Keeping the Family Entertained in the Lone Star State’s Capital City
Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is Texas’ trendy destination, with hip bars and clubs contributing to the city’s legendary nightlife. But the capital city features attractions for its younger visitors as well, with its rich cultural landscape and top-notch museums that provide kids with opportunities for creativity. Nestled at the foothills of the lush Texas hill country and dotted with numerous waterways, including the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake, Austin also offers children plenty of natural beauty to explore.
Going Wild: A Day at the Zoo
Take a trip into the wild at the Austin Zoo (10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin, TX), home to more than 350 animals. Kids will enjoy up-close views of creatures from around the globe, including Galapagos tortoises, Bengal tigers and ring-tailed lemurs, not to mention such Texas wildlife as broad-banded copperhead snakes and northern bobwhite birds. For an added fee, take the 20-minute train ride through the surrounding hills to catch a glimpse of non-zoo animals like Texas Longhorns and alpacas.
Formerly known as the Austin Children’s Museum, Thinkery (830 Simond Ave., Austin, TX) gives kids a chance to solve problems and express themselves creatively through a host of hands-on exhibits. Let your child construct light structures using magnets and LED blocks, experiment with chemical reactions in a kitchen and launch gliders into the air. Tiny tots visit a pretend world where they collect eggs from a chicken coop and shop for fruits and vegetables at a farmers market, while the older kids work on stop-animation projects. A massive outdoor playground outfitted with an elaborate climber and splash stream caters to children of all ages.
Under the Sea
Your kids will delight in exploring the world of aquatic life at the Austin Aquarium (13530 N. Hwy. 183, #101, Austin, TX). Watch as sharks and stingrays swim through tanks, colorful toucans and macaws fly about and exotic amphibians and reptiles slither through a rainforest. On select days, the kids can even take a picture with a mermaid. For an added fee, they can touch a Giant Pacific octopus, feed tropical fish or follow marine biologists on their morning rounds as they check in on the wildlife.
Exploring Green Space
Located in Austin’s southern region, Zilker Metropolitan Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX) covers more than 350 acres of land. Enjoy a wide range of workout opportunities as you walk the trails along the shores of Lady Bird Lake, canoe across the surface of Town Lake or swim in the spring-fed waters of Barton Springs Pool. Retreat to the lush and tranquil setting of the Zilker Botanical Gardens, where kids are treated to dinosaur topiaries and butterfly gardens. Family-friendly concerts and shows take place during the summer at the Zilker Hillside Theater, and during the winter holidays, the park erects a 155-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Getting in Touch With the Past
Set in the heart of downtown Austin, the Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 Congress Ave., Austin, TX) offers kid-friendly exhibits detailing the storied history of the Lone Star State. Get an up-close view of the remnants of La Belle, a 17th-century shipwreck pulled from the depths of Matagorda Bay and a 1960s Mission Control console used by NASA in Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center. Enjoy a unique perspective of Texas’ history via short films screened at the museum’s 4D IMAX theater or take in a free concert under the stars in summer months. Special programs are available throughout the year for kids ages 2 to 12, including story time sessions and arts, crafts and engineering workshops.
A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.