Whether hiking with tiny tots or solo with climbing gear in your bag, this is the place for you! The trail options are many, from a meandering flat surface that takes you to the (usually dry) creek bed to the rocky paths and large boulders that lead to the popular rock climbing spots.
Easy Parking and Access
Google Maps will take you directly to the entrance. You can park for free on the street nearby and walk along the sidewalk directly to the trailhead. There’s a sign at the entrance.
Hours of Nature Exploration
While there are no benches or bathrooms, there are many spots along the trails that allow for nature exploration… bouldering, climbing trees, crawling through natural tunnels, collecting rocks, and traversing rocky terrain. The creek bed is easy to get to, so once there, even little ones can explore while their parents take a rest.
After burning calories hiking, climbing, and exploring, treat yourself to burgers, beer, and ice cream, as well as more play time on the playground, at Phil’s Ice House or enjoy delicious pizza at Pinthouse Pizza | Craft Brewpub | Austin Texas. There are dozens of additional options within 5-10 minutes of Gus Fruh as well.
Gus Fruh is perfect for a quick hike or a full screen-free afternoon with your family. For other family hike recommendations in the Texas Hill Country, check out This Week’s Hike!
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorites as well.
As of this school year, I’ve ventured into homeschooling my two younger children. People ask me daily how it’s going, and depending on the day (or even the time of day), they’ll likely get a different answer than I previously gave.
The highs are very high, and the lows can be quite low. I can go from feeling pure joy and bliss to doubting every parenting decision I’ve ever made. However, I’ve come to realize that these feelings occur no matter what schooling decision parents make for their children. We’re so hard on ourselves and tend to let the emotion du jour lead the way.
To counter this whiplash of emotions, I try to engage in meaningful activities with my kids that will fill their cups but also fill mine. I usually find a bit of free time for myself after fully participating in one of the options below because everybody walks away fulfilled.
Most of these incorporate time in nature and/or sensory experiences, which tend to be antidotes to boredom, crankiness, frustration, sibling rivalry, and screen daze for all of us.
I hope that these ideas might allow other parents to break away from the norm and reset those flip-flopping emotions. These 11 easy, free, and meaningful activities have worked well for us. Let me know if any stand out to you!
1. Nature Hike and Journaling
We kept our nature journals really simple and just made them out of cardstock and twine. Anytime we go on an adventure, I carry crayons and pencils. The kids either draw something they see and find interesting, then we research it on my phone to add notes … OR they’ve already drawn and researched something that we then go and try to find, such as certain types of trees.
2. Act Out a Favorite Storybook
We choose a favorite or recently-read story book and act it out in real life. We create costumes, find props, and make up character voices. The kids love this activity and often want to act out the same book more than once. We’re hoping to go all out after finishing the Little House on the Prairie series and throw a themed party.
3. Lego Challenge
There are a million and one ways to create Lego challenges for kids. You can just type the words and google for a plethora of ideas. I even found some printables for head-to-head Lego challenges. What I love the most about starting one of these challenges is the fact that the kids usually want to continue playing with legos independently for hours or days on end!
4. Create a Wall of Weird
Kids love to find the weirdest things! Whether out on a hike or rummaging through a thrift store, they find something so unique, but often too odd, to want to include it with the rest of the home decor. As a compromise, my kids and I agreed upon a Wall of Weird, which was an idea borrowed from someone much more clever than myself. So, when a little one wants to collect a fallen bird’s nest, an odd-shaped stick, or a dead bug, there has to be room on the Wall of Weird for it to come home with us. (Sometimes, interesting crafts make it on to the wall as well.)
5. Guided Drawing
If you haven’t tried the Art for Kids Hub videos on You Tube yet, you’re in for a fun afternoon! These easy-to-follow guided draw videos are our favorite way to spend a rainy day… and sometimes a sunny one. Some videos are easy enough for a pre-schooler, but many are challenging even for me. This activity may not fit the bill for reducing screen time, but it’s definitely worth the extra minutes (or hours) in our house.
6. Make Shaped Crayons
Any chance you have a few broken crayons in your home? Maybe a few hundred? If so, this activity can keep your kids busy for an entire day. Not kidding. All you needs are lots of crayons and a silicon candy mold. First, have the kids find all the crayons that are too broken to use or are nubby duplicates of newer ones. Have them sort by color. Then they peel off the paper of each one. After that, place the crayon bits into the candy mold shapes. Mix colors if desired. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees until they start to harden. Voila – “new” shaped crayons for the kids to use during guided drawing! They also make great gifts. We’ve printed coloring pages and attached several fun-shaped crayons to create gifts for friends.
With older kids or young kids, indoor or outdoor, soft and cozy or challenging and maze-like, forts are always a family favorite! To change things up a bit, we sometimes set up a huge tent in the house (along with other accessories) for indoor camping.
8. Sensory Obstacle Course
When I hear “obstacle course”, my brain tends to immediately picture a ninja gym or gymnastics floor. However, an obstacle course can be set up anywhere! Sometimes, it might look like my kids shooting water guns at a target (or each other), stepping into buckets full of goo, crawling from one end of the yard to another, and ending with a little shaving cream play. Sometimes, the kids just leap over toys, roll under a table, and hop around on different surfaces. Sometimes, they do somersaults, a certain number of jumps on the trampoline, and then dig in the sand to find toys. No matter the location or the props used, obstacle courses always seem to satisfy my kids‘ sensory cravings! They also tend to be prompts for initiating independent play, which allows me a chance to sit down and catch up on a book.
9. Simple Science Experiments
What kid doesn’t love science experiments?! Thankfully, there are hundreds options to copy from Pinterest or Google. The library is also a great resource to check out a book with dozens of ideas. I always look for experiments using ingredients we already have on hand and that can be done in under 15 minutes. What I‘be found is that my kids continue doing the experiment or a similar activity afterward. More independent play time for the win (and usually a bit of a mess to clean up afterward).
11. Surprise a Neighbor
It can be any type of gift, any time year, and for any reason whatsoever… my kids love to be secret elves. We just come up with something simple, like a baked good or a funny theme or sometimes an envelope of cash for a friend in need. The kids then work hard on the gift and get to be super sneaky when they deliver it. This usually leads to an over-exaggeration of spy or ninja behavior, but they love leaving a gift somewhere on the porch or in an interesting spot in the yard without that friend seeing them. Occasionally, I will have to send a text to let our friends know to look out for something because it was hidden so well.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear which activities work best in your home to reset your kids’ emotions. Please share in the comments! Also, if you try any of the 11 listed above, please post on Instagram and tag @DrippingWithKids.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing our hiking experiences and recommendations with you in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Swimming (seasonal)
✅ Playground and Sports Fields
✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
Just an hour or so west of Austin, and down the road from the best wineries in the Texas Hill Country, sits one of our favorite state parks! It checks every box for adults and children alike. We’re excited to share everything we love about the LBJ State and National Park in Stonewall, TX.
The Museum and Visitor Center
Upon arrival, check in at the Visitor Center for a free parking pass. While inside, peruse the gift shop full of locally-made soaps, confectionaries, home decor, jams and butters, as well as educational toys and books. Also, ask for Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids to guide them along both the state park and the national park areas. Just past the visitor center is a small museum and a pioneer house to explore. Then, make your way on to…
Easy and Interesting Trails
The trails from the visitor center are mostly shaded and easy for all skill/age levels. Amazing trees border the flat trail, and there are plaques with interesting info on local flaura and fauna. Plus, they lead to the best parts of the park….
After a short walk, you’ll be greeted by huge, gorgeous Texas longhorns, as well as white tail deer, if they’re feeling friendly. You can also follow the trail to see a herd of bison or take an alternate route to the …
Working Farm with More Animal Encounters
One of the highlights of this park is that the trail leads you to the Sauer-Beckman Homestead and Farm, where your kids can collect the multi-colored eggs from the chicken coop on a slow day; where the wild turkeys stage a Thanksgiving Day revenge by sneaking up behind you, yelping at the top of their lungs, and then laughing at your expense as they dart up onto the branches of the huge live oaks; where the sheep meander along the walkways; where the hens peck at your feet; and where the hogs put on a muddy show if your olfactory glands can withstand the potent stench of their pen.
You can also tour the original farmhouse and homestead, often while munching on farm-fresh delicacies prepared in the century-old kitchen that day. After you’ve worked up an appetite, complete your meal at one of the…
Picnic Areas and Playground
There are multiple picnic areas with bathrooms nearby and plenty of green space to run around after eating. In one area, there’s an old-school playground with a metal swingset, slide, and see-saw. If you or your kids have more energy to burn, add in additional playtime at the…
Swimming Pool, Tennis Courts, and Baseball Field
The swimming pool is open during the summer months for a nominal fee, and the tennis courts and baseball field are open year-round. You may want to call ahead to make sure they’re not reserved on the day of your visit. Also, these areas will require you to take a much longer hike or to hop in your car to drive to them. But while in your car, you can add on a driving tour of …
LBJ’s Working Ranch
Take a self-guided tour of the president’s family homestead, the working cattle ranch, the small schoolhouse LBJ attended, the cemetery where he’s buried, the Texas White House, and the president’s jet. It’s about a 20 minute drive to see the whole ranch, with opportunities to get out and explore the exhibits mentioned. Bonus: There’s a beautiful winery along the driving trail! To finish up your visit, find a peaceful spot and…
Go Fishing in the Pedernales
The beautiful river separates the state park and the national historic site of LBJ’s Ranch. Even if you forget your fishing gear, it’s a peaceful spot to view wildlife like the blue heron and to try to spot large fish in the clear water. Check here for fishing rules.
Whether you visit LBJ State Park and National Historic Site for an escape to nature, for a little exercise, to see the farm, to view the animals, or to learn the history, you won’t be disappointed. We’ve visited this state park at least five times in the last few years, and each experience has been different from the last. We hope you fall in love just as we have.
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too, and I’d be happy to add them to This Week’s Hike!
Your itinerary for a weekend in Dripping Springs, TX is righthere!
Just a couple decades ago, Dripping Springs, Texas was practically unknown to the rest of the state. It was one of those small, sleepy towns that attracted songwriters and ranchers but few others had heard of it, despite its natural beauty and proximity to the state capital. But it didn’t take long for it to grow from a vast expanse of ranch land to a booming town, now well-known across the nation.
It seems that our little town was discovered twice… once in 1854 by Dr. Pound and two other families trekking across the Indian-filled frontier… and then again in the early part of this century by the many city-dwellers looking for a taste of country life with all the conveniences of a big city nearby.
Dripping Springs still has that wonderful small town feel, but it’s growing rapidly. Not only has it become a destination for young families, empty-nesters, and young professionals to settle down, it now has a huge tourist draw as well.
You might ask, “What’s the draw of Dripping Springs?” Recently, The Drip has been penned by the Texas Legislature as the Wedding Capital of Texas. Our small town hosts more than 3,500 weddings per year in over 35 unique venues within a 15 mile radius, from rustic barns to a former Vietnamese temple.
We are also home to dozens of micro-breweries, famous distilleries, and family-owned wineries, most of which are kid-friendly and showcase the beauty of the oak trees and rolling hills in this part of Texas.
Dripping Springs is also considered the “Gateway to the Hill Country” because of its easy access to nearby towns that make up this region of central Texas. From DSTX, you can easily travel south to the adorable town of Wimberley for unique swimming holes and a meandering square of shops and art galleries. You can take a scenic drive between rolling hills along back country roads to the historic town of Gruene for some boot-scootin’ and delicious barbecue. Or you can head further west to make your way onto the Hill Country Wine Trail and end up in the quintessential German town of Fredericksburg. In fact, there are dozens of day trips or short road trips easily taken from Dripping Springs that offer a window to Texas’s remarkable history and the variety of cultures in our great state.
But those interesting nearby towns are not the feature of this post. Dripping Springs gets all the glory here, and if you’re looking for an amazing weekend in The Drip with your family, we’ve got your weekend itinerary planned out. Fair warning, though: After a weekend here, you’ll probably want to move to our sweet town too.
Friday in Dripping Springs
Start your afternoon at the shops on historic Mercer Street, and try to find the dripping springs that our town was named after. Hint: look for a hidden staircase among the downtown shops. Read about the town’s history while on the path.
Then, take the kids to one of Dripping’s family-friendly breweries or distilleries to get a taste of the talent that has flocked here from all over the world. Your family could linger for hours at one venue, enjoying the open green space, live music, unique food offerings, and playground. Or you could bounce around to a few before settling in for the night. Just please be careful and designate a driver because our roads are winding, and this is a dark sky community without street lights. (Click the hyperlink above for specific reviews of each of the following.)
Jester King Brewery and Kitchen
Treaty Oak Distilling
Family Business Beer Co
12 Fox Beer Co
Dripping Springs Distillery
Quick tip: Be sure to be outside at sunset. The Texas Hill Country boasts some of the best sunsets in the South!
Saturday in Dripping Springs
If you’re visiting the Hill Country, exploring the great outdoors is a must. Two of our most famous natural spots are Hamilton Pool Preserve and Reimers Ranch Park. You can visit both in the same morning as they are just down the road from each other. Hamilton Pool requires reservations, and you may need to verify before you go whether the swimming hole is open. Regardless of whether you get to take a dip, the 50 foot waterfall at the bottom of the natural staircase and the caverns behind it are definitely worth the visit. Bring your camera!
Afterward, head to Reimers Ranch Park for a little bit of easy climbing, cave exploration, hiking, (rocky) beach bumming, and swimming or wading in the Pedernales River.
If Hamilton Pool is booked or if you find yourself with a little extra time, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is another option for a fun and informational guided hike down to a beautiful grotto and limestone cavern. It’s also along Hamilton Pool Road. Call to make reservations before you go.
For dinner with the kids, stop in at Route 12 Filling Station on Hwy 12 and Fitzhugh Road. In the hot months, which are most of them, there is a splash pad for the kiddos, but the playground and large patio are open year-round. There’s a variety of delicious food for even the pickiest eaters.
Another dinner option in the area is Verde’s Mexican Parilla, which also has a huge covered patio, as well as a playground and fenced-in grass area for the kids to play. The menu is unique, and every single appetizer is worth trying. The food is phenomenal.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
❌ Swimming (seasonal)
❌ Playground and Sports Fields
✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Reservations needed
Just a few miles north of Dripping Springs and about 25 minutes west of Austin lies a hidden sculpture park and adjacent trail leading to shops and restaurants in Bee Cave, TX, which is the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Bee Cave Sculpture Park!
Sharing a parking lot with the Bee Cave Police Department located on Highway 71 is this unique sculpture park with permanent and rotating exhibits. Kids will love trying to identify the sculptures and taking funny pictures with them. The trail meandering through the exhibits is stroller and kid-friendly. There’s also a beautiful pond to picnic next to and hunt for frogs.
Easy (but rocky)Trails
Adjacent to the sculpture park is a wide rocky trail going eastward. It takes you a short distance to an open green space with another pond. This trail is not stroller-friendly, but it leads you to the Shops at the Galleria. The distance is approximately 1/2 mile. After reaching the back of the Shops, there is a trail loop that can be walked to add more distance.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Reservations needed
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Free admission
Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:
In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)
Easy to Moderate Trails
On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.
There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.
A Story Walk
Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.
The Discovery Center
Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)
More Challenging Trail Options
The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.
On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.
A Small Playground
Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.
Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas
The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.
Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.
Great Towns Nearby
After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.
The Texas Hill Country offers several unique and fun Spring Break options. I’m bringing this popular post back to the surface again in case you haven’t quite hit the “Book” button on your Spring Break plans.
Spring Break takes on many different roles as you go through life. As a child, it represents freedom from school and, hopefully, a memorable family vacation. In college, it’s a week of clandestine partying and naïve independence. As a young professional, it means less traffic on your commute and sunset happy hours on a lively patio.
However, for parents of school-age kids, Spring Break equates to planning, prepping, and packing, whether you stay or go.
The planning can become overwhelming, though. There are just too many options. Do we play hometown tourists? Blow our budget and go skiing? Take a road-trip and camp in the great outdoors? Rent a house on the beach? Or do we visit family or friends? It can be pretty daunting.
BUT… the planning, pressure, and patience it takes to celebrate Spring Break is so worth it. After surviving those grueling winter months (spoken as a true Texan), Spring Break is a turning point from one season to the next. It represents the promise of less illness, sunny days, and plenty of opportunities to get outdoors. It’s a rite of passage throughout life, but it’s also the perfect pivot from too much screen time to too much sunscreen.
If you’re still stuck in a planning rut, you’re in luck because I love to plan! Read on for some amazing, last-minute options that can be perfect for day trips or short stays in the Texas Hill Country. You can even have a completely FREE* staycation!
Whether your family is into history, the rustic outdoors, chilling by the water’s edge, or window-shopping, there’s something fun for all in this small town. Check it out….
McKinney Falls State Park: hiking, biking, fishing (rental equipment available), swimming, cabin and campsite rental, waterfalls, Junior Ranger program. (Book a day pass in advance.)
*Downtown Bastrop: nestled along the Colorado River, this historic downtown has art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, breweries, a museum and visitor center, live music, and theater performances at the old Opera House.
*Fisherman’s Park: riverside park with basketball court, playground, splash pad, and boat rentals – Enjoy a walk along the river trail and a yummy lunch at Neighbor’s Kitchen.
With no shortage of family activities and so much natural beauty in this part of Texas, it has become one of my family’s favorite areas to visit. Check it out….
*Historic Gruene: Visit Gruene Hall for live music, shop the boutiques, stroll along the river, and eat at the Gristmill.
Johnson City and Fredericksburg
Nestled between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg, Johnson City features so much of what the Texas Hill Country is known for: rolling hills, stunning views, delicious home-cooking, rich history, and local wine! There’s something for everyone in this tiny town.
I’ve always known Hunt as the location of my childhood friends’ favorite summer camps. As you drive into Hunt, it’s easy to see why it was chosen for their location. The wide open spaces and winding Guadalupe River take you far away from home with their beauty.
Garner State Park: one of our fave state parks, offering challenging to easy hiking trails, tubing, paddle-boarding, overnight camping, evening activities, and mini golf.
*Schumaker’s Crossing: Swim, kayak, or float in the crystal clear waters just east of downtown Hunt. Paddle about 30 min to Ingram Dam to try out a natural water slide, then make your way back to relax and enjoy a picnic at the tables under the beautiful Cypress trees.
YO Ranch: Go on a private exotic wildlife tour. Book in advance for a spot.
Bridget’s Basket: Book a table in this old farmhouse and enjoy farm-to-table goodies
*Explore Kerrville: You can fill the day visiting meaningful tourist attractions, shopping in the historic downtown, floating the river, and playground-hopping.
Still one of our favorite places to visit as a family, we’re always finding new-to-us things to do there. This Road Trip Edition highlights our faves.
During this second week of September, temperatures in our beautiful part of Texas dropped 40 degrees after a chronic spell of sweltering 100-degree heat. The powers-that-be are calling it a “False Fall”, but my family has decided that it’s an invitation to start early on excitedly preparing for the best season of the year.
Yesterday, we skipped out on afternoon responsibilities to browse Home Depot’s selection of Halloween decorations, spying on others to see which animated monsters would cause the most fright. We made dirt cups with gummy worms and lit pumpkin-vanilla scented candles. My kids played pick-up football in an open field, jumped on the trampoline in sweatshirts for hours, and begged for hot cocoa by the fire. We even got to watch part of the kick-off game of the NFL season. Nothing about today feels false. We’re forging ahead toward Fall, and there’s no stopping us now!
In keeping with tradition, it’s also time to create our family’s Fall Bucket List of all the places we want to go and things we want to do during this beautiful season of pumpkin patches, cute costumes, cooler temps, colorful leaves, and outdoor adventures. Feel free to join us!
Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to take a spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course, plus so much more. We also plan to stay late for a trip through the huge corn maze with flashlights. All of these activities are included for one admission price. ($16/person for ages 2+; opens Sept 19th)
You can find this farm and pumpkin patch along the scenic banks of the Colorado River in Bastrop, TX. Fall festival activities include a very complex corn maze, baseball and football toss, fall photo opps, train rides, tree fort, super slides, jumping pillow, fishing, face painting, and more. There will also be live music and a biergarten this year. ($16.95+tax/person for 2+, advanced purchase online required)
The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, and horseback riding. Admission is free, but activities are charged individually. Check website for details.
Enjoy the beautiful drive past vineyards and state parks to Fredericksburg, where you will find this fun stop with shopping, wine tasting, lunch options, wildflower trails, and butterfly gardens. Save the date for the Pumpkin Festival on September 26th.
Most likely, there’s a Board and Brush near you with dozens of adorable signs to make for the Fall season. You can join an established workshop or book a private party. All signs can be personalized with name, color choices, and texture. It’s such a fun activity, especially with the kids! (Prices start at $35)
Unfortunately, Home Depot is not currently hosting the Saturday kids’ workshops in person, but you can still go pick up the projects to do at home. You can also collect the patch, certificate, and token orange apron if you don’t have one yet. Just go to your local Home Depot before noon on the first Saturday of each month, and a team member will be give you everything you need for free.
Enjoy this food festival every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm. Then, spend the rest of the day at the super cool parks along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers in the area. Or travel a few minutes to the next town for …
Find artisan crafts, beer and wine, tasty food, and nearby shops with sales on the third full weekend of the month and first weekend of December. Stick around for lunch at the Gristmill and free live music (fingers crossed!) at Gruene Hall.
While this may be one of the smaller farmer’s markets, there are many local delicacies worth stopping by for on Wednesday afternoons. Also, you can spend your evening at a family friendly brewery in the area.
Travel south on RR12 for a scenic drive and the 2nd largest flea market in Texas, held the first Saturday of every month (Mar – Dec) from 9 am to 4 pm. Grab a glass of wine, browse the shops, pop in the candy store or Scoops Frozen Yogurt for a treat for the kiddos, and then walk the trail along the creek behind downtown to skip rocks, play on the playground, or wade in the water. If it’s a particularly hot day, check out Cypress Falls Swimming Hole.
My kids beg to return to this festival every year. They love the costumes, the accents, the shows, the rides, the games, and the feeling of time travel. It’s a bit of a drive from the Hill Country, but camping sites are available next to the festival grounds. Groupon is offering discounted tickets, and children 12 and under are FREE on Sundays. Advanced tickets required.
This living history farm offers guided tours and classes, such as blacksmithing and Texas swing dancing. Visit a Tonkawa Indian Encampment, a German Emigrant Farm, a Texian Farm, a Cotton Planter’s Farm and a rural village called Sprinkle Corner all in one day.
Go prehistoric and make your kids’ day by walking a trail to find large dinosaurs and dino clues in the woods. Then, play on the playground, dig for fossils, take hilarious photos, and guard your wallet (from your children) in the expansive gift shop. Drive a little further south and use your dino park wristband to enjoy 10% off lunch along the Colorado River at Neighbors Kitchen and Yard.
My kids and I look forward to this every year. We walk the trail, climb forts, play hide and seek, swing freely among the trees, and enjoy the beautiful foliage all around. Free with cost of admission.
With themed gardens, panoramic views of Austin, opportunities to learn about gardening and local flora, and shady picnic spots, this is the perfect place to spend a fall afternoon with the family.
My family and I can’t wait to start checking things of this bucket list; however, upon creating it, we were saddened to see that a couple of our favorite places are no longer operating or have not been able to offer the same services this Fall. Please support local businesses and vendors as much as possible so that we and those business owners can continue to give our kids amazing experiences, like the ones above, every Fall.
Are you looking for the best day trips from Austin and Dripping Springs? Day tripping is our family’s favorite way to get a little change of scenery and feel the vacation vibes without blowing the travel budget. After being stuck at home for months during the longest summer ever, we’ve decided to venture out of town here and there for a little river-splashing, window shopping, beer tasting, easy hiking, playground-hopping, and a wee bit of unschooling.
If, like us, you’ve had enough of circling your block every morning or re-watching the same eight Peppa Pig episodes on repeat or warning your teen that this is the last You Tube episode she’ll watch for the rest of her liiiife, then consider a day trip in the Texas Hill Country! Pull together a few PB&J‘s, grab some bags of chips, and make sure your summer survival kit for the car is packed and ready to go. Then, hit the road!
Most day trips from Austin are less than two hours away, making them easy to pull off with kids of all ages and with limited supplies. Plus, all of the destinations recommended on this list have several free activities and fun places to go with kids, so you could spend the whole day exploring on only the cost of a tank of gas, saving your travel budget for an epic post-corona getaway.
Unfortunately, many of our beloved Texas Hill Country towns have the reputations of being more suitable for grandma’s shopping habits than for family adventures. But they all have so much more to offer than just a day of antique-hunting. Check out this list of our favorite day trips from Austin and outdoor kid-friendly activities you can do in each destination…
1. Kerrville and Ingram
From a hilltop cross to stand-up paddle boarding to playing trivia at lunch, you can definitely find a variety of activities in these neighboring small towns.
The Cross at Kerrville: Make this quick stop to take in the enormous walk-through empty cross, prayer garden, beautiful sculptures, and stunning views. *free*
Enjoy lunch, a craft beer, and table trivia at Grape Juice Restaurant or pick another locally owned fave in walkable downtown Kerrville
Louise Hays Park: This city park offers lots of parking, easy access to swim/splash in the Guadalupe River, beautiful trails, two playgrounds, dozens of shady picnic spots, a splash pad, board and boat rentals onsite, and clean public restrooms. *free*
Riverside Nature Center: Leisurely stroll through wildflower, butterfly, and demo gardens, attend a naturalist events, and educate yourself on the TX Hill Country riverscape. *free*
Stonehenge II: Stop for a few photo ops with this replica of the real deal. *free*
Ingram Dam and Schumacher Crossing: Rent a mat from the nearby Dam Store to slide down the dam into the roaring water and spend the rest of your time wading, watching waterfalls, and riding the rapids at Schumacher Crossing. *free*
Take the kids on a trip through history and sprinkle in a lot of kid-friendly activities in the home of Blue Bell ice cream.
Washington on the Brazos: Walk the trails along the Brazos River and visit the site of Texas independence. Reservations not required, but it’s recommended to call to confirm availability due to capacity restrictions. (936-878-2214) *$8/adult, $5/child over 5, includes admission to Barrington Plantation.
This adorable German town isn’t just for the retirees; there’s plenty to do for the whole family.
Marktplatz: Open green space, covered pavilion with tables, beautiful garden, public restrooms, and a large playground make this park the perfect place to spend a couple hours and picnic with the kids. *free*
Luckenbach: Live music on the weekends, great people watching, bar and grill options for outdoor dining, and an old campsite to wander and explore. *free*
Wildseed Farms: Walk the trails, shop in an outdoor space, enjoy the wildflowers, and sip on some wine or lemonade in the garden. *free admission*
Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park: This 150 acre city park has fishing access on Live Oak Creek, a playground, hiking trails, covered pavilions, sand volleyball, and basketball courts. *free*
Enchanted Rock:If you can get a reservation at this popular state park, challenge yourself to hike to the top for a spectacular hill country view. It’s not stroller-friendly, though, and it’s quite a haul both up and down with little ones. $8/adult
We visited this cute town outside of San Antonio recently and can’t wait to return when we have the full day to explore. The following spots are on our Boerne bucket list.
Cibolo Nature Center: Walk the trails among the cypress trees, splash in the Cibolo Creek, search for dinosaur tracks, and picnic in the shade. (Restrooms may not be open during Covid closures.) *free* Visit on Saturday, and you can add a stroll through the Farmer’s Market and Herff Farm.
Kinderpark: Large playground with hilltop slide and lots of climbing opportunities. *free*
Random Beer Garden: Outdoor play space for kids including a bouncing pillow, craft beer, food trucks, and live music make this spot a great place to wrap up the day for everyone in the family.
Downtown and Riverside Stroll: Visit the shops, restaurants, and walking trail along Cibolo Creek at River Road Park to watch the geese and ducks play. If you packed your fishing poles, you can fish in this creek as well. *free*
I hope you enjoy your adventures with the kids in the Texas Hill Country, and I invite you to share your photos on Instagram with the tag, #drippingwithkids. Also, please comment below if you have other towns you’d love to see featured in Part 2 of Day Trips from Austin with the Kids!
Aren’t kids so great? I’m currently riding in a packed car for 10+ hours with 4 of them. In between dishing out massive quantities of unhealthy snacks, changing shows on kid kindles every 67 seconds, breaking up sibling disputes with my futile mom-voice, and attempting to make conversation with my husband who somehow has the superpower ability to block out any and all activity occurring behind his seat, I am on and off my phone often. And each time I pick my phone back up, I am greeted by this lovely photo:
My sly pre-teen changed my phone’s lock screen from an adorable pic of her two youngest siblings sweetly staring up at me from their double stroller to this reminder of how uncoordinated and embarrassing her mother is. She laughs so hard every time I pick up my phone and sigh.
What she doesn’t realize is that I will gladly embarrass myself over and over again if it brings a smile to her face and helps us forge this developing mother/(almost-teen)daughter bond that’s new to both of us… a bond based on her discovery that she is now becoming way more cool than her mother has ever been, a bond that requires difficult, awkward conversations that are easier to get through when humor is sprinkled in, a bond in which we are both silently recognizing that she is eager yet not quite ready to be an independent teenager.
Navigating changing relationships with my “big” kids has been challenging for this mama, especially because I feel like my day consists of bouncing between cleaning up potty accidents, rescuing a toddler from death-defying stunts, re-teaching algebra lessons, and shouting out chore expectations. With kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, it can be overwhelming to satisfy each child’s need for attention and manage age-appropriate discipline, activities, and topics of conversation.
With the unfortunate spread of novel COVID-19, kids will be at home quite a bit this month and will require a lot more attention from their already-stretched parents. I’ve seen many articles and ads about activities to do with kids while we’re stuck at home with them. I empathize with the fear many parents are expressing about having children home all day every day and finding ways to entertain them without allowing countless hours of screen time. However, when I reflect on when my family is happiest, it’s definitely when we don’t have to adhere to a schedule and when we’re able to let our creativity lead us to spontaneous or new ways to have fun together. When we return home from our trip, I know my kids will not be ready to launch into full days of educational activities. To them, it will still feel like vacation if they are not in school. Therefore, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and make a list of fun “stay-cation” ideas to get through the longest spring break we’re likely to ever experience and hopefully build even closer bonds with each one of my kids, no matter what stage of coolness, sassiness, or independence they’re in.
1. Celebrate a favorite holiday out of season! Have Christmas in March with caroling, sugar cookies, re-gifting, and favorite holiday movies. Or celebrate Easter a little early with a themed egg hunt, bunny crafts, and bible stories. (Don’t have anything to fill the eggs with? Put coins or tickets inside and let the kids “buy” prizes, such as coveted snacks, forgotten stuffed animals, or a ticket for one on one time with Dad.) Or if 4th of July is a fave, decorate bikes and trikes and parade through the neighborhood, watch Independence Day, and make red, white, and blue treats.
2. Make the backyard a water park! Turn on the sprinklers, fill the baby pool, roll out the slip in slide, load up the water guns and balloons, and let the kids wash your car too.
3. Have a carnival! Set up easy carnival games like bowling, tossing a ping pong ball in buckets, pinning the nose on the clown, ring toss with cones or bottled drinks, and duck pond with rubber duckies from the bathtub.
4. Host a kids’ baking championship! They bake, you all eat, and the second/third place contestant cleans.
5. Take a hike! Follow up your hike with an indoor picnic and camp out, complete with a tent in the living room and s’mores in the fireplace! You can practice social distancing while exploring nature. Venture into another neighborhood and check out their trails. Or pull up google maps and look for any green space nearby that you’ve never explored before. Click on that green area, and you’ll be able to determine whether there are trails or an open park space there. You can also just type in “hiking” or “trails” in the search bar to find a new-to-you spot to explore.
6. Have a character day! Make costumes or get them out of your Halloween storage and dress up as favorite characters from movies or books and try to stay in character all day. Or switch characters each hour.
7. Learn about a new culture! One of the best parts of travel is learning about different cultures, and with a google of information at your fingertips, you can have your own culture fair at home. Let each person research a recipe (and cook it), a tradition, some historic facts, and additional information about a foreign culture. Then, he/she can share with everyone else in the family.
8. Explore a museum (at home)! And then create your own! A dozen famous museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Rijksmuseum, are offering virtual tours of their exhibits online for free. Explore these amazing institutions and then create your own museum at home with dinosaur toys, homemade art to mimic famous pieces from history, and/or natural specimens from a nature walk in your neighborhood. (Have older kids research their own museum contributions and write a summary of their exhibits.)
9. Create a repurposed art gallery! Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art.
10. Set up a ninja or obstacle course! And then follow that up with indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts! Challenge the kids to beat mom or dad in a course of climbing, crawling, jumping, and parkouring. Then, keep them busy and out of your hair searching for obscure items throughout the house and backyard.
And then, when you’ve had all the fun you could possibly muster…
11. Tackle spring cleaning! Bribe those kids with treats, money, screen time, an opportunity to redecorate their rooms, or a you tube dance party in the living room in exchange for decluttering, scrubbing floors, wiping baseboards, dusting shelves, and finally tossing that old 1st grade project.
In all seriousness, I pray that you and your families remain safe and healthy in the midst of this uncertain time with an uncertain pandemic. I also hope that something good can come of it as we take full advantage of this time at home with our loved ones.
A few years ago, I was invited to write an article for the Houston Zoo website and newsletter as the Member of the Month. I’ve never been more excited to work for free. Maybe this could be considered my first blog post! Here is an excerpt from it:
My family has had a membership at the zoo for about 7 years. In the first couple years, I pushed a single stroller with my eager and curious daughter, planning each visit around her favorite animals: the elephants, sea lions, and big cats. Soon enough, I was cruising around the zoo with a double jogger, making sure that each visit included a carousel ride, a trip to the playground, many animal sightings, a crawl (or two or three or thirty) through the tunnel in the Natural Encounters house, and a stroll past the monkeeeeeys for my son. Now, we go as a family of five with two big kids leading the way and another eager and curious daughter in the single stroller. We never miss the African Forest, which houses my favorite animals, the majestic giraffes, and my husband insists on going through the bug house, despite the terrifying cockroaches, because he was one of the engineers for that exhibit. We all challenge ourselves to see if we can make it to every corner of the zoo. We don’t want to miss anything!
After submitting this article, it hit me that the zoo truly was one of our family’s happy places, and we vowed to visit zoos all over the country whenever we travel together. However, zoo admissions continue to increase, and many of them have added pricey experiences you can feel tempted to take advantage of when you book online. This is where a zoo membership can make a huge difference!
I am still a proud card-carrying member of the Houston Zoo despite moving away 3 years ago, and I’ll tell you why.
Paying for one zoo membership not only gets you in for free at that zoo for an entire year, but it also gets you in free or 50% off admission to dozens of other zoos and aquariums across the country. Check out this site to see which zoos and aquariums are included. https://www.aza.org/reciprocity
In the last two years, my family has visited the Cameron Park Zoo three times, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Houston Zoo at least three times, the Oakland Zoo, the Dallas Zoo, and the San Antonio Zoo. Because of the membership benefits, we’ve saved over $400 on zoo visits while traveling, and that amount does not include the savings we’ve been able to pass along to friends through free day passes and inviting them as our guests. I also saved precious summer cash when I used to enroll my kids in camps at the zoo.
Most zoos have special events for Halloween (Zoo Boo), the holidays (Zoo lights), and in the spring or summer (Zoobilee) to which members get free or reduced admission. Many zoos also have free yoga classes, education events for children, opportunities for overnight campouts, and toddler/infant socialization times. Additionally, most zoos offer a member morning each month that allows you to get in one hour earlier than the normal opening time and feature specific animal talks. Members also get discounts on carousel or train rides and gift shop purchases.
Animal Conservation and Taxes
100% of your zoo membership is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation going toward animal and habitat conservation. Saving money on family experiences and taxes too… win-win!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question after revealing the destination of a recurring road trip for our family.
Is there an amusement park for children? Nope. Is there a nice resort to stay at? Not that I know of. Is there a beach? Definitely not. (But read on to find out how you can ride the waves in the center of Texas.) Is there anything more to do than following the Gaines family on their latest venture? Surprisingly, YES.
There’s something about the many small towns of Texas that really piques my family’s interests. Each town in this great state has such a unique history, culture, and vibe, and Waco is no exception. It has a long and intriguing history rooted in Native American culture and early American settlers. It’s also the site of one of the largest mammoth excavations in the world and the location of the first bridge over the Brazos River, which connected east and west Texas, forever changing the population and economy of the future republic. Waco has also had a negative and notorious reputation for murder, including the lynching incident deemed the Waco Horror, David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult massacre and fire, and the biker gang shoot out in 2015. These stories made Waco less than popular among tourists, yet this town has a thriving university, multiple museums, beautiful natural landscapes, cultural diversity, and a story to tell. Chip and Joanna decided that Waco wasn’t worth giving up on, and my family tends to agree. One weekend just isn’t enough to take all of it in, but here’s our version of how to make the best of those few days and entertain the entire crew in the infamous town of Waco…
Where to Stay:
We found a great house in the nearby town of Riesel. It’s off the beaten path, and there’s no grocery store or special attractions, but it’s just a 15-20 min drive from Waco and offers a relaxing country setting, as well as opportunities to enjoy quiet quality time with family and friends. Check out this house: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22227878
If you want to stay right in town, there are plenty of options through Airbnb, but we’ve also stayed at a hotel (Springhill Suites) that had rooms big enough for our family of 6 and included a full kitchen and free breakfast. Highly recommend!
Things to Do:
Cameron Park Zoo – One of our fave zoos! The zoo has plenty of shade, a fun playground, and interactive exhibits; plus, it’s easy to walk through the whole zoo in half a day. Highlights include the slide through the otter exhibit, feeding the giraffes, bridges over animal habitats, several cute photo ops, the nocturnal animals barn, and the extensive reptile house. Tip: Feed yourself and the kiddos in advance. There are two cafes, but they are spread out. There aren’t many snack options in between the two.
Cameron Park – This Park has it all… multiple playgrounds, a splash pad, picnic areas, scenic views, and hike and bike trails. It is one of the largest municipal parks in Texas, and the Brazos River runs alongside it. Tip: Explore the website and map in advance to determine where to park your car based on trail heads or playgrounds you want to visit. https://www.waco-texas.com/cms-parksandrecreation/page.aspx?id=310
Magnolia Market at the Silos – The Gaines family ventures aren’t completely avoidable. With lawn games for the kids, shopping for Mom, and food trucks for Dad, there’s plenty to do here to keep everyone happy. (BONUS: Joanna Gaines has re-opened her original store on Bosque as a liquidation shop. If you make a purchase at Magnolia Market at the Silos, you can bring your receipt to the Bosque location and get an additional 10% off the already reduced prices.)
Mayborn Museum – It’s a history museum and children’s museum in one… win-win for the whole family! Highlights include the mini mammoth site, kinetic music hallway, outdoor pioneer village, and dozens of interactive children’s exhibits, including a toddler play area. Also, the museum is on the Baylor campus, which is really pretty to walk or drive through. Tips: Allow a lot of time for this visit. Your kids will want to stay put in specific rooms, and you will want to have plenty of time leftover to explore the outdoor village. Outside food and drinks are not allowed.
The Dr. Pepper Museum – Do you love the sweet, sugary concoction and want to know all about its history? Then, this museum is for you. There are some nostalgic components worth reminiscing over and some fun photo ops, but if you are with small children with little patience, save this museum for another visit when they’re a bit older and/or when the grandparents want to relive their early years with the soda jerk. (Sorry, Mom.)
On the bucket list for a future visit:
Waco Mammoth National Monument – This paleontological site represents the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. Visitors can view “in situ” fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago. https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm
Homestead Heritage – Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftsmanship. It also strives to live in peaceful coexistence with the land, other people and other faiths. You can visit the craft village Mon-Sat. https://www.homesteadheritage.com/overview/
BSR Cable Park – This surf resort boasts the longest lazy river in Texas, plus opportunities to learn how to ride the waves and satisfy your dreams of becoming a pro surfer. This adventure is meant for older children and adults, but it offers cabins to rent and picnic spots for the whole family. https://www.bsrcablepark.com/
Texas Ranger Museum – Yes, it’s a history museum… about law enforcement. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s still on our list for the history nerd in our family. (I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed who that is.) https://www.texasranger.org/
Texas Sports Hall of Fame – This one’s for the guys in our household. It’s supposed to be a really cool place to visit with lots of sports photos, memorabilia, and statistics that are necessary for the male brain to memorize. http://www.tshof.org/visit/info/