A few months ago David told me about a work trip he had in Austin in January. I told him how much I’d love to tag along because I’ve heard such a great things about the city. We started to look into it, found some decent prices on flights, so we decided to make a family trip out of it. What a great decision that was! It turns out that there are a lot of fun things to do in Austin with kids and in our three days there, we fit in a lot!
In a hurry and just want the quick breakdown of the best of the best? Here they are–
The 10 Best Things To Do In Austin With Kids in January
- The Thinkery
- Whole Foods Ice Skating
- Book People
- Zilker Park
- The Inner Space Caverns
- The Fairmont pool and hot tub
- Central Market
- South Congress Street
- Amy’s Ice Cream
- The Capital Building
Have a little more time and want the full rundown? Awesome! Recapping our trips is one of my favorite types of posts to write. I love sharing our trips with you and it’s fun for me to have them here to look back on our ski trip to Deer Valley, the Halloween fun we had in Disney World, the adventurous sailing trip we took to the Caribbean, and more.
We flew out on a Thursday and it was the first time the girls and I flew on our own, since David was on a different (and direct) flight with his work people. Luckily we are at really great ages for traveling with kids. Both girls are allowed to pack their own backpacks to carry with them that consist of their comfort item, a book, a Barbie, gum, and an iPad and earphones. Since they don’t get screen time on an iPad at home, they see this as such a treat and therefore they are good listeners and quick to comply to my requests, knowing that once they are on the plane they get to watch their Netflix downloads to their hearts content.
The flight and layover were wonderfully uneventful, and we arrived in Austin David was waiting for us at the airport. We rode together to The Fairmont Hotel in downtown Austin, a hotel I would definitely recommend. Not only is the hotel beautiful, but the people that work there are incredibly kind and helpful. When we arrived all the computers were down so we couldn’t check in right away, but they offered us free cocktails and gave out free little toys to the girls. We snagged a table in the bar area, ordered a few items (the warm olives and almonds were ridiculous), and started our vacation.
Once we checked in (did you see that view from the 36th floor?!), David took off for work and the girls and I started plotting out our next 36 hours that’d we’d be spending on our own until David’s conference ended. We kicked off our first evening at Revue, a unique eating spot in the Fairmont that is set up like a small village bringing four distinct culinary options together. We were there during happy hour so we opted for items on that menu- pizza, veal meatballs, edamame, Thai coconut noodle bowl, and a milkshake. Quite the range of options, and the girls absolutely loved it!
Friday we woke up ready for a day of fun, paying little attention to the rainy and cold weather. Thanks to your help, I had a list of restaurants and activities ready to go- prioritized by frequency of the recommendation and my own opinions after some serious google research. I decided we needed a hearty breakfast to start the day and we got a table right away at Picnik. While it started as a food truck, Picnik now also has a restaurant location (and a creamer that is available in stores nationwide). The girls split pancakes while I opted for a coconut matcha latte (which was divine!) and the Harvest Hash, a delicious mix of roasted sweet potato, spinach, Brussels sprouts, grass-fed beef breakfast sausage, currant, onion, sage, apple, toasted pecans, chile flakes, maple vinaigrette and topped with a poached egg. Ridiculous.
After sitting decently still for brunch, the girls were ready to move. Knowing how much Hailey enjoyed ice skating at The USNWWC recently, we decided to head the the flagship Whole Foods store (squeee!) and take advantage of the ice skating rink they had on the roof. I was excited to see the Whole Foods (though to be honest, it’s really nice but not all that different from other locations I’ve seen) and after our self-guided walking tour, we made our way to the roof… where the girls decided they were too cold to go ice skating (whomp whomp).
We walked next door to another place I had on my list- Book People, a beautiful, multi-story book store. It was the perfect spot for a rainy day and the girls fell in love with the kids area. We read some books and I could have spent all day in there, but their energy level demanded a more appropriate setting to run around in, so we headed north to The Thinkery.
The Thinkery is in a super cute area across the street from a large playground and a lake. Unfortunately the rain kept us from exploring that area, so we just headed straight into the kid museum. It’s a great spot that I think would be ideal for toddlers through age 6. Both my girls had a good time, but I think Hailey at 8 years old was a little on the old side for the majority of the sections. However, we did find a room with some neat hands-on activities like building wind boats and marble mazes and it was perfect for both Hailey and Kaitlyn! We lucked out and the rain cleared, so we got to enjoy the outdoor play area as well, which is really cool.
After the museum I grabbed a coconut milk latte from Halcyon, which is a great spot about 20 ft from The Thinkery entrance. They offered board games so we hung out there for a bit and played Rummikub before we decide it wouldn’t be a girls day of fun without ice cream. Hearing so many good things about Amy’s Ice Cream we took off again to the closest Amy’s location where we got a kick out them throwing the campfire treat ice cream up and into the cone. It did not disappoint!
Wanting to squeeze every ounce of fun from our girls day, we returned to the hotel and changed into our bathing suits. The 7th floor of The Fairmont features two large and fabulous outdoor pools and a hot tub. Though the pools are heated, I preferred watching the girls splash around and play mermaid from the comfort of the hot tub!
Needless to say, we were sufficiently worn out, so while we originally had planned to go out and find BBQ, we instead opted to stay in the hotel and eat at Revue again, after Hailey begged for it. It was the right call as the girls were a little nuts at dinner. We ate (off the happy hour menu again!), changed into pajamas, and watched a movie in bed. It was a heck of a day.
Saturday morning we were jazzed to have David back with us! Since we’ve been on such a workout streak, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous Fairmont gym. It is large, clean, has a view of the city, and all the equipment you might need- including a couple Peletons! We got in a solid workout, then I got to indulge in a little spa action. I didn’t get a service but used a day pass to enjoy the beautiful facilities, beginning with a soak in the saline hot tub, then moving onto the sauna, and finally ended with a eucalyptus steam shower. It. Was. Rejuvenating.
After that, we were ready to roll! We started off with the most highly recommended lunch spot- Torchy’s Tacos. I thoroughly enjoyed the spicy and flavorful tacos and though the queso was a bit spicy for the kids, they fought through it because it was so good. From there we scooted to the Capitol Building.
Wow, the Capitol Building is majestic. It’s beautiful and so much bigger than I expected. We explored the rooms, read the biographies on the portraits and listened to David’s Texas pride shine as he told the stories of Texas. It was really neat and I was pleased that the girls enjoyed it a lot as well.
The sun started to peek out a bit more at this point and we wanted to find a place to let the kids run wild, so we headed over to Zilker Park. It’s a beautiful spot that offers wide open spaces for kids (and a lot of dogs!) to run free. It offered big boulders to climb on a great view of the city. I imagine it’s even more fun to visit in warmer weather when you can take advantage of the Barton Springs Pool! We found a vizsla though and got to play with him, which pretty much made our day.
From there we walked down the street a bit to a collection of food trucks and ate some Thai-style ice cream (the rolled up kind!) before heading back to the hotel. That evening we wanted some legit BBQ so we made our way to Cooper’s Barbecue, an authentic spot where you order at the counter and is now home to the best brisket David has ever eaten (it was delicious!). From there we explored the streets of Austin which were full of bachelorette parties. We visited the historic Driskell Hotel (gorgeous) and walked a little down 6th Street before deciding it probably wasn’t the most family-friendly part of Austin, so we we headed for bed.
Sunday morning we woke up to make the most out of our last day of exploring. We hadn’t yet seen the often-recommended area of South Congress Street, so we crossed the bridge to find ourselves on the quirky street filled with unique street art, restaurants, and shops.
A quick google shop led us to Joann’s Fine Foods which only had outdoor seating available, which we took despite the cold. We ordered drinks to warm us all up- a coconut milk latte for me, coffee for David, and one hot chocolate split between two cups for the girls. They hooked the kids up with fun toppings and all!
The food was delicious and by the time we finished up, the sun had warmed the air and we were ready to explore. We wandered up the street, taking a picture at the famous “I Love You So Much” wall, listening to talented guitarists play on the street for tips, peek in on an outdoor wedding, tried out a scooter, and wandered around the Flagship Yeti store.
We switched things up for the afternoon, opting to head outside the city to explore the famous caverns. We chose to visit the Inner Space Cavern and though we were a bit surprised it cost $80 for us all to get a tour, I’m so glad we chose to do it. The caverns are expansive and we really enjoyed the guided tour through them. We could hear the highway rumble overhead at one point, saw water trickling in and creating beautiful pools, and learned the difference between stalactites (are on the ceiling and have to hold on tight) and stalagmites (they might reach the ceiling at some point).
The hour tour was the perfect length for an 8 and 5 year old who listened well but were ready to run around a bit more once the tour ended. Since it was out last day we asked ourselves if there was anything else we’d like to see. Being a Brene Brown fan and knowing Lake Travis is her happy place, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about so we decided to head to The Oasis on Lake Travis for food and drinks.
The Oasis is a very large and funky establishment. The multi-deck views on Lake Travis are as cool as it gets though. We had a blast wandering around and exploring all the funny statues and taking in the views while we waited for our spot on an outdoor deck. It was a beautiful way to relax in the late afternoon with a margarita.
We weren’t quite ready to head home yet so we decided to make one more stop at Central Market. We had heard great things about it but only after being dropped off did we realize it was just a grocery store! It gave us a good laugh. However, we quickly saw while it was recommended as one of the best things to do in Austin with kids- it has a great playground, a spacious area with picnic tables, and also has live music on many nights. It’s a great place to take a load off and let the kids stretch their legs!
We headed back to the hotel after this, which turned out to be quite the adventure since President Trump was speaking at the building attached to our hotel. The girls loved seeing the police on horseback which made the runaround a little more fun. Once inside we decided to hit up the hotel pool one last time, so we watched the sun go down from the root top hot tub feeling extremely satisfied with all we managed to see while in Austin. We grabbed a snack from the poolside bar, then headed to bed.
I wasn’t sure how much we’d be able to experience in winter in Austin, but I came away pleasantly surprised. It’s an incredible city with so much to see and do (and eat!) that I imagine there’s not a bad time to visit. We had an absolute blast!
Until next time, Texas… ✌🏻