One year ago this month, our family was in the thick of some serious kid-centric house-hunting. We searched high (Round Rock) and low (MoPac and Slaughter) and everywhere in-between before ultimately finding our ideal home and neighborhood.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get a tad jealous about not being able to walk to a Sunday farmers’ market, or stroll along the water without having to first drive there, but the ahhh-mazing trail that starts just across the street reminds me of why we live where we do. Everyone has their ‘thing,’ and the greenbelt was a must for us.
To be fair, Austin is an extremely kid-friendly city so you truthfully can’t go wrong wherever you end up. With that being said, using our handy dandy scale, below is a list of some of the neighborhoods that really stood out for us, our two children and the pup.
The McEllin Home-Search Scale
(developed circa 2009 and updated most recently in March of 2015):
- School ratings (according to Greatschools.org)
- Walk-ability (also can be read as ‘scooter-ability’ and ‘stroller-ability’)
- Kid population (i.e. how many other Moms are nearby so I can pawn off my child when they’re meeelllllttttting down)
- Commute time
- Proximity to a grocery store (because we all know that running out of ‘insert favorite item here’ at 9pm constitutes as a national crisis).
Here are the most kid-friendly communities in Austin City Limits:
Avery Ranch development is comprised of over 4,000 homes. That means you have your choice of a lived-in home or a brand-spanking new one. Schools in this part of town are highly sought after and cater to both Round Rock and Leander school districts. New businesses and grocery stores are popping up all over, and accessibility to major roadways make it easy to get Downtown when necessary. Avery Ranch lies adjacent to the Brushy Creek Regional Trail, so access to several parks, pools and plenty open space is just a hop, skip, and a jump from everyone that lives here.
Added perk: The neighborhood swim team, The Avery Ranch Redfish, are fast! The swimmers and supporters alike are enthusiastic and the likability is infectious.
This area is sort of a hidden gem, and it’s located just off the Northern tip of MoPac. The schools in the area are showing improvement with each passing year, and the esthetic of some of the schools in the area remind me of my own childhood. Super cute and quaint parks flood the area, but one in particular, Katherine Flesicher, is worth a visit. Not only is it home to two swimming pools (one adult and one enclosed for the minnows), it has several playscapes, well-maintained baseball and soccer fields, a perfectly stroller-friendly trail, and lots of field space to fly your drone. Oh, and did I mention the duck pond with beautiful sunsets? Yep, Wells Branch has that too. Distance to Downtown is approximately 20 min and no toll roads are required if you’re sneaky.
Added perk: Don’t feel like driving? The MetroRail to the rescue. It is mindless way to commute and can have you downtown in 35 minutes, even during rush hour. Plus, the kids love taking it too!
Mueller is self-sustaining section of Austin just 10 min Northeast of Downtown. It’s hip vibe almost gives you the feeling of being in Candy Land. It’s like a little pocket of joy — homes are various colors, shapes and sizes and businesses here are unique and friendly. At least 4 parks dot the landscape, two of which have large 50 meter pools. And when you can’t make it to a neighborhood park because of the rain, don’t worry, The Thinkery has you covered, literally. Walkability is at an all time high with and abundant number of sidewalks and trails. And although school systems are not listed as all that stunning at the moment, with all the movement toward Mueller, public schooling will surely start to show improvements. A Town Center is currently being built, which will host a hotel, additional restaurants, entertainment and shops.
Added perk: Mueller has a farmer’s market on Sunday that is amazing. From seafood to handmade hummus. If you go, you MUST try the gelato. *salivating*
note: Windsor Park, just North of Mueller, is worth looking into as well.
When we first moved to Austin, our good friend mentioned to us that Circle C is the land of puppy dogs and young children. I couldn’t agree more. Circle C is home to a Metropolitan Park that has, hands down, one of the best playgrounds in Austin. Shady in the summer, lots of fields in which to frolic, a trail that runs around the outskirts and beautiful scenery to boot. Circle C has this really enticing sense of pride as well — I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t rave about living there. School systems are among some of the top and if you’re lucky enough to get the inside scoop on a house that’s coming onto the market, you may even be able to avoid a bidding war. Loads of restaurants, close access to downtown and even an Alamo Drafthouse make this area appealing to a wide range of families.
Added perk: KidSpa. If you haven’t checked out this wonderful space, you need to. Its a reputable hourly kid-drop that can be used when you have your lovely yearly visits and don’t feel like carting your entourage with you. (There is also a KidSpa near Avery Ranch)
In all actuality, this community is so large, it could be marked as it’s own city on a map. Steiner Ranch has over 4,800 beautiful homes. The main shopping centers are located just at the entrance of the community, so it’s super easy to pick up a last minute hostess gift as you scramble to arrive on time. Rolling hills, a very well-maintanced University of Texas Golf Club, and pocket parks give Steiner Ranch it’s extremely welcoming feel. It’s a bit of a hike from downtown (45+ minutes), but I believe that to be a part of the appeal as well. You get the sensation of living in the country without actually being too far from a thriving city center.
Added perk: The main road that runs through Steiner Ranch, Quinlan Park Road, eventually ends at the Colorado River where you’ll find a place to launch your boat. And if you don’t have a boat, you really should wander down thatta way just because it’s stellar. That’s also the way you would just happen to stumble upon a girl’s day at Lake Austin Spa.
There are far too many fantastic Central neighborhoods to narrow it down since affordability in this category goes out the window. If you can afford to live here, and you enjoy a cozy family environment, consider me a jealous and soon-to-be couch-crashing friend. The board that planned out all the green space in Austin was leaps and bounds ahead of our city’s growth. The amount of parks, trails and outdoor fun space is endless. And let’s not forget the amazing food scene, unique shopping and the almighty Whole Foods flagship.
Some noteworthy neighborhoods with numerous kid-friendly businesses, restaurants and parks: Travis Heights (South Central), Holly (East Central), and Rosedale (North Central).
With a rather new Whole Foods grocery, shopping of all kinds and tastebud parties abound, this is a mecca for most. Only downfall, and why it made the runner-up list, is because currently the only residence to take up within the actual domain are smaller townhouses, condominiums or apartments. And the school systems here are slowing climbing in scores, but I believe it’ll be a few years yet before they’re 8+ on the rating spectrum according to Greatschools.org.
The Triangle (North Central)
With plentiful shopping and eateries, this area is both funky and fun and there is often a children’s activity happening nearby. And at the heart of the Triangle, a splash pad that’s active in the summer months so that you, your kiddo and Fido can all cool down after a trip to Central Market. The neighborhood and it’s surround are only a few quick minutes from downtown. And soon enough you’ll be able to access Town Lake via the newly complete Shoal Creek trail, which will spit you out adjacent to the city’s newest (and phenomenal) library. Only downfall we had? This area is so popular that often traffic can be a bit concerning, and parking is equally as fought over as the Upper Crust pastries.
Word is getting out about this area, and rightfully so. This part of town is only 10 minutes from downtown, there is still (some) affordable housing, and it has a very authentic Austin feel. Because of the large lots and tall trees, this hood was ranked high on my list. Walkability is why it’s a runner-up.