How well-equipped is this city for those raising infants/toddlers? Specifically, are there public places to change diapers, maintained playgrounds, etc?
Austin is a child-friendly city. There are special diaper-changing rooms at most large shopping malls and airports. There are plenty of well-maintained parks designed for children with playground equipment and sand boxes for them to enjoy. You'll also find other open grassy areas for them to run to their heart's content.
This depends on the area where you are living. Certainly neighbors and colleagues can help with recommendations. Austin is a large city with many subdivisions and communities, so the community center can be a good resource for finding reliable child-care providers within the area. Other resources are local religious organizations and churches that have mothers' day -out programs and day-care programs. For assistance with finding a nanny one can contact agencies that offer professional services and trained, certified care-givers.
The concerns of parents in Austin are the same as those in other large urban areas. Often the perception is that living in an urban area entails a greater risk to children due to higher crime rates. As with any other city, keeping a mindful eye on your little ones is important and parents need to be aware of their surroundings and monitor them as you would anywhere else.
Some places of interest are:
Austin Children’s Museum--http://www.austinkids.org/
Austin Nature and Science Center--www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc
Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer--http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/splash/
Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train--http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker/
Schlitterbahn Water Park--http://www.schlitterbahn.com
Six Flags Amusement Park--http://www.sixflags.com
Going Bananas (Indoor playground)--http://www.goinbananastx.com
Most schools have after-school activities, such as competitive school sports teams and various special-interest clubs. In addition, there are many play groups and after-school activities in the local community organized by churches, the YMCA and other organizations. Interested newcomers should research these services when deciding where to live.
What's it like to be a teenager in this city? Are there any particular challenges I should be aware of as a parent?
Life in Austin for a teenager can be an exciting and fun experience, but many parents have their concerns about safety. Much of the teenager's life revolves around the school they attend and the neighborhood they live in. Most teens are involved in after-school programs, whether sports or an academic club. Teens can drive in Texas at age 16, which is a younger age than allowed in many other countries, so you should keep in mind that this gives the teen greater independence from parents at a younger age.You will need to monitor your child as you would in your home country.
Are there any organizations/social groups in the area that cater exclusively to young people ages 12-17?
Your local school and neighbors will have information on this. Each community will be different. A good choice for all types of family activities is the local YMCA. There are several of these in Austin.
I want my child to get the most out of our stay in this country. Are there any specific opportunities to teach young people about the local culture?
The best way for anyone to learn the culture is to jump in and live it. Austin's City Limits Music Festival is an annual, three-day, music and art festival in Austin's Zilker Park. The Festival brings together more than 130 bands on eight stages, including rock, country, Folk, Indie, Americana, Hip -hop, Reggae, and Bluegrass, and attracts a crowd of about 65,000 visitors each day. It would be just one option. Once you get settled research others.
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