Family-Friendly Things to Do in Austin, Texas
Food & Wine
Food & Wine
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas and now have two kids of my own. I know where Austin kids go to have fun, and I love to help visiting families find things to do that are both fun and family-friendly so that everyone can have a great time visiting my hometown!
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Things to do in Austin, Texas
Museums in Austin
While not especially known for our museums, Austin does have some great spots to soak in some culture and learn more about the Lone Star state.
The Blanton: Located on the southern edge of the UT Austin campus, The Blanton is an art museum that covers contemporary artists, European art and even ancient art going back thousands of years. This spot can easily be toured in ~2 hours, is affordable for families and is fun to explore with kids — some of the exhibits are interactive!
Bob Bullock Texas History Museum: Situated across the street from The Blanton and near the Texas Capitol, the Bob Bullock Museum is a great way to learn about Texas. You'll find interactive exhibits, fun dioramas and 4D theater experiences — including an IMAX theater!
Umlauf Sculpture Garden: Located near the Barton Creek pool, you'll find the Umlauf: a local spot that's been around for over 40 years. Grown from a single owner's personal sculpture collection, the Umlauf hosts summer camps for kids and helps everyone appreciate the art of sculpture as experienced in the natural environment. This is a small museum that can be toured within 1 hour, and is a great way to let the kids run around while you soak in some culture.
Outdoor Activities in Austin
Austin is one of the most outdoorsy cities in the US — we experience almost 300 days of sunshine each year! Learn where the locals go to have fun and enjoy the Texas Hill Country.
Zilker Botanical Garden: Bring the family to one of the city's best gardens — you'll find a bat exhibit, prehistoric bone and a Japanese garden all in one stop. Be sure to bring plenty of water if you're visiting in the summer months, and take it easy as you stroll through beautiful walking paths in the heart of the city. The Botanical Garden is also located next to Zilker Park, which has playgrounds and open green spaces to help the kids let off some steam.
Pro tip: Check out the Zilker Zephyr, debuting the summer of 2022! This kid-sized train takes tykes through Zilker Park and is an Austin tradition that's been off the rails for over 5 years. It's finally back, and I know my kids can't wait to ride it again.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: While this one may be tougher to get to (you'll need to take a Lyft or drive your family), it's worth the trip to the southern edge of Austin to check this place out. Lady Bird Johnson founded this center 45 years ago, and it's the state's only wildflower center dedicated solely to native Texas plants. Kids love it for the kid-centered reading room, you'll find fort building spots along all the walking trails. There's even a "hidden" tunnel that opens up to a water grotto for kids to splash in! Our family has a membership here and we visit almost every weekend.
Hike the Greenbelt: There are tons of ways to experience Austin, but one of the best ways to understand what makes this city special is to hike the greenbelt and see the city through the trees. You can enter one of several greenbelts in Austin from a dozen different locations. My family uses the Barton Creek greenbelt to get to our favorite watering hole, Sculpture Falls (excellent for cliff jumping!).
Fun Activities in Austin
See a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse: Trust me, you haven't seen a movie until you've seen one at the Alamo. Most Austinites will tell you they don't go to the movies unless it's at an Alamo, and there's a good reason. The food is great, the staff is top-notch and the pre-show before the movie trailers is worth the visit. Your kids will have fun with their own dedicated kids menu, and you can sample Austin beers and great food throughout the movie.
Go rock climbing: Austin has one of the biggest rock climbing populations in the country, right behind Denver, CO. Grab a day pass to Crux Climbing Center or the Austin Bouldering Project and test your limits! You can sign up for a beginners class, or just let your kids strap in and climb around in the kid zone.
Visit the Crescent City Shopping Center — Austin's version of Little Tokyo: If your kids are into anime or Japanese culture, this spot is a must-do! Crecent City Shopping Center is located in North Austin, and is about a 10 minute drive from downtown. Once you're there, check out the Japanese bookstore, tons of boba tea and dumpling shops and grab a seat the rotating sushi bar. While this isn't anything comparable to the Little Tokyo in LA, it's a great stop to feed the interests of any Japan-lovers in your household.
Day Trips from Austin
Fredericksburg, Wimberley, New Braunfels and Georgetown are great places to explore, all located just a day's drive from Austin.
Places to eat & drink in Austin, Texas
Breakfast in Austin
Kerbey Lane Cafe: One of Austin's oldest family-owned restaurant chains, you can find a Kerbey Lane close to most places in the city. Most locations are open very early to very late (they were 24 hours pre-pandemic), and they're a perfect spot to start your day in the city. Kids love the pancakes (there's even a box of Kerbey pancake mix on the moon!) and parents love the mimosas. All diets can be satisfied here — check out the Cowboy Queso for a great vegetarian appetizer!
JuicelandAnother Austin chain, you can find a Juiceland location pretty much anywhere. This is a great stop for smoothies, fresh squeezed juices and quick healthy snacks (most of their sweet treats are vegan). My favorite smoothie is the Wundershowzen — pro-tip: add cold brew for a morning pick-me-up!
Lunch in Austin
Thundercloud SubsSuper casual, local Austin sandwich chain with some unbeatable food. Don't turn your nose up at the vibe — it's casual, but always fantastic. Get the soup of the day, grab an iced tea and chow down on some local Austin grub.
Tacodeli: No matter what anyone tells you, Tacodeli is *the* spot for tacos in Austin. Hands down, no contest. You can find Tacodeli spots in several locations around the city, but my favorite is their original location near Barton Springs (you can enter the greenbelt across the street). You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, and be sure to add some doña sauce for a real Tex-Mex kick!
Amy's Ice Cream + Phil's Ice House: For a mid-day sugar fix, stop by an Amy's Ice Cream location for some great local ice cream. Every location has at least two vegan options, and you can get free mix-ins if you can guess the movie quote (no cheating!). Many Amy's locations share real estate with Phil's Ice House, a local burger joint with great vegetarian options. And, many Amy's spots have playgrounds, usually with a cow or two to climb on.
Lick Ice Cream: Alternative to Amy's, check out Lick, located on South Lamar near Alamo Drafthouse. Lick is dedicated to organic, seasonal ingredients, so you'll find some more unusual and adventurous flavors compared to Amy's more typical offerings. To top it off, Lick has more vegan options than their local competitors. For a weekend trip, try both Amy's and Lick to see which spot your family likes best!
Dinner & Drinks in Austin
Lou'sWith two locations (one on the East Side and one on Barton Springs), I recommend the Barton Springs location for a more extensive food menu and for indoor seating options. Great milkshakes for the kids, excellent cocktails for the parents and awesome food all around. Head to Lou's in the evening to watch movies on the patio and soak in the local vibes on one of Austin's best streets.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya:For more adventurous eaters, head to Ramen Tatsu-Ya on South Lamar for the best ramen in Austin. The interior is small, so be prepared to wait a few minutes for a table. Once you're inside, enjoy the grub with sake or a Japanese import beer. If the kids are with a sitter, put your name on the list for Tiki Tatsu-ya, the tiki speakeasy located behind the restaurant.
Need to Know
Want the scoop on the best things to do in Austin, according to a local? Check out my Local's Guide to Austin, Texas!
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