As each new season approaches, my family writes a bucket list of things we must do together. Summer Bucket List Brainstorm Day has become one of our favorite traditions! Best of all, the list hangs where we can all see it, a reminder to live in the moment and have fun all season long. Summer is by far our favorite to plan because there is so much to do in this fabulous city!
Need some inspiration for your family’s list? Austin Moms Blog has you covered!
We’ve rounded up 100 family-friendly ideas sure to fill your summer with laughter and memorable moments!
GET OUTDOORS & EXPLORE
- Austin Zoo: A non-profit rescue zoo perfect for animal lovers of all ages! Complete the Zoo Patch Scavenger Hunt while you visit. After checking out black bears, primates, and peacocks, you can feed the animals (2.50) and take a train ride. (2.50/person) Pack a picnic. Open daily. $11 for adults, $10 f0r students, $8 for children (age 2- 12), 2 and under free.
- Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk: Take a stroll beside Austin’s scenic skyline. Continue from the Boardwalk along the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail. This 10 mile loop is one of the most popular destinations in Austin. Free.
- Rowing Dock: Enjoy Lady Bird Lake with a kayak, canoe, or SUP rental. Priced by the hour, starting at $10. All ages welcome. Children under 13 must have a guardian on the water. Special Summer events include monthly Full Moon Paddles (8-10 pm) and Bat Paddles (at sunsest, beginning in August).
- Nature Nights at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Free, family fun on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Explore local ecology, plants & animals through hikes, crafts and presentations. Kids 12 and under receive a gift to take home from the gift shop!
- Zilker Botanical Gardens: Lush, tranquil gardens with plenty of space for your kids to roam free. ($2 Adults, $1 Children, Ages 2 and under free). Summer events include the Woodland Faerie Trail by Silver Moonlight where you’re sure to experience magic! (June 17-19)
- Sweet Berry Farms: (Marble Falls) Spend a day of family fun at the farm. Petting zoo, barrel train, maze and bouncy pillow. Enjoy a picnic under the pecan trees. Closed Wednesdays. Free admission, but some activities have a fee.
- Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve: This Austin treasure for hiking and swimming is now reservation only. Call ahead to reserve a time (9 am – 1 pm, 2- 6 pm) and pay reservation fee ($11). Entrance fee ($15) is paid at the gate upon arrival – credit cards not accepted.
- Mt. Bonnell: Burn some energy as you climb the stairs to see the best view in Austin. Believe us, it’s worth it! Free.
- Fishing at 18 Easy Access Spots in Austin: All you need is a license, some bait, and a little bit of patience and you’re on your way to making memories.
- Take a Nature Hike: Pick one of the many trails in Austin and have some fun with your little explorers! Pack a backpack with the essentials: binoculars & magnifying glasses, birding & plant guides, sketch books & colored pencils. Spend the day recording your observations! Bring along a Scavenger Hunt for even more fun!
PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS
- Zilker Park: An Austin favorite! Climb on the fire truck, run through the playground, and take a ride on the Zilker Zephyr train. (Adults $3, Children $2, Under 1 free).
- When you’re ready to cool off from playing at Zilker, dip your toes into Barton Springs or head indoors to Splash! Exhibit at the Beverly Sheffield Education Center where you’ll learn all about Barton Springs and its endangered species. (Free. Located right in the park by the restrooms.)
- Play For All Abilities Park: (Round Rock) Perfect for all ages! Features a Sensory Sand Pit, All Abilities Swings, and covered All Abilities Playscape (all gated in for peace of mind).
- Central Market Playground on North Lamar: Tucked under tall, shady trees, this playground offers two play structures with one that is easy for toddlers to maneuver. Check the Event Calendar for live music and family fun!
- Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park: With playgrounds, baseball fields, volleyball courts, a disc golf course, picnic tables, and two miles of trails all along the Colorado River, there is something for everyone!
- Emma Long Metropolitan Park: Sprawling natural space located on Lake Austin. Park entrance fee: $5 M-Th, $10 Weekends & Holidays. Camping available at additional cost.
- Neighborhood Park Breakfast Picnic: Head to your favorite park with an early morning picnic to beat the heat! Want to make it even more fun? Let the kids wear their jammies!
FOR YOUR SCIENTIST
- Austin Nature and Science Center: An Austin kid’s favorite. Hands-on exhibits and digging in the dino pit. Bring your natural treasures and visit the trade-in counter at the Naturalist Workshop! Free.
- Central Texas Nature Challenge: Explore Natural Areas during this summer-long, family-friendly competition. Earn badges as you complete challenges and be sure to join in on the closing ceremonies on August 13th!
- Hill Country Science Mill: With plenty for your STEM enthusiast to discover, and an area just for toddlers and preschoolers, this unique museum nestled in a historic mill is worth the drive to Johnson City. Open Wednesday – Sunday. Admission $8 Adults, $6.50 ages 2-18, free under 2.
- Star Party at UT: Your young astronomer can admire the night sky from the rooftops with a high-powered telescope. Star parties are free to the public on Wednesday evenings while UT is in session — mid-June to mid-August.
- Texas Museum of Science & Technology: Thirty interactive exhibits and Austin’s only Planetarium! Admission Adult $15, Youth (12-17), Senior, Student, Military $13, Child (5-11) $ 11, ages 4 and under are free. Planetarium visits included with admission.
- Dinosaur Park: With a fun playground, fossil dig and towering dinos along the nature trails, you’ll find yourself back in the Cretaceous Period! Pack a picnic and make the short drive towards Bastrop. The park is closed on Mondays. $7 General Admission. Children under 2 are free.
- Watch the Bats Emerge From Congress Bridge: Each summer night at dusk, the world’s largest Free-Tailed Mexican Bat Colony emerges. It is truly a sight to behold. The spectacle usually occurs between 8:30 – 9 pm. Free.
- Purple Martin Parties: Most know about the bats, but did you know that Austin is also home to a large roost of Purple Martins? Bring your lawn chair and attend a party hosted by Travis Audubon to watch these birds swirl into sky. Friday & Saturday nights in July. (Location announced soon by location of the birds.) Free.
POOLS, SPLASH PADS & WATER PARKS
- Austin’s 51 Pools & Splash Pads: Cool off in one of the many locations around town.
- Be sure to splash in Deep Eddy Pool, dance through the fountains at Liz Carpenter Splash Pad, and jump off the diving board into Barton Springs Pool at least once this summer!
- Hawaiian Falls Adventure Park: (Pflugerville) Offering lazy rivers & slides, zip lines & ropes courses, climbing walls & a Family Adventure Trail, this park has summer fun for all! Children 2 and under free. Season passes available.
- Lake Pflugerville: Take a dip at the “beach” of Central Texas! Available for swimming, fishing, canoeing, kite & windsurfing.
- Rock’N River Waterpark: (Round Rock) An expansion to the Aquatic Center opening Memorial Day weekend will have a Sprayground Play Unit with 51 play features to splash and swim! Check for updates on the park here.
- Schlitterbahn: (New Braunfels) A waterpark worth the day trip! Slides, lazy rivers, pools, and a dedicated toddler section, there is family fun for everyone. Children under 3 are free. Season Passes Available.
BEAT THE HEAT
- Kids bowl free in Lakeway & San Marcos, and there are other locations across Austin to rock some bowling shoes and hit the lanes!
- High 5 Entertainment Center: (Lakeway) Along with their Kids Bowl Free Program, enjoy video games and a state of the art Laser Tag Arena. Prices vary and specials available.
- Indoor Play Areas: Mt. Playmore, iPlay, My Gym, and Little Land Play Gym, are all great options to bounce and burn off some energy while staying cool. Prices Vary.
- Urban Air Trampoline Park: 6 Trampoline Activity Areas, including a foam pit, dodge ball, and slam dunk basketball net. Pricing/Hours info here. Children under 2 free with an adult ticket.
- Cabela’s: Make the short trip to Buda to check out the fish in the aquarium, learn about local wildlife and visit Conservation Mountain. Be sure to head upstairs for some fudge on your way out!
- LEGO Store and Barton Creek Square: Summer programs for your LEGO enthusiast include Monthly, Mini-Model Builds (Registration Required). LEGO Star Wars Play (Drop by the store M-F from 4- 6 pm to build a ship and earn character cards – ages 6 -14). Or just pop in anytime to play and add new bricks to your collection!
- Toybrary: Library for toys with 1000 educational toys to borrow! Children can “stay and play” in the play area (designed for ages 6 months – 5 years) while parents browse, enjoy refreshments and free wi-fi. $5 per visit. Memberships required to borrow toys.
- Pinballz Arcade: (Buda) Largest selection of Arcade Game Play in Texas, including 150 pinball machines! Inner Soldier Laser Tag (ages 9+) to satisfy your Call of Duty dreams. Prices vary.
- EVO Entertainment Center: (Kyle) Films, Lanes, and Arcade Games. Every Tuesday is $5 Frenzy: Bowling, movies, games, appetizers and craft beers are just $5.
- Natural Bridge Caverns: Keep cool underground at this premiere natural attraction! Cavern tours, gem & fossil mining, and an “Amazen” Ranch maze. Prices vary. Children under 3 free.
- Austin Steam Train: Take a ride on a steam train that offers a variety of different tours. Children 3-13 need a child’s ticket. Under 3 can ride in a lap. Strollers and small coolers with snacks are permitted. Reservations recommended.
MUSEUMS & HISTORY
- Thinkery: Austin’s ultimate hands-on Children’s Museum! Two stories of fun with designated areas for babies and toddlers and an impressive outdoor climbing structure. Check the Calendar for ongoing summer events.
- J. Lorraine Ghost Town: 4.5 acres that will take you straight to the Wild West of the 1800’s! Along with exploring old-timey buildings, enjoy a giant maze and outdoor games. Live Music and Movies at Dusk on Fridays & Saturdays. Open Friday-Sunday, unless booked for private event. (Call 512.922.2683 before visiting) Free.
- Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum: With three-stories of amazing exhibits, your little Texan won’t even realize they’re learning! Check out the preserved hull of the La Belle expedition ship, the Imax theater, and the newest exhibition, Our Global Kitchen, an interactive exhibit exploring how food “connects us to our planet, bodies, and to each other.” Admission : Adults $12, Seniors/Military/College Student $10, Youth (4-17) $8, 3 and under free. Check the Calendar for Free First Sunday & the Summer Family Film Series.
- Texas State Capitol: With rolling lawns, towering trees, and beautiful architecture, it’s must see for children of all ages. Enjoy a free guided tour, or amaze little ones by locating the star on the first level of the rotunda and gazing upward. For a great view of the Goddess of Liberty and her golden torch, take the elevators to section E1 and look out through the sky light. Be sure to stop by the Visitor’s Center at the southeast corner on your way out for interactive exhibits and a souvenir from the gift shop!
- Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center: Featuring local, regional, and national Latino/a artists. Free admission and parking. (Pick up a temporary pass in the office.)
- George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center: Dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of African American historical and cultural material. Offers exhibits, classes, theater productions, and more! Free admission. The African American Book Festival is on June 25th.
MUSIC & THE ARTS
- Blanton Museum of Art: Pack your sketch book and pencils and let your artists be inspired. Visit on Third Thursdays for Free Admission and exciting programs.
- Laguna Gloria at The Contemporary Austin: An eclectic, modern art gallery and sculpture park. Open Tuesday – Sunday. $5 Adult Admission (Free on Tuesdays). Free for Members, Military, and everyone 18 and under. Summer Events include Second Saturdays, free hands on art making and fun! (Best for ages 2-11. Registration required.)
- HOPE Outdoor Gallery: The only community paint park of its kind! Enjoy fantastically eclectic murals and street art. This gallery is dynamic and ever-changing, with registered artists ages 18+ perpetually contributing & creating. Free for viewing and open from 9 am – 7 pm daily.
- Art on 5th Gallery: Houses a permanent collection of the imaginative and innovative Secret Art of Dr. Seuss created over a period of more than 60 years.
- Umlauf Sculpture Garden: 168 pieces of sculpture throughout lush, shaded gardens. Closed Mondays. Free for Members. Non-Members: $5 Adults, $1 Students, Free for Children 12 & Under, Active Military & Their Families. No Admission on Free Family Day on the second Sunday of each month. Enjoy art, stories, yoga, music and more! Kids Kraft workshops held on select Saturdays from 10-12 pm (For students in K-2nd grade. $10 members/$15 Non-Members. Registration Required.)
- Landmarks at UT Self-Guided Tour: Access an interactive map and listen to audio guides as you view the collection of outdoor public art spread across the UT campus. Free.
- Children’s Day Art Park: A favorite amongst little Austinites! Hosted by the Austin Symphony, this weekly, whimsical performance features members of the symphony, local musicians, and an instrument petting zoo. Wednesdays. Gates open at 9 am (arrive early!) Performances 9:30-11:30. 50 cents/child. Strollers not allowed in the amphitheater. Stroller parking offered outside of the gates.
- Creative Action: Register for an art, music, or dance class with Professional Teaching Artists on a mission to inspire youth to be Creative Artists. Check the Calendar for upcoming Community Art Sundays
- Austin Symphony Concerts in the Park: A wonderful way to expose your children to the arts. Outdoors at dusk, you will find children of all ages picnicking, playing, and dancing along to the music of the Austin Symphony. Held weekly on Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm at the Long Center, June – August. Free to attend. Free parking at One Texas Center. $8 Parking at Palmer Garage.
- Zilker Hillside Theatre Summer Musical: Bring a blanket and stretch out on the hillside to enjoy Zilker Theater’s annual outdoor summer musical. Shrek: The Musical runs July 8 – August 13.
- KGSR’s Blues on the Green: Enjoy live music at this iconic Austin summer event held at Zilker Park. This year marks the 26th season with monthly performances from May – August. Free.
- Unplugged at The Grove: Every Thursday night at 8 pm at Shady Grove, this summer music series is for all ages and runs weekly through September.
- X Games: June 2 – June 5 at Circuit of the Americas. 250 of the best action sport athletes.
- Juneteenth Celebration: June 18. Juneteenth, known as Freedom Day, is a celebration which commemorates the end of slavery. Emancipation Parade at Comal and MLK. Celebration at Rosewood Park.
- Keep Austin Weird Fest and 5K (and Kids 5K!): June 25th Downtown. Dress up in costume and celebrate all things Austin! Plenty of food, entertainment, and a kid zone. Kids 12 and under are free with a donation of 3 items to the food bank. To purchase tickets or register for the 5K, click here.
- 4th of July Concert and Fireworks: Presented by HEB and performed by the Austin Symphony, this performance at Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores) is the best seat in the house for fireworks!
- Hill Country Galleria Independence Day Celebration: Shopping, barbecue, music, and fireworks. Fun for the whole family (and pets, too!)
- Austin Ice Cream Festival: August 13 at Fiesta Gardens. Games, Contests, Entertainment and ICE CREAM!
- Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp: An affordable way for families to enjoy films together! Buy tickets online. ($1-3) Children under the age of 3 not permitted.
- Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: (Round Rock Cinemark 8) $5/10 movies or $1 per show
- Austin Ski Shores Family Night: Friday nights on Lake Austin. Movies begin at Dusk.
READING PROGRAMS & LIBRARY EVENTS
- Book People: Stop in to the largest independent bookstore in Texas to pick up your “Give Me Summer! Give Me Books!” Bookmark to track your reading.
Read 3 recommended books and 3 of your own to earn a prize and certificate! (Grades K-8). While you visit, be sure to play in the tunnel in the children’s area, and check the Event Calendar for story times and fun!
- Barnes & Noble: Participate in this “Reading Triathalon” by completing a summer reading journal. Bring your journal to Barnes & Noble between May 17 and September 6 to get a free book! (1st – 6th grade.) While you visit, check out the wonderful children’s area with Lego and train tables, weekly story times and events all summer long!
- Half Price Books: “Feed Your Brain” this summer! During June and July, read 15 minutes/day and track your reading. When you reach 300 minutes, visit HPB to claim your Bookworm Bucks. (8th grade and under. Parents can read to preschoolers.) High Schoolers earn Bucks by reading recommended books and writing reviews. Be sure to check out weekly story times, too!
- Austin Public Library: With locations all across Austin, you’re never too far from traveling the world with a book and your imagination. With story times, crafting, events, and a Summer Reading Program for youth, teens and adults, you can find fun nearly every day of the week! (Check your local library for similar programs if you’re in the surrounding Austin Area.)
SPORTS & ATHLETICS
- Austin Bouldering Project: Perfect to deter your kids from climbing all over your furniture! Bouldering is rock climbing without harnesses or ropes. 3 different indoor climbing areas designed for toddlers, youth, and teens. Day passes are $12 for youth and $16 for adults. Annual/monthly memberships/family options are also available.
- iFly Austin: Kids as young as 3 can experience the thrill of skydiving in this indoor, vertical wind tunnel! Children under 18 must have a parent/guardian present to sign a waiver. Best to book a reservation before flying. Flight packages begin at $54.95
- K1 Speed: Calling all adrenaline junkies for indoor go-cart racing! Your junior driver must be at least 4′ (48″) tall to race. Arrive & Drive $19.99 for a 12 lap Junior Race. Membership/Specials available. No junior racing after 8 pm on Friday and Saturday.
- The Little Yoga House: Visit this charming studio designed just for kids! With Baby Yoga Playgroup, Parent & Me classes, Family & Teen classes, and Free Story Time Yoga, there is something for everyone to get their zen this summer. (Prices vary.)
- Fitness in the Park at Wooldridge Square: Kids Yoga hosted by The Little Yoga House every third Sunday of the month at 9:30 from June – August. Bring your own yoga mat. Free.
- Peter Pan Mini Golf: An Austin staple with two outdoor 18-hole courses. Snap a pic with the iconic green T-Rex. Adults and ages 6+ $7/18 holes. Children 5 and under $5/18 holes. (Cash and local check only. ATM on site.)
- Open Gym at BAM Academy: Have a kid 6 years and up who loves Parkour, Tricking, Freerunning, and more? BAM Academy (Bridging All Movement) provides the perfect space to move! Open gym available at select times each day except Fridays. $15 without membership. Memberships, classes and camps available at varying prices.
- Lake Travis Zip Line Adventures: Thrill seeker? Ages 10 and up can soar across Lake Travis on the longest zip line in Texas! The 3-hour tour includes access to their private beach for picnics and games. Reservations required. Children under 16 need a guardian present.
- Austin YMCA: Fun for the whole family with swimming, athletics, camps, and family programs & events throughout the summer! Check here to locate the nearest YMCA. Use this Guest Pass to try your first visit free!
- Round Rock Express: Take your kids out the ballgame! Games and special events throughout the summer. Check here for game schedule and ticketing.
- South Congress: Peruse the shops of SoCo. Search for antique treasures at Uncommon Objects, have some dress-up fun at Lucy in Disguise, and marvel at the beauty of folk art from around the world at Tesoros Trading Company.
- Revival: (Bee Cave) Browse an eclectic mix of vintage and modern home goods, visit Succulent Mansion, say hello to Hamlet the pig, and have an adventure on the whimsical playground. So much more than just shopping – this is an entire afternoon of fun!
- The Domain: Pop in to All Things Kids for exceptional toys & books and visit the Play Zone and Arts & Crafts Room!
EATS & TREATS
- Visit a Farmers’ Market: Try Texas Markets at Lakeline and Mueller, or SFC Markets at Sunset Valley, East, The Triangle, and Downtown.
- Grub down at our 18 Favorite Food Trailers
- Grab a scoop at Amy’s Ice Cream
- Enjoy a meal at over 90 Restaurants where Kids Eat Free
- Homeslice Pizza: What’s a bucket list without pizza? Play with pizza dough as your deliciously authentic New York style pizza is prepared. Closed Tuesdays.
- Big Top Candy Shop: After you’re stuffed with pizza, stroll down South Congress and get your sugar on at this charming candy shop filled with classic candies, bins of salt water taffy, and a soda fountain. Open til 8 pm.
- Capital City Bakery: Dairy allergies won’t stop anyone from enjoying the fab treats at this 100% Vegan Bakery.
- Wild Wood Bakehouse: Have a kiddo with gluten allergies? You won’t have to worry at Austin’s only 100% Gluten Free Kitchen.
- Little Helping Hands: Little ones can lend a hand with this organization that gets families volunteering in the community together. Kids receive a tracking card to document their giving, and can earn recognition and rewards (like Amy’s ice cream!). Volunteer opportunities posted monthly, usually the third week of each month. Check the Activity Calendar to register for events. (Spots fill quickly!)
- Central Texas Food Bank (formerly Capital Area Food Bank): Kids as young as 8 can help this organization that provides 26 million meals to our community each year. Summer volunteers are greatly needed, as school is out along with breakfast and lunch programs. Youth Volunteers (8-17) must be accompanied by an adult (21+). Morning and afternoon shifts available Monday – Saturday. Tuesday is Family volunteer night. Register Here.
- Project Linus: You can help this organization that provides comfort to seriously ill and traumatized children by becoming a “blanketeer” and donating new, handmade blankets. With simple patterns to follow, this a great summer project to work on as a family, or you can host a “Blanket Party” with friends and make several blankets together. Donate your finished blankets to the local Austin chapter.
- A Million Thanks: Kids of all ages can support active, reserve, and veteran military by sending a letter of thanks. For more information on where to send your cards and letters, please visit this site.
And there you have it! 100 ideas to make 2016 the best summer ever.
Now, go out and have some fun!!