For over 15 years, Austin Duck Adventures has offered visitors and Austinites of all ages a fun, part-land, part-water, narrated tour of Austin history, music, and culture. Its famous duck-decorated Hydra-Terra buses pick tourists up downtown at the Austin Visitor Center, bejewel them with functional duck-call necklaces, and parade them on varying routes that include sites such as the Capitol Building, Tom Mueller Dam, and The Driskill Hotel.
Halfway through the tour, Duck Adventures drives past the homes of historic Tarrytown and down the ramp at Walsh Boat Landing, splashing into Lake Austin. For about 15 minutes, the bus tour becomes a boat tour!
Paul Mahler first conceived the idea after experiencing a duck tour in Boston. “It was such a fun way to learn about the city’s history. I wanted to bring that experience to Austin.”
The drivers, mostly off-duty firefighters, each have their favorite historical tidbits and special routes. During the tour, they tell fascinating stories about Austin’s history, as well as good, clean jokes that keep kids and adults entertained.
When you go, be sure to dress for the weather! While they do have roofs, the vehicles are windowless. And, don’t forget the camera: the vehicles are quite tall, giving tourists a unique, high-positioned view perfect for picture-taking.
Concerned about being on the water? Mahler explained the Hydra-Terra vehicles are very safe. Made from an aluminum hull filled with foam, the boats have been inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping and deemed unsinkable!
The “duck tours” take approximately an hour — just long enough to take in a good amount of Austin history but not so long that kids get bored. “The pick-up point is the Austin Visitor Information Center at 209 E. Sixth Street,” said Mahler, “so be sure to plan in time to find parking downtown.”
When do tours start? Most days, they start at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., but check online for the current schedule or to purchase tickets. Arrive at least 15 minutes early. Adults can expect to pay about 26 bucks each, 16 per kid, and zero for toddlers and infants. To make reservations by phone, call 512-4-SPLASH!
Now, get quacking, Austin!
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