It’s getting to be that time during the summer when parents who stay home with their kids are looking for an excuse to get out of the house. Any excuse.
Even if the siblings squabbles will resume just minutes after entering back into the door, a trip to the grocery store, to get gas, or even, that trip to get one thing at Target (which turns into ten things, which you may regret even suggesting in the first place) could very well be the ticket to putting off a tantrum, a “show” or complaints about a broken toy or a missing part.
One fun outing for your family can be a tour or a field trip. If you are thinking, That’s way too much work!, consider this:
- You will have something on the calendar which forces you to leave the house.
- You have an excuse to reconnect with your mom friends and their kids who are probably facing the same challenges at home.
- In many cases, you can bring all the siblings along. Yes, it might require more than two arms, but in some ways it’s easier than shuttling them all to separate activities.
- Eventbrite and other programs can make it easy to send out an invitation and collect RSVPs.
- Some are indoors, which is very nice this time of year.
- It’s fun! Usually the adults learn as much as the kids.
I have found that most places are used to working with schools, so they don’t expect a parent to call with a group, but that’s never kept me from scheduling a tour. And yes, you may play a bit of phone tag before it gets set up. But we are all accustomed to that by now, right?
So, without further ado, here is a list we came up with. We’d love to add anything you have done to our list, so please let us know in the comments. Thanks!
Amy’s Ice Cream – 2109 Northland Drive; Austin 78756
The tour begins with a basic overview of Amy’s Ice Creams history and ice cream making, including ingredients, equipment and processes. Tours are offered Monday through Friday, starting promptly at 10 am, by reservation and last about 20-30 minutes. The maximum capacity for the tour is 35 people (kids and adults combined). Tours are designed for ages 5 years and above, this is because of the material covered and safety concerns.
The tour itself is free. However, the tour is finished off with a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream with M&Ms as a topping for $2 per scoop. A non-dairy option is available with prior notice. Exact change, credit card or checks are accepted as there is no access to a cash register.
Tours are scheduled a month in advance (i.e.: January for February, June for July, etc), reservations are first come first served. Booking for a month begins at midnight on the first day of the prior month (e.g.: midnight on August 1st the whole month of September is available for scheduling). In my experience, the tours fill up quickly, so definitely plan in advance! Each organization is allowed to schedule two groups at a time. To schedule a tour, call (512) 458-3188.
This location is also home to Phil’s Ice House and their playground, so it’s easy to spend extra time there playing or even getting an early lunch.
Austin Children’s Museum – 201 Colorado; Austin 78701
During a guided tour, students will be separated into groups of 25 or less and led through 5 exhibit areas by a trained Learning Facilitator. The Facilitator will support the students’ exploration of exhibits and lead the group through a unique Inquiry Based Learning experience. The Facilitator will also assist with all logistical aspects of your tour including time management, communicating Museum rules and utilizing chaperones effectively. Each group will explore 5 exhibit areas and participate in one activity station lead by the Facilitator.
ACM tours are designed for grades PK- 3rd.If you are interested in bringing a group of students who are older than 3rd grade the Museum can design a custom visit. Additional fees apply to custom visits and six weeks notice is needed to schedule. Please indicate the grade of your students on your Reservation Request Form and an educator will contact you to discuss curriculum and details. Regular admission rates apply.
Austin Fire Department – various
AFD will accommodate visits to fire stations for small groups. No minimum number of visitors is required. Normal hours for station visits are 9 – 11 a.m. and 1 – 6 p.m. To arrange a tour, please contact the Public Education Office at (512) 974-0290 to schedule at least a week in advance. You can also drop by your local station (or call) and check on the tours they will give (we have always left baked goods as “payment”.)
Blue Baker – 10000 Research Blvd.; Austin 78759
Blue Baker, an artisan bakery located in the Arboretum, offers free bakery tours for children of all ages. The hour-long tours gives children the chance to meet our bakers, go behind the scenes to see how equipment works, and shape their own loaves of bread. The tour, which concludes with a freshly baked warm cookie, is a great opportunity to learn about the artisan baking process. If interested, please contact email@example.com to set up a tour.
We went on this tour in June and it was really nice. My son finished his huge loaf of bread in one sitting when we picked it up later that afternoon. I was allowed one bite of the bread he made, and not only was he very excited, but the bread was really yummy. The Blue Baker hasn’t been open very long, so I hadn’t had the chance to visit before the tour. There is a nice shaded outdoor courtyard in the back where kids can play if you want to stay and have an early lunch on the back patio. There is also the cows nearby at the Arboretum and the duck pond.
Crowe’s Nest Farms – 10300 Taylor Lane; Manor 78653
Tours for schools and groups start out with a 90-minute tour (1/2 guided and 1/2 self-guided) of our 100-acre working farm which includes hands-on interaction with farm animals, as well as observation and discussion of Texas wildlife. Visitors will also get to enjoy a cow-milking demonstration, hayride, children’s theme gardens, a butterfly house, and the Faeriewood.
Tours are available by appointment only Monday through Friday at 10:00. Groups can use their pavilion (like a huge screened-in porch) for lunch after the tours. My son has been on the tour three times and loved it every time. Admission fees are $5 per person, ages three and up, including parents (cash or check is preferred). When I spoke with someone on the phone in June, she mentioned they might not run tours once it gets too hot.
Dinosaur Park – 893 Union Chapel Road; Cedar Creek 78612
The Park is available daily for reserved groups. Kids get time inside to play with the dinosaur toys and stations, get to go on a guided (short) hike, play on the playground outside, which includes digging for bones and posing inside a dinosaur’s mouth and eat on the picnic tables. There is some shade, but I would imagine it would get really hot unless you luck into a cloudy day. Advance reservations are required. For groups of 15 or more, with a guide, admission is $6 each. For more information and for reservations, you can mail info@TheDinoPark.com or call (512) 321-6262.
Ecology Action – 707 E. 9th St.; Austin 78701Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a grass-roots recycling center? You can schedule a free tour of Ecology Action and see for yourself. The tour begins with the sorting process, so you’ll want to bring some recyclables with you. From there we follow each material on its path
through our recycling center. You will learn how the most important resource at Ecology Action is saving space. Note that the facility is mostly outdoors. Contact John Clement at (512) 322-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a tour.
French Legation Museum – 802 San Marcos St.; Austin 78702
The French Legation Museum does tours for all age groups, with a maximum of 20 people per tour. The grounds are completely open to the public during Museum hours, 1-5pm Tuesday-Sunday. The house is only viewable during a docent-led tour. Tours are $5 a person, children 5 and under are free, and large groups can schedule tours in advance. Please call (512) 472-8180 to make a reservation.
Green Gate Farms – 8310 Canoga Ave.; Austin 78724
Green Gate Farms offers tours so more people experience and understand the complexity and importance of organic farming. If you would like to bring a group you can fill out a request online. A donation of $10 per person helps offset the Farms’ costs.
Every Saturday at noon, a farmer also takes guests on an in-depth hands-on, tasting tour of our certified organic farm. On these tours you can explore the historic barn built in 1902 by the Bergstroms and be guided through our farm stand and CSA area that serves neighbors of all incomes. You’ll also visit the children’s garden with Magic Treehouse (perfect for well-behaved children), and meet rare breed animals, such a Guinea Hogs, Barbadoe sheep, chickens, goats and ducks. The tour fee is also $10 per person (free for current CSA members and children ages 10 and younger).*
“Fridays at the Farm,” beginning at 10 am, was created to provide a morning outing for families with small children. This is an opportunity to enjoy the farm at no cost, picnic in Children’s Garden, play in Magic Treehouse and relax.
Though farmers are busy setting up the farm stand on Friday mornings, Green Gate Farms staff are happy to meet with you when our farm stand opens to the public from 12-6. In the meantime, you are encouraged to explore, use our quilts for a picnic under the oak tree. (Please check in at the barn to sign our guestbook and review farm rules.)
Hamilton Pool – 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.; Dripping Springs 78620
Guided tours are available by appointment. Call (512) 264-2740 to make a reservation.
Petco – various
Petco has teamed up with Field Trip Factory to proudly present Fur, Feathers & Fins™, a FREE field trip program designed to bring animal-related classroom curriculum to life! Download our curriculum for a self-guided in-store or online field trip.
Post office – various
Students will observe retail associates serve postal customers, clerks sort and distribute different types of mail, and letter carriers make preparations to deliver their routes. They’ll follow a letter from the point of entry into the office to its departure for delivery. The experience will show students how the mail touches each of our lives almost everyday. They’ll leave with a better understanding of how the local Post Office binds the community together and connects local citizens with the nation and the world. Contact your nearest post office for more information (this required a good amount of back and forth when I set a tour up. The smaller post offices are not always equipped to handle a tour).
Round Rock Police Department – 2701 North Mays; Round Rock 78665
Tour the facility by appointment only. Catherine went with her daughter and friends and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. Contact Officer Joseph Claypool at (512) 671-2871.
Texas Capitol Tours – 1100 Congress Street; Austin 78701
Tours are generally 45 minutes in length and are available during the following times: Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm; Saturday, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm and Sunday, Noon – 3:30 pm. Capitol tours are conducted daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter. Reservations for groups of 10 or more should be made in advance by calling (512) 305-8400. Special group tours are also available through the Capitol Visitors Center, the Texas State History Museum, and the Governor’s Mansion.
University of Texas Tower Tours – 24th and Guadalupe (2247 Guadalupe); Austin 78712
An hour long self-guided tour of the UT Tower escorted by a UT student guide. Patrons will ride an elevator to the 27th floor of the Tower, then take three short flights of stairs to the observation deck. An auxiliary elevator is available to guests with restricted mobility. Guests will have approximately 45 minutes to view Austin from the observation deck, with a short informational speech from the Tower guides. Tower Tours reservations can be made in person at the Texas Union Hospitality Center (24th and Guadalupe) or by calling 512-475-6633 (or 877-475-6633). All guests are required to purchase a ticket to accompany the tour, regardless of age. Tickets are $6.00 per person, payable by cash, MasterCard, or Visa. Advance reservations are recommended as we’re frequently booked in advance.
Keep in mind that the Tower was the site of a sad and violent chapter in our nation’s history, so you should reserve this tour for your oldest kids. For inquiries or to make reservations, please call the Texas Union Hospitality Desk at 512-475-6633 (or 877-475-6633).
Urban Roots Educational Farm Tours – 7651 Delwau Ln.; Austin 78725
Urban Roots offers age-appropriate educational farm tours for groups of students from elementary school through college. Led by Urban Roots Farm Interns with staff support, these farm tours include fun, interactive educational activities that teach about sustainable farming, making healthy food choices and where our food comes from. Tours do take place at the farm (so yes, outside) and Urban Roots recommends group sizes of 15-20 children with adequate adult supervision. Contact Leigh Gaymon-Jones at email@example.com or (512) 750-8668 for more information.
Westcave Preserve – 24814 Hamilton Pool Road; Round Mountain 78663
Weekday tours for organized groups and school children are $4 per person. For more information, call (830) 825-3442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildflower Center - 4801 La Crosse Avenue; Austin 78739
To request a Self-Guided Youth Group Visit, you can fill out an online form. Admission is $2 per person at the elementary grade levels and $5 per person at the middle to high school grade levels. Designated picnic areas are available for lunch and snacks. For questions, you can check out the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Zilker Botanical Garden - 2220 Barton Springs Rd.; Austin 78704
ALL school tours (regardless of size) self-guided OR docent-requested need to have a reservation. Trained docents from the Zilker Docents, an AAGC club, will provide informational tours for groups of 15-18 students, preschool through high school age. Each tour is about 90 minutes. Individual docents will bring their special knowledge to each tour. All docents are avid gardeners and very familiar with the gardens. Requested donation of $1 per student in addition to the required admission.
A few other places that offer tours but that aren’t doing them right now are the LBJ Library (due to renovations), the Nature Center, Central Market (they schedule tours only during the spring and fall) and Barton Hill Farms (thanks for the heads up, Heidi!)
So, there you have it. And I know this is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you or your children have a favorite tour or field trip?
Written by: Nicole Basham