This post is part of our #4Daysof4K Guide to Austin series. Be sure to check out the other guides:
So, you came all the way to Austin? Some of you may have even come in early to sight-see. What do you do when you’re looking for something cool to see or do? We have a guide to take you to the best shopping, fun, and historical sites around town, all of which are family friendly!
I feel like shopping
Yes, a reference to Farenheit 451, BookPeople is the indie bookstore to end all indie bookstores (at least here in Austin). This two-story bookstore sells books from local Texas authors, as well as the latest book releases. If you want to sip on coffee while you browse, you can enjoy a nice cup of joe from the cafe inside the store. It wouldn’t be Austin without some weird and wacky gifts, and BookPeople does not disappoint. Fun toys and trinkets are scattered all around the store for your enjoyment. We’re sure you’ll find a good read, and a nice gift to take back home.
- What to get: Check their section of signed copies. BookPeople always has copies of signed books from recent author visits to the store.
- Like a local: For a fun “double feature,” head on over to the Whole Foods right across the street from BookPeople. I bet you didn’t know that is the flagship Whole Foods store, the big enchilada, the corporate HQ. Yup! And they have a great salad bar.
Toy Joy truly keeps Austin weird. Not your typical toy shop, Toy Joy provides your pretty standard toys, as well as unique hard-to-find toys. There really isn’t much can be said about Toy Joy, you really have to experience it for yourself. Toy Joy is a great shop for kids and kids at heart.
- What to get: I would highly recommend you try a Rodie, in any size, or any of their miniature tiny animal figurines for your work desk.
- Like a local: Head on over to Cafe Ruckus right next door when you’re done shopping!
Parts and Labour
If you do anything suggested in these guides, I hope you go to Parts and Labour. This indie craft store carries goodies from local Austin artists. Locally designed screen printed t-shirts, posters, postcards, as well as hand made dresses, and jewelry, if you want something uniquely Austin, you will find it in this store.
- What to get: Peruse their poster section. You will find some neat concert posters from local artists if you want something cool and unique.
- Like a local: Done shopping? Head on over to Doc’s Motorworks for a cold one, or just a bit farther up the street to Amy’s ice creams for a family friendly option.
I feel like doing something fun
Peter Pan Mini Golf
Peter Pan Mini Golf is an Austin tradition. This is where you go to have a fun, family friendly time. They have two different courses and the prices are very affordable to bring the whole family over.
- What to do: Choose the west course — it is more fun, plus it has a T-Rex!
- Like a local: You are free to bring a cooler (BYOB), but make sure you stay away from glass containers.
The Thinkery is the “evolution of our children’s museum.” It is a highly hands-on experience aimed at getting kids to be creative, with a focus on STEM education. They offer several kinds of labs, like a light lab, where kids get to play with lights and shadows, as well as a kitchen lab, where other science experiments take place.
- What to do: check out their calendar of events so you be sure to visit on a day when there is something going on that strikes your fancy.
- Like a local: For lunch or afternoon snack, head on over to the Mueller Trailer Park nearby.
Barton Springs Pool
Ah, Barton Springs, our pride and joy on a hot summer day. The Barton Springs Pool is a great place to go to enjoy a nice swim in naturally cold water. Please note that this is not your regular ol’ pool. This man-made pool is fed with spring water, and the deep end of the pool can get pretty deep (so refreshing!).
- What to do: Bring a blanket for you to lay on and lounge upon while reading a book, or enjoying the sunshine.
- Like a local: Want a late swim? Swimming is free from 9pm – 10pm!
I feel like going to museums or historical attractions
Austin is the capital city of the state of Texas, and we have an amazing capitol building to prove it — see what I did there? I am sure The Texas State Capitol is already on your list, so I know I don’t have to sell you on it. Let’s talk about how you can experience this place better:
- What to do: Bring shorts, it gets hot outside. Bring a camera so you are prepared to take a picture of the adorable squirrels. If you can, bring a blanket, pick up some food to-go, and be ready to have a picnic.
- Like a local: Walk a few blocks and visit the Texas Chili Parlor, if you want to experience a good bowl of Texas Chili.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
This place is, simply put, amazing. It is both a museum and an IMAX theater. You can learn, and go catch a movie. What I highly recommend you do is check out one of their interactive “Star of Destiny” show, which retells the story of Texas in a fun, immersive way. Trust me, you won’t want to miss that show.
- What do to: you can currently visit their exhibit on the McDonald Observatory, but don’t miss out on the “Star of Destiny” show.
- Like a local: Walk on over to El Mercado afterwards for some local Tex-Mex fare.
The Harry Ransom Center
The Harry Ransom Center is part of the University of Texas at Austin, and it truly possesses a great collection. They have one of only five Gutenberg bibles in existence, as well as the first photograph ever taken. The Harry Ransom Center is also home of the David O. Selznick documents, famed producer of Gone with the Wind, so their collection includes a fully comprehensive history of the making of the film.
- What to do: Definitely check out the Gutenberg bible, and their exhibit on Gone with the Wind
- Like a local: Head on over to local diner Kerbey Lane Cafe, it’s where all UT students and staff dine when they’re on campus.