Austin, Texas, is not only the Texas state capital, but it’s an outdoor adventurer’s paradise! Austin is sprinkled with plenty of hiking, biking and horse trails, swimming holes, amazing parks and playgrounds, beautiful flora and fauna, water activities, and so much more! It’s an ideal destination for families looking for outdoor adventures big and small. Today, Austin mom of two, Tiana Kubik, takes us on a tour of her family’s favorite outdoor locations and things to do outside with kids in Austin, Texas. With so many amazing things to do outside with kids, you’re going to want to add Austin to your family bucket list! 

best outdoor locations and kid-friendly outdoor activities in Austin, Texas

Best outdoor kid-friendly activities in Austin

Austin is the perfect place for family fun outdoors! With its vibrant culture, music scene, and delicious food, you can explore nature and enjoy a multitude of exciting experiences. But, did you know that the city also offers a plethora of outdoor activities perfect for families with kids?

A visit to Austin is a fantastic opportunity to explore some of the best outdoor explorations and scenic views!  Austin has something for every outdoor enthusiast! Whether you’re looking to play, swim, eat, hike, bike, or just relax – Austin is the perfect place for making amazing outdoor family memories!

best outdoor locations and kid-friendly outdoor activities in Austin, Texas best parks and playgrounds in Austin

Best outdoor locations for kids in Austin

There’s a reason Austin is often ranked one of the best outdoor cities in the country. From cycling and hiking, to stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking – Austin offers an abundance of outdoor activities for kids (of all ages) and families and some of the best places for the whole family to explore. 

With 300+ days of sunshine and an average temperature of 68 degrees, getting outside in Austin is easy! Here are a few of our favorite fun outdoor locations that need to be on your next Austin itinerary. 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Austin with kids

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, located just south of downtown Austin, visitors can explore 284 acres of lush gardens and natural areas featuring over 900 species of native Texas plants. Children will particularly enjoy exploring the interactive learning exhibits as well as participating in a fun-filled scavenger hunt that takes them on a full tour of the gardens (beware…some of the items are well hidden!).

The center also features a family garden, where children and adults alike can play and learn about the native plant life of Texas. Afterward, visitors can shop for eco-friendly gifts and souvenirs at the center’s gift shop or take a break to relax at the cafe. 

Pioneer Farms, Austin with kidsPioneer Farms

Take a journey through time at Pioneer Farms, an outdoor living history museum that showcases life in Texas from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Spanning over 90 acres of historic buildings, breathtaking gardens, and farm animals, this unique attraction is perfect for families looking for an immersive experience into the lives of pioneer settlers and Texas history. Touring homes and structures that were common during each time period, children can see how much things have changed, and maybe have some appreciation for not being made to sleep in the attic!

Pioneer Farms also makes for a great hike! With plenty of trails to explore and a serene backdrop, it’s a wonderful place for a leisurely nature walk. If you can, try to get there when they first open—you’re likely to have the grounds all to yourself for a bit.

Zilker Park Austin with kids

Zilker Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park, located in Austin, Texas, is an outdoor lover’s paradise with so many fun things to do and so much fun to be had! With its sprawling fields and trails, Zilker Park offers the perfect opportunity for recreation and relaxation. For those looking to take a dip in nature’s pool, Barton Springs Pool is a must-visit. This natural spring-fed pool remains at a cool 68 degrees year-round, making it the perfect spot for a refreshing dip.

Hiking and biking trails stretch throughout Zilker Park, providing spectacular views of hills, trees, and lakes. Perfect for a leisurely stroll or an adventurous journey, these trails are popular among locals and visitors alike. For those looking to play a game of soccer, basketball, or tennis, there is plenty of room for that too. 

Zilker Botanical Garden is nestled within Zilker Park in the heart of downtown Austin. They have themed gardens, including the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, Hartman Prehistoric Garden, and Rose Garden, all interconnected with pathways for all ages and abilities. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors in the heart of the city. 

For over 60 years, the miniature train is a popular destination, winding through the park while providing great views and photo opportunities. However, the latest train, The Zilker Eagle, has met several delays and won’t start again until the Fall of 2023.  So, plan accordingly if you are looking to make a visit!

Zilker Park Austin - musical instruments Butler Park Austin with Kids - best parks and playgrounds in Austin, TexasButler Park

Located just south of downtown Austin, Butler Park is a hidden gem that offers stunning views of the city skyline. Take a stroll along Lady Bird Lake (a.k.a. the Colorado River) or play a game of basketball on one of the courts.

One of the best things about Butler Park (and one of the best attractions for kids in Austin) is the Alliance Children’s Garden. It’s an interactive outdoor space filled with all sorts of fun activities, from miniature hills and tunnels perfect for hide and seek, to a climbing rope and slides built into the face of a hill. Your kids will have a great time here! There are also several art opportunities (massive nature-inspired musical instruments) and a life-size chess set. Right next to this epic playground is the splash pad and the fun hill that your little one can summit on a spiral path.  This makes Butler park a real one-stop spot for tons of outdoor fun. 

Bonus: There is also easy access to food and shopping on Congress Ave, just a short drive away!

Mount Bonnell

A great way to experience the beautiful outdoors in Austin is a visit to Mount Bonnell. One of the highest points in Travis County, it offers stunning panoramic views of the city and its surrounding hills. The hike up to the summit is an easy one that kids can handle, making it a perfect pit stop for families looking to explore the area. Once they reach the top, everyone can take some time to explore the view and then choose to either take the steps down or take an adventure down the hill through the wooded path!

The Domain

I know, it sounds strange to suggest going to a shopping center for outdoor entertainment, but hear me out!  If you’re looking for some retail therapy mixed with outdoor fun, The Domain is your place! It’s an upscale shopping center located north of downtown Austin. In addition to stores and restaurants, the Domain is described as being “situated in a beautiful park-like setting.”  There are several spots for children to run, outdoor play structures, a splash pad, restaurants with outdoor seating, and fun interactive spots.

Visitors can find a variety of food options ranging from casual eateries to fine-dining establishments, and let’s be honest – kids will have plenty of room for dessert. For those in search of a healthy yet delicious option, Flower Child Restaurant offers great family-friendly options with an easygoing atmosphere.

Barton Creek

The Barton Creek Greenbelt has been a part of Austin life for generations; it’s seen by many as the “heart” of the city.  This 12-mile stretch of unspoiled beauty boasts trails all along the creek, so you can go as far or as close as you’d like and travel by foot or bike!  There are seven different access points to the greenbelt. So, you can plan to enter close to an activity you are excited about or just choose one at random and see what there is to explore. 

For those who want to take it easy, swimming holes dot the area, offering a great way to cool off on hot summer days. There are also several limestone bluffs perfect for rock climbing! And if you’re feeling brave enough – some even recommend jumping into deep pools from them!

If that’s too much adventure for your taste, you can always take a leisurely stroll or bike trail down the creek.  On your way, keep an eye out for turtles and fish, as well as birds like roadrunners and hummingbirds.  Whatever activity you choose to do – make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks to fuel your exploration.

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Best outdoor experiences for kids in Austin, Texas

Go on a mural tour

Exploring the colorful murals of Austin, Texas, is a great way for kids to have loads of fun! From the famous ‘Greetings from Austin’ mural near South Congress and S 1st Street, your little ones will love competing to be the first one to spot it! Yummy tie-in: be sure to grab a sweet treat from La Pâtisserie, right next door!

You’ll also find plenty of other amazing spots for photos in this mural-filled city. Whether it’s the whimsical ‘I Love You So Much’ wall off South Congress or the iconic ‘Hi, How Are You?’ mural on 21st Street, there are plenty of vibrant backdrops to explore.

The greatest part is that your kids will love being outside and discovering all the wonderful artwork that Austin has to offer! So what are you waiting for? Start planning your mural excursion today!

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City/neighborhood playgrounds

Exploring nature is an amazing experience, and Austin has no shortage of great outdoor places to explore. To balance the outdoorsy fun, there are also plenty of playgrounds throughout the city, providing more exciting recreational activities for those who want a break from traditional hiking and sightseeing.

Many of these play areas have been designed with a focus on creativity and innovation. From creative climbing walls to nature-inspired obstacle courses, Austin’s playgrounds are varied and exciting. Plus, many of them are located conveniently near greenbelts, creek trails, and other great outdoor destinations – allowing families to combine a bit of both worlds in their day outdoors. 

Hike the various trails

From Barton Creek Greenbelt to McKinney Falls State Park, Austin has some of the most beautiful trails and parks in all of Texas.

The Greenbelt trail system spans over 20 miles of terrain, stretching across Zilker Park to Barton Creek, and beyond. With various loop trails and topography that ranges from easy to strenuous, there is something for hikers of all levels. You can explore the area by peeking over limestone bluffs or walking along a wooded creek bed. The Greenbelt offers plenty of unique photo opportunities as well!

Austin restaurants with outdoor play areas

Imagine being able to enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks while your kids get to run wild outside. What a dream come true for parents! Thankfully, the Austin area is home to some of the best family-friendly restaurants with outdoor play areas for kids.

Whether you’re looking for classic burgers and fries at Hat Creek Burger Company in Round Rock or cool off with ice cream at Phil’s Ice House & Amy’s Ice Cream South Lamar location, both spots have incredible outdoor spaces perfect for the little ones. Other local eateries like Hopdoddy Burger Bar or Whole Foods Market also have plenty of playground equipment and activities to keep your kiddos entertained! 

Food trucks in Austin

Food trucks are a cherished part of Austin culture and provide an amazing way to try some delicious food. From tacos to BBQ sandwiches, there is something for everyone! It’s no wonder why people keep coming back for more. Not only are the meals delicious, but visiting a food truck can be an incredibly fun experience as well. 

The history of food trucks in Austin dates back to the 1970s when locals began selling tacos from their pickup trucks. It then grew from there, becoming a beloved part of the local culture and eventually leading to other cities adopting the concept. Today, Austin has no shortage of delicious mobile eateries!

Food truck parks and festivals are also popular in Austin. People come from all over to try out the variety of dishes on offer and enjoy the lively atmosphere. There is often great music playing, making it a fun experience for everyone involved.

best equestrian trails for kids austin texas horseback riding for kids austin texasHorseback riding in Austin

With its rolling hills, lush green pastures, and breathtaking views of the city skyline, horseback riding in Austin is unlike any other. Whether your child is a first-time rider or an experienced equestrian, there are plenty of options to choose from that offer unique, family-friendly experiences.

For new riders, guided trail rides are a great way to explore Austin’s countryside while learning some basic riding skills. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your little ones as they learn how to care for and bond with their horse. Check out Bee Cave Riding Center and Maverick Horseback Riding, both of which are great places to start.

For experienced riders eager to explore Austin’s trails, there are plenty of options as well. Many stables in the area offer group rides that accommodate different levels of riders so everyone can join in on the fun! And for those looking to take their equestrian skills to the next level, there are workshops and clinics available throughout Austin.

Check out this post for more info on horseback riding with kids

Austin boat rentals

Renting a boat is a great way to explore Austin and see some amazing wildlife!  

Lady Bird Lake sits right between downtown Austin and Zilker Park, providing an ideal spot for kayak rentals, where you can take in all sorts of wildlife, such as turtles sunning themselves atop rocks or fish swimming below water surface level. Rent a boat at one of the many available locations or take a guided boat tour, and experience Austin from a different perspective. Families will love the chance to explore this beautiful city while admiring the diverse wildlife that calls Lady Bird Lake home.

There are also tons of lakes and waterways that rent boats.  Some with some super fun themes, like the donut boat!

Things to do outside in Austin with kids

As you can see, Austin is the perfect place to get outside and make memories with your kids! Whether it’s a day of hiking through Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or relaxing at Butler Park, there’s something for everyone. So why not take the time to plan an adventure with your family this weekend? What kind of fun will you find outside? Be sure to share your experiences with us on social media! We can’t wait to hear all about it.

About the author

A city girl through and through, Tiana Kubik wasn’t always thrilled with outdoor adventures. However, learning the importance of nature + play through her journey to a Master’s in Early Childhood Education changed her heart. She still prefers the hustle and bustle of city life, and alternates between Chicago and Austin. She also has learned to love all that nature is and gives. Tiana has discovered unbelievably amazing North American destinations by traveling in a DIY converted Sprinter Van with her husband and two kids. She looks forward to new adventures and discoveries every day. 

You can find more from Tiana in the following online locations:
Instagram: @usalongtheway
RWMC Posts: Tiana Kubik