Unglue Your Kids From the TV for These Family-Friendly Summer Activities

Ten things to see and do around Austin, no screens required

Science Mill

If you can't remember the last time your Netflix queue was anything but cartoons, and the glazed-over eyes of your children are starting to unnerve you, then it's time to consider the vast amount of activities Austin has to offer for kids that don't involve screen-gazing.

1) There's a lot to see at the Thinkery (1830 Simond), Austin's children's museum, but more importantly there's a lot to do, with hands-on activities on everything from light refraction to the science of water.

2) Keep steering STEM with a day trip to Johnson City's Science Mill (101 South Lady Bird Ln., Johnson City), an interactive museum set in a historic steam grist mill and cotton gin built in 1880. New exhibits include a fossil dig and the 30-foot-tall Colossal Robotic Hand.

3) Kids with an artistic streak can take classes in everything from Claymation to weaving at the Contemporary Austin’s Art School on the historic Laguna Gloria campus (3809 W. 35th). Plus, if they've still got energy to burn, you can set 'em loose in the on-site sculpture park.

4) Smudge Studios (500 W. 38th) offers children's art classes, too, or you can book a room for an art party, with themes like "Upcycled Record Art" and "Glow-in-the-Dark Splatter." Best part? You don't have to be part of the cleanup crew.

5) Everybody knows that one of the coolest and spookiest parts about our town is the massive population of bats that take up residence below the South Congress Bridge. Throughout summer, every day from around 7 to 8pm, a swarm of Mexican free-tailed bats emerges from underneath the bridge for a night out on the town to eat about 20-30,000 pounds of bugs. Batcave and Batmobile unfortunately not located on-site.

6) Encourage the kids to get out and smell the flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse). The center specializes exclusively in plants and wildlife native to Texas and has over 2 miles of hiking trails perfect for stomping and tromping on.

7) Founded in 1990 as an animal rescue more for farm animals like cows, goats, and horses, the Austin Zoo Animal Sanctuary (10808 Rawhide Trl.) has expanded into the more exotic side of the animal kingdom with lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). No trip is complete without a train ride around the scenic grounds, where you might just spot an emu or alpaca roaming around.

8) The 23-acre Mayfield Park Community Project and Nature Preserve (3505 W. 35th) offers a chance for visitors to get a glimpse of how life might have looked like in the early 20th century, when the historic Mayfield Cottage and Gardens were developed. Keep your eyes peeled for the more than two dozen gorgeous peafowl that stroll the property.

9) Get your city-slicker kiddos out of town and give them a taste of the good ol' fashioned country life at Barton Hill Farms (1115 FM 969). Located east of Austin in Bastrop, the 15-acre park is geared toward family fun with weekly backyard bashes featuring farm animals, live bluegrass jams, face-painting, farm-themed games, and food.

10) If negotiations to step away from the TV simply cannot be reached between parent and child, consider reaching a compromise by venturing out into the great outdoors for the Movies in the Park summer series or the Long Center's Sound & Cinema series. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks and a blanket. Triple-digit forecast has you sweating already? There are plenty of air-conditioned opportunities to enjoy all-ages entertainment, too, including the many Alamo Kids’ Camps, the Bullock Museum’s Summer Family Film Series, and the Paramount Theatre’s Summer Classic Film Series.

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