Austin with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Vacation in Austin, Texas with your teens and have a great time along the way, with a trip including fun restaurants, Segway tours, kayaking, natural springs and even a possible bat sighting.
One of the most unique places in the state, Austin is a perfect place to take your teens for a couple of days of family bonding. Hotels are plentiful and are available for every income level. One of the newer hotels with a central location is the AT&T Conference Center, located on the southern side of the University of Texas campus at 1900 University Avenue. Wheel all of those bags up to your adjoining rooms or consider one of their executive suites with a Murphy bed to give you more room to hang out. There is a dining room downstairs and Gabriel's Café with multiple large screen televisions for all your sports-watching needs, plus tasty homemade potato chips.
Get a good night's sleep, as you have an action-packed day ahead of you. Poll the family for breakfast ideas, the simplest being picking up something at the hotel; if you are staying at the AT&T conference center, there is a snack bar with breakfast items available. Many of the hotels offer a free continental breakfast with your stay. If a sit-down breakfast is your pleasure, try Cisco's Restaurant Bakery & Bar, located at 1511 E. 6th Street (512-478-2420) for some of the best Huevos Rancheros or Migas you will find in Texas. A breakfast stop at Cisco's will get your Austin stay off to a great start. For a walk through of Austin's who's who, walk through the main room and sit in the backroom.
Once you are fortified with some real Austin food, take your group over to the round Holiday Inn Town Lake on I-35 for a morning Segway Tour of downtown Austin from GlidingRevolution. I suggest you make a reservation in advance to be sure there is room for your group; the tour will cost around $75 per person. If you are lucky, your guide will be Janice, who will teach you how to ride a Segway without falling off. Once everyone has the hang of the two-wheeled vehicles, you are wheeling your way through the streets of Austin, seeing firsthand the old houses surrounded by the new skyscrapers. Your guide will give you an informative, lively tour of downtown Austin with a possible break to walk through the air-conditioned Capital building.
Iron Works BBQ, and sit out on the back porch and listen to the river run under your feet. If the heat is too much or the weather is bad, stop by the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum after lunch to see a Smithsonian-style museum of Texas history. The museum is located at 1800 N. Congress Avenue at the intersection of Martin Luther Kind, Jr. Boulevard. Admission will run $7 for adults and $4 for youth up to 18. There is truly something for everyone in this perfectly sized, beautifully built facility.
Once the teens are ready for more outdoor Texas fun, stop by the hotel for a quick regroup to pick up bathing suits and towels before heading out to Barton Springs, a natural spring that has welcomed generations of families located in Zilker Park. The entrance fee is $3 for adults and $2 for children ages 11 and under, a parking fee of $3 applies on the weekends, and Thursday the springs are closed for cleaning. The water is extra cool and you can spread out on the sprawling lawn. Take floats and beach towels with you.
Now that everyone is nice and relaxed, just down the road from Barton Springs (2100 Barton Springs Road), you will find Zilker Park's Boat Rentals where you can rent kayaks for an afternoon on Lady Bird Lake. Their boats are available until dark, but they only take cash (no credit cards or checks). Rates are $10 per hour or $40 for the day, and they require a signed waiver, which you can print off their website in advance (adult waiver, child waiver). For those wanting to keep their feet on the ground, there is a beautiful trail for walking, jogging and biking around the Lady Bird Lake.
At dusk the bats will head out for their night feeding, so head for the Congress Bridge, which has traditionally been one of their favorite spots. This summer has not been particularly busy for the bats, so don't plan your whole night around this, but know that this is a fascinating thing to see and something that everyone who visits Austin should see.
Dinner will be up to you, try Fleming's for steak, Kenichi for sushi, Matt's El Rancho for Mexican, Shady Grove or Hut's for burgers and Romeo's for Italian.
Check austin360.com before your trip to find out what musicians may be playing around town. There are backyard stages all around the 6th Street area, where you may be surprised to find your teens' favorite musician playing. Take a pedicab to get from one place to another downtown at night. If you are more than three people, you may need two or more pedicabs, but they are a great way to see downtown at night and they ride for tips.
No matter what you choose to do, you and your teens are sure to enjoy your visit to Austin, but remember to stay hydrated in the Texas heat -- don't forget the hats, sunglasses and sunblock, for the Austin sun can be intense.
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