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Photograph: Courtesy Visit Bastrop

Best things to do with kids in Austin right now

From zoos, ice cream museums and theaters, to dinosaur parks and book stores, these are the best things to do with kids in Austin

Written by
James Wong
Contributors
David Brendan Hall
&
Sarah Medina
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Austin is absolutely packed with awesome activities to keep kids and adults alike entertained; it's a city that boasts not only ample outdoor spaces, but also almost year-round good weather to make the most of them on. Even when the heat is deemed 'unbearable' by folk from the north, it’s nothing an iced beverage and Barton Springs pool can’t fix, and during those rare storms, the indoor spaces more than suffice in keeping y’all amused.

It’s safe to say Austin will appeal to visitors and locals of all ages and all tastes. Whether you’re looking for fascinating museums to inspire and educate those curious minds; parks to bask in the sunshine and let them play; or you just fancy treating the whole clan to some yummy eats with a twist of silliness, there’s absolutely no need to leave the kiddies at home. Here are some of the most fun family activities in town.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Austin

Best things to do in Austin with kids

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Rollingwood

For kids who like to get their hands dirty, a trip to the Austin Nature & Science Center is educational and hands-on. A few of the areas located in the western corner of Zilker Park are indoors, but most of the center's activities—designed for people of all ages—are outside, with the goal of helping visitors 'increase awareness and appreciation of their natural environment'. Check out all the programs, relating to biology, astronomy and paleontology, among many other subjects.

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Greater Austin

With its underlying mission to assist animals in need through rescue, rehabilitation and education, the Austin Zoo is a fantastic choice to give the kids an up-close encounter with a wide variety of critters and feel good about it.

Your nominal admission price goes directly to efforts to save endangered species and the care of the zoo’s animals. Check out more than 300 animals of over 100 different species while exploring the 15-acre expanse of beautiful hill country. For the most scenic tour, take the 20-minute train ride and see some longhorns, alpacas and emus along the way.

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  • Attractions
  • Theme parks

Though it’s technically 12 miles east of Austin, near Bastrop, the local Dinosaur Park is a hotspot you won’t want to neglect if your little peeps are Prehistorically inclined. Unlike a traditional dino museum, this park features full-scale statues on a mile-long trail depicting the creatures as they were when they ruled the Earth, plus a Dino Dig for unearthing some life-size 'fossils'.

On a nice afternoon, it’s an ideal site for a birthday or picnic. And if it’s the right season, the grounds offer up a fantastic lesson in local wildlife; you can often spot lizards, wild rabbits, large stick insects and roadrunners as you traverse the path.

  • Attractions
  • Libraries, archives and foundations
  • Rmma

Thinkery is the ultimate space for families to discover a plethora of 'whys' and 'hows' using fun, scientific and physical experimentation.

The innovative building houses countless hours' worth of activities: Peering through microscopes or learning at the Animation Station in the Innovators’ Workshop; practicing concepts of aerodynamics with the object launcher in the Spark Shop; drawing with light or freezing shadows in the Light Lab; uncovering the link between water and sound in the Currents exhibit; or settling in with a wide variety of picture/story books in the cozy Story Nook.

And if the weather’s right, don’t forget to visit the outdoor area complete with space-age playground and a stream stocked with buckets and sieves for aquatic antics. 

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Ice cream lovers rejoiced when the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) opened at The Domain in 2021, and its since continued to play reward destination for kiddos who behaved themselves all week long. As you’d expect, the pink building is dedicated to the sweet stuff and its history across 12 multi-sensory installations.

You can jump in their famous sprinkle pool, ride the animal cookie carousel, and of course, there are ice cream breaks throughout the experience to stop and refuel at. MOIC also has Night at the Museum tickets for big kids aged 21+; it’s where the space transforms into a party with grown-up games and boozy ice cream tastings.

  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Market District

With three floors, a cozy café and plenty of quirky Keep-Austin-Weird decor, it’s no wonder that BookPeople—the largest bookstore in Texas—has been voted the capital city’s best bookstore year after year.

One of its most beloved sections is the kids area, which features a colorful, carpeted mini-amphitheater perfectly suited for weekly story times held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday morning. No matter what tale they tell, you can count on the store’s staff to send your kids home with a smile—they even occasionally bust out their 'preposterous puppeteers' for special sessions on the weekend.

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  • Attractions
  • Bouldin

It’s probably safe to say we’ve all visited some pretty lame mini-golf courses, but South Austin’s Peter Pan Mini-Golf hasn’t lost its edge since opening in 1948. For just a few bucks, you and your young’uns can conquer two courses complete with plenty of iconic challenges, including the Giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Whale, the Old Mill, the Turtle and of course good ol’ Pan himself.

Free party/picnic reservations are available and there's a huge bonus for (responsible) parents/guardians: Peter Pan is BYOB (just no glass, please).

Are your kids into song and dance? We’ve got you covered. The ZACH is Austin’s top non-profit, theatrical experience that brings together the best local talent for showstopping musicals, plays and the like. In 2022, calendar highlights include The Sound of Music and The Rocky Horror Show, and during the school holidays the theatre hosts camps to help youngsters find courage connectivity and connection.

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  • Things to do
  • Rollingwood

As the home of the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Trail of Lights, the Blues on the Green concert series, and dozens of other outdoor activities, Zilker Park is an Austin institution.

You and your kids can explore the sprawling playground, stroll through the stunning Umlauf Sculpture and Zilker Botanical gardens, rent a canoe or kayak the tranquil waterways, including Lady Bird Lake. Don’t miss out on a cool-off at Barton Springs Pool during the hotter months.

  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • North Austin

Millennial parents may remember Discovery Zone as the perfect alternative to dirty, hot, outdoor playgrounds (or Pandamonium Playland if you’re Austin born-and-bred), but these days it’s all about North Austin’s Mt. Playmore.

As Central Texas’s biggest indoor playscape, it’s an ideal spot for hours of supervised, spatial fun. Better yet, if your underage urchins prove exhausting, there are plenty of comfortable couches in a central seating area where it’s easy enough to keep close watch. There’s also an arcade and restaurant to complete the party package, plus a toddlers-only area if you’re toting tykes on the younger side.

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  • Attractions
  • Camp Mabry

It's common to witness a plethora of peacocks strolling casually among people at West Austin’s Mayfield Park and Preserve. You and your young ones can picnic or explore the gardens while watching the full mating and life cycles of this fascinating, nonaggressive avian family. whose original descendants were introduced in 1935. Primetime is late winter (February) through Spring (April/May), when the males begin fanning their elaborate plumage to court the females. 

  • Things to do
  • Camp Mabry
  • price 1 of 4

It's a case of more than than meets the eye at the Contemporary Austin. For starters, it’s one institution with two locations and the 14-acre Laguna Gloria site is incredibly kid-friendly.

Not only does its expansive grounds allow children to wander around the pieces untethered (and without fear of screaming too loud in a quiet museum room), but families are encouraged to attend on Second Saturdays, when hands-on workshops are offered. They also offer kid-friendly backpacks stocked with art supplies, just in case inspiration strikes when touring the grounds.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Upper Boggy Creek

If you’re among Austin’s countless transplants, here’s a music-focused weekend activity that might’ve skirted under your radar. Every Sunday, you can grab your coffee fix while entertaining the kids at East-Central Austin’s uber-chill Cherrywood Coffeehouse during brunch hours, which feature special live music performances just for children.

Each weekend hosts a different act and often things move around depending on festival season, so be sure to check their events page ahead of visit.

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