Family Fun Day Idea: Make It A Zoo Day

Creating the perfect summer day for you and the kiddos isn’t an easy feat in the most normal of times – and these times are anything but normal. That’s why Free Fun in Austin has partnered with happyly to offer you a bevy of curated activities for an active family day. It’s our mission to inspire fun and safe summer outings so you can spend less time planning and more time playing.

To kick off our series, we’re making it a zoo day!

Explore Austin Zoo

Located on the city’s southwest edge, Austin Zoo sits on 15 acres of land and features more than 300 rescue animals. It’s a fun and educational outing for animal lovers of all ages. While tickets range from $11.95 to $14.95, and kids under 2 are free, we think a trip to this zoo – especially considering the humane work they do – is totally worth the price!

Now home to a handful of big cats, monkeys, lemurs, coatimundi, bears, birds, reptiles, and, of course, native Texas wildlife, the local nonprofit began as a goat ranch that took in pigs, deer, donkeys, and ponies. Eventually, more exotic animals began to call the zoo home as well. 

According to Austin Zoo’s website, they take in “animals from other facilities that are being retired due to age, health or other issues; animals that were seized in animal cruelty cases; retired laboratory research animals; and individuals’ exotic pets they needed to rehome due to changes in the owner’s lifestyle or the inability to provide appropriate care for these pets.” 

With ample safety options in place, the park is currently open to the public daily, offering little explorers the chance to get outside. While strollers (and wheelchairs) are usually rentable, they currently are not under COVID-19 safety guidelines, but the paths – made of crushed granite gravel – are wheel-friendly. The zoo also offers 20-minute train rides through Hill Country ($5 per person, free for kids under 2). It has been running with safety measures in place, but contact the zoo to confirm on the day of your visit.

Things to know before you go: 

The zoo, noting that its “utmost priority is the health and safety of our guests, our staff and our animals” is currently enforcing new guidelines to keep everyone safe, entertained, and physically distanced. Tickets must be purchased online and only a limited number of people will be allowed in at one time. Masks are required and are available for purchase.

Bring water, as concession stands and restrooms are currently closed. Portable restrooms are available at the entrance and a small gift shop with souvenirs, drinks, and prepackaged snacks is open, but currently outside food is not allowed. Hand washing stations are located throughout the property. As a common courtesy to all parties, the zoo also asks that if you feel unwell or have a temperature over 100.4, please refrain from visiting until you feel better. 

As far as zoos go, Austin’s is considered small so visits last approximately one to two hours.

Austin Zoo
Location: 10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin
Summer Hours: Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets include admission time
Price: Adults – $14.95, Seniors (60+) – $13.95, Military – $13.95, Students – $13.95, and Children 2-12 – $11.95. Children under 2 are free. 

Refuel at Pieous

Once you’re done, make a day of enjoying the city’s edge by grabbing lunch – or dinner – at Pieous, one of the area’s most delicious pizza places.

Located just a 10 to 15-minute drive, depending on traffic, from the zoo, Pieous options are fun for the kids while also being elevated enough for adults to appreciate. The menu features Neapolitan pizzas, salads, meatballs, cheese plates, and the simply amazing “Pieous Sampler” with crispy chickpeas, marinated artichokes, and so much more. 

Though the dining room is closed “for the foreseeable future,” according to the website, the restaurant (with a bonus coffee shop) is accepting online orders. Beware, even without the dine-in option, this place gets busy so orders can take time. Whatever you do, don’t forget dessert; their blueberry pie is almost too good to be true.

Location: 166 Hargraves Drive, Austin
Hours: Pastry and coffee 8 a.m. daily; restaurant Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday through Sunday – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Price: Varies

Refresh at Reimers Ranch (or Take a Dip in the Pedernales River)

Beautiful bluebonnets along a lake in the Texas Hill Country.

If you’re still hanging out in Hill Country when the food coma wears off and want to get more fresh air – or better yet, into some water – Milton Reimers Ranch Park (a.k.a. Reimers Ranch) is 25 minutes away in Dripping Springs. The park is currently charging day-use fees – $5 for adults, $3 for everyone 62 and older, and free for children under 13. 

With COVID-19 precautions in place, the park may close to new visitors if it begins to fill up, which is likely to happen during weekends and holidays. Check the county website for the most up-to-date information. Otherwise, the Pedernales River – just half a mile from the parking lot – is open to swimmers. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers and horseback riders enjoying the many trails too.  

As a reminder, we highly encourage you to double-check each option before you head there, to ensure the most up-to-date information due to changing coronavirus related restrictions.

Milton Reimers Ranch Park
Location: 23610 Hamilton Pool Rd, Dripping Springs
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Price: Adults – $5, Seniors (62+) – $3, and Children 12 and under are free. 

Don’t forget to bring along the following items:

Closed-toed/ comfortable walking shoes, water bottles, a picnic blanket to spread out and enjoy your Pieous feast, sunscreen, bathing suits, towels, flip flops or water shoes, a change of clothes. Stroller if needed.

Happyly is the country’s only mobile-first family activity planning app focused on helping families live their best life. 

We are passionate about supporting families in a fulfilling, balanced, and active outdoor lifestyle. How? By developing resources and delivering inspiration to fit your personal needs, whether it be for planning an afternoon or a long journey. With the help of happyly, you will save hours of wasted time planning, as well as the frustration and disappointment your tribe feels when your plans don’t turn out as you hoped.

By doing the leg work and endorsing our favorite activities based on first-hand knowledge, our expert team saves valuable time for our community, empowering parents to be fully present when it matters most. Working parents spend an average of twelve waking hours a week with their children. When you break it all down, it’s not a lot.  So even just one or two hours a week spent searching or planning is just too many. Let us help you spend less time planning and more time experiencing life together.

If you have ideas for our next installment in our Family Fun Day Austin Series, we welcome them at [email protected]. Enjoying our content? Please download the free happyly app for fast access to all of our blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.