I’m convinced this is the closest I will get to time traveling. I’m talking about a place that stirs up so much nostalgia that it might as well be Austin’s secret black hole.
The place that I’m talking about is The Austin Toy Museum, of course.
What initially started out as a huge private toy collection has now developed into one of Austin’s quirkiest attractions. Not even a year old, The Austin Toy Museum has quickly been grabbing the attention of both children and adults since its grand opening in April. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen this many adults and kids get excited about seeing old toys since I saw the premiere of Toy Story 3 in theaters.
Just like in the popular movie, we see grown-ups reunite with their lost childhood treasures and show the next generation of kids just how much these toys meant to them. Well, except for the fact that no one gets to touch or keep the toys at all, which is a given considering it’s a museum.
I realize that last part sounds as depressing as the ending to Toy Story 3, but I promise you that heartbreak is the last thing you’ll be feeling when you walk inside.
If I could describe the atmosphere there in one word I would say surreal, as if it was completely disconnected from the outside world. Hearing Saturday morning cartoons playing on the TV in the background (I was there on a Saturday by the way) was one thing, but hearing all the bleeps and bloops from people playing vintage arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man made me forgot about what year it was for a second.
The cherry on top, naturally, was hearing the Super Mario Bros. theme while playing the original game on the original Nintendo console. It was a very cool experience, to say the least. I wasn’t even born when it first came out but, just like the kids playing the Etch A Sketch behind me, I could appreciate why it was innovative for its time.
I also want to point out that you don’t have to pay extra money to play with all the Nintendo games they have available, including the vintage arcade games which usually require coins to start a new game. Like I said, you don’t have to worry about bringing extra money unless you want to make a donation. The management at the Austin Toy Museum is kind enough to grant you an unlimited amount of game entertainment for the price of one admission. Scroll all the way down to the end of this post for more details about ticket prices.
The highest scores for games like Donkey Kong or Dragon’s Lair may be the toughest to beat, but at least you can try as many times as you want until museum hours close. You might end up paying less in dollars than you would spend in coins on those machines anyway.
While The Austin Toy Museum isn’t the largest toy museum in the world (yet), it might be on its way to becoming one of the largest in the world if their toy collection continues to grow at its current rate. According to their website, the museum has collected over 40,000 items since its inauguration, and they’re only just getting started. In fact, the museum has been encouraging donations from guests and local supporters in an effort to expand their inventory and community outreach initiatives. It seems that with the sheer volume of donations they’ve been sifting through, their collection (and influence) is only going keep multiplying.
Keep in mind that due to limited space, guests will not be able to see the entire toy collection on display any time soon, or possibly ever. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, because by rotating all their items for display (like they are doing now), guests are getting a different experience every time they come visit. I actually think this is clever marketing. I know I’m already planning to come back because I’m that curious to see what else they have in that magical collection of theirs.
At a glance, the massive action figure displays are kind of jarring, but when you look at them closely you see an incredible amount of attention to detail. All toys are set up and organized by line and category, varying from Star Wars to Care Bears, and everything in between. The museum also carries very rare finds, such as original copies of classic comic books, games, and other miscellaneous merchandise from several iconic franchises (Barbie, Sesame Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.).
Interestingly, the placement of each item doesn’t seem random, casual, or awkward, like the way a kid sometimes leaves their toys laying around their room (or even when they’ve been put away). Instead, toys are placed in a very particular manner in order to enhance its exhibition quality. The truth is that a room full of toys can be super overwhelming on the eyes, and it’s tricky trying to not make it look like a hoarding situation. Luckily, that is not the case for the Austin Toy Museum, since the owners already do a good job at keeping everything clean and professional. I actually have a lot of respect for them because of this. Why? Based on some of my brief interactions with the co-founders, they seem to genuinely care about creating the best museum experience for their guests.
Overview: 5 Reasons You Should Visit Now
- It’s a Unique Place To Go For a Group or One-on-One Date: This is the most random place to take someone on a date, but I can guarantee that major bonding is going to happen here. You are going to have the best time reminiscing over long lost toys and sharing funny childhood stories. Plus, the free vintage arcade and Nintendo games are unlimited once you purchase admission. Score?
- They Have Scavenger Hunts, Workshops, and Special Events Frequently: Okay, so the scavenger hunts are pretty easy compared to how it must be for the kids, but it’s also a fun way to do a self-directed tour around the museum. In the backroom, they hold a variety of workshops like 3-D Design & Printing for both children and adults, and they even host private events for businesses and organizations. Click here for more details.
- They Accept Donations: If you still have boxes of toys lying around the attic or garage, then this is the perfect place for your toys to retire. Your toys could end up in a museum exhibition! How weird is that? Not only are donations tax deductible, but you know your toys are going toward a good cause as well.
- The Tickets Are At a Good Value and For Good Causes: You can buy discounted tickets directly through their website for $8.00 (child admission is $3.00 and senior/military admission is $5.00). Tickets at the door cost the same during the day as well, but in the evening prices are a dollar higher. Online tickets are also tax deductible, and your money is not only going toward the museum but also toward funding educational programs and presentations for the children of local communities.
- The Owners Are Good People: Sometimes management can be an unknown entity, but oftentimes you come across managers who really like to mingle and make a good impression. The owners are seen greeting guests at the front desk, sorting through toys in the back, or striking up a conversation with several of their guests. They are very approachable people overall, and when you talk to them you will definitely enjoy their enthusiasm, and maybe even pick up a few interesting facts about toys.