Austin—Top 10 Family Summer Must-Do’s
Nothing beats the big city for big family fun. Check out all there is to do and see, from going batty to natural beauty.
Take advantage of Austin’s two popular train attractions. A family favourite close to downtown is the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train that takes kids of all ages on a 25-minute ride through picturesque Zilker Park. Or, on weekends year-round, step on board the Bertram Flyer for a three-hour ride through the Texas Hill Country. You’ll see everything from rolling pastures to rocky tundra, and you’ll get a chance to explore the restored Bertram Train Depot, built in 1912.
Your kids will be awed by the spectacle of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats swooping out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Families can watch the winged wonders from the shore, or try a bat-watching kayak tour.
The hills are alive
What kid hasn’t wished to swing from the trees and frolic in the hills like the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music? Now your children can, thanks to Zilker Theatre Productions’ presentation of this classic musical July 6 through August 11 at the Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater, where rolling green hills and gnarled trees perfect for climbing compete with the stage for children’s attention.
Quirky and quacky fun
When it comes to fun, get quackin’ with Austin Duck Adventures’ quirky downtown tour. Venture off on an amphibious vehicle that can traverse land or sea (or rather, lake), and hit all the hot spots, like Sixth Street, the State Capitol, Bob Bullock State History Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and Lake Austin as an informative guide provides historic and titillating titbits. Perhaps the most fun part for pint-size tour guests? The captain’s occasional call for quacking at locals along the way!
Family bonding at Mount Bonnell
After enjoying all that mouth-watering Tex-Mex and barbecue, a little exercise is likely in order. Embark on a “hike” to the highest point within Austin’s city limits: Mount Bonnell. An easy jaunt for most ages and athletic abilities—the trail to the top is just under a third of a mile, with an elevation gain of 190 feet—kids will thrill to the task of counting exactly how many stairs it takes to get to the top (99 is the going number). At the end of the staircase, children will enjoy scrambling on the many boulders while adults are rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline.
I scream, you scream
During the summer, there’s nothing better than a big scoop of ice cream, and here in Texas, no brand is more beloved than Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas (approximately a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Austin). On weekdays, visitors can arrange to take a guided tour of the factory and learn how ice cream is made and packaged—but the real fun comes at the tour’s end when when you receive a giant scoop of one of their famous flavours. (Still hungry? Additional scoops are just $1 each!)
Explore inner space
Discovered by construction workers building the I-35 freeway in Georgetown, Inner Space Cavern is a natural underground cavern featuring spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, giant columns and animal fossils that date back to the Ice Age. Choose from three levels of guided tourse—from about one hour to four hours long—to experience the fascinating story of the cave’s history and discovery.
Coffee and a kids’ show
Every Sunday morning at Ruta Maya Café, a popular South Austin coffee shop, family-friendly entertainers amuse tots with tricks ranging from a talking parrot and giant bubbles to unicycles and yo-yos while parents savour tall lattes or cups of coffee.
A day at the zoo
Make faces at a monkey and feed deer, goats and llamas at the Austin Zoo, a sanctuary for rescued animals just outside the city limits. Home to more than 300 animals of 100 different species, the Zoo offers kid-friendly fun in the form of a petting zoo, train rides on the Rawhide Rocket, a butterfly garden, a picnic grove and more.
The story of Texas
Committed to making history come alive for every generation, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum offers three storeys of eye-popping exhibits for kids and parents alike, including a full-size teepee, the Capitol’s original Goddess of Liberty statue and a circa 1940 AT-6 “Texan” airplane in the central atrium. After exploring the extensive collections, rest your feet as you take in The Star of Destiny, a thrilling special-effects show held in the 200-seat Texas Spirit Theater, the biggest multimedia theater in the state.