- January 28, 2016

100+ Things to do with Preschoolers in Austin


If you’re looking for things to do with preschool age kids in Austin, read on for more than 100 ways to have fun in and around the city!

Things to do with preschoolers in Austin - Mayfield Park Peacocks

When I first moved to Austin, I made my own version of an Austin Bucket List for our family to tackle right away. I was so excited to have just moved to such a fun and exciting new place! There are plenty of great resources, books, and websites out there that offer up great ideas of what to do in Austin with your kids, so I gathered all the information and made a list that was geared towards preschoolers (mine were 2 and 4 at the time). Little did I know how handy my personal list would be to me, now that I write for Free Fun In Austin and local activities for preschoolers became my assignment! I pulled out my list, all marked up and checked off, and was proud to see how many of these things we’ve actually accomplished since we moved here. It’s inspired me to get out and experience more of what our amazing city has to offer and to cross the remaining items off my list!

So, here it is- my (huge) fantastic list of fun things to do with your preschool age kids in Austin and beyond. Whether you’re a native or new to town, I hope it inspires you to get out and maximize fun times with your little ones, before they head off to Kindergarten.

I’ve organized the list into the following categories: “Free Fun in Austin” and “Not Free, But Fun!” and “Day Trips From Austin“.

Things to do with preschoolers in Austin - Secret Beach

Free Fun in Austin:

  1. Austin is home to so many wonderful parks! Check out one from our list of our readers’ favorites (some of mine include Springwoods Park, Play for All Abilities, and Ramsey Park) and a list of shady parks in and around Austin.
  2. Get down and boogie to some kiddie live music shows at Strange Brew (Saturdays at 10 a.m.) and Cherrywood Coffeehouse (Sundays at 10 a.m.).
  3. Family Day at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. Held one Sunday a month, Family Days offer special, hands-on programs designed for families with children, four to ten years old. Families have the opportunity to explore the UMLAUF for FREE, while engaging in creative activities. Listen to stories, do yoga in the garden, watch sculpture demos, enjoy live music, and more.
  4. Second Saturdays are for Families at Laguna Gloria. On the second Saturday of every month, The Contemporary Austin offers FREE hands-on art-making workshops at Laguna Gloria, inspired by the exhibitions on view. See family-friendly performances, meet local artists, and make art to take home. Recommended for ages 2–11. Laguna Gloria is also FREE on Tuesdays, and is a fun (and beautiful) alternative to your average playground. It’s outdoors and there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around while you check out some really cool art. Plus it’s right next door to Mayfield Park, which is a beautiful place to picnic, hike, and see real live peacocks. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you could even add a third adventure to your outing and climb to the top of Mount Bonnell.
  5. Is your little one into cars? Check out the largest FREE car show in Central Texas at Cars and Coffee once a month.
  6. BookPeople story times. You can often find live children’s entertainment, or even the Tiny Tails to You traveling petting zoo, at these FREE events.
  7. Where can you listen to some live music and enjoy good food and drinks while watching your kids play on the playground? Central Market on North Lamar. Win-win-win.
  8. Austin Science and Nature Center is a great place to take your preschooler! It’s FREE, fun, and educational. Dig for dinosaur bones, see wild animals, learn about fossils, and more!
  9. Trek the Hike and Bike Trail and/or Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake.
  10. Take a hike at Balcones District Park. Start at the playground, and bring a picnic or some snacks to enjoy along the way!
  11. Shoal Creek for a hike, then enjoy the playground and splash pad at Pease Park.
  12. Splash Pads are abundant in Austin and the surrounding areas. I was so impressed with Heidi’s Splash Pad Challenge that I want to try it for myself! This summer we will attempt to splash at all of them!
  13. Walnut Creek Park is pretty easy for young hikers and is a fun place to cool down while splashing in the water on hot days. This is definitely one of our go-to family hiking spots. Tip: If you bring your dog with you and are looking for a nearby dog-friendly/kid-friendly restaurant, check out Santorini Cafe. There are games and toys outside for the kids to play with while you hang with your dog on the patio and wait for your food.
  14. Bull Creek is our other favorite family hiking spot on warm days. Make sure to wear your swim suits and waterproof hiking shoes to this one! If you’re hungry after your hike, check out the nearby Waterloo Ice House where the kids can play at the patio playground/sandbox!
  15. Barton Creek Greenbelt is an Austin staple, and it’s easy to see why. Locals and tourists alike commune here to relax and hike and play in the water.
  16. Farmers Markets in Austin are a fun way to spend time with your kids. Ask them to pick out a new-to-them veggie that you can Google recipes for and make that for dinner!
  17. Swimming Holes are a super fun alternative to the neighborhood pool.
  18. Play at the Triangle then head to Mandola’s for some gelato (it comes free with each kid’s meal!). If it’s a Wednesday afternoon, don’t miss the farmer’s market!
  19. Secret Beach and Roy G. Guerrero Park is a great way to spend the day. We like to go early since the beach can get hot. Bring a picnic, wade for awhile in the morning, and eat lunch while you dry out in the sun. Then hop over to the playground at the park and play for a bit longer. If you’re lucky, the ice cream bike guy will come around so you can get some popsicles before you leave.
  20. See the bats off of the Congress Ave. bridge, or head out to Capital Plaza to check out the purple martins!
  21. Library story times are fun and a great way to make new friends!
  22. If you can set some ground rules with the kiddos and keep your wallet closed, checking out some local toy stores is good, free fun! Tell them you’re there to check out what they want for Christmas and birthday wish lists! Some favorites include Toy Joy, Terra Toys, Brilliant Sky Toys, All Things Kids, The Scholar Ship, and Kaleidoscope Toys.
  23. Cabela’s in Buda and Bass Pro Shops in Round Rock both have giant aquariums full of big fish to watch swimming around. Bass Pro even lets you watch the fish feeding frenzy at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
  24. IKEA. You either love it or you hate it. But kids usually love it (and I do too)! There’s a supervised kid zone where they can play for FREE while you shop, but mine prefer to tag along on the shopping adventure with me. They like jumping on every arrow they spot on the floor, testing out the furniture, and playing in the kid furniture area. We stop for some cheap food half way through, and then always wind up getting an ice cream cone before we leave (they’re only $1)!
  25. Get out in nature at Berry Springs Park in Georgetown, where you can feed the donkeys, collect pecans, and go fishing (if you bring the poles). There’s also a playground, a nature trail, and picnic tables to round out your visit. If you’re feeling ambitious and would like to maximize your time in Georgetown, you could also check out the recently renovated Creative Playscape at the San Gabriel Park (my friend Alanna highly recommends this one!).
  26. Picnic at Zilker Park. You could even play a thrilling round of frisbee or possibly hear some amateur musicians practicing. (For additional fun on the cheap, catch a ride on the Zilker Zephyr.)
  27. Feed the ducks, stroll around the lake, and play at the playground at Mueller Lake Park. Bonus: Continue the fun at the Thinkery children’s museum right across the street. Admission is by donation on Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m.
  28. Camp Mabry and the Texas Military Forces Museum (which offers a FREE scavenger hunt!) looks enticing as you drive by it on the Mopac, so why not surprise the kids with a visit there sometime? Read all about it here.
  29. My kids love rocks! Check out some pretty ones at Nature’s Treasures.
  30. Champion Park is one of our favorite spots. You can bring sand toys and dig for dinosaur bones (it’s even shaded!), then cool off in the small splash pad.
  31. Spend a morning at Brushy Creek Lake Park and splash pad. (Tip: Bring sand toys and play in the sand volleyball court!)
  32. The Brushy Creek Trail is one place that keeps on giving. There are so many fun stops along the way if you walk or bike ride this trail. Start at the duck pond on Great Oaks Drive and Brushy Creek Road (the playscape is newly shaded!), and make it a game to see how many playgrounds you can hit up along the way! (Hint: There’s a playground hidden behind Creekside pool called Creekside Park Playground, then you’ll come upon Olsen Meadows Park, then Champion Park, then Brushy Creek Lake Park and Splash Pad, then continue along the trail to find the Brushy Creek Sports Park and finally Twin Lakes Park!) It’s a long way to do all of those, so bring plenty of sunscreen and water along for the ride.
  33. The Domain II has a cute little free playscape area. Check out All Things Kids and Rocket Fizz for some more family fun while you’re there!
  34. The Splash! Exhibit at Zilker Park is FREE, and you can learn all about the history and biology of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer which feeds it. Then you can go next door to experience the world-famous Barton Springs pool for yourself! After all, you’ve just learned all about it! Why not check it out? (The pool is only free at certain times. Entry fees are listed here).
  35. Two FREE festivals perfect for this age group are Bubblepalooza at the Long Center, and the Zilker Kite Festival at Zilker Park.
  36. Take a stroll around Mills Pond, then find the hidden tunnel that leads you to a playground across the street.
  37. Spin under the Zilker Holiday Tree during the holidays, and continue your fun along the Austin Trail of Lights. Take advantage of the FREE nights and go see this Austin gem! (If crowds aren’t your thing, you can pay for an early entry to the event as well.)
  38. Lucy in Disguise is a treasure trove of costumes for people of all ages!
  39. The Whole Foods rooftop playground downtown is FREE, but who can resist all that yumminess downstairs? Not I, friends. Not I. Many of the local Whole Foods Markets offer a Kids Club story time and activities for kids as well. Check if your closest store participates in these!
  40. Throw pebbles into Lady Bird Lake and wave hello to all the people floating by on boats and paddle-boards. (This is hand-down one of my kids’ favorite pastimes!) You could also rent a canoe if you’d like to add to your adventure and see some fish and turtles up close.
  41. Take your picture in front of the Greetings From Austin mural. Bonus fun: Turn your photo into a postcard and send it to your loved ones who live out of state. Preschoolers can practice writing their names on the back!
  42. Head out in the springtime and take pictures among the bluebonnets. When I first moved here, I didn’t really realize what a big deal this was to Austinites until I saw people literally pulling over on the side of the Mopac just to snap pics. Alongside the freeway! Risking your life to sit among the wildflowers while cars whiz past is about the most Austin thing you can do in the spring.
  43. Kids love scavenger hunts, so why not try Murals of Austin geocaching? You’ll see all the great ones and maybe some new ones you’ve never seen before! If geocaching isn’t your thing, check out our list of murals, street art, or mosaics in Austin. Don’t forget the HOPE Outdoor Gallery!
  44. If you’re out in Bee Cave, check out the Sculpture Park or the Hill Country Galleria’s Interactive Fountain.
  45. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is suitable for all hiking skill levels, as you can make it as easy and short or challenging and long as you’d like.
  46. Bring your local firefighters some homemade treats and get a free tour of the station! We did this 2 summers ago and it was so much fun that even my husband wants to do it again!
  47. Butler Park and Liz Carpenter Fountain are fun when the weather heats up. (The fountain is currently closed for repairs, but check this website for updates on when it will reopen.) When you get too hot, grab a snow cone from Sno-Beach, just up the street!
  48. Old Settlers Park in Round Rock is fun on its own, but there are fun events held there as well!
  49. Play make believe in the charming play house at Katherine Fleischer Park, then take a stroll along the hike/bike trails through Wells Branch.
  50. While not technically a beach, Lake Pflugerville does have beach-like qualities. Bring buckets and shovels and goggles, but just make sure you wear some flip-flops or water shoes as the little pebbles (not true sand) can hurt tiny sensitive bare feet!
  51. The Blanton Museum of Art is always FREE for kids under 12, and is FREE for everyone each Thursday.
  52. The Bullock Texas State History Museum is FREE the first Sunday of each month, and they offer special family programs, including story times, on these days. (They also have an IMAX Theater! My preschooler loved learning about humpback whales.)
  53. Sunday Fundays at the Neill Cochran House Museum are FREE and full of hands-on family fun!
  54. George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center offers FREE and educational fun.
  55. Check out the fish at the Fish Gallery or Austin Aqua-Dome.
  56. Malls are a good option if you need something to do that’s indoors. Lakeline Mall is pretty fun. The kiddie play area is FREE, but if you’re looking to make a day of it there, you could easily fill your time with some more things that cost money. There’s Inflatable Wonderland, plenty of ride-on toy machines in the food court area, a train, candy and cookie shops, and my kids love going through the video game stores to see what new games or toys they want. There’s even a farmer’s market there on Saturday mornings that’s worth checking out. Two words: homemade pita bread. Ok, that’s three words. But they make it ON SITE! And it’s amazing.
  57. Home Depot‘s hands-on kid’s workshops, held the first Saturday of every month, are FREE and all supplies are included. Plus, you get to take home your creation!
  58. Lakeshore Learning offers FREE crafts for kids every Saturday! Why have I not done this yet?
  59. Texas State Capitol is a great place to dish up fun with a side of learning.
  60. Climb the marble cow statues and feed the ducks at the Arboretum. While you’re there, you can grab some Amy’s Ice Cream or take a tour of Blue Baker and make your own bread!
  61. The Natural Gardener is where young ones can ride in wagons, hang out with animals, walk through a butterfly garden, and play inside a teepee (and more!) Sounds like kiddie wonderland to me!
  62. Austin is home to so many festivals all year long, but one that is sure to appeal to everyone in the family is the FREE Texas Book Festival!
  63. Give back to the community and volunteer for It’s My Park Day! Kids to love help, and your whole family will feel good after doing something for the community.
  64. Join a local Meetup moms group, or a FREE group like Hike It Baby or the Austin Free Forest school, for a way to meet others moms and preschoolers with similar likes and interests as yours.
  65. In the fall, visit a FREE pumpkin patch with plenty of cute photo opportunities. Texas Big Worm is not big size-wise, but it’s big on charm and hospitality. There are plenty of activities for the kids to do (for a small fee). But, there’s no fee to enter or park! If you’re hungry after, check out the nearby Dahlia Cafe  where the kids can play on the patio playground and you can enjoy some delicious country cooking (and PIE!).
  66. Tiny super heroes will enjoy checking out the Austin Books & Comics Store.
  67. The Northeast Metropolitan Park has a little walking path, a shaded playground, sandbox, and splash pad. They can also be entertained by the “big kids” at the skatepark.
  68. Watch the FREE holiday lights displays at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters during the holidays.
  69. Swim in one of Austin’s many FREE pools.

Things to do with Preschoolers in Austin - Bubblepalooza

Not Free, But Fun:

  1. Check out the Thinkery children’s museum. They have special members-only hours on the first Sunday of each month, so if you’re a member, you can get there early and avoid the crowds. On Community Night, every Wednesday, admission is by donation from 4-8 p.m. (suggested $1 donation per person).  If you visit on a Sunday, stop by the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller, where you can pick up some fresh fruits and veggies for your week!
  2. Safari Champ is an indoor place to climb and slide and get your wiggles out!
  3. Ashley’s Playhouse is charming and full of any kind of fun you can think of. The kids all kind of do their own thing, but also ended up cooperating on building a structure together with giant foam blocks. There’s plenty to keep them busy!
  4. Hop N’ HappyPump It Up, Hoppin House, and iPlay are full of inflatable fun.
  5. Mt. Playmore is the place my kids request to go to the most. We even had my son’s birthday here when he turned five! The biggest indoor playground climbing structure I’ve ever seen, plus food, video games, rides, and even an area for babies and smaller kids- this place has it all! We could spend all day here (and we have!).
  6. We recently went to the Little Land Play Gym and had a really great time. There is a lot of fun packed into this place!
  7. Foodie Kids cooking classes would be a huge hit with your tiny chef. We’ve gone and made cupcakes here before and the kids loved it! They also have a cute boutique in the front of the store and I want all the things.
  8. Austin’s Park n Pizza just added a new bowling alley to its impressive list of attractions. Have you see Heidi and her adorable family in their new commercial? How cute are they?!
  9. Inner Space Cavern is a cool adventure, especially when you have visitors come to town. But, if you aren’t looking to spend that much time (or money), you can still have some fun there on the cheap. We went recently and hung out with the animals (they have a zebra!), played on the playground, and did some rock mining.
  10. Kiddie Acres is up there as one of my favorite local places to bring preschoolers. It’s got so much old-school charm and is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the concept of carnival rides. Don’t expect anything fussy or fancy. Just plain ol’ fashioned fun.
  11. Peter Pan Mini-golf is an iconic Austin institution. It’s worth it just to go and see the kooky statues there! Sure, they have a giant Peter Pan and T-Rex, but where else can you find a giant bug holding a microphone sitting on a taco?
  12. Check out some Austin area pools, such as Deep Eddy, Veterans Memorial Pool in Cedar Park, and Bartholomew Pool.
  13. Barton Springs is 3 acres long and is fed from underground springs, keeping it a cool 68-70 degrees year round. There’s a shallow wading area for the little ones too.
  14. Glow bowling at the UT Underground is a fun twist on plain old bowling. Bowling at Bass Pro Shops is also a preschooler’s favorite, if they’re into sea life (my oldest is obsessed with sharks). It feels like you’re bowling under the water!
  15. JumpolineUrban AirJump USA, and Jump Street are fun indoor trampoline parks.
  16. When is eating at Phil’s Ice House and Amy’s Ice Creams NOT a good idea? Never. That’s when. At the Austinville location in North Austin, kids can play on the outdoor playground while you eat burgers, drink beer, and indulge in some ice cream. For added adventure, you can check out I Fly Austin next door, where kids as young as 3 can fly! If you’re not that daring, just watch the people flying from the TV inside Amy’s Ice Creams, or head over to watch them in person!
  17. Crowe’s Nest Farm is a day of fun for preschoolers. Read all about it here.
  18. My oldest son had a train obsession in his younger years, and if your little one does too, check out the Austin Steam Train in Cedar Park! And then hit up Froyoz for some fro-yo (because YOLO).
  19. Zilker Botanical Gardens is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to here in Austin, and there are often fun exhibits for little ones (like Faerie Homes).
  20. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a fun and beautiful day spent in nature.
  21. Is your little one a sports fan? Catch a Round Rock Express game at Dell Diamond!
  22. Quarry Splash Pad (Bonus: Ride the train at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park before you splash!)
  23. The Austin Zoo is small enough for children of this age to make it through the whole thing without getting too tired or worn out. Don’t miss a ride on the zoo train!
  24. Catch a play at the ZACH Theatre. Free Fun in Austin readers can save on tickets to the Family Series!
  25. Teach your child to roller skate at Playland Skate Center (see how kids can skate for free if you go here!)
  26. Order a famous pie at Home Slice Pizza– they will give your kids a ball of dough to play with while you wait (and it’s totally worth the wait!). Then, grab a cupcake from the Hey Cupcake! truck and take your picture in from the the Smile! even if you don’t want to mural. While you’re on South Congress, you could also get a yummy drink from Jo’s Coffee and snap your picture at the I Love You So Much mural. Then continue on to the Big Top Candy Shop, which is technically free to go inside, but I couldn’t really put it under the free category because chances are if you’re going there with a preschooler, you’re going to walk out with some candy.
  27. Alamo Drafthouse offers fun kid-friendly events and Kids Camp movies for a $1 – $3 donation during school breaks.
  28. Take your little ones to the Austin Ice Cream Festival, where you can enjoy cool treats, make crafts, ride a few carnival rides, and see who wins the homemade ice cream contest! For more festivals in Austin, check out this post!
  29. Rock N River pool in Round Rock or Hawaiian Falls in Pfugerville are two cool places to swim when it’s too hot outside.
  30. Learn all about dinosaurs at the Texas Memorial Museum with your future paleontologists.
  31. Escape to a magical land at the Westcave Preserve.
  32. Play at Emma Long Metropolitan Park and “beach”.  Hike along the nearby Turkey Creek Nature Trail. Bonus points if you’re adventurous enough to camp with your littles.
  33. Escape the summer heat and teach kids to ice skate at Chaparral Ice.
  34. The Art Garage is fun for crafty preschoolers.
  35. Explore the sea creatures at Austin Aquarium. I’m not sure what my kids like more, petting the sting rays, or playing in the climbing structure in the back.
  36. Toybrary is a unique toy-lending library for kids! For $5, you can stop in and play with the toys (members play for free).
  37. Next time Grandma and Grandpa come for a visit, take them back in time and teach the kids about the “olden days” while you share a malt or banana split at Nau’s Enfield Drug.
  38. Cool off on your search for the town’s best Agua Fresca.
  39. Midway Food Park has something for everyone, food-wise. Plus, a playscape for the kids. Eating at food trucks make you cool and hip. The playscape makes you a fun parent. Tip: True hipsters drink Topo Chico.
  40. Cathedral of Junk is fascinating for kids.
  41. Improv for youth with groups like Move Your Tale or the Flying Theater Machine is great fun for aspiring comedians and actors (or just kids who love to ham it up!). We’ve been to What’s the Story, Steve? and had the best time ever!
  42. Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex offers skating, bowling, a theater, and arcade, and a food court.
  43. Austin Kiddie Limits is ACL Music Festival for kids (and kids 10 and under can get in FREE with their paying parent!).
  44. Spray water at the cars at the Mr. Clean Car Wash in Round Rock. My kids get the biggest kick out of this and beg to go there every time we drive by!
  45. Take your kiddos out to eat at Kerbey Lane Cafe in Round Rock where there’s a playground attached to the patio (which is also nicely heated on cold days!) Bonus: Kids eat FREE on Tuesdays!
  46. Taste test ALL THE PIE that Austin and the surrounding area has to offer. Try Texan Cafe and Pie Shop in Hutto or Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls.
  47. Get kids moving at a drop-in gymnastics free-play! AcroTex offers open-gym on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and the Capital Gymnastics offers this on Friday mornings. We’ve personally tried these and love them. Make sure to call ahead and confirm days/hours before you go!
  48. Take them to a yoga class just for kids!
  49. Explore Downtown Round Rock! You could start with a story time at the Round Rock Public Library, then head over to the Prete Plaza Splash Pad for some play time. When you get hungry, choose one of Main Street’s many restaurants (like Svante’s, which features locally sourced food), and finally treat your little ones to sweets from 3 Star Candy Shop.
  50. Go for a hike at McKinney Falls State Park, and bring along a trash bag. Teach your preschooler the importance of cleaning up the earth and look for trash to pick up as your explore. This is one of my kids’ favorite activities. They love searching for trash! Just remember the hand sanitizer for when you’re done.

Things to do with Preschoolers in Austin - Lady Bird Lake

Day Trips From Austin:

  1. Enchanted Rock for a day out in nature.
  2. Pioneer Farms to play in and learn about the past.
  3. Take a day trip to LBJ Ranch and Sauer-Beckmann Farm at Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Park in Stonewall.
  4. In the fall, go to a festival and see the huge corn maze at Barton Hills Farm. (Check out more great fall day trips here.)
  5. In the winter, take the kids out to cut down your own Christmas tree at Elgin Tree Farm.
  6. Head over to San Antonio and check out the DoSeum before you stroll the Riverwalk. For even more excitement, drive through the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch on the way there!
  7. Head up to Waco and visit the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Children’s Museum.
  8. Visit New Braunfels to enjoy Landa Park, the New Braunfels Railroad MuseumMcKenna Children’s Museum, Fischer Park, and Schlitterbahn.
  9. Visit Krause Springs on a beautiful day.
  10. Go see one of the prettiest spots in Texas at the Hamilton Pool.
  11. Take your kids camping at Inks Lake State Park.
  12. Take a picnic to Children’s Park in San Marcos.
  13. Zip over to Cedar Creek to check out the Dinosaur Park and continue on to Bastrop to play in the FREE Fisherman’s Park.
  14. Tour the cavern at Longhorn Cavern State Park  in Burnet.
  15. Into picking your own fruit? Pick peaches in Fredericksburg or strawberries at Sweet Berry Farm.

Want a handy checklist for the fridge? Print off a copy of our 100+ Free Things to do in Austin!

Things to do With Preschoolers in Austin