Kids in Tow

5 action-packed family day trips around Austin and the Texas Hill Country

5 action-packed family day trips around Austin and the Hill Country

Science Mill Johnson City little girl playing
The Science Mill in Johnson City. Science Mill/Facebook
Witte Museum kids San Antonio fun
The Witte Museum in San Antonio. Witte Museum/Facebook
Austin Photo Set: News_Peter Lewis_Swimming Holes_Kerrville state park_june 2011_1
Head to Kerrville, just two hours away. Courtesy of Kerrville CVB
Dr. Pepper Museum Waco
The Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco. Dr. Pepper Museum/Facebook
McKenna Children's Museum
The McKenna Children's Museum in New Braunfels. McKenna Children's Museum/ Facebook
Science Mill Johnson City little girl playing
Witte Museum kids San Antonio fun
Austin Photo Set: News_Peter Lewis_Swimming Holes_Kerrville state park_june 2011_1
Dr. Pepper Museum Waco
McKenna Children's Museum

Summer may be over, but there are still plenty of discoveries to be made. Austin’s central location offers parents quite the array of day trips under two hours. On your way, keep those backseat squabbles at bay with road trip games (the license plate game, anyone?) and a cooler stocked with snacks. Choose your adventure with one of five action-packed itineraries that will keep the kids interested while keeping adult tantrums at a minimum.

Johnson City (70-minute drive)
Head to the seat of Blanco County — and hometown of President Lyndon B. Johnson — for a bit of science and history. Start your day at the Science Mill, an interactive family science museum housed in a former feed mill built in 1880. The Science Mill opens at 10 am on Saturday mornings and will be having a scavenger hunt during Labor Day weekend. Enjoy 3-D movies, hands-on STEAM activities, and finish it off with lunch at the adjacent Lady Bird Lane Cafe, which offers farm-to-table fare.

At 1 pm, head to LBJ’s boyhood home at 200 E. Elm St. for a free tour of the president’s humble beginnings. Finish the day off with a dip at Pedernales Falls State Park, or head to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site for a tour of the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, a living history farm.

Kerrville (two-hour drive)
The Museum of Western Art designed by renowned Texas architect O’Neil Ford hosts a free craft workshop for kids on the second Saturday of each month from September to May. The suggested age range runs 5-12, and crafts start at 10 am. Kids will work up an appetite making dream catchers or Texas Rangers badges, so zap that hangry mood before it starts and get a sip for the grown-ups at Pint & Plow Brewing Company.

After lunch, head to Kerrville-Schreiner Park for bike and boat rentals as well the butterfly garden. Don’t leave town without stopping at James Avery Artisan Jewelry's headquarters. The iconic Texas jeweler passed away earlier this year, but he will always be remembered for creating sterling charms (from Whataburger to the cross). Pick up a new piece of jewelry or check out the onsite museum documenting Avery’s creations and process throughout the years.

New Braunfels (one-hour drive)
Start at Naegelin’s Bakery, the oldest continually operated bakery in Texas, for an apple strudel (but quick, before they run out!). Then head to the McKenna Children’s Museum for a variety of interactive exhibits, including the Lend-A-Hand simulated Texas ranch, the Hill Country Campgrounds featuring tents and campfires, Destination Space for future astronauts, and, of course, a pretend-play grocery store for an early look at adulting.

After the museum, get those kids a present at Got Toys downtown and then treat the crew to lunch at the Faust Hotel and Brewing Company. End your day with a dip in the spring-fed pool at Landa Park.

San Antonio (90-minute drive)
Start with an early lunch at Señor Veggie, a vegan Tex-Mex spot in the Lavaca neighborhood. Try the poblano corn fritters for an appetizer or the spinach queso dip made with cashew cheese. Kid's menu selections include crispy tofu sticks, a black bean quesadilla, and, for the more adventurous palate, jackfruit tacos.

Next, take the fam to Mission Kayak, strap on some lifejackets, and paddle the Museum Reach stretch of the San Antonio River Walk. Head to the Witte Museum next for some early Texas memorabilia, a taxidermied landscape, and dinosaurs. The Witte gift shop is a great place to treat the littles to under-$10 souvenirs.

Finish your day at the Pearl Brewery’s Bottling Department Food Hall, where adults can sip drinks and sample local chef-driven fare on the patio while kiddos enjoy the splash pad.

Waco (100-minute drive)
The shiplap renaissance heralded by HGTV Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines has brought new interest to Waco. Start at Silos Baking Company with a cranberry orange biscuit before and enjoy games, including cornhole and sack races, on the lawn at Magnolia Market.

When you’re ready to break from the Magnolia fray, head to Lula Jane’s for a farm-to-table lunch. There is only one way to follow up a healthful lunch, and that’s with a bit of carbonated deviance at the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute. Sample an original recipe Dr Pepper and marvel at the vintage advertising.

Finish the day at Homestead Craft Village at Homestead Heritage, an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community, where your crew can watch craft demonstrations emphasizing sustainability and cooperation. Cafe Homestead serves scratch-made cuisine, and Brazos Valley Cheese is a great stop for an artisanal cheese snack for the ride home.