UPDATED APRIL 2014 — Dining with the little ones in tow can be tough sometimes. We spend a lot of time trying to shape our kids into calm little humans, but sometimes, you just want to relax and let them run around and play. Lucky for us, Austin has a lot to offer when it comes to dining out with children. Here are some of the best family friendly restaurants in Austin, in no particular order.
Freddie’s Place is the jam! Complete with a playscape and live music on Thursday, Friday & Saturdays. The nice thing about the bands is they’re not insanely loud, and they are family friendly. Last time we were there they even sang a couple of nursery rhymes, with a bluesy twist of course! With plenty of outdoor seating and happy hour from 4-7, you and your family will have a great time and not spend a ridiculous amount of money. The parking isn’t ideal, but living in Austin, we’re all used to that, right? They have picnic tables right by the playscape which is great if your child(ren) aren’t at the age where you can keep your distance. Burgers, sandwiches, and even chicken ‘n waffles.
Ski Shores Cafe is a gem on Lake Austin. Down the long and windy City Park Rd. lies a cute little place with mostly outdoor seating. They have a gated playscape and if you bring bread or save some fries, your kids can feed some turtles and fish! Plus, on Fridays they have Family Movie Night where they show a kid friendly film, projector style, right by the picnic tables outside. They show at dusk, check their Facebook page for details as the info is not on their site, and on Thursdays they do a Family Movie Night giveaway on their Facebook as well. Pizza & burgers, fries & onion rings. Read our review we posted in June 2013 and see why it’s a hit for families!
If you’re hankering for a patio with a killer view, craft brews and smoky BBQ, head to Smoke ‘N Hops in Dripping Springs to satisfy that craving. Smoke ‘N Hops was right off Hwy 290, about 20 minutes outside of town. The layout is open with a friendly bar in the back, stocked with TVs so you can watch your game. They have the NFL Ticket so you can catch just about any game of your choosing. Grab a table on their deck that faces the playground and has an AMAZING view of the Hill Country to the left. (The view is not pictured… you’ll just have to see it for yourself.) Read our review we wrote in October 2013 and see why it’s a fave!
Boat House Grill has an amazing playscape with tables all around, as well as one patio with brightly covered umbrellas and another nestled under tall oak trees. It’s located one block south of 2222 near Lake Travis and Steiner Ranch. All summer long, EVERY Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5:30 pm the Amazing Texas Twisters will be there doing balloon art and other kids activities. Catfish, shrimp, burgers, salads and chicken fried steak.
Doc’s Motorworks & Doc’s Backyard has become a staple for Austin families because of its delicious beer, games and chicken fried avocado (not in that order). Doc’s Motorworks is located on South Congress and Doc’s Backyard is on Brodie Ln. Both locations receive a lot of local love! There are specials everyday on beer and food. Tacos, wings and burgers.
Nutty Brown Cafe has KIds Nite every Tuesday with a moonbounce, balloon art and 99 cent kids meals. SWEET. There’s a sandpit, a playscape and a patio covered by tall oak trees. A nice, chill Austin vibe combined with a delicious margarita, yes, please! Tex-Mex, chili, burgers, sandwiches, catfish and salmon.
Central Market North for something besides burgers is a great choice! With live music, a playscape and a duck pond, your kids should have a great time while you relax and enjoy some music. A diverse menu with items from Asian salmon salad to pork vindaloo, get something good and good for you too. Yum!
Contigo is amazing! It’s gorgeous for one, for two, the menu is so much more than your basic tex-mex and burger norm. They don’t have a playscape, but they have a cool sand play area type of thing that kids are drawn to. It’s completely outdoor with accommodations for if it rains or is cold, and it’s decor is super inviting. Large picnic tables with large Christmas lights, the vintage looking kind, hang casually over the whole dining area. This is a little bit nicer of a place, so I only recommend it for older kids. It’s not really a run around and be messy type of joint, but I’ve seen some kids have a good time there. Mussels, rabbit & dumplings, fancy grilled cheese and their lavender ice cream is like eating a garden. I mean that in a good way.
Austin’s Pizza in Westlake – Pizza and a playscape equals children in restaurant heaven. The play area is surrounded by a little fence and is away from the street so your kids can play safely. They’re pizza is delicious and kind of a big deal here in Austin. Pesto-a-Go-Goat is a must try. Read our review to learn all about Austin’s Pizza’s dedication to quality ingredients and see why it’s a must-do with the family.
Waterloo Ice House at 360 & N. Capital of TX Hwy is an amazing spot. Playscape, sandpit, outdoor and indoor seating with cute decor and plenty of tables. Waterloo Ice House has been in Austin since 1976 and now has four locations around town. Burgers and tex-mex, along with some fish options.
The North Austin Trailer Yard (NATY) has a pretty sweet setup. Here, you have multiple, affordable options with trailers serving up gyros, sno cones, coffee, doughnuts, cuban cuisine, fancy ramen and more. There’s a sand play area with toys for the kids and a cool giraffe and T Rex statue atop a chalkboard where your kids can draw away (hard to explain, see photo). The NATY is home to a farmers’ & flea market on Saturdays, and a kid’s show every Sunday – read our review & get a coupon riiiight here. (The NATY is now closed)