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)
✅ Playground nearby
✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
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
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.
There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Whether your family is into history, the rustic outdoors, chilling by the water’s edge, or window-shopping, there’s something fun for all in this small town. Check it out….
McKinney Falls State Park: hiking, biking, fishing (rental equipment available), swimming, cabin and campsite rental, waterfalls, Junior Ranger program. (Book a day pass in advance.)
*Downtown Bastrop: nestled along the Colorado River, this historic downtown has art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, breweries, a museum and visitor center, live music, and theater performances at the old Opera House.
*Fisherman’s Park: riverside park with basketball court, playground, splash pad, and boat rentals – Enjoy a walk along the river trail and a yummy lunch at Neighbor’s Kitchen.
With no shortage of family activities and so much natural beauty in this part of Texas, it has become one of my family’s favorite areas to visit. Check it out….
*Historic Gruene: Visit Gruene Hall for live music, shop the boutiques, stroll along the river, and eat at the Gristmill.
Nestled between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg, Johnson City features so much of what the Texas Hill Country is known for: rolling hills, stunning views, delicious home-cooking, rich history, and local wine! There’s something for everyone in this tiny town.
I’ve always known Hunt as the location of my childhood friends’ favorite summer camps. As you drive into Hunt, it’s easy to see why it was chosen for their location. The wide open spaces and winding Guadalupe River take you far away from home with their beauty.
Garner State Park: one of our fave state parks, offering challenging to easy hiking trails, tubing, paddle-boarding, overnight camping, evening activities, and mini golf.
*Schumaker’s Crossing: Swim, kayak, or float in the crystal clear waters just east of downtown Hunt. Paddle about 30 min to Ingram Dam to try out a natural water slide, then make your way back to relax and enjoy a picnic at the tables under the beautiful Cypress trees.
YO Ranch: Go on a private exotic wildlife tour. Book in advance for a spot.
Bridget’s Basket: Book a table in this old farmhouse and enjoy farm-to-table goodies
*Explore Kerrville: You can fill the day visiting meaningful tourist attractions, shopping in the historic downtown, floating the river, and playground-hopping.
Still one of our favorite places to visit as a family, we’re always finding new-to-us things to do there. This Road Trip Edition highlights our faves.
* 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!
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.
Aren’t kids so great? I’m currently riding in a packed car for 10+ hours with 4 of them. In between dishing out massive quantities of unhealthy snacks, changing shows on kid kindles every 67 seconds, breaking up sibling disputes with my futile mom-voice, and attempting to make conversation with my husband who somehow has the superpower ability to block out any and all activity occurring behind his seat, I am on and off my phone often. And each time I pick my phone back up, I am greeted by this lovely photo:
My sly pre-teen changed my phone’s lock screen from an adorable pic of her two youngest siblings sweetly staring up at me from their double stroller to this reminder of how uncoordinated and embarrassing her mother is. She laughs so hard every time I pick up my phone and sigh.
What she doesn’t realize is that I will gladly embarrass myself over and over again if it brings a smile to her face and helps us forge this developing mother/(almost-teen)daughter bond that’s new to both of us… a bond based on her discovery that she is now becoming way more cool than her mother has ever been, a bond that requires difficult, awkward conversations that are easier to get through when humor is sprinkled in, a bond in which we are both silently recognizing that she is eager yet not quite ready to be an independent teenager.
Navigating changing relationships with my “big” kids has been challenging for this mama, especially because I feel like my day consists of bouncing between cleaning up potty accidents, rescuing a toddler from death-defying stunts, re-teaching algebra lessons, and shouting out chore expectations. With kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, it can be overwhelming to satisfy each child’s need for attention and manage age-appropriate discipline, activities, and topics of conversation.
With the unfortunate spread of novel COVID-19, kids will be at home quite a bit this month and will require a lot more attention from their already-stretched parents. I’ve seen many articles and ads about activities to do with kids while we’re stuck at home with them. I empathize with the fear many parents are expressing about having children home all day every day and finding ways to entertain them without allowing countless hours of screen time. However, when I reflect on when my family is happiest, it’s definitely when we don’t have to adhere to a schedule and when we’re able to let our creativity lead us to spontaneous or new ways to have fun together. When we return home from our trip, I know my kids will not be ready to launch into full days of educational activities. To them, it will still feel like vacation if they are not in school. Therefore, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and make a list of fun “stay-cation” ideas to get through the longest spring break we’re likely to ever experience and hopefully build even closer bonds with each one of my kids, no matter what stage of coolness, sassiness, or independence they’re in.
1. Celebrate a favorite holiday out of season! Have Christmas in March with caroling, sugar cookies, re-gifting, and favorite holiday movies. Or celebrate Easter a little early with a themed egg hunt, bunny crafts, and bible stories. (Don’t have anything to fill the eggs with? Put coins or tickets inside and let the kids “buy” prizes, such as coveted snacks, forgotten stuffed animals, or a ticket for one on one time with Dad.) Or if 4th of July is a fave, decorate bikes and trikes and parade through the neighborhood, watch Independence Day, and make red, white, and blue treats.
2. Make the backyard a water park! Turn on the sprinklers, fill the baby pool, roll out the slip in slide, load up the water guns and balloons, and let the kids wash your car too.
3. Have a carnival! Set up easy carnival games like bowling, tossing a ping pong ball in buckets, pinning the nose on the clown, ring toss with cones or bottled drinks, and duck pond with rubber duckies from the bathtub.
4. Host a kids’ baking championship! They bake, you all eat, and the second/third place contestant cleans.
5. Take a hike! Follow up your hike with an indoor picnic and camp out, complete with a tent in the living room and s’mores in the fireplace! You can practice social distancing while exploring nature. Venture into another neighborhood and check out their trails. Or pull up google maps and look for any green space nearby that you’ve never explored before. Click on that green area, and you’ll be able to determine whether there are trails or an open park space there. You can also just type in “hiking” or “trails” in the search bar to find a new-to-you spot to explore.
6. Have a character day! Make costumes or get them out of your Halloween storage and dress up as favorite characters from movies or books and try to stay in character all day. Or switch characters each hour.
7. Learn about a new culture! One of the best parts of travel is learning about different cultures, and with a google of information at your fingertips, you can have your own culture fair at home. Let each person research a recipe (and cook it), a tradition, some historic facts, and additional information about a foreign culture. Then, he/she can share with everyone else in the family.
8. Explore a museum (at home)! And then create your own! A dozen famous museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Rijksmuseum, are offering virtual tours of their exhibits online for free. Explore these amazing institutions and then create your own museum at home with dinosaur toys, homemade art to mimic famous pieces from history, and/or natural specimens from a nature walk in your neighborhood. (Have older kids research their own museum contributions and write a summary of their exhibits.)
9. Create a repurposed art gallery! Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art.
10. Set up a ninja or obstacle course! And then follow that up with indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts! Challenge the kids to beat mom or dad in a course of climbing, crawling, jumping, and parkouring. Then, keep them busy and out of your hair searching for obscure items throughout the house and backyard.
And then, when you’ve had all the fun you could possibly muster…
11. Tackle spring cleaning! Bribe those kids with treats, money, screen time, an opportunity to redecorate their rooms, or a you tube dance party in the living room in exchange for decluttering, scrubbing floors, wiping baseboards, dusting shelves, and finally tossing that old 1st grade project.
In all seriousness, I pray that you and your families remain safe and healthy in the midst of this uncertain time with an uncertain pandemic. I also hope that something good can come of it as we take full advantage of this time at home with our loved ones.