Travel Diaries: Austin - Keeping ATX Weird with Your Family

Before we eat and play our way through Austin, tell us about yourself: 

Hi, y’all! My name is Sarah Hollingsworth, and I’m the Founder of Poppylist, a simplified baby registry for expecting parents. I live in Austin, Texas, with my husband, Scott, and our two daughters, Amelia (3 y/o) and Zoey (8 mo). We’ve lived in Austin for four years and consider this city our home. Zoey was born here, we bought a house here, and we’re fortunate to have extended family here. 

What is your favorite thing about living in Austin?

Our city is the state capital of Texas, and it’s nestled among the Hill Country. Austin is home to the University of Texas and is known for its eclectic live-music scene. We’re surrounded by state parks and lakes popular for hiking, biking, swimming, and boating.

Living in Austin means having the ability to bring your family everywhere— and that’s my favorite thing about living here.

So, saddle up for your visit to Austin, and don’t forget your cowboy hat!

Recommendations for a Family Trip to Austin:

Pease ParkThe Best Parks to Explore Outside: 

  1. Pease Park This magical park is an ecological conservancy that works hard to enhance and maintain 84 acres of public green space. Our favorite is running inside the suspended Treehouse and playing in the splash pad! Bonus: there’s a coffee trail at this park!
  2. Butler Metro Park This is one of the newer parks in Austin, Texas, with an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline. We love the soft, rubber surface of the playground, the tunnels, the slides, and the endless activities at this two-acre park along Lady Bird Lake.
  3. Zilker Metropolitan Park This is the most famous park in Austin and home to Austin City Limits, one of the most famous music festivals in the world. You can explore the 350 acres of publicly owned land, jump on the trail, visit the turtles sunbathing, and run free without any agenda at Zilker Park.

Barton springs poolBest Family-Friendly Swimming Pools:

  1. Barton Springs Pool This pool is a must-visit, and it’s hands down one of the crown jewels of Austin. The pool is three acres in size and is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees. This pool is open year-round for swimming and is great for families with kids of all ages.
  2. Wimberley Blue Hole If you want to feel like you’ve been transported to a fairy tale forest with a swimming hole, then visiting Wimberly Blue Hole is a must. Our perfect day here is packing a picnic and jumping off the rope swing a few hundred times. 
  3. Deep Eddy Pool Another spring-fed pool, Deep Eddy is another excellent option for families. It's smaller than Barton Springs, with lap swimming and an area for kids to splash around. 

Civil GoatBest Coffee Shops to Stay Caffeinated with Kids:

  1. Littlefield’s This is our go-to spot on a Saturday morning. The kid’s play area is enclosed with hula hoops, chalkboards, and large wooden blocks. Enjoy the Taco Truck and Fleet Coffee. 
  2. Civil Goat There are two locations in Austin, but the Cuernavaca location is our favorite. An actual goat roams here, and you’ll also catch the chickens on a sunny day. Ask for Cole or Kendrick, get one of their seasonal drinks, the garlic crunch salad, and tell them Sarah sent you!
  3. Radio Coffee We love the patio at Radio Coffee. The entire space is fenced in, making it safe for your kids. It’s centrally located and a great place to enjoy your latte while the kids explore. Arguably one of the best taco trucks is here, too. Vera Cruz tacos. You can’t leave Austin without trying our famous breakfast tacos.
  4. Cosmic Coffee This coffee shop is a go-to for families. Several food trucks offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a fun birdhouse to entertain littles. 

Ski Shores CafeBest Family-Friendly Restaurants:

  1. Ski Shores Cafe on Lake Austin This restaurant has been a tradition for families since 1954. It’s a great place to order chicken fingers or fish tacos, enjoy lake views, and let your kids splash if they’re old enough. 
  2. Little Deli and Pizzeria This is a local-only pizza joint. It’s a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria and an almost two-decade Austin staple. Order their meatball sandwich!
  3. Salt Lick BBQ You can’t come to Austin without experiencing some authentic BBQ. Salt Lick has endless indoor and outdoor seating, a gorgeous drive through the hill country, and the winery next store is an excellent opportunity to try some South Texas wines.
  4. Easy Tiger on S. Lamar 
  5. Fresa’s South Location This is our favorite restaurant for TexMex, plus there’s a huge outdoor patio for the kids to roam and a generously sized margarita to sip while you keep your eyes on your littles. And don’t skip the potato wedges! If you’re with your family, visit the south location, not the one on 12th street.

Frontyard BreweryBest Place for a Beer with a Playground:

  1. Meanwhile Brewery Our favorite thing about this brewery is that it opens at 8 am, so it’s the perfect place for early risers! There’s a taco truck, BBQ truck, ice cream truck, and mimosas that start at 8 am, along with their exceptional coffee menu. There’s turf and a shaded playground that kids of all ages will love.
  2. Fitzhugh Brewery This is another excellent option for families as they offer a great lunch and dinner menu and a big playground outside. It’s out west in Austin, so visiting this brewery will be perfect if you want a scenic drive through the hill country.
  3. The Frontyard Brewery This brewery offers everything you need to keep your family entertained. There’s a winery and a brewery, nine pickle-ball courts, fire pits, and lots of grass to play. Bring a picnic blanket and stay all afternoon!

ThinkeryBest Places to Explore on a Rainy Day:

  • The Thinkery This is Austin's only children’s science and exploratory indoor museum, where families and children of any age can enjoy play-based, inquiry-rich, hands-on learning experiences. Our favorite exhibit is the water station and the light-bright room! They don’t allow any food or drinks inside, but it’s in a neighborhood called Mueller, which has coffee shops, a park, and restaurants within walking distance of the Thinkery. 
    • Suggested Saturday itinerary if it’s raining:  Start by having breakfast at Kerbey Lane Cafe - Mueller, then explore the Thinkery for a few hours, then walk over to the famous Mueller’s Farmer Market.
  • Pikopye’s Town This indoor play area is great for kids of all ages and has a separate, gated space for babies. We love that it’s all connected and enclosed, making it easy and safe to keep an eye on all your kids. There’s a lounge for the adults, and they have a snack bar and coffee. 
    • The central Austin location on Menchaca is our preferred location, making it easy to get coffee at Radio or lunch at Phil’s Icehouse on S. Lamar (they have a great covered playground, too). 
  • Urban Air If you’re visiting Austin and need to seek refuge inside but have kids with lots of energy, head to this trampoline and adventure park. This place is best for children five and up since it’s big, a little crowded, and there aren’t a lot of areas for littles to roam safely. 
  • Austin Central Library Our new central library offers 6-floors with modern architecture & high-tech amenities, plus a roof garden, a cafe & a shop. It’s a must-see in downtown Austin. Make sure to check their schedule of events! They often offer free music classes, storytime, and puppet shows.

Best Neighborhoods or Places to Stay:

  • Downtown Austin at The Line Hotel, The Hyatt Regency, The Hyatt Place, or the Four Seasons. You can’t go wrong with staying in the heart of Austin. We love these locations because you can immediately hop on Town Lake for a walk or bike to S. Congress. 
  • Omni Barton Creek in Westlake (central Austin). This resort offers a kid’s camp, golfing, a world-renowned spa, multiple pools, and many restaurants. It’s only a few miles west of downtown and puts you in a fantastic location to explore the city. 
  • The Archer Hotel at the Domain North Side. The Domain is a high-end shopping district in Austin, about 12 miles north of downtown Austin. This hotel is exceptionally family-friendly, and they have baby gear items you can reserve beforehand. It’s walkable to all the great restaurants the Domaine has to offer, plus there’s a big turf area for kids to play.

Best Spot to Sneak Away Without the Kids:

  • Driscoll Bar This is a historic hotel in Austin with a spooky history! The bar is exquisite and deserves to be visited if you’re from out of town. You can start here and walk to my next recommendation across the street!
  • Midnight Cowboy This is a speakeasy in the heart of east 6th street. You’ll be transported back in time inside this dark, romantic speakeasy. Reservations are required.
  • East Side. The east side of Austin is where you’ll experience a lot of the soul of Austin. It has live music and exceptional restaurants; most of the area is walkable, too. Start by having dinner at Suerte, followed by wine at LoLo, and then end your night dancing at Barbarella. Who doesn’t love to feel young again? 

What other cities have you visited that were great for kids?

We’ve traveled extensively within the US, and our top places (so far) for family vacations are: 

  1. Park City, Utah. Deer Valley Lodge in Park City has a kid’s camp in the summer, making it ideal if you need childcare for a few hours a day. They also have an incredible library with a space for babies, guinea pigs to feed, and music classes.
  2. San Diego, CA. What’s not to love about perfect weather, the beach, affordable hotels, and the San Diego Zoo? It’s the ideal place to accommodate families, and we love a big airport that offers hundreds of direct flights. 
  3. Durango, CO. Pro Tip: Fly into Albuquerque and drive 3 hours to Durango. It’s more affordable and helps break up a long travel day for the kids. The purgatory ski resort offers childcare, and The Powerhouse - Science Center/TinkerLab is a great place to play inside on a cold, snowy day. This science lab also offers spring break and summer camps.

Our next trip with all four will be to Palm Springs, CA. We’re looking forward to the dry heat, time with Nana and Papa, and making memories of where I grew up in. Traveling with a baby and a toddler is never easy, but arriving at our final destination is always worth it.

What are your top travel accessories with two little ones?

As I mentioned, it’s always a challenge traveling with littles, but there are a few things we always take with us that make our trip a little easier. 
Sarah Hollingsworth Poppylist

First, we take our Kibou everywhere. It’s the ideal size diaper bag to take with you inside an airplane bathroom, the foldable changing pad is the protective barrier you need for changing a baby’s diaper on the go, and it makes us intentional about what to pack (AKA less is more). If it doesn’t fit, it’s not coming, so the Kibou allows us to travel lighter as a family. 

Second, we bring our Ergobaby Carrier with us on every trip. Being hands-free as a family on the go is critical, and both our Kibou diaper bag and our carrier help give us an extra set of hands when we need them (and it’s often). 

Other travel essentials are:

Traveling is hard, but it can be done— and we can’t wait to welcome you to Austin, Texas!

1 comment

This is great! Traveling with kids can be intimidating & this quick list of all things kid-friendly in Austin is SO SO helpful.

Corie February 24, 2023

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