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Things to Do Dripping Springs

A Weekend in Dripping Springs with the Kids

Your itinerary for a weekend in Dripping Springs, TX is right here!

Just a couple decades ago, Dripping Springs, Texas was practically unknown to the rest of the state. It was one of those small, sleepy towns that attracted songwriters and ranchers but few others had heard of it, despite its natural beauty and proximity to the state capital. But it didn’t take long for it to grow from a vast expanse of ranch land to a booming town, now well-known across the nation.

It seems that our little town was discovered twice… once in 1854 by Dr. Pound and two other families trekking across the Indian-filled frontier… and then again in the early part of this century by the many city-dwellers looking for a taste of country life with all the conveniences of a big city nearby.

Dripping Springs still has that wonderful small town feel, but it’s growing rapidly. Not only has it become a destination for young families, empty-nesters, and young professionals to settle down, it now has a huge tourist draw as well.

You might ask, “What’s the draw of Dripping Springs?” Recently, The Drip has been penned by the Texas Legislature as the Wedding Capital of Texas. Our small town hosts more than 3,500 weddings per year in over 35 unique venues within a 15 mile radius, from rustic barns to a former Vietnamese temple.

We are also home to dozens of micro-breweries, famous distilleries, and family-owned wineries, most of which are kid-friendly and showcase the beauty of the oak trees and rolling hills in this part of Texas.

Dripping Springs is also considered the “Gateway to the Hill Country” because of its easy access to nearby towns that make up this region of central Texas. From DSTX, you can easily travel south to the adorable town of Wimberley for unique swimming holes and a meandering square of shops and art galleries. You can take a scenic drive between rolling hills along back country roads to the historic town of Gruene for some boot-scootin’ and delicious barbecue. Or you can head further west to make your way onto the Hill Country Wine Trail and end up in the quintessential German town of Fredericksburg. In fact, there are dozens of day trips or short road trips easily taken from Dripping Springs that offer a window to Texas’s remarkable history and the variety of cultures in our great state.

But those interesting nearby towns are not the feature of this post. Dripping Springs gets all the glory here, and if you’re looking for an amazing weekend in The Drip with your family, we’ve got your weekend itinerary planned out. Fair warning, though: After a weekend here, you’ll probably want to move to our sweet town too.

Friday in Dripping Springs

Start your afternoon at the shops on historic Mercer Street, and try to find the dripping springs that our town was named after. Hint: look for a hidden staircase among the downtown shops. Read about the town’s history while on the path.

Then, take the kids to one of Dripping’s family-friendly breweries or distilleries to get a taste of the talent that has flocked here from all over the world. Your family could linger for hours at one venue, enjoying the open green space, live music, unique food offerings, and playground. Or you could bounce around to a few before settling in for the night. Just please be careful and designate a driver because our roads are winding, and this is a dark sky community without street lights. (Click the hyperlink above for specific reviews of each of the following.)

  • Jester King Brewery and Kitchen
  • Treaty Oak Distilling
  • Family Business Beer Co
  • 12 Fox Beer Co
  • Fitzhugh Brewing
  • Vista Brewing
  • Dripping Springs Distillery

Quick tip: Be sure to be outside at sunset. The Texas Hill Country boasts some of the best sunsets in the South!

Saturday in Dripping Springs

If you’re visiting the Hill Country, exploring the great outdoors is a must. Two of our most famous natural spots are Hamilton Pool Preserve and Reimers Ranch Park. You can visit both in the same morning as they are just down the road from each other. Hamilton Pool requires reservations, and you may need to verify before you go whether the swimming hole is open. Regardless of whether you get to take a dip, the 50 foot waterfall at the bottom of the natural staircase and the caverns behind it are definitely worth the visit. Bring your camera!

Afterward, head to Reimers Ranch Park for a little bit of easy climbing, cave exploration, hiking, (rocky) beach bumming, and swimming or wading in the Pedernales River.

If Hamilton Pool is booked or if you find yourself with a little extra time, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is another option for a fun and informational guided hike down to a beautiful grotto and limestone cavern. It’s also along Hamilton Pool Road. Call to make reservations before you go.

After all of that hiking and exploring, settle in at Hamilton Pool Vineyards and Farm for a glass of wine and some snacks at the bistro.

For dinner with the kids, stop in at Route 12 Filling Station on Hwy 12 and Fitzhugh Road. In the hot months, which are most of them, there is a splash pad for the kiddos, but the playground and large patio are open year-round. There’s a variety of delicious food for even the pickiest eaters.

Another dinner option in the area is Verde’s Mexican Parilla, which also has a huge covered patio, as well as a playground and fenced-in grass area for the kids to play. The menu is unique, and every single appetizer is worth trying. The food is phenomenal.

Quick tip: If you still have any energy left at the end of the day, check out Hudsons on Mercer for great live music or the Mercer Street dance hall for a little boot-scootin’.

Sunday in Dripping Springs

For those looking for a church option, there are several in town that will welcome any and all guests with open arms. Check out device times online.

For those looking for a relaxing coffee break, make your way to Mazama or Rolling in Thyme and Dough for a relaxing atmosphere and yummy goodies.

Then, head to one of the favorite playgrounds in the area, such as Founders Park, where your kids can enjoy multiple playscapes and view the first homestead built in Dripping Springs by Dr. Pound, as mentioned in the first couple paragraphs of this post.

When you’ve built up an appetite, make your way to a nearby local favorite, Get Along Grill, or try out some famous Texas barbecue at The Salt Lick, known for family-style dining and byob.

Then, wrap up the weekend at one of Austin’s top attractions, The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, or the Nature and Science Center in Zilker Park. Kids and adults alike will love both nature centers!

Quick tip: Book your next trip to the Hill Country before you leave. You know you’ll be back!

For additional hiking options in the area, check out This Week’s Hike, and to find more ideas on how to make the most of each season in the Texas Hill Country, see our bucket lists!

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Hiking

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing our experiences often in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground nearby

✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Trail leading to Austin Nature and Science Center

In the heart of Austin, among the many Zilker Park attractions and trails, lies a unique center with multiple attractions drawing adults and children alike to explore and discover the best parts of nature and the science behind it. We’re excited to share everything we love about Austin Nature and Science Center! (2389 Stratford Drive, Austin, TX)

Unique Museum and Science Center

Austin Nature and Science Center hands-on exploration

As you walk through the doors of the Nature Center, you’ll first be pleased to discover that there’s no admission fee. It’s FREE!

But then you’ll soon be mesmerized even more by the opportunities to explore bug and animal skeletons, 3D maps, furs, fossils, and other fascinating artifacts. It might be tempting to stay inside for your whole visit, experiencing the hands-on science exhibits, but make sure you leave time to explore the great outdoors as well.

The Animals!

Exhibit at Austin Nature and Science Center

There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.

Dino Pit

Dig for fossils in the Dino Pit at Austin Nature and Science Center

If you’re with little ones, this hike will be very slow-moving because there are many stops for kids along the paths. The most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. (If you have a dinosaur lover, add a short trip to Bastrop to your itinerary.)

Beautiful Garden and Splashable Stream

Find tadpoles in the stream at Austin Nature and Science Center

While you might think the trail that goes around the stream is meant to prevent you from venturing into the water, you’d be wrong. I have seen many children with nets in the stream catching tadpoles and water bugs. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding the water, as well as the little swimmers in it.

About that Hike We Promised…

View of Lady Bird Lake on Hike and Bike Trail

After taking it slow and exploring everything the Nature and Science Center has to offer, extend your day with a stroll or a run along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. You could make the hike as short or as long as you want. There are maps everywhere, guiding you to a path that suits your individual staying power.

Boat rental on Lady Bird Lake

There is so much more to do in this lovely pocket of Austin than just what’s listed above. As you wander around, you can’t miss the many opportunities to learn a little history, rent a boat, roll down a hill, or just linger on the lawn. We definitely recommend packing a lot of snacks and a meal or two. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave!

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.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

A Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer 2021

Summer can be a season of unpredictability when you have kids. You never know how each day will turn out, but that summertime spontaneity may be exactly what we all need right now.

It’s summer and time for wandering.

Kellie Elmore

As free, fun, and fabulous each long summer day can be, nothing kills that joy like being unprepared for what these hot mid-year months can throw at us. Parents have to be ready for anything, including what a change in season can bring. I recommend starting with this Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer before you launch into June.

1. Get your mind and your heart in the right place each morning.

How do you take your coffee?

If ever there is a time to get into the routine of spending the early part of your morning in God’s Word, in peaceful meditation, in a yoga squat, or in reflective journaling, summer IS IT! These long days require mental, emotional, and physical endurance. The best way to prepare is to ground yourself before tackling it all. My favorite place to do this is on my back porch with a cup of coffee.

Recommended Devotionals:

Pressing Pause by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk

– The Better Mom Devotional by Ruth Schwenk

Recommended Journals:

– Getting to Good: A Guided Journal

Gratitude: A Journal

2. Make a Summer Preparedness Kit for the car

Essential Summer Kit for the Car

Keep a plastic bin, large bag, or sturdy basket full of essential summer items in the back of your car so that you can be ready for anything summer’s spontaneity throws at you.

3. Create a Favorite Places List.

Things to do with kids in Austin area

Have a list readily available of at least 5 free/cheap familiar places that you and your kids already love. When you all need to get out of the house or you’re looking for a quick stop between errands, just refer to the list. Ideas include favorite playgrounds, hiking trails, river access point, patio restaurant, splash pad, or library. (And if you’ve already packed your car with your summer essentials kit, you should be prepared for any of the options.)

4. Create a Summer Bucket List.

Summer bucket list

Your bucket list is a separate list of new-to-you places worth exploring when you have an open day and an adventurous spirit. You can access the 2020 Hill Country Summer Bucket list for ideas. Or maybe you’d like to schedule a hike each week for the summer. If so, let us know if your new favorite spot should be featured in This Week’s Hike.

5. Squeeze in adult time.

Adult time

Set specific date nights for you and your spouse on the calendar as you plan summer. Schedule a few mom’s nights out for mid-week escapes. Hold those dates sacred, and don’t let lack of a babysitter cause you to cancel. Keep a few family-friendly hot spots in your back pocket where you can enjoy time with other adults while the kids are occupied on a playground or in a sandbox nearby.

5. Have indoor play kits ready.

Scrapbooking kit for kids

Use toys or craft items you already have to create themed kits for indoor play time. Tuck them away in your closet or garage until a rainy or super hot day. A few kit ideas include:

– Dress up play with costumes and accessories

– Puppet theater with an old sheet, socks or paper sacks, random crafts, and markers

– Bring a board game to life

– Indoor scavenger hunts with prizes (use picture flashcards for littles)

– Car racing kit with some painters’ tape – and hot wheels

– Kids’ scrapbooking kit

6. Plan a trip.

Air travel with a large family

Not comfortable with flying right now? That’s ok. Road trips are all the rage this summer. Book a house on the beach or explore an historic town nearby. Be sure to choose a location that has plenty of outdoor activities.

But if you want all the fun of a vacation yet don’t want to spend extra cash on staying overnight, day trips are still a fantastic option and will feel like a great escape.

6. Put those kids in camp.

Our favorite type of camp is Vacation Bible School. They’re usually free or really cheap and offer a couple hours of good clean fun. They fill up quickly, though, so get your kids registered ASAP.

Wherever this summer may take you, I hope you feel empowered and prepared for anything with this Mom’s Guide to Summer! Don’t miss out on future posts about family fun in Texas this summer, travel tips, and the best road trip destinations… subscribe below!

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Hiking

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.

Categories
Hiking

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.

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Bucket list Things to Do Dripping Springs

2020 Holiday Bucket List (Texas Hill Country)

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)

Our Family Advent Calendar

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 gingerbread houses

HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –

Santa’s Wonderland at Cabela’s (Buda)

Santa's Wonderland

Nov 7th – Dec 24th

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.

Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin) 

Nov. 27th – Jan 3rd

Enjoy the natural wonder of a Hill Country winter on a strollable, illuminated trail walk featuring the forts of Fortlandia. Purchase tickets in advance.

Christmas in Marble Falls

Walkway 1 thumbnail

 Nov 20th – Jan 2nd

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!

Lost Pines Christmas

Nov 27th – Dec 27th

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.

Johnson City Lights Spectacular

Johnson City Light Spectacular

Nightly November 27th  – Jan 3rd

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.

Holidays in Fredericksburg

Nov 12th – Jan 6th

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.

Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs)

December 5th, 10 am – 5 pm

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.

Holidays in Gruene

Weekends in December

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.

Home Depot December Kids’ Take-Home Workshop

Dec 5th, 9 am and noon

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.

Christmas in the Parks

Enchanted Rock

Texas State Parks have several holiday events, from scavenger hunts to Santa sightings to s’mores and ornament-making. Find a park near you and enjoy the great outdoors this season!

Bee Cave Buzz Fest

Dec, 17th -19th, 7:00PM & 8:30PM

FREE light and sound show each night created and performed by nationally-acclaimed artists.

Mozart’s Light Show (Lake Austin)

Now through Jan 6th

Make a reservation online for this special Austin tradition. Grab a hot cocoa or coffee and enjoy the “dancing lights”.

Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin)

Nov 21st – Jan 3rd

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.

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

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

Best of Fall in the Texas Hill Country, 2020

Your Fall Bucket List in Texas

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.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

21 FUN & Affordable Things to Do this Summer in the Austin and Dripping Springs Area

2020 Texas Hill Country Summer Bucket List

Usually by mid-March, our family is already looking ahead to summer and planning our bucket list, seeking out the top things to do in our area and dreaming about the vacations we’ve booked. I never imagined that by the time summer of 2020 arrived that my kids would be begging to go back to school instead of on vacation. So many aspects of this year have been twisted, turned upside-down, totally wacky, but the recent series of events from pandemic to protests have also been eye-opening, thought-provoking, and life-changing. The year has been full of contrast, and I’ve recently sat down to truly assess how it’s affected my children.

My kids have heard fear in their parents’ voices and seen it on their faces, but they’ve also witnessed a deepening of our family’s faith. My kids have been forced to take greater responsibility for themselves while also understanding how to be responsible for the greater good. They’ve learned social distancing as well as the importance of social needs and social justice. They’ve been separated from school and family and friends and routine while also quickly adapting to new methods of staying connected. They’ve been involved in discussions about homeschooling, handwashing, healthcare heroes, hospital overflows, hornets, hatred, and at-home orders. They’ve offered creative solutions to many of these problems despite being told these issues were over their heads. They’ve cried and then carelessly played together. They’ve complained and then adjusted to new rules and expectations. They’ve acted out and then helped around the house. They are children who have matured more in the last few months than in the last few years.

Although the affairs of the world are serious and weigh heavily on our hearts, I’ve vowed to give my kids a little of their childhood back by continuing our summer bucket list tradition. Creating this list has not been easy due to restrictions in place, unexpected closures, and the fear of judgment, but giving my children a sense of normalcy and a little bit of fun is worth every minute of research and planning.  I invite you to check off these top 21 fun things to do in Austin and the surrounding areas (our beloved Texas Hill Country) or to create your own bucket list, so we can make the summer of 2020 memorable for many reasons! (Items marked with an * are FREE.)

HILL COUNTRY SUMMER BUCKET LIST (2020)

Dripping Springs/Driftwood –

1. Duchman Family Winery

When you combine open green space, climbing trees, picnic tables, delicious food, and unique wines, you get a fantastic place to spend an afternoon with family and friends. Bring snacks for your kids, a few lawn toys, and savor the views and the slower pace in a beautiful setting next to a vineyard. You can order food to-go from the winery or a full Italian meal from Trattoria Lisina and picnic with a bottle of their wine. Open weekends. (https://www.duchmanwinery.com/)

2. Route 12 Filling Station

Multiple porches, splash pad, small playground, casual food menu, full bar, and a super sweet staff make this a very family-friendly option for a summer evening. Call ahead to verify that the restaurant is open. It has to close temporarily as of 6/15. (https://route12fillingstation.com/)

Goat at Jester King Brewery

3. Jester King Brewery and Kitchen

Make reservations for a picnic table next to the goat barn so your kids can enjoy their silly antics while you taste local brews and fancy pizza. (https://jesterkingbrewery.com/)

4. *Dripping Springs Ranch Park

Beat the heat one morning and walk the trails, ride the mountain bike path, play on the playscape, and fish in the pond. Park your car in the back of the arena to access all of the above. (http://drippingspringsranchpark.com/)

Reimers Ranch Beach in Dripping springs

5. Reimers Ranch

Swim in the warm Pedernales River, hike the moderate to difficult trails, try a little rock climbing, or just lay out on the beachy river shore. Be prepared for a bit of a hike down and uphill if heading to the water from the parking lot. Fees are now being charged for entry at $5/adult, cash only, and reservations are not allowed. (https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/reimers-ranch)

Founders Park and Pool in Dripping Springs

6. Founders *Park and Pool

This popular shaded playground is currently OPEN, and the pool is open with online reservations. (http://www.cityofdrippingsprings.com/page/parks_foundersmemorial)

Bee Cave/Lake Travis –

Lakeway Swim Center

7. Lakeway Swim Center

Our fave pool! Currently open at 50% capacity, no reservations necessary. Waterslides, leap pads, baby pool, pool loungers, and picnic tables are all open with social distancing enforced. (https://www.lakeway-tx.gov/84/Swim-Center)

Bee Cave Sculpture Park

8. *Bee Cave Sculpture Park and City of Bee Cave Central Park

Stroll along the shaded sculpture park trail with interesting art pieces. It’s walking distance to the Shops at the Galleria and a short drive to Bee Cave City Park, which has playgrounds, restrooms, dog park, and trails currently open. (http://sculpturesofbeecave.org/) (https://www.beecavetexas.gov/city-government/departments/parks-477)

Pace Bend Park

9. Pace Bend Park

This scenic park is open daily first come, first served at limited capacity. The Tournament Point area is day use only for swimming and outdoor recreation. Bring your own chairs and/or beach blanket. Cash only, $5/adult, kids under 13 free. (https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/pace-bend)

10. *Movies in the Park and Dive-In Movies

Bring your lawn chair or blanket and enjoy a popular kids movie at Lakeway City Park on select Fridays at dusk. Free popcorn will be served. On July 17th and July 31st, the movies will be offered at the Lakeway Swim Center instead. Pay $3 admission and float as you watch. Concession stand will be open. (https://www.lakeway-tx.gov/DocumentCenter/View/34172/Movies-In-the-Park-Brochure—2020-PDF

11. *Hamilton Greenbelt and *Hurst Creek Overlook

Enjoy a hike or a bike ride along the waters of Hurst Creek on the Hamilton Greenbelt and then travel a few minutes away to take in a gorgeous view at the Hurst Creek Overlook. (https://www.lakeway-tx.gov/127/Hamilton-Greenbelts)

Austin –

Mayfield Park Austin

12. *Mayfield Park

(temporarily closed) Walk the trails, photograph the peacocks and peahens, and lounge in a beautiful, shaded outdoor space at this free city park. (https://mayfieldpark.org/)

13. Emma Long Park

Enjoy a beach day on the shores of Lake Austin. The park boasts swimming, camp sites, hiking trails, fishing areas, volleyball and basketball courts, boat ramps, a motorcycle trail, and lots of wildflowers. $5-$10/vehicle admission, coins or card only. (https://www.austintexas.gov/department/emma-long-metropolitan-park)

Barton springs Pool Austin

14. *Barton Springs Pool

(temporarily closed) Reservations required but it’s currently FREE to take a dip in the cold, spring-fed waters in the heart of Austin. If you can’t score a reservation, just make your way down to the Barton Springs open access area below the Zilker Playground. (http://www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool)

15. Stand-Up Paddle-boarding (or kayaking) on Lady Bird Lake

The waters are calm enough to take the kids or pets on a board or boat for an hour. Take advantage of buy one, get one free on weekdays. (http://www.zilkerboats.com/special-offers-2)/)

Zilker Botanical Garden Austin

16. Zilker Botanical Gardens

(temporarily closed) Pre-purchase tickets for the botanical garden online (they are a tad bit pricier than in the past- $6/adult). Much of the center is shaded, though, so you can spend quite a bit of time there, seeing unique flora and enjoying the water features. (https://zilkergarden.org/)

Graceland Grocery Austin

17. Graceland Grocery and Playground

(playground temporarily closed) Grab a gourmet coffee and let your kids play at the three playscapes and shaded green space next door. Or check it out on a Thursday through Sunday evening for a beer and some BBQ. (https://www.gracelandgrocery.com/home)

Woodys Shaved Ice Austin

18. A *Hike and Some Ice

Hike the Hill of Life (enter at the “Trail’s End Access to Barton Creek Greenbelt”) until you get to the water’s edge for a few beautiful photos. Then, after the difficult hike back up what feels like a small mountain, reward yourself with a mountain of delicious shaved ice at Woody’s. The hike is steep in some areas, with loose gravel, and not stroller friendly. For younger kids, try an easier hike (ending in a secret swimming hole) on Lost Creek Trail, which begins at 2614 Lost Creek Blvd, before the sweet treat. (https://www.facebook.com/woodysshaveiceatx/)

19. Doc’s Drive-In Theatre

Check out a family film, enjoy concession options that go beyond the typical popcorn and soda, and stay for a drink. You can even rent a movie-themed tiny home for the weekend with all movie snacks included. (https://www.docsdriveintheatre.com/)

Wimberley/Blanco –

Blanco State Park

20. Blanco State Park

Small, laid-back park in the heart of town with easy hiking trails, campsites, a playground, and several swimming and fishing areas along the river. Day pass reservations required. $5/adult. (https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/blanco)

Blue Hole  Swimming Hole

21. Blue Hole Regional Park

Take a cold dip in the spring fed waters, hike, picnic, and enjoy playground fun. Afterward, wander into town for a walk along Cypress creek, a big bowl of yummy ice cream at The Wooden Spoon, a cold beer from Ino’z, and some live music. (Make swimming reservations for Blue Hole at https://www.cityofwimberley.com/?SEC=706A5ED8-666C-42B5-9565-92D952F842F4)

For more bucket list ideas in the Texas Hill Country, check out my bucket list from 2019 or road trip options in my Spring Break article.

Also, please subscribe below or follow on Instagram for upcoming posts with reviews on the above places as we check off our list. Dripping with Kids will also share frugal travel tips and ideas for indoor fun with kids. Thank you for reading!

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 Motivation

9 Easy Ways to Save Money in 2020

Happy New Year! Have you already made your resolutions? Planning to get skinny (errr… I mean “healthy”)? Hoping to read more? Watch less TV? Exercise daily? Go to church more often? Swear in front of the kids fewer times per day??

Those are all good ones, but so far, the single resolution I’ve been hearing the most is “to save money!” Consumerism has taken over and rendered many of us hopeless and hungover in its wake. The year 2020 is the time for change, right?!

What I’ve also been hearing is that most people aren’t sure how to save money. Where could they possibly cut back? Especially when kids are in the picture. That’s exactly where I stood several months ago when I started a deep-dive into the messes of our finances and our spending. I had previously considered myself pretty darn frugal. I only bought clothes and decor on sale. I made my kids share meals when we went out to eat. I had one fewer drink than I wanted to when out with the girls. And my husband and I took joy in repurposing or building furniture rather than buying new. So, where could I possibly cut back without leading a life of “deprivation”? I was already careful with money… so I thought.

Regardless of the doubts I had on whether it would make a difference at all, I decided to set out on a journey of budgeting and tracking our spending. It was difficult at first, and I did not take it seriously, but after listening to a few personal finance podcasts and talking to several friends, I really started to treat it like a true mission. That’s when everything changed! Just in the process of tracking what we were spending, we started saving. A lot. We started saving so much money that I looked back and didn’t understand where it had all gone before. Our lives didn’t even look different. This propelled me and motivated me in such a way that I now want to help others on the same path to changing their lives without changing their lifestyle, to start saving more money for their families and their future, and to see the benefits of frugality.

This list of 9 easy ways to save money in 2020 are just the first 9 things that came to mind when I thought about little changes that a family can make to achieve big wins. Please let me know if they’re helpful at all, and I’d also LOVE to hear your tips on frugal living and financial gains.

1. Track your spending! Pay attention to where every dollar goes. Write it down, dictate it into your phone, use an app, whatever works for you. Then, ask yourself whether that money is going toward what you consider to be most valuable in your life. (This is the hardest but the most helpful step, by the way. Skip it and come back to it if it seems too daunting.)

2. Unsubscribe to retailer emails! All those emails about upcoming sales, can’t-miss offers, and travel discounts seep into your subconscious and encourage you to spend, spend, spend because ya know, it’s a DEAL! Go a month without seeing them and determine whether you are really missing anything in your life that you HAD TO HAVE. If you are, I’m pretty sure you know how to find that retailer’s website or store location again.

3. Take on a challenge! Engage your family (or friends) in a fun money-saving challenge, such as a “spend-nothing week” or “eat everything in the pantry week” or “free-activities month” where you only partake in family fun that’s totally free. (Check out my post on the best parks in the Dripping Springs area to get started on this one.) You could also try “no eating-out month” or “book a family vacation for less than $1000”. Make saving fun, and you might see even bigger results than you expected.

Enjoying the great outdoors!

4. Ask a friend! When you’re in need of something, ask a friend or offer a swap before reaching for your wallet. You can swap clothing, jewelry, kids’ puzzles/toys, books, and so on. You can swap time also: babysitting hours, carpooling/rides, and home organization hours. Doing home projects with a friend is more fun anyway. Maybe you can help clean out your friend’s fridge this week, and the two of you can tackle your shoe collection next week.

5. Call your credit card! Find out what they’re willing to offer you as a loyal customer. Ask and you will likely receive. Do you need a lower interest rate? Do you want your annual fee waived? Are you looking for opportunities to earn more travel rewards?

I no longer wanted to pay the annual fee on the credit card that we’ve had for 10 years and had been paying off every single month, so I called Chase, and after a 6 minute call, my annual fee was credited back to me.

If your ccard company doesn’t have anything to offer you, there are MANY more out there who are happy to give you bonuses and lower rates.

6. Pay attention to your TV habits! Are you watching ALL the channels? Are you regularly taking advantage of ALL the subscriptions? If not, what can you cut? Choose one and cut the cord or call the cable company and ask for a better plan.

Kids today hardly even watch traditional TV… so what are we paying for?

7. Take inventory! Before you shop, be sure to know what you already have. Really take note of what you have in your pantry or in the back of your fridge. Go to your closet and count how many pairs of black yoga pants you have and the # of gray t-shirts and the collection of sneakers, etc. Intentionally taking stock of what you own might keep you from buying yet another.

After No-spend Week: a half-empty pantry!

8. Get the app! Do you always shop at the same grocery store? Download the app, check out the coupons, and take advantage of the featured offers. Do you often stop at your kids’ fave fast food joint? Try out the app, collect the points, and snag some freebies. Do you like getting cash back for what you already buy? Check out the Ibotta app or Rakuten.

9. Watch YouTube! I know, I know… “YouTube” is equivalent to a 4-letter word in my house due to my kids’ obsession with it, but it can truly be a useful tool when something in the house breaks and you want to save money on handyman fees. Or when you want to teach your child something new, like beginning guitar lessons. You can find a DIY video on just about anything on YouTube, so save money while simultaneously winning cool points with your kids.

Thank you for reading about the 9 easy ways to save money in 2020! I plan to blog about this journey often, and I really hope you’ll join me in the challenge to become a new FRUGAL you. I really hope we can all achieve small, and eventually big, wins together. I’m looking for a tribe who can help keep me motivated (and vice versa), who can share these wins, and who will join me for carefree vacations in my future home in the Rockies! 😉

Free family fun in the mountains: sledding!

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

Save the Drama for the Llama (The 2019 Holiday Bucket List)

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)

Our Family Advent Calendar

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/)

Michael’s Stores Holiday Maker Fest: Make 3 holiday crafts with the kids for (almost) FREE on Nov 23rd from 11 am – 2 pm. (https://www.michaels.com/events/classes-events)

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.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040d4aadac23a2fa7-donuts

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)

Mozart’s Light Show (Lake Austin): Check out this FREE Austin tradition any night from Nov 21st – Jan 5th , 6-11 pm. Grab a hot cocoa or coffee and enjoy the “dancing lights”. (https://mozartscoffee.com/christmas-lights-show/)

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/)

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

¹ Dewdney, Anna. Llama Llama Holiday Drama. Scholastic Inc: 2012. https://www.amazon.com/Llama-Holiday-Drama-Anna-Dewdney/dp/0670011614