Weekend Top 10 FREE Events (Dec 18-21, 2014)

 Friday, December 19, 2014

  1. Mozart's Holiday Lights Show - Daily through January 4, 2015 (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), from 6 p.m. to midnight. Mozart's hosts a FREE 15-minute light show at the top of each hour, starting at 6 p.m. 3825 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin.
  2. HIStory - Thursday, December 18 - Sunday, December 21 at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. His-Story is a live presentation that tells the full story of the life and purpose of Christ. A cast of local volunteers, live animals, and multimedia come together to create a powerful message that considers what Christmas is really about. FREE! Mission: Possible! Community Center, 1190 Chicon, Austin.
  3. Live Nativity and Petting Zoo - Friday, December 19 from 6-8 p.m. Narrations at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Cookies, hot chocolate, and refreshments. FREE! Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 10408 Hwy 290 West, Austin.
  4. Trail of Life Gospel Presentation - Friday, December 19 - Sunday, December 21 from 7-9 p.m. Tours start every 20 minutes. Visitors follow a tour guide through a beautifully lit, outdoor trail where they will see and hear actors “living” out important scenes from the life of Christ: his birth, death, and resurrection. Golf cart available for those with limited mobility. FREE! Texas Oaks Baptist Church, 9910 Bilbrook Pl, Austin.
  5. The Scrooge Live Presentation - Friday, December 19 and Saturday, December 20 at 7:30 p.m. The Potter's House gladly presents a live theater presentation of the classic tale "The Scrooge" - a story of forgiveness and redemption!  Entry is FREE and snacks and refreshments will follow, immediately after the presentation. Toy and cash donations will be accepted, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Blue Santa. Potter’s House Christian Church, 13461 Pond Springs Rd, Austin.
  6. Austin Civic Wind Ensemble Holiday Concert - Friday, December 19 at 7:30 p.m. Hear your favorite holiday tunes. FREE! Covenant United Methodist Church, 4410 Duval Rd, Austin.
  7. Holiday Celebration at Ruiz Branch - Saturday, December 20 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. This event, which takes place at the Ruiz Branch of the Austin Public Library, will feature a visit from Santa Claus and a Ballet Folklorico dance performance. Light refreshments and a holiday themed craft will also be offered. FREE. Ruiz Branch, 1600 Grove Blvd., Austin.
  8. Living Nativity and Petting Zoo - Saturday, December 20 from 5-8 p.m. A replica of the stable and animals surround the Holy family. The Sanctuary will be open for all to enjoy its historic splendor. Refreshments will be served. FREE! Decker United Methodist Church, 8304 Decker Ln, Austin.
  9. Dreidel Tournament - Sunday, December 21 at 1 p.m. Come participate in the second annual dreidel tournament! Players of all ages are welcome to participate. There will also be a craft station available where you can make your own repurposed dreidel out of an egg carton. Recycled Reads Bookstore, 5335 Burnet Rd., Austin.
  10. Winter Solstice Lantern Parade - Sunday, December 21 at 6 p.m. Gather at 5:30 for the parade, which will begin at 6 p.m. Minor Mishap Marching Band invites you to join them under the dark Solstice sky in a PARADE OF LIGHT! Gather on the shortest day of the year to celebrate light, darkness, music, community, nature and each other. Please make lanterns! You are the main source of beauty and creativity for this event. Due to the drought, there is a burn ban in effect, so make beautiful diffusers for flashlights! It's safer, easy, and kid friendly. FREE! Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. Park on S. Lakeshore Blvd. to begin at the eastern-most part of the new Boardwalk. (Directions)
Bonus fun in the 'burbs:
  1. The EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens Trail of Lights (Wimberley) - Daily through December 31, from 6–9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  Stroll a walking path with more than 100 lighted exhibits created by local businesses, churches, organizations and families. Roast a marshmallow at the yule log and listen to live entertainment on most nights. See the schedule of when Santa will be in his house. Read why Heather loves this trail here. Check the Facebook page for updates. FREE! EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325, Wimberley. (Park at Wimberley High School)
  2. Trail of Lights (Buda) - Thursday, December 18 - Sunday, December 21 from 6-10 p.m. Get in the holiday mood by strolling through the park and enjoying the lights. The trail is approximately 1/2 mile long. Free shuttle parking is available at Cabela's; no parking is permitted in the park. Walk-in visitors are welcome. Hot beverages and concessions will be available for purchase. Check the City of Buda Facebook page for weather updates. FREE! Historic Stagecoach Park, 880 Main St, Buda.
  3. Williamson County Symphony Orchestra Concert (Cedar Park) - Friday, December 19 at 7:30. FREE! St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 1101 W New Hope Dr, Cedar Park.
  4. Hill Country Galleria Snow Day (Bee Cave) - Saturday, December 20 from 12-4 p.m. Real snow will be delivered to the Hill Country Galleria! Toss a snowball, build a snowman, make a snow angel, and take fun family photos. Enjoy live holiday music, holiday carolers, and more. Check the Facebook page for weather updates. FREE! Hill Country Galleria, located right outside the Bee Cave Library, 12700 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave. 
  5. Williamson County Orchestra Concert (Georgetown) - Saturday, December 20 at 7:30 p.m. This Christmas concert is family friendly and FREE! Celebration Church, 1202 Rabbit Hill Road, Georgetown.
Bonus budget friendly fun:
  1. Austin Trail of Lights - Saturday, December 20 - Sunday, December 21 from 7-10:00 p.m. (The Trail is canceled on Friday, December 19 due to rain.) This is the final weekend of the Trail of Lights. Gate tickets are $3 Friday - Sunday for ages 12 and up; FREE for children under 12. Find parking and shuttle information here (note that weekend shuttle tickets include gate admission). Read pro tips for planning your trip here. Check the Facebook page for weather updates. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin.
  2. Alamo Kids Camp - Friday, December 19 - Wednesday, December 31. Families can enjoy $1 movies at Alamo Drafthouse Village, Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter Lane, and Alamo South Lamar. Movies will include Arthur ChristmasMuppet Christmas CarolErnest Saves Christmas, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Your $1 admission will be donated to local nonprofits that provide basic needs like safe shelter and a warm meal. Admission is still on a first come, first served basis and tickets must be purchased at the box office the day of the event. Only children age 3 and up will be allowed in the theater (except on Baby Day, which is every Tuesday). For showtimes, visit the Alamo Drafthouse website.
Some last-minute shopportunities:
  1. Austin Flea - Saturday, December 20 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Flea features all local handmade items and vintage wares from some of Austin's most amazing and talented vendors. Find one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays or any occasion including jewelry, glasswork, clothing, artwork, paper goods, textiles and so much more. Family friendly and FREE! The Highball, 1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin. 
  2. Fifth Annual Vortex Yule Bazaar - Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21, from 12-5 p.m. Perfect for last-minute holiday shopping with a uniquely Austin flare, the East Austin Handmade Arts Market is this Saturday and Sunday. There will be more than 25 artists with live music and DJ Baron Mind spinning Christmas tunes both days. The event is FREE, pets are welcome, and there's plenty of parking. The Vortex, 2307 Manor Road, Austin.
  3. TOMS Holiday Market - Saturday, December 20 from 1-5 p.m. TOMS is teaming up with ATX's Maker Co-op Shop so you can browse for last minute one-of-a-kind holiday gifts made by talented local artists. Enjoy poptails by Dripping Springs Vodka and Good Pop, live music and pictures with Texas Santa! Admission is FREE! TOMS, 1401 South Congress, Austin.
  4. Blue Genie Art Bazaar - Daily through Wednesday, December 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (closing at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve). The annual four-week holiday shopping extravaganza returns for its 14th year. Featuring more than 200 Texas artists, the bazaar offers FREE admission and a hassle-free shopping environment. All items featured at the bazaar must be handmade and include paintings, photography, prints, sculptures, jewelry, clothing, glassworks, and more. It is one of the best places to find unique gifts with a local touch. Marchesa Hall, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin.
  5. Armadillo Christmas Bazaar - Thursday, December 18 - Wednesday, December 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The ACB is actually two events in one: an art fair and music festival with a vibrant community-driven vibe. Visitors can explore an amazing array of handmade items from 160+ artists while enjoying live local music and sips from a full bar. Cost: Adults $7; kids 12 & under are FREE! Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd, Austin.
You may also be interested in a day trip: 
Or a local adventure:


Annie Interview with Jamie Foxx, Will Gluck & Quvenzhané Wallis

In this, the final recap of a whirlwind press junket in New York City where I got to see an advance screening of Annie and interview stars Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, I'll share some of my conversation with director Will Gluck and actors Jamie Foxx (Will Stacks) and Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie). 

As you might expect, Jamie Foxx kept things lighthearted and there was plenty of playful banter between the trio. Here are a few highlights from the many questions they answered about making the film.

What made you want to do a family movie this time?

JF: You know, my daughter was on the set of Djano and I just felt like, "We need a change.... But it was great to be able to come and watch Quvenzhané and have my daughter watch someone, you know, her size, you know, and see her being so magical in this movie.... It was just great.

What made you decide to remake Annie and remake it now? 

WG: What attracted me to Annie the whole time was the story....  It was about inspiration and hope and optimism and about finding your place in life, whether it's your family or whoever it is. That's the most important thing to me about Annie. And I remember going to see the musical with my kids, because I have daughters that are Quvenzhané's age, on Broadway... and they were singing about FDR and about the New Deal and Hoover and I looked around at the kids and said, "Do you understand anything that's going on here?  And they said, "No, we're waiting for the dog."  So I said, well let's do that, let's do what's the great, the inspirational message, why Annie's so great, why you love Annie, and let's do it for a new set of kids. 

What did you love about Annie?

QW: I love that she had spunk and she was really strong.

Do you feel proud?

QW: Yeah I'm very proud of myself. I'm glad that I've gotten this far and that I like what I'm doing and it's not something I'm pressured to do. It's something I want to do.

Jamie, you're a pretty busy father. How do you balance out your career?

JF: You take your kids with you. I did a movie with Oliver Stone in 1999 and I was asking him about how do I go away and do this film and leave my... and he said just bring your kids to work.  And so, I wasn't working a lot in movies during the time of my oldest daughter, so you know I didn't have that much to be away from.  But with my youngest daughter, she goes absolutely everywhere with me, which is great because she can see Daddy go work, she'll be with me two, three weeks....  She's been on the set of Djano, she's been on the set of Spider Man, been on the set of Annie. It's great because now she understands that when Daddy does have to go, she does have to go to school, she understands why I'm going and what I'm doing.

Annie opens in theaters today, December 19, 2014. To read more about the movie, head over here.


Win 10 Weeks of Free Music Forever Music Together Classes

 Thursday, December 18, 2014

Music Forever Music Together is hosting a giveaway for 10 weeks of free classes, plus offering free sample classes for all! In this sponsored post, Music Forever Music Together shares all you need to know to give their local Music Together® program a try for free.

Music Forever Music Together, an internationally recognized, research-based, parent-child, music and movement program for children age 0-5, is giving away 10 weeks of free Music Forever Music Together classes for their upcoming winter session. Their winter session starts the week of January 12th, 2015, and runs through March 28th, 2015. Classes are available at seven locations in and around Austin, including Mueller/Cherrywood, Cedar Park, Brushy Creek, Round Rock, Bee Cave, Steiner Ranch, and Oak Hill.

To enter the giveaway, please click here. Giveaway ends December 31, 2014. One lucky winner will be randomly drawn on January 1, 2015 and notified via email. Winner will be reimbursed in case he/she has already registered for the winter session.

Free Music Forever Music Together Sample Classes

Music Forever Music Together also invites you to attend a free sample class with lots of singing, stomping, moving and music-making at the following locations. Please RSVP online at www.musicforevermt.com/sampleclasses.html, or by emailing info@musicforevermt.com, or calling 512-358-4278.

Bee Cave - West Austin Dance Academy 

  • Monday, January 5, 2015, 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM
Cedar Park - Cedar Park Dance Company
  • Monday, January 5, 2015, 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM
  • Friday, January 9, 2015, 10 AM and 11 AM
Steiner Ranch - Bella Mar Community Center
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 10 AM
  • Friday, January 9, 2015, 10 AM 
Mueller/Cherrywood – St. George’s Episcopal School
  • Monday, January 5, 2015, 9:15 AM and 10:30 AM
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 9:15 AM and 10:30 AM
Brushy Creek - Brushy Creek Community Center
  • Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 10 AM and 11 AM
Oak Hill – Oak Hill United Methodist Church
  • Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM
  • Thursday, January 8, 2015, 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM 
Round Rock - The Dance Gallery
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM 
2015 Music Forever Music Together Winter Session

The 2015 Music Forever Music Together winter session starts the week of January 12, 2015, and runs through March 28, 2015. To register, please go online, email info@musicforevermt.com, or call 512-358-4278.

Attention: Don't miss out on the early-bird discount and get $10 off when you register by January 1, 2015! 

Other discounts available include Military Family Discount, Single-Parent Discount, Parents-of-Multiples Discount, Referral Discount. Third child and siblings <10 months or > 6 years at time of registration free. Contact info@musicforevermt.com or 512-358-4278 for details.

About Music Forever Music Together

Music Forever Music Together offers an internationally recognized, research-based program for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and the adults that love them. In weekly classes, participants sing songs, dance, play with simple percussion instruments, have fun with chants, finger plays, rhythm games and a rich variety of other music and movement activities.

To learn more about Music Forever Music Together, visit www.musicforevermt.com, email info@musicforevermt.com or call 512-358-4278.


2014 Buda Trail of Lights

The holidays are always such a beautiful time of year. The everyday parks and businesses we pass by without a second glance are now winter wonderlands complete with twinkling lights, joyful Christmas music, and sweet treats just begging to be eaten. It's all very “holly jolly” until you hit that hour-long traffic jam to find parking, are charged crazy fees just to pass by the lights, and struggle to maintain your cool as you navigate the chaos with your now-cranky children in tow.

It doesn't have to be that way though! If you're looking to enjoy the cheer of the holiday season without the stress of the mega-events, you might consider taking a short trip to Buda to visit their 6th Annual Trail of Lights. The trail is located at the back of Historic Stagecoach Park and is open this weekend, December 18-21, from 6-10pm.

The trail is an easily managed .62 miles and features a variety of animated and interactive holiday light displays from local area businesses and sponsors. With simplicity in mind, you're encouraged to park at Cabela's nearby and take the FREE shuttle to the event. The shuttles were running smoothly (and with no wait) when I visited, and the friendly, upbeat staff made a great first impression. 

While the displays were fun and full of small-town charm, I most enjoyed sipping hot chocolate at the fire pit while the kiddos danced to the live holiday music playing nearby. There are plenty of treats to satisfy your cravings too. The concessions are located next to Santa's Village and are provided by Santa Cruz Catholic Church.

In the true spirit of the holidays, the Buda Trail of Lights has also added a food drive this year. They are encouraging patrons to bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to the Hays County Food Bank. The drop-off location for food donations will be at the bus drop-off area so you don't have to worry about carrying them through the park.

If you're looking for a low-key, relaxing trail of lights experience this year, give Buda a try. It's worth the trip! Be sure to stop by the local boutiques and restaurants while you're there - Cleveland's has great Cajun food!

Buda Trail of Lights will be held Thursday, December 18 - Sunday, December 21, 2014 from 6-10pm. Pets are allowed in the Trail of Lights as long as they are on a leash and friendly. However, pets are not allowed on the shuttle bus from Cabela's.

See a few photos of the Trail here.

Historic Stagecoach Park
880 Main Street
Buda, Texas


2014 Tuba Christmas at the Capitol

Austin families are invited to hear memorable Christmas music played by many different forms of tubas and euphoniums on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol on Monday, December 22, 2014 at noon.

This FREE event is open to the public. It will be fun for all ages.

While there, be sure to check out the Christmas decorations inside the Capitol!

For more information, visit the Tuba Christmas website or call the event coordinator, Geno Gottschall, at 512-750-3469. 

To see a short video of a past Tuba Christmas, click here.

Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress Ave.
Austin, Texas 78701


Free Date Nights in Austin (December 18-21)

 Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Austin Symphony has created a brand new program to ensure all Austinites have a chance to enjoy their FREE holiday concerts. Instead of a one-night Christmas Sing-Along, each ensemble will perform across the city at various locations and times. Today, the String Quartet ensemble will be playing at the Asian American Resource Center at 1pm. (Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road, Austin)

Southwest Key’s Latino Arts Preservation Program 6th Annual Posada

Enjoy an evening performance of Ballet Folklorico, Teatro, and Mariachi, all for FREE! Festivities are from 6-8pm and include arts and crafts, piñatas, hot chocolate, and a visit from Santa as well as a special holiday procession with children carolling through the Govalle and Johnston Terrace neighborhood. (El Centro De Familia, 6002 Jain Lane, Austin)

Benold's "Shop Like a Wise Man" Event

Benold’s Jewelers, one of Austin’s oldest independent jewelers, will host a special “Shop Like a Wise Man” event including hors d’oeuvres and a martini bar with Austin’s Tito’s Vodka. The event has been created for men, but is open to all (just in case you want to drop hints in person!) In addtion to the refreshments, everything in the store will be 25% off with the exception of loose diamonds and engagement rings, and you will have the chance to win a pair of .50-carat diamond stud earrings. The event is 4-7:30pm. (Benold's Jewelers, 2900 W. Anderson Lane, Austin)

Soul Thursdays at The Blackheart with Mrs. Glass

Mrs. Glass is still rocking their residency at the Blackheart every Thursday by serving up lots of booty-shaking and feel good soul. This week's special guest will be The Lochness Mobsters. These acts are high energy and never disappoint. Show starts at 9:30pm. FREE! (The Blackheart, 86 Rainey, Austin)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sour Bridges at the Buzz Mill

In case you missed their performance at UtopiaFest, here's your second chance to hear their version of "browngrass." What's browngrass you ask? According to Sour Bridges, it's "like bluegrass, but dirtier." Enough said. Catch them at 8pm for a FREE show. (The Buzz Mill, 1505 Town Creek Dr, Austin)

Ugly Christmas Sweater Happy Hour

Don't let your ugly sweater collect dust in your closet; it could be earning you a FREE flatbread at Blackfinn Ameripub from 3-7pm. This festive happy hour will be filled with holiday music, good cheer, and food/drink specials. They are also collecting new unwrapped toys for the Brown Santa program and your donation earns you a drink for just one penny! (Blackfinn Ameripub, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Austin)

The Austin Symphony has created a brand new program to ensure all Austinites have a chance to enjoy their FREE holiday concerts. Instead of a one-night Christmas Sing-Along, each ensemble will perform across the city at various locations and times. Today, the String Quartet ensemble will be playing at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center at 10:30am and the Woodwond Quintet will be playing at Macy's in Lakeline Mall at 1pm. (Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 East Rundberg Lane, Austin)(Macy's, Lakeline Mall, 11250 Lake Stop Blvd, Austin)

Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Celebrating its 14th year, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar art show features one-of-a-kind artwork and handi-crafts from over 200 local and regional artists. The show and parking are FREE and sales benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas. The show is open daily until Christmas Eve; hours are 10am-10pm. (The Marchesa Hall & Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin)

Head for the Hill's FREE Music Fridays

FREE Music Fridays are back at Hill's Cafe. This week features Moonlight Social from 7-9pm. This country duo has been raking in the accolades since being founded in 2011. They were named one of the Best New Bands in Austin in 2013, and were also featured as a rising artist on Nashville-produced TV show, “Welcome To Indie Country.” (Hill's Cafe, 4700 South Congress, Austin) 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Perfect for last-minute holiday shopping with a uniquely Austin flare, the East Austin Handmade Arts Market is this Saturday and Sunday from noon-5pm. There will be over 25 artists with live music and DJ Baron Mind spinning Christmas tunes both days. The event is FREE, pets are welcome, and there's plenty of parking. Show up early on Sunday (11:00am) if you'd like to take part in a Yule Solstice Ritual (or if you just want to know what it is!). (The Vortex, 2307 Manor Road, Austin)

Austin Graffiti Art: Celebrating Austin’s Street Art by SouthPOP

LAST DAY! SouthPOP’s exhibition, Austin Graffiti Art: Celebrating Austin’s Street Art and Featuring the “Hope” Gallery on Lamar Boulevard, showcases the photography of Bob Simmons. The goal of SouthPop is to present some of the most visually interesting street art works as pop culture art rather than a public nuisance. Admission to the museum is FREE during regular hours (Thursday-Saturday from 1pm-6pm) through December 20. (SouthPOP, 1516-B South Lamar Blvd, Austin)

SURE THING Comedy Show

SURE THING comedy show at the original Austin Java, 8pm.This week Mike MacRae (Letterman, Comedy Central, SXSW, Moontower) headlines with Kerri Lendo, Sam Harter, Martha Kelly visiting from LA and Milwaukee's Ryan Holman. Hosted by Duncan Carson and Brendan K. O'Grady. These events have been filling up quickly so be sure to get there early! Doors open at 7:30pm. FREE! (Austin Java Parkway, 1206 Parkway, Austin)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Austin Jazz Workshop: Jazz Talent of Today & Tomorrow

Love Jazz? Head to Threadgill's North at 11am for a unique jam session which features young up and comers alongside members of Austin's Jazz Workshop. This impromptu jam is a great introduction to local jazz musicians worth checking out in 2015. (Threadgill's North, 6416 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin)

Winter Solstice Lantern Parade with Minor Mishap Marching Band

Minor Mishap Marching Band invites you to join them under the dark Solstice sky in a PARADE OF LIGHT! Along with the band, attendees will be the main source of beauty and creativity for this event. Due to the drought, there is a burn ban in effect, so make beautiful diffusers for flashlights! Yes, you can come without a lantern, but it won't be as fun! To join in, head to Zilker Park on S. Lakeshore Blvd. and the parade begins at the Eastern-most part of the new Boardwalk. This event is FREE and all the details can be found here. (Park on S. Lakeshore Blvd. and begin at the eastern-most part of the new Boardwalk, as indicated on this map)

Heather Schuck is the CEO of the children's lifestyle brand, Glamajama. When she's not scheming "glama" world domination or mentoring young designers, you can find her in her front yard chasing her three children with a garden hose. Connect with her at glamaLIFE or on Facebook.


Giveaway: Drop-In Childcare at Adventure Kids Playcare

Pssst, North Austin, Cedar Park and Leander families — are you looking for convenient drop-in childcare? If so, this giveaway is for you! Adventure Kids Playcare in Cedar Park (located at 1335 E. Whitestone Blvd. in the 1890 Ranch Shopping Center) is giving away a FREE membership plus five hours of drop-in care to TWO lucky winners!

So much to do!
Even if you aren't the winner of this giveaway, you can still save — just mention Free Fun in Austin when you sign up to get 50% off your family membership (a savings of $20). Plus, if you like Adventure Kids Playcare on Facebook, you can get 15% off your first visit!

At Adventure Kids, there are so many things for children to see and do! Kids can enjoy storytime, a playhouse area, arts and crafts, computer games... There's even a movie theater, PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube! There's also an infant nursery and a separate toddler area, and, of course, toys, toys and more toys to play with.

All Adventure Kids staff members are CPR and First Aid certified and have passed a criminal background check. The playcare staff care about your kids; their goal is to offer visitors no less than what they would expect for their own children. Keeping the playcare center clean is also a high priority, which is why kids wear socks only in the play area (shoes are stored in cubbies), and all toys and play areas are cleaned daily.

The playcare has extensive hours, staying open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sunday, they are open from 11:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Adventure Kids also offers a Holiday Camp with a different theme each day! Call 512-260-5437 to make your reservations soon as space is limited.

Parents can drop off their kids anytime during open hours, but to guarantee available space, be sure to make a reservation in advance, especially for Friday and Saturday nights.

Adventure Kids Playcare
1335 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste. D-195
Cedar Park, TX 78613
Ph. 512-260-5437
Email CedarPark@adventurekidsplaycare.com

To enter this Adventure Kids Playcare giveaway, simply fill out the form below. For a bonus entry, like Adventure Kids Playcare on Facebook!

By submitting the form, you are agreeing to the Sweepstakes Official Rules. Please note that your email address will be shared with Adventure Kids Playcare. Two winners will be selected at random on Tuesday, December 23, 2014, and contacted by email.

If you cannot see the form below, please visit the original post to enter.

Catherine A. Morris is a romance novelist, freelance writer, musician and jogger living in southwest Austin, Texas. Of course, her main passion and pastime is caring for her two toddlers, Pearl and Zephyr, who make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis. They also give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.


$1 Kids Movies at Alamo Drafthouse Locations

Winter break is nearly upon us, which means Alamo Kids Camp returns to several Alamo Drafthouse locations this week!  From Friday, December 19 to Wednesday, December 31, 2014, families can enjoy $1 movies at Alamo Drafthouse Village, Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter Lane, and Alamo South Lamar. 

Movies will include Arthur Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, Ernest Saves Christmas, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

For the first time, proceeds from Kids Camp will help our neighbors. Your $1 admission will be donated 100% to one of four local nonprofits that provide basic needs like safe shelter and a warm meal: Austin Children's Shelter (Slaughter), Caritas of Austin (Village), Mary Lee Foundation (Lamar), and SafePlace (Lakeline).

Admission is still on a first come, first served basis and tickets must be purchased at the box office the day of the event. Only children age 3 and up will be allowed in the theater, except on Baby Day, which is every Tuesday. 

For showtimes, visit the Alamo Drafthouse website. Be sure to check the site again before heading out as showtimes frequently change.

Slaughter Lane
5701 W. Slaughter Lane
Austin, TX 78749
(512) 861-7060

South Lamar
1120 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 861-7040

2700 West Anderson Lane
Austin, TX 78757
(512) 861-7030

14028 N US Highway 183, Bldg F
Austin, TX 78717
(512) 861-7070


See What's Growing and Thriving in Bastrop State Park

 Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I grew up in a house surrounded by dozens of towering pine trees. I have fond memories of the prickles of pine needles on my bare feet, myriad pinecone craft projects and--best of all--the smell. All that to say that I have a special place in my heart for pine trees, which are few and far between in Austin. But did you know that less than an hour southeast of here, in and around Bastrop State Park, lies the westernmost stand of Loblolly pine trees in the United States? Separated from the pineywoods of East Texas by roughly 100 miles, scientists estimate that these genetically unique “Lost Pines” have been in the area for over 18,000 years.

Back in 2011, the Labor Day Wildfires decimated 96% of Bastrop State Park’s 6600 acres, destroyed 1600 homes in the area, and ravaged thousands of these Lost Pines. If that fire has kept you from visiting the park these last few years, it's time to make the trip. You'll find a landscape unlike anything you've seen before.

My first trip to Bastrop State Park was in October of 2012. Having never visited the park pre-fire, I had no point of reference and no expectations. Even so, I remember thinking how dismal the landscape seemed. The scars from the burn were so fresh that I had a hard time shaking the sadness of what had happened. The park was eerily quiet and we only saw a handful of other visitors while we were there. The only wildlife I remember were ants.

Fast forward two years to my second trip, December of this year… We arrived to find the park headquarters abuzz with families checking in for a night of camping. Cruising through the park, we passed folks fishing and scout troops picnicking. On our hike, we crossed paths with two other families. From the get-go, the human happenings at the park were a lot more lively than I remembered.

We parked at the Scenic Overlook to begin our hike on the purple trail. My boys made a beeline for the pavilion, one of dozens of structures built in the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. These historic structures--roads, a refectory, cabins, bridges, and more--were painstakingly designed to blend with the surrounding landscape. Incredibly, all of them survived the fires. The pavillion is a fun place to rest or picnic. My boys love peeking through the windows and spinning dizzy circles while staring up at the patterned beams of the roof.

One major change in the landscape between our first and second visits was the number of downed trees. Signs throughout the park cautioned us to WATCH FOR FALLING TREES. Sure enough, within a few yards of the start of our hike, we passed the remains of a recently sawn pine that had been cleared from the path. On our way out, we stopped there and taught the kiddos how to read the rings of a tree. We encountered quite a few downed trees that hadn't been cleared from the trail yet, so use caution getting around them (and be aware that soot doesn't wash out of clothing).

What comes to mind when I try to describe Bastrop State Park in its current condition is that there is beauty in decay. Is this park attractive in the traditional sense? Not so much. But it is undeniably beautiful, especially in light of the changes we saw in just two years. We started down the trail’s initial descent at a pretty brisk clip. Once that first burst of energy wore off and we slowed our pace, what we noticed was amazing. From the decay of the fallen trees on the forest floor has emerged a colorful array of mushrooms. Exquisite patterns of fungi fill crevices in the bark of some of the trees still strong enough to stand. Charred layers of bark are peeling away from the bases of those trees like paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough.

In terms of what’s growing and thriving in the park, we saw wildflowers; caterpillars; small oak trees showing off their fall colors; yaupon holly with their bright red berries; young pine trees stretching a few feet tall; and lots of other grasses and shrubs. Birdwatchers will want to bring their binoculars because we spotted bluebirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and titmice. We paused frequently to watch and marvel at the Texas leaf cutting ants scurrying about, hauling slices of vegetation several times their own size. The sandy trail surface was great for spying animal tracks--deer, raccoons, and possums that we could easily identify. Although we didn’t see or hear any (the males can be heard calling from December-June), it’s worth mentioning that Bastrop State Park is the only remaining state-protected area where the endangered Houston Toad can be found.

The park offers a good variety of distances and difficulties when it comes to hiking. We tackled a roughly two-mile loop, which included rest and play stops at a boggy pond and a sandstone rock outcropping. If you have older kiddos who might like to hike ahead of the group, be sure to instruct them to stop at forks in the trail. Many of the trails split and my seven year-old went one way while the rest of us went another. We found him without much difficulty (he did have the sense to stop eventually) but a quick chat ahead of time would’ve saved us all the trouble. In addition to hiking, Bastrop State Park offers camping (tent sites and historic cabins), fishing, canoe rentals, swimming (pool open May-September), golfing, interpretive programs, and a scenic drive.

While there’s no denying that the fire was devastating, it has provided us--and our children--a unique opportunity to watch the rebirth of an ecosystem firsthand. Each time you visit Bastrop State Park during the decades to come, something will be new and different. How amazing is that?!? Texas Parks & Wildlife Department estimates that it will take a generation or more for Bastrop to recover from the 2011 fire. Nature is taking care of some of this recovery on its own, but humans are helping the process too. Replanting of Loblolly Pine seedlings began in the park in January of 2013 and you can be a part of the ongoing replanting efforts. TPWD is accepting volunteers (ages 8+) for its February public workday.  Find details and register here. Additionally, TreeFolks is accepting volunteers for two January planting efforts on private property in Bastrop County. Find details and register here.

Bastrop State Park
100 Park Road 1A 
Bastrop, TX 78602

Additional information:

  • Entrance fees: Adults $4; Children 12 & under are FREE!
  • Park map.
  • Periodic prescribed burns will be taking place through the end of December to clear out dead fuel and prepare areas for replanting. These fires will not cause park closures.
  • Curious how the seeds are harvested and the seedlings grown for replanting? Learn more here
  • Watch a UT Fire Ecologist discuss her research on the park’s recovery here.

In her life before kids, Emily held jobs as a zookeeper, a middle school teacher, and a tour bus driver in the wilds of Montana--not one of which prepared her for the adventures of motherhood. Now she’s living the good life in Austin with her husband, two sons and a Great Dane. When she’s not off gallivanting with her boys, you might find Emily baking up a mean batch of cupcakes, recalling obscure 80s song lyrics, or dreaming of peace and quiet.


Birthday Fun on South Congress Avenue

One of my favorite things about Austin is that it's so easy to have an "urban adventure" just about any time, with kids of any age! 

A favorite birthday tradition at our house is that you are in control of the day... where we go, what we do and most importantly, what we EAT! My husband requested a little SoCo fun for his big day... starting, of course, with a little curbside Home Slice!

He's not a huge fan of policing our 4 kids at a sit down restaurant, but hanging outside at the Home Slice window (1415 South Congress) suits us just fine! The pizza is delicious and the people watching is always excellent. Don't forget to ask for a ball of dough for the kids to play with while you wait!

If the line is long, you always talk someone in your group into waiting while the rest of you pop across the street and check out a shop or two... there are so many fun spots right there! Maybe even pick up a gift for the birthday boy or girl.

Lucy in Disguise is tons of fun for the whole family to check out... my little Lucy especially loves it. Of course, the fact that Maya Star is right next door makes my Maya very happy.

Once you've had your pizza and done a little birthday shopping, it's cupcake time... Hey Cupcake! time, that is (1511 S. Congress). Cupcakes just taste so much better when they come from a shiny silver trailer and are consumed in the heart of SoCo! And nothing says "Happy Birthday" quite like a Double Dose.

Before you move on, I think it's actually required that you try to coax a Smile! out of your family... even if they don't want to. But really, if you've filled them with pizza and cupcakes, how could they NOT smile?!

It seems especially appropriate to wrap up a birthday outing on SoCo with a little walk down to the east end of Elizabeth Street to leave your mark on the Before I Die wall (206 E. Elizabeth Street).

We all loved placing our dreams on the wall right there next to those of our Austin neighbors. One of my little ones wants to get $1,000 dollars before he dies (dream big!) and my big girl wants to swim in the Olympics.

Me, I'll take as many more days just like this one with my little family as I can get!

Natalie Cottam is a happily busy Mama to 4 awesome kids. Her degree is in Marketing and Public Relations and she enjoyed her time working in marketing and event planning. All those skills are coming in handy in these full-time mom years! If she's not booster-clubbing, room-parenting or otherwise volunteering she is probably cracking jokes with the kids while driving the Mom taxi. Natalie loves to write, take road trips with the family and is learning to quilt. Her two favorite things are family and good food.

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