Kids in the Capital City

Kids in the Capital City: Best Austin places to reclaim your social life

Kids in the Capital City: Best Austin places to reclaim a social life

The Thinkery mom and kids
It may be a children's museum, but Thinkery is fun for everyone. Thinkery/Facebook

Sad but true fact — part of becoming a parent means bidding goodbye to your social life as it was.

When I first returned to Austin after five years of bicoastal living, I got a job in radio. I covered concerts, interviewed bands, and went out five nights a week. Six hours of sleep was an achievement, and hangovers calmed by breakfast tacos and Diet Coke were constant. And at 25, boy, was it fun.

But then 28 hits, then 29, 30. And the late nights started to take a toll. I forewent concert tickets in favor of Netflix binges and homecooked meals, with the occasional happy hour peppered in.

I realize now that I took those happy hours for granted.

Suddenly, you’re a parent, and you go outside three times in the first month of your child’s life. (Unless you’re me and you take your two-week-old baby to Baby Day at Alamo Drafthouse much to your pediatrician’s dismay. We saw Baywatch — it wasn’t worth it.)

Then, once you can acceptably go outside, you do it. Take that sleeping baby anywhere and everywhere. But as soon as toddlerhood hits, it’s all out the window. If you’re not home by bedtime, it’s pandemonium. You’re chasing a kid around a restaurant and bribing them with salty snacks. You’ll do literally anything to finish the $10 glass of wine you’ve been clamoring for since 2 pm, and you’ll probably end up chugging it as you clean up the battlefield of food off the restaurant floor. At some point, going out is no longer worth it.

But here’s the thing — you have to leave the house. You have to live your life, tiny barnacle and all. So you find your new social life. Your new normal. And I’m here to tell you that Austin is abundant with kid-friendly adult hangs that don’t suck.

Mueller is kid mecca
Take, for example, Thinkery. Sure, it’s technically a children’s museum, but once a month it hosts 21-plus events, which you can purchase at a discount if you’re a member. As any Austin parent will tell you, a tantrum-free hour at Thinkery is worth the price of membership alone. Leave the museum, and you're met with plenty of adult-friendly fun. Weekends bring the Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller, or pop on over to Lick for some of Austin’s finest frozen fare. The opportunities, unlike your child’s patience, are endless.

South of the river
Granted, as South Austinites, we’re flush with family-friendly options. Seemingly every place south of the river comes complete with playscape. Plus, we’ve got the Austin Zoo, splash pads aplenty, and more trampoline parks than you can shake a stick at. 

Rise of the kid-friendly bar
In the past few years, a special brand of hipster parent hang has started to arise: the kid-friendly bar.

Over on South Congress Avenue, former Momo’s owner Paul Oveisi has cornered the cool kid market with Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, a lush, green landscape with craft beer and cocktails, food trucks, plenty of shade, and tons of space for the kiddos to run free.

Further west, Oak Hill’s Graceland Grocery is a can’t-miss spot for South Austin parents, a Stubb’s BBQ outlet with cheap beer and expansive grounds covered more with playground than anything else. The Little Darlin’ is another hidden gem, with outdoor space that’s dog-friendly and ideal for a kid-friendly Sunday Funday.

Food and fun — the ultimate combo
North of the river, Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches offers parents a place to enjoy food and fun while the little ones meander the vast outdoor space. And of course, it goes without saying that a trip to Phil’s Icehouse is a triple threat: crowd-pleasing restaurant, playground session, and scoop from the adjacent Amy's Ice Cream.

Yes, I miss my naps. I long for the days of uninterrupted Netflix binges, trivia nights (oh, how I miss the trivia nights!), and the happy hours without hard deadlines. But I’ve found a new normal, and it doesn’t make me want to poke my eyes out. I’ve discovered a new Austin, and I’m pleasantly surprised.