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.
And 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.
Joe, 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.
After 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!”
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.
4800 W Howard Lane
Austin, TX 78728-6304
November – March
Tuesday – Friday – 12pm-6pm
Saturday – 12pm-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm
April – October
Tuesday – Friday – 10am-6pm
Saturday – 10am-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm
(Read more about Kiddie Acres in this article from The Jewish Outlook)