I remember the first time I saw a Broadway show in New York City. My mom took me and my two older sisters to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She decided to visit TKTS and buy matinee tickets to Les Miserables. I was obsessed with the music, especially any song that Eponine sang. I would reenact all her scenes at home, with a beret and trench coat, belting “On My Own” and “Little Fall of Rain.” I thought I’d grow up and be a musical theatre performer. In high school, I auditioned for every spring musical and one-act play my schedule allowed. I’d tell my mom every birthday, “Instead of presents, I’d just like to see a show.” Whether we watched The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, RENT, In the Heights, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, or Lion King, I was enthralled and escaped to a safe space to get lost in the music and gain perspective on my life. As a parent, I love taking my kids to shows. Though they are still young and tend to fall asleep before intermission, I love sharing my love for the theatre and hope they grow up with fond memories of seeing a show with their mama. Not much can top a show in Manhattan, but Austin has much to offer. You can find a little slice of Broadway in this Austin Theatre Guide below.
As a vibrant and culturally rich city, Austin, TX, has no shortage of opportunities to engage your family with the arts. The theater community is one aspect of the art scene that often gets overlooked. While many may associate theater with the bright lights of Broadway or London’s West End, Austin has a thriving theater scene with a wide range of productions and venues. Whether you’re a seasoned theater-goer or just looking to explore the world of live performance, here are some of Austin’s best theater experiences to offer moms and their families.
For a more intimate theater experience, check out Austin Playhouse. Located in Northwest Austin, this theater produces classic and contemporary plays, focusing on bringing lesser-known works to the stage. The theater’s proximity to the nearby shopping and dining options makes it an excellent choice for a night out with friends or family.
Recent productions at Austin Playhouse have included:
- A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”
- A political drama about the Supreme Court.
- A comedic look at the world of competitive spelling bees.
They will also be performing Big Fish and offering theatre camp this summer.
With its thought-provoking productions and cozy seating, Austin Playhouse is a great option for moms looking for a more intimate theater experience.
The Bass Concert Hall, located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, is a notable venue for various performances, including musical theatre. The venue is explicitly designed for musical performances, ensuring families can enjoy a high-quality sound experience during musical theatre productions. Families can witness professional and high-quality performances, often featuring top-notch actors, singers, and dancers. Their schedule offers a variety of musical theatre productions. From classic touring Broadway favorites to contemporary hits, families can find shows that cater to different interests and age groups. The Bass Concert Hall often collaborates with local schools and educational organizations to provide educational programs and outreach initiatives. These programs may include student matinee performances, workshops, and discussions that can enhance the educational value of attending a musical theatre for families. When our babysitter fell through, I took my 6-year-old instead of my husband to see Hadestown last fall. The theatre was comfortable and accessible, and my son loved the snacks!
The Georgetown Palace Theatre:
Though not located in Austin, the Georgetown Palace Theatre offers a variety of family-friendly productions suitable for all ages. It opened in 1925 as a vaudeville and movie theater. It has since been restored and transformed into a performing arts center. The historic nature of the venue adds to its charm and appeal. The Palace offers educational programs and workshops for children and teens to foster creativity, boost self-confidence, and provide a supportive and fun learning environment.
The Paramount Theatre is a historic landmark in downtown Austin, built-in 1915. Its vintage architecture and classic interior design create a unique, charming atmosphere that captivates adults and children alike. This theatre offers a diverse range of family-friendly programming throughout the year. Which has included musicals, plays, children’s theater, concerts, film screenings, and special events specifically tailored for families. They have a two-week summer camp that helps kids create lifelong memories and the opportunity to perform on the Paramount stage. There are also events for adults if they need to escape the woes of parenting. Last fall, I had the opportunity to breathe the same air as Brene Brown when she hosted Bono’s book tour in Austin. It was a life-changing experience I will never forget.
The Scottish Rite Theatre is housed in a beautiful historic building that dates back to 1871. It has a unique architectural style that adds to its charm and character, providing a sense of history and nostalgia for visitors. The theater offers a variety of family-friendly performances throughout the year. These include children’s theater productions, storytelling sessions, puppet shows, and interactive performances catering to young audiences. The theater provides an intimate and cozy setting, encouraging connection with the performers so children can feel more engaged and involved in the performances. Last summer, I took my oldest son, my niece, and my sister to see “Sunflower the Musical.” The kids loved it. Post-show, I approached the writers and invited them to share their stories on my podcast, and they graciously said yes. You can check out the episode here.
For a more offbeat theater experience, check out The Vortex. Located in the eclectic East Austin neighborhood, this theater is known for its experimental productions and commitment to social justice issues. The Vortex is also home to the Butterfly Bar, a cozy spot to grab a drink before or after the show.
While The Vortex’s shows may not be as kid-friendly as other options, it’s an excellent choice for moms looking for a night out with a partner or friends to expand their theatrical horizons. Some upcoming productions include:
- Trouble Puppet
- The Art of Martyrdom (A Comedy)
- The Memorandum
- Malum Malus Lammas Burlesque
- Sunny Days
- Mother Tree
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, Zach Theatre is one of the city’s premier theater companies. Founded in 1932, it has a long history of producing classic and contemporary plays and musicals. The theater has two performance spaces, the Topfer Theatre and the Whisenhunt Stage, and a thriving education program for kids and teens.
For moms looking for family-friendly entertainment, Zach Theatre offers a range of productions that are sure to delight. Recent shows have included family favorites like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Charlotte’s Web,” and “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” They have two more shows this season, Head Over Heels and Noises Off, that is very affordable to treat the kids to a night out downtown. Their 2024 season is also planned and posted on their website, with some AMAZING options. You should definitely check them out.
If you’re looking for outdoor theater that the whole family can enjoy, Zilker Hillside Theatre is the place to be. Located in Zilker Park, this open-air theater has offered free productions for over 60 years. The theater is famous for its summer musicals, which feature large casts and catchy tunes that will have the kids dancing in their seats.
Recent productions at Zilker Hillside Theatre have included “The Little Mermaid,” “Annie,” and “Shrek the Musical.” Last year I went and saw “Newsies.” My six-year-old passed out after the first musical number, but my eleven-year-old caught the theatre bug! He may have looked away when the romantic main characters kissed, but he was fully invested in the plot and loved all the flips and dancing. This summer, Zilker will be performing “Matilda!” As a millennial mom, this movie was a staple in my childhood. The most recent Netflix version is based on the Broadway show. All four of my kids love watching the classic and newer versions. We cannot wait to see Zilkler’s rendition. This theater is a must-visit with its casual atmosphere and stunning outdoor setting. Free theatre brings in a lot of people. I’d recommend swimming at Barton Springs hours before the show to ensure you can find parking. Pack dry clothes and a picnic, and bring blankets to create a comfortable space to watch the show.
In conclusion, theater in Austin offers many options for moms and their families to enjoy. From classic plays to experimental productions, outdoor spectacles, and intimate performances, there’s something for every taste and interest. So the next time you’re looking for a night out or quality time with the whole family, consider checking out one of Austin’s many theater companies and discover all the city offers in live performance.