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Cheap or free things to do in Austin with kids for summer

5 Free (or Almost Free) Ways to Beat the Heat in Austin

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Summer in Austin is long (think May-October) and unbearably hot. Oh, and it’s not a dry heat and it doesn’t cool down at night. Luckily, there are a decent number of places to beat the heat when you come to Austin for a visit. Here are 5 cheap or free things to do in Austin with kids this summer to keep you cool during your trip:

1. Neighborhood pools

Chances are you will be staying at a hotel with a swimming pool, but if you decide you want to venture out and swim with the locals, Barton Springs, Deep Eddy and Big Stacy Pool are three of the most popular city-owned pools. If you want to head off the beaten track a little, try the Bartholomew Pool in East Austin with its big water slide or the more sedate Enfield pool in West Austin. Check out the city schedule for locations, times and prices.

Most neighborhood pools are free, but some of the more popular municipal pools like Barton Springs and Deep Eddy charge a nominal admission. Keep in mind that most neighborhood pools close for the season at the end of August, but Barton Springs, Deep Eddy and several other of the larger pools remain open year-round.

Austin Barton Springs Pool

Chilling at Barton Springs is probably the most popular way to beat the heat in Austin.

2. Splash Pads

If you have toddlers or smaller children, Austin is full of free splash pads that can help your young ones beat the heat and burn off some energy. For a real neighborhood feel, try the Clarksville Splash Pad on West 11th Street with its neighboring playground. Afterwards, go for a milk shake or root beer float at the old-fashioned soda fountain at Nau’s Enfield Drug Store.

The popular Liz Carpenter Fountain in Town Lake Park is poorly shaded during the day, but much more pleasant in the evenings with a light show and occasional cool breezes. Unlike city-owned pools, splash pads in Austin tend to stay open later in the season.

3. Local swimming holes

If you are willing to take a short road trip out to the Texas Hill Country, check out Hamilton Pool in Far West Austin or Krause Springs in Spicewood with its gigantic trees and chilly waters. These natural swimming holes are incredibly popular (so get an early start), especially on weekends but offer shade and a unique swimming experience for an affordable price.

If you prefer not to venture so far, the free Barton Creek Greenbelt is a hike and bike trail near downtown Austin that is home to several natural swimming holes, including Sculpture Falls and Campbell’s Hole. Depending on the day and time, the scene may not be particularly family-friendly. Try to get to the Greenbelt before 11 am when it is less busy (and hot). The main access point for the Barton Creek Greenbelt is Loop 360 (3755-B Capital of Texas Highway), located in the center of the trail.

Cheap or free things to do in Austin with kids this summer - Sculpture Falls

Sculpture Falls, in the heart of Austin’s popular Greenbelt, is one of the best free things to do in Austin with kids during summer.

4. BookPeople

Austin is graced with one of the best local book stores in the nation, BookPeople. If the heat is too much for you and your family, spend an hour or two in this Austin gem. The selection of children’s books and toys is outstanding and knowledgeable staff is always on hand to help. If you get hungry, there are several family-friendly places to eat nearby, such as the iconic Huts Hamburger’s on West 6th Street or the trendy (but loud) 24 Diner across the street.

5. Snow cones

If all else fails, cool yourself down with Austin’s favorite summer comfort food, the ubiquitous snow cone. Our favorite is South Austin Sno on the corner of South Lamar and Hether Street (2010 South Lamar). Cash only. If you happen to be swimming at Deep Eddy Pool, Jim Jim’s Water Ice has a cute concession stand offering refreshing treats.

Cheap or free things to do in Austin with kids for summer - Austin Sno

Beat the heat (at least temporarily) at South Austin Sno for under 3 bucks!

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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…

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