- October 30, 2013

The People’s Gallery & 2nd Street District


Several times during the summer, my boys and I talked about taking the metro train downtown to go to the Austin Children’s Museum, and we just never got around to doing it. I was afraid it would be a long, hot walk for the boys, and I just kept putting it off. And now, of course, the museum is no longer in that location. So, I was recently thinking of other places to explore downtown and decided on the 2nd Street District. I’d been wanting to check out the People’s Gallery, and now that the weather is perfect for walks, I figured it’d be a great time to go.

My youngest son recently turned four and is at a perfect stage for outings because he thinks everything is especially exciting, and he is still game for riding in a stroller if needed. So we headed out to ride Capitol Metro Rail to the downtown station. A local ride ticket for me was only $1 each way, and children five and under are free. So this fun way in and out of the city was likely a cheaper option than even feeding a parking meter! (For schedules and info, visit the Capitol Metro Rail website.)

Riding the train would have probably been enough of an adventure for my son on it’s own, but it was extra fun to have a destination in mind. We headed to City Hall (at 301 W. 2nd Street), which took about 10 minutes to walk (with my son in a stroller). Just enjoying the sights and sounds of the city provided lots of entertaining on the way.

The People’s Gallery:

When I previously heard about the People’s Gallery, I wasn’t sure about any of the details of this non-museum location or what to expect from the art on display. And I wondered if it was really okay to take my kids inside City Hall and browse around? But yes, it’s really open to the public, and it’s worth a visit!

Inside City Hall, the Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Growth & Redevelopment Services Office presents the People’s Gallery exhibition each year. From more than 1000 local entries, they selected artwork from 241 local artists to be on display through January 9, 2014, after which they will begin to switch out the exhibit for a new selection. You can find a guide to the People’s Gallery up on the 2nd floor, or click here to view it before you go. The exhibition is FREE to visit and viewing hours are M-F, 8am-5pm. Upon entering City Hall, you will need to go through a security check, and it’s a good time to remind to the kids to use their “library voices” and quiet walking feet so as not to disturb those working inside the building.

After our visit inside City Hall, we made a few fun stops in the area. Here are a few suggestions of what do with kids in Austin’s 2nd Street District:

1. Say Hello to Willie

Austinites hold a special place in their hearts for our own Willie Nelson. Spark up a conversation with your kids about Austin’s vibrant music culture, and wave hello to Willie’s statue outside of the Austin City Limits Studio at the W Austin Hotel. And if you want to education your little ones even further about local music, you can stop into the Music Rocks store across the street for some unique browsing and shopping.

2. Refuel at Austin Java

If you or your kiddos are in need of a bite to eat, pop into Austin Java located in the northeast corner of City Hall. If you time things right, your kids can eat there for FREE on Mondays-Wednesdays after 3pm. Of course, there are lots of other delicious spots to explore in this area, too!

3. Browse Toy Joy

While my family was initially sad when Toy Joy moved farther from our neck of the woods into their newer downtown location, the store is still the same — stocked with a big selection of wacky, silly toys that Toy Joy has always been known for.

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Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 4, 5, and 7), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. Browse her literacy-focused kids activities on her blog, Read ‘Em and Leap.