FAMILY VACATION: ROAD TRIP – AUSTIN
TOP TWELVE TRAVEL TIPSHEET
Austin & Surrounding Wimberley, Driftwood, Johnson City
By Jenny Mohr
Editor’s Note: Top Twelve Travel Tipsheet is a ParentsPost.com series on favorite FAMILY-FRIENDLY places and activities outside Houston. Jenny Mohr is a Houston SuperMom with a son and daughter. She attended the University of Texas Law School, and practiced law in Austin, before moving to Houston.
#1 MOUNT BONNELL
3800 Mount Bonnell Drive, Austin, 512-974-6700
A long trail of steps (manageable even for young children) leads families to spectacular views of Austin including the Austin skyline, Lake Austin, and the surrounding hills. At the top, you will also find picnic tables and some short hiking trails that are suitable for children. It is a beautiful site for a picnic or for watching the sunset.
#2 LADY BIRD LAKE (FORMERLY TOWN LAKE)
Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River, is a wonderful family recreation area. The lake is surrounded by a 10-mile hike and bike trail, and is an ideal place to walk, run, bike, and watch the ducks and turtles. The lake’s calm waters are also a great place to kayak or canoe, and boats can be rented in several locations on the lake. Zilker Park, Austin’s largest downtown park, is adjacent to the lake.
#3 CONGRESS AVENUE BRIDGE
The Congress Avenue Bridge crosses over Austin’s Lady Bird Lake and houses the world’s largest urban bat colony. Between 750,000 and 1.5 million migratory bats reside under the bridge every summer and emerge each evening at dusk. Families can see the bats from the bridge, from the banks of Lady Bird Lake near the bridge, or as part of a sunset cruise on Lady Bird Lake.
#4 BARTON SPRINGS POOL
2101 Barton Springs Road, Austin, 512-867-3080
Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park is a famous Austin landmark. It is three acres in size and is fed from underground springs. The pool is open year-round, but is particularly refreshing in the summer, with an average water temperature of 68 degrees. The grassy slopes surrounding the pool are perfect for lounging and playing. After a dip in Barton Springs Pool, head over to the multi-age playscape at Zilker Park or ride on the Zilker Zephyr miniature train.
#5 AUSTIN NATURE AND SCIENCE CENTER
301 Nature Center Drive, Austin, 512-974-3888
Also located in Zilker Park, the Austin Nature and Science Center features live wildlife exhibits, a Dino Pit outdoor paleontology exhibit, a Naturalist Workshop, and an interactive Splash exhibit, which demonstrates how the Edwards Aquifer was formed. From June through August, the Center offers camps for children ages 4-14, focusing on a variety of topics from animals to astronomy.
#6 WHOLE FOODS MARKET
525 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, 512-476-1206
At a size of 80,000 square feet, this is one of the largest Whole Foods Market locations in the country. It is a great place to explore natural foods with your children, pick up a picnic to go, dine in one of the restaurants inside the store, or relax with fresh gelato on the landscaped plaza.
#7 AMY’S ICE CREAMS
1012 West 6th Street, Austin, 512-480-0673
For a rich, decadent treat, head over to Amy’s Ice Creams across from Whole Foods on 6th Street. Amy’s is an Austin institution that is known for its unique ice cream flavors, amazing toppings, and entertaining staff members, many of whom will perform ice cream tricks while mixing in your toppings.
Ladybird Lake, Lake Austin, Lake Travis – Austin, TX
Boating is a fun family activity and a great way to take in the natural beauty of Austin. A wide variety of boat rentals and boat tours are available on Ladybird Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Travis.
#9 KIDS’ DINING WITH A VIEW
THE OASIS – 6550 Comanche Trail, Austin, 512-266-2442
HULA HUT – 3825 Lake Austin Boulevard, Austin, 512-476-4852
The Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis and Hula Hut on Lake Austin offer casual, kid-friendly dining with beautiful views of the water, particularly at sunset. The Oasis sits upon a bluff overlooking Lake Travis and has live music most every Thursday through Sunday evening. Hula Hut is closer to downtown Austin and is surrounded by a pier where boats on Lake Austin dock. Arrive early at Hula Hut to avoid a long wait.
#10 PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK
2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, 830-868-7304
Only 40 miles from downtown Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is a natural wonderland for children and adults. The Pedernales Falls are the park’s main attraction, where the flow of the Pedernales River forms cascading falls over layered limestone. Bring a picnic and lounge on the limestone or splash and climb around the rocks, which form a natural obstacle course for kids. The park has designated campsites, picnic sites, hiking and biking trails, and swimming areas.
#11 THE SALT LICK
18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, 512-858-4959
The Salt Lick is a great place to unwind and experience the best in Texas barbeque. The restaurant is a 20- mile scenic drive from downtown Austin and is open every day from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. It is best to go early to avoid a long wait. However, the wait can be enjoyable with live music, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and popcorn at picnic tables in the open air waiting area. The Salt Lick is cash only (but there is an ATM is onsite).
#12 MOUNT BALDY
Wimberley, 512-847-2201 (Wimberley Visitor Center)
Mount Baldy is a fun Hill Country adventure for children. Located just outside the Village of Wimberley, Mount Baldy is a series of approximately 200 steps that lead to a panoramic view of Wimberley Valley. After taking in the views, have lunch at the Wimberley Café, then take a walk along Cypress Creek, which runs through town. Directions to Mount Baldy: take Ranch Road 12 (from the square), turn left on FM 2325, then turn right on Woodcreek Drive. Take the first right, El Camino Real, then another right at La Toya Trail, which is marked by a stop sign. Drive about ¼ mile and you will find yourself at Mount Baldy.