What Should We Do This Year?

Nicole Basham - Austin
January 16, 2012

A new year is like a blank slate. Your kids are one year older, and you have a year of parenting under your belt. What better time to challenge yourself to get out and explore? We are lucky to live in Austin, after all. The city where being weird is normal, where you can wear shorts in January and where people really are that friendly. So, get out your pencil and see how many of these excursions you can check off during the coming year!

Find a new park

The Austin Parks Foundation lists over 200 parks in its online database, so you could spend practically half the year exploring a new park or playground. Add to that 15 state parks within an hour's drive of Austin and you will have a bevy of options for burning off that seemingly endless kid energy. Whether you enjoy discovering new playscapes, looking for lizards on a hike or finding the perfect bluebonnet spot, checking out a park can give you fresh air, a new perspective and a break from battery-powered entertainment. Just don't forget your water, snacks, sunscreen and good walking shoes!

Take a road trip

Sometimes, all it takes is a road trip to turn those frowns upside down. Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly attractions that provide a great excuse for a road trip. If sugar is what you crave, consider a trip to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell factory. In San Antonio, you can visit the Zoo or the Witte Museum. In Waco, you can check out the Mayborn or the Mammoth Site. Closer to home, you can visit Inner Space Cavern and the Creative Playscape in Georgetown or Natural Bridge Caverns between New Braunfels and San Antonio. If you have been meaning to visit Fredericksburg, you can reward your family with peach cobbler after a hike to the summit of Enchanted Rock.

Embrace your inner cowpoke

Although we may not have a horse handy to ride into the sunset, we can certainly don our cowboy hats and boots when the mood strikes us. The Rodeo comes to town each March and provides lots of opportunities to marvel at huge steers, adorable farm animals and racing pigs (and have breakfast with the cowboys!) When it's not rodeo time, you can still saddle up your young'un on a pony at Kiddie Acres or watch some serious two stepping at the Broken Spoke.

Come on, hear the noise

Two times a year—yes, I am referring to SXSW and ACL—we are reminded that we do indeed live in the Live Music Capitol of the World. If you go underground for those two festivals, you can still enjoy music in a family-friendly atmosphere. Try Stubb's Gospel Brunch on a Sunday when you have visitors in town (or not). Check Central Market's event calendar for fun music offered on the weekend. Gauge the interest of your children in becoming groupies of the Biscuit Brothers or other kid bands that perform regularly. And yes, you can do SXSW day shows with kids or enjoy ACL's Kiddie Limits—just don't forget to pick up some noise-cancelling headphones for your little ones.

Cool off

Yes, we can wear shorts in January. But by August, it can be miserable to leave the house. What can you do to avoid leaving town for the entire summer? Of course, many Austinites swim in Barton Springs year-round, but during the summer, a dip can be quite refreshing. An impressive array of pools and splash pads offer a reprieve from our sizzling temps, as do watering holes such as Hamilton's Pool, Blue Hole and Krause Springs. If you are in the mood for a sweet treat, plan a visit to the Austin institution Sandy's for frozen custard, Zocalo for horchata (an addicting rice milk drink), Teo's for gelato and, of course, Amy's for some Mexican Vanilla ice cream.

Here's to a year full of family fun!

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