You all know very well that summer time in Austin is best served two ways: in the water and in the air conditioning. Here’s a list of 25 free places you can visit so you can enjoy the latter, while your kids get a little entertainment in. These aren’t just limited to summer though…. Enjoy them year round!
- Lakeline Mall – Just in front of Dillard’s (on the north side of the mall) is an enclosed, carpeted play area with a clubhouse and lots of low play structures. See a map of the mall here. (11200 Lakeline Mall Dr, Cedar Park)
- Apple Store – The Apple Store in the Domain has iPads for kids to play on while Mom and Dad check out all the gadgets. (11410 Century Oaks Terrace)
- Microsoft Store – Kids can play video games in the Domain location while parents browse. The Microsoft store is next to Macy’s, across from Z Gallerie. (3309 Esperanza Crossing, Ste 104)
- REI Round Rock – This massive outdoor activity store has a little play area on the third floor, to encourage young explorers. (201 University Oaks Blvd, Round Rock)
- IKEA Småland – Drop your kids off for free and enjoy an hour of child-free shopping. Småland features a forest like atmosphere with small play structures, a ball pit, and even a movie. It’s intended for kids age 4 – 10, and they must be potty trained. (1 Ikea Way, Round Rock)
- Barnes & Noble – Build with LEGO Duplo at the Homestead location by Lakeline Mall (14010 US Hwy 183). The La Frontera (2701 Parker Rd) and Arboretum (10000 Research Blvd) locations have train tables in their children’s sections. Also, check out the stores’ events calendars to find a story time near you.
- BabyEarth Round Rock – Let kids enjoy the play area, with toys and a little kitchen, then head over to the real kitchen for a cup of complimentary coffee or tea. Be sure to check out the store’s events calendar as well. BabyEarth offers a wide variety of classes and playgroups. (106 E Old Settlers Blvd D-100, Round Rock)
- Austin Science and Nature Center – Explore the indoor Naturalist Workshop and bring something to swap at the Trade Counter. There is also a small, man-made cave to walk through, inside the visitor’s pavilion. (301 Nature Center Dr)
- State Capitol Visitors Center – Head upstairs to check out the exhibits, which include a short movie and the opportunity to play dress up! You can also make reservations to take a free tour of the Capitol.
- Nature’s Treasures – Visit this super-cool rock and fossil store and sit in a crystal geode! (4103 North IH-35)
- BookPeople – Has your child discovered the tunnel under the story time seating area? There are also plenty of nooks for reading books to be found. In the summer, you can pick up a passport at BookPeople and go hunt for Waldo in stores around town. (603 N. Lamar)
- Texas Military Forces Museum – Tanks, and jeeps, and helicopters, oh my! Some vehicles you can even climb in. Closed on Mondays. (Camp Mabry, 35th Street, west of Mopac)
- Cabela’s – Take a virtual trip around the world, taxidermy style, and explore the aquarium at this huge store in Buda. (15570 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd, Buda)
- La Patisserie – This French bakery features a (very) small, gated indoor play area for babies and toddlers. (602 W. Annie St)
- LEGO Store – The Barton Creek Square Mall location offers an area for kids to sit and build some new creations. On the first Tuesday of each month, starting at 5 p.m., take part in a free monthly mini model build. (2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy)
- Callahan’s General Store – Callahan’s is a great place to visit with kids. On Saturdays you’ll find pens of baby farm animals out in front of the store and just inside, for kids to watch and pet. (501 Bastrop Highway / 183 S.)
- Apple Store – The Apple Store in Barton Creek Square Mall has iPads for kids to play on while Mom and Dad check out all the gadgets. (2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy)
- Barnes & Noble – The Hill Country Galleria (12701 Hill Country Blvd, Ste O-140, Bee Cave) and Sunset Valley (5601 Brodie Ln) locations have train tables in their children’s sections. Also, check out their events calendar to find a story time near you.
- Learning Express Toys – Kids can play at the train table or art table, while parents shop for toys. (12901 Hill Country Blvd., Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave)
- Brilliant Sky Toys and Books – Kids will enjoy the play area. If you time it right, they can also check out a story time or Music with Mr. Will. Visit the Facebook page to keep up with their events.
We know there are many more family friendly local spots to find air conditioned entertainment. Where do you take your child to escape the heat? The library? A restaurant? The pet store? We’d love to hear your favorites!