Kiddie Acres offers a just-right amusement park for little ones

Carousel horse I  had driven past it at least a dozen times, always promising myself that I would stop “next time.” It looked so cute, like the little local amusement parks I remembered from when I was little. This week, on a cool autumn day I stopped driving past and finally pulled into the parking lot of Kiddie Acres.

kiddie airplane ride at Kiddie AcresAnd after a wonderful conversation with owner Joseph (Joe) Herring, I was glad I finally pulled in. Kiddie Acres was exactly what I thought it would be: a simple, old-fashioned amusement park that’s just the right size for toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary school kids.

Joe told me he had owned Kiddie Acres since 1979. It started out on Burrnett Road, but when Mopac construction came through in 1986, he moved the park to its current location.

kiddie train at Kiddie AcresJoe, who grew up in a family of seven kids, wanted to provide a place for kids to play outdoors and imagine they’re piloting a plane, sailing a boat or working as the engineer on a train. This little park is his way of keeping imagination alive in a world filled with television and video games.

The littlest guests come first at Kiddie Acres, too. When a couple of moms came in with their kids during our conversation, Joe excused himself to greet them with a smile and find out what the kids wanted to try first. It was clear this park is something he genuinely loves.

kiddie car ride at Kiddie AcresAfter the kids were busy on their first choice, he showed me each ride in the tiny park. When he got to the car ride, his sense of humor came through. “I call it the Mopac trainer,” he said. “You go round and round and never get anywhere!”

Boat ride at Kiddie Acres

Kiddie Acres isn’t fancy. There are a few paint chips here and there. But it’s spotlessly clean and clearly lovingly maintained. It’s inexpensive, too. A ride ticket is only $2.00, and you only need one for most rides (the train and the pony ride are more.) Compare that to the hundreds a day a major park will cost — not to mention the preschooler melt downs and that long drive home.

The covered picnic areas out back and the mini-golf course make it a good place for a birthday party, field trip or playgroup meeting. It’s small enough for moms (or dads) to stay close to one another while the kids enjoy the rides.

The Specs

4800 W Howard Lane
Austin, TX 78728-6304

(512) 255-4131

http://www.kiddieacres.com/

November – March
Tuesday – Friday – 12pm-6pm
Saturday – 12pm-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm

 April – October
Tuesday – Friday – 10am-6pm
Saturday – 10am-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm

Closed Mondays

(Read more about Kiddie Acres in this article from The Jewish Outlook)

Austin on the water…on Wordfree Wednesday

A walk along the boardwalk, at sunset.Boardwalk in Austin TexasA chance to see some beautiful autumn color…

Autumn colors in Austin Texas

And watch the sunlight illuminate the buildings.

austin skyline at sundownWe couldn’t help watching these beautiful spiders spinning webs along the railings…

Spider on railing

Or trying to figure out why there were belts on the handrail along the board walk…

belt on handrail in AustinBut in the end, we kept coming back to the view…

Austin skyline with paddleboarder

If you haven’t checked out the new boardwalk, please do! It’s stroller/dog/kid friendly, and the perspective on the city is beautiful.

Food, films and fun at Top Notch old fashioned drive in

classic car

You know the old fashioned drive in burger places you see in 1950’s movies? The ones with trays and great big burgers and piles of fries on trays? I always wondered what it would be like to go to one of those places with a date on a Saturday night. Guess what?  My partner-in-crime and I got to do exactly that — and it was here in Austin!

Tucked in among the businesses on a busy stretch of Burnett Road we found Top Notch.

Top Notch sign

This is the real thing, classic cars and all. Burgers, chicken and veggie burgers cooked over an open flame.

Open flame cookingShakes and fries, too, from 11 am to 10 pm every day of the week.

Top Notch menuAnd once a month, they add another classic touch. Drive in movies on their very own classic-television-screen on the side of the building. Local car enthusiasts come out with their classic cars and trucks. Families come out with lawn chairs. There’s live music until it’s dark enough for the movie to start, but no one is checking their watch. It’s too much fun sitting out there eating and checking out the cars. There’s even a photo op!

7-20140516_202913Oh, and the food. My veggie burger was cooked perfectly, and the fries were crisp and super hot. Lance’s fried chicken was the kind you usually find in a favorite grandmother’s kitchen, and his order of fried okra was crisp and tasty without a bit of mushiness.

This is a great choice for a date night or a family night out. Upcoming car and movie nights are listed on their Facebook page, so you can add them to your calendar.

The Specs

7525 Burnett Road
Austin TX 78757
512-452-2181

http://topnotchaustin.com/

Mon-Fri 11 am -10 pm
Sat-Sun 11 am – 10 pm

 

Top Notch on Urbanspoon

A cool retreat at Inner Space Caverns on Wordfree Wednesday

With summer closing in quickly on Austin, it’s a good idea to have a few cool destinations planned. If spending some time in a place that’s a constant 72 degrees sounds like a good idea when the mercury hits 100 degrees outside, I have just the place for you. Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown. It’s cool, it’s amazing to see…and, well, I’ll let the pictures speak for me.

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Family friendly, although you’ll need to keep a hold on little ones. Snack bar and gift shop on the premises. No strollers in the caverns, and some slippery spots. Bring your camera, but tripods aren’t allowed.

The Specs

4200 S. I-35 Frontage Road
Georgetown TX 78626
512-931-2283
http://innerspacecavern.com/

Mon-Fri: 9am-4pm
Sat: 10am-5pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

Holi Color Flies at UT

People at Holi Festival in Austin   I wanted to get this post published before the Holi Festival — so much for plans!  But the good news is that now I get to share our great pictures and get everyone excited for next year’s event.

This annual free and open to the public event is sponsored by the UT Hindu Students’ Association on the LBJ lawn on campus. About 6,000 people showed up to celebrate by throwing handfuls of brightly colored power (called “rang”) on their friends and total strangers!

bags of rang Bags of rang powder

According to the student group,

“Holi is the Hindu festival celebrating the arrival and color of the spring season. Widely recognized as the festival of color, this event involves throwing colored powder and water on friends and family along with playing various games and simply having fun.”

And that it was. We were advised to come in white t-shirts, and be prepared to get “colorful.” And colorful it was!  woman with holi powder on face

By the time we and about 5,990 other people finished tossing, dumping, and smearing color on each other, white was the least common color anyone could see.

The live music, beautiful sunshine and big smiles on everyone’s face made it a perfect afternoon. It’s a great event for college students, families, singles…yeah, everyone!  I would recommend leaving pups at home, though. All the flying powder could irritate their eyes and the crowds could get stressful.

Since the Festival is an annual spring event, I’ll make sure to let  y’all know when the next one is scheduled.

The Specs

Sponsored by the University of Texas Hindu Student Association
http://texashsa.wix.com/longhornhsa

Holi 2015 Event is not yet scheduled, but will be in early March.

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urban american grill: Who knew food like this existed in a chain hotel?

urban american grill in the Westin Domain

It was the Sunday morning after MomCom 2014, and I was exhausted. I had enjoyed the event, and my stay at the Austin Westin Hotel in the Domain –and I wasn’t quite ready to head back to the “real world.”  After sleeping in, and skipping breakfast, brunch was definitely on my mind. But where?

Walking across the parking lot to the Domain was an option, but I really wanted to stay put, so I headed for the hotel’s cafe, urban american grill. I didn’t have high hopes, but it was right there, and I was hungry.

As I walked in, I heard Bluegrass music, but I thought it was a recording. Nope. It was LIVE Bluegrass. In a hotel restaurant. In the morning. Awesome!

20140126_134142I sat down and took a look at the menu, expecting the typical boring selection of breakfast dishes for outrageous hotel prices. Wrong again!  There were all kinds of tempting choices, and the prices were less than some regular brunch haunts.

urban american grill menu

Instead of struggling to find something “okay,” I was torn among a whole bunch of delicious choices. This was getting better and better!

I finally settled on the Forager pizza, with pears, apples, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, and roasted tomato, topped with arugula. Again, I kept my expectations low…it sounded good, but…

urban american grill menuAnd then it arrived. It was large, and covered with deliciousness! I tend to be a light eater, and usually leave at least half an entrée. Not with this dish. I ate almost every bite, while sipping iced tea and enjoying the music.

urban american grill kitchenWhat had started out as an “it’ll be okay” turned out to be a great choice I’ll be happy to experience again.

The grill is located in the Westin Austin at the Domain at 11301 Domain Drive. There’s plenty of free parking, and there’s the added attraction of the Domain shops and the iPic movie theatre, too. Sunday brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm, but there’s also a weekday breakfast buffet, and a lunch and dinner menu, too. It’s family friendly, too.

urban american is open from 6:30 am to 10 pm, making it perfect for lunch while shopping or dinner before or after a movie.

Urban an American grill on Urbanspoon

Austin Diner rocks it for breakfast

Austin DinerIt’s cute. It’s kitschy. And it’s another diner here in Austin!

Those we’re my thoughts when we walked in the Austin Diner over the weekend. I immediately fell in love with the collections of vintage mixers and other kitchen ware from the 50’s and 60’s.

classic mixers

Then the waitress came over, and welcomed us to this adorable place. She was friendly — and once we told her it was our first visit, she her smile got even bigger. We felt like guests, instead of just customers!

The menu was just as inviting. Lots of delicious choices for our breakfast — and even after we had made our choices, we kept looking at the options for a later lunch or dinner visit, if the food was good.

Austin Diner insideIt wasn’t long until that “if the food was good” turned into “Oh yeah, the food is good!” I ordered Migas — my favorite food in Austin. And I wasn’t disappointed! The mixture was delicious, and it was topped with just enough queso.

Others in our group opted for pancakes, eggs, sausages and other breakfast classics. And by the time we left, every plate on the table was empty.  In fact, we were already talking about coming back again for the next weekend brunch. The diner has lots of vegetarian choices, in addition to classic diner food like chicken and dumplings. It’s a great choice for families, too. There’s a very limited, partial menu online, but the complete menu has a lot more choices.

I’m still in search of that real 24-hour diner somewhere in the Austin area (gotta know I can fill my eggs, potato and toast craving at 2 a.m.!), but the daytime diners I’m finding, like Austin Diner, are doing a good job of filling the void at breakfast time.