The kids and I love to go on field trips, though we don’t go quite as often now that the kids are getting older. Regardless, over our 6 years of homeschooling here we’ve found the best Austin area field trips, and I’m going to share our wisdom with you.
**State capitol image from pixelchecker and used under Creative Commons license
The great thing about Austin being the capital of Texas I have a wide variety of Austin area field trips, because this is how my mind works I’m going to split this up into science and history field trips primarily. I’m also not going to list all of the generic field trips like grocery store or post office that you can set up anywhere.
A couple of businessy type things before I get into these field trips:
- When I can find a website I will link to it.
- I am marking free field trips with an * for those of you who are budget conscious.
- Central Austin is being used for a catch all term for anything vaguely near downtown Austin, so most field trips are listed as being in that area.
Science Austin Area Field Trips
Thinkery [Central Austin]- this is a great destination for preschool and early elementary. I will say now that my kids are in 5th grade they don’t get as much out of it as they used to, but they still like to play there. Much like most children’s museums this has a wide variety of sensory and other experiments you can give a try. (we have in the past had a membership to the Thinkery)
Texas Museum of Science and Technology [Cedar Park]- this is a new museum great for upper elementary and junior high. They have a portable planetarium that holds about 20-30 people included with museum entrance, and the show changes throughout the day, if you stay for 2 hours you’ll be able to see two different shows. We currently have a museum membership here.
*Austin Science and Nature Center [Central Austin]- this is an interesting place we’ve been going to since my kids were preschoolers, and we still love going here with my 11 year olds and 9 year olds. There are 4 distinct areas here, the museum portion where you can bring in and trade nature items and explore various artifacts local to the area. A rescue zoo with local wildlife people tried to keep as pets OR were injured and can’t be released to the wild. A dinosaur dig area, which is basically a giant sand box where you can dig up fossil casts. A hiking trail to see actual wildlife (which my kids almost never go on). We always stay until I make my kids leave with a “we have to drive back North through traffic, and that makes Mommy nervous.”
Austin Zoo [South Austin]- this is…. a rescue zoo, and good for preschoolers. In all honesty I don’t like the Austin Zoo, the entrance price is high in comparison to other zoos, and the enclosures feel poorly designed. We only have gone once. I would rather drive up to Waco and go to their zoo, or if you’re in South Austin down to the San Antonio zoo.
Zilker Botanical Gardens [Central Austin]- great for all ages. We go with my in-laws, and have gone since the kids were in preschool. This is a great place for anyone studying botany. I once upon a time made a Zilker Scavenger hunt.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center [South Austin]- is a good field trip in the spring when all the flowers are in bloom. I will tell you, I prefer to just go to the Zilker Botanical Gardens with my kids because the price is better, and it is much closer.
Texas Memorial Museum [Central Austin]- This is a combination of history and science, but I put it up here in science, since my science field trips are a bit fewer. Also I remember it as having more science stuff, lots of natural history material.
Wild Basin Wilderness Reserve [Austin]- I remember going here for a field trip with 4-H, and now that I know where this is again my kids will be going there in the near future.
Mayborn Planetarium and Space Center [Killeen]- This is a bit of a hike for a field trip, especially since TX-MOST now has a planetarium, but it’s a pretty cool field trip, and they offer a night in the planetarium for scouting groups (we went last year for American Heritage Girls and it was SOOOOO cool).
History Austin Area Field Trips
Bob Bullock Museum [Central Austin]- this is the gold mine for most ages. I will say twice a year they host homeschool days giving free entrance to homeschoolers and special exhibits, and that is when we usually go. This museum is geared for upper elementary and up, but we took my kids there as preschoolers, which they mostly ran from exhibit to exhibit looking for what they were allowed to touch.
O’Henry House [Central Austin]- This is a small home that was owned by the author O’Henry and is a great example of a mid-1800s home, right next to it is a home from a German immigrant.
Pioneer Farms [Pflugerville}- this is run mostly by volunteers, and is a living history museum. You can tour the grounds and see different homes from the 1800s or farming equipment. It’s a great place if you have high energy kids.
*Williamson County Museum [Georgetown]- is my favorite history field trip. They have frequently changing exhibits, and a fun interactive area for younger kids that lets you simulate a cattle drive. After spending an hour or so in this free museum you can wander around the Georgetown Square.
*Texas State Capitol [Central Austin]- you can take a tour of the Capitol and hear all about our state history. The kids have gone several times now, and I always enjoy this field trip.
*Camp Mabry (officially called Texas Military Forces Museum, but it’s on Camp Mabry) [Central Austin]- they have an amazing military history museum (not too surprising considering it’s a former military base). This would be a great place if your kids are into military history or vehicles.
*Austin Visitor Center Downtown walking tours– I found out about this while researching for this post, my only warning is you are walking in downtown Austin, so if you have kids likely to run, this may not be the tour for you.
Gault Homestead [Pflugerville]- you can walk around the outside of this 1800s era farm on your own, or if you are part of a (home)school group you could register for a guided tour. The kids and I love the park right next to it, and we went there at least once a month when they were very young. It’s in my opinion the best park in Pflugerville.
*Governor’s Mansion– I didn’t know you could do this, but it would be super fun to go on.
Neill-Cochran House Museum [Central Austin]- Civil War era house to tour. As I recall it’s right next door to the O’Henry museum.
LBJ Presidential Library [Central Austin]
*Williamson County Courthouse tour [Georgetown]- you need to make a reservation ahead of time, but just like the Williamson County Museum, afterwards you can enjoy the Georgetown Square. I was recently there for a dance, and would love to go on a tour of the museum.
I just remembered a completely different type of field trip you could go on in the Austin area, art museums and other cultural experiences. So, new section:
Fine Arts Austin Area Field Trips
*Ransom Center [Central Austin]- this is on the UT campus, so parking can be difficult, but it is well worth going down to check it out. They rotate exhibits fairly regularly, and the last time we went down there, the Ransom Center had a wonderful Lewis Carroll exhibit.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden [Central Austin]- is across the street from Zilker Park (which could be a field trip all in itself). I’m not a big fan of his sculptures, so I can’t give you a fair analysis. I thought the price to get in was too high, but like I said I didn’t particularly like his sculptures. They are mostly outside, so this is a great field trip for kids of all ages.
The Contemporary Austin (Laguna Gloria) [Central Austin]- I remember going here for a field trip as a kid, and I need to take my kids sometime soon, because it’s a great destination for active kids with an outdoor sculpture area.
Blanton Museum of Art [Central Austin]- located on UT, you can combine this field trip with the Ransom Center (which is what we did) for a fun day. If your children struggle to keep their hands to themselves this may not be the place for you, but it’s a fascinating art museum to explore.
French Legation Museum [Central Austin]- they regularly host free or low cost events, but otherwise you need to register ahead of time for a tour. **I have not been here to speak to it.
Mexi-Arte Museum– a great way to learn about “our neighbors to the South.” They fairly regularly host free events.
Not in the Austin area, but still looking for field trips?
Then check out iHomeschool Network’s The Best Homeschool Field Trips.