The t-shirts are everywhere, "Keep Austin Weird".  What, at first blush, seems like an insult, is actually a badge of honor proudly worn by Austinites celebrating the uniqueness of their Texas city.

With its unique natural beauty and laid-back culture, we too think our state's capital is worth celebrating.

 

Zilker Park

Known for it's natural beauty, Austin embraces the outdoors throughout the city.  Zilker park is the most loved park in town, and families visiting Austin are sure to enjoy the many activities offered.  Famous Barton Springs pool, a constant 68 degree spring-fed swimming hole, is a family favorite as is the miniature train which circles the park.  The beauty of Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) can be appreciated by strolling along its shores on the popular hike and bike trail or by paddling its waters on a canoe (available for rent in the park).  The botanical gardens and the Austin Nature Center where kids can dig for dino bones are also fun options.

 

 

State Capitol and Texas History

"Everything is bigger in Texas" including the state capitol building and the State History Museum.  The impressive state capitol resembles the U.S. Capitol, but because it is Texas, is just a little taller.  All ages will enjoy walking through the capitol building gazing up at the rotunda and peeking in the House and Senate chambers.  For families with young children, though, we recommend keeping this visit relatively short and then venturing over to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum to learn the story of Texas.   Even if you think your kids are too young to appreciate history, they will be "WOWed" by the exhibits here.  From the Spanish knight, to the Alamo replica, to the oil derrick, our kids had a blast, learned quite a bit, and their imaginations were sent soaring.  After we got home, the kids dressed up like "one of those cowboy heroes at the museum" and played Texas cowboy all afternoon.  For most families, we recommend the "4-D" multimedia presentation, The Star of Destiny, in the Texas Spirit Theater.  The amazing special effects (such as rattling seats, wind, and sound effects) are extremely entertaining for most (our 2-yr-old loved it) and reminiscent of an amusement park experience; however, their authenticity had our most sensitive child wanting to run for the door.

 

Hills and Lakes

You cannot fully appreciate Austin without seeing some of the surrounding beauty.  We recommend you drive scenic FM2222, nestled among the hills for which the Hill Country gets its name, to The Oasis restaurant.  The Oasis has the most spectacular view of Lake Travis  we've ever seen.  You will fall in love with Austin after making this drive and experiencing the hills and lakes. 

 

 

 

Bats

For a unique end to your day, head out to the Congress Ave. bridge just before sunset to see North America's largest urban bat colony.  More than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the bridge every evening creating a spectacular sight in the sky. 

 

Austin Children's Museum

If you prefer the indoors (or if the weather is not cooperating), the Austin Children's Museum is a fantastic option.  In fact, our kids named it as the highlight of our trip.  Filled with hands-on science and culture learning centers, the museum is educationally stimulating and just plain fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Stay

The Embassy Suites Downtown, located just south of the Congress Ave. bridge, is the ideal location for families to stay when exploring the heart of Austin.  The two-room suites, complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, and nightly manager's reception make traveling with children easy.  The beautiful indoor pool was a favorite with our kids.

 

 

Where to Eat

For that local Austin feel (and great food), we recommend you eat at Chuy's, Shady Grove, Amy's Ice Cream, and the Cafe at Central Market.  Chuy's has the best Tex-Mex in the state (make sure to try the creamy jalapeno sauce), Shady Grove truly reflects the unique Austin culture (it is worth the wait to sit outside on the patio), and colorful Amy's Ice Cream will delight everyone in the family with its unique flavors.  Central Market on North Lamar is a favorite among local families.  Every Friday and Saturday night, they feature live music on the patio.  Parents can relax with a great meal and enjoy the music while children play near-by on the playground.