The tale of the Austin Children's Museum begins in 1983, when a band of parents and teachers started setting up educational exhibits and children's activities throughout the city. This “museum without walls” stretched into schools, parks, and malls, delighting children and families with a sense of whimsy and a place where play was rewarded. In the years that followed, the museum shed its nomadic beginnings and found a permanent home inside the pleasant green walls of the Dell Discovery Center. Firmly rooted, its exhibits have entertained and enlightened more than 800,000 youngsters and their parents while earning praise from the writers of Little Austinite.
Today, the sprawling 12,500-square-foot facility is a kaleidoscope of color and lights, where whippersnappers play with giant building blocks, cobble recycled materials into crafts, and marvel at golf balls as they soar through loops and shoots. Others explore the miniature Global City, where they take on roles such as veterinarians in the pet clinic, cooks in the diner, or stray raccoons hiding in the grocery store.
Throughout the week, a team of educators leads Discovery Time, guiding lads and lasses through kid-friendly science experiments that launch paper helicopters and make slime. The museum also hosts Storytime, where grownups read playful stories aloud to encourage creativity and instill a love of literature in young readers.
When Archer M. Huntington donated 4,000 acres of land to The University of Texas at Austin, it was no surprise that the husband to renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington stipulated it be used to support an art museum. Today, Blanton Museum of Art—named Best Museum in the Austin Chronicle's 2013 Best of Austin Readers' Poll—honors Archer's request by providing access to more than 17,000 works and a variety of rotating exhibitions. The museum's collection of prints, paintings, and sculptures comprises more than 4,000 pieces from America and 1,800 from Latin America, and it even includes the Suida-Manning Collection—a group of 230 paintings and 400 drawings by Baroque and Renaissance masters that was much sought after by other museums, according to Frommer's. With these pieces as backdrop, the museum hosts Third Thursday events such as artist talks and Yoga in the Galleries, the latter of which finds instructors twisting sculptures into poses that will be easier on their spines.
Everyone has a different vision of how their living space should look, which is why ART on 5th fills its three-level, 6,000-square-foot gallery with art to suit all tastes. Works by notable names such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Theodor Seuss Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—rub shoulders with rotating collections from some 60 lesser-known artists.
In addition to displaying fine paintings, ART on 5th offers custom-framing services, and backs each of its frames with a lifetime guarantee. The store’s artisans meticulously choose a flattering frame for each piece from more than 3,000 styles—helping artwork mesh stylistically with its destination, be it a living-room wall or an endless hall of mirrors. They eschew colored, paper mats in favor of neutral-toned, hand-wrapped linen mats, leaving some wiggle room between art and frame and imbuing each piece with richness and depth. Each frame is hung with kevlar, a bulletproof material that prevents damage caused by rusted hanging wires and showboating ’80s action-movie stars.
1020 Glass Art and Decor takes its name from its mission to provide exquisite artwork to everyday people by often pricing its handmade glass creations between $10 and $20. Behind the downtown Austin’s space-age art-deco storefront, their sales team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable designers and art experts as they amass a collection of more than 5,000 glass vases, drink sets, bowls, figurines, and chandeliers. As a locally-owned business, 1020 takes pride in its community and boosts the city’s culture scene by employing 10 highly trained in-house art consultants. They also give back through charitable functions and support of area nonprofits, such as Project Transitions’s hospice and housing care for HIV and AIDS patients. The designers even show their love for their home state through their inventory, with a number of Texas-themed pieces available for purchase, such as a majestic longhorn steer, a golden-horn wine stopper, or a miniaturized Lyle Lovett imprisoned in a crystal paperweight.
More than 500 animals inhabit the grounds at Capital of Texas Zoo, a haven for wildlife education and a breeding ground for more than 14 endangered species. The zoo's residents include zebras, ringtail lemurs, and a rare white tiger, not to be confused with a ghost tiger. Other appearances from the animal kingdom include peacocks, kangaroos, turtles, and lions.
Educational animal shows highlight a specific member of the zoo, such as the Wings show, which stars eurasian eagle owl Hedwig, who has made appearances on Late Show with David Letterman and in the movie Furry Vengeance. The zoo also takes to the road with traveling animal shows that involve a cast of six exotic reptiles, mammals, and birds, which makes appearances at birthday parties, schools, or events. With lessons catered to the age of the audience, the animals teach children to respect other living things and remind adults why they can’t keep falcons as pets.
Austin Zoo originated as Good Day Ranch in 1990 featuring pony rides and goat-milking demonstrations. Over the next four years, the founders began rescuing exotic animals and evolving into a rescue center, renaming the facility under its current moniker. After becoming a safe haven for more than 300 rescued animals of more than 100 different species, the Austin Zoo began the process of becoming a nonprofit organization, which it completed in 2000. Housed in native Texas Hill Country enclosures, the animals can enjoy real grass and landscaping instead of concrete exhibits or studio apartments. African lions and Bengal tigers stretch out in the big cat habitats while colobus monkeys and a marmoset swing from tree to tree in monkey areas. In addition to wild creatures, the zoo houses domesticated animals such as a miniature donkey, potbellied pigs, and llamas.