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Things to Do Dripping Springs

Bee Cave Sculpture Park Trail

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)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ 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!

The Art

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.

Great Playgrounds

The trail leads you directly to two restaurants with great playgrounds: Mandola’s Italian Kitchen and soon-to-open Louisiana Crab Shack.

If you’re looking to enjoy unique art and then burn calories before indulging in a delicious meal and a bit of shopping, this is a great way to spend a late morning with the kids!

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.

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Things to Do Dripping Springs

Guadalupe River State Park

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

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground

✅ 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:

The River

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.

The Views

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.

Guided Tours

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.

The Wildlife

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.

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vacation

2021 Spring Break in the Texas Hill Country

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, when you become a parent of school-age kids, as the end of winter approaches, Spring Break equates PLANNING! There are just too many options. Do we play hometown tourists? Blow our budget and go skiing? 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 out of your house. 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!

Bastrop Area

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….

Places to Stay –

Bastrop River House

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Dinosaur Park Bastrop, Texas

Things to do –

  • The Dinosaur Park: Check out dino replicas, explore the gift shop, walk the trails, dig for fossils, and have a picnic near the playground.
  • McKinney Roughs Nature Park: discovery center, hiking trails, canopy zipline tours, UTV tours, and horseback riding.
  • 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.

New Braunfels/Gruene 

Gruene, TX
Gruene Hall

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….

Places to Stay –

Guadalupe River Houses

World Mark New Braunfels

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

Things to Do –

  • *Landa Park: spring-fed wading pool, miniature train, mini golf, 4 playgrounds, hiking, and sand volleyball.
  • *Fischer Park: 62-acre hilltop park with amazing views, hiking and biking trails, fishing ponds, kayak rentals, outdoor amphitheater, education center, and archaeology dig.
  • Comal and Guadalupe River: check online for tube rental and river access
  • Stars & Stripes Drive-In Theatre: old-school drive in theater with kid-friendly movie options and concessions.
  • Natural Bridge Caverns: cave tours, zip lining, gem mining, maze, canopy explorer (full day of activities!).
  • Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch: drive-thru safari park with giraffes, zebras, rhinos, lemurs, and so many more. Make reservations in advance and start early in the day.
  • McKenna Children’s Museum: indoor fun for all (limited hours, check website)
  • *Historic Gruene: Visit Gruene Hall for live music, shop the boutiques, stroll along the river, and eat at the Gristmill.

Johnson City

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.

Places to Stay –

The Lighthouse Hill Ranch

The Carnegie Hotel

Wild Currant Farm

Things to Do –

Hunt Area

Paddle boarding on the Rio Frio

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.

Places to Stay –

WorldMark Stablewood Springs

Waterfront Cabins

Things to Do –

  • 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.

Waco

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.

* FREE activities 

I hope Spring Break planning goes smoothly and that your family is able to enjoy the best the Texas Hill Country has to offer!

Not ready to travel? Try a few of these at-home Staycation ideas

Thank you for reading! Follow Dripping with Kids on Instagram or subscribe to this blog to get the best ideas on what to do with your family throughout the year in the Texas Hill Country.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

2020 Fall Bucket List

The Best of the Texas Hill Country This Fall

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.

Pumpkin patch fun in the Texas Hill Country

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!

Texas Hill Country Fall Bucket List (2020)

1. Visit a local farm and pumpkin patch.

Sweet Eats Fruit Farm:
About to enter the corn maze at the fall festival

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)

Barton Hills Farm:
Fall fun for big and little kids at Barton Hills Farm in Bastrop, TX

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)

Sweet Berry Farm:
Cute fall photo opp at Sweet Berry Farms in Marble Falls, TX

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.

2. Get creative!

Find beautiful flowers and Fall decor at Wildseed Farms
Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX

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.

Make Fall signs at local Board and Brush

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)

Pick up a kids’ project to-go at Home Depot
Fun decorations at Home Depot

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.

3. Peruse a farmer’s market.

New Braunfels Farmer’s Market

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 …

Old Gruene Market Days

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.

Dripping Springs Farmer’s Market

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.

Wimberley Market Days

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.

4. Go back in time!

Texas Renaissance Festival
Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston, TX

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.

Pioneer Farms

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.

The Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park in austin, TX

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.

5. Explore the Great Outdoors

Fortlandia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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.

McKinney Falls State Park

Trails, cliff diving, camping, fishing, and swimming in a beautiful setting…. what more can you ask for in the gorgeous fall weather? Be sure to make day pass reservations in advance.

Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical garden in Austin

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.

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Things to Do Dripping Springs

5 Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Austin

Plus, the Best Things to Do When You Get There

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
Louise Mays Park in Kerrville

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*
2. Brenham
Blue Bell Ice Cream Brenham TX

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.
  • Barrington Living History Farm: Show your kids what life was like on the plantation, which includes teaching opportunities about the history of slavery.
  • Blue Bell Creamery: The observation deck is currently closed, but you can still enjoy a scoop from the ice cream parlor, visit the store, and learn the history of Blue Bell in Texas. *free to visit*
  • Downtown Brenham: Enjoy art walks, casual outdoor dining, an architectural scavenger hunt, live music, and unique shops. Check online for scheduled events. *free events*
3. Wimberley
Cypress creek behind downtown Wimberley

This sweet little town has a lot more to offer than just a main street full of shopping and sipping. Here’s a list of how to make the most of Wimberley with your family.

  • Swimming Hole at Cypress Falls: Laid-back swimming hole with boat rental options, a mini limestone cave to sneak into, plus a taco restaurant and full bar on-site. $8/adult, $6/child over 5.
  • Blue Hole Park: The swimming hole is all booked up weeks in advance, but you can still visit the playgrounds and shaded hiking trails in the large park. *free*
  • Wooden Spoon Frozen Yogurt: Fill up your cup and add toppings at this self-serve froyo shop and then wander along the creek in the parlor’s backyard. *under $5*
  • Community Pizza and Beer Garden: Outdoor dining with a pirate-themed play area for kids. Call ahead to make sure they’re open.
4. Fredericksburg
On top of Enchanted Rock

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
5. Boerne
River  Road Park Trail in Boerne

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*
  • Visit a Cave: Cascade Caverns and Cave without a Name are both living caves that offer tours and grounds to hike, picnic, and explore.
  • 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!

On those days that you’d prefer to stay closer to home, check out these things to do in Austin and nearby.

Categories
Family Traditions Motivation

Your Socially-Distanced Staycation: 11 FUN Ways to Make the Best of It

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:

This is me, attempting dance poses at a free class, obviously for the sole purpose of embarrassing my first-born child.

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.

Found this beauty in our dentist office, smiles of dripping springs.

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.

Categories
Frugal Living

Why You Want a Zoo Membership

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.

Reciprocal Membership

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.

Special Events

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!

Find more Dripping with Kids at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.

Categories
vacation

Road Trip Edition: Waco with Kids

“What’s in Waco?”

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.

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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/

Baylor’s McLane Stadium Tour and Bears Football Game – What’s more Texan than football?? As our kids get older, we’d love for them to experience a game at each of the major universities, and if we can tack on a tour of the stadium, even better! https://baylorbears.com/sports/2018/5/16/facilities-mclane-html.aspx

Hawaiian Falls Water Park – This park looks like fun for all ages with attractions for thrill seekers and toddlers alike. https://hfalls.com/waco.php