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Austin in Perfect for Kids' Play

Vacationing with children is easy in Austin, a city that offers countless activities to entertain travelers of all ages. From canoeing down scenic Town Lake to enjoying live music in a park, to cheering on a favorite sports team, there's never a dull moment for families in Texas' Capital City.

Historical

Free guided tours of the Texas State Capitol building are available every 15 minutes Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat. from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and Sun. from noon-3:30 p.m. Children love standing in the middle of the rotunda, clapping their hands and hearing it echo from the dome above. The Capitol Visitors Center reveals the history of Texas and the capitol building itself.  Guides answer questions and give tours by appointment. Open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/

             

Museums

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum tells the "Story of Texas" with state-of-the-art exhibits, as well as Austin's only IMAX and interactive theatres. At the Texas Spirit Theatre's "The Star of Destiny," kids learn Lone Star history through touch, sight and sound. Exhibits are free for ages 18 and under. Separate admission for IMAX movies and Spirit Theatre. Open Mon.-Sat. from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun.12 -6 p.m. http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/

In addition to rotating exhibits, the Austin Children's Museum features permanent fun such as "Austin Kiddie Limits," where children don costumes and instruments, hop on stage and emulate the famous singers who have performed on Austin City Limits. Kids ages 1 and under are free; 12-23 months, $3.50; 2 and older, $5.50. Visit http://www.austinkids.org/ for operating hours.

The George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center's "African-American Families'" gallery highlights 10 Austin families. "Let's Pretend Dr. Carver!" children's gallery includes a hands-on look of famous African-American scientists and inventors. Located at 1165 Angelina Street. Open Mon., Wed. and Fri. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Tues. and Thurs. 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sat. 1-5 p.m. www.ci.austin.tx.us/carver

Kids enjoy art in a park setting at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.  The usual "hands-off" rule doesn't apply at the Umlauf where children are encouraged to touch the sculptures of Charles Umlauf. His work is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Open Wed.-Fri. from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. from 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. http://www.umlaufsculpture.org/

"Second Saturdays are for Families" is one of the events at the Austin Museum of Art that lets families create art together. The annual "Family Fun Weekend" held in April includes hands-on art activities and tours. http://www.amoa.org/

Sports

Young sports fans find more than their share of excitement at the University of Texas Big XII sporting events. From football and basketball to baseball and track, the Longhorn teams always put on a good show. http://www.texassports.com/

The Round Rock Express, AA affiliate of the Houston Astros, hits a home run with children at the Dell Diamond all summer long. Families can picnic and youngsters can even jump around in a moonwalk, climb a rock wall or swim while runners round the bases. http://www.roundrockexpress.com/

The National Basketball Development League's Austin Toros give hoop lovers a chance to catch games at the Austin Convention Center. Several home games take place on weekends. Ticket prices range from $8-$27. www.nba.com/dleague/austin

The Austin Ice Bats host around 30 home games at Chaparral Ice Rink from October-March. Keep cool during a special "Kids Day" game in January. http://www.icebats.com/

The Austin Wranglers play home arena football games, March through June, at the Erwin Center to the delight of sports fans of all ages. http://www.austinwranglers.com/

Entertainment

Plenty of musical and theatrical performances keep kids culturally entertained. Throughout the year, the Austin Symphony presents various children's concerts including "Children's Day Art Park." This educational program is held each Wednesday during the summer at Symphony Square, where kids participate in the "Instrument Petting Zoo" and watch artists and magicians perform. Also in the summer, the music of artists such as Mozart and Hammerstein fills the air during the symphony's "Concerts in the Park," May-August at 7:30 p.m. in Wooldridge Park. Austin Symphony also hosts a Halloween concert and Christmas sing-along for kids to enjoy their favorite seasonal music. http://www.austinsymphony.org/

Ballet Austin combines music, dance and fantasy during various children's productions including the seasonal performance of "The Nutcracker." Kids also join the Austin's Kids Corp to learn about ballet production and experience "Curtain Chats" to watch behind-the-scenes action for 30 minutes prior to curtain call at Sunday matinees. A Kids Corp membership also includes discounts on ballet lessons and family fun days. http://www.balletaustin.org/

The Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Theater, now at its new Sixth Street location, hosts a Saturday Morning Film Club, with showings of free family-friendly movies at noon on the last Saturday of every month. Visit http://www.drafthouse.com/ for listings.

Summer Fun

Summer visitors can beat the heat at any of Austin's spring-fed swimming holes. More than 30 million gallons of spring water fill Barton Springs Pool daily to keep the water constant at 68 degrees. A 30-foot waterfall and swimming area at Hamilton Pool provides a refreshing oasis for the entire family. Krause Springs, situated atop a bluff overlooking Cypress Creek, offers two swimming holes for visitors to enjoy.

Families' kick back on Saturday nights during "Splash Party Movie Nights" at Deep Eddy Pool, another natural swimming hole, where family-themed movies are projected onto a

giant screen while viewers float in the water. www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/pools_schedule

Volente Beach, located on Lake Travis, creates a coastal setting complete with water slides and pools along the shores of Central Texas' biggest lake. http://www.volentebeach.com/

At dusk, venture to the shores of Town Lake for Bat Watching as the world's largest urban bat colony takes flight for its nightly feeding. More than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, April-November at dusk. www.batcon.org/discover/congress

Even through summer, fun events encourage kiddos to stick with the books. The "Sail Away with Books" program at Austin Public Libraries features story-time, puppet shows and other reading events. www.ci.austin.tx.us/library. Book People, voted "Best Kids Bookstore" by The Austin Chronicle, has various story time sessions during the Book People Book Kids events on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Book Kids Saturdays, a new book is presented by the author. http://www.bookpeople.com/

Summer Music

Families enjoy a free musical under the stars during the Zilker Summer Musical at Zilker Hillside Theater, Thurs.-Sun. nights from June until mid-August. http://www.zilker.org/

Families can pack a picnic and enjoy Blues on the Green at Zilker Park on alternating Wednesday during the summer. The free event offers local artists playing beneath the big Texas sky, beginning at 7:30 p.m. http://www.kgsr.com/

Unplugged at the Grove, on the patio of Shady Grove restaurant, features both well-known and up-and-coming Texas musicians. Shows take place each Thursday at 8 p.m. http://www.kgsr.com/

The Oasis' summer music series, which features local rock, salsa and blues artists each weekend, allows guests to dance while enjoying Texas' best sunset over Lake Travis.  http://www.oasis-austin.com/

Families enjoy picnics and live music during Music Under the Star. Hosted on the front plaza of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the program features musicians from around the world. The free event is hosted each Friday in July from 6-9 p.m. http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/

Tours

There are several exciting ways to tour the city.  Austin Overtures provides an introduction to the city with 90-minute driving tours of popular attractions.  More information is available at http://www.austinovertures.com/.  Austin Duck Adventures takes sightseers through town in a roving aqua-mobile that drives along the streets before splashing into Lake Austin. Check http://www.austinducks.com/ for details.  The Lone Star Riverboat offers a spectacular sunset view and bat watching on Town Lake. Excursions are available either on an old-fashioned paddle wheeler or a pontoon cruiser. To book a cruise, visit http://www.lonestarriverboat.com/. Canoes, kayaks and pedal boats are available for rental at Capital Cruises. Or gather the gang and hop on board for a tours, dinner cruise or bat watching cruises along Town Lake. http://www.capitalcruises.com/

Older kids get a kick from gliding on a self-balancing, battery-propelled Segway HT. SegCity Austin's three-hour tours include training and orientation, a cruise along the Town Lake trail and a rolling ride through downtown. Alien Scooters offers rentals and tours for the whole family on electric scooters, mopeds, e-bikes and mobility scooters. Riders enjoy this environmentally friendly way to see the city. http://www.alienscooters.com/

Grocery Stores and More

            Kids master culinary creations at one of Austin's cooking classes designed for young chefs. Central Market offers a kids' cooking summer camp, movies in the park and live music that the whole family can enjoy on the patio. Whole Foods Market provides live music as well, along with children's cooking classes and holiday events. http://www.centralmarket.com/ and http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/

 

Shopping

            Kids love shopping the Arboretum at Great Hills just as much as parents, thanks to the Clayton Cows. Sculpted by Harold F. Clayton, these life-sized cow sculptures are popular with little ones who can crawl across the bovines while bringing out their inner cowboy.

  

Outdoors

            Zilker Park, the largest in Austin, entertains families with the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train circling the property. The park, a popular kite-flying and picnic area, also features hike and bike trails, a playscape and canoe rentals. The snack bar offers cotton candy, soft-serve ice cream and other favorite summer treats.  www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker

            Located in Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park, the Veloway is a three-mile-long, paved roadway for area roller skaters and bike riders only. http://www.veloway.com/

            At Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, families can explore more than three miles of easy hiking trails through woodlands, grasslands and streamside habitats. They also host several events and concerts throughout the year. http://www.wildbasin.org/

            At Hartman Prehistoric Garden in Zilker Botanical Gardens, children walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs that lived in Austin more than 100 million years ago. Covering 1.5 acres, the garden is home to an eight-foot tall bronze sculpture of an Ornithomimus dinosaur. Open daily from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. www.zilkergarden.org/gardens/dino

The Austin Nature and Science Center's Dino Pit exhibit recreates a paleontology site where children act as archeologists by "excavating" replicas of fossils unearthed in Texas. Open Mon.-Sat. from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun. from noon-5 p.m. www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc

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