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Austin, Texas, offers family fun throughout the year. With lots of outdoor adventure and a funky cultural vibe, Austin is the darling of the Lone Star State. This weekend itinerary for Austin Texas, written by a Texas TravelingMom, includes parks, pools, bikes, hikes, history, and more. To read the full article from TravelingMom click here.
9:00 AM — Take a bike tour
There’s no better way to get a feel for the city than by bike. If you’re visiting with older kids, consider taking a 2-hour guided bike tour of Austin to get a feel for the city. The ride starts at Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park, and then you pedal along Lady Bird Lake on the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. I was surprised by how much of the city we managed to see.
Be sure to arrive early to grab one of the bike rental shop’s 4 free parking spots, use the restroom, and get fitted for helmets. Then, head over to meet your expert guide and begin the ride. Michael, my guide, made frequent stops to point out public art and landmarks, from moon towers to bat bridges – don’t forget to bring cash for a tip for your guide!
As the tour is quite fast-paced and there aren’t any bathroom breaks along the way, it’s not advised to bring younger children. The route also takes you on city streets, which could be nerve-wracking with small children.
Midday Stroll in and around Zilker Park
Get a real feel for the city by visiting Zilker Park. Located right in the center of town, this big park is known for the Barton Springs Pool. Yet there is so much more than swimming – you’ll also find Zilker Botanical Garden and the Ziker Hillside Theatre just across from the park. Be prepared to stay until nightfall by packing a picnic for the evening.
With a combination of rose, herb, and Japanese gardens, Ziker Botanical Garden is beloved by Austinites. There are 26 acres to explore, including a pond with koi that mesmerizes little ones and big ones alike! The woodland fairy garden here is the perfect place to snap a family photo to send home. Alternatively, travel back in time and enter The Hartman Prehistoric Garden which recreates a dinosaur habitat.
After your scenic walks, you’ll probably be looking for a bite to eat. I’d suggest Dirty Martin’s Kum Bak Place, an iconic burger joint which is on “the Drag” in Austin – just head past the University of Texas to Guadalupe Street to find it. Dirty Martin’s have been grilling up burgers since 1926. They offer solid hamburgers served in baskets and delicious shakes. The front entrance looks like a dive though head to the back room for a picnic table with the kids.
Across from the Barton Springs Pool, the Hillside theater has been showcasing Broadway classics under the night sky for over 60 years. Unpack your picnic basket for dinner and throw down the blanket for a show al fresco.
8:00 PM — Bat-watch from Congress Avenue Bridge
From March to November, take the opportunity to watch the bat colonies fly over Lady Bird Lake. Several bat colonies live in Austin and this is the most famous colony. Every spring, over 1-million bats move into the South Congress Bridge over As the unofficial mascot of Austin, the bats fly out each sunset in a dizzying pattern munching on bugs. Choose your viewing spot carefully since the sleepy bats like to pee-pee first thing after leaving their roost.
9:00 AM — Get Cultural in West Austin
Head west of Mopac to find a mix of the arts, the parks, and the city views. Mopac is the western north-south highway artery in Austin and named after the Missouri-Pacific Railroad line that runs in-between the lanes.
I’d recommend Mayfield Park, next to Laguna Gloria. as it’s like 2 parks in 1. The central area is a formal landscaped water lily garden with a vintage cottage. The show stopper is the flock of peacocks that roam the property, perching in the trees.
Outside the landscaped area, find an additional wonderful 21-acres of wilderness area to get lost in.
12:00 PM — Go to the Texas Military Forces Museum
I didn’t know what to expect, especially when I had to stop at security to get onto Camp Mabry, a Texas military installation. But as soon as we walked through the doors, my 10 -year-old and 14-year-old sons were entranced.
See everything from old uniforms to a fighter jet trainer kids can climb in. Learn how Texans contributed to the military from the Texas Revolution until the present day.
3:00 PM — Do a Scavenger Hunt
If you have a child or teen who’s into the ciphers, codes, and word scrambles, an Austin scavenger hunt that you can do on your cell phone is a great way to keep them engaged. You can take a self-guided tour that begins at Austin’s Yeti flagship store. After each question, the app directs you where to go next.
Expect to learn a few new things about Austin through the scavenger hunt as well as finding new places to explore. The questions could lead you to a gazebo, a turtle pond, the top of a hill, over a pedestrian bridge, and even under a train bridge.
TravelingMom Tip: Many of the questions are challenging and take several steps to figure out. Be sure each participant has his or her own phone or device to follow along. If you’re traveling with younger children, consider renting bikes or taking breaks since there is a lot of walking involved.
5:00 PM — Head to South Congress
After a good day at the parks and the museums in West Austin, change gears and head to South Congress for the evening. Packed with funky shopping, dining, and iconic murals, it’s a perfect stroll for families of all sizes. Watch the kids, though, as South Congress is a busy street. If you’re looking for a memorable dinner, Torchy’s Tacos on 1822 S. Congress Ave. serves inventive tacos sold individually. Alternatively, if Italian’s more your thing, Home Slice Pizza provides melt-in-your-mouth thin crust pizza. Best of all, it’s a home-grown Austin chain.
Since South Congress offers unique and local shopping, it’s the ideal place for souvenirs. Take a walking tour and do a bit of shopping while looking out for SoCo’s murals.
10:00 AM — Learn some Texas History at the Texas State Capitol
If it’s your first trip to Austin, you’ve got to learn more about Texas. It’s the only state that was an independent country before becoming a US state. And native Texans will tell you all about it along with the story of the Alamo.
A trip to the Texas State Capitol is a must. Built from 1882 to 1888, it’s actually taller than the U.S. Capitol. The capitol grounds offer shaded walking paths and the interior features the sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen Austin, by local artist Elizabeth Ney.
Stop by the Capitol Visitors Center for more information. The Texas Travel Center is also located at this building.
1:00 PM — Visit the Elizabeth Ney Museum
When you visited the Texas State Capitol, you saw Elizabeth Ney’s sculptures of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Born and educated in Germany, Ney immigrated to Texas in 1882.
This is her former studio where she lived and worked. With free entry, the chance to see lots of sculptures is even more alluring. Continue outside to see the lush gardens around the museum to round off your visit.
5:00 PM — Take a Ghost Tour
A unique way to learn more about Austin’s storied past is to join a Haunted History Ghost Tour. These 60 to 90-minute guided walking tours explore historic sites where paranormal activity has been reported.
With a ghost guide, journey through downtown streets while listening to spinning tales about the many spirits who continue to haunt Austin’s historic hotels, bars, theaters, and museums today. taking photo after photo of windows to see if ghost faces would later appear.
The tours lightly touch on history too but the main focal point are the intriguing spooky stories!