Age visited: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 10 months and ongoing... Nana & Tata live here.
Karina was born on a crisp, Fall day in Manhattan next to Central Park. I was in the delivery room and the whole experience was a whirlwind. Two things I remember very clearly; that my daughter was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and that the conversation quickly turned to how early we could bring Karina to Austin.
My wife is a Texan, and like the Jews on my father’s side, there is a strong desire to return to the homeland. Our pediatrician told us she flew with her baby on an international flight 2 weeks after giving birth. However, we weren't quite ready at two weeks. So we decided to err on the side of caution and wait until she had her first set of shots (8 weeks).
Where to stay:
The grandparents live in Austin, so we always stay with them. But here is a listing of baby-friendly accommodations that are cool, and downtown:
Hotel Van Zandt - New to the hotel scene, we love this place. They have a very cool rooftop pool with bungalos that can provide shade for baby as you have a cool cocktail. They also provide cribs. The only downside is that it's not the most stroller-friendly location, and you may need to utilize Uber more frequently than if you were in central downtown. However, it's right off of Rainey Street (a trendy, cool area with old houses converted into bars and restaurants) so if you have a sitter, you can hit that up at night. Otherwise, it's still cool to walk baby around there during the day.
Sunday Brunch in the hotel's restaurant, Geraldines, offers incredible french toast and live jazz. Karina loves the live music, and the ample space between tables is perfect for strollers.
South Congress Hotel - This hotel is Austin chic at its finest. They also provide cribs and have some great food options, nearby so you wont have to walk far with a stroller. Situated in the middle of the South Congress scene, this is a stroller's dream. The food offering here is also top notch. We ate at the hotel restaurant for brunch. The house-made pastries are tasty (and sinfully buttery).
After a day of walking around, we returned to the hotel for a drink. The bartender made a killer Old Fashioned. While we have never stayed here, friends have told me the rooms are spacious and quiet, and since this hotel is new, it seems they pass out upgrades pretty frequently.
Radisson on Lake Austin - This is a budget option that is in the best possible location in Austin. Right next to the Four Seasons and the famous bat bridge, you are able to walk to all of Austin’s downtown notable landmarks, restaurants and nightlife. Walk over to the W for some drinks on the covered patio.
Hotel Saint Cecilia - This hotel is true luxury with genuine Austin flair. Tucked away down a quiet side street, it's a 5-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the heart of South Congress. The pool area is private, and the water is great for your baby. The bartender makes some of the best cocktails around, in one of the coolest bar set-ups around. You can choose between staying in the main house, or in one of the private cabins that are tucked behind the pool area. Speaking of the pool, this private oasis will make you not want to leave the property.
W Hotel Austin - This hotel has a special place in our heart. We held our rehearsal dinner here, and it's where my wife stayed the night before we got married. Our wedding night was spent at the nearby Four Seasons (post below). We've never spent the night here with baby, but we have brought her to the restaurant and bar. Both are superb for babies.
The hotel itself gives off the vibe that you entered your rich eccentric uncle's house who loves music, the color red and high ceilings, and a bar in his living room. The couches are soft and there are few sharp edges making it safe for your crawling baby to explore. The restaurant offers high chairs and also some good food options for the kids.
The hotel supplies cribs and the pool is also baby-friendly... although you may need to share it with some visiting hipsters. But most hipsters love babies.
Four Seasons - While my wife-to-be stayed at the W, I stayed at the Four Seasons. The hotel lobby is Texas-chic, with designer cow-skin sofas and cowboy memorabilia sprinkled throughout. You instantly feel at ease in this spacious area and babies are very welcome. Should baby get fussy, it's just a short walk to the riverfront for a calming walk.
Outside facing the Colorado river you will also find the hotel restaurant, Trio. The Huevos Rancheros are some of the best I've had, and I'm pretty sure they were made tastier being accompanied by an amazing riverside view.
Other Austin places to eat:
Some of my favorite restaurants can be found in hotels described above. Here are some non-hotel options.
Hula Hut - With stellar views of the lake, this casual, come-as-you-are gem has been an Austin staple for many years. This Mexican-Hawaiian fusion cuisine keeps things interesting on the palette. Sit outside for cocktails where you can order appetizers while you wait, or even a full meal if the weather is cool enough. There's plenty of shade for baby, and bottomless chips and salsa for you.
Rudy’s - Hands down this is among the best BBQ in Austin. Set in a Texas-sized gas-station, some may dismiss it because it’s a chain, but it's a Texas-specific chain, and that makes a difference in my opionion. As long as you remain within state lines, you are more authentic than those that go interstate. Perfect for kids of any age, and ample outdoor space and shade for a stroller.
Lambert's - On Second Street. In a refurbished general store. With live music (as most Austin places are). Get the rib appetizer. Don't think about it. Just do it. Order other things too. Order all the things. They're all incredible. But not without ordering the rib appetizer first.
What to do:
Duchman Family Winery - A short drive away from the city is a Texas Hill Country Winery that's a perfect weekend activity. Gorgeous scenery, grapevines and an elegant Italian-styled wine tasting house and restaurant make you feel like you were transported to Tuscany (kind of). It was very easy navigating the stroller.
The wines are very tasty and the affordable wine flights make it very easy to drink a bit too much. Be sure to appoint a designated driver. Being from NYC you sometimes forget you have to drive home, so definitely have this discussion before you set out, or just charter a limo. Actually, if are with baby, appoint a designated driver and forget the limo (use that option for date night).
Thinkery Children’s Museum - Very family-friendly. Obviously. Very stroller-friendly. Obviously. Very fun for baby. Duh. And they can touch and play and interact with things. Plus, you'll walk out feeling like a smart, responsible parent who does smart, responsible things besides going to wineries and restaurants. Check.
Walk South Congress - Walk. Shop. Drink. Eat all the foods. Eat Amy's Ice Cream. Repeat.
Walk along the lake - Check out the kayakers, runners, and tourists by day. And In the evening, people will gather to see the bats under the Congress Bridge. Super cool, and we promise it's not as scary or creepy as it sounds.
Rainey Street - As mentioned above, super cool by day, but better at night. Cool bar scene as you walk from house to house, and great restaurants. The Container Bar is also cool if you're into the whole containers-as-homes-and-bars thing.
Barton Springs Pool - It's cold. Very cold. But Austin can get hot. Very hot. This outdoor public pool is filled with water from a natural spring and it's the perfect hot-day activity. Located in beautiful Zilker Park, it's an Austin must-do.
Hamilton Pool - A lot of people know about Barton Springs. Not a lot of people (at least not tourists) know about Hamilton Pool Preserve. This natural pool evolved naturally when the dome of an underground river collapsed. See. Mother Nature never fails. She makes beautiful things out of her mistakes.
Go see a University of Texas football game - Try not to leave this town without going. If your kids are old enough to enjoy it, go. If you have a baby, try to get a sitter so you can scream and cheer for the best team around. It's AnaLiza's alma mater. Walk around "the drag" after if you really want to get a feel for the charm and pride of the University.
The Texas State Capitol - They call Austin the "donut-hole" because it's pretty much the only liberal city in Texas. But that doesn't mean it's not filled with political peeps from both parties. So whether you sway blue or red, be sure to check out this beautiful monument to Texas history. At least for the Instagram post.