1. Live The Cowboy Dream On A Dude Ranch
Austin is well positioned to drive to a dude ranch and spend a few days trying out the cowboy lifestyle. Two hours away by car is the quant town of Bandera, known as the ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ due to its high concentration of ranches. We stayed at the family run Flying L Ranch, where kids aged 6 and upwards can spend the morning trail riding through the beautiful landscape and younger children can test out their cowboy skills on a mini pony ride. There is a Wild West themed splash park on site and evening entertainment includes feeding the local deer on a wagon ride, then cowboy songs and S’mores around the campfire. It’s wholesome, Texan fun but be warned – the kids will not want to pack up their wagon and leave!
2. There’s Great Children’s Activities
Austin is home to some wonderful family-friendly museums, such as the Thinkery Children’s Museum, where kids can learn about science and creativity in a playful and engaging environment. Swot up on the difference between stalagmites and stalactites at the Inner Space Cavern, an underground cave packed with Ice Age fossils that was discovered by chance by construction workers Learn about Texas’ rural past at the Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms which has volunteers in period costume and a petting farm, or for some retro family fun, head to the Peter Pan Mini Golf course, which has some fantastically kitsch oversized sculptures of dinosaurs and fairy castles.
3. It’s a Foodie Hotspot
You will not go hungry in Austin! In recent years the city has firmly established itself as a culinary destination, offering everything from fantastic food trucks to family-friendly fine dining. Sample new school barbeque at LeRoy & Lewis’ food truck, which has a pretty outside area and chickens to keep the kids entertained join Austin’s hip crowd at the Asian smokehouse Loro or visit Joann’s Fine Foods for their breakfast tacos and insta-worthy interiors Cool off with an ice cream from Amy’s, which are dotted around the city and have a vast menu of flavours.
4. Austin is the King of Quirky
If you prefer to avoid chain restaurants and mega shopping malls, Austin will be your kind of place. The city’s slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and it manifests itself through championing quirky attractions and independent businesses. Witness extreme recycling at the whimsical Cathedral of Junk, shop for oddities in the niche boutiques of South Congress or go on a mural-spotting tour of the city.
5. It’s Dinosaur-Tastic
Texas is a hotbed for prehistoric discoveries, with hundreds of dinosaurs having been found in the Lone Star State. Junior dino-hunters will love The Dinosaur Park, situated just outside the city in Cedar Creek. Their Jurassic treasure hunt takes you on a picturesque walking tour of the tree-lined grounds, discovering life-sized replicas of T-Rex and friends, and baby dinos hatching from eggs. It’s educational and fun in equal measure, and there’s also a play park and dinosaur shop onsite. Elsewhere in the city, The Austin Nature and Science Centre, has a dino-pit where kids can dig for replica bones , whilst the Texas Memorial Museum has over 500 dinosaur and fossil specimens.
6. There’s Daredevil Entertainment
Austin has some great amusement parks within driving distance, such as the Six Flags Fiesta Park in San Antonio, which is perfect for older, thrill-seeking children. If you road-trip down to Galveston for a beach mini-break, you’ll find an old-school pleasure pier and amusement park. However, our favourite Texas theme park visit was to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, a non-profit park that caters for kids of all abilities. It’s the first theme park where we could take our baby on all the rides, and in the summer season they also open up an ultra-accessible splash park.
7. You Can Watch The Bats at Sunset
Head to Austin’s famous Congress Avenue Bridge in the evening and you’ll be treated to an incredible display as 1.5 million bats swoop out from under the bridge into the sky. This popular daily event can get a little crowded, so avoid the bridge and set up camp on the grass mound next to Lady Bird Lake, or take a boat tour or a canoe to witness the flight from the water.
8. Saturday Night Is Rodeo Night, Y’all
Just over an hour from Austin is the famous Tejas Rodeo Steakhouse and Saloon, which hosts the ‘Greatest Show on Dirt’ every Saturday night in high-season. Families can dine at the BBQ food stalls or the onsite steak restaurant, before taking a seat in the arena to watch bull-riding, barrel racing and team roping displays. My 7-year-old took part in the kid’s Mutton Bustin’ competition, which involves hugging a sheep as it runs around the arena, and left triumphantly covered in dust and clutching a cowgirl’s prize ribbon