Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Awesome Austin Texas (with a toddler)!

Last week the whole family flew down to Austin for six days of sun and fun (well, Hubby had to work for most of it). When we lived there a few years ago, before we had a kid, I knew a different kind of Austin, one where the margaritas flowed past 7 p.m. bedtime. This visit, with a toddler in tow, I wasn't sure what we'd do for fun. Rest assured, there's plenty for kids and their parents. Here's my little guide to Austin with a toddler:

1. Flora and fauna: With new and interesting species of birds, bugs, and other critters all around, Olivia the toddler chattered non-stop about the cool sights and sounds of nature. We saw turtles, frogs, grackels, geckos, and all kinds of beautiful flowers and plants that don't exist in the Pacific Northwest.

(View of the Colorado River along the train route.)

2. Zilker Park: Ride the charming green Zilker Park Zephyr through the trees and along the paths of Zilker Park. Plan ahead for times and tickets on weekends and when the weather is nice. There's also a great playground right next to the train with a variety of play structures and a super-cool music creation area.

(At Deep Eddy Pool)

3. Swimming: Rent a motel with a pool (we stayed at the totally groovy Austin Motel, which has a spacious and relatively quiet pool area). There's really nothing more interesting to a toddler than water. In Austin there are other options than a chlorinated pool, we loved wading in the cool waters of Deep Eddy, a historic pool on the banks of the Colorado River with water supplied by the river. Of course Barton Springs is incredible too, but less manageable for young kids.

4. Toy Joy: Easily the coolest toy store in town. A little spendy, but with a variety of small trinkets toddlers dig, such as a vast array of rubber duckies.

(Making "tamales" at the "In My Family: En Mi Familia exhibit)

5. Austin Children's Museum: ACM's large, open space is perfect for little ones on the run. For me, it was nice to be somewhere that I didn't have to worry about Olivia breaking something or someone. We went on a weekday afternoon when it wasn't crowded. That was crucial, since friends tell me that the weekends see an overwhelming number of tots. Check out "In My Family: En Mi Familia," a wonderful and creative interactive space inspired by the art of Carmen Lomas Garza.

6. Hot dogs: After the Children's Museum, visit Frank, located just a few blocks away on 4th and Colorado. They serve fancy Chicago style dogs (veggie dogs too!) but to a kid, even a fancy hot dog is still a hot dog. I think Olivia's favorite part was the vintage phone booth complete with a 10 cent rotary phone.