The Lone Star State’s city of Austin is full of excitement, mixed with cowboy flair. Whether you want to see the natural landscape, get closer to wildlife or explore Texas history and culture, Austin has it all. If you’re travelling to this exciting destination with kids in tow, introduce them to the city with these entertaining ideas.
During Austin’s bat season, which runs March through November each year, roughly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats swoop out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. Families can watch the winged wonders from the shore or try a bat-watching kayak tour.
Get on board
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 Metropolitan Park. Or, on weekends year round, step on board the Bertram Flyer for a three-hour ride through 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.
Climb a mountain
Hike to one of the highest points within Austin’s city limits: Mount Bonnell. An easy jaunt for most ages and levels of athletic ability, the trail to the top is a third of a mile, with an elevation gain of 190 feet (58 metres). Kids can count exactly how many stairs it takes to get to the top, where they’ll enjoy scrambling on boulders. Adults are rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline.
Explore a natural wonder
Photography Inner Space Cavern
Discovered by construction workers building the I-35 freeway in nearby 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 guided tours – from about one hour to four hours long – to learn about the fascinating story of the cave’s history and discovery.
Photography Julian W. / Alamy Stock Photo
Make faces at monkeys 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 about 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 and a picnic grove.
Learn about Texas
The Bullock Texas State History Museum offers three storeys of eye-popping exhibits for kids and parents, including a full-size tepee, the Capitol’s original Goddess of Liberty statue and a 1941 AT-6A “Texan” airplane. After exploring the extensive collections, catch a performance of The Star of Destiny, a thrilling special-effects show held in the 200-seat Texas Spirit Theater, the biggest multimedia theatre in the state.
Tour downtown Austin
Austin Duck Adventures’ quirky downtown tour blends local history with kid-friendly fun. Venture off on an amphibious vehicle that can traverse land or sea (or rather, lake) and hit all the hot spots – Sixth Street, the Texas State Capitol, Bullock State History Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and Lake Austin – as a guide provides historical details and anecdotes. The best part for pint-size tour guests: the captain’s occasional call for quacking at locals along the way.