“Keep Austin Weird” the famous bumper stickers proclaim. But there’s so much more to Austin than weird: This Texas city is lively and hip and fun and eccentric—ideal for a family to explore.
Where to Stay
This resort is so much more than a hotel. Nestled on a generous 400 acres near the banks of the lower Colorado river, 30 miles outside of Austin, is a real-life getaway for your family. You can ride horses (ponies for the little ones!), hike in McKinney Roughs Nature Park, or splash around in Crooked River Water Park and pool.
Every day brings new fun and family activities. Pose for pictures during a Hooves and Horns animal mascot meet-and-greet (spoiler alert: the mascots are adorable Texas Longhorns, miniature horses, and alpacas.) Play games in the video arcade. Borrow (for free!) a couple of bikes to take a ride. Bigger kids can try their hand at archery, rock wall climbing, zip lining.
And after a busy day, relax around the bonfire and enjoy some tasty s’mores—as many as you want!—and an outdoor movie (weather permitting). Many of the activities are included in the activity fee, though a few cost extra. The only downfall of this place? You likely won’t have enough time to enjoy all the fun activities they offer.
If you want to stay closer to Austin itself, the Omni Barton Creek is a terrific option—and there’s so much for families to do: Splash around at the newly revitalized poolscape, featuring three outdoor resort pools as well as an indoor pool in the fitness center. You can also enjoy a family movie together or check out some of the on-site activities tailored to families.
What to Do in Austin
Sure, you’ve been to children’s museums, but Austin’s Thinkery is really something special. The exhibits are fun and innovative—featuring hands-on water stations, a light lab, and pretend play areas—and there’s a neat outdoor playground. To beat the crowds, visit after 1:30 p.m. on weekdays, after-school groups have left. Bonus: The Thinkery is within easy walking distance of Mueller Lake Park, lots of terrific restaurants, and more.
“Aww, do we really have to go look at flowers?” the kids might ask. No, kids—there’s so much more to it! Sure, you’ll see plenty of gorgeous wildflowers (so bring the camera). But you can also climb the spiral staircase to the top of the castle-like Observation Tower, swing under the Cathedral Oaks in the Arboretum, and explore the Family Garden (complete with a shrub maze, giant stumps to climb, and a pretty waterfall to enjoy). Need a breather? Visit the Little House to relax while the kids play, create art, and dig and sift in the court
Arguably Austin’s favorite park, this 358-acre family-friendly gem has something for everyone. First up: Head to the playground, which features an antique firetruck that aspiring firefighters will enjoy “driving.” Take a 25-minute ride on the Zilker Zephyr Miniature train ($3 for adults and $2 for children; cash only). Love to swim? The Barton Springs Pool, which covers a whopping 3 acres, stays warm enough for year-round swimming thanks to underground springs ($4 for children 1 to 11, $5 for kids 12 to 17, and $9 for adults). The park is also home to the Austin Nature and Science Center, the Zilker Botanical Gardens, and the Zilker Hillside Theater.
When the kids really need to get out some energy, Mt. Playmore is the place to be. Plus, at the enormous playscape (we’re talking 3,000 square feet!), grown-ups are allowed to climb and play right along with the kids. (However, if they’d rather play independently, you can relax in the seating area and keep an eye on them instead.) There’s also a 1,400-square-foot toddler area filled with age-appropriate toys and activities.