Kids & Family
2019 Readers Poll
2019 Critics Picks

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Best Clubbing for Kids

Needless to say, if any of you are reading this in Austin, you failed to make it to the big time in world football. The good news is that Lonestar S.C. will at least give your li’l Lavelle or Pulisic Jr. a kicking chance to one day be a part of the beautiful game at its highest level. That’s because Lonestar is one of the premier developmental programs in the entire country right here in Central Texas, developing girls and boys of various skill ranges from ages U-5 and up with various programs including recreational, junior academy, select, elite, developmental academy, and a women’s professional side. Go on and get that flat in Barcelona booked!

Best Gifts for a Foster Child

Too many kids never know the simple joy of screaming around their birthday party, covered in cake and unwrapping presents from people who care, and that's especially true for foster kids. Registered nonprofit Pop-Up Birthday is doing its best to make sure that children who are already dealing with enough enjoy a day dedicated to making them feel special. Founder Laila Scott and her team of helpers have already put their birthday boxes – a complete party in kit form – in the hands of over 2,000 foster kids in Austin and seven surrounding counties. Now that's something to celebrate.

photo by John Anderson

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Best Inspiration for IRL Fort Building

Couch cushion forts were doomed once kids could construct mansions from an iPad in Minecraft instead of scrounging together every blanket and pillow in the house to make a constantly collapsing box. However, the Fortlandia outdoor exhibit at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center may be just the thing to revive the lost art of backyard fort building. The $10,000 forts – custom-built by 10 local designers with sustainability in mind and bearing names like Fairy Pavilion, Fortmosa, and Color Keep – will inspire kids to start drawing up blueprints for their own backyard hideouts.

Best Music Spot for Green Thumbs

What better incentive do you need to visit a food park than a free gardening class and songwriter session while you nosh on vegan bites, tamales, and poke nachos? Host to the South Austin Family Fall Festival, this burgeoning Southside sprawl offers a family-friendly spot with a half-dozen food trucks, a community garden, outdoor yoga, and even a tiny barbershop in which to get that coiffure touched up. Where to begin!

7800 S. First

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

photo by John Anderson

Best Rulemakers

We don't need to roll the dice or pull a card to work out who is Austin's winningest gaming company. Since 1980, Steve Jackson Games has won our hearts in every form of play, from their OG board games like autoslaughter fun Car Wars, online strategy in Ultracorps, a universe of role-playing in GURPS, and of course the joyous carnage of the infinitely mutable Munchkin card system. They even beat the Secret Service one time (true story!) and now we're calling them the ultimate winner.

Best String Theory

One could spout an entire verbal essay on how spectacular the UT String Project is, and plenty has already been said by experts like the National String Project Consortium and the American String Teachers Association, which named this Butler School of Music youth string instrument developmental program as the national String Project of the Year. We agree! Classes range from early childhood to expert level, and the program serves as a sterling example for the training of teachers and young string players who upon graduation have founded, developed, or expanded string programs in public schools, taught in universities, established private studios, or played in symphony orchestras.

Photo by Eric Puga

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Best Vitamin D Boost

Established in 1928 as a response to the community’s then-significant threat of tuberculosis, Austin Sunshine Camps in Zilker Park was intended to help local, economically disadvantaged youth spend time outdoors. After all, exposure to sunshine – and all its vitamin D glory – was believed to promote healing from the disease. The camp is still enriching Austin by offering a safe and inclusive spot for kids to breathe fresh air and catch a glimpse of nature's beauty and their big healthy futures. The nonprofit serves families without the means to attend increasingly pricey summer camps, while also offering structure and fun, from kayaking to campfires, all bundled inside the Zilker Lodge.

Austin Sunshine Camps
2225 Andrew Zilker Rd

Best Way to Party Like It’s 1899

In a world fixated on all things fast, disposable, and mass-produced, Letterpress PLAY wants you to take it slow. Opened in May, Kyle Hawley’s South Austin studio and shop is home to a collection of vintage printing presses. But these beautiful behemoths are no museum curios. They get a regular workout producing elegant, zero-waste cards, posters, and even hankies(!). Want to get more hands-on? Kids will dig the just-cut-and-fold kits for making thaumatropes. These paper toys were first popularized in the Victorian era, but artful and economic design like this? That never goes out of style.

Letterpress PLAY
2300 S. Lamar #108

Photo by Kimberley Jones

Austin Voices for Education and Youth

Most Family Resources in One Place

Over 150 exhibitors, all providing public resources of one sort or another for kids and families: free food, clothing, glasses, and trees; health and vision screenings; rock climbing; housing, utility, and transportation assistance; immunizations and prenatal support; plus pony rides last year, vintage cars this year, and so, so much more. HopeFest is a very cool event – a collaboration of AISD, Austin Voices for Education and Youth, and dozens of nonprofits, church groups, businesses, and 150-plus volunteers – that's been going on each October for the past 14 years at Northeast (formerly Reagan) High. So you get to see their marching band and mariachi ensemble as well.

Critics: Food & Drink
Critics: Nightlife

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