How best to spend Father’s Day with your amazing dad? Let the big guy in your life know how much he means to you by taking him to some of the best, most entertaining places in Austin. Whether he’s a museum freak, a nature nut or an adventure junkie, we’ve rounded up a sampling of some great locations for devoting a memorable day to a very special fellow.
- Headquarters to the Texas National Guard, Camp Mabry also houses the Texas Forces Military Museum, filled with vintage military vehicles and all sorts of military historical items. Gain access to Camp Mabry by showing your ID to the gate guard. Although museum admission is free, donations are appreciated.
2. The Texas Memorial Museum on the UT Austin campus houses dinosaur bones, lots of dinosaur displays and a large, natural eco-system exhibit with all sorts of Texas animals – both live and taxidermied. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for youth.
3. The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum on the UT Austin campus is one of only 14 presidential libraries in the country. Learn about the turbulent 60s, view a replica of the Oval Office and see how the Johnson legacy lives on today. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for youth.
4. Clustered near downtown’s Brush Square Park are three small museums packed with local history. The Austin Fire Museum, the O. Henry Museum and the Susanna Dickinson Museum tell multidimensional stories of Austin’s past. Admission is free.
5. Families with older kids will appreciate a visit and tour of the Texas Capitol Building, where everyone can learn about Texas history and how government works. Don’t miss the Capitol Visitors Center next door, housed in the oldest state office building in Texas. Admission and tours are free to both the Capitol Building and the Visitors Center.
6. Between March and November, folks swarm to the Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Lady Bird Lake to witness a natural spectacle: every evening at sundown, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats take to the skies to gobble up more than 10,000 pounds of insects. Viewing is free, and the best spot is at the Austin American-Statesman’s Bat Observation Center on the south shore.
7. No summer is complete without a visit to Zilker Park. There’s something here for every age. Cool down with snow cones, ride the Zephyr train, explore the playgrounds, paddle a canoe, ride a bike, fly a kite or swim in the famed Barton Springs Pool. While you’re in the area, wander over to the Zilker Botanical Gardens and the Austin Nature and Science Center. Round out your trip with a visit to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, just around the corner. Admission to Zilker Park and to the Austin Nature and Science Center is free. Admission to the Botanical Gardens is $2 for adults and $1 for youth. Admission to the Umlauf is $5 for adults and free for youth.
8. Unlike a traditional zoo, the Austin Zoo is a residence for rescued and rehabilitated animals. But just like at most zoos, you’ll see animals such as bears, tigers, monkeys and macaws. Above all, it’s an educational outing that’s worth the trip. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for youth.
9. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area doesn’t resemble anything else in Texas: the massive granite dome rising out of the typical Hill Country landscape will captivate you. My family hiked the rock years ago, when our youngest was 3, so I can confidently say it is manageable with younger kids. Admission is $7 for adults and free for youth. The park can get packed on weekends, so arrive early and bring plenty of water.
10. Peter Pan Mini Golf is old-school putt-putt golf fun at its best. The park has been an Austin institution since 1948, and it attracts families and hipsters alike. One 18-hole game will cost $7 per person. They accept cash only.
11. If you’ve got family members who enjoy high-flying adventure, try taking to the skies at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. You’ll zoom above tree-filled canyons and the sparkling water of Lake Travis. Participants must weigh between 70 and 250 lbs. A 3-hour tour costs $120 per person. Reservations are highly recommended.
12. Air-conditioned flight might be more your speed, and iFLY Austin serves up just the thing with indoor skydiving. Participants must be at least 3 years old. Packages start at $70 per person. Reservations are highly recommended.
13. Surfing in Austin? Believe it. NLand Surf Park offers tasty waves for every skill level, from novice to seasoned boarders. Participants must be at least 8 years old to surf with a parent. Surfing passes start at $60 per person. Booking in advance is recommended.
14. Family fun takes a turn into battlefield territory at Dart ‘Em Up. This indoor foam dart venue offers two paintball-like arenas, lots of choices in the arsenal and an endless supply of foam ammo. Participants must be at least 5 years old. Prices are $9 per person per hour on weekdays and $12 on weekends.
Steve Alvarez is an Austin-based writer, husband and father of four.