Living downtown in a tiny condo, my high-energy toddler really starts to drive this mama crazy. So, we have to get out of the house often. These are my best places for toddlers in Austin, specifically in and around downtown Austin.
1. Austin Nature & Science Center – This is one of Austin’s best kept secrets, or at least it was a secret to me for the first 2 years of my child’s life! Walking into the park with it’s beautiful tree-lined paths makes you feel as if you’ve left the city, your only reminder is the faint sound of cars zooming by on Mopac. The center offers a ton of different educational activities for kids to do, including dig for dinosaur bones in a giant sandpit, dip their toes in a stream, and see a variety of rehabilitated animals from bobcats to reptiles. There is plenty of shade for mama and quiet time to connect with nature.
What do we love about the Austin Nature & Science Center?
• Stroller friendly and super easy to get around.
• It’s an educational activity.
• Free parking and free entry.
Address: 2389 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746.
2. The Thinkery – Too hot? Too cold? Too rainy? Whenever it’s not an ideal day to take our toddler to the park, you can probably find us indoors at The Thinkery. There is so much for entertainment at this Austin children’s museum, and most of it is educational. I love that my son can play for hours and I can sit back and relax. This is not only a great place for toddlers, but it was one of the few places I could take my son as a baby that he loved. The baby play area is a great place to let baby roam, and an awesome place to meet other moms with children the same age.
What do we love about The Thinkery?
• So much for children to do and easy to keep an eye on them.
• It’s an educational experience.
• Free parking in the garage behind the Alamo Drafthouse with validation from The Thinkery (don’t forget your ticket!)
• Very reasonable membership pricing starting at $79/year. With the number of times we go to The Thinkery I would estimate it costs us only about $2/visit.
• Wednesday evenings are Community Nights and admission is a suggested donation of only $1.
Pro tip: If you travel often to Houston, Dallas or beyond, I highly recommend opting for the $150 premium membership as you get reciprocal benefits at most other children and science museums in the country. We frequently visit the Perot Museum in Dallas and the admission is free! We have used our benefits for free entry into museums in Portland, Oregon and Boston, Mass. and several places in between. The premium membership has totally paid for itself.
Address: 1830 Simond Ave, Austin, TX 78723.
3. Zilker Park & Zilker Zephyr – Near the Barton Springs Pool you’ll find a sprawling park with play equipment for children of all ages and the Zilker Zephyr miniature train – a toddler favorite. This tiny train glides through Zilker park going under bridges and through tunnels, and it’s just the right size for my little guy. While you’re waiting for the train or after you’re done, head over to the park and play where kids can burn off some steam and even climb on an old firetruck. If you visit the park in the middle of an Austin summer, hit Barton Sprints for a quick dip after you’re done.
What do we love about the Zilker Park & Zilker Zephyr?
• Easy to access and easy to find (paid, but reasonably priced) parking.
• Although we suggest going on a weekday morning, it’s surprisingly not overly crowded on the weekends – we’ve often scored tickets on a Saturday morning.
• The train ride is very reasonably priced at only $2/child and $3/adult (cash only!)
Address: 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, Texas 78746.
Where are your favorite places to take your toddlers in Austin? Please tell us in the comments below. We’d love to see you there.