Austin has so much to offer families who want some summer fun, but what else is out there? Turns out that one hour north, east, south and west of Austin yield some great summer adventure zones, each with a slightly different appeal. Fill up your gas tank, pack your swimsuit and get going, Austin!




North – Cameron Park Zoo

Wanting a little more from your wildlife experience than Austin’s quaint rescue zoo? Then check out Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas. It’s an easy one hour and 30 minute drive from central Austin, and the zoo does not disappoint.

The 52 acre zoo first opened in 1993, and every year since then they’ve added animals in lush, well cared for habitats. The zoo boasts over 1,700 animals, representing 300 different species. That includes endangered orangutans, tigers and Komodo dragons.


Keep in mind that weekdays at the zoo are less crowded than weekends. Pack your lunch if you want to cut costs, but know that there are several eateries on the zoo grounds to choose from. The Treetop Café provides a kid-friendly menu and a zoo souvenir with a kids’ meal.


Ever wonder how a zoo sounds at night? Find out at Cameron Park’s “Wild Night” events. Kids can bring flashlights and the tour guides will lead visitors through the various exhibits to see and hear how the animals live it up at night!


For tickets and more information, go to:

East – Splashway Water Park


Tired of long lines at water parks? Then it’s time to head east out of Austin. At one hour and 55 minutes by car, Splashway Waterpark and Campground is going to be your new favorite way to cool off this summer.


People who love the park say that it’s never too crowded, always clean and the staff is genuinely happy to serve you.

You can pay for a day pass and get wet all day on the water rides or really dig in for the full Splashway experience by staying at one of their campgrounds. Overnighters can choose to stay in cabins, tents, bungalows or drive and park their own RV. The campgrounds are lush and quiet and will feel like a real getaway.


Splashway has over 24 water rides and pools. Military persons receive a discount on tickets and every day at
1 p.m. the whole park pauses to hear The Star Spangled Banner as a salute to those who have served our country.


For more information and tickets, head to:

South – ZDT Amusement Park

If you’re seriously into family fun, ZDT Amusement park (exactly one hour south of Austin in Seguin) is exactly what you’re looking for. Named for the founder’s three children- Zac, Danielle and Tiffany, the park is a unique mix of new and old.


Many of the park attractions include repurposed buildings from a time when the land was used for agriculture. The silo climbing wall, for example, was built on the side of an old silo that once stored grain for local farmers.


ZDT continues to expand its entertainment offerings. In 2010 they introduced a new ride to keep guests cool all summer, the Mad Raft Water Coaster. In total, the park has over twenty rides and games, all for various ages.


The park has a café with several food options but guests are also welcome to bring coolers and picnic on the grounds. ZDT is still run by the Donhauser family, its original owners. You may even see one of his three grown kids operating a ride, so be sure to say hello.


For more information check out:




West – Pedernales Falls State Park

When the weather gets really sizzling in Austin, there’s nothing that compares to a cool-off in the Greenbelt water. And no other place is as picture-perfect as Pedernales Falls State Park, just one hour west of central Austin.


The Pedernales River can be swift if the hill country has received a lot of rain, but for the most part the river has a tranquil flow to it, making the banks and pools a perfect place to rest and relax on a hot day. True Austinites know how to set their camping chairs right in the water, sit back with a beverage and let their feet and legs cool off. If you need more activity for your day on the Pedernales, guests are welcome to bring tubes, fishing gear, even kayaks or canoes.


Once you’ve cooled off in the water, the surrounding area is ideal for hiking and camping.


The important thing to know about making plans to visit Perdenales Falls is that you must make a reservation online. Don’t be intimidated by the reservation process. The available dates for a day at the Falls only show up a month in advance, so check the website often to get your spot. You won’t regret a day on the Pedernales River.


To make your reservations and learn more about the river, visit:

Jess Archer is a writer, a mom of two kids and a wife. She is the author of the memoir, “Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Billy Graham.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Austin Family Magazine

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this with your friends!