Family Friendly Fun: Glass Bottom Boat Rides at Aquarena Center, San Marcos, TX

On our way back to Austin from visiting Grandma in the Canyon Lake area, we decided it was time to use our Groupons (Don’t know about Groupons? See our blog on how they can save you money on family friendly outings) for the glass bottom boat rides in San Marcos, TX (about 20-30 minutes outside of Austin). My husband and I actually lived in San Marcos for awhile and got married at what was then known as Aquarena Springs.

The drive into the grounds was a pretty one, with golfers doing their thing at the nearby Texas State golf course.

KidzAustin kids posing in front of Aquarena Center Glass Bottom Boats in San Marcos, TX - a short trip from Austin

Once we reached our destination, it was fun reminiscing with the kids on what Aquarena Springs once was (complete with an underwater mermaid show and a swimming pig) and then inspirational to get on the boat to see the magic that still remained in the beautiful waters of Spring Lake. All the passengers—kids and adults alike—quickly found themselves, head leaned in, mesmerized by the middle of the boat where the large and very clear glass allowed an incredible view of the lake and its wildlife below. As our tour guide informed us of the history of this lake, we watched the springs and wildlife doing their thing as if we weren’t even there – turtles, sunfish, even an excavation site and more. The kids absolutely had a ball. We even had the good fortune to see a Nutria (a “river rat” with the body and face of a beaver but the tail of a rat) as he feasted on some of the lake's bountiful plantlife.  

The ride was about thirty minutes long. On our tour there were kids ranging from I’d guess 2-13 years. I was a little worried that my daughter, who has a little trouble with motion sickness from time to time, would possibly get ill, but fortunately that was not the case.

If you are in the San Marcos area, I’d definitely recommend making a stop here (pretty easy to find on Aquarena Springs Drive near the new Texas State stadium).  The trip was so entertaining/educational that it even warranted a write up at school by my daughter the next day! You also have access to Aquarena Center's aquarium featuring the famed blind salamander species that resides in the lake. I noticed on the website that they also offer group tours (would be great for a school field trip) and kids' birthday parties!

View of what glass bottom looked like in Aquarena Center Glass Bottom Boat TourWhile we didn’t really have the extra time to do it on this particular day, our tour guide also mentioned the Texas Rivers Center (part of Aquarena Center in the site of what used to be the Aquarena Springs hotel). This attraction educates kids on water conservation as well as offers fun interactive exhibits. I think they said admission to that part was free (or included with Glass Bottom Boat tour), but don’t quote me on that ; ).

More Family Fun In San Marcos

In addition, if you’ve got a little more time to spend, as a previous resident of San Marcos, I would also highly suggest spending some time in the refreshing San Marcos River (fed by Spring Lake which means “Yes! It’s chilly!”) The local Lion’s Club rents tubes and provides transportation back and forth to ensure you get your full money’s worth. Also, the city has a lovely park near center of town which is strewn along the river (CM Allen Parkway area) featuring trails and playscapes throughout. If you have time for a bite, places to eat that we still visit include Café on the Square (they serve breakfast all day), Herbert’s and Garcia’s (closed on Mondays) – both serving tasty Mexican fare. Oh yes, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite store EVER that happens to reside in this adorable town -- The Paper Bear. They have an amazing selection of fun and funky gifts ranging from soaps or spices, clever cards and awesome garden decorations as well as a very cool kids room full of lots of lots of unique and/or entertaining kids' "stuff".

Don’t forget, too, that you are always welcome to visit the San Marcos Outlet Malls which, in addition to a shopping experience that could wear you out merely from having soooooo many choices, also offers various family friendly options throughout. Also, there’s Wonder World Park, known as the 1st show cave in Texas.

Not enough for you or need more info/links? Check out our funoutdoorz page or funindoorz offering more info on kid or family friendly options in the area.


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Money Saving Tips

  • Pack your cooler with drinks, lunch meat, cheese and condiments and have a picnic at the park, at the Lion's Club OR at Aquarena Center!

  • Check either Austin or San Antonio Groupon pages a week or more before you go for local coupon savings in San Marcos (for more info on savings with Group Coupons, read our blog). You can sign up for deals to come to your e-mail and save on local attractions and dining.

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