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Things to Do in Austin Over Winter Break

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Things to Do in Austin Over Winter Break

Laura Standefer, Senior Holiday Correspondent

December 16, 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Seriously. The weather has cooled down and it’s time to gather with our family and friends and participate in all of the winter fun that Austin area has to offer. My son just turned five and I feel like this is the perfect age to do all of the holiday activities. My husband, who often lacks Christmas spirit, doesn’t understand why I insist on attending so many events. I have to remind him that we only really get 18 holiday seasons with our sons while they are still children. Before we know it, they’ll be grown and too old to sit on Santa’s lap. It won’t be long until they prefer to do all the fun stuff with their friends instead of their parents. If you’re like me and are looking to maximize this holiday season with events and activities with your family, here is a list of our top picks for Austin area holiday fun.

December 10-29- Austin Trail of Lights: Believe it or not, I’ve lived in Austin long enough to remember when the Trail of Lights was a chill, not-terribly-crowded, citywide event. Unfortunately, that has changed, but its amazing displays and fun activities still make the Austin Trail of Lights a holiday must-do if you live in the area.

Daily Through January 5th- Mozart’s Light Show: Every year for the past 10 years, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters puts on a spectacular light show for Austinites to enjoy with their loved ones. This event starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. Mozart’s Light Show features over a million lights and a show consisting of your favorite tunes to get you into the holiday spirit. 

Wednesdays through Sundays until January 4th- 2019 Holiday Model Train Exhibit: Located in downtown Round Rock, these model trains are a fascinating spectacle for people of all ages to enjoy. The best part is that admission is free! There is no excuse for missing this beautifully intricate holiday exhibit.

December 14 through the New Year- 37th Street Lights: Self-proclaimed as, “The weirdest lights you will see this holiday season.” This one of Austin’s most iconic holiday displays. 

Through December 24th- Santa’s Jingle House: This is the perfect place to take pictures with Santa, decorate crafts or cookies, and even participate in special scavenger hunts. Visit their website for tickets and a full list of activities. 

Through December 29th- A Christmas Carol: Zach Theater is one of my favorite venues in Austin for live performances. The cozy, yet ample establishment is the perfect place to enjoy a holiday play such as A Christmas Carol, so come enjoy the famous works of Charles Dickens this winter with your family. The show is recommended for everyone ages six and up.

Where to Play Indoors

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Where to Play Indoors

Laura Standefer, Senior Fun Correspondent

July 29, 2019

The weather this summer has been hotter and wetter than ever, but we’re only halfway through summer break and the kids may be getting restless. If you and your kiddos need to get out and play, there are several places in the area where you can burn that energy while staying dry and cool. Here are some awesome Austin area hangout spots so that everyone can play indoors.

Catch Air is the perfect place for kids burn off energy. There are tons of things to jump, climb, and slide off of at both Catch Air locations in Round Rock and north Austin. Instead of them bouncing off the walls at home, have them bounce here! 

Splash Shack is the first indoor waterpark in the Austin area and it’s perfect for days where the weather just won’t cooperate. With multiple slides and water features, both kids and parents are going to have a splashin’ good time.

 

Thinkery is one of the most innovative and creative places to play in Austin. It’s easy to spend hours playing here, and there’s something for kids of all ages. 

Urban Air is an airconditioned oasis of fun. Whether you decide to sit back or jump in on the fun with the kids, you are guaranteed to walk out feeling like parent-of-the-year. Plus, they have locations in north AND south Austin.

Kid Spa has your back if you need to run to an appointment or a meeting. With locations in north and south Austin, Kid Spa’s drop-in care is highly recommended by many ATX moms.  

Almost Grown Play Cafe is perfect for the little ones while you work. There are tons of toys and costumes for them to try on. Even my extremely clingy four year-old left me alone for a few minutes because he was having so much fun playing. 

Almost Grown Cafe provides an experience that is truly out of this world.

Wanna Play Playcare also has multiple locations for your drop-in needs. Let those kids burn off some energy while you get stuff done! (Or while you do nothing at all, we don’t judge).  

Mt. Playmore: Enjoy the largest indoor playscape in central Texas! Mt. Playmore offers food, a special reptile program on Wednesdays, and hours upon hours of fun for kids of all ages. 

Little Land Play Gym isn’t like other play places. It’s not as overstimulating and it is very innovative. With toys, swings, and unique playing tools, Little Land is our go-to location for learning and fun.

Pinballz Arcade has several locations from north Austin to Buda. Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, Pinballz has arcade games for everyone. Their northernmost location even has extra fun indoor attractions such as go karts, laser tags, multiple bars, and more.

Go Kart racing at Pinballz Arcade

Best Austin Area Swimming Holes

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Best Austin Area

Swimming Holes  

Laura Standefer, Senior Summer Correspondent 

July 15, 2019

I was born on an island and being in the water is where I’m the happiest. Having lived in Central Texas for almost my whole life, I know the importance of our lakes, creeks, swimming holes, and even that neighborhood pond that people can’t seem to stay out of during summertime. If you and your family are looking to cool off sometime this summer (I mean, who isn’t?), there are several Austin area swimming holes that everyone can enjoy!

Blue Hole in Georgetown

Blue Hole in Georgetown

I particularly enjoy going to Blue Hole because of how kid-friendly it is. You can find free public parking at the corner of 3rd and Rock Street in the parking lot or the parking garage, then make the short hike down to the clean, refreshing water. Bathrooms and picnic benches are available and, while glass is not permitted, coolers are definitely allowed.

Deep Eddy Pool

Looks like a pool, but it’s actually a man-made swimming hole. Located downtown and basically on the river, Deep Eddy Pool is what locals are calling, “The Best Way to Spend a Hot Summer Day in Austin.” There is an admissions fee during the summer, but discounts are offered to residents.

Pedernales Falls

Located southwest of Austin in Johnson city, Pedernales Falls is the perfect place for hiking, kayaking, swimming, tubing, fishing, and even horseback riding. The best part? Free admission for children under 12! This swimming hole is beautiful and the drive out there will remind you of what Texas has to offer. Check out their website for more information and fun events, including their Junior Ranger program.

 

 Blue Hole in Wimberley 

Photo by: Kat Standefer Photography

Blue Hole in Wimberley

Can you keep a secret? Blue Hole in Georgetown is perfect for swimming and is typically not crowded, unlike everywhere else in the Austin area. Online reservations are mandatory and picnic tables can be reserved. Wimberley is one of my favorite get-away cities in Texas and its Blue Hole is just another reason to go back this summer.

Krause Springs

Krause Springs is the perfect place for a family day trip. Pack a cooler and enjoy the nature garden at the entrance, then jump into the refreshing waters via rope swing. If you’re having so much fun that you don’t want to go home, Krause Springs has an amazing on-site campground. Many memories have been made here, now it’s time for you to make some too!

Hamilton Pool

It feels weird to list swimming holes without mentioning Hamilton Pool. It’s probably the most popular swimming hole in central Texas and reservations are now required, but it’s is a strikingly beautiful place to spend the day. Located in Spicewood Springs, Hamilton Pool is a must see for visitors and locals alike. Please check the website to make sure that it’s open for swimming at the time of your visit.

Fourth of July in Austin

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Fourth of July in Austin

Laura Standefer, Senior Independence Day Correspondent

July 1, 2019

Austin is know for its three Fs: food, fun, and festivals. Independence Day is one of the most monumental moments in history and it’s no surprise that Austin knows how to celebrate. No matter where you live in the city, there are some amazing Fourth of July activities and festivals nearby. Check out these top July 4th event picks! 

H-E-B July 4th Concert & Fireworks
This is probably Austin’s most popular fourth of July event. Thousands of families gather downtown at Auditorium Shores to enjoy one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in Central Texas, accompanied by the majestic sounds of the The Austin Symphony. Transportation and parking is tricky, but you can find suggestions and more information on the festival here

4th of July Parade & Celebration at Milburn Park
This one is my personal favorite! I’ve been going to the fourth of July festival at Milburn park since I was seven years old! The festival has grown so much and now includes live music, food trucks, carnival games and rides, and an amazing fireworks show. For more information, click here

“Independence Day is one of the most monumental moments in history and it’s no surprise that Austin knows how to celebrate.”

Hutto 4th of July Celebration
On the other side of Wilco, the city of Hutto will host their second annual 4th of July celebration at Hutto Park at Brushy Creek. Their entertainment line up includes popular local bands such as Blue Water Highway, American Gypsy Band, and Treble Soul. Come before the fireworks show to enjoy kids activities and food trucks. The celebration starts at 5pm and you can find more information here

First Annual July 4th Festival at Doc’s Drive In
If you live further south, you may want to check out Doc’s first Annual July 4th Festival in Buda. They will have live music, kids activities, arts and crafts, BBQ, plus games and drinks from local wineries and breweries for grown ups. They also claim to have Buda’s best firework show, so I’m sure it’ll be worth checking out! The fun starts at 2pm and you can find more information here

2019 July 4th Fireworks Paddle
If you don’t want to deal with the crowds at Auditorium shores, make your way over to the Rowing Dock and you can see the fireworks show from your kayak on Lady Bird Lake. There are options for adults and children of all ages (no infants or dogs, though). They have a limited amount of kayaks get your tickets here today! 

Independence Day Festival at Hill Country Galleria
If you’re looking for some Independence Day fun in the Bee Cave area, the Hill Country Galleria will be holding a festival that will surely be a hit. Admission and parking is free, it’s dog friendly, and their music line up is looking pretty impressive. There will be rides, games, food, vendors, art, and, of course, fireworks! Click here for more info! 

Sertoma’s 36th Annual 4th of July Family Celebration in San Gabriel Park
This is one of the Austin area’s longest running Independence Day festivals and there will be plenty of activities for your family to enjoy starting at 11am. A few of the activities include bounce houses, a petting zoo, live music all day, plus plenty of food and drink options so you can keep the fun going. Make sure everyone can make it until 9:30 to witness the sensational “Fireworks Finale” provided by GWPyro. Here is all of the additional information you need! 

Using Your Local Austin Library for Summer Fun

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Using Your Local Austin Library for Summer Fun

Cecily Sailer, Guest Blogger

June 24, 2019

Summer presents a daunting childcare puzzle for parents: How do you keep kids engaged, learning, and having fun (for the whole summer!) without blowing the family budget?! For parents of toddlers and teens, the puzzle gets more puzzling, since many youth programs cater to the K-5 crowd. Look no further than the Austin Public Library, a fantastic resource for families seeking quality learning programs in various disciplines—for youth of all ages.

It’s worth noting that the Austin Public Library hosts a robust Summer Reading Program for children, teens, and adults—one that ventures light years beyond reading to encompass astronomy, theater, opera, film, nature, gaming, pop culture, and more. Anyone can attend Austin Public Library programs for free, though popular programs require advanced ticketing. You do not have to be an Austin Public Library card-holder to attend a program. (But if you live within the city limits, there’s truly no good reason not to have a library card.)

Library Programs for Toddlers

Kick off the summer with a parent-toddler dance party! Latin Grammy winners 123 Andrés will perform at the Central Branch on Sunday, June 9, at 1pm in the special events center. Enjoy beats and rhythms from all over Latin America!

https://www.123andres.com and http://library.austintexas.gov/event/123-andr-s-590417

The library’s Toddler Storytime series includes performative readings of favorite children’s books and early readers, but also songs, finger plays, and games for ages 18 months to 2 years. These programs can fill up, so it’s best to arrive early. Storytimes happen regularly at branches across Austin. Here’s the full schedule: http://library.austintexas.gov/event-tags/toddler-storytime Also check out Books and Babies, which meets June 4 and July 2 at 2pm at Milwood Branch.

If you have bilingual dreams for your little one, check out the library’s Dual Language Storytime in Spanish and English. This program isn’t specifically for toddlers, but caters to the 5 and under crowd. Storytellers speak in Spanish and English, and these events happen throughout the summer in branches across Austin. Here’s the full schedule: http://library.austintexas.gov/event-tags/spanish-dual-language-storytime

APL Studios helps teens learn how to write a screenplay, produce, film, edit, and market a movie. Led by Austin Film Society experts and guest instructors.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/apl-studios-594250

The Super Smash Bros. Wii U Tournament invites gamers to throw down in a summer-long seeded tournament that culminates with championship finals at the Central Library on August 14. Definitely pay attention to sign-up instructions if your teen wants to compete.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/super-smash-bros-wii-u-tournament-591520

K-Pop fans will go bonkers for the library’s K-Pop Idol Parties this summer. Learn dance moves, make K-Pop inspired crafts, and enjoy Korean snacks.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/k-pop-idol-party-594260

Cooking for the Cosmos allows teens to learn a simple dish and taste-test their creations.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/cooking-cosmos-594269

Problem-solvers and puzzle-lovers should grab tickets early to Library Escape Room: Return of the Demogorgon. Players must stop the Upside Down from spreading in pressurized game inspired by Stranger Things!

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/library-escape-room-594279

At the library’s Silent Rave, teens can slip on headphones and transform the quietest space in town into their own unique dance party—and switch between multiple DJs to create the perfect, personalized musical vibe.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/silent-rave-594283

Teens can also begin prepping for their future as a Twitch-streaming celebrity! (Look out, moms and dads!) Twitch Lab helps teens think about their online persona, build an audience, and develop a personal style.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/twitch-lab-594285

And don’t forget: Your Austin Public Library hosts an incredible number of programs that serve all of us in so many ways—whether we’re small business owners, kiddos seeking the perfect book, or parents wanting to expand our child’s experience of the world. If you want to learn it, the library probably can show you how!

Cecily Sailer is the programs and events director for The Library Foundation, which supports the Austin Public Library by raising money and awareness, and by offering unique programs within the library. The Library Foundation also hosts the Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp, which serves rising 3rd through 12th-graders.

APL Studios helps teens learn how to write a screenplay, produce, film, edit, and market a movie. Led by Austin Film Society experts and guest instructors.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/apl-studios-594250

The Super Smash Bros. Wii U Tournament invites gamers to throw down in a summer-long seeded tournament that culminates with championship finals at the Central Library on August 14. Definitely pay attention to sign-up instructions if your teen wants to compete.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/super-smash-bros-wii-u-tournament-591520

K-Pop fans will go bonkers for the library’s K-Pop Idol Parties this summer. Learn dance moves, make K-Pop inspired crafts, and enjoy Korean snacks.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/k-pop-idol-party-594260

Cooking for the Cosmos allows teens to learn a simple dish and taste-test their creations.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/cooking-cosmos-594269

Problem-solvers and puzzle-lovers should grab tickets early to Library Escape Room: Return of the Demogorgon. Players must stop the Upside Down from spreading in pressurized game inspired by Stranger Things!

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/library-escape-room-594279

At the library’s Silent Rave, teens can slip on headphones and transform the quietest space in town into their own unique dance party—and switch between multiple DJs to create the perfect, personalized musical vibe.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/silent-rave-594283

Teens can also begin prepping for their future as a Twitch-streaming celebrity! (Look out, moms and dads!) Twitch Lab helps teens think about their online persona, build an audience, and develop a personal style.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/twitch-lab-594285

And don’t forget: Your Austin Public Library hosts an incredible number of programs that serve all of us in so many ways—whether we’re small business owners, kiddos seeking the perfect book, or parents wanting to expand our child’s experience of the world. If you want to learn it, the library probably can show you how!

Cecily Sailer is the programs and events director for The Library Foundation, which supports the Austin Public Library by raising money and awareness, and by offering unique programs within the library. The Library Foundation also hosts the Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp, which serves rising 3rd through 12th-graders.

 

Tips for Creating an Awesome Indoor Fort

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Tips for Creating an Awesome Indoor Fort

HappiFamli, Senior Fort Building Correspondent

June 3, 2019

When was the last time you built a fort? It’s been quite a few years for me. I remember making them as a kid and how much I loved having my own little “house” that no one else was allowed into. If you didn’t grow up building them, or if it’s just been a long time, here are some tips to making an awesome fort! 

Pick the Right Spot 

If your fort is awesome, you’re going to want to keep it up for at least a few days and you’ll probably spend quite a bit of time inside of it. You won’t want to build it at the dining table if you’re going to have to tear it down at dinnertime. You also won’t want to build a fort covered pillows and blankets somewhere that can get too warm, like the garage. Pick a spot that’s comfortable and out of the way!

Get the Right Building Materials

For a good old-fashioned fort, you’re going to need pillows, blankets, clips, rubber bands and a sturdy foundation like a couch, table, or some chairs. You can even buy large clamps at Home Depot or Amazon for added support. If you’re not able to build off of furniture, simply tie a string (something thick like nylon or wine) from one wall to another and put large, lightweight blankets or comforters over it! An example of this can be found on Pinterest here! 

Make it Cozy 

The more comfortable your fort is, the more time you and your kids will be able to to stay and enjoy it. My son has a store-bought teepee fort that I am currently boycotting because it’s made out of thick canvas with no windows. I can’t stand the heat and stuffiness, so I’d rather just make a homemade fort with him! We make sure to leave small openings for ventilation and use mats, couch cushions, sleeping bags, or rugs to make the flooring super comfortable. And of course, the more pillows the better.

 

“And of course, the more pillows, the better.”

Equip it for its Purpose   

Think about what you’re going to do in your fort. This could be your new hangout spot or reading nook. Make sure you have plenty of room and grab everything you need so you never have to leave again. My son’s forts usually contain every stuffed animal he owns and books. However, if we’re having a sleepover with our cousins, we make sure to include an air mattress, sleeping bags, flashlights, a food tray, snacks, drinks, board games, nerf guns (to protect them from possible intruders, of course!), and, sometimes, a laptop for movies.  

Make it Your Own 

There are several ways you can personalize your new cozy hideout. Have your kids name the fort and design a sign or a flag to let everyone know that it’s their territory now. You can build your fort with old, light-colored sheets and just grab some fabric markers to decorate it all over! Kids will love the fact that their fort expresses their personality and it will keep them busy too! 

 Create an Ambiance That You’ll Love 

I’m a sucker for string lights because they can instantly transform some place boring into a place that’s cute, trendy, and relaxing. They’re perfect for pillow forts since they remind us of being outside under the stars, without having to actually be outside. Kids will also enjoy hanging up their art and lining up the walls with their stuffed animals to remind them that they are in good company. If you’re looking for a more sophesticated and chic fort, use colorful patterned sheets and pillows, or hang up a few bohemian-style garlands and, of course, some string lights.