As former South Austinite, it took our family some time to adapt to the “less weird” feel of North Austin. But even with its neatly manicured appearance, after five years, we have discovered enough family friendly gems to have regular adventures. We love the outdoors and also flock to air conditioned spots during the summer. Here are some of our family’s favorite discoveries north of the river.
1. Extreme Fun – As its name suggests, this establishment is one that the kids will be thrilled to visit. Perfect for those days when the kids are climbing the walls, you can take them to play in a plethura of inflatable bouncy houses or in the foam pit. For Mom and Dad, there’s also a seating area where you can attempt a few minutes of quiet time and enjoy the free wi-fi. Adults and children under one are free, while kids age 1-10 are charged $7 during the week and $8 on weekends. Don’t forget your socks!
2. Balcones District Park – Located on Amherst Drive, just north of Duval, this park boasts one of Austin’s few remaining free public pools. There are barbecue pits, basketball courts and plenty of picnic tables. They aren’t well known, but behind the park are a series of nature trails where hikers can see a variety of native plant life including trees and succulents.
3. Waterloo Ice House – One of several locations around town, the Waterloo Ice House on Capital of Texas Highway serves delicious burgers as well as an assortment of beers. They also have an enclosed playground for the kids to play on while Mom and Dad enjoy their food outdoors.
|Central Market North Lamar|
4. Central Market North Lamar – So much more than a mere grocery store, Central Market is a hub of activity for food and music loving families alike. This location has a large play area with two sturdy wooden scapes- one for bigger kids, and a smaller scale scape for toddlers. Just a short walk beyond the playscapes, parents and kids can walk along the edge of a large pond with scenic fountains spraying from the center. On the weekends, there are talented local musicians who play genres from jazz to folk. Also, check the store website to stay abreast of upcoming seasonal food events, which often include free product sampling.
5. Jim’s Restaurant – This small dining chain is a Texas institution. Located at 12832 Research Blvd., the old ranch style architecture combined with the walk-up bar seating reminds our family of years gone by. Jim’s serves home style favorites like meatloaf, burgers, milkshakes and onion rings. And kids eat free from 5-9 pm every Monday through Wednesday.
6. St. Edwards Park – Located on Spicewood Springs Road, the fact that this park is very seldom crowded has me convinced that it’s not widely known. With almost 3 miles of trails and a wading stream with a small waterfall, this park is an idyllic place to wile away an afternoon.
7. Milwood Library – Just one block south of Parmer Lane on Amherst Dr., Milwood Library is home to a large children’s section with stuffed animals, puppets and computer stations. All ages children’s story time is hosted every Tuesday morning at 10:15, followed by a story time for babies at 11 am. Check the schedule for special programming.
8. Walnut Creek Park – Nestled off of North Lamar just a few blocks from the busy Parmer and I-35 corridor, this park covers nearly 300 acres and has a large network of winding trails that attract local mountain bikers. There is also a well shaded playscape for kids, plenty of seating areas for picnicking and a pay-to-swim public pool which opens during summer months.
9. Chinatown Center – Located at 10901 North Lamar Blvd, this is Austin’s version of other well known Chinatown districts. The vendor directory includes super markets filled with exotic Asian spices and delicacies; restaurants, noodle shops and bubble tea vendors; traditional herbal shops and various other family owned businesses. Also watch for seasonal festivals, such as Chinese New Year, where the family can enjoy free cultural entertainment and education.
10. Austin’s Park and Pizza – Located on North I 35, the kids’ excitement will begin before you arrive. Clearly visible from the highway are go karts, batting cages, mini golf and bumper boats. Inside attractions include a pizza buffet, rock climbing, lazer tag and a large video arcade. Kids under 36 inches always eat free. On Fridays, kids under 10 can eat free with each adult buffet purchased. General pricing information can be found here.
For Kid & Mom Approved South Austin Hangouts, head over here!