Top Five Outdoor Adventures in Austin

Nicole Basham - Austin
October 23, 2017

There's nothing quite like the great outdoors to quiet your children's squabbles, exhaust their seemingly endless reservoir of energy and get them thinking outside of the box. A trip down to the Greenbelt can become a journey to prehistoric times as you search for ammonites. An outing to your neighborhood park can lead to the discovery of a bird's nest. If you are a mother of a boy, you know quite well that a stick can be transformed into dozens of other implements of imaginary play. So, what are you waiting for? Put on your walking shoes, grab your water bottle and sunscreen and get ready for an adventure!

Play among the peacocks

Mayfield Park is an urban oasis most well known for its peacock residents. Don't expect a playscape or swings, but rather a cottage from the late 1800s surrounded by a series of stone paths and ponds teeming with fish, turtles and frogs. A popular location for weddings and photographers, you may not know that the trails behind the cottage and ponds are the perfect length and level of difficulty for children and shady for summer days. Picnic tables near the parking lot allow you to observe the peacocks and water fountains near the ponds can be your first stop after you hit the trails. If you have a toddler, Mayfield might be a bit stressful, since it's harder for little ones to resist the urge to walk right into the ponds and the stones by the ponds are uneven for wobbly walkers.

Venture back in time

Get a window into life before Legos at Pioneer Farms, a living history museum with wide open spaces for your kids to explore. Woodworking, blacksmithing, cooking, knife-making and quilting are just some of the demonstrations that are in the rotation at the farm. Make sure you check out the farm animals (including gigantic pigs!) and prepare for a lot of walking. You may want to consider bringing some snacks, as all that exploring can work up quite an appetite!

Swing for the second star to the right

Try not having fun at Peter Pan Mini Golf. Okay, maybe it's possible, but this retro golf course has been around for generations and still stands the test of time. Two 18-hole golf courses steer you around a huge T-Rex, a rabbit, a turtle, and of course, Peter Pan himself. Photo opportunities abound, and (limited) climbing on obstacles is allowed. Make sure to bring cash because credit cards aren't accepted. Bring a friend, bring a cooler during the warmer months (but no glass), and get ready for some laughter and unleash your children's inner golfers.

A shady haven for climbers

When you are looking for something more than the park down the street, check out the Children's Park in San Marcos. Similar to the Creative Playscape in Georgetown, but bigger and with more shade, the Children's Park is a haven for little explorers. The structure is mostly wood and can have some blind spots for toddlers or tall steps which might be harder for little legs to navigate. A sand box and swings can keep younger siblings at bay while older preschoolers turning the park into their own castle, pirate ship or rocket. Restrooms and water fountains are outside of the park's fence, and picnic tables are available... if you can entice your little adventurer away.

Swim with the fishes

No list of outdoor adventures in Austin would be complete without a mention of Barton Springs. In the literal and figurative heart of Austin, it's easy to see why the Springs has a devoted following. Open year-round, Barton Springs has a huge shallow area and everything you'd expect from swimming in a natural space -- fish, algae (watch out for slippery spots!), and even the habitat for the endangered Barton Springs salamander. Kids don't seem to mind the constant 68 degree temperature as much as we adults do. Weekend afternoons can get pretty crowded in the dog days of summer, so get there early to get a shady spot for your belongings and be prepared for your kids to beg for you for a post-swim snow cone.

Remember, it helps to plan ahead, so visit your destination's website and call in advance to confirm opening times and schedules -- but once you're there, it's time to relax, enjoy, and let the spirit of adventure take you and your family wherever you want to go.


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