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.
Christmas doesn’t have a cancel button, so don’t give up on your favorite holiday events just yet. The 2020 Holiday Bucket List is just as full as the lists in previous years. Make the most of this season with these amazing events in our beloved Texas Hill Country.
This year, it seems that most families want to go BIG with their holidays … BIG on giving, BIG on decorating, BIG on family time, and BIG on celebrating the reason for the season. 2020 is the perfect year to start some new holiday traditions or to revive a few that got lost in Christmases past.
One of our favorite traditions is our Family Advent Calendar:
Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)
Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets in years past, followed by the 2020 Holiday Bucket List.
TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME –
Bake sugar cookies
Make cards/gifts for teachers
Holiday movie night
Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
Deliver treats to neighbors
Caroling at home and holiday charades
Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
Tell stories of our family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
Make a reservation for a socially-distanced photo with Santa and a stroll through the store’s holiday decorations. Your kids can also mail a letter to Santa and take home a holiday craft kit. Plus, no visit to Cabela’s is complete without a visit to the dead zoo.
Walkway of Lights with a variety of themes, weekend events including breakfast with Santa, ice skating, shopping, and “No Room at the Inn” gallery exhibit… With this many holiday-inspired activities, you could spend every weekend in Marble Falls!
Take a short drive to Bastrop for some spectacular holiday events, including a wassail fest, river of lights, a drive-in movie and virtual tree lighting, holiday sidewalk stroll and scavenger hunt, and Elf the Musical.
The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. The town of Johnson City is still deciding which events will occur this year. Check website for details.
Show up on any day of the week for a spectacular holiday light show and events-a-plenty. Fredericksburg is so full of holiday cheer that you may need a few days to take it all in. Check the website for specific activities and lodging options.
This fun hometown festival isn’t giving up on 2020. Enjoy shopping with local vendors, a trackless train, pony rides, a festive atmosphere, and an opportunity to write a letter to Santa and mail it on-site.
Photos with Cowboy Kringle (appointment required), free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. Traditional events, such as the town lighting and the gospel brunch, are postponed until 2021. Check website for events still taking place.
Take a kit home so your kids can to create their own Treat Tray for Santa. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last.
This morning, my floor was covered in multi-colored pom poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, crayons, glue sticks, googly eyes, straws, and empty plastic baggies. Our sweet preschool teachers have been sending home adorable art project ideas and random crafts items. The kids and I have a blast making frog masks, hungry caterpillars, watercolored paper chickens, and sunny scenes with stickers…. but, what am I supposed to do with all of these beloved projects when they’re done? My children are home all the time as we continue to shelter in place, and they are very aware of every single art project they’ve created and where it last hung or which window it was sitting in.
That means there are no opportunities to discretely sneak them into the recycling bin. This issue has led me to start thinking up and researching simple crafts that serve a purpose beyond a fun few minutes with the kids and walls full of half-colored creations. As we enter into our last month of homeschooling for this year, I am feeling a sense of re-motivation and decided to write out my brain-dumped list of purposeful, easy crafts for kids right here. Please share your kids’ creations in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @dripping_with_kids
1. Simple Homemade Bird Feeder
Pull out those dusty popsicle sticks, a few markers, some twine, and glue. Have kids color the sticks as they choose and then assemble a base by placing two sticks a few inches apart and then building a floor on top of that. From there, create sides by gluing each layer in an alternating pattern. Tie the twine on to all four corners, leaving enough length to tie the top around a tree branch. Then, fill with bird seed and watch the sparrows flock your tree. Don’t keep birdseed around? Your local grocery store likely carries it for pretty cheap. We bought some to make ornaments last Christmas and paid less than $2 for a 4 lb bag at HEB.
2. DIY Costumes
Making costumes for small children to play dress up doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. With your children’s help, you can quickly and easily create simple costumes, such as pirate, superhero, Peter Pan, cowboy, Cookie Monster, and book characters to keep them entertained for hours at home. There are countless no-sew links online or you can pull up a picture of your child’s favorite character, look around the house for a t-shirt color that matches, some construction paper, and other random objects to pull together a costume that reasonably resembles the real deal. For example, if you have a Captain America fan in your house, take a white t-shirt, color it with a marker to look like the character’s shirt, then use red duct tape or markers for accents. You can make a shield by coloring the backside of a paper plate, cutting holes in the sides, and attaching string. Then, check links online for no-sew superhero masks that can be made with construction paper or felt.
3. Cereal Box Mini-Storage
I love this frugal way to repurpose what would normally become trash into little storage containers for craft bits and pieces, pens, office supplies, snacks, and any other small items that need to find their own place in your home. To create these mini-storage containers, cut an emptied cereal box all the way around approximately 2 inches from the bottom. Then, strengthen and decorate the cardboard with duct tape you have lying around. Kids can decorate the tape using markers or label it with what will be stored inside. Voila… you crafted something useful that can fit in your junk drawer and keep you organized.
4. Painted Jars for Organizing Colored Pencils or Small Toys
Do you have dozens of acrylic paint bottles set aside for no specific use? How about a few jars tucked away in your cabinets? If so, you and your kids can paint the jars and then set them up on desks or bookshelves as a way to sort and organize colored pencils, pens, toys, erasers, legos, etc.
5. S’more Love for Neighbors and Friends
Looking for a way to spread love during these unique times? This campfire art project allows your kids to make something beautiful and gives you all an opportunity to share s’more love with others. Materials needed: small twigs from the yard, red and yellow paint, thick paper or cardboard, cotton balls, and a small amount of clay or play-doh (colored paper, cardboard, or just about any craft material can be substituted here). To make your campfire, glue the twigs at the bottom of the paper to look like fire starters. Then pour the red and yellow paint onto paper plates. (Mix some red and yellow to make orange as well.) Let kids paint or dip their palms into the paint and make handprints to resemble flames above the twigs on the paper. Make as many or as few prints as you want until you have your desired campfire image. Then, create a s’more above the fire with a rectangular strip or brown paper or cardboard to represent the graham cracker, a bit of brown or black clay to represent chocolate, and a few cotton balls to make your marshmallows. Write a sweet note at the top of the paper, and deliver the beautiful creation along with a baggie of s’mores ingredients to a friend’s front porch.
6. Easy Art Wall
There are many ways to make an art wall in your home for all of those beautiful creations mentioned in the first paragraph. The easiest way I know how to do this is simply to hang a wire and use clothes pins to hold up those treasured pieces and continually replace the old with the new. To include the kids in this activity, have them decorate the clothespins. They can make tiny faces and glue on felt or paper clothing. They can make butterflies and dragonflies. They can glue on poms to make cute, colorful insects. The options are endless, and your art wall will be even cuter than you imagined.
Bless someone on their quarantined birthday by filling a box full of special decorations and surprises. Think of a theme, create games or activities (pull pages from a themed coloring book, pass down a puzzle, or just include sidewalk chalk and some instructions for a driveway obstacle course), scavenge the house for party supplies or decorations, draw faces on inflated balloons, and make a card. This box will be chock full of love and fun, plus your kids will have a blast doing a crafty and kind act for another person.
8. Homemade Clean-Up Labels
Has your kid ever used the excuse of not knowing where something goes to escape a clean-up chore? This easy craft serves the purpose of giving your child an opportunity to be creative and keep their little hands busy, while also making labels for shelves, bins, and drawers for easy clean up. Print blank pictures of toys or toy categories, such as legos, dolls, trains and cars, costumes, doll clothes, play-doh, or any other favorite toy in your home. Then, let children paint, color, or recreate the printed picture using their own supplies and creative ideas. Glue or tape the new labels in their appropriate location and encourage kids to “sort” their toys to match the labels.
9. Recycled Materials Art
Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art. Buttons can be eyes, twine can be a smile, a nail can be a nose, and yarn can be hair. Find an old frame for the artwork, and you have a personal and meaningful piece of art for your wall.
10. Disposable Table Cloth
Cover your table with easel, butcher, or the back side of holiday wrapping paper. Tape it down and let the kids decorate it. This is such an easy and fun way to keep kids busy for a long time! Plus, you can use your disposable table cloth to teach kids how to set the table by drawing plates, silverware, and napkins at one setting or you can practice math skills by measuring the table and using division to separate the table into equal art “squares” for each family member (and then calculate area and perimeter) or kids can simply use the tablecloth as their scratch/note paper while completing their online schoolwork.
11. Painted Rocks as Reward Tokens
Most kids love to paint rocks, but you can use these painted rocks as more than just sidewalk or trail decorations. Think of behaviors you want your children to work on. Then, collect rocks and separate them into piles for each behavior. Maybe you have an “inside voice” pile, a “close the back door without reminders” pile, and a “flush the toilet” pile. For each desired behavior, assign a color. Have your child paint all the rocks in that pile with one specific color. (They can add designs too.) When the rocks have dried, bring them in the house and set them next to bowls or jars labeled with the desired behavior. Each time your child achieves that goal, have him or her place a colored rock in the jar or bowl. When it’s filled, give a reward.
Happy Crafting! Please share your creations below or on Instagram with the tag @dripping_with_kids or #drippingwithkids. I’d love to see your crafts with a purpose!!
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!
Children and holidays are a lot alike. They can both drive us insane, but oh, how we love them so! I’m a huge fan of the holiday season, but I have to admit that every year, I feel a bit like the stressed, impatient, beloved main character in the children’s book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama.
“Is the big day coming soon? Llama Llama starts to swoon… All this waiting for one day? Time for presents right away! Too much music, too much fluff! Too much making, too much stuff! Too much EVERYTHING for Llama… Llama, Llama, HOLIDRAMA!” ¹
Not only do we have to find gifts for every human we’ve ever come in contact with, but we also have to make sure we make it to each white elephant party, see ALL the lights, and prepare for the perfect pic with Santa. Oh, and don’t forget the family traditions of holiday movie-thons, tree-decorating, caroling, searching for that dreaded elusive elf, and sending dozens of cards, all while wearing matching PJ’s! How do we squeeze everything in?
With so much going on, having a plan and finding a good balance is the only way to avoid ending up on the floor in a holidrama trance like little Llama Llama. In our house, we use the Advent calendar to maintain a game plan and limit the holiday commotion. Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)
Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets, along with our annual Holiday Bucket List, so you can find that perfect balance to fill you up with the joyful holiday spirit yet keep you sane!
TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME –
Bake sugar cookies
Make cards/gifts for teachers
Holiday movie night
Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
Deliver treats to neighbors
Caroling and holiday charades
Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
Tell stories of your family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
Make gingerbread houses
HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –
Reindeer Visit at the Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave): Santa’s reindeer will be in the Central Plaza from noon – 4 pm one day only (Nov 30th)! Stay for shopping and a movie at the Hill Country Holiday Village. Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting will occur at the same location one week earlier on Nov 23rd at 6 pm. (https://www.hillcountrygalleria.com/)
Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin): Dec 5th – 8th and Dec 12th – 15th, 6 – 10 pm… Gardens will be lit with thousands of luminarias and filled with music and festive fun. Plus, there will be performances by the aerial dance group, Blue Lapis Light. $18 for non-members, free for members and children under 5. (https://www.wildflower.org/event/luminations/all)
Emily Ann Theater Trail of Lights (Wimberley): Nov 30th – Dec 28th, 6 – 9 pm… Stroll through over 100
lighted exhibits, roast marshmallows, listen to live music, and visit with Santa on select nights. FREE, donations appreciated. (http://emilyann.org/trailoflights.html)
Donuts and Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (S. Austin): Join and support AOC MOPS while enjoying quality time with Santa and the Mrs. There will be photos with Santa, a doughnut breakfast, festive crafts, and story time with Mrs. Claus! Plus raffle items from Kendra Scott, Rodan and Fields, a complete car detail, personal chef services and much more. Reservations just $10 per family. Follow the link to make yours. Spots are limited, and it is expected to sell out.
Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Nightly November 29th – Jan 5th… The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. Parade rolls through town at 6:30 pm on November 30th, and food court will be available that night. On Dec 7th and 14th, there will be lamplight tours through LBJ’s boyhood home, crafts for children, and live music. Carriage and hay rides are available for a fee. (https://www.johnsoncitytexas.info/local-events–calendar.html
Holidays in Gruene: Weekends in December… photos with Cowboy Kringle, free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. (www.gruenetexas.com)
Crafts, Music, and Stories at your local library: Check your local library’s newsletter for FREE holiday events, including making holiday gifts, hunting for Elf on the Shelf, donating items to local shelters and senior centers, live music, and much more.
Home Depot December Kids’ DIY Workshop: On Dec 7th between 9 am and noon, create your own countdown to the holidays, and have a blast with your child while doing it. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. With help from parents and store associates, your child will make a merry memory this holiday season. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last. (https://www.homedepot.com/workshops/#store/8995)
Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs): This fun hometown festival on Dec 7th from 10 am to 5 pm draws a crowd to see Santa cruise in on a fire engine, to sip hot cocoa while perusing local vendor tables, and to watch local groups perform dance routines and sing Christmas carols. Come dressed to impress so you can snag a FREE picture with Santa. There will also be pony rides, a petting zoo, and a trackless train ride for the kids. (https://www.destinationdrippingsprings.com/events/2019/christmas-on-mercer-street)
Community First Village of Lights (Austin): Dec 6th & 7th and Dec 13th & 14th, 5:30 – 9 pm… With more than 200,000 lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas. Be sure to include a stop at the Advent Market to shop for unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live at the Village. Your purchase of gifts and concessions during the event will help our Community First! Village neighbors earn a dignified income. (https://give.mlf.org/event/village-of-lights-2019/e255043)
Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day (Bastrop – Fisherman’s Park): Dec 14th, 12 pm – 5 pm, followed by a lighted parade through downtown at 6 pm! (www.visitbastrop.com)
A Pioneer Christmas at the Pound House (Dripping Springs): Dec 14th, 12 – 2 pm… Food, Wagon Rides, Photos with Santa, Make-and-Take Ornament Crafts, Story Readings, Live Holiday Bluegrass Music, Demonstrators, Shopping with Local Artisans, Re-Enactments, and Tours of the House decked out for the Holidays! FREE admission. (http://www.drpoundhistoricalfarmstead.org/pioneer-christmas.html)
Holidays in Fredericksburg: There are several events throughout the season that will fill even the scroogiest attendee with the holiday spirit. Check out the town lighting on Nov 29th or the Light the Night Christmas parade on Dec 6th. There are also markets, ice skating, lights tours, live music, crafting, art walks, and many more activities happening in this cute little German town throughout the month of December. (https://www.visitfredericksburgtx.com/plan/events)
Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin): Over 120,000 lights are on display at a family’s home in Austin for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish foundation! Check out their “Believe” theme this year and leave a donation. (https://maywaldchristmasdisplay.weebly.com/)
Save the Date: Snow Day at the Science Mill (Johnson City): Jan 18th, 2020, 10 am – 4 pm… 20 tons of snow will fill the museum’s backyard. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9.50 for children 3-12. (https://www.sciencemill.org/upcoming-events-1/)
Children today may be obsessed with screens and have incredibly busy extracurricular schedules, but unstructured play time at a park really can’t be beat. Sometimes, we’ll spend summer days just hopping from one playground to the next. Often, my kids don’t even need a playground, just an open field to let their imaginations and their bodies soar. While we’re outside, worries and responsibilities drift away, which is why on the playground is where I’d like to spend most of my days. My kids often feel this way too.
If you’re looking for a great playground where your kids (and you) can safely climb, wander, jump, slide, and swing, the list below is for you. If you’re looking for tips on how to convince your child to leave these playgrounds when it’s time to go without resorting to bribery, I got nothing for ya.
Top 10 Playgrounds in and around Dripping Springs, TX
1. Founders Memorial Park: This large park is nestled between our town’s historic pioneer farmstead and the local pool. It includes the coolest swings, three playscapes, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, bathrooms, plenty of parking, a walking trail, and a football/soccer field. (480 Founders Park Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
2. Dripping Springs Sports and Rec Park: Our local 40 acre sports park has a large play structure, shaded picnic areas, indoor restrooms, basketball courts, sand volleyball, walking trails, and soccer and baseball fields. (27148 Ranch Road 12, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
3. 12 Fox Brewery: With a castle theme, including a long drawbridge and wooden ladder, this playground is very popular with my kids and their friends. There’s also a separate play area with outdoor equipment meant for younger children. Bonus: enjoy a beer, live music, and a taco or pizza while they play.
4. Saddle Tree Ranch Neighborhood Park: An old-school swingset, unique metal climbing structure, modern playscape with multiple slides, tennis courts, and a large field to run wild makes this park the perfect spot to burn off some kid energy. (401 Lariat Cir, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
5. Caliterra Community Playscape: This fun neighborhood amenity includes a large play structure, trails along a beautiful creek, and an adorable coffee shop open to the public. (Hwy 12 @ Caliterra Parkway)
6. City of Bee Cave Central Park: While not in the city of Dripping Springs, this huge city park is worth the short drive! It sprawls 50 acres and includes two separate playgrounds with different experiences and equipment, covered pavilions with picnic tables, large hills for your inner child and your actual child to roll down until you’re too dizzy to stand up, concrete walking trails, restrooms, a dog park, multiple basketball courts, and open field space for ball play. (13676 Bee Cave Parkway, Bee Cave, TX 78738)
7. Windmill Run Park: This hidden park is tucked back in an established neighborhood, so when you arrive, you’ll be surprised by how large it is. With two large playscapes, a climbing structure, and a swingset, your family can spend hours here. There’s also a nature trail and shaded picnic tables. There are no bathrooms on site, though, so plan ahead. (8100 Kirkham Dr, Austin, TX 78736)
8. Graceland: Technically, this is an outdoor restaurant, but it makes our list because the shaded play areas can’t be beat. So, grab a beer and watch your kids run with glee between the three large structures and playhouses. You can even use the playground when the restaurant isn’t open. (8600 290 West, Austin, TX 78736)
9. Belterra Trinity Hills Park: If you’re looking for a safe neighborhood park with room to run, a playscape to scale, and nature trails to traverse, this is a great spot to spend an hour after school or before an outdoor picnic lunch. (240 Torrington Dr, Austin, TX 78737)
10. Headwaters Play Area: Instead of the typical playscape, this play area feels a bit more natural with a sand pit, grassy hills, cargo nets, hillside slide, and large rocks for bouldering. There’s also a cafe in the amenity center that’s open to the public. (708 Headwaters Blvd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
Whether you’re new to the area and looking for a few spots to meet other families, visiting from out of town and exploring our beautiful hill country, or a long-time resident in need of reminders on where to let your kids wander, I hope these suggestions are helpful. Get outdoors and play on!
Every morning, I play hide and seek with my favorite mug, although I’m perpetually the frustrated seeker in the game. Thankfully, I have the equivalent of a toddler nearby who impatiently reveals the other player’s hiding spot. *beep, beep* It’s my microwave, reminding me that I left my coffee in there for the 5th time already this morning. And it’s only 7 am.
Most people have a definitive and memorized answer to the title question above: “How do you take your coffee?” Maybe you take your coffee black or with a little sugar. Maybe you prefer cappuccino or a latte. Maybe you’re like one of my friends who fancies just a little bit of coffee with her cream. Or like another who doesn’t drink coffee at all but savors tea.
That essential beverage becomes our lifeline to face the busyness and stress of the morning with a bit more gusto and resolve. We each have our unique way of making and taking that steaming cup, but I’d venture to guess that most of us have one thing in common: our early morning libation is rarely a part of a relaxing or motivating ritual. We’re stealing sips between diaper changes, lunch-packing, carpool line complaints, hair-brushing and makeup application, or giving countless commands to others. Our early mornings are no longer slow or sacred. The pace of our current culture has diminished the joy that morning coffee should bring.
What if the question, “How do you take your coffee?” had a different implication? What if you took your coffee on the back porch with a devotional and some time to journal? What if you took your coffee while playing uninterrupted on the floor with your toddler? What if you took your coffee to the bathroom while your spouse was getting ready for the day and had an early-morning chat about nothing and everything all at once? How would that change the course of your day and the mood with which you tackle it?
Recently, while on a kid-free vacation with my husband, I took the time to linger with my coffee. I actually sat down. I read. I wrote. I shared plans for the day with my favorite person. It was glorious!
Then and there, I decided to take back my morning coffee. I vowed not to choke it down after reheating it a dozen times or clean up the small spills all over the house that happen as I rush from room to room with a full cup in my hand. I vowed to be intentional with that time and with that steaming cup of yummy goodness. I know this is not a new concept and that taking that extra time for yourself in the morning is preached often, but I’ve never quite figured out how to make it happen. Or maybe I’ve never been motivated enough. So, please be my accountability partners! Join me in this coffee “revolution”, allowing us to slowly savor our favorite hot drink with the intention of reflecting in gratitude yet also preparing for our busy days ahead. I would LOVE to hear from you on how you take your coffee, whether it’s amidst obligations and chaos or sitting peacefully on your porch. Spill it all on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #takebackmycoffee, and check out how my mornings go at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.
If you’re still doubting that taking back your morning coffee is possible, I hope these suggestions will encourage you to try!
1. Listen to a fave podcast! I recommend “Happy Hour” by Jamie Ivey for inspiration, How to Money” with Joel and Matt for great financial advice, “Before Breakfast” by Laura Vanderkam for encouragement in making the most of your mornings, or “Straight Up with Stassi” for a good laugh.
2. Sing along to contemporary Christian music. I know there’s been a bit of a stigma around Christian music in the past, but I dare you to listen to “Grace Got You” by Mercy Me, then come back and tell me that you’re not totally pumped for the day ahead. Spoiler alert: it won’t happen. That song will get you moving!
3. Get to writing! You don’t have to commit yourself to deep thoughts in a lengthy journal post, but just brain-dumping can feel really good. Jotting down notes on the next vacation you want to take can motivate you to work that much harder. Penning a letter to a friend or even to your future self might put a smile on your face. Writing is therapeutic and so beneficial for the mind.
4. Call a sick friend or family member. Start your day off by brightening theirs. You can have coffee together even if you’re not in the same room.
5. Pour your brew into a travel mug, wake one of your kids or your spouse up early, and go for a short walk. Enjoy the cool morning air and a leisurely conversation.
6. Delay your morning coffee until everyone else has left the house and just be alone with your thoughts, meditate, or pray for a bit.
7. Bake or meal-prep as you sip. That feeling of accomplishment after doing something purposeful with your hands is a great way to stay motivated all day long.
8. Color. Have you tried one of those adult coloring books yet? They’re great for stress relief and leave you with a beautiful piece of self-made art.
9. Play with your kids. Maybe you’re happiest when you immerse yourself in their joy. Take that coffee to the floor, grab some puzzle pieces, and be a kid again with the ones you love most.
10. Read a good book or devotional uninterrupted. Wake up 30 minutes earlier, find a quiet corner in the house or a comfy chair outside, and immerse yourself in a story.
Whatever you choose to do, just do it! I’ll be fighting the battle against morning to-do’s along with you. 🧡
“Kids… sit still please. Look at mommy. Smile. Don’t throw that pumpkin! Do you want ice cream? Sit on that big, round white one. Say ‘Halloweeeeen’! Look at mommy. I’m right here. SIT DOWN!
Ah, forget it! I wonder if they have wine on this farm.”
If you have at least one mini-human living in your home or did at one time, you know exactly where I was in the heat of the afternoon last October. It’s a rite of passage for both parents and children: the Fall pumpkin patch photos. And as difficult as it can be to get those perfect pics of children in their orange and hunter-green frocks sitting among pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes, I look forward to those pumpkin patch moments all year long. There’s no shame in my game: we visit as many of them as we can throughout the month of October and keep trying for that flawless photo. Those fall festivals and prize-worthy pumpkins are the quintessential representations of the best season of the year!
In my family, we FALL so hard. We anticipate the opening of the Spirit Halloween store as much as a skier anticipates the first snowfall. We covet the most creative dessert at a festival cake walk like a mama covets a hot cup of coffee after an all-nighter with a sick baby. We dream up Halloween costumes months in advance, start decorating with scarecrows and owls in late September, and fill our calendar with as many fall festivities as we can find. My kids come home daily to pumpkin-scented candles burning in the kitchen and mums strategically placed on the porches and tabletops. My husband gawks at our full agenda and questions how we can squeeze in all in, while this Mama is dancing around to “Thriller” and packing picnic dinners, ready to soak in everything my beloved season has to offer.
The endless options of awesome autumn activities, coupled with the natural beauty of the changing seasons, are the reasons why “fall” becomes a verb in our household and has led me to create an annual fall bucket list… I challenge you to FALL so hard with us.
5. Michael’s MakeBreak Classes: Halloween t-shirts, jack-o-lanterns, Christmas ornaments, holiday trees, etc… you just buy the main item, and the store will supply all the decorations as well as the instruction. https://classes.michaels.com/classes
6. Friday Night Lights: Check out our local highschool football game and possibly a homecoming parade. It’s a full night of entertainment for the whole family for less than $10/ticket.
7. Barton Hills Farm – Bastrop: corn maze, duck races, games, pumpkin patch, slides, scenic photos, farm animals, playground, live music, and more ($16/person, $12 in advance online) https://www.bartonhillfarms.com/pricing
9. Haunted House and Festival at Pioneer Town – Wimberley: This evening outdoor haunting is featuring ghouls, ghosts, and other scary creatures not often found in your normal pioneer village and is geared toward adults and older children, but on one Saturday in October, families are welcomed to a spooky fall festival featuring haunts, a creepy petting zoo, crafts for kids, pop-up vendors, live music, food, and beverages. (Daytime cost: $5 for 6+, free for under 5; Evening pass: $10 for 13+, not recommended for young children) https://wimberley.org/event/hauntedhouse-and-fall-festival-at-pioneer-town/
10. Fall Colors , Market Days, and Holidays in Gruene: “Watch as Cowboy Kringle rides into town on horseback and lights Gruene for the Holidays. We’ll be celebrating with live musical performances with festival food and wine available for purchase. Afterwards, get some holiday shopping done and cozy up to a fireplace for dinner at the Gristmill.” Go a little early for photos with Cowboy Kringle, a free show at Gruene Hall, and a stroll through town or along the river. http://gruenetexas.com/holidays.php
12. Haunted Train Rides & Zoo Boo – Austin Zoo: “Boo at the Zoo is a fun-filled evening for ghosts and goblins of any age. Come dressed in your Halloween finest (no adult masks, please) and enjoy our Zoo-wide event including the Zoo bedecked in Halloween spookiness, our nocturnal animals, an eerie train ride and unlimited passes through our mansion.” Check out the website for pricing and train ride times: https://austinzoo.org/boo-at-the-zoo/
13. Pumpkin Patch at DSYSA Sports Park (Oct 19, 9 am – 12 pm): This FREE event will entertain your kids with fall-themed and soccer-themed games, trick-or-treating, photo opps, and game-watching. Leave a donation for a pumpkin, lemonade, and/or baked goods to support the local soccer program and the youth that love to play.
14. Sweet Berry Farm – Marble Falls: This farm/pumpkin patch is FREE to enter, but you buy tickets for activities, such as flower picking, face painting, scarecrow-building, horseback-riding, and hay rides. Save a bit of money by bringing in your own picnic. https://www.sweetberryfarm.com/index.html
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/