When I first started taking Tallulah out and about around town I was not exactly sure where to go. It was my first kid and I was not well versed in what to do, where to go or how to find these magically entertaining kids places. I started with enrolling in Gymboree. Tallulah loved going and we attended for several months. The catch was the classes were expensive. When she was young she could go to classes twice a week and to free play almost any day of the week at the various Austin locations. This helped me rationalize the price. Eventually she hit that age where we could only go to class once a week and the price got to be a little rich for my blood and I was on the hunt to find something cheaper.
This is when I started picking up local magazines like Parentwise and Austin Family. I was checking on blogs like Free Fun in Austin and Little Austinite for kid friendly activities. I started noticing that the Austin Chronicle calendar section marks all their kid friendly activities with a small fox. It was starting to become abundantly clear to me that there was a lot more to do in Austin with kids for a lot less money, all I had to do was look for it.
FREE DEMO CLASSES
The way Gymboree lured me in is that I took a free demo class first. Most places around town offer free demo classes and why not take them up on it. Tallulah and I have been to free post-natal yoga, Gymboree, My Gym, Armstrong Music School, Little Gym and more. Sure you are going to get the hard sell after the class and a few annoying follow up emails, but for a free hour long class it is worth it. Plus who knows you might actually attend a class that you and your child adore and sign up.
Keep Austin reading is one of our many local slogans for a reason. There are oodles of free story times around town for kids of all ages. Check your local bookstores. Book People has something fun almost every week like sing-a-longs, stories and petting zoos. All the branches of the Public Library have various story times. Several of the ones I have been to include crafts, songs and some are even bilingual.
PARKS & POOLS
Austin has tons of beautiful parks to walk, play and swim in. Tallulah and I tried to conquer several of the local swimming destinations last year before I got knocked up and nauseous. Swimming is not always free, but typically super cheap. The parks are free to play in and in the summer if you can’t find the $3 bucks to swim you can hit one of our many free splash pads. Truthfully my kidlet would take a splash pad over a swimming pool any day.
OK Grocery Shopping is not typically that riveting, but if you hit Central Market when a band is playing it gets a little better. The roof top playground at Whole Foods makes that trip a little spicier. Austin has several farmers markets that we frequent. Lots of free samples, dogs to pet and of course live music. Boggy Creek also has a lovely farm to walk around and enjoy as well as a mega chicken coop.
Check the art listings in the Chronicle to see what is showing around town. The Blanton is free on Thursdays. The Austin Children’s Museum is free on Sunday afternoons (discounted all the time with a museum membership). There is also a free museum day every fall and many more free galleries around town. Heck it’s Austin you can barely roll up to a Kerby Lane, hair salon or coffee shop without something hanging on the wall.
Several restaurants around town offer free food to kids on certain nights of the week. Check out the list on Free Fun in Austin.
The Alamo Drafthouse is a local movie chain that is extra kid friendly. They have baby day at some of their theatres where mom (or dad) pays admission, but baby is free. They keep the lights up and the sound down. They also have free movies for older kids in the summer on Saturdays. Check their website for upcoming free shows. I must admit I have not tried this adventure with Tallulah since she can barely make it through a 20 minute episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, but it is on the to-try list.
COFFEE & KIDS
Many of our local coffee shops have something fun for the kiddies. Ruta Maya is probably the most popular option in town with a rotating list of bands, puppet shows and dogs on unicycles every Sunday morning. Places like Cherrywood Coffee has recently jumped on board. The first Saturday of the month you can catch a kids gig at Flipnotics.
The zoo might not be free, but the pet store is. Sure there are not any lions, tigers or bears but there are lots of lizards, snakes, rats and birds. Another free animal-rific trip is Cabella’s in Buda. Now given a lot of those animals are stuffed, and if you are vehemently opposed to hunting I don’t recommend it. However, if you take the Ted Nugent type with a grain of salt in the name of free kids entertainment it’s worth the quick trip out of town. Not everything is dead, there are lots of live examples of native Texas fish.
There are a lot more online discount websites than just Groupon. I subscribe to Living Social, Eversave, Plum District, Ad Pages, Giv Shop, Yollar, Crowd Savings, Mamapedia and more. Majority of the time I delete the email because I’m not interested in eyelash extensions or belly dancing classes. However, about once a week these websites have some sort of kid friendly coupon. Just recently I have bought half price glass bottom boat tours, cheap admission to the Austin Zoo, discounted Gymboree classes, Jumpy Gym passes, tickets to Pioneer Farms, memberships to the Austin Children’s Museum and Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – the list goes on. Most of these coupons are for half off or more.
All you gotta do is look for it and free fun kids activities abound in a city like Austin – wiener dog races, craft shows galore, cupcake smack downs and more. What are some of your favorite freebies around town? The fam and I are always looking for new and exciting things to do.
What a bunch of brilliant ideas! It makes me wish my daughter still lived in Austin.
Wow! What a fantastic article! Great job, Jennifer!
On the subject of stuff to do….I will be bringing my 14 year old to downtown for a UIL event. She has never hung in Austin (and its been years since I have)so we are making a day of it!!
Whats your fave spot to shop vintage close to down town? Is there a thrift store that's yummy that you would not mind sharing the address?
Any particular fave restaurant options to have lunch?