Cool Guide to Parenting

5 kid-friendly Austin places that definitely don't suck

5 kid-friendly Austin places that definitely don't suck

Blue Cat Cafe exterior mural
Your kids will love you for bringing them to the new Blue Cat Cafe, where adoptable cats freely roam the coffee shop. Blue Cat Cafe/Facebook
What's the Story Steve poodle
What's the Story Steve? is ColdTowne's family-friendly Saturday morning improv show featuring Steve the poodle. What's the Story Steve?/Facebook
Dinosaur Park
Pack a picnic and make an afternoon out of Dinosaur Park with life-size replicas, scavenger hunts, and dino digs. Photo courtesy of Dinosaur Park
Blue Cat Cafe exterior mural
What's the Story Steve poodle
Dinosaur Park

So now you've done it. Good for you for becoming a parent. The kids are part of the equation from here on out, and your former itinerary of spending a weekend looking for the best Bloody Mary bar or checking out the wait on a brunch line have been replaced by your adorable brood's petulant pleads for an afternoon spent at a jumpy house or, even worse, an afternoon at laser tag.

Rather than cave to the demand, might we suggest some local, refreshing alternatives to family-friendly spaces that not only don't suck, but have something for everyone.

Austin is a green, vibrant playground for parents — you just need a few plans in your back pocket. Here are five favorite spots where you can have fun and connect with your kids.

Blue Cat Cafe
Cats in cafes. Cats in cafes while you're trying to read the paper and drink a latte? Sure. It's a thing now (see Japan and New York). Your kids will love you for bringing them to this new addition to the east side, and you can feel good about doing it too. Almost all the cats onsite are up for adoption from the Austin Humane Society. While you relax with goodies from the outside vegan trailer or sip a cappuccino, your little ones can make new friends with the meandering felines. Already have a house cat? Buy them a new toy, collar, or scratch post from the small storefront inside. It's a purrfect diversion.

ColdTowne Theater: What's the Story Steve?
Maybe the thought of spending the afternoon with a litter of cats makes your allergies flare. For families who count dogs as their fave domestics, What's the Story Steve? features a talented pooch who can improvise with the best of them. This Saturday morning performance is a popular destination for kids who love to hear a tall tale and for those who like to help create them. Each week offers a completely different story. Steve the poodle gets help from his cast mates and audience suggestions, and unpredictable hijinks ensue. Stick around afterwards for the drop-in improv class for kids.

Austin Aqua-Dome
Landing somewhere between a set piece from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and early 1970s architecture, the Austin Aqua-Dome is a must-visit, especially during these colder winter days. The dimly lit, cozy interior is a perfect backdrop to a panoply of vibrant fish and coral reefs. While the dome is a for-profit operation, there is no pressure to buy. The owners are happy to share their space and vast knowledge of fresh and saltwater fish with the next generation of Team Zissou.

Dinosaur Park
This day trip to nearby Bastrop offers everything for the budding paleontologist in your life. For those idyllic Texas winter days that are warm enough for outdoor fun, winding nature paths at Dinosaur Park offer life-size dino replicas peeking through treetops and plenty of activities to keep little ones busy. Dig for fossils in the Dino Dig sandpit or go on a nature scavenger hunt with lists provided by the park office. Make an afternoon of it and picnic in the provided areas, which are available at no cost on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Cherrywood Coffeehouse
This charming Cherrywood neighborhood cafe — overrun during the week by childless people now cooler than you — becomes a mecca for the parental sets on weekends. Sundays in particular are a huge draw for exhausted parents seeking nothing more than a moment alone with a breakfast taco and mimosa. A regular lineup of kid-friendly musicians from Staci Gray to the Que Pastas will happily entertain your progeny while you catch up with a friend or actually read the paper.