Oh, Mother Nature … you are a wily woman. But your relatively cool (and comparatively wet) spring hasn’t fooled me. No, ma’am. You tipped your hand this week and I’m well aware that blistering temperatures are right around the corner.
So while the kids can still play outside, we want to take advantage of it. And later on, we’ll be looking for inside activities. Here are some free and low-cost summer family activities — both indoor and out — that have crossed my desk recently. Keep this list handy for those inevitable “we’re bored” moments.
Watch it, kids
A number of local theaters offer free or discounted tickets for children’s films during the summer months.
In past years, Austin’s homegrown Alamo Drafthouse chain has sported an eclectic list of free Kids’ Camp titles such as “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Flight of the Navigator.” This year, look for more populist fare including Muppets, monsters and mice. That doesn’t mean the selection is bad — “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” is nice and twisted, and the original “Spy Kids” is always a favorite. Ages 3 and up only, please, and kids must be accompanied by an adult. The Drafthouse’s fun, themed pre-show clips will screen for early birds (and you should show up early, since seating is first-come, first-served). Also in place? The chain’s strict no-talking policy, so “shhhhh.” Films screen at various times and days at different Alamo locations. Check the theater’s website, drafthouse.com/series/alamo_kids_camp, for details.
Each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. through Sept. 7, Regal Cinemas theaters are screening family movies on the cheap (like $1 per ticket cheap). There are some stinkers on the list (“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” I’m looking at you). But clear your calendars for July 9-10, when two particularly creepy and beautiful kids’ pics — “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” — hit the screen. Local participating venues include Regal Arbor 8; Regal Westgate Stadium 11; and Regal Lakeline Mall 9. Find more information at www.regmovies.com/summermovieexpress.
Similarly, Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse screens kid flicks including “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Horton Hears a Who!” for $1 admission (or 10 shows for $5 if purchased in advance). Dates and times vary at participating theaters. Find out if the Cinemark near you is participating at www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse.
Make museum memories
As of Sept. 1, the Austin Children’s Museum will be no more. It’s moving to the Mueller neighborhood and re-opening as “The Thinkery.”
That means you’ve got exactly one summer left to solidify your family memories of the downtown Colorado Street staple. Regular events include Baby Bloomers, Story Times, Cub Club and Community Night, and there are special events such as sing-alongs, petting zoos and musical guests.
The science and engineering activities in the current exhibit “Think.Do.Make.” are a sort-of sneak peak of the new museum’s concepts. It’ll be running until the facility closes.
Hours and admission prices vary, but Sundays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. are always free. Find more information at www.austinkids.org.
Park it, Art
It’s true that, at least for kids, summer days tend to run into each other until you have no idea if it’s a Monday or a Thursday. That said, nobody likes Wednesdays.
You can make them stand out, though, thanks to the Austin Symphony and its weekly Children’s Day Art Park events at Symphony Square Amphitheatre, 1101 Red River St.
At a cost of just 50 cents per kid (adults are free with a paid child) your tykes can enjoy dancers, storytellers, magicians, clowns, mimes and art projects from 9:30-11:30 a.m. each Wednesday until July 31 (except for July 3). All this while listening to the likes of local musical favorites including Joe McDermott and the Biscuit Brothers.
Perhaps your little ones would rather fiddle with a fiddle? The Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo gives kids the opportunity to handle and try to play various instruments while chatting with symphony musicians. Find more details at www.austinsymphony.org.
Bat boys (and girls)
At the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, home to the Triple-A Texas Rangers affiliate Round Rock Express, “batter up!” can refer to either the players or the delicious funnel cakes available throughout the ballpark.
Berm seats are reasonable (bring a blanket to sit on) and, if you go to a Monday game, sodas and hotdogs are just a buck apiece. Feeding a family of four for $8? That’s a home run! Get more information at www.roundrockexpress.com.
Back to nature
Snakes and bugs and frogs, oh my! (Imagine how different “The Wizard of Oz” might have been if it had been written by a group of kids.) Each Thursday from 6-9 p.m. through July 25, your little critter-wranglers can indulge their creepy-crawly obsessions at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where “Nature Nights” explore those creatures as well as birds of prey, cool mammals and the endangered Barton Springs Salamander. The free sessions invite kids to join in activities such as creating take-home plaster of Paris animal tracks and bee-building with pipe cleaners and construction paper (seriously — has a pipe-cleaner ever actually come in contact with a pipe?).
Kids 12 and younger get a free gift from the Wildflower Center, and the cafe will serve regular menu items from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Find more information at www.wildflower.org.