Kids & Family
2023 Readers Poll
2023 Critics Picks

photo by John Anderson

Nicest, Spikiest New Neighbors

Already an amazing – and free! – outing for kids, the Austin Nature & Science Center experience got even more adorable with two new residents, baby porcupines Juniper and Nelson. Now one year old, they're the latest ambassadors for this invaluable educational resource that teaches schoolchildren and families about the wildlife of Central Texas. As Austin expands into new formerly green spaces, native species and center residents like roadrunners, bobcats, and, yes, porcupines, are increasingly under threat. Juniper and Nelson want to remind you what you're missing.

Austin Nature & Science Center
301 Nature Center Dr.

Best Way to Catch a Woodwind in the Wild

A day at the zoo takes on different meaning at Austin Symphony Orchestra’s Tuneful Tales. Instead of lions and tigers, think: flute, French horn, and the mighty trombone; this Instrument Zoo truly sings. Held weekly at Central Library in June and July, Tuneful Tales makes classical music not only approachable but hands-on. Kiddos can meet symphony players and see their musicmakers up close, make their own percussion instruments, and revel in performances from ASO’s sterling string, woodwind, and brass ensembles.

Courtesy of Austin Symphony Orchestra

Photo by Wayne Lim

Most Down-to-Earth Fantasy Portal

Along the Drag, old weird Austin still thrives. One smoke shop past Torchy's, painted glass panels beckon Pokémon TCG, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and more. Inside, precious few square feet pack floor-to-ceiling vintage video games (Sega, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Wii, and Atari), plus Blu-rays, DVDs, VHS, board games, books, posters, abd candy. Toys alone – and the bobble wall especially – rival Lost Austin wellspring I Luv Video on Airport. Six years into this hole in the wall, after 18 at the Dobie Mall, Resurrected Games proves a portal into ATX fantasy past, present, and future. Can you spot us $499.99 for that Poké Regirock card?

Resurrected Games
2815-C Guadalupe

Best Entrance to the Stage

Theatre camps can be fun, but they can be so much more, and that's what Impact Arts aims to provide for aspiring theatre professionals. Founded in 2015 by bringing together St. Stephen's Episcopal School's Texas Arts Project and St. Ed's Summer Stock Austin program, Impact Arts has become a launchpad for dozens of careers backstage and under the lights, with alumni working opening night on Broadway and residencies in Las Vegas. The high school and college students who come together to put on the annual Summer Stock musicals at the McCullough Theatre aren't just playing for their friends and family: They're auditioning for the future.

Impact Arts

Photo by Henry Huey / Courtesy of Impact Arts

Courtesy of

Best Boosters of Budding Bibliophiles

In 2016, tech innovator and writer Jessica Ewing blended her passions and experience to start a company offering carefully curated book subscription boxes for kids. Literati mails monthly selections in a neat box with artwork prints and personalized labels, and has also gotten into the book fair game – sacred events for young bookworms. Not only that, they partner with a host of local orgs and coordinate book donations to foster early literacy for all of Austin's curious young minds.

Best Personal Water Park

A sliver of Lake Austin equals a slice of paradise. Stair-stepping like a waterfall down to the shoreline, Volente Beach packs a waterpark punch via a perfect stacking of day-at-the-beach. Start at the restaurant overlooking the kiddie pirate ship first pool. Go past the primo volleyball court, then curve around the two enormous water slides to the adult pool. Behold the full bar above, taco food truck below, and – as of this past Memorial Day weekend – a new poolside bar. (Jell-O shots for the grownups!) A clutch of bungalows across the way make for weekend shack blasts and inner-tube screenings of Jaws. Season passes pay for themselves.

Volente Beach Waterpark
16107 Wharf Cove (FM 2769)

courtesy of

credit: Getty Images

Most Wholesome Springtime Outing

If you’ve never known the joy of picking a perfectly ripe strawberry fresh off the vine and biting into its juicy goodness, then hie thee to Marble Falls and this sweet (it’s in the name!) family-owned farm. Strawberry season may be behind us now, but there are still plenty of enticements at Sweet Berry Farm: Depending on the season, you might pick tulips or sunflowers, pet a goat, paint a pot, ride a pony, pick up your Halloween pumpkin, or bravely make your way through a Haygrazer grass maze. Still not sure what to expect? Their “Fresh News” blog delivers regular updates on what’s happening at the farm.

Sweet Berry Farm
1801 FM 1980
Marble Falls

Best Kiddie Arcade

The Brewery Age descends on the Texas state capital as thoroughly as Willie Nelson’s hazy (cough) IPA of the Seventies. Midtown tavern Oddwood tops it off thick – strong pours, equal menu, Austin FC casts, even future vinyl shows – but the underage media room manifests a magic straight out of Hogwarts. Two doors guard the brewery entrance, yet the one marked “Arcade” opens into a micro chamber of TV, VHS, Sega, Pac-Man, and vintage board games. The Burtonesque tree hanging from the ceiling tingles Edward Scissorhands. Once inside, kiddos o-n-l-y emerge for pizza, parents then retrieving them at the end of the evening like precious mink stoles from the cloak room.

Oddwood Brewing
3108 Manor Rd.

courtesy of

Photo by Lauren Moffe / Courtesy of Round Rock Express

Best League of Their Own for Aspiring Ballers

Austin FC may whip the supporters section of Q2 Stadium into a fútbol frenzy, but visceral thrills rally less unhinged in the left-field lawn section at Dell Diamond when the Round Rock Express and their opponents begin hitting dingers. Ten-dollar tickets and double that for the sweet grandparent-friendly rocking chairs behind the sloped turf make family outings a gimme. During last month’s six-game stand against the El Paso Chihuahuas, aspiring ballers ran, wrestled, and three-ringed it in their colors for youth league jersey day as home runs fell like hail – delighting one and all. And on your way out, they let ’em run the bases!

Dell Diamond
3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock

Critics: Arts & Entertainment
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