Start your child's enrichment early by introducing them to a variety of fun and educational activities in Central Texas. The next time your little one says, "I'm bored," consider taking them to one of these top fun family things to do in Austin, Texas. In doing so, you will educate and entertain your child through these great activities outside the home.
If the Weather Is Bad
Though freezing temperatures rarely strike the Texas Hill Country, rainy weather does. Also, the unbearably high temperatures of the Texas summer keep many Austinites indoors during the heat of the day. You should have a backup plan for outside activities in case storms or heat drive you inside. If the weather does not cooperate with your outdoor plans, you still have several options for kid-friendly things to do in Austin, Texas, that don't require being outside.
1. Austin Aquarium
The Austin Aquarium is more than just a fish tank. This site aims to foster a love of nature and conservancy. Visitors get to experience the feel of a stingray's skin and feed animals during their visit. In addition to showcasing sea life from around the world, the Austin Aquarium also has a rainforest exhibit that includes ring-tailed lemurs, coatimundis, reptiles and more.
If you plan on visiting, note that ticket prices vary depending on whether you visit on weekends or weekdays. Because this facility promotes education and caring for children, all foster children and educators get in free with proof of status. For indoor fun for the whole family when it's too hot for the zoo, check out the Austin Aquarium.
2. Zach Theatre
The Zach Theatre offers ways to experience the theater and performing arts both as a viewer and participant. In addition to the live shows on its mainstage, the theater also provides family performances designed for all ages.
If your children are interested in acting, the theater also hosts performing arts classes and camps for all ages. While the courses for older students focus on fine-tuning the professional aspects of acting, courses for younger kids help them learn the performing arts. At the end of the classes and camps, the students show off their newly acquired skills in a theater production.
3. Austin Rock Gym
Even if you cannot go outside, your kids don't have to sit on the couch all day. At Austin Rock Gym, you can get everyone in the family active through indoor climbing. If only your child climbs at the gym, you can get in for a reduced parent belaying fee that covers the rental of the harness and belay. Don't worry about having the right equipment. You can rent everything you need at the gym.
Costs depend on what you rent and how many people visit. If you plan to climb at Austin Rock Gym regularly, look into individual or family memberships or punch cards to reduce your overall price. Programs at the gym include basics on climbing in addition to classes designed just for kids. For kids between four and seven, the gym offers the Monkey Business class. Parents get a belaying course included with their kids' classes. Older kids from eight to 13 can take the Rock Monsters class.
If you can't stop your kids from climbing, don't. Take them to Austin Rock Gym instead to learn climbing in a safe, supervised environment with the right equipment.
Family Fun Attractions in Texas That Are Free
You don't need to spend a lot of money to have fun with the whole family. The Austin area has a wealth of natural features that cost nothing to enjoy. Choose from the structured beauty of Zilker Park or visit nearby Mount Bonnell for the closest you can get to climbing a mountain in Central Texas.
4. Zilker Metropolitan Park
For a day outside that won't break the bank, take your kids to one of Austin's biggest and best city parks, Zilker Metropolitan Park. Though the entrance to the park, the play areas and the picnic sites cost nothing, you will need to pay a small fee if you want to take a dip at the Barton Springs Pool or visit the Zilker Botanical Gardens.
Zilker Metropolitan Park has activities and events all year long for the whole family. Hike or bike along the trails, play disc golf on the course or take in a show at the Zilker Hillside Theater — the park has free live theater shows with open seating on the hillside. In addition to the typical park activities, you will also find the Austin Nature and Science Museum in the park. Consider this a separate location to take your kids, though. Its large number of exhibits will require plenty of time for your children to enjoy them all.
5. Hike Mount Bonnell
Younger kids will love being able to tell others about climbing a mountain. While mountains are few and far between in Austin, you can easily reach the tallest peak in the area when you visit Mount Bonnell. If your kids can climb stairs, they can reach the top of Austin's mountain. The trip to the top and back down is a great way to get a view of the city while helping your kids to burn off some of their boundless energy.
Located on the west side of Austin in Covert Park, Mount Bonnell overlooks the Colorado River and Austin. Mount Bonnell attracts mostly tourists, as it has done since the 1850s when Austinites flocked to its peak for picnics. You won't need to worry about your kids falling from cliffs while climbing, either. Most of the journey takes place over the stairs leading to the 775-foot-high peak. People of all hiking abilities can tackle this trek, as long as they can climb both natural and human-made stairs.
6. Cathedral of Junk
If you want to inspire kids to become artists or introduce them to creative works, take them to the Cathedral of Junk. Unlike other art establishments, the Cathedral is in its creator Vince Hanneman's backyard. He works a regular job and only allows admission by appointment. However, groups of all ages, from school children to senior citizens, have visited his artistic rendering from found objects.
Though the Cathedral of Junk has hosted weddings, it is not a religious fixture. It is merely a reflection of the artist's particular tastes since he began piling found items together in 1988. Because the artist himself gives tours, your child can interact directly with him. Rarely can kids have the opportunity to see a unique art fixture and talk to the artist. Don't miss the opportunity to see this quirky side of Austin.
Educational Family Adventures in Texas
If you want to keep your focus on education, you will not run out of activities in the Austin area. Teach your kids about history, science, nature and more. When your little ones demand kid-friendly things to do in Texas, but you want them to learn, try these educational sites to please everyone in the family.
7. Pioneer Farms
Texas students typically learn about the state's history through textbooks. But identifying with early Texas residents may be difficult for kids accustomed to air conditioning and smartphones. Why not bring history to life by taking your kids to the Pioneer Farms? This living history museum shows kids what life was like before electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones. Use a trip to the Pioneer Farms as a supplement to Texas history lessons to give your children a frame of reference for such a different period.
Historic sites take visitors back in time to notable periods in Texas' past. At each site, the buildings and the surrounding area represent the residents' ways of life. From a Tonkawa encampment to a German immigrant farm to a Texan's homestead, you can help your child see how Texans of the past lived. For more information about the sites during your self-guided tour, download the walking tour booklet, which identifies rules of the farms and how to best enjoy the educational experience.
Thinkery is Austin's children's museum that includes interactive exhibits for all ages. The ideal ages for visiting Thinkery are kids from newborn to 11, but anyone can learn from the exhibits through play. As an all-inclusive museum, Thinkery offers No Tour Tuesdays. If you want a quieter experience without school tours, visit on the first Tuesday of the month. The more tranquil experience gives even children with noise sensitivities a chance to enjoy the museum and explore at their own pace.
Thinkery encourages creativity and experimentation. For example, in the Spark Shop, kids can build and launch gliders, create art projects or take apart toys to see how they work. Such activities are rare outside Thinkery. If you have kids who have a curiosity about how things work, Thinkery is the place for them.
9. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Native flowers, trees and insects are some of the things your kids will see and learn about at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The facility's 284 acres focuses on education, conservation and developing sustainability. You and your kids will see up to 900 native plants growing at the center, depending on the time of year. A trip to the Wildflower Center creates an opportunity for discussion about caring for the Earth by focusing on native flora.
Don't miss the family garden. This area encourages kids to play with nature. Features you'll see in this garden include a child-sized wildlife blind, larger-than-life grapevine bird nests, dinosaur footprints and much more. By encouraging kids to play and enjoy nature, you can teach them to protect it as well. The family garden helps your little ones connect to the environment in ways they cannot elsewhere.
In addition to strolling the gardens and arboretum, your child can participate in several classes, some free with admission. These programs occur throughout the year and change regularly. Courses include informal weekly programs and more regimented summer camps. Check them out when you next visit the center.
10. Austin Nature and Science Center
Visiting the Austin Nature and Science Center costs nothing, but you can spend all day enjoying the exhibits as you learn. For budding paleontologists, don't miss the Dino Pit. This interactive exhibit lets kids dig for molded casts of fossils found in the Austin area and throughout Texas. In addition to excavating fossil models, kids can also see replicas of dinosaur tracks and learn more about paleontology through the Austin Nature and Science Center's youth programs that use the Dino Pit as part of their teachings.
The Austin Nature and Science Center also has exhibits featuring wildlife, monarch butterflies and a nature trail. Occasionally, you can see traveling exhibits in the visitor's center. Through these exhibits, your child can learn about flora and fauna of the Austin area and more. For kids who like active learning, the Austin Nature and Science Center gives them the chance to get outside while enjoying an educational experience.
11. Texas Memorial Museum
Find the Texas Memorial Museum on the main campus of the University of Texas. If your kids couldn't get enough of dinosaurs and paleontology from a trip to the Austin Nature and Science Center, take them to the Texas Memorial Museum. You will find multiple exhibits focusing on geology and paleontology. Among the things you and your children will see are dinosaur fossils, meteorites, a paleo lab and much more. The paleo lab gives you and your kids the chance to talk to lab volunteers or paleontologists and ask questions. If your kids have a desire to go into the field of paleontology, talking to a real scientist will help them get the answers to the questions they ask that only a professional would know.
The museum also hosts at least two fossil-related events during the year. In mid-October, your kids can participate in the free activities for National Fossil Day. On Identification Day in September, your children can bring anything they've found to get an expert eye on it.
Don't Stop Learning
After spending time finding family fun attractions in Texas, don't let your child's education and fun stop when the school year starts. Discover an exploratory education for your child with Sapientia Montessori. We have full accreditation for Montessori childhood education from 18 months through 12 years that is recognized worldwide.
Sapientia is part of a sisterhood of Montessori schools around Austin, TX. No matter which school you call home, you will find a loving, caring location where your child can develop a passion for learning. Contact us to see how we can help every aspect of your child grow and blossom.