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. Find tacos and trains along with murals and museums, perfect for a long weekend. The National Parks TravelingMom has lived in and around Austin for nearly 20 years. She’s passing on her 3 day itinerary for Austin Texas.
3 Day Itinerary for Austin Texas
For families that love the outdoors, Austin, Texas, packs in the family fun. Start with Zilker Park then move on to West Austin for the arts and culture. Then finish up with the state capitol and the University of Texas in this 3 day itinerary of Austin Texas.
- Barton Springs Pool
- Zilker Botanical Garden
- Austin Nature Center
- Zilker Botanical Garden
- Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
- Congress Avenue Bridge
- Laguna Gloria Sculpture Park
- Mayfield Park
- Texas Military Forces Museum
- Mount Bonnell
- South Congress Avenue
- Texas State Capitol
- The Bullock Texas State History Museum
- University of Texas Campus
- Elizabeth Ney Museum
Day 1 In and Around Zilker Park
As the big park in the center of town, get a real feel for Austin in Zilker Park. With the Barton Springs Pool as the stand-out, kids have more than swimming. Find a miniature train, a large, shaded playscape and information about the springs at the Splash Exhibit.
Then continue on to the Zilker Botanical Garden or the Austin Nature Center, across the park. Pack a picnic and a Frisbee for more fun.
Zilker Park hosts seasonal activities throughout the year, like Zilker Kite Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival and holiday favorite Trail of Lights. Parking is free during the week, though weekends and special events require paid parking in the park.
Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.
Open every day 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for cleaning
Admission Adults $8.00, Students (12 to 17) $4.00, Kids (1 to 11) $3.00 and free for babies
Enjoy a sparkling blue oasis with a year-round constant water temperature of 68 to 70 degrees F. With three-acres of spring-fed water, swimmers can jump off the diving board, walk in on the zero-entry rock entrance or swim laps for exercise.
Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer Exhibit
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
Learn about the springs that feed the Barton Springs Pool in an interactive display.
Zilker Hillside Theatre
2206 William Barton Dr.
Shows Thursday to Sunday evenings during summer season
Across from the Barton Springs Pool, theaters goers enjoy Broadway classics under the stars. For over 60 years, visitors throw down blankets and grab the picnic baskets for dinner and a show al fresco.
Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train
2100 Barton Springs Dr.
Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Adults $3 Kids (1 to 12) $2 Babies free
Right across from the Barton Springs Pool hop abroad Zilker Park’s miniature train. On a 20-minute ride, get a tour of the park. The Zilker Zephyr is a must for little kids. Cash only.
Next to the train depot
Find a shaded play scape for the kids to run off some energy. Find lots of play equipment on a large playground.
Zilker Park Boat Rentals
2101 Andrew Zilker Rd.
Open every day 9 a.m. to dusk
$18/an hour per boat or $54 all day
If your kids are too old for miniature trains and playscapes then rent a boat. Nestled along the banks of Barton Creek, rent a boat or board to explore Zilker Park by water. The creek features calm water and lots of birds and turtles to see and feeds into Lady Bird Lake.
Though turn around at the entrance of Lady Bird Lake with inexperienced paddlers since larger boats navigate Lake Bird Lake. Cash Only.
Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Road
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission $3 for adults and $1 for kids 3 to 12. Cash or Check only
With a combination of rose gardens, herb and Japanese gardens, this garden is beloved by Austinites. There’s 26 acres to explore including a pond with koi.
The woodland fairy garden is especially beloved by kids and makes a picturesque backdrop for photos. The Hartman Prehistoric Garden recreates a dinosaur habitat.
Austin Nature Center
2389 Strafford Drive
Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Learn about environmental science in an indoor/outdoor space. See native animals in rehabilitative care. Take the Forest Trail to see native trees. Then take a hike to the overlook to see the Austin skyline.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
605 Robert E. Lee
Open Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m.
Adults $5, Students $1, Kids 12 and under free, Senior Discount
Walk through a landscaped garden seeing bronze sculptures. A nice blend for parents who appreciate art and kids who get bored in indoor museums.
Pack a picnic and some water bottles for a day in Zilker Park.
Where to Eat near Zilker Park
For one of Austin’s iconic outdoor dining spots head to Shady Grove. With a menu packed with burgers, salads and queso, it offers a good selection for families.
Though it’s not a family themed restaurant, you can catch free live music on Thursday nights from April through September. Starting at 8 p.m. catch Unplugged at the Grove features a line-up of some of Austin favorite bands.
Located at 1624 Barton Springs Road, it’s open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Congress Avenue Bridge
South Congress Avenue
Dusk from March through November
Free but pay to park in a nearby garage.
Every spring over a million bats move into the South Congress Bridge over Lake Bird Lake. 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. Several bats colonies live in Austin, this is the most famous colony.
Day 2–Arts and Parks of 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.
Laguna Gloria Sculpture Park
3809 W. 35th St.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission $5 for adults, $3 for students and free for kids under 18. Free on Tuesdays
Visit the outdoor contemporary sculpture garden where kids can roam while adults enjoy art set on a Lake Austin estate. Check in at the desk for backpack filled with art supplies and an iPod with music to compliment the art for kids.
3505 W. 35th St.
Open from dawn to dusk
Mayfield Park is like two parks in one. 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 21-acres of wilderness area to explore. Located next to Laguna Gloria.
Texas Military Forces Museum
3038 W. 35th St.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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 sons, 10 and 14, 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 present.
3800 Mount Bonnell Rd.
Open from dawn to dusk
Head up the rock stairs for some of the best views in Austin. At the top, find a pavilion and look down on the Lake Austin section of the Colorado River. This is the place to watch the sun set.
See the downtown Austin skyline in the opposite direction at this 5-acre park. The pavilion area has a fence but the trail back to the parking lot doesn’t so watch the little kids.
Where to Eat in West Austin
Take in the views at Hula Hut on Lake Austin, an ATX institution that offers boat parking. Try the Tubular Tacos for a Hawaiian take on a burrito. Located at 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For a quick snack, head to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, located next to Hula Hut. Find desserts, coffee drinks and ice cream. Open 7 a.m. to midnight, most days.
After a good day of 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 an easy stroll for families. Watch the kids, though, as South Congress is a busy street.
Shopping on South Congress
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 then look for SoCo’s murals.
Big Top Candy Shop—The kids will see this old-fashioned candy store before the adults. Located at 1706 S. Congress Ave.
Tesoro’s Trading Company—Teens love to poke around the wide assortment of imported goods here. Located at 1500 S. Congress Ave.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds—It’s a costume shop that offers everything imaginable. Located at 1506 S. Congress Ave.
Allen’s Boots—If you’re looking for cowboy boots, head here. It’s where I bought my Lucchese boots. Or just window shop and breath in the rich leather smell. Located at 1522 S. Congress Ave.
Where to Eat on South Congress
I love to eat and I suggest the following local places.
Guero’s Mexican Food—Lots of tables and Tex-Mex staples, located at 1412 S. Congress Ave.
Home Slice Pizza—A home-grown Austin chain baking up thin crust pizza. Located at 1415 S. Congress Ave.
Torchy’s Tacos—An Austin original with inventive tacos sold individually. Located at 1822 S. Congress Ave.
Treats on South Congress
The kids have been good so it’s time for a treat.
Hey Cupcake + Smile Mural —Located in the vintage Airstream trailer. You’ll find an assortment of cupcakes piled high with buttercream. Located at 1511 S. Congress Ave.
Amy’s Ice Cream + Amy’s Cartoon People Mural—Another ATX original with ice cream so creamy and rich most adults grab a cone. Located at 1301 S. Congress Ave.
Jo’s Coffee and the I Love You So Much street art—Mom needs a pick-me-up so stop at Jo’s then snap a selfie at the street art on the side of the building.
Don’t forget the ART
Check out the Willie for President Mural located at the intersection of Elizabeth and South Congress Ave. And really there’s loads of murals up and down South Congress. So play mural hide-and-seek with the kids.
Day 3–Learn some Texas History
If it’s your first trip to Austin, learn more about Texas. A trip to the capitol is a must. It’s the only state that was a independent country before becoming a U.S. state. And native Texans will tell you all about it along with the story of the Alamo.
Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress Ave.
Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tours 8:30 to 4:30
Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tours 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tours noon to 3:30 p.m.
For Texans and tourists alike, a trip to the 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. Located at 112 East 11th St. and it’s not required to visit the visitor center before heading to the Capitol Tour. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Visitors to the Texas State Capitol have to pass through airport-style security. Parking is located at the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage, located at 1201 San Jacinto Blvd.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
1800 Congress Ave.
Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Admission Adults $13, Students $11 and Kids (4 to 17) $9
Learn more about Texas history and catch an IMAX movie at this popular museum for families. Check out the artifacts area for unique objects from Texas history. Located just north of the capitol.
University of Texas Campus
405 W. 25th St.
Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you’ve got a teen in the car, then head to the University of Texas for a college tour. Even on the busiest of college tour weeks (Spring Break) you can see the school.
Start by an online reservation for an information session and campus tour. Then reserve an individual college tours and on-campus housing.
Where to Eat near the UT Campus
On Guadalupe, or “the drag” as the locals call it, find an iconic burger joint. Dirty Martin’s KumBack Place been grilling up burgers since 1926. The front entrance looks like a dive though head to the back room for a picnic table with the kids.
Along with the burgers served in baskets I recommend the shakes. Located at 2808 Guadalupe and open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Elizabeth Ney Museum
304 E. 44th St.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday
If you visit the Texas State Capitol then you saw Elizabeth Ney’s sculptures of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Originally born and educated in Germany, she immigrated to Texas in 1882.
This is her former studio where she lived and worked. See lots of examples of her sculpture then continue outside to see the gardens around the museum. Located in the Hyde Park, an historic neighborhood, north of the University of Texas.