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11 September . 2018

"Exploring Austin with Kids" author says Austin is a fun city for all ages

Annette Lucksinger came up with the idea for her book, “Exploring Austin with Kids,” when her son Stone, now 12, decided he would rather stay home with mom than go to preschool. Annette agreed, as long as they could get out of the house regularly and explore Austin together.

She looked for a guidebook to the area’s fun, kid-friendly places. Not finding one, she decided to write one herself. After years of field research with her family, she published the first edition of “Exploring Austin with Kids,” describing more than 100 local places with insider tips such as the best times to go and the little details not to miss.

An updated second edition of Annette’s self-published book was recently released, and sales are approaching the 10,000 mark.

For a city that’s best known for its college culture, nightlife, and a tech-fueled economy that appeals strongly to Millennials, Austin is actually a very kid-friendly place to live, Annette found.

“The great thing about Austin is you see such a wonderful mixing of the generations all over the city,” she said. “The Zilker Zephyr train in Zilker Park was Stone’s favorite activity when he was very young. Most of the times we were there, we saw lots of young kids along with college students, grandparents, and everything in between.”

Visiting places with young kids can open up new worlds for adults and older kids as well, Annette said. “When you’re exploring with young kids, you might not get as far or go as fast, but they will encourage you to slow down and see fascinating details you might miss on your own,” she said.

One of her favorite local attractions is the Bee Cave Sculpture Park, located near Sweetwater. This seven-acre park features 24 sculpture installations in a beautiful natural setting with a walking path, a spring-fed pond, more than 20 species of native plants, and some of the largest oak trees in the area.

“The sculpture park is one of those places I love, where you can let kids wander around freely, but not have to worry about them running off too far, since it’s an enclosed space,” she said.

The Hill Country Galleria, also near Sweetwater, is a favorite place for Annette’s daughter, Emmi. “We love to visit the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Galleria, along with stops at Amy’s Ice Cream and the splash pad,” Annette said.

Annette and her kids are also very fond of the Hill Country’s natural springs and swimming holes, especially Krause Springs near Sweetwater.

“One of the things I love most about the Austin area is that you can be driving along and discover a natural treasure right off of the road. We didn’t know that Krause Springs and the Bee Cave Sculpture Park were so close to Highway 71 until friends told us about them,” she said.

A Texas native, Annette grew up in Burnet. As a teenager, she worked a summer job at Inks Lake State Park, which is still one of her favorite places. She went to school at Colorado State University and returned to Austin after graduating.

She has taught writing and literature at St. Edward’s University since 2000. In 2018, she started teaching a new freshman seminar on local sustainability. The class is now part of St. Edward’s core curriculum, and Annette is excited about the opportunities that course is bringing to share Austin’s natural attractions with young adults.

“The course is designed so that we spend a lot of time out exploring Austin, like riding buses, renting bikes and watching the bats on the Congress Avenue bridge,” she said.

“Exploring Austin with Kids” is available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. If you order it from Annette’s website, she includes fun freebies like postcards, a bookmark and map. An “Exploring Austin with Kids” app, which was created by Annette’s husband, Daniel, is also available.

For more ideas about kid-friendly activities near Sweetwater, check out our Area Guide.