We are the proud parents of 2 beautiful little girls. Like any kids, sometimes they get hungry, often while hanging from the ceiling fans and bouncing off the walls. When we are looking for a place to grab a family meal that is fun for both parents and kids and lets the little ones burn off some energy. These are our 4 go-to’s that have yet to disappoint.
SOUTH PARK MEADOWS
Hours: Vary by restaurant
9500 S IH 35 Frontage Rd, Austin, TX 78748
Those of us who have lived in Austin longer than we can remember probably went to many a concert at this location in the 90’s. Now the location of one of the biggest shopping areas in Southeast Austin, South Park Meadows has established itself as not only a one stop shopping megaplex but also as one of the best playgrounds our children love to go and run until panting to go home because they are tired.
The enormous playground has a large play playscape meant for the 5 and up crowd with plenty of slides, monkey bars, zip line, and climbing walls for burning off energy. There is also a smaller playscape meant for the toddler ages with racing slides, musical drums, and sensory games that our 20 moth old can’t get enough of. One of our favorite features is the lack of swings so our kids actually run and play rather than just begging be pushed higher for 30 minutes. Not only does the playscape area have lots of heavily mulch padded area to run, but there is also an AstroTurf covered hill for the kids to roll and run on. We have seen many Nerf football games being played at the bottom of the hill while eating in the surrounding restaurants. On warm summer nights, South Park also offers live music on many nights as well as a splash pad for kids to squeal excitedly while cooling off.
The distinguishing quality of South Park Meadows: the playground is surrounded by a multitude of choices for dining that all offer kid friendly menus as well. Waterloo Ice House, Jason’s Deli, Mama Fu’s, Amy’s Ice Cream, and Orange Leaf are just a few of the restaurants that immediately surround the play area and offer outside porches for watching older kiddos on the playground while enjoying an adult beverage. This is just the restaurants in the immediate surrounding area. Also within the gigantic shopping complex are options for Pho, Thai, Sushi, Barbeque, Burgers, Cajun, as well as several popular chain restaurants.
DOC’S BACKYARD BAR & GRILL
Hours: 11am - 12am everyday (Kitchen closes at 11pm every night)
5207 Brodie Ln #100. Sunset Valley, TX 78745
This hidden gem might not be easy to see from the street but offers one of the most unique playscapes we have seen in Austin. A huge climbing area at one end with slides and monkey bars at the other. A smaller playscape also offers little ones a place to play safely while parents can watch from the huge outdoor hillside eating area. Swing for both big kids and for toddlers with the appropriate swings ensure parents will be pushing their kids for at least a few minutes but we all know we wouldn’t have it any other way. Lots of room to run and play tag as well and one of our favorite features are the old horizontal lying trees that give the kids a chance to climb and play in a little bit of nature. Due to being so close to nature, you might want to bring some type of bug spray during the summer months as mosquitoes can get bad on muggy nights.
Doc’s menu is Americana based with plenty of options for the kiddos. I highly recommend the Pie Plate Frito Pie, just remember to ask for a side of jalapenos. There are lots of TV’s, both inside and out so this is also a great place to take the kids to watch the game while they play. Lots of good beers on tap also make for great game watching fare.
It should be noted that, while the playground is at the bottom of the hill from Doc’s, it is open to any in the shopping strip. There are several other restaurants within walking distance of the playground that include Indian, Cajun, BBQ, and frozen yogurt if you are in the mood for something else to eat and still want to give the kids a chance to play.
FLORES MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Hours: Sunday: 9AM–10PM, Monday- Wed: 11AM- 10PM, Thursday: 11AM-11PM, Friday: 11AM-12AM, Saturday: 9AM-11PM
4625 W Cannon Dr. Austin, TX 78749
We discovered this gem after moving to a new home in SW Austin and having an insane Tex-Mex craving. Little did we know that not only would we be discovering a regular weekend stop but also that they have an amazing playground for kids. Excellent Tex-Mex fare with homemade taste, served by extremely friendly wait staff, covers any of the standard Tex-Mex dishes that anyone who grew up in Texas knows must be eaten at least one a month to sooth the savage beast that lives in your stomach. Kids can watch house made tortillas being made while the parents are enjoying complimentary chips and salsa that actually taste good. You won’t be disappointed by either of the queso offerings and a small often is big enough to satisfy the even meaner queso monster that lives next door to the Tex-Mex beast in your stomach. The choose your own 3 enchilada plate will leave you both full and satisfied but might bring on the Sunday nap a little earlier than usual. The bar is stocked with plenty of TV’s for sports watching and offer great beers on tap (both 16 and 22 OZ) and margaritas of all types. Breakfast specials are offered on Sat and Sun until early afternoon and Sunday also offers Mimosa and Bloody May specials for curing what ails you from Saturday night. Lunch specials are also offered Mon-Fri for those lucky enough to work close.
The playground area is much bigger than it appears on the outside and include a large playscape with slides, climbing walls, a bridge, and mini store for pretend play. There is also a large grassy area for epic freeze tag games and a separate third area with several low lying trees for climbing. The play area offers several bar tables and benches for parents to be able to watch and enjoy a nice day with the kids while having a conversation.
HAT CREEK BURGER COMPANY
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 7AM – 9PM, Friday – Saturday 7AM – 9:30PM
5902 Bee Cave Road. Austin, Texas 78746. (Entrance on 360 access ramp)
We just recently discovered this burger joint but will definitely be adding it to our regular location. We have only visited the Bee Cave locations but there are others around town. Don’t let the counter service give you any trepidation though. These are some of the freshest, made to order burgers you can find in Austin with extreme emphasis on customer service. The store was impeccably clean and every employee we interacted with was friendly and great with our kids. The double turkey burger was a perfect match for my skipped lunch hunger and my wife enjoyed the Grain Burger as well. The thin cut fries were thoroughly enjoyed by both parents and little ones and Hat Creek offers 3 different fry sauces for dipping and also for enhancing your burgers. For the little ones, we loved their chicken “flashers”. These were nuggets that were very lightly battered and not greasy at all, somewhat alleviating the guilt of the constant feeding of chicken nuggets or tender. For the adults, beer on tap is offered via Strange Land Brewery which is located less than 50 feet away next door so you know you are getting fresh. Make sure to go for $1 draft Thursdays. For parents and kids to enjoy, the peanut butter cup milk shake is decadence through a straw that must be shared. If you love pickles, make sure to try their home made pickled vegetable options and they also offer breakfast items for your morning commute. Drive through is also available.
Hat Creek offers a large outdoor covered patio that overlooks a large playscape for the kids to enjoy. Even on a cold winter night, our daughters had a blast with plenty of light and multiple slides and climbing walls to keep them busy. As always, they seem happiest when just jumping up and down on the shaky bridges found on many playscapes and Hat Creek’s playscape was no different. Our youngest had the most fun playing store at the mini store but unfortunately, as many parents know, the stools are not meant for long term sitting with adult sized knees. We left with the girls sad that they could not play more but this was quickly replaced by laughter when getting to ring the “thank you” bell as you leave the establishment.
Aroon Pandya -- Kwaddle Staff Writer