AVMA Convention 2024 Daily News Friday

8 family-friendly activities in Austin for convention-goers

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A view of downtown Austin from Barton Springs Pool
A view of downtown Austin from Barton Springs Pool (Photo courtesy of Visit Austin/Ryan Kyte)

AVMA Convention 2024 is taking place Friday through Tuesday in Austin, Texas, a vibrant city known for excellent food, amazing music, and eccentric sights. It’s also perfect for kids and adults alike with plenty of hidden gems and popular hangouts. Here are eight Austin attractions to try that appeal to all ages.

  1. Thinkery
    If you see a big red building, you know you’ve made it to Thinkery (1830 Simond Ave.). Originally the Austin Children’s Museum, Thinkery offers 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor activities that lets kids learn through play, from Train Town to Spark Shop to Light Lab. With various interactive science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) exhibits and programs, Thinkery is sure to delight and pique the curiosity of children of all ages. Be sure to check out Our Backyard, which allows visitors to scale three-story climber and play in a gentle stream with native stone.
  2. Austin Nature & Science Center
    Since 1960, the Austin Nature & Science Center (2389 Stratford Dr.) has provided hands-on nature exhibits, educational programs, and recreational activities that increase awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. Visitors can observe a honeybee hive, become a human sundial, or stroll through a pollinator garden. And don’t miss the Dino Pit, where you can dig for fossil casts modeled after the ancient specimens from the collections of the Texas Memorial Museum.
  3. Wonderspaces
    Wonderspaces Austin (1205 Sheldon Cove #2A) is an immersive art show with 17 unique art installations. All ages are encouraged to attend and interact with the pieces. For example, “Body Paint” by Memo Akten interprets physical gestures into evolving compositions that capture the motion and energy of the body. Exploring Wonderspaces takes about 80 minutes, but visitors can stay as long as they like. As a bonus, adults can enjoy signature cocktails while experiencing the art.
  4. Texas Toy Museum and Arcade
    The Texas Toy Museum and Arcade (312 Congress Ave.) is a must-see destination for young-at-heart kids who grew up with Barbie, He Man, Atari, and pinball machines. The collection features toys, action figures, and comic books from the ’80s, ’90s, and other decades, including a 24-foot Gijoe display and a Star Wars battle scene. With more than 20,000 pieces on display and a classic arcade section, the museum is a perfect place to entertain all generations. Try to stop by on a trivia night or on Wednesdays when kids get in for 50% off admission.
  5. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
    This 10-mile trail, named for a former Austin mayor and his wife, winds through the heart of downtown and offers scenic views throughout. The low-grade path winds along the Colorado River's edge and passes by skyscrapers, neighborhoods, ball fields, and cultural attractions. Use this interactive guide to find places to park along the trail, as well as amenities such as water fountains, restrooms, public boat ramps, tree groves, and even ecological restoration sites.
  6. Barton Springs
    Join the locals at this popular hangout, which is open year-round. Part of the iconic Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool is a natural spring-fed swimming hole surrounded limestone cliffs and grassy areas to lounge upon. The pool measures 3 acres in size, ranges in depth from 0 to 18 feet, and has an average temperature of 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Barton Springs also serves as home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander and is listed as a federally protected habitat. Next to the pool bathhouse is Splash!, an educational exhibit where visitors can learn about the history and biology of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer which feeds it.
  7. Zilker Botanical Garden
    Want to spend some more time in nature? The Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Rd.), located within Zilker Metropolitan Park in the heart of downtown, has you covered. Their themed gardens include the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, Children’s Garden, and Hummingbird Garden. Delightful surprises abound, such as the blacksmith in Pioneer Village or the waterfall at the Hartman Prehistoric Garden.
  8. Austin Roller Rink
    This blast-from-the-past rink is the best spot to skate the day or night away. Rental skates come in sizes 9 toddler to 14 adults or participants can bring their own skates. Thursdays are Family Nights while adults can skate late into the night on Fridays and Saturdays. Kids 6 and under are free, and don’t forget to hit up the arcade.

Convention excursions on tap for Austin

Those interested in learning outdoors during AVMA Convention 2024, happening Friday through Tuesday in Austin, Texas, will not be disappointed.

The city has some unique wildlife, including the Congress Avenue Colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats. The colony consists of 500,000 to 1.5 million of these nocturnal creatures, which roosting and rear their young crevices between concrete beams.

“Emergence columns from the bridge are visible for more than a mile, sometimes climbing thousands of feet above ground,” according to a website dedicated to the colony. “Some use tail-winds to travel up to 100 miles per hour in order to reach distant feeding sites where the colony may consume up to ten tons of insects in a single night. Most feed on agricultural and yard pests greatly reducing needs for pesticides that threaten environmental and human health.”

The AVMA convention will be offering a chance to take a cruise ship tour on Austin’s Lady Bird Lake to learn more about bats with world renowned experts.

In addition, a guided tour of the botanical gardens will be happening at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Participants will meet with scientists doing research at the center and be part of discussions about pollinator health, diversity, and the plant mutualism that sustain ecosystems. The tour is meant inform veterinarians on how to recognize the important bee bacterial diseases, how to diagnose, and what treatment options are available.

Visit the convention website for more information on the excursions, which will offer continuing education credit.