Slaughter Creek Trail

Great hiking and biking trail for older kids, especially if they’re into dirt biking

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Photos of Slaughter Creek Trail coming soon

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Parking lot
Splash pad
Playground
Water fountain
Fenced-in play area
Benches
Restrooms
🤷
Reservable areas
Changing table
🤷
Shade/covered areas
😀
Stroller-friendly path(s)
Toddler playground
😀
Easy walks/hikes
Toddler swings
Picnic tables
Swings
Swimming pool

Park Features


😀
Walking/hiking paths
Volleyball net
😀
Paved paths
Disc golf
😀
Bike trails
Rock climbing
😀
Scenic/photo areas
Sandbox
😀
Wildflowers
Lap pool
😀
Grills
Wading pool
😀
Off-leash dog areas
Water playscape
Basketball court
On-duty lifeguard
Baseball diamond
😀
Natural water areas
Soccer field
Boat rentals
Tennis court
Fishing

Family-friendliness Score:

Our Rating

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Community Rating

We haven’t had a chance to review Slaughter Creek Trail yet. Have you been? Please share your rating with the Family Trip Tips Community!

BABY-FRIENDLY
0
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
0
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
0
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
0
UNIQUE ASPECTS
0
Average
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How We Rate

Learn more about how we rate the family-friendliness of locations (Opens in a new tab).

About Slaughter Creek Trail

Summary

If you’re looking for a trail that’s great for young kids, this probably isn’t it. This is a popular biking loop so we’d only recommend carrying the kids or bringing them when they’re old enough to avoid bicyclists whizzing by or old enough to join in. With the mostly flat terrain and big (5-mile) loop, this is a nice trail away from traffic and noise and in nature.

Bottom Line, Should You Take The Kids To Slaughter Creek Trail?

Govalle Neighborhood Park

Newly built lap and shallow pools with shade, playground and fields

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Photos

Photos of Govalle Neighborhood Park coming soon

Features

Family-Friendly Features


😀
Parking lot
Splash pad
😀
Playground
😀
Water fountain
😀
Fenced-in play area
😀
Benches
😀
Restrooms
🤷
Reservable areas
😀
Changing table
😀
Shade/covered areas
😀
Stroller-friendly path(s)
😀
Toddler playground
😀
Easy walks/hikes
😀
Toddler swings
😀
Picnic tables
😀
Swings
😀
Swimming pool

Park Features


😀
Walking/hiking paths
Volleyball net
😀
Paved paths
Disc golf
😀
Bike trails
Rock climbing
😀
Scenic/photo areas
Sandbox
😀
Wildflowers
😀
Lap pool
😀
Grills
😀
Wading pool
Off-leash dog areas
🤷
Water playscape
😀
Basketball court
😀
On-duty lifeguard
😀
Baseball diamond
Natural water areas
😀
Soccer field
Boat rentals
Tennis court
🤷
Fishing

Family-friendliness Score:

Our Rating

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Community Rating

Have you been? Please share your rating with the Family Trip Tips Community!
BABY-FRIENDLY
0
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
0
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
0
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
0
UNIQUE ASPECTS
0
Average
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How We Rate

Learn more about how we rate the family-friendliness of locations (Opens in a new tab).

About Govalle Neighborhood Park

Summary

This neighborhood park is accessible from the Southern Walnut Creek hike and bike trail, making it easy to get to from even distant parts of Austin.

The new pools are a big draw for this small park. While the playground itself is not fenced in, the pools of course are. Construction on the new restrooms was not complete when we visited but they look nice from the outside and are said to have nice places to change.

What Can Babies Do At Govalle Neighborhood Park?

For babies there are baby swings and there is plenty of nice, shady and grassy spots to spread a blanket and crawl around.

Many babies will no doubt enjoy the shallow pool as well, especially as it begins at no depth and gently slopes until it reaches a max depth of only 2 feet 6 inches. The shade at the pools will also be quite welcome by many parents.

What Can Toddlers Do At Govalle Neighborhood Park?

The playground is great for toddlers and has several slides, plenty of things to climb, a bridge and a mostly gravel surface.

There is a shallow pool for the young kiddos that begins with a gentle slope into the water until it reaches a max depth of 2 feet 6 inches. The other pool, which is next to the kid’s pool, looks like it begins at 5 feet and reaches 7 feet at the deep end.

What Can Older Kids Do At Govalle Neighborhood Park?

The playscapes themselves are pretty much catered to toddlers but older kids will likely still enjoy climbing on them.

Where the park really shines is with the pool, basketball court and the fields along with the bike trails away from cars.

Bottom Line, Should You Take The Kids To Govalle Neighborhood Park?

If you’re looking for a small playground, fields to play on, live in the area, or want to go to a nice pool, this is a hard to beat neighborhood park. The pools were not finished at the time of our initial visit but we’ll be sure to go back as the park is on the bike path we frequently ride. Even without being complete, the pools both look like they’ll be fantastic – and there will even be some shade in the pools during the hottest times of day.

Williamson Creek Greenbelt East

Explore the heavily wooded greenbelt along Williamson Creek in South Austin

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Photos

Photos of Williamson Creek Greenbelt East coming soon

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Parking lot
Splash pad
Playground
Water fountain
Fenced-in play area
🤷
Benches
Restrooms
Reservable areas
Changing table
😀
Shade/covered areas
Stroller-friendly path(s)
Toddler playground
😀
Easy walks/hikes
Toddler swings
🤷
Picnic tables
Swings
Swimming pool

Park Features


😀
Walking/hiking paths
Volleyball net
Paved paths
Disc golf
😀
Bike trails
🤷
Rock climbing
😀
Scenic/photo areas
Sandbox
😀
Wildflowers
Lap pool
Grills
Wading pool
🤷
Off-leash dog areas
Water playscape
Basketball court
On-duty lifeguard
Baseball diamond
😀
Natural water areas
Soccer field
Boat rentals
Tennis court
😀
Fishing

Family-friendliness Score:

Our Rating

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Community Rating

We haven’t had a chance to review Williamson Creek Greenbelt East yet. Have you been? Please share your rating with the Family Trip Tips Community!

BABY-FRIENDLY
0
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
0
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
0
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
0
UNIQUE ASPECTS
0
Average
 yasr-loader

How We Rate

Learn more about how we rate the family-friendliness of locations (Opens in a new tab).

About Williamson Creek Greenbelt East

Summary

If you like heavily wooded hiking trails along a creek bed, this is a good park to checkout. There aren’t a lot of family-friendly amenities to speak of but plenty of wide open places to run around.

Bottom Line, Should You Take The Kids To Williamson Creek Greenbelt East?

There are a lot of options when it comes to looking for great places to take the kids. While Williamson Creek Greenbelt offers a lot of natural sites and sounds, we feel there are many parks and destinations you should consider going to before heading to this location.

Tarka Indian Kitchen Sunset Valley

Healthy and fast Indian food options, kids menu, and vegan options!

5207 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78745



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Directions

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Family-Friendly Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Map

The food

We found Tarka Sunset Valley to be a solid option when we’re feeling like eating Indian food (obviously!), eating vegetarian or vegan, and wanting something fast but still relatively healthy with good ingredients. It should be noted that Tarka offers many dishes with meat like Indian food staple tikka masala (we love it with chicken) but our family happens to be shifting toward more of a vegan diet.

Our favorite vegan dishes at Tarka are the coconut curry with vegetables and the Tarka daal. Both are flavorful and filling with rice or naan.

Kids’ Menu

The kids’ menu is small at Tarka, with only four dishes offered along with the choice of apple juice, mango lemonade, or a fountain drink. We found the chicken pakoras to be similar to chicken tenders and our kiddo liked them, but we noted a particular saltiness. Overall, there are many better restaurant options if kid-friendly dishes are your main priority, but we like that other options on the menu could be decent for kiddos as well, such as kabobs.

Bottom Line: Is Tarka Indian Kitchen Sunset Valley a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Tarka Indian Kitchen probably isn’t going to be a great fit for all families but our two and a half-year-old enjoyed rice, naan, chicken pakoras, and mango lemonade. We think that if you’re looking for healthy Indian food options and/or vegetarian and vegan options, Tarka is a good and fast restaurant to try. Their Tarka Rewards program, similar to rewards programs at many other restaurants, is also helpful.

Bartholomew District Park

Playground and splashpad along with a separate pool and sports complex near Mueller

5201 Berkman Dr, Austin, TX 78723

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Features

Family-Friendly Features


Park Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

Bartholomew District Park is a large park in East Austin, just North of the Mueller area. There is a playground, splash pad, and reservable pavilion at the NW most tip of the park right off of Berkman and Greenbrook Parkway, a municipal pool on 51st just East of Berkman, and a roller derby track/disc golf park on 51st near Tilley Street. This park is spread out!

Map

Playground at Bartholomew District Park

There are two separate playscapes at Bartholomew Park, one aimed at toddlers while the other is mostly for older kids. Both sections have some shade elements and bark mulch bases.

Toddler Playground

The toddler playground includes a few slides, some climbing sections, and a few interactive noisemakers along with baby swings.

Larger Playground

The larger section of the playground includes bigger swings and slides and a playscape generally more enjoyable for the older kiddos with monkey bars, obstacles to climb and spinning seats.

Bartholomew Pool

We didn’t get to check the pool out as it was closed during the winter holidays but it appears that at least the lap pool is heated as hours have been posted for January.

From the outside, we’re able to see a lot of water features for the kids along with a wading pool for the youngsters as well as a lap pool.

Other Features

Bartholomew District Park’s Pavilion 

There is a reservable pavilion near the playground, right next to the splash pad. We had great luck reserving the space for a baby shower a few years ago. It was very convenient for us as kiddos in the group got to play nearby, within eyesight of adults at the pavilion.

Nature Trail:

While there are some trails throughout Bartholomew park, we wouldn’t state this as a strong suit. We didn’t find a trail connecting the playground to the pool, or to any other sections of the park for that matter. It appears you’d have to make your own trail or hop back in the car and get back onto streets to get to other sections of the park in a short amount of time. Trees are also relatively sparse in much of this park so it’s not quite as scenic as, say, Garrison Park.

Parking 

The parking lot at the playground is small, a little awkwardly shaped, had many potholes, standing water and is unpaved (not very stroller-friendly). It’s a popular park for parties and barbeques so it’s been generally crowded on the occasions we visited. It’s not our favorite parking lot at a park but it gets the job done for the most part.

The parking lot at the pool is much bigger, paved and striped, and well maintained and provides easy access to the pool. The sports complex and roller derby/disc golf sections have small, basic parking lots that seem to get the job done.

Restrooms at Bartholomew Park

We didn’t visit the bathrooms at this park.

Bottom Line: Is Bartholomew Park a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Our kids have had a great time at the playground and then cooling off at the splash pad, we’ve hosted a successful baby shower at the pavilion, and it’s generally less crowded than the park at Mueller Lake. For all these reasons along with all other things this park has to offer, we have to say it’s worth a visit.

The separate pool looks like a fantastic offering with a lot of fun attractions for the kiddos. We’ll visit soon!

Dick Nichols District Park and Pool

Explore the vast amenities at this SW Austin park with a pool and playground.

8011 Beckett Rd, Austin, TX 78749

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

We visited Dick Nichol’s playground on a warm Saturday morning in January when the pool was closed but the playground was hopping. The park’s many rows or parking were nearly at capacity on this beautiful day and all the park’s amenities aside from the pool were being used.

Map

Playground at Dick Nichols Park

Our 2 and a half-year-old had a blast swinging, sliding and climbing at the playground. The majority of the playground is pretty toddler-friendly with several baby swings, a fairly low-to-the-ground playscape, and a mix of slide heights.

A few things that stood out to us for the younger kiddos:

•There is one baby swing that is attached to a flat seat that a parent can sit on and swing with their little one. Our youngster loved this but it wasn’t all that comfortable for me (sitting was nice instead of standing tho) so we switched to one of the regular baby swings.

•There are quite a few interactive elements to the playscape including plastic drums to bang on, things that made noise when spun, cranked, turned, or rotated and a pretty neat interactive music board. Touch a button to change instrument sound from keyboard to guitar to trumpet, or animal sounds and there were buttons to play about 10 different notes.

Older kids seemed to be having a blast on a spinning seat, bigger swings and just generally climbing on the playscape.

The Pools

The pools were not open when we visited in January but the facilities look awesome from the outside looking in. There are several lifeguard chairs, lane markers, a deep pool, a medium depth pool, and a wading pool.

Other things to do

There’s definitely a lot to do at Dick Nichol’s Park. We were impressed when we saw the sand volleyball courts along with a paved volleyball court. In addition, there is a basketball court, several tennis courts, and plenty of open space to run and play. We happened to get to see a pretty serious Quidditch game being played when we went!

Pavilion / Reservable Space

The pavilion is large, covered, has plenty of trash cans and is very convenient to the playground and some of the other fields like for volleyball (both sand and court) and tennis courts.

We thought it was great to see another section of picnic tables in a different section of the park, closer to the parking lot, that indicated it was also reservable. This section does not have a structure covering it but it appears to be shaded most of the day due to all the nearby trees.

Parking 

The parking lot is pretty huge with some shaded spots. While those with small cars may appreciate the several rows of compact only spots, we found them slightly annoying as the majority of spots large enough for family vehicles were occupied. Overall, though, there are a lot of parking spots.

Restrooms

The restrooms were clean and bright. While there was toilet paper, there was no soap and no changing table in either restroom.

Other Tips for the Playing at Dick Nichols District Park

Nature Trail:

There are several gravel trails around the park but the main attraction that many people were taking advantage of was the paved trail going around the park. We saw everything from strollers and walkers to bikes and rollerbladers taking advantage of the wide and often shaded trail.

Bottom Line: Is Dick Nichols Park and Pool a Good Place to Take the family?

We thought this was a great park for the wide variety that it offered, plentiful parking and great trails. We can’t wait to go back in the summer to check out the deep pool (8′), shallow pool (wading up to 3′), and the splash pad.

With something for pretty much everyone, this is a great park for all ages.

Garrison Park & Municipal Pool

A popular park due to it’s swimming pool that’s not Barton Springs, not cold and (usually) not crowded.

6001 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX 78745

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

Garrison Park is an excellent choice for families looking to stay cool during the summer due to the large lap pool, toddler pool, lifeguard, and tons of shade. The gravel trails, large parking lot, and young-kid-friendly playground are a great bonus and help make this a park worth visiting year-round, especially if you have toddlers.

Older kids will love the pool during the summer but if the pool is closed due to seasonality (it’s only open during the warm months), they may get bored pretty quickly unless they happen to enjoy playing basketball or running/riding around on the fairly short trails.

There is a reservable pavilion that is great for hosting get-togethers and there are water fountains, benches and some BBQ grills throughout.

While we visited, we did notice several dogs off-leash but the park was big enough and the owners were attentive enough that we never felt like there could be a run-in with our babies.

Overall, we had a lot of fun at the park and think most families with young kiddos will experience the same.

Map

Cost

There is a charge to use the pool. At the time of this review, the price to use the pool was as follows and does not appear to change often but please check the park’s pool website before you go to make sure it is open and to check current pricing.

Resident cost:

free (11 months and younger)

$1 (ages 1-11, seniors)

$2 (ages 12-17), $3 (18 and older);

Nonresident cost:

free (11 months and younger)

$2 (ages 1-11, seniors)

$3 (age 12-17)

$4 (18 and older).

Bottom Line: Is the playground and pool at Garrison Park & Municipal Pool a Good Place to Take the Kids?

garrison-park-toddler-playscape

Yes! Garrison District Park and Municipal Pool is a great place to visit with the family. With a large pool and fields and courts for games along with the fact that the park is often less crowded than the better known Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy, this is a great destination to go with the family.

Mandola’s Italian Market – William Cannon

Kid-friendly Italian food, free kid’s gelato, playscape, and more!

4301 West William Cannon Drive, Dr E-1, Austin, TX 78749



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Review

Directions

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Photos

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Playground Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Map

The Food

The menu was fairly large and included options for various diet restrictions, including gluten-free noodles and options for the kiddos including spaghetti (including an option with butter instead of sauce), fettuccine alfredo, pizza, and even chicken fingers. There are also family style dishes and desserts which can serve large groups.

Our oldest kiddo has always been happy about ending his meal with a free scoop of gelato that comes with his children’s plate. We’ve been three times and each time have sampled different flavors and chosen different scoops – all were finished by the little guy. The setup for the gelato is like a little gelato stand with quite a few options.

There is also a nice assortment of desserts to eat there or take home.

The Playground 

Another great feature of dining at this particular location is access to a nice playground. Access to this playground appears to be shared by several restaurants and businesses in the area but at the time we visited (early lunch), it was not crowded and all five of the kids in our group had a blast running around and playing. Overall, the playset was relatively simple, with a couple of slides and tunnels and a kid’s sized picnic table.

Restrooms at Mandola’s Italian William Canon

Restrooms at restaurants aren’t typically noteworthy but we have to give a little love to Mandola’s for their baby changing station. We got a little chuckle out of the Italian themed artwork paired with the comfortable changing table, diaper genie, and a supply of diapers and wipes(!). It had everything to make changing a diaper a little less…poopy.

Extras 

We brought our baby into the restaurant in a car seat since she was asleep and we were happy when an employee brought an infant carseat carrier out so we could set the carseat on a sturdy holder rather than turning a high chair over and risking instability.

Bottom Line: Is Mandola’s Italian at William Cannon a Good Place to Take the Kids?

We had a great time and would emphatically say, “yes!” The restaurant accommodated our large family and friends, comments about the food were positive, the kids ate their food and loved the gelato (kid’s plates come with a free scoop!), and we had a great time at the playground. We appreciated the family-friendly atmosphere and will definitely visit again in the future.

McKinney Falls State Park

Can a state park only minutes away from Austin’s airport be worth a visit with the family?

5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin, TX, 78744



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Top reasons to visit

Scenic
Views

Waterfalls, bluebonnet fields, and rock shelters

Great
Camping

Many shaded camping and quiet camping spots

Near
Downtown

Close to central Austin yet still somewhat secluded

Photos

Scenic photo spots

You’ll find plenty of scenic spots for photos at both the Upper and Lower Falls as well as in the bluebonnet fields. The Rock Shelter (along the Rock Shelter Trail!) also makes for some very scenic and photo-worthy spots.

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Park Features


Walking/hiking paths
Paved paths
Natural water areas
Scenic/photo areas
Caves
Swimming pool
Visitor’s center
Camp store

Recreation


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

What is it known for – why go there?

McKinney Falls State Park is known for its many small waterfalls, the many places to play in water (including lots of places to jump off the rocks into the water) and scenic hiking.

Wildflowers, particularly a large bluebonnet field in the spring makes for great bluebonnet photos – and without having to stop on the side of any busy roadways! If you see bluebonnets on the side of the road, you’re sure to have a field of them great for picture taking at McKinney Falls.

McKinney Falls State Park is also known for good to great fishing. In fact, the opportunity for catching Sunfish is rated as Excellent while Catfish and Largemouth Bass are rated Good. I’ve heard of people catching Crappies but have not caught any myself. There are harvesting limits but if you get a catch that is longer than the minimum length, you’ll be allowed to bag it.

There are plenty of places to drop a line, especially along Onion Creek and, like at all state parks, no fishing license is required when fishing from within the park. For more information, take a look at the park’s fishing tip sheet which also has some handy basic info such about how to tie fishing knots: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_p4505_0090u.pdf

Fees

Entrance Fees
Adult: $6 Daily
Child 12 Years and Under: Free

If you have a Texas State Parks Pass, you and your passengers (or 5 other people if by some other non-car mode of transportation) will be admitted for no charge. If you plan to go to Texas state parks a few times over the next year, you should consider buying a pass if you haven’t already. More info here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/park-information/passes/sppass-faq

Best trails for families:

There are several named trails at McKinney Falls State Park, two of which are great for little legs, but only one that is actually (fairly) stroller friendly.

Rock Shelter Trail

0.6 mi. / 15 mins / Easy / Not stroller friendly

You’ll have to skip the stroller for this one, but it is a short enough trail that you’ll likely be okay carrying a baby or walking with a toddler. The shelter provided by the limestone “rock shelter” makes for noticeably cooler temperatures and makes a great photo backdrop. We definitely recommend checking this trail out if you’re up for a short hike. Kids (and adults, too!) are sure to love the uniqueness that the rock shelter provides.

Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail

2.8 mi / 1.5 hrs / Easy / Mostly stroller friendly

This is the only paved trail at McKinney Falls State Park and is the only trail that is generally fine to take a stroller on. Expect to find shallow water crossings and mud after big storms but otherwise, it is a great, well-maintained trail year-round.

There’s only one steep incline that will provide a bit of a workout, especially if you’re pushing a heavy stroller or carrying a tired kiddo. The rest of the trail is fairly flat as it meanders around the park. The views aren’t particularly spectacular except as you pass by the Upper Falls but there’s a lot of shade, you’ll walk along the Onion Creek, and you’ll hardly notice civilization, though a few homes are noticeable along the Southernmost part of the trail.

There are several picnic tables along the trail as you pass alongside Onion Creek, great for a pit-stop with the kiddos. If you happen to be there to camp, you’ll find plenty of spots near the water on this trail.

Where to park

There are a lot of places to park throughout but if you’re mainly interested in parking close to the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail or checking out the often scenic views at the Upper Falls, you’ll want to try to park in the lot closest to the Upper Falls – see the map below. If this lot is full, you can typically find parking near the Rock Shelter. If you’re mainly interested in checking out the Lower Falls, park in the Rock Shelter lot.

How to keep the kids entertained:

The youngest kids may stay pretty entertained with all the sites and sounds of nature, even if they’re stuck in a stroller for a while. 

Kids playing at McKinney Falls Lower Falls

If they’re not in the water, on the trails, fishing along the coastline, or playing at the playground (it’s small and gets very hot in the summer since there isn’t any shade on the playscape), you may want to check out the Junior Ranger Activity Journal. It’s free and available at the office when you first check in, but you can also check out a PDF version here – especially if the office is out of the packets. We found it to be mostly geared toward kids aged around 5-13 but there are still some bits of info that you can explore with younger kids. If you’re trying to foster a love of the outdoors and curiosity in general, this is a great booklet to pick up!

What will interest kids most:

The limestone rock ledges, getting in the water, hiking amongst the trees, and if the water is flowing enough, the waterfalls. If the kids are between the ages of about 5 and 13 and interested in learning about nature, they’ll likely enjoy the Junior Ranger program.

What can be skipped (if short on time):

The playground. It’s certainly not the main reason for visiting the park and there are many better options around the city.

Are there places to let the kids roam?

There are a lot of wide-open spaces from fields to what could be described as fields of limestone (often with lots of small puddles) where even the young kiddos can roam and still be seen. As you’re in a state park, you won’t have to worry about car traffic once you’re off the main streets but during peak seasons, there will be a lot of foot and bike traffic in the most popular sections. Older kids will do fine roaming more but a buddy system is definitely advised as the park is large and the water can be deceptively deep in various areas and the water can get to moving quickly. We’ve seen kids get unintentionally swept over slippery rocks into deeper sections. Tho they ended up fine, it can be a bit scary (and/or fun depending on the situation!).

Younger kids will be best off in the Lower Falls section where the water is calmer, the ground is flatter, and there are generally many shallow sections – even shallow enough for toddlers to splash around in.

Staying overnight?:

There are 83 campsites throughout the park, including 6 four-person (recently renovated) cabins with air conditioning (I’d rate A/C as a must if camping during the summer, especially with young ones), microwave, mini-fridge and other amenities. If staying overnight during the hottest part of the summer (pretty much May-August), or during the coldest months (January-early March) this is the best option for a family with young kiddos. Weekends are often booked far in advance but there tends to be good weekday availability. 

Best campsites for families with young kids:

All of the cabins are close to the restrooms anyways but 4 and 6 are the closest. Cabin 6 (the only one that is fully handicap accessible) happens to be closest to the parking lot if you happen to have a lot of stuff to haul in. In addition, cabin 6 is what we’d recommend booking if you’re unsure how well your kiddos will do throughout the night because it is slightly more secluded. If you’re worried about making noise and waking up your neighbors, this cabin gives you the best shot of not being heard.

If tent camping is more your style, you want to save a few bucks (a campsite is about 1/4 the cost of a cabin), or you want more freedom to choose a site, there are plenty of spots to choose from. Again, if you’re worried about waking up your neighbors, we have a specific recommendation. Site 66 juts out just a bit and is slightly more secluded than other sites.

If camping during the warmer months, you can’t go wrong finding a site with shade. Grapevine Loop and Moss Loop both have a lot of shade which you’ll appreciate for keeping things a bit cooler for naptime or just to keep your ice chest cooler. As a bonus, these sites have a bit more privacy than most of the sites in other parts of the park.

All campsites have electric and you’ll certainly never feel as though you’re primitive camping.

No RV sites are available anywhere at McKinney Falls State Park. If you show up in an RV, there are a few spots to temporarily park for the day but nowhere to overnight.

When to go

Spring and Summer are the busiest times for the park as there are often plentiful flowers and there is often water to play in. During ongoing drought conditions – which are fairly common as summers drag on in Texas, there likely won’t be nearly as much water flowing as usual.

One major consideration during the summer: If there hasn’t been much rainfall and if the summer has been consistently hot, it’s not recommended to play in the water as the temperature of the water itself can be high and that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. This is also a consideration if you’re planning on fishing. If the water’s hot, fishing won’t be as successful.

Moderate to heavy rains will have the water flowing fast and furiously and can very quickly make it unsafe to play in the water. Even hours or even sometime a full day after very heavy rains, the waterfalls will still be roaring and unsafe to play in. If you’re planning a trip during or after heavy rains, at least check the park’s website before heading out as they’ll post about the conditions of the park.

Austin rarely gets snow but it can get pretty chilly during the winter months, especially in the more open, flat areas where there aren’t trees to protect you from the wind, like around the lower falls.

Must-see and do

If you’re taking kids in the warmer months, you’ll definitely want to come prepared to play in the water. There isn’t a pool and there are no lifeguards on duty so be prepared for the unexpected. 

Rest areas (places to nurse, bathrooms, changing tables, handwash/water):

Like a lot of parks, there aren’t a lot of amenities available in this regard. Make sure to bring your own soap, water, and wipes. You won’t find designated changing tables and bathrooms are pretty bare bones. We found that showers were generally clean but again, bring your own supplies and we’d certainly recommend wearing something on your feet.

How long should you plan to be there:

This depends on your plans and the season. If all you’re looking to do is take a stroll on the one paved trail, allow at least a couple hours to finish the entire loop of the Onion Creek Hike and Bike trail. This is exactly what my family did when we went on a cold day in January. If you’re going during hot weather and plan on wading or swimming, pack a picnic, plenty of sunblock, and plan on staying a while.

If the kids get hungry (is there a place to get food? Kid friendly menu? Healthy options?):

Make sure to pack food and water – and make sure you don’t leave anything behind when you leave…don’t forget the lessons of the Junior Ranger 🙂

There aren’t any restaurants nearby and the store/gift shop isn’t of much help so my recommendation is to arrive prepared with what you’ll want to snack on. Bring more water and food than you think you’ll need, especially in the summer when temperatures can get well above 100 degrees.

Is McKinney Falls State Park a good place to take the kids?

Absolutely! It’s a great state park and only a short car ride away from the center of the city and offers a lot of outdoor activities from hiking and biking to swimming and fishing. Not only that, it is one of the best places in the city to go for family photos in bluebonnet fields. If you’ve seen pictures of waterfalls and limestone cliffs in Austin, chances are good that you’re viewing a photo from McKinney Falls. There is only one trail truly suitable for a stroller but with all the limestone lined creeks and sites and sounds only found in a state park, this is definitely a park worth loading the kids up for.

Upcoming Week’s Weather at McKinney Falls State Park

Other tips and recommendations:

Walking/wading in some areas can be very slippery due to moss growing on the smooth rock bottom so I like to bring grippy water shoes to make getting around easier. Our kids have tried out several water shoes for kids with varying amounts of luck. I personally love my Keens but haven’t invested quite as much money for the kid’s version as my kid’s feet just keep growing.

Pets are not allowed in public buildings or the cabins but if on a leash, are allowed on the trails. It’s important to note that pets are not allowed in the water.

Pets are not allowed in the water at McKinney Falls State Park

If heavy rains have occurred or are expected, you’ll likely be best off avoiding the park as the creek quickly rises and the water can really get to roaring. The trails also get muddy fast – even the paved trail will get muddy in some areas and will, at times, have small water crossings that can be an obstacle with a stroller or little legs.