Mueller Lake Park & Playground

Popular, convenient, and big park in the heart of Mueller District

4550 Mueller Blvd, Austin, TX 78723

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

Let’s face it, if you have kids, you probably know about the Mueller neighborhood in Central Austin. The parks and trails alone are reasons enough to visit with your kids and family. Mueller has multiple parks, open space, and trails that interconnect within the community. 

Sitting at the center of Mueller is the Mueller Lake Park. Sitting on 30 acres, the park site includes the Mueller Center information, Mueller Lake, amphitheater and stage, picnic tables, loop trails, and of course the interactive playscape. Today’s article will be focused on just the playground.

(*we’ll be publishing multiple articles to cover Mueller so please come back in the future!)

How to get there

Map

Where to Park

You do have several options for parking in close proximity to the playground: parking lot, parking garage, and street parking. However, as the Mueller community continues to grow, it’s getting more difficult to find a spot easily but also depends on when you go.

There is a dedicated parking lot right next to the playground; however, it’s relatively small and fills up quickly. While there is also street parking surrounding the playground, be aware of street signs that are either 1) paid parking spots or 2) reserved for those with a residential pass. There are a few spots through-out Mueller that is still free to park; however, you’ll most likely have to walk a further distance. And if you are in a hurry and don’t mind paying, there’s always the McBee Parking Garage located by the Alamo Drafthouse Movie Theater and the Thinkery Museum.

Playground Area Amenities at Mueller Park

Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’ll be first greeted by a lovely, mystical statue of Nessie outside the main entrance to the playground. The playground area is entirely gated and there are 3 entrances; however, be mindful that some people don’t close the gate behind them and the gates are sometimes left open – it doesn’t automatically shut. And while there isn’t a large tarp covering the playground area, you’ll find plenty of shade due to multiple trees and the flooring is a mix of mostly mulch and pavement. The playground area overall is big but small enough to keep your eyes on your kids playing even if they are on opposite sides. Other playground features include multiple picnic tables, benches, two playground structures: one built for toddlers and a second one designed for older kids, baby swings, larger swings, a merry-go-round (however, it’s not a traditional merry-go-round and was a little tough to push to get momentum), and a bathroom on-site, water fountains, and trash cans.

Toddler Playground

One of our favorite things about this playground is that it’s very toddler-friendly! Our 2 year old really enjoyed coming here. The very first thing he wanted to try was the larger, circular swings. While not completely unique to this playground, you won’t find this is every playground park. 

The toddler-size playground features 1 slide, a set of stairs with interactive activities along the walls, a small hammock-like plastic swing, and a large climbing rope structure. The park does feature 2 baby/toddler swings next to 2 larger swings. 

Larger Playground

The larger playground features 2 slides (one is metal – so I would test it before letting your kid slide down – at least if the big Texas sun is blazing while you’re there), a taller staircase with interactive walls, and lots and lots of climbing obstacles (rock wall and rope), and another hammock-like structure. Our 2-year old was a little intimidated to play on the larger playground but did enjoy climbing up and down the stairs and peeking through the holes.

As parents of a small toddler, we noted that the stairs were narrow making it less convenient for parents to follow along and the height of the platform next to the tallest slide was high and there is not much blocking a child from taking a tumble off the edge. Parents of older kids didn’t seem to blink at this but it gave us pause due to an incident where an older cousin pushed our kiddo off of a similar platform.

Restrooms at Mueller Lake Park

There is a separate men’s and women’s restroom close by the playground along with a water fountain.

Bottom Line: Is the playground at Mueller Lake Park a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Yes, yes, and yes! While it may get crowded at times, it’s another trip-worthy playground to take your kids to.

Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller

Food, drink, and fun right by Mueller Lake

Browning Hangar, 4209 Airport Blvd. Austin, Texas 78722



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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

About the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller

What was once an airport, Mueller is now known as a modern, family-friendly, developed community that has something for everyone. Head over to the Browning Hangar on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings and you’ll stumble upon a local gem – the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller. 

The Texas Farmers’ Market is organized by a non-profit and is a producer-only (vendors can only sell things they produce themselves) market that helps support local farmers and businesses and a great way for local Austinites to shop for the freshest ingredients.

Texas Farmers’ Market – Mueller

Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller

Open Sundays (Rain or Shine) from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Address: At the “Browning Hangar” 4209 Airport Blvd., Austin, TX 78722

Website: https://sustainablefoodcenter.org/programs/sfc-farmers-market/sfc-farmers-market-downtown

Parking at the Texas Farmers’ Market Mueller

The Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller has a great central Austin location with plenty of parking options. The good news is that there is FREE parking available in Mueller, the not-so-good news is that it’s limited and might not be the closest. There is a small parking lot off of Airport by the Hangar and another small parking lot closer to the Mueller Lake Playground that are both free and within walking distance to the Farmers’ Market.

There is also street parking, however, with Mueller rapidly growing, be aware of parking meters (i.e. some might require a residential permit) and when you have to pay. (Sundays are always free.)

However, if you don’t want to search for parking – there is the McBee Parking Garage located by the Thinkery and Alamo Drafthouse that charges $1 an hour and a maximum of $10 for the day.

Parking Map Photo Credit: https://texasfarmersmarket.org/

Things to Do at the Texas Farmers’ Market Mueller

As mentioned in our SFC Farmers’ Market posts, we love to shop at Farmers’ Market because not only are we supporting local farmers, but we’re able to support a sustainable process for our groceries.

What’s especially unique about the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller is all the family-friendly things to do surrounding the market. You literally can spend an entire day with the family in Mueller enjoying the playground, the lake, the market, and visit the several shops and restaurants in the area. (Not to mention Mueller is home to Austin’s Children’s Museum – the Thinkery.) It’s one of our favorite ways to spend time with our kids outdoors.

Texas Farmers’ Market – Mueller – Vendors

You can find everything from groceries such as organic, grass-fed meats, organic produce, local honey to non-edible products like lavender, soaps, and candles. You can even find homemade dog treats! And let’s not forget the plethora of local eats. (With options for gluten-free and vegans!) You can find a complete list of market vendors here.

The Most Kid-Friendly Farmers’ Market in Austin

Aside from the location and the proximity to the playground, the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller is (in my opinion) the most kid-friendly market in town. Not only do they have dedicated vendors that’ll attract kids, they also have a tent space in the middle of the market just for kids to play (typically large Lego blocks) and also have live music (on Sundays).

When we’ve gone, they also had a face-painting booth, Tiny Tails Petting Zoo, and pony rides.

We’ve also went to the Fermentation Festival – an annual festival they host in October all about fermented foods with workshops, panel discussions, and delicious samples! Check their events page to see what’s coming up.

Other Family Tips

Here are some other tips to consider while you’re visiting the Texas Farmers’ Market in Mueller with your family:

  • Like other farmers’ markets, the aisles are fairly narrow. You can get away with a small single stroller. Leave the big and double strollers at home.
  • There are on-site portable toilets with water to wash hands, but it’s still a good idea to bring wipes!

Bottom Line: Is the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Yes! I believe it’s a great place for both toddlers and older kids. Not only is there a lot to do, there’s a lot to see, and eat!

Bartholomew District Park

Playground and splashpad along with a separate pool and sports complex near Mueller

5201 Berkman Dr, Austin, TX 78723

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

Bartholomew District Park is a large park in East Austin, just North of the Mueller area. There is a playground, splash pad, and reservable pavilion at the NW most tip of the park right off of Berkman and Greenbrook Parkway, a municipal pool on 51st just East of Berkman, and a roller derby track/disc golf park on 51st near Tilley Street. This park is spread out!

Map

Playground at Bartholomew District Park

There are two separate playscapes at Bartholomew Park, one aimed at toddlers while the other is mostly for older kids. Both sections have some shade elements and bark mulch bases.

Toddler Playground

The toddler playground includes a few slides, some climbing sections, and a few interactive noisemakers along with baby swings.

Larger Playground

The larger section of the playground includes bigger swings and slides and a playscape generally more enjoyable for the older kiddos with monkey bars, obstacles to climb and spinning seats.

Bartholomew Pool

We didn’t get to check the pool out as it was closed during the winter holidays but it appears that at least the lap pool is heated as hours have been posted for January.

From the outside, we’re able to see a lot of water features for the kids along with a wading pool for the youngsters as well as a lap pool.

Other Features

Bartholomew District Park’s Pavilion 

There is a reservable pavilion near the playground, right next to the splash pad. We had great luck reserving the space for a baby shower a few years ago. It was very convenient for us as kiddos in the group got to play nearby, within eyesight of adults at the pavilion.

Nature Trail:

While there are some trails throughout Bartholomew park, we wouldn’t state this as a strong suit. We didn’t find a trail connecting the playground to the pool, or to any other sections of the park for that matter. It appears you’d have to make your own trail or hop back in the car and get back onto streets to get to other sections of the park in a short amount of time. Trees are also relatively sparse in much of this park so it’s not quite as scenic as, say, Garrison Park.

Parking 

The parking lot at the playground is small, a little awkwardly shaped, had many potholes, standing water and is unpaved (not very stroller-friendly). It’s a popular park for parties and barbeques so it’s been generally crowded on the occasions we visited. It’s not our favorite parking lot at a park but it gets the job done for the most part.

The parking lot at the pool is much bigger, paved and striped, and well maintained and provides easy access to the pool. The sports complex and roller derby/disc golf sections have small, basic parking lots that seem to get the job done.

Restrooms at Bartholomew Park

We didn’t visit the bathrooms at this park.

Bottom Line: Is Bartholomew Park a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Our kids have had a great time at the playground and then cooling off at the splash pad, we’ve hosted a successful baby shower at the pavilion, and it’s generally less crowded than the park at Mueller Lake. For all these reasons along with all other things this park has to offer, we have to say it’s worth a visit.

The separate pool looks like a fantastic offering with a lot of fun attractions for the kiddos. We’ll visit soon!

Dick Nichols District Park and Pool

Explore the vast amenities at this SW Austin park with a pool and playground.

8011 Beckett Rd, Austin, TX 78749

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

We visited Dick Nichol’s playground on a warm Saturday morning in January when the pool was closed but the playground was hopping. The park’s many rows or parking were nearly at capacity on this beautiful day and all the park’s amenities aside from the pool were being used.

Map

Playground at Dick Nichols Park

Our 2 and a half-year-old had a blast swinging, sliding and climbing at the playground. The majority of the playground is pretty toddler-friendly with several baby swings, a fairly low-to-the-ground playscape, and a mix of slide heights.

A few things that stood out to us for the younger kiddos:

•There is one baby swing that is attached to a flat seat that a parent can sit on and swing with their little one. Our youngster loved this but it wasn’t all that comfortable for me (sitting was nice instead of standing tho) so we switched to one of the regular baby swings.

•There are quite a few interactive elements to the playscape including plastic drums to bang on, things that made noise when spun, cranked, turned, or rotated and a pretty neat interactive music board. Touch a button to change instrument sound from keyboard to guitar to trumpet, or animal sounds and there were buttons to play about 10 different notes.

Older kids seemed to be having a blast on a spinning seat, bigger swings and just generally climbing on the playscape.

The Pools

The pools were not open when we visited in January but the facilities look awesome from the outside looking in. There are several lifeguard chairs, lane markers, a deep pool, a medium depth pool, and a wading pool.

Other things to do

There’s definitely a lot to do at Dick Nichol’s Park. We were impressed when we saw the sand volleyball courts along with a paved volleyball court. In addition, there is a basketball court, several tennis courts, and plenty of open space to run and play. We happened to get to see a pretty serious Quidditch game being played when we went!

Pavilion / Reservable Space

The pavilion is large, covered, has plenty of trash cans and is very convenient to the playground and some of the other fields like for volleyball (both sand and court) and tennis courts.

We thought it was great to see another section of picnic tables in a different section of the park, closer to the parking lot, that indicated it was also reservable. This section does not have a structure covering it but it appears to be shaded most of the day due to all the nearby trees.

Parking 

The parking lot is pretty huge with some shaded spots. While those with small cars may appreciate the several rows of compact only spots, we found them slightly annoying as the majority of spots large enough for family vehicles were occupied. Overall, though, there are a lot of parking spots.

Restrooms

The restrooms were clean and bright. While there was toilet paper, there was no soap and no changing table in either restroom.

Other Tips for the Playing at Dick Nichols District Park

Nature Trail:

There are several gravel trails around the park but the main attraction that many people were taking advantage of was the paved trail going around the park. We saw everything from strollers and walkers to bikes and rollerbladers taking advantage of the wide and often shaded trail.

Bottom Line: Is Dick Nichols Park and Pool a Good Place to Take the family?

We thought this was a great park for the wide variety that it offered, plentiful parking and great trails. We can’t wait to go back in the summer to check out the deep pool (8′), shallow pool (wading up to 3′), and the splash pad.

With something for pretty much everyone, this is a great park for all ages.

Garrison Park & Municipal Pool

A popular park due to it’s swimming pool that’s not Barton Springs, not cold and (usually) not crowded.

6001 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX 78745

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Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Summary

Garrison Park is an excellent choice for families looking to stay cool during the summer due to the large lap pool, toddler pool, lifeguard, and tons of shade. The gravel trails, large parking lot, and young-kid-friendly playground are a great bonus and help make this a park worth visiting year-round, especially if you have toddlers.

Older kids will love the pool during the summer but if the pool is closed due to seasonality (it’s only open during the warm months), they may get bored pretty quickly unless they happen to enjoy playing basketball or running/riding around on the fairly short trails.

There is a reservable pavilion that is great for hosting get-togethers and there are water fountains, benches and some BBQ grills throughout.

While we visited, we did notice several dogs off-leash but the park was big enough and the owners were attentive enough that we never felt like there could be a run-in with our babies.

Overall, we had a lot of fun at the park and think most families with young kiddos will experience the same.

Map

Cost

There is a charge to use the pool. At the time of this review, the price to use the pool was as follows and does not appear to change often but please check the park’s pool website before you go to make sure it is open and to check current pricing.

Resident cost:

free (11 months and younger)

$1 (ages 1-11, seniors)

$2 (ages 12-17), $3 (18 and older);

Nonresident cost:

free (11 months and younger)

$2 (ages 1-11, seniors)

$3 (age 12-17)

$4 (18 and older).

Bottom Line: Is the playground and pool at Garrison Park & Municipal Pool a Good Place to Take the Kids?

garrison-park-toddler-playscape

Yes! Garrison District Park and Municipal Pool is a great place to visit with the family. With a large pool and fields and courts for games along with the fact that the park is often less crowded than the better known Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy, this is a great destination to go with the family.

Mandola’s Italian Market – William Cannon

Kid-friendly Italian food, free kid’s gelato, playscape, and more!

4301 West William Cannon Drive, Dr E-1, Austin, TX 78749



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Directions

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Playground Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Map

The Food

The menu was fairly large and included options for various diet restrictions, including gluten-free noodles and options for the kiddos including spaghetti (including an option with butter instead of sauce), fettuccine alfredo, pizza, and even chicken fingers. There are also family style dishes and desserts which can serve large groups.

Our oldest kiddo has always been happy about ending his meal with a free scoop of gelato that comes with his children’s plate. We’ve been three times and each time have sampled different flavors and chosen different scoops – all were finished by the little guy. The setup for the gelato is like a little gelato stand with quite a few options.

There is also a nice assortment of desserts to eat there or take home.

The Playground 

Another great feature of dining at this particular location is access to a nice playground. Access to this playground appears to be shared by several restaurants and businesses in the area but at the time we visited (early lunch), it was not crowded and all five of the kids in our group had a blast running around and playing. Overall, the playset was relatively simple, with a couple of slides and tunnels and a kid’s sized picnic table.

Restrooms at Mandola’s Italian William Canon

Restrooms at restaurants aren’t typically noteworthy but we have to give a little love to Mandola’s for their baby changing station. We got a little chuckle out of the Italian themed artwork paired with the comfortable changing table, diaper genie, and a supply of diapers and wipes(!). It had everything to make changing a diaper a little less…poopy.

Extras 

We brought our baby into the restaurant in a car seat since she was asleep and we were happy when an employee brought an infant carseat carrier out so we could set the carseat on a sturdy holder rather than turning a high chair over and risking instability.

Bottom Line: Is Mandola’s Italian at William Cannon a Good Place to Take the Kids?

We had a great time and would emphatically say, “yes!” The restaurant accommodated our large family and friends, comments about the food were positive, the kids ate their food and loved the gelato (kid’s plates come with a free scoop!), and we had a great time at the playground. We appreciated the family-friendly atmosphere and will definitely visit again in the future.

McKinney Falls State Park

Can a state park only minutes away from Austin’s airport be worth a visit with the family?

5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin, TX, 78744



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Top reasons to visit

Scenic
Views

Waterfalls, bluebonnet fields, and rock shelters

Great
Camping

Many shaded camping and quiet camping spots

Near
Downtown

Close to central Austin yet still somewhat secluded

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Scenic photo spots

You’ll find plenty of scenic spots for photos at both the Upper and Lower Falls as well as in the bluebonnet fields. The Rock Shelter (along the Rock Shelter Trail!) also makes for some very scenic and photo-worthy spots.

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Park Features


Walking/hiking paths
Paved paths
Natural water areas
Scenic/photo areas
Caves
Swimming pool
Visitor’s center
Camp store

Recreation


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

What is it known for – why go there?

McKinney Falls State Park is known for its many small waterfalls, the many places to play in water (including lots of places to jump off the rocks into the water) and scenic hiking.

Wildflowers, particularly a large bluebonnet field in the spring makes for great bluebonnet photos – and without having to stop on the side of any busy roadways! If you see bluebonnets on the side of the road, you’re sure to have a field of them great for picture taking at McKinney Falls.

McKinney Falls State Park is also known for good to great fishing. In fact, the opportunity for catching Sunfish is rated as Excellent while Catfish and Largemouth Bass are rated Good. I’ve heard of people catching Crappies but have not caught any myself. There are harvesting limits but if you get a catch that is longer than the minimum length, you’ll be allowed to bag it.

There are plenty of places to drop a line, especially along Onion Creek and, like at all state parks, no fishing license is required when fishing from within the park. For more information, take a look at the park’s fishing tip sheet which also has some handy basic info such about how to tie fishing knots: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_p4505_0090u.pdf

Fees

Entrance Fees
Adult: $6 Daily
Child 12 Years and Under: Free

If you have a Texas State Parks Pass, you and your passengers (or 5 other people if by some other non-car mode of transportation) will be admitted for no charge. If you plan to go to Texas state parks a few times over the next year, you should consider buying a pass if you haven’t already. More info here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/park-information/passes/sppass-faq

Best trails for families:

There are several named trails at McKinney Falls State Park, two of which are great for little legs, but only one that is actually (fairly) stroller friendly.

Rock Shelter Trail

0.6 mi. / 15 mins / Easy / Not stroller friendly

You’ll have to skip the stroller for this one, but it is a short enough trail that you’ll likely be okay carrying a baby or walking with a toddler. The shelter provided by the limestone “rock shelter” makes for noticeably cooler temperatures and makes a great photo backdrop. We definitely recommend checking this trail out if you’re up for a short hike. Kids (and adults, too!) are sure to love the uniqueness that the rock shelter provides.

Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail

2.8 mi / 1.5 hrs / Easy / Mostly stroller friendly

This is the only paved trail at McKinney Falls State Park and is the only trail that is generally fine to take a stroller on. Expect to find shallow water crossings and mud after big storms but otherwise, it is a great, well-maintained trail year-round.

There’s only one steep incline that will provide a bit of a workout, especially if you’re pushing a heavy stroller or carrying a tired kiddo. The rest of the trail is fairly flat as it meanders around the park. The views aren’t particularly spectacular except as you pass by the Upper Falls but there’s a lot of shade, you’ll walk along the Onion Creek, and you’ll hardly notice civilization, though a few homes are noticeable along the Southernmost part of the trail.

There are several picnic tables along the trail as you pass alongside Onion Creek, great for a pit-stop with the kiddos. If you happen to be there to camp, you’ll find plenty of spots near the water on this trail.

Where to park

There are a lot of places to park throughout but if you’re mainly interested in parking close to the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail or checking out the often scenic views at the Upper Falls, you’ll want to try to park in the lot closest to the Upper Falls – see the map below. If this lot is full, you can typically find parking near the Rock Shelter. If you’re mainly interested in checking out the Lower Falls, park in the Rock Shelter lot.

How to keep the kids entertained:

The youngest kids may stay pretty entertained with all the sites and sounds of nature, even if they’re stuck in a stroller for a while. 

Kids playing at McKinney Falls Lower Falls

If they’re not in the water, on the trails, fishing along the coastline, or playing at the playground (it’s small and gets very hot in the summer since there isn’t any shade on the playscape), you may want to check out the Junior Ranger Activity Journal. It’s free and available at the office when you first check in, but you can also check out a PDF version here – especially if the office is out of the packets. We found it to be mostly geared toward kids aged around 5-13 but there are still some bits of info that you can explore with younger kids. If you’re trying to foster a love of the outdoors and curiosity in general, this is a great booklet to pick up!

What will interest kids most:

The limestone rock ledges, getting in the water, hiking amongst the trees, and if the water is flowing enough, the waterfalls. If the kids are between the ages of about 5 and 13 and interested in learning about nature, they’ll likely enjoy the Junior Ranger program.

What can be skipped (if short on time):

The playground. It’s certainly not the main reason for visiting the park and there are many better options around the city.

Are there places to let the kids roam?

There are a lot of wide-open spaces from fields to what could be described as fields of limestone (often with lots of small puddles) where even the young kiddos can roam and still be seen. As you’re in a state park, you won’t have to worry about car traffic once you’re off the main streets but during peak seasons, there will be a lot of foot and bike traffic in the most popular sections. Older kids will do fine roaming more but a buddy system is definitely advised as the park is large and the water can be deceptively deep in various areas and the water can get to moving quickly. We’ve seen kids get unintentionally swept over slippery rocks into deeper sections. Tho they ended up fine, it can be a bit scary (and/or fun depending on the situation!).

Younger kids will be best off in the Lower Falls section where the water is calmer, the ground is flatter, and there are generally many shallow sections – even shallow enough for toddlers to splash around in.

Staying overnight?:

There are 83 campsites throughout the park, including 6 four-person (recently renovated) cabins with air conditioning (I’d rate A/C as a must if camping during the summer, especially with young ones), microwave, mini-fridge and other amenities. If staying overnight during the hottest part of the summer (pretty much May-August), or during the coldest months (January-early March) this is the best option for a family with young kiddos. Weekends are often booked far in advance but there tends to be good weekday availability. 

Best campsites for families with young kids:

All of the cabins are close to the restrooms anyways but 4 and 6 are the closest. Cabin 6 (the only one that is fully handicap accessible) happens to be closest to the parking lot if you happen to have a lot of stuff to haul in. In addition, cabin 6 is what we’d recommend booking if you’re unsure how well your kiddos will do throughout the night because it is slightly more secluded. If you’re worried about making noise and waking up your neighbors, this cabin gives you the best shot of not being heard.

If tent camping is more your style, you want to save a few bucks (a campsite is about 1/4 the cost of a cabin), or you want more freedom to choose a site, there are plenty of spots to choose from. Again, if you’re worried about waking up your neighbors, we have a specific recommendation. Site 66 juts out just a bit and is slightly more secluded than other sites.

If camping during the warmer months, you can’t go wrong finding a site with shade. Grapevine Loop and Moss Loop both have a lot of shade which you’ll appreciate for keeping things a bit cooler for naptime or just to keep your ice chest cooler. As a bonus, these sites have a bit more privacy than most of the sites in other parts of the park.

All campsites have electric and you’ll certainly never feel as though you’re primitive camping.

No RV sites are available anywhere at McKinney Falls State Park. If you show up in an RV, there are a few spots to temporarily park for the day but nowhere to overnight.

When to go

Spring and Summer are the busiest times for the park as there are often plentiful flowers and there is often water to play in. During ongoing drought conditions – which are fairly common as summers drag on in Texas, there likely won’t be nearly as much water flowing as usual.

One major consideration during the summer: If there hasn’t been much rainfall and if the summer has been consistently hot, it’s not recommended to play in the water as the temperature of the water itself can be high and that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. This is also a consideration if you’re planning on fishing. If the water’s hot, fishing won’t be as successful.

Moderate to heavy rains will have the water flowing fast and furiously and can very quickly make it unsafe to play in the water. Even hours or even sometime a full day after very heavy rains, the waterfalls will still be roaring and unsafe to play in. If you’re planning a trip during or after heavy rains, at least check the park’s website before heading out as they’ll post about the conditions of the park.

Austin rarely gets snow but it can get pretty chilly during the winter months, especially in the more open, flat areas where there aren’t trees to protect you from the wind, like around the lower falls.

Must-see and do

If you’re taking kids in the warmer months, you’ll definitely want to come prepared to play in the water. There isn’t a pool and there are no lifeguards on duty so be prepared for the unexpected. 

Rest areas (places to nurse, bathrooms, changing tables, handwash/water):

Like a lot of parks, there aren’t a lot of amenities available in this regard. Make sure to bring your own soap, water, and wipes. You won’t find designated changing tables and bathrooms are pretty bare bones. We found that showers were generally clean but again, bring your own supplies and we’d certainly recommend wearing something on your feet.

How long should you plan to be there:

This depends on your plans and the season. If all you’re looking to do is take a stroll on the one paved trail, allow at least a couple hours to finish the entire loop of the Onion Creek Hike and Bike trail. This is exactly what my family did when we went on a cold day in January. If you’re going during hot weather and plan on wading or swimming, pack a picnic, plenty of sunblock, and plan on staying a while.

If the kids get hungry (is there a place to get food? Kid friendly menu? Healthy options?):

Make sure to pack food and water – and make sure you don’t leave anything behind when you leave…don’t forget the lessons of the Junior Ranger 🙂

There aren’t any restaurants nearby and the store/gift shop isn’t of much help so my recommendation is to arrive prepared with what you’ll want to snack on. Bring more water and food than you think you’ll need, especially in the summer when temperatures can get well above 100 degrees.

Is McKinney Falls State Park a good place to take the kids?

Absolutely! It’s a great state park and only a short car ride away from the center of the city and offers a lot of outdoor activities from hiking and biking to swimming and fishing. Not only that, it is one of the best places in the city to go for family photos in bluebonnet fields. If you’ve seen pictures of waterfalls and limestone cliffs in Austin, chances are good that you’re viewing a photo from McKinney Falls. There is only one trail truly suitable for a stroller but with all the limestone lined creeks and sites and sounds only found in a state park, this is definitely a park worth loading the kids up for.

Upcoming Week’s Weather at McKinney Falls State Park

Other tips and recommendations:

Walking/wading in some areas can be very slippery due to moss growing on the smooth rock bottom so I like to bring grippy water shoes to make getting around easier. Our kids have tried out several water shoes for kids with varying amounts of luck. I personally love my Keens but haven’t invested quite as much money for the kid’s version as my kid’s feet just keep growing.

Pets are not allowed in public buildings or the cabins but if on a leash, are allowed on the trails. It’s important to note that pets are not allowed in the water.

Pets are not allowed in the water at McKinney Falls State Park

If heavy rains have occurred or are expected, you’ll likely be best off avoiding the park as the creek quickly rises and the water can really get to roaring. The trails also get muddy fast – even the paved trail will get muddy in some areas and will, at times, have small water crossings that can be an obstacle with a stroller or little legs.

Playground at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park

Explore this gem of a neighborhood park nestled in East Austin…

400 Grove Boulevard, Austin, TX 78741

Photos

Features

our-review

Review

Directions

Website


Photos

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Park Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

Map

Where to park: 

To access the playground, make the first right after you enter the park and take the loop to a parking lot. You will see the playground and a pavilion. Unfortunately, they do not have signs to point you in the right direction. 

What is modern day Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park was once a dairy farm and was at risk twice of disappearing in favor of reusing the land to develop sports stadiums. Fortunately, parks and neighborhood advocates shut down those chances and it remains as an expansive park that sits on 363 acres of land where you can do just about everything – softball/baseball, volleyball, field sports, disc golf, picnics and grills, biking, walking trails, and our son’s favorite – the playground.

Playground Area Amenities at Roy G. Guerrero Park

roy-guererro-park-gate

While the park is set-up for a lot of outdoor activities and fun, we focused primarily on the awesome playground. The playground area is entirely gated and there are 2 entrances with a top pull latch lock that’s fairly high so you don’t have to worry about your kids running off. Also, it does not have a large tarp or other covering to provide shade over the playground but is surrounded by a lot of trees that depending on the time of day does provide shade. There’s also a bathroom on-site with 2 sets of water fountains and trash cans. There are two playground structures: one smaller built for toddlers and a second one with more obstacles, larger climbing walls, and slides.  We started taking my son here when he was one year old and the smaller playground and baby swings were perfect for him. 

Toddler Playground

roy-guererro-park-toddler-section

The toddler-size playground features 1 slide, 1 double slide, a climbing tunnel, 2 climbing structures, and one step-up stairway in addition to mini nature and animal-themed features in and under the playground. Next to it are 4 swings suited for babies and toddlers with some other climbing rock features and benches to sit on. 

roy-guererro-park-toddler-swings

We started taking my son here when he was 1 and he primarily played on this playground; more recently (he’s now 2), he’s played on the larger playground structure but will still primarily stick to the toddler size one and really enjoys the baby swings. I’m guessing because bigger kids will run back and forth on the larger playground and he feels more comfortable on the smaller one. 

Larger Playground

roy-guererro-park-ramp

The larger playground features 4 slides, bridges, several climbing and obstacle structures (view pictures for reference), 6 swings, balance feature, 2 teacup-like spinners, and nature-themed features through-out and under the playground. This side of the playground also has more faux-rock features, perfect for climbing or hide and seek. 

roy-guererro-park-swings

What’s really nice about this playground is that it’s large enough for both big and small kids to play without the constant worry of someone running into one another.

roy-guererro-park-rocks

In the center of the playground area has 3 large dragon-fly sculptures with 3 mounds made for climbing (that’s my guess anyway) on squishy pad flooring. However, the playground area itself has mulch. 

Restrooms at Roy G. Guerrero Park

roy-guererro-park-bathroom

There is a separate men’s and women’s restroom close by the playground with a water fountain. Be mindful that this is a city park, so it’s not going to be the cleanest bathroom and does not have hand-soap. While it does have a diaper changing station, there is only one located in the men’s restroom and not an additional one in the women’s restroom. Also, it did have toilet paper stocked, but not paper towels for your hands. (*Tip: Bring your own hand soap or hand sanitizer and paper towels. If you need to change your baby’s diaper, bring your own diaper pad or change your baby in your car like we did) 

Roy G. Guerrero Pavilion 

Another great feature of this part of the park is the large pavilion that has 5 picnic tables, grill area, and electrical outlets available for rent. It’s a fairly large space and could support a big party. 

Other Tips for the Playground at Roy G. Guerrero Park:

Nature Trail:

Adjacent to the playground is a paved nature trail – suitable for bikes, strollers, and wagons. We haven’t walked it in its entirety but check back in the future for updates (i.e. length). We’ve also been told people have taken this trail to get to a “secret” beach along the Colorado River. We’re going to search for it in the future.

Bottom Line: Is the playground at Roy G. Guerrero Park a Good Place to Take the Kids?

roy-guererro-park-tunnel

Yes, yes, and yes! We regard the Roy G. Guerrero Park playground a south/east Austin gem. It’s a really nice playground with multiple features that don’t get overly crowded and we haven’t even checked out the entire park! 

Virtual Tour:

If you’re still curious about this park, here’s virtual tour video done by the Austin Parks Foundation:

https://youtu.be/qdEiSInD6yA

SFC’s Downtown Farmers’ Market in Austin

Find a wide variety of food, drink, and fun

Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX, 78701



Photos

features

Features

our-review

Review

Directions

Website

Photos

Features

Family-Friendly Features


Our overall family-friendliness score:

BABY-FRIENDLY
TODDLER-FRIENDLY
OLDER KID-FRIENDLY
OVERALL FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES
UNIQUE ASPECTS
Average

Star ranking definitions:

: Not for kids

: There are better options 

: Not bad, kids had fun

: Worth the trip

: Amazing, a must-do with kids

Rankings segments:

BABY-FRIENDLY: Baby can do more than just sit in a stroller or be carried around

TODDLER-FRIENDLY: Things are toddler level; designed for toddlers

OLDER KID-FRIENDLY: Things are meant for older kids 

AMENITIES: General family-friendly features

UNIQUE ASPECTS: Wow factor

About the Downtown SFC Farmers’ Market

Something that tops the list of “things to do this weekend” is a trip to the farmers’ market – a mecca for chefs, food and health enthusiasts, artists, and of course families. The sun is shining and you hear the whirring sounds of trucks opening for vendors to unload their recent harvest, meats, honey, desserts, and so on. One by one, tents and tables are being set-up, ready to welcome eager customers who are on the hunt for the freshest and most local produce available. 

Serving a well-balanced and healthy meal is a priority for most families and we’re no exception. What better way to get our kids to see where exactly their food comes from than a trip to the farmers’ market (aside from the actual farm of course)?

As a family, we plan on visiting all the farmers’ markets in the greater Austin area and provide a breakdown of general tips, where to park, what’s available, what we love the most, cons (if any), and how family-friendly it is. 

The first on our list is probably the most popular farmers’ market in Austin – the SFC Farmers’ Market at Republic Square. (They have 2 locations, one at Republic Square and the second location is at Toney Burger Center in Sunset Valley.)

SFC Farmers’ Market – Republic Square

SFC (Sustainable Food Center) Farmers’ Market

Open Saturdays (Rain or Shine) from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Address: Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe St. Austin, TX 78701

Website: https://sustainablefoodcenter.org/programs/sfc-farmers-market/sfc-farmers-market-downtown

Situated on Republic Square in downtown Austin, the SFC Farmers’ Market has over 100 vendors and you can find everything from grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, local produce, CBD-infused products, cold-pressed juices, and even delicious vegan avocado ice cream. What’s great about the SFC Farmers’ Markets is that they are producer-only, which means that farmers only sell what they grow and other vendors can only sell products that they produce themselves. This allows for customers to support local farmers and get the freshest ingredients to their home and on their plates!

Parking at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown

Often, my husband and I will decide whether or not to go somewhere with our kids based on how easy parking is. Fortunately, the SFC Farmers’ Market has a dedicated parking lot that is free and right next to it – show up early and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot. We got there around 9:45 a.m. and there were plenty of spots. Also, there is metered street parking that is free until 11:00 a.m., and a garage located on San Antonio St. that costs $7 for parking.

Things to Do at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown

Once there, we like to start at the west “entrance” (4th and San Antonio St.) where you’ll find farmers and ranchers selling fresh eggs, meats, and produce. Expect to pay a little bit more on produce and fresh meat than you would at your grocery store (except for Whole Paycheck), but it’s worth it. The most compelling reason is that you’re supporting our local farmers who spend a lot of time and effort in growing and raising wholesome food. It’s one less thing to worry about when you know a) their produce is organic and/or non-gmo and b) the animals were raised in a non-cruel environment.

Additionally, what’s unique about shopping at the farmers’ market is the ability to speak with the farmers directly! You can ask questions about how they grow their produce and/or how they raise their animals that you then turn-around and serve your family. You can also get information on visiting their farm for a tour. We like that our kids are exposed to a variety of foods and flavors – that they might have otherwise not tried. 

While we haven’t purchased from every vendor, we’ll highlight the ones we have purchased from.

Can You Taste The Difference Between Farmers’ Markets vs. Grocery Store Products?

We had a quick chat with Kris with Milagro Farm, who sells “solar powered” eggs – which means their farm is 100% powered by the sun. The biggest difference between their eggs and pasteurized eggs you find at the grocery store is that their eggs are never more than 1 week old, whereas the eggs at your grocery store are months old – “you can taste the difference.” You can also find turkey and duck eggs at the farmers’ market. 

Tents to Hit-up with the Kids at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown

One tent you do not want to miss is “Taste the Place” – where you and the kids can sample a multitude of products from different vendors. They also take it one step further by preparing different foods using products you can find at the market to try. At our most recent trip, our son enjoyed trying pickled okra, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and pears.  

Another tent that was one of our toddler’s favorites is Julie Myrtille’s French pastries. Their tent is hard to miss as they always have a crowd. They’re generous with their samples and our son loved every single one but ultimately decided on their famous almond croissant – which is seriously one of the best things you’ll ever taste. We also really like that she only uses non-GMO ingredients and sources local ingredients when she can. 

Lawn at SFC Farmers Marketg Republic Square Austin

And finally, if you’re out and about in Texas heat, what helps make your trip more enjoyable is a refreshing cold juice from Pharm Fresh. We found out they are owned and operated by Peoples RX. Their juices are cold-pressed which maximizes nutrient output and they don’t add sugar. They have samples of all of their juices, but we chose “beauty tonic” – the pairing of the beet and pomegranate was just too good to pass up. 

Other Kid Activities at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown

Aside from shopping and eating, the downtown location has live music and offers a large lawn area for the kids to run and play. It’s a large enough space to bring outdoor toys like a ball to kick around. You can also check on their website for any upcoming kid-specific activities. 

The only downside to just about any farmers’ market is that there is limited walking space between the tents, making it difficult if you have a big stroller to get through with kids. We recommend using a smaller stroller and leaving the double stroller and wagons at home. 

Bottom Line: Is the downtown SFC Farmers’ Market a Good Place to Take the Kids?

Yes, especially for older kids who can eat any food. It’s a great way to spend time outside while also educating your family on a variety of topics such as farming, gardening, sustainability and to support local businesses.