5 Tips for Traveling to Austin, Texas with Kids
More than 20 years ago, I moved to Austin to attend graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. I have watched the city grow into a hot spot (figuratively and literally) that attracts hordes of visitors, especially during major festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Despite all the change, Austin still retains some of its independent spirit. Follow these 5 easy tips to make the most of your time in this Texas boon town:
1. Don’t eat at chain restaurants
With so many homegrown eateries to choose from, there’s no reason to eat at national chains while visiting Austin with kids. For cheap, fast burgers try PTerry’s with locations all over the city, including Barton Springs Road near Zilker Park. Have a fix for tacos? Try Torchy’s or Taco Deli. Hankering for a pizza? Home Slice is an Austin favorite, but call ahead to check if there is a wait or just eat a slice next door at the take-out section of this wildly popular restaurant.
2. Don’t drive on the MOPAC (Loop 1) or I-35 during rush hour
There are some who might argue that every hour is rush hour in Austin. As the city grows rapidly, without any true mass transit, that sentiment is not so far from the truth. If you plan a trip to Austin, renting a car is a matter of personal taste. Depending on where you stay, you could get around on Uber, taxi or the bus system called Capital Metro. But if you do drive, do yourself a favor and keep off the city’s two main north-south highways during rush hour which occurs mornings from about 7 am – 9 am and afternoons from 4 pm – 6:30 pm.
3. Don’t go to Barton Springs during peak hours
Barton Springs is a delightful place to cool off and enjoy a few hours of family fun. One of my dear friends swears by its healing and cooling powers. But unless you love crowds, try to arrive before 11 am or after 7 pm. The spring-fed pools will be far less busy and because the water stays at a constant 68°, you will still get a great soak.
Check the city schedule for opening times, which include free admission during certain parts of the day. Also, be aware that you are allowed to bring non-alcoholic drinks, but only if they are in a plastic resealable container with a twist-top lid. No food is allowed. If Barton Springs is too busy or not your scene, check out Deep Eddy Pool.
4. Don’t ride a bike without a helmet
Renting a bike can be an enjoyable way to see parts of the city, but let’s be clear, Austin is not as bike-friendly as some western outposts like Portland or Boulder. Enjoy your cycling, but do us all a favor and strap on a helmet.
If you find yourself on a bike during the relentlessly hot summer and need a place to cool off near the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, check out the nearby Liz Carpenter fountains at 1000 Barton Springs Road. (Check first to make sure they are open.) These fountains are at their best when the sun is down. Your kids will love the light show and you won’t feel sun beating down on you.
5. Don’t miss the bats
Truth be told, bats freak me out. But gathering at dusk during the summer on the Congress Bridge downtown to watch 1.5 million bats emerge from underneath is an experience that your kids will likely enjoy. For details on viewing times, visit the Bat Conservation International web site.
Tip: Hilton Austin is located conveniently located downtown next to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. You will find comfortable rooms, an excellent gym and a refreshing saltwater outdoor pool, along with everything else you would expect in a large hotel.
You may also enjoy:
- Fun Things to Do in Austin with Kids
- Best Downtown Austin Hotel and Austin Attractions for Families
- Fun Things to do in College Station, TX
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…