Austin Children's Museum 201 Colorado ST Austin, Texas 78701 Hours: Closed Major Holidays Tue-Sat 10:00am5:00pm Sundays 12:00pm-5:00pm Wed (Community Night) 5:00pm-8:00pm (Admission by Donation - $1 Suggested) Regular Admission: Adults & Children 2 and Older - $6 Children 12-24 Months - $4.50 Under 12 months Free
The Austin Children's Museum in downtown Austin is a popular year round destination for families taking Austin vacations as well as for locals on the lookout for fun Austin activities for the kids. The museum caters to kids under 12, and draws approximately 200,000 visitors each year.
The success and brilliance of the museum is based on its underlying premise that children learn best by playing.
And with more than 12500 square feet of display space featuring both permanent and temporary exhibits for children of various age levels, there are lots of opportunities for playing and learning.
Exhibits at the Austin Children's Museum
The Permanent Exhibits at the Children's Museum in Austin are some of its most popular features:
Funstruction Zone - This three level exhibit provides kids with various construction-related activities as they don hard hats and construction vests to working with tools and a lever-based backhoe:
Global City Featuring 8 different interrelated role playing stations from a diner and grocery to a pet clinic and dairy where they can milk the beloved Missy Moo Moo (named years ago by one of the museum's young visitors).
Global City Train The Global City Train Depot is technically part of the Global City exhibit, but it's such a popular attraction at the Austin Childrens Museum that it deserves special recognition. Kids love to track the train, either by following it along the overhead track that meanders throughout the museum, or via the upstairs train depot display terminal where they can blow its whistle and send it back on its way for another run.
Rising Star Ranch A safe and interactive area for the two and under crowd with local and regional themes, the miniature fenced-off area includes a pecan tree, frog pond, wildflower bed, and ranch house and barn. Great place for the little ones to explore without getting trampled on by the bigger ones:
En Mi Familia/In My Family This interactive exhibit features the work of artist Carmen Loman Garza and is a celebration of diversity and family traditions.
Tinkerer's Workshop Designed with the older kids in mind (5-11), the Tinkerer's Workshop allows kids to use their natural ingenuity and creativity and design, engineer, and test their own creations. Can pigs fly? The jury's still out on that one, but at the Austin Children's Museum they can parachute at least:
The current Featured Exhibit at the Austin Children's Museum (Summer 2010) is The Big Game. This fun and interactive exhibit features oversized versions of popular games and gives kids experience with scale. Have the game pieces become giant, or have the children shrunk?
Baby Bloomers The museum is closed to the general public on Mondays, but instead offers their Baby Bloomer program on Monday mornings. The program features story time, a singalong (sometimes with special guest) and occasionally a Spanish workshop. There are seperate member and non-member admission prices, but admission does include admission to the rest of the museum.
Chiquitos Spanish Workshops Please check the ACM website for scheduling. These fun and playful workshops take place on Monday mornings and are geared toward children from infancy all the way through preschool. Advanced registration is required and the workshops last a little less than an hour.
Community Night Wednesday nights are Community Night at the Austin Children's Museum. Perfect for working parents or families just looking for something different to do to entertain the kids on a week night, on Community Night, the museum stays open until 8:00 pm and reduces its admission to a $1 suggested donation level per person. In addition to all the exhibits, a storytime is also featured.
Engineering Saturdays Throughout the school year, on select Saturdays, kids can get a special treat included in the price of admission as UT engineering students (or other related disciplines) visit the museum and work with the kids on various projects (e.g. specialized paper airplanes, wind-cars, etc.)
Science Sundays Another program during the school year included with admission, Science Sundays is an afternoon program featuring special outside guest volunteers (National Instruments, UT students, St. Edwards students, and more) providing hands-on learning experiences on a wide variety of scientific topics.
Gingerbread House Workshops A seasonal offering throughout the month of December, this fun workshop lets you and your kids assemble and decorate your own gingerbread house. Admission to workshop also includes admission to the rest of the museum. Reservation/registration is required, I believe, so definitely check out the ACM website for more details and the schedule as its announced. Reserving private Gingerbread House parties for your group or organization is also available.
Austin Summer Camp (and Spring Break) Programs ACM offers both on-site half day camps for 4-6 year olds and full day camps for 7-10 year olds (some of the 7-10 year old camps include field trips). There are a wide variety of these week-long camps with themes that range from invention and science to animals and cooking. A full day off-site Robotic Camp is also available for two age groups: Grades 1-2 and Grades 3-5.
Sleepovers Sleepovers at the Austin Children's Museum is primarily for schools or other group organizations since there's a required minimum attendance of 50 to reserve the museum overnight. The museum does provide pizza dinner and breakfast the next morning along with several sleepover themes from dinosaurs and bats to sock hops and theatre.
Girl Scout Workshops and Sleepovers Coordinated by the Girl Scouts, the museum offers special Brownie Troupe Try It workshops and Girl Scout sleepovers throughout the year.
Outreach Programs - ACM also participates in various outreach programs such as the Community Night program on Wednesday nights providing evening access to the museum and reduced admission. And with its Open Door Policy, any family may visit the museum for free upon request. ACM also participates in the annual Dia de los Niρos-Dia de los Libros, an annual bilingual event celebrating reading and families organized by the Austin Public Library system.
Parking at the Austin Children's Museum
I remember back in the good ol' days last century when street parking in downtown Austin was a somewhat reasonable prospect. Alas! that innocent 20th century is long gone. The price of 21st century progress is parking garages but really, it's a good trade.
OK - technically, you might get lucky and find some metered street parking (free on weekends) in the area, but realistically, a parking garage is the way to go.
And when it comes to parking garages at or near the Austin Children's Museum, you've got a couple of good choices. There are two AMLI parking garages on 2nd Street, one directly across the street from the musuem (between Colorado ST and Lavaca ST, to the west) and another one just two additional blocks west of the first garage between Guadalupe ST and San Antonio ST.
The good news is that ACM visitors (with validated ticket) pay reduced parking in the AMLI parking garages ($3 for ACM members, $4 for non-members).
Additionally, on weekends, before 5:00 pm, parking at the nearby City Hall parking garage is free. All other hours are paid. That garage is accessed from Lavaca ST (one block west of the museum) between 2nd ST and Cesar Chavez ST (equivalent to 1st ST).
Three other observations/notes:
For individual families, your best bet to avoid the field trip crowds during the school year (as you can imagine, the Austin Children's Museum is a very popular field trip destination) is to visit the museum on the first Tuesday of the month (aka No Tour Tuesday). Afternoons are a bit safer as well.
There's no cafeteria or restaurant on site, so you might want to make meal plans ahead of time and there are plenty of great choices when it come to downtown or near downtown Austin restaurants.
As tempting as it may be, dropping the kids off at the museum for a few hours while you run errands or take a much needed break isn't allowed. All children must be accompanied by an adult during regular admission visits.
Map - Austin Children's Museum
201 Colorado ST
Austin, Texas 78701