Kids in the Capital City: Best Austin places to reclaim a social life

Sad but true fact – part of becoming a parent means saying goodbye to your social life for the way it was.

When I first returned to Austin after five years of bicoastal life, I got a job on the radio. I covered concerts, interviewed bands, and went out five nights a week. Six hours of sleep was an achievement, and hangovers soothed by breakfast tacos and Diet Coke were constant. And at 25, boy, it was fun.

But then 28 hits, then 29, 30. And the late nights took their toll. I skipped concert tickets in favor of Netflix binges and homemade meals, with the occasional happy hour.

I now realize that I took these happy hours for granted.

All of a sudden you are a parent and go outside three times in your child’s first month of life. (Unless you’re me and bring your two week old baby to Baby Day at the Alamo Drafthouse, much to your pediatrician’s horror. We saw Baywatch – it wasn’t worth it.)

Once you can get outside acceptably, go for it. Take the sleeping baby with you wherever you go. But as soon as toddler ages, everything is out of the window. If you’re not home before bed, it’s Pandemonium. You chase a child around in a restaurant and bribe them with salty snacks. They’ll literally go out of their way to finish that $ 10 glass of wine you’ve been asking for since 2pm, and you’ll likely chug it as you clean the battlefield with groceries from the restaurant floor. At some point it is no longer worth going out.

But here’s the thing – you have to get out of the house. You have to live your life, tiny barnacles and everything. How to find your new social life. Your new normal. And I’m here to tell you that Austin has plenty of kid-friendly, non-sucking slopes for adults.

Mueller is a children’s mecca

Take Thinkery, for example. Sure, it’s technically a children’s museum, but once a month it hosts more than 21 events that you can purchase at a discount as a member. As any parent in Austin will tell you, a free-for-all hour at Thinkery is worth the cost of membership alone. Step out of the museum and you will find yourself faced with loads of adult-friendly fun. During the weekend, head to the Texas Farmers’ Market in Mueller or head to Lick for some of Austin’s best frozen food. Contrary to your child’s patience, the possibilities are endless.

South of the river

Granted, as the South Austinites, we’re full of family-friendly options. Apparently every place south of the river is equipped with a play area. We also have the Austin Zoo, loads of splash guards, and more trampoline parks than you can imagine.

Rise of the child-friendly bar

In recent years a special brand for hipster parents has developed: the kid-friendly bar.

Over on South Congress Avenue, the former owner of Momo, Paul Oveisi, has the cool children’s market with Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, a lush, green landscape with craft beer and cocktails, food trucks, lots of shade and lots of space for the kids in Live out the corner.

Further west, Oak Hills Graceland Grocery is a must-see spot for South Austin parents, a Stubb’s BBQ joint with cheap beer and sprawling grounds covered more with playgrounds than anything else. The Little Darlin ‘is another hidden gem with a dog-friendly outdoor area ideal for a kid-friendly Sunday funday.

Food and fun – the ultimate combination

North of the river, Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches provides parents with a place to enjoy food and fun while the little ones meander through the wide outdoor space. And of course a trip to Phil’s Ice House poses a triple threat: a people-friendly restaurant, a playground, and a scoop from the adjacent Amy’s Ice Cream.

Yeah, I miss my nap. I long for the days of non-stop Netflix binges, quiz nights (oh how much I miss the quiz nights!) And the happy hours with no hard deadlines. But I’ve found a new normal and it doesn’t make me stretch my eyes. I discovered a new Austin and am pleasantly surprised.

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