My family and I love adventure of any kind, so we knew we would love Austin. Its city’s moniker, “Keep Austin Weird” sets it apart from many, but the giant parks, rich Texas history, luxury accommodations, and unique eateries, all combine making Austin a one-of-a-kind city.
I’ve never been to a park quite like Zilker Park! You can easily spend a day here getting lost in the botanical gardens, spend hours in the Nature and Science Center unearthing a dinosaur, meeting a bobcat, and observing particles that make up insect wings, or visit one of the playgrounds and have a picnic beneath the large trees with the cityscape as your backdrop.
The Botanical Gardens are breathtaking and the perfect spot for your kids to run along the paths and peer in the ponds to get an up close look at turtles or water snakes. The gardens are themed, so you’ll find a rose garden, a Japanese garden, Hartman’s Prehistoric Garden (with dinosaurs), an herb garden, and more. Use the garden’s classification lists and go on a plant hunt- your kids won’t even realize they’re learning, it’s that much fun!
The Nature & Science Center is an adventure in and of itself! In the main building, you’ll find a large room with a wide lens telescope perfect for viewing small critters and easy enough for young kids to use. My 3 year old, a budding scientist, found it fascinating to look at insect wings and bug parts through the telescope. Both of my kids, ages 7 and 3, also really enjoyed running through the large cave and pretending to be bobcats and mountain lions.
Outside, a live animal section allows guests to get up close to a bobcat or a coyote and a Small Wonder’s Exhibit features snakes, fish, tarantulas, and some of the tiniest critters found in Austin. The Dino Dig area transforms kids into archeologists where they can and unearth dinosaur fossils, follow dinosaur tracks, and find actual replicas of fossils found in Texas under the sand. My son, Austin, found the only toy truck in the whole sandbox and rode that over the fossil replicas pretending he was being chased by a T-Rex! With all of this excitement, our tummies were starting to grumble, it was time to head for a yummy snack!
As one of Austin’s unique eateries, Hey Cupcake!, sells cupcakes out of a polished airstream trailer with a huge cupcake on top! They charge $3 for unique cupcake confections with names like Michael Jackson, Vanilla Dream, and Red Velvet. I was told in advance that this is a dessert stop we had to make and that Vanilla Dream was to die for!
Texas State Capitol
Texas is a state rich in history, that if you’re in Austin, you have to visit the Texas State Capitol Building! The building is an almost exact replica of the United States White House, so you will definitely feel a strong sense of pride in being an American citizen! When we visited, the Senate was in session, so we took our kids in, sat in the upper balcony, and watched for a few minutes. Austin, our 3 year old, was born with springs instead of feet, so naturally, he couldn’t sit for long and we got kicked out. Still, it was fun to see a branch of government in action. Caleb, 7 years, enjoyed looking at the artwork and statues inside the building. We all enjoyed riding up the elevator and looking down at the rotunda room from the 4th floor!
The State Capitol has a visitor’s center that’s not attached to the building and has displays and information for guests wanting a more in-depth look at the history of the building. For the kids, there’s the Bob Bullock State History Museum which houses an interactive display and an IMAX theater with hands on activities and fun videos for kids of all ages.
Barton Creek Resort & Spa
Barton Creek Resort and Spa took my breath away as I entered their marble and hardwood lobby. The friendly bell hops held the door open for me and I felt my cares melt away as I was transported into a world of opulence. In the lobby, the floor to ceiling windows took advantage of the breathtaking hill country scenery with its green forests, winding rivers, and Barton Creek’s extensive and well groomed golf courses.
I originally thought that there wasn’t going to be much for families to do at this exclusive resort, but boy was I wrong! We started our day with the family scavenger hunt which led us through the entire resort checking in at a majority of sites and familiarizing us with the grounds. We laughed a lot while trying to play Putt-Putt golf on the miniature course that was mostly shaded (our 3 year old won!) and had a water jug and cups-a must for keeping hydrated during Texas summers. The Putt-Putt course was also the start of the nature trail that wound about a ½ mile through the hill country wilderness. Along the path there was an old teepee that we explored along with a fort that my kids climbed into and played on. I liked the bridges going over a few water crossings, and was told that occasionally the deer will come up and stand close to you, allowing for excellent photo ops! The day packed so much fun, it was nice to sink into the large, comfortable beds –the perfect end to our day!
Read Heather’s full review of the Barton Creek Resort and Spa.
When it was time to leave, our entire family was a little sad. The staff made our experience unforgettable and the resort in its entirety was unforgettable. Plus, the idea of going back home to doing dishes, preparing meals and cleaning up after our family of 6, made me want to run back inside and pay for a few more weeks!
Disclosure: The author received a complimentary stay at Barton Creek Resort in order to complete an unbiased review. The resort did not request that she share any particular point of view and all opinions stated are entirely those of the author.