Austin with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day
With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and a Texas-sized dose of tween-scene activities, Austin has it all for that perfect family vacation day.
Begin your day by getting an early start (and a sugar rush) at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Boulevard, Austin, TX 78703; 512-477-2900). Located in Oyster Landing on Lake Austin, Mozart's with its sprawling decks and ample lakeside seating puts you eye-to-eye with enormous, gape-mouthed catfish that will charm even the most jaded tween. Mozart's offers fresh-baked, melt-in-your-mouth scones and muffins bursting with fresh seasonal fruit, plus -- for the parents -- there is fresh-roasted coffee.
When you're in Austin with tweens, you can burn off some of your breakfast's sugar with a mid-morning romp at the Main Event (13301 N Highway 183 # A, Austin, TX 78750; 512-401-0000), which offers everything from bowling and laser tag to billiards. Tweens 48 inches or more in height can start with a neon blast of laser tag in the black-light arena. Others may prefer hitting the arcade or the rock-climbing walls. Prices vary depending on the activity, with specials and coupons available on the Main Event's website.
Now that they've worked off the breakfast, it's time to wind down with a mid-morning walk on the wild side at the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature & Science Center (301 Nature Center Drive Austin, TX 78746; 512-327-8180). Here, tweens can explore enormous casts of, among others, the Alamosaurus sanjuanensis (one of the largest land animals to lumber along the Earth), the Scimitar-toothed Cat and the American Mastodon. Even better, admission is free.
Cool off with lunch at Shady Grove (1624 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704; 512-474-9991), a fun, funky Austin original nestled in, well, a shady grove on Barton Springs Road. Tweens may get a kick out of the Hippie Trailer, where you can hang out until lunch comes. The patio sports an old jukebox, which the kids will most likely enjoy -- at least until they see that their parents are enjoying it even more. Specialties at Shady Grove include their super-crunchy fried chicken and Tortilla Fried Queso Catfish, a crispy, tortilla-crusted fried catfish that will have the kids drooling. Both entrees are around $10.
Work off lunch with a trip to Barton Springs Pool (2101 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704; 512-476-9044). This spring-fed natural wonder is three acres in size and dotted with diving boards -- and stairs and ladders for getting in and out. No matter how hot the weather, the springs are a refreshing (read: freezing cold!) 68 degrees, so expect to hear shrieks as the kids jump in. Hey, it builds character and on a hot day, you can't beat the springs for a big cool down. Adult admission is $3, $2 for kids 12-17 and $1 for children ages 11 and under.
Wrap up the day by settling into a peach- and melon-colored sunset after a hike up 100 steps to the 785-feet peak of Mount Bonnell (3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive, Austin, TX 78731). From here, the evening cityscape spreads below like a glittering carpet, intersected by the sparkling blue ribbon of Lake Austin. Watch the evening shadows of ski boats and kayaks meandering along the lake as the sun goes down -- the perfect end to a perfect day in Austin with tweens.
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