An Expert's Guide to the Children's Museum

Nicole Basham - Austin
February 14, 2012

The Children's Museum. While we don't have Sea World, Six Flags or an aquarium, we do have a great place to take our kids to enjoy downtown, escape the heat or meet up with friends. But, do you do the same things every time you go? Check our list to see if you are a museum expert.

Getting there

Chances are, you make fewer trips to downtown Austin now that you have children. Admittedly, there is a reason for this. Parking can be difficult, if it's hot out the pavement radiates heat, and there can be a lot of walking.

The museum has partnered with 2 AMLI lots for discounted parking, and parking is also available at City Hall. If you arrive right when the museum opens Tuesdays-Saturdays (10:00 a.m.), there is usually street parking a block or two away. Now that the city has installed new pay stations, you don't have to worry about having coins—the machines take both debit and credit cards. If you need a stroller, you can take an umbrella stroller and stash it near the museum entrance during your visit.

It's worth considering asking for a museum membership from grandparents or other family, particularly if you think you may take advantage of their birthday parties and popular camps. 

When to visit

If you have a child under three, it's certainly worth taking advantage of Baby Bloomers on Monday mornings and/or Cub Club on Saturday mornings. It can get hectic in the museum at other times, and you will appreciate having only littler visitors when you go.

The first Tuesday of the month is No Tour Tuesday, so you can visit without worrying about multiple school buses pulling up just as you arrive. You can also consider an afternoon visit, since many families to tend to visit earlier in the day.

What to see

There are programs taking place throughout the year, so definitely check the calendar to see what might be happening when you are thinking of visiting. Depending on the time of year, the Museum offers great programs, such as Engineering SaturdaysDiscovery Time and regular storytimes to get a break from the action.

Although your kid may enjoy visiting the same areas each time (how many meals have you eaten at the Global Diner?), the exhibits may catch their eye and hold their interest, particularly for older children. Not many families make it up to the second floor for the Tinkerer's Workshop, but that can be a great place to take a break from the action (along with the Global City Library, when storytime isn't taking place, of course). Kids can really experience the Tinkerer's Workshop at multiple levels and can spend long stretches concentrating on a new creation or testing out a theory. The pieces from the Ready, Set, Roll exhibit that are now part of the permanent collections are also a hit with multiple ages (if you go on a crowded day, you might consider skipping a storytime so you can hit some of the more popular spots).

Make a day of it

Once you are downtown, there is plenty to see and do. Jo's Coffee is a convenient lunch or snack spot, but it can get very crowded and is on the pricey side. You can take advantage of the garage at City Hall and eat at Austin Java or take a short walk for a sub at Which Wich. If you are ready for a treat, you can try BerryAustin for frozen yogurt. If it's a nice day, you can even take a picnic to the Hike and Bike Trail or Zilker Park.

Did you know?

The Museum has a great blog with kids' activities, experiments and recipes, so that you can continue the fun when you return home.

What is your favorite part of the museum?    

Photo © Austin Children's Museum 

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