My eight-year-old and I recently stopped into the Austin Fire Museum (did you even know this existed? It was new to me!), and as my son looked around the room at artifacts, all I could do was have an emotional “mama moment” as I looked at him nostalgically recalling his toddler days when he was OBSESSED with fire trucks. It was his “thing”, you know what I mean? For a phase of our life, everything was about fire trucks and firefighters. Every book we’d choose from the library featured a big red truck, every pretend play scenario was related to a fire rescue, and we’d both excitedly yell out anytime we heard a siren or drove past a fire station. He’d wear his dollar store firefighter helmet and specially-ordered suspenders all around town. We organized several fire station tours, and I dutifully researched which ones had ladder trucks and which one had a working fire pole.
I am sure that some of you have kids who are also fascinated by these local heroes, and I am more than happy to share my experience and tips for those of you who have junior firefighter enthusiasts in the Austin, TX area.
For Austin Kids Who Love Fire Trucks:
Did you know that you can set up your own little field trip to a fire station? I did this several times with my boys — gathering groups of mamas and kids for a station visit. This service is most frequently utilized by scout troops and school groups, but you can surely put together your own group of friends or neighbors for your own tour. Visitors are provided a station tour, can view the fire apparatus, and can ask firefighters questions about their job, fire safety, station and the Austin Fire Department (AFD). To arrange a tour, contact the AFD Public Education Office at (512) 974-0290 to schedule at least a week in advance.
Austin Fire Museum
I just recently learned about the Austin Fire Museum, located within Austin’s Central Fire Station No. 1 (401 East 5th Street) in the heart of downtown. The firehouse, built in 1938, is a piece of history itself. The museum is small, made up of only two rooms, and includes Austin Fire Department relics dating as far back as the 1870′s, including a Hook and Ladder No. 1 lantern, uniform pieces from the turn of the century, memorabilia from Texas’ first African American firefighters, and more. The artifacts are very interesting but probably best suited for older children or curious adults. Station No. 1 is Austin’s busiest firehouse which includes Quint 1, Engine 1, Engine 13, Austin EMS Medic 6, and the AFD Shift Commander, as well as the only working fire poll in Austin. A visit to the museum would be a great addition to a scheduled visit to that station.
Zilker Park Fire Truck
What better place to enjoy some firefighter pretend play than on the antique fire truck at Zilker Metropolitan Park (2100 Barton Springs Road)? This old truck is perfect for climbing up into and pretending to drive off in a mad dash to rescue folks in need of help. The Zilker Playground is a great place to work off some energy with bridges, ramps, slides, and swings. And of course you can always fit in a little ride on the Zilker Zephyr Train while you’re there or go for a swim at Barton Springs Pool.
Cost? Playground is FREE! (But do note that a $5 parking fee is charged on weekends throughout the summer, and there are fees for the train and the pool entrance.)
One look at Pinterest, and you’ll get lots of ideas for fire truck crafts and such. Got big empty boxes around the house? You could easily transform them (with imagination, if not design) into a fire engine. One very easy activity that my kids enjoy is drawing a fire scene on the sidewalk or driveway with chalk and then spraying out the “fire” with a hose. Seriously, they could never tire of playing with a hose. (I am usually the one who has to end the fun for fear of wasting water.) If you’re seeking more at-home ideas, I suggest the blog No Time for Flashcards, that includes many ideas for fire truck lovers.
Have you ever gotten a kid’s meal at Firehouse Subs? If so, you know that they come with a free kid-sized fire hat! What an extra little treat for your little fan of fire trucks! For your nearest location, check their website.
Cost? Kids Combo Meal is around $4.
Am I missing anything related to fire trucks in Austin? If so, please give me a shout in the comments section below.