In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Reservations needed
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Free admission
Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:
In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)
Easy to Moderate Trails
On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.
There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.
A Story Walk
Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.
The Discovery Center
Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)
More Challenging Trail Options
The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.
On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.
A Small Playground
Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.
Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas
The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.
Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.
Great Towns Nearby
After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.
“I just CAN’T do this.” I whisper this sentence in a strained, hoarse voice to my husband after a long day. A day of watching videos from our district superintendent and texting with friends about what this school year *might* look like. A day of constantly quieting two screaming preschoolers by playing whatever it is they want. A day of breaking up sibling snack spats and wrestling a remote out of kids’ hands. A day of extricating my flip flops from a new puppy’s sharp teeth.
By the end of the day, I’m not only burned out from endless mommy-ing duties, but I’ve also had my fill of volatile debates regarding back-to-school decisions and mask-wearing. I go to bed feeling lucky and blessed that my children have a safe place to lay their heads at night and a mother who is able to stay home with them, but tomorrow, when faced with more of the same changes, I fear I just CAN’T all over again.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk for years now. Apparently, it’s amplified during a pandemic. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…
I can’t convince my 13 year old to give up You Tube videos as her primary source of information and entertainment.
I can’t stop multiple children from desperately needing my attention all day long.
I can’t handle one more minute of divisiveness and hatred on social media, yet I can’t put my phone down.
I can’t determine whether it’s safe to go inside the grocery store.
I can’t finish a sentence or make a decision without self-doubt immediately following…………..
Yeah, I could go on for hours.
Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to move forward and do what I feel like I can’t.
Thankfully, just as I recognized that this phrase started entering my brain regularly again, I remembered the previous blog post I wrote with the same title. I re-read my words about the impact one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff, had on my life two years ago when I was struggling during those *easy* days of pre-pandemic parenting. Bob Goff’s positive perspective was such an awesome reminder that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff wrote, “…[God] doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”
On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going, and with that little change in perspective, I’ve been able to reflect on the good during these last 5 months of forced family time.
Despite the chaos, we’ve managed to discover more ways to have fun at home together. We’ve connected with friends and family in a deeper way than ever before, even if it’s just been via phone or silly videos. We’ve learned to problem solve as a family unit, recognizing the importance of each voice in the decision. And we’ve practiced talking through the anger and the disappointments of 2020 often, following that up with intentional gratitude-sharing. We’ve leaned further into our faith and recognized the power of mindset and prayer.
The bonds built between my children, as well as with those who have walked alongside us during all of this recent uncertainty, has provided a renewed hope and motivation. In scanning through the pictures, texts, and posts from the last 5 months, I rest assured that one day, when I look back on the 2020 that was, I’ll be able to say to myself:
I just CAN.
Below is a list of simple activities and outings that have made this never-ending and challenging summer one of the most memorable yet, and these represent the good I hope my family and I will take with us.
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/)
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/)
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)
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)
8. *Bee Cave Sculpture Park and City of Bee Cave Central 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)
(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
(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/)
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)
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/)
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)
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!
Children today may be obsessed with screens and have incredibly busy extracurricular schedules, but unstructured play time at a park really can’t be beat. Sometimes, we’ll spend summer days just hopping from one playground to the next. Often, my kids don’t even need a playground, just an open field to let their imaginations and their bodies soar. While we’re outside, worries and responsibilities drift away, which is why on the playground is where I’d like to spend most of my days. My kids often feel this way too.
If you’re looking for a great playground where your kids (and you) can safely climb, wander, jump, slide, and swing, the list below is for you. If you’re looking for tips on how to convince your child to leave these playgrounds when it’s time to go without resorting to bribery, I got nothing for ya.
Top 10 Playgrounds in and around Dripping Springs, TX
1. Founders Memorial Park: This large park is nestled between our town’s historic pioneer farmstead and the local pool. It includes the coolest swings, three playscapes, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, bathrooms, plenty of parking, a walking trail, and a football/soccer field. (480 Founders Park Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
2. Dripping Springs Sports and Rec Park: Our local 40 acre sports park has a large play structure, shaded picnic areas, indoor restrooms, basketball courts, sand volleyball, walking trails, and soccer and baseball fields. (27148 Ranch Road 12, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
3. 12 Fox Brewery: With a castle theme, including a long drawbridge and wooden ladder, this playground is very popular with my kids and their friends. There’s also a separate play area with outdoor equipment meant for younger children. Bonus: enjoy a beer, live music, and a taco or pizza while they play.
4. Saddle Tree Ranch Neighborhood Park: An old-school swingset, unique metal climbing structure, modern playscape with multiple slides, tennis courts, and a large field to run wild makes this park the perfect spot to burn off some kid energy. (401 Lariat Cir, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
5. Caliterra Community Playscape: This fun neighborhood amenity includes a large play structure, trails along a beautiful creek, and an adorable coffee shop open to the public. (Hwy 12 @ Caliterra Parkway)
6. City of Bee Cave Central Park: While not in the city of Dripping Springs, this huge city park is worth the short drive! It sprawls 50 acres and includes two separate playgrounds with different experiences and equipment, covered pavilions with picnic tables, large hills for your inner child and your actual child to roll down until you’re too dizzy to stand up, concrete walking trails, restrooms, a dog park, multiple basketball courts, and open field space for ball play. (13676 Bee Cave Parkway, Bee Cave, TX 78738)
7. Windmill Run Park: This hidden park is tucked back in an established neighborhood, so when you arrive, you’ll be surprised by how large it is. With two large playscapes, a climbing structure, and a swingset, your family can spend hours here. There’s also a nature trail and shaded picnic tables. There are no bathrooms on site, though, so plan ahead. (8100 Kirkham Dr, Austin, TX 78736)
8. Graceland: Technically, this is an outdoor restaurant, but it makes our list because the shaded play areas can’t be beat. So, grab a beer and watch your kids run with glee between the three large structures and playhouses. You can even use the playground when the restaurant isn’t open. (8600 290 West, Austin, TX 78736)
9. Belterra Trinity Hills Park: If you’re looking for a safe neighborhood park with room to run, a playscape to scale, and nature trails to traverse, this is a great spot to spend an hour after school or before an outdoor picnic lunch. (240 Torrington Dr, Austin, TX 78737)
10. Headwaters Play Area: Instead of the typical playscape, this play area feels a bit more natural with a sand pit, grassy hills, cargo nets, hillside slide, and large rocks for bouldering. There’s also a cafe in the amenity center that’s open to the public. (708 Headwaters Blvd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
Whether you’re new to the area and looking for a few spots to meet other families, visiting from out of town and exploring our beautiful hill country, or a long-time resident in need of reminders on where to let your kids wander, I hope these suggestions are helpful. Get outdoors and play on!
Every morning, I play hide and seek with my favorite mug, although I’m perpetually the frustrated seeker in the game. Thankfully, I have the equivalent of a toddler nearby who impatiently reveals the other player’s hiding spot. *beep, beep* It’s my microwave, reminding me that I left my coffee in there for the 5th time already this morning. And it’s only 7 am.
Most people have a definitive and memorized answer to the title question above: “How do you take your coffee?” Maybe you take your coffee black or with a little sugar. Maybe you prefer cappuccino or a latte. Maybe you’re like one of my friends who fancies just a little bit of coffee with her cream. Or like another who doesn’t drink coffee at all but savors tea.
That essential beverage becomes our lifeline to face the busyness and stress of the morning with a bit more gusto and resolve. We each have our unique way of making and taking that steaming cup, but I’d venture to guess that most of us have one thing in common: our early morning libation is rarely a part of a relaxing or motivating ritual. We’re stealing sips between diaper changes, lunch-packing, carpool line complaints, hair-brushing and makeup application, or giving countless commands to others. Our early mornings are no longer slow or sacred. The pace of our current culture has diminished the joy that morning coffee should bring.
What if the question, “How do you take your coffee?” had a different implication? What if you took your coffee on the back porch with a devotional and some time to journal? What if you took your coffee while playing uninterrupted on the floor with your toddler? What if you took your coffee to the bathroom while your spouse was getting ready for the day and had an early-morning chat about nothing and everything all at once? How would that change the course of your day and the mood with which you tackle it?
Recently, while on a kid-free vacation with my husband, I took the time to linger with my coffee. I actually sat down. I read. I wrote. I shared plans for the day with my favorite person. It was glorious!
Then and there, I decided to take back my morning coffee. I vowed not to choke it down after reheating it a dozen times or clean up the small spills all over the house that happen as I rush from room to room with a full cup in my hand. I vowed to be intentional with that time and with that steaming cup of yummy goodness. I know this is not a new concept and that taking that extra time for yourself in the morning is preached often, but I’ve never quite figured out how to make it happen. Or maybe I’ve never been motivated enough. So, please be my accountability partners! Join me in this coffee “revolution”, allowing us to slowly savor our favorite hot drink with the intention of reflecting in gratitude yet also preparing for our busy days ahead. I would LOVE to hear from you on how you take your coffee, whether it’s amidst obligations and chaos or sitting peacefully on your porch. Spill it all on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #takebackmycoffee, and check out how my mornings go at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.
If you’re still doubting that taking back your morning coffee is possible, I hope these suggestions will encourage you to try!
1. Listen to a fave podcast! I recommend “Happy Hour” by Jamie Ivey for inspiration, How to Money” with Joel and Matt for great financial advice, “Before Breakfast” by Laura Vanderkam for encouragement in making the most of your mornings, or “Straight Up with Stassi” for a good laugh.
2. Sing along to contemporary Christian music. I know there’s been a bit of a stigma around Christian music in the past, but I dare you to listen to “Grace Got You” by Mercy Me, then come back and tell me that you’re not totally pumped for the day ahead. Spoiler alert: it won’t happen. That song will get you moving!
3. Get to writing! You don’t have to commit yourself to deep thoughts in a lengthy journal post, but just brain-dumping can feel really good. Jotting down notes on the next vacation you want to take can motivate you to work that much harder. Penning a letter to a friend or even to your future self might put a smile on your face. Writing is therapeutic and so beneficial for the mind.
4. Call a sick friend or family member. Start your day off by brightening theirs. You can have coffee together even if you’re not in the same room.
5. Pour your brew into a travel mug, wake one of your kids or your spouse up early, and go for a short walk. Enjoy the cool morning air and a leisurely conversation.
6. Delay your morning coffee until everyone else has left the house and just be alone with your thoughts, meditate, or pray for a bit.
7. Bake or meal-prep as you sip. That feeling of accomplishment after doing something purposeful with your hands is a great way to stay motivated all day long.
8. Color. Have you tried one of those adult coloring books yet? They’re great for stress relief and leave you with a beautiful piece of self-made art.
9. Play with your kids. Maybe you’re happiest when you immerse yourself in their joy. Take that coffee to the floor, grab some puzzle pieces, and be a kid again with the ones you love most.
10. Read a good book or devotional uninterrupted. Wake up 30 minutes earlier, find a quiet corner in the house or a comfy chair outside, and immerse yourself in a story.
Whatever you choose to do, just do it! I’ll be fighting the battle against morning to-do’s along with you. 🧡