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!
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)
❌ Playground and Sports Fields
❌ Free Admission for Park and Trails
(Cash ONLY for admission – $5/person 12+)
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
On the famed Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs, just a few miles from one of the most popular travel destinations in our area, lies a beautiful and diverse park that offers river access, a cave, miles of trails, and additional surprises for visitors of all ages. We’re excited to share everything we love about Milton Reimers Ranch Park!
Public access to the Pedernales River with opportunities to swim, float, kayak, fish (white bass), and cliff jump is one of the top reasons to visit Reimers Ranch Park. You can park at the top of the hill and get a short hike in (300 yards) before jumping in the water to cool off. The beach area extends as far as the eye can see and allows plenty of space to claim your spot. Be sure to brings chairs or picnic blankets, along with water shoes, because it’s a pebble beach, and those little rocks get hot! Also, the park (and beach area) can close due to capacity limits, so be sure to arrive early or near dinner time to ensure a spot.
Variety of Trails
There are primitive, equestrian, hike and bike, and multi-use trails, as well as paved roads for every type of transportation and level of hiking experience. The multi-use trails offer little shade so be sure to prepare by wearing sunscreen and a hat, as well as packing extra water.
Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Whether you’re a novice boulder-jumper or experienced rock climber, Reimers Ranch offers multiple locations to practice.
Upon entering the park, ask for directions to the canyon or cave. (You’ll get a kick out of its name!) The trail to the canyon requires a bit of traversing and may be difficult for young children or elderly hikers. Along the trail to the canyon, you’ll find multiple streams for wading, as well as climbing opportunities.
Beautiful Wineries and Fun Breweries Nearby
After a full day of swimming, biking, climbing, and/or hiking, travel just a bit further to discover one of Dripping Springs’ finest vineyards: Hamilton Pool Vineyard and Farms. Also, just a 10-15 minute drive away are several breweries with more than just a cold beer to offer. Check out our favorites!
Whether you’re a Dripping Springs resident or visitor, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Hamilton Pool Preserve, and while it’s a beautiful site, you definitely don’t want to miss the equally beautiful sights at Reimers Ranch Park just down the road.
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.
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!
Brother’s scoop of ice cream is bigger than hers. Sister’s bedtime is later than his. She got a sleepover, but he didn’t. He saw the movie that she wanted to see. Her chore is more difficult. He took most of the mac n’ cheese. She got more computer time. He got to pick the TV show.
“IT’S. NOT. FAIR!”
All day long, my kids want me to pick sides and balance the sibling scales. After a long day of rivalry, my insightful 9-year-old broadcasted from the backseat in his best announcer voice: “Welcome to the Fairness Game! Hosted by everyone’s favorite celebrity: MOM. Today’s contestants are Brother and Sister.”
As much as it irritates me to hear them fight and compare and whine about why life isn’t fair, I’m honestly just happy to have them back with me for a couple weeks. Sharing my big kids with their dad back in Houston for half the summer is one of my least favorite things to talk about. Not only are they away from their siblings, step-dad, and myself, who miss them terribly, but they are also away from their friends for weeks at a time. My 12-year-old and 9-year-old long for endless summer days with their friends, going swimming, riding bikes and scooters, and staying up late at slumber parties. But my kids miss so much of that. Their friends are having that fun together… without them. And then, I am actually the one screaming in my head, “It’s just not fair!”
It’s not fair that they were put in this position of summer-splitting. It’s not fair that they are gone for long periods of time and have to miss out on birthday parties and lake trips. It’s not fair that by the time they finally transition from being at Dad’s to being back at Mom’s, they have to pack up and leave again. And the worst part of it is realizing that the referee and hostess of “The Fairness Game” (that’s me) is one of the reasons my kids are in this unfair position.
Mommy guilt is a real thing. It’s so tangible that you can feel it in your throat, choking and gagging you. It’s so overwhelming that it can move even the most stoic personality to uncontrollable weeping. It’s such a strong force that it can cause you to push chores, responsibilities, and bedtimes to the wayside, so that your time together feels the way summer should: fun, carefree, memorable, and endless.
Parenting through these emotional ups and downs has been extremely challenging, but all I can hope for is that the scale tips more toward good times than bad. My wish is that the kids will look back at their summers and remember beautiful experiences and togetherness, rather than somber hand-offs, difficult transitions, and missing out. With that hope in mind, we’ve been checking off some of our summer bucket list, and here are a few faves that we recommend.
The Lakeway Swim Center: It’s a great swim center for kids of all ages, with big and small waterslides, a basketball hoop, floating leap pads, and a zero-entry shallow area. You can bring in food and drinks, but there’s also a small café with kid-friendly options. The pool has an entry fee for 3+.
McKenna Children’s Museum (New Braunfels): This is more of an indoor play area than a museum, in my opinion, but it’s so much fun and definitely more affordable and does provide hands-on learning opportunities. The kids can grocery shop, build with large blocks, play in home centers, pretend to be NICU doctors, play in water tables, and climb on a shaded outdoor playscape. I’d choose this option over going to an inflatable place or trampoline park any day. (Check Groupon before you go; there are occasionally offers available.)
Community Pizza and Beer Garden (Wimberley): This place has yummy pizza, great craft beer selection, and a super fun play area for kids, plus it’s close to the cute Wimberley town square and down the road from Blue Hole (make reservations online to swim), so you can make a day out of it. This restaurant is small, so at peak times, you may have to wait a while for a table and for service, but you can grab a drink and kids can play in the shade. Just allow plenty of time.
McKinney Falls State Park (Austin): This one has it all… cliff diving, “cave” swimming, climbing, river access, hike and bike trails, water falls, and a discovery center (closed temporarily for renovations). Bring your floats/tubes, wear water shoes, and only let strong swimmers swim independently. This park is not really stroller-friendly, and the Upper Falls swimming hole requires some climbing and traversing to get to.
Route 12 Filling Station (Dripping Springs): A restaurant with a splash pad? Yes, please! It also has a small playground, indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, really good food, and friendly service. It’s just down the road from Treaty Oak, so you can visit two family-friendly hot spots in one evening.
Nature and Science Center (Austin): FREE center with hands-on discovery rooms, wading in the creek, digging for dino fossils, nature trails, and small animal exhibits.
Legoland (San Antonio): My kids had never been to any Legoland property before, so we had zero expectations. And we had a BLAST! You can get a FREE child’s ticket for each adult ticket purchased at http://www.legoland.com/honestkids. (Adult tickets are $22). Be sure to factor into your budget the cost of parking. Legoland is in the Marriott River Center mall, and the parking garage is the most convenient place to park, but it’s pricey ($20 for 5 hours). All attractions are included with admission (4D theater has 3 different movies; two rides that littles over 36” are allowed on; creativity room with lessons every half hour on a building project; and all the climbing and building areas). Most attractions are all in one big room, so it can be hard to keep track of multiple kids with their own interests. There is a cafe ($8 kids meals, $11 adult meals), but we brought in food. I’m not sure if that was allowed but no one checked my bag or said anything. Kids MUST have socks for the climbing area.(If you forget, the cafe sells socks for $1). We were awestruck by the details and little surprises in the LEGO Miniland model of San Antonio, but it made us want to check out ALL of the San Antonio attractions that we admired. So, I recommend allowing a few extra hours in your visit. The Alamo and Riverwalk are close walking distance.
I hope you’re having a great summer and checking off your own list in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. As you do so and especially if you find something really fun that you think other families would love, please use the hashtag #drippingwithkids. If you want to see more of what’s going on in the area, follow me on Instagram at dripping_with_kids and/or on Facebook @drippingwithkidsblog.
Best Hot Spots and Kid’s Activities in the Austin, Dripping Springs Area
I like big buts, and I cannot lie. You other parents can’t deny. When a kid walks in with itty bitty complaints and whining in your face, you get sprung, want to pull up tough, ’cause you know you’re ’bout to issue a but.
“Honey, I know it’s hard to go pee pee on the potty, but Mama literally cannot change one more diaper.”
“Yes, I hear that you’re starving and want a snack, but we just ate lunch!”
“Kids, I understand that summer can get boring, butI refuse to take you to Altitude yet again.”
Almost all of the sentences I spew are straddled with a “but”, and my response to 95% of my kids’ requests is “no”. I know this to be a fact because when I actually say “yes” to something, my kids act like the Red Sea has parted or that adorable little puppies are falling from the sky. It’s true that my family does A LOT. We get out there, we see, we do, we explore, we play… but summer is inundated with so many ridiculous kid requests that I am still hitting them with “but” constantly.
This kind of negativity can only be overcome by being proactive and intentional. As parents, we have to be on the offensive. This is where a summer bucket list comes in. It’s definitely great to have go-to spots to hit up during summer, like your local park or splash pad, but I challenge you to have a secret bucket list of “new” or slightly more exciting places to surprise your kids with when your “buts” are out of control. I’m sharing my family’s bucket list, which includes the best hot spots and kids’ activities in the Austin and Dripping Springs area. I invite you to check it off along with us. Summer can be insane, but every year, it flies by, so we have to make the memories count!
HILL COUNTRY SUMMER BUCKET LIST (2019)
Dripping Springs/Driftwood –
1. Vista Brewing Co: amazing food, yummy beer, shaded playground, indoor board games, brewery and property tours, and special events including Driftwood nights and morning yoga (https://vistabrewingtx.com)
14. *Circle C Metropolitan Park and Shaved Ice: shaded playground, walking trails, volleyball courts, and soccer fields, then follow up playtime with the best shaved ice at Sweet Caroline’s Snow Shack (https://www.facebook.com/sweetcarolinessnowshack/)
For more bucket list ideas in the Texas Hill Country, check out my bucket list from 2018 or if you’ve had enough of entertaining the kids and want to find a great option to drop them off for a few hours each day, read about amazing VBS options in the area.
Also, subscribe to my blog for upcoming posts with reviews on the best hot spots and kids’ activities in the Austin and Drippings Springs area as we check off our list, as well as ideas for indoor fun and how to keep kids’ minds stimulated during the summer months. Thank you for reading!