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How To Vacation In Austin Like You’re Headlining SXSW (With Your Kids)

Austin has a lot going for it: Breakfast tacos. Richard Linklater. Bats. A few small music, arts, and cultural festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits. Breakfast tacos.

And while you may think that this is just a place to discover the hippest new bands (you knew those guys before you became a father) and eat dangerous amounts of BBQ, you’d be wrong. Austin is a great family-friendly destination, and not just because they strive to keep this place as weird as a toddler with undies on his head. Check out world-class museums, pristine swimming holes, movie theaters where you can drink beer while watching cartoons. And breakfast tacos — can’t stress that enough.

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All hotel and restaurant recommendations come care of the family travel experts at Passported; check out their full Austin guide here.

Tips From A Local Dad
Matt Butcher has a podcast that’s more Austin than a Shiner Bock belt buckle, plus has some weekend plans with his 5 and 9-year-old sons that you’ll probably be a little jealous of: A little swimming hole action, a few beered-up movies, and cap off the day with a trip to Pinballz to try and get that high score back. Pay attention, because everything he’s learned trolling around Austin with kids can be on your docket, too:

Splash in the right swimming holes: You pretty much can’t go to Austin and not dive into one of these things, but you don’t have to go to ones all the tourists and hipsters flock to, either. Butcher says there are kids at every swimming hole around Austin, but they all have some form of hazard to watch out for. There’s a steep descent at Krause Springs; really cold water at Blue Hole, and reservations are required at Hamilton Pool. “We often go to Pedernales Falls and just sit in the river. Watch out for snakes there, though!”

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Head to the cement swimming holes and man-made parks: “My favorite pool in town is Deep Eddy, partly because it has such a shallow side and Jim Jim’s water ice (though the parking sucks). Up north there are a few lesser-known places that my kids love. Rock ‘N River in Round Rock is a mini-water park that my kids adore and it’s recently been expanded. There’s also the Quarry Splash Pad in Leander which works well for really little kids.”

Get on the Zilker Zephyr“We love riding the train that runs through Zilker Park. Right near there is a place where you can rent canoes and kayaks. My kids are just now old enough for that.”

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Popcorn and chill at Alamo Drafthouse’s Kids Camp: Outdoor movies in Austin during the summer are not a thing to be missed. And this place has the flicks you and the kids can watch.

“One of my favorite thing about summer with my kids, although we do it other times of the year. The tickets are super cheap and they show classics rather than first run films; we go several times per summer. Also, they have great brunch options for kids and good air conditioning!”

Get your game on at Pinballz Arcade: Sure, arcades have changed a lot since the days of Miss Pacman, but Butcher says there’s still some semblance of the good ol’ days.

Nerd out at Austin Books and Comics (ABC): Like Portland, Austin is a great place to peruse some killer bookstores, and this is the spot to force encourage your kids to geek out about comic books with you.

“We like to pick out a new comic or board game together here. The whole complex around ABC, Guzu Gallery, the Sidekick store (discount comics) and Outlaw Moon Board Games & Toys is a goldmine. We spend hours there just browsing and always discover something new.”

Hotels

Hotel Van Zandt
How To Plan A Family Vacation To Austin

Basics

  • This 319 room hotel is located right next to the hustle and bustle of Rainey Street and some rooms have views of Ladybird Lake.
  • The most economical option for a family of 4 is the City View Deluxe with 2 queen beds; connecting rooms are also available between deluxe rooms and suites and rollaways can be added for a fee of $25 per night, cribs are gratis.
  • The rooftop pool deck is the ideal place to take in views of the city and spend warmer days in a cabana with the whole family.

Bests

  • Like other Kimpton hotels, there is a daily complimentary happy hour in the lobby with margaritas for mom and dad and juice for the kids.
  • The Van Zandt takes Austin’s heritage as a haven for live music very seriously with a full-time music curator creating different playlists for all areas of the hotel and the restaurant, Geraldine’s features a different live music act every night of the week.
  • In addition to dining at Gerladine’s, there is Cafe 605, a grab and go cafe where you can pick up some snacks anytime or make a picnic to take down to the lake.

South Congress Hotel
How To Plan A Family Vacation To Austin

Basics

  • This brand new hotel is located in the already too-cool-for-school South Congress neighborhood.
  • Bearded bellhops in dark denim lead you into an Instagram-worthy lobby complete with mid-century modern furniture and Brooklyn loft vibe.
  • Rooms look industrial chic, mixing wooden and metal details. There’s also a 2nd-floor pool with a bar for lounging in the Austin heat. It’s a perfect pick for urbanites looking for a sleek and stylish experience in the Lone Star state.

Bests

  • The hotel’s eateries are hipster Meccas, from the casual Cafe No Sé, open all day, to the Central Standard grill, Mañana for the cold-pressed juices, and coming soon, Otoko from top chef winner, Paul Qui.
  • The hotel also features Sunroom, a gorgeous women’s boutique, and Revival Cycles, a vintage motorcycle shop.

Restaurants

Breakfast/Brunch
La Condesa
This restaurant is as gorgeous as the crowd hanging out here. Bright tropical colors and cool modern furniture ooze cool. This is a wonderful place for brunch with a Texas twist. The guacamole tasting is a must.

How To Plan A Family Vacation To Austin

Geraldine’s

Lunch
Geraldine’s
Head to the new Van Zandt hotel and grab a drink at the poolside restaurant. They have great music, good people and yummy food.

Snack
Tacodeli
It doesn’t matter if you’re not exactly “hungry.” It would be a crime to go to Austin and not a grab at least one breakfast taco, so head to this casual joint (with a very descriptive name) and create your own egg taco to go. Various locations throughout Austin.

Dinner
Stubb’s BBQ
Once the king of the city’s considerable barbecue scene, Stubb’s has settled into a role as respected legend. There are far hipper options, but you’d have to wait in kid-crushing lines that almost certainly end in a tantrum (yours, when your kids insist the lines are too long to wait).

How To Plan A Family Vacation To Austin

Uchi

Date Night
Uchi
James Beard award winner Tyson Cole creates some of the best inland sushi you’ve ever eaten. Check out his knife-work behind the fish bar before digging into some grilled yakitori.