Outdoor Activities

Photo courtesy of Jack French

9. Dinosaur Park
Photo courtesy of Dinosaur Park

As you wander the trails you'll encounter several dinosaurs! Life-size statues of dinosaurs, that is. But they're amazingly life-like and dino-fanatic kids love them. Most (including T-Rex, Iguanodon, Coelophysis and Ornithomimus) lived in Texas during the Cretaceous or Jurassic periods. After you spot all the dastardly dinos, try your hand at digging for "fossils" in the large sand table, and stop by the gift shop for some cool souvenirs. The park closes occasionally for maintenance or because of the weather – call ahead.

8. Texas Skydiving Center

Both nervous newbies and skilled skydivers trust this local outfit to oversee the exhilarating experience of plummeting from a plane. Select your jump of choice – be it via automatic static line, tandem freefall, or more adventurous accelerated freefall – and follow an informative course presented by certified USPA instructors. Before long, you'll be appreciating a bird's-eye view of Central Texas.

7. Zilker Park Boat Rentals
Photo courtesy of Zilker Park Boat Rentals

Why hike or bike when you can canoe or kayak? Enjoy spectacular Lady Bird Lake from its serene surface by renting a boat and putting a paddle to the water. Soak up the surrounding scenery – lush parks, expanding skyline, clear blue sky – while getting a light workout, or marvel at the city's famous bats as they embark on their evening journey.

6. Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk
Photo courtesy of pixajen

Austin's physically fit reputation is in full effect on the popular Hike and Bike Trail, a 10-mile loop of natural and urban splendor encircling picturesque Lady Bird Lake (aka the Colorado River) in the heart of downtown. From buff bikers to dog walkers to strolling slackers, Austin is well-represented on this busy, crunchy, and well-worn path.

5. Barton Springs Pool
Photo courtesy of heatheronhertravels

This huge, spring-fed swimming hole is surrounded by lovely gardens and pecan trees. The pool is fed by spring waters that maintain a year-round temperature of about 68 degrees, and bubble up at the rate of 27 million gallons a day. Trivia note: Robert Redford, at the tender age of five, learned to swim at Barton Springs. Schedules vary, but usually there are lifeguards on duty between 9am-6pm. The pool closes for two weeks in early March for spring cleaning.

4. Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail

This wide trail spans more than four miles along Shoal Creek, starting in Pease Park. The lush greenbelt is a favorite of cyclists, joggers, and hikers.

3. McKinney Falls State Park

This 640-acre park boasts a unique swimming pool located under the falls. Hiking, biking, fishing, and picnicking are available, along with camping facilities. Located 13 miles southeast of downtown Austin off US 183. For camping reservations, call 512-389-8900.

2. Hamilton Pool Preserve

Once private lands, this 232-acre preserve is now owned in part by the county and is being restored to its natural state. Its focus is a soothing green pool nourished by a 45-foot waterfall. The formation took shape millennia ago when the land above an underground river collapsed; today, it's a pastoral haven for swimming and enjoying nature. Trails wind about the property, and native vegetation and wildlife are prominent. Picnic tables and restrooms are available, but other amenities are few, and restrictions apply as to what's permitted onto the property. Thirty miles southwest of Austin.

1. Austin Nature & Science Center
Photo courtesy of Jack French

Sort of a combination museum, zoo and park, the Austin Nature and Science Center is a must-see. Located at the edge of Zilker Park, the center features several native Texas animals such as porcupines, coyotes, snakes and owls; science labs where kids can learn more about the natural world; and a fun "eco-detective" trail. But the center's crowning glory is its unique Dino Pit exhibit, a fantastic hands-on exhibit where kids can dig for fossils (reproductions of actual fossils found in Texas) and compare dino trackways.