Whether you have extroverts on your hands who love to be center stage or introverts who adore a good story unfolding before their eyes, take a peek into Austin’s theater scene.
Many of them offer children’s shows, summer camps or improv to get the audience in on the act. While the theater can provide great entertainment, it also provides a welcome respite from the heat as you sit back in your air-conditioned seat or from a blanket spread on the hillside for an evening performance.
Here are several in the area that focus on family-friendly fun. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
Austin Scottish Rite Theater
The Austin Scottish Rite Theater was built in 1871, making it Austin’s oldest theater. Housed in the building used by the Scottish Rite Masons, it has retained its classic charm, even down to the centuries-old, hand-painted backdrops. The quaint theater is the perfect size for performances geared towards children, which it regularly stages. A few past performances (some of them bilingual) can also be streamed on demand, so kids can experience theater at home.
The Scottish Rite’s summer camp offerings are equally fun, ranging from improv, puppetry and stage combat to advanced acting.
Parking: Small lot on-site, nearby street parking or the Bob Bullock State History Museum garage.
Austin’s most iconic downtown theater hosts a classic film series each summer that includes family-friendly titles and showtimes. Grab your tickets and popcorn. Then settle into this beautiful building while the whole family enjoys timeless films.
You can also watch your kids perform onstage for grand finales of the Paramount’s summer camp programs. Professionally-trained staff of Camp Paramount teach voice lessons, acting, dance and production that lead to a final performance. Their Story Wranglers camp delves into comedic creative writing as campers explore story writing, songwriting, acting, plus costume and prop design. Camps take place at a rotation of local schools.
Parking: For film showings, head to the 600 Congress Avenue garage to park. Purchase a parking voucher at the theater.
Zilker Hillside Theater
An Austin tradition since 1959, this outdoor theater offers free productions the whole family can enjoy. This season, the Zilker Theater Production company is proud to present Disney’s “Newsies,” the musical. Bring your blanket or small chairs to secure your spot for an 8:15 p.m. showtime on Thursday-Sunday evenings, running July 8-Aug. 13. Snacks and drinks are available onsite. You can also opt to pack a picnic or order takeout from your favorite Austin eatery.
Parking: Free. Parking attendants will be on hand to help.
Celebrate 25 years of Shakespeare Under the Stars this August with the Emily Ann in Wimberley. This summer’s production features local middle and high school students working both on stage and off to bring two Shakespearian classics to life: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Taming of the Shrew.” Students perform and select an area of technical theater to work on – whether set construction, costuming or lighting – making this a unique, youth-focused theater experience.
Parking: Free on-site parking.
The Austin hills are alive with the sound of music! This summer, introduce the kids to Maria and the singing von Trapps in this family-friendly production of “The Sound of Music.” This beloved musical classic comes to life at the Topfer theater, where guests can enjoy traditional stadium-style seating or become part of the show. For a totally new, immersive experience, the theater will be transformed into a fun biergarten, with a limited number of seats available at a table onstage.
Performances run Wednesdays to Sundays, through July 24. While this is a great opportunity for kids to experience musical theater, note that children must be at least 3 years old to attend.
Do you have an aspiring actor or actress? The Zach also offers year-round camps and classes for kids of all ages. While most summer camps are full, you can sign up soon for fall classes.
Parking: Parking at the Zach is $10 per car, or find street parking along the Riverside Drive extension off of South Lamar.
Known for its entertaining improv performances, the Hideout Theater regularly presents Hideout Kids, an improv show for the whole family. These shows incorporate suggestions from the audience to inspire and influence the direction of the show. It’s a real treat! All shows are general admission, and all ages are welcome.
If you’re looking for a little more involvement, free family classes are scheduled once a month during the school year, which is another great chance to perform and make some great memories with your kids.
The Hideout Theater also offers a special teen intensive and a program for neurodiverse children as part of their Building Connections initiative. Improv classes pose a unique opportunity for kids to gain confidence, build social skills, practice life skills and have fun.
Parking: The Hideout Theater is located downtown at Seventh Street and Congress Avenue. Metered parking is available in addition to pay lots and garages that run between $8-$15.
On with the show!
Here are some other local theaters with family-friendly productions:
The Chambers Theatre at Inspired Minds
Pollyanna Theatre Company
Boyd Vance Theatre, Carver Dance Studio, LBJ Library and The Long Center
Austin Community College
Austin Educational Theatre
Andrea Genevieve Townson is a mom of three, adventurer and lover of breakfast tacos. Follow her family travel adventures on Instagram at @field_trip_fridays.