Check out our curated list of fun Austin activities parents can enjoy with their college-bound kids.
By Kaiti Neuman, Photo by Brandon Punzalan
The time has finally come: Your daughter is heading to college. You’ve gotten her settled into her dorm, purchased all the textbooks and tech components she’ll need for intensive study and loaded her dining card with enough funds to keep her nibbling on barbecue for a full semester.
So, how will you spend the rest of your week in Austin with your flying-the-nest kiddo? This is your chance to gather the family and experience a few must-visit local sights as a brood. We’ve compiled a list of popular and off-the-beaten-path experiences to check out in Austin that parents—and their college-age kids—will enjoy.
For the out-of-town family
For those less familiar with this great state, it’s time to immerse yourself in all things Lone Star, Austin-style. Get a taste for some authentic Tex-Mex at popular Eastside eatery Juan in a Million, known for its breakfast tacos and house-made enchiladas. With any luck, Owner Juan Meza himself might be there, and he’s always happy to shake the hand of a new customer or two. After breakfast, suit up like a Texan with a pair of dirt-kickin’ cowboy boots and the perfect cowboy hat from Allen’s Boots on South Congress Avenue, also the ideal locale for some good people-watching. Next, mosey up the road to the Texas Capitol to admire the beautiful dome and historic park- like grounds, and learn a little more about Texas and its storied history. And since the Capitol overlooks downtown Austin, this is your chance to take a stroll and check out the vibrant shops and restaurants within this bubbling metropolis. Snap a family selfie with the celebrated Willie Nelson Statue, located on Second Street, aka Willie Nelson Boulevard, at the edge of another hopping shopping district. Nothing is better for cap- ping off a long day of exploration than gobbling up a heaping plate of Texas brisket at Terry Black’s Barbecue on Barton Springs Road. Family meat packages are available. And don’t forget to save room for that quintessential barbecue chaser, banana pudding.
For the culture seekers
Austin is brimming with culture. If your family is in the market to experience the weird vibes of the city, you’re in for a wild ride. If you’re visiting on a weekend, swing by weekly pop-up South Congress Artist Market to peruse the various funky jewelry pieces, clothing items and artwork on display from the local artists who crafted them. Downtown also holds many interesting options for those looking for something truly eccentric. Take some time to gaze at the odd shrunken heads at Museum of the Weird, or get the scoop on the ghost stories at the infamously haunted Driskill Hotel. To satisfy your post-spooked appetite, head to Ramen Tatsu-ya for a steaming bowl of slurp-worthy and comforting noodle soup. Finish the day by indulging your sweet tooth with some authentic Italian gelato from Dolce Neve.
For the nostalgics
Tap into some of your favorite nostalgic memories of Sunday morning at Grandma’s house by kick-starting the day atBiscuits and Groovy, where all drool-inducing menu items are named for iconic music artists, such as the Bee Gees and Aretha Franklin. Once you’ve loaded up on freshly baked biscuits, take a drive up to Pinballz, where all your family’s favorite arcade games, from classic pinball machines and Skee-Ball to Pac-Man and more modern interactive games, abound. Once the tokens run out, recharge with a quick and delicious burger at P. Terry’s, a well-loved local fast-food chain. Digging through new and used records and CDs at Waterloo Records is a music- lover’s dream and a must in our music-centric city. Then pop next door to the 1950s- inspired 24 Diner, where breakfast—and practically life-changing French toast—is served all day and night.
For the nature lovers
If you’re looking to get some outside family-bonding time, you’ve come to the right town, as Austin boasts some of the state’s most beautiful scenery. Thanks to Austin B-cycle, your family can take Austin by the handlebars. Bikes are available for rent from stations located throughout the city, so it’s easy to get around without having to sacrifice a 360-degree view. Hit the trails at Butler Park along Lady Bird Lake, or take to the water by renting a paddleboard or kayak from Austin Paddle Shack or EpicSUP. If yours is a family of hikers, hoofing it through the oasis-like Barton Creek Greenbelt is sure to make every- one happy. And taking a dip in the cool waters is the perfect way to combat the heat. For those who want to head straight for the water, Barton Springs, Austin’s cherished natural-springs pool, is not to be missed. After working up an appetite— and a sweat—there is nothing Austinites like to chow down on more than a tasty taco. Do as the locals do and make a visit to Veracruz All Natural on East Cesar Chavez Street, revered by many as one of the best taco spots in Austin. Bonus: The seating is outdoors, so it doesn’t matter if the whole family is sweaty from hiking or wet from falling off paddleboards. All are welcome to nosh as is.
For the shutterbug
In this age of social media, documenting the fun with pictures has become an essential aspect of any trip. There are sure to be many photo opps when exploring the tasty restaurants, eclectic bars and stunning trails of Austin’s Rainey Street Historic District. Turn your picture snap- ping into a scavenger hunt by searching Austin for popular murals, including the famous “I love you so much” mural on South Congress Avenue and the “You’re my butter half” mural on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It’s a great way to get that perfect Instagram shot. For an overhead view of Austin’s terrain, make the climb up Mount Bonnell and snap a striking panoramic shot of the lush Austin landscape. Once hunger sets in, head to Flower Child, where you can choose from an array of healthy and made-from-scratch menu items while enjoying the cute décor. And there is no better way to celebrate a successfully photogenic weekend than by sipping some roasted-in-house coffee or tea and sharing a generous slice of handcrafted tiramisu lakeside at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, arguably Austin’s most famous coffee shop. The café features a hip, rustic interior, as well as a large patio area over- looking Lake Austin that is one of the best locales to catch an Austin sunset.