a beautiful view! This threefor is a perfect outing for a sunny day when you have a few hours to enjoy some outdoor exploration.
- Central Market North – With local live music out on the sprawling patio and a large playground where children can burn off steam, Central Market is an ideal spot to grab a meal with kids in tow. Kids 10 and under eat free with adult entree in the cafe on Tuesday evenings, starting at 5 p.m. Save a few crumbs from dinner to share with the ducks at the nearby pond.
- Capitol + Historic Walking Tour – Explore the Texas State Capitol and Capitol Visitor’s Center, then take a guided, interactive walking tour down Congress Avenue to 6th Street. All free! The Historic Walking Tours depart from the south side of the Capitol.
- Take a Hike – Hikes are best when they end with a waterfall! Enjoy a nature walk along the Barton Creek Greenbelt to Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls. Another great spot for an urban hike is McKinney Falls State Park, where you can discover both the majestic Upper Falls and the more secluded Lower Falls. For a remarkable waterfall experience, head southwest of town to Hamilton Pool Preserve. Here is a list of easy strolls and hikes in Austin!
- See the Bats – Austin is home to the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in North America. Each night, from April to October, an estimated 1,500,000 bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge at sundown on their nightly search for food. There are several free ways to view the bats (on the banks of Lady Bird Lake and from atop the bridge), but for tourists we recommend the guided bat watching tours given by Capital Cruises and Lone Star Riverboat.
- The Dinosaur Park – Just east of Austin, you will find life-size dinosaur replicas – from the 6-foot long Velociraptor to the 85-foot long Brachiosaurus – hiding around every corner at this outdoor “museum.” Make sure to pick up a scavenger hunt and enjoy a search through the woods for prehistoric clues.
Photo: The Roadhouse Relics’ “Greetings from Austin” mural can be found at the corner of S. 1st & Annie Street. Here’s what else you can find!