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Hiking

The Best FREE State Park in Texas

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 hiking experiences and recommendations with you 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 and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Just an hour or so west of Austin, and down the road from the best wineries in the Texas Hill Country, sits one of our favorite state parks! It checks every box for adults and children alike. We’re excited to share everything we love about the LBJ State and National Park in Stonewall, TX.

The Museum and Visitor Center

Upon arrival, check in at the Visitor Center for a free parking pass. While inside, peruse the gift shop full of locally-made soaps, confectionaries, home decor, jams and butters, as well as educational toys and books. Also, ask for Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids to guide them along both the state park and the national park areas. Just past the visitor center is a small museum and a pioneer house to explore. Then, make your way on to…

Easy and Interesting Trails

The “Monster Tree” on the LBJ State Park Nature Trail

The trails from the visitor center are mostly shaded and easy for all skill/age levels. Amazing trees border the flat trail, and there are plaques with interesting info on local flaura and fauna. Plus, they lead to the best parts of the park….

The Animals!

Texas Longhorns!

After a short walk, you’ll be greeted by huge, gorgeous Texas longhorns, as well as white tail deer, if they’re feeling friendly. You can also follow the trail to see a herd of bison or take an alternate route to the …

Working Farm with More Animal Encounters

One of the highlights of this park is that the trail leads you to the Sauer-Beckman Homestead and Farm, where your kids can collect the multi-colored eggs from the chicken coop on a slow day; where the wild turkeys stage a Thanksgiving Day revenge by sneaking up behind you, yelping at the top of their lungs, and then laughing at your expense as they dart up onto the branches of the huge live oaks; where the sheep meander along the walkways; where the hens peck at your feet; and where the hogs put on a muddy show if your olfactory glands can withstand the potent stench of their pen.

You can also tour the original farmhouse and homestead, often while munching on farm-fresh delicacies prepared in the century-old kitchen that day. After you’ve worked up an appetite, complete your meal at one of the…

Picnic Areas and Playground

There are multiple picnic areas with bathrooms nearby and plenty of green space to run around after eating. In one area, there’s an old-school playground with a metal swingset, slide, and see-saw. If you or your kids have more energy to burn, add in additional playtime at the…

Swimming Pool, Tennis Courts, and Baseball Field

The swimming pool is open during the summer months for a nominal fee, and the tennis courts and baseball field are open year-round. You may want to call ahead to make sure they’re not reserved on the day of your visit. Also, these areas will require you to take a much longer hike or to hop in your car to drive to them. But while in your car, you can add on a driving tour of …

LBJ’s Working Ranch

Take a self-guided tour of the president’s family homestead, the working cattle ranch, the small schoolhouse LBJ attended, the cemetery where he’s buried, the Texas White House, and the president’s jet. It’s about a 20 minute drive to see the whole ranch, with opportunities to get out and explore the exhibits mentioned. Bonus: There’s a beautiful winery along the driving trail! To finish up your visit, find a peaceful spot and…

Go Fishing in the Pedernales

The beautiful river separates the state park and the national historic site of LBJ’s Ranch. Even if you forget your fishing gear, it’s a peaceful spot to view wildlife like the blue heron and to try to spot large fish in the clear water. Check here for fishing rules.

Whether you visit LBJ State Park and National Historic Site for an escape to nature, for a little exercise, to see the farm, to view the animals, or to learn the history, you won’t be disappointed. We’ve visited this state park at least five times in the last few years, and each experience has been different from the last. We hope you fall in love just as we have.

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, and I’d be happy to add them to This Week’s Hike!

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Things to Do Dripping Springs

Get Your Dinosaur Fix in Austin, TX

Where to find dinosaurs with your kids!

Dinosaurs seem to capture the attention and imagination of children and adults alike. A museum visit might not even count in the mind of a child unless a dinosaur exhibit is included.

My favorite place to learn about dinosaurs as a kid was the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, TX. I loved seeing those massive skeletons and hearing about how they lived. It’s a must-see attraction in the heart of the big city’s museum district, but you don’t have to go all the way to Houston to satisfy your kid’s (or your own) dinosaur obsession.

Check out these dinosaur hot spots in Austin and its surrounding towns!

The Dinosaur Park

  • Bastrop, TX
  • Thurs – Sun, 10 am – 4 pm
  • $10-$11/person
Dino Park, Bastrop, TX

We LOVE this park. My kids really enjoy walking the trail of dinosaur replicas, exploring the gift shop, digging for fossils, and playing on the playground.

If you want to extend your visit to Bastrop , here are suggestions for enjoying a full day (or weekend) in the cute little town.

Texas Memorial Museum

  • Austin, TX – UT Campus
  • Tues – Sat, 9 am – 5 pm
  • $5-$7/person
Texas Memorial Museum, Austin

Considered Texas’s first state museum, the TMM has a history to tell itself, while also showcasing the natural history of this great state in exhibits ranging from valuable specimens in the Great Hall to the dinosaurs and other wildlife unique to Texas. If your family is excited to participate in a dino dig after checking out the skeletons at the TMM, travel a few minutes away to…

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

  • Austin, TX – Zilker Park Area
  • Mon-Sat, 9 am – 5 pm; Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm
  • FREE
Digging for Fossils, Austin Nature and Science Center

At the Nature and Science Center, 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. But there is also a beautiful garden and trail, a unique hands-on museum, and live animal exhibits to explore.

Champions Park

  • Cedar Park, TX
  • Public Park , FREE
Champions Park, Austin

Another option for a dino dig is Champions Park, where the kids can also climb on stone dinosaur parts, run through the splash pad, ride bikes on the paved trails, and swing to their hearts’ content at the playground.

If you’re up for a day trip, here are a couple great dinosaur options just a bit further out of town…

Witte Museum

  • San Antonio, TX
  • Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • $10-$14/person

Located in Brackenridge Park, known for its significance in Native American history and also for exciting playgrounds and the San Antonio Zoo, is the Witte Museum, Here, you’ll find exhibits all children and adults will love, including dinosaur bones and replicas. Go for the museum; stay for the variety of attractions in the park.

Mayborn Museum

  • Waco, TX – Baylor University Campus
  • Monday-Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm
  • Special Exhibit, Jan 29 – May 1, 2022
  • $8-$10/person

The Mayborn Museum is one of our favorite road trip destinations, and now they’ve added a special exhibit inspired by the favorite kids’ show, Dinosaur Train. Visitors will get to hop on board to travel through the prehistoric eras, learning about their most fascinating inhabitants.

This museum is very hands-on with a variety of exhibits. Allow a lot of time for exploration. Then, squeeze in a quick visit to the Mammoth National Monument for more prehistoric discoveries.

Mammoth Site, Waco TX

Extend the Learning and Fun…

Hope you get your dinosaur fix at one or all of these attractions! To make the car ride more interesting or extend the learning, order these amazing My First Dinosaur Flash Cards, encyclopedia, or sticker books in advance.

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Hiking

Mayfield Park in Austin

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 and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

In the heart of Austin, just down the road from the famous Mount Bonnell, lies a beautiful park with unique flora and entertaining fauna, as well as a shaded trail system. We’re excited to share everything we love about Mayfield Park, Nature Preserve, and Trails! (3505 W. 35th St., Austin, TX 78703)

The Animals!

As soon as you walk up, you’ll be greeted by an ostentation of peafowl, perched in the trees, guarding the walls, and roaming the grounds. They’re active, loud, and beautiful. Spring is the best season to visit so you can witness their mating calls and dances, but they’re full of stories and surprises anytime you go. Don’t let the peafowl distract you too much from the gorgeous koi ponds, though. Those are definitely worth checking out as well.

Beautiful Gardens

This park is the perfect spot for photo ops. With multiple gardens full of vibrant flowers and towering trees, you can’t help but get a few framers while also learning a lot about local flora.

Variety of Meandering Trails

While the trails aren’t really stroller-friendly, they are a lot of fun for ambling children and adults alike. 23 acres is a lot of space to wander through, and with multiple forks in the trail, you can get lost on purpose while discovering additional wildlife and searching for the tributary of the Colorado River bordering the park.

Unique Museum and Sculpture Garden Next Door

After entertaining yourself with the peafowl, koi, and maze of trails, seek out the Contemporary Museum and Laguna Gloria just down the road. You can explore the beautiful grounds, a sculpture park, and an historic home full of modern art. Check website for admission fees and to make reservations.

Whether you’re looking to add on a little additional fun to your trek up Mt. Bonnel or wanting a cool activity to keep your kids entertained, we highly recommend blocking off an entire morning or afternoon to get to know this unique and beautiful destination of This Week’s Hike!

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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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

Reimers Ranch Park in Dripping Springs

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

(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!

The Beach!

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.

Cave Exploration

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.

7 Best VBS Camps in the Austin Area: 2022

It’s only March. Spring has barely begun, but every parent knows it’s time to start summer planning. And VBS is often at the core of those plans.

Summers are what memories are made of, and that puts a lot of pressure on vacation and camp decisions. But the excessive options for summer are beyond overwhelming! There is a camp for every possible interest in the world, especially if your budget is limitless. After reading through countless camp lists and trying out a variety of them with my first two kids, I’ve definitely learned something…

VBS 1

I will always say ‘yes’ to at least one VBS each summer! I’m completely amazed by how much planning, time, and faith is put into vacation bible schools, and I am thrilled that my children get to experience that kind of joy. It moves me to tears every time I hear them singing the songs they learn in VBS, and I love it even more when I hear them relating what they learn in the summer to future Bible lessons throughout the year.

And what makes VBS even better? The price tag (well.. the lack of one)!

VBS 2

If you’re searching for a VBS to send your children to this summer, here is a list of some wonderful options in the Austin area and the Texas Hill Country that are currently or will soon be open for registration:

  • Bannockburn Dripping Springs and South Austin for age 3 through 5th grade. Theme: Make Waves. Dates: June 20-23. (Registration opens March 14th.) Morning and evening options available. Cost: $10-$15, includes T-shirt.
  • Bethany Lutheran Church has VBS for PK3(potty-trained) through 5th grade. Theme: Monumental. Dates: June 20-23, 9 am – noon. Cost: $20, includes T-shirt.
  • Dripping Springs United Methodist Church is debuting a Family VBX Camp, for children infancy through 12th grade. Theme: Make Waves. Dates: July 19-21, 5:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $25, includes dinner. (Also offering mini VBS Camps for kids on June 8th, June15th, and Aug 3rd, 9 am – 1 pm.)
  • Lake Hills Church starts at incoming kinder age. Theme: Time to Spy. Dates: June 6-9, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Cost: Unknown
  • Woodlawn Baptist Church has summer sleepaway camps scheduled. No update on VBS yet.
  • First Baptist of Dripping Springs has “High Voltage” camp for completed Kinder through 5th grade. July 5-7, 9 am – 1 pm. Cost: $10, includes T-shirt and lunch. Space is limited.
  • Austin Ridge Bee Cave has Camp Ridge Kids starting at age 3 (potty trained) – 5th grade. Theme: Summer Blast. Dates: July 11-14, 9 am – noon. Cost: Unknown, registration opening soon.

MORE INFO ON VBS OPTIONS TO COME…

If you’re looking to plan other activities for this summer, check out our past Summer Bucket Lists.

Categories
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.

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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.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

5 Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Austin

Plus, the Best Things to Do When You Get There

Are you looking for the best day trips from Austin and Dripping Springs? Day tripping is our family’s favorite way to get a little change of scenery and feel the vacation vibes without blowing the travel budget. After being stuck at home for months during the longest summer ever, we’ve decided to venture out of town here and there for a little river-splashing, window shopping, beer tasting, easy hiking, playground-hopping, and a wee bit of unschooling.

If, like us, you’ve had enough of circling your block every morning or re-watching the same eight Peppa Pig episodes on repeat or warning your teen that this is the last You Tube episode she’ll watch for the rest of her liiiife, then consider a day trip in the Texas Hill Country! Pull together a few PB&J‘s, grab some bags of chips, and make sure your summer survival kit for the car is packed and ready to go. Then, hit the road!

Most day trips from Austin are less than two hours away, making them easy to pull off with kids of all ages and with limited supplies. Plus, all of the destinations recommended on this list have several free activities and fun places to go with kids, so you could spend the whole day exploring on only the cost of a tank of gas, saving your travel budget for an epic post-corona getaway.

Unfortunately, many of our beloved Texas Hill Country towns have the reputations of being more suitable for grandma’s shopping habits than for family adventures. But they all have so much more to offer than just a day of antique-hunting. Check out this list of our favorite day trips from Austin and outdoor kid-friendly activities you can do in each destination…

1. Kerrville and Ingram
Louise Mays Park in Kerrville

From a hilltop cross to stand-up paddle boarding to playing trivia at lunch, you can definitely find a variety of activities in these neighboring small towns.

  • The Cross at Kerrville: Make this quick stop to take in the enormous walk-through empty cross, prayer garden, beautiful sculptures, and stunning views. *free*
  • Enjoy lunch, a craft beer, and table trivia at Grape Juice Restaurant or pick another locally owned fave in walkable downtown Kerrville
  • Louise Hays Park: This city park offers lots of parking, easy access to swim/splash in the Guadalupe River, beautiful trails, two playgrounds, dozens of shady picnic spots, a splash pad, board and boat rentals onsite, and clean public restrooms. *free*
  • Riverside Nature Center: Leisurely stroll through wildflower, butterfly, and demo gardens, attend a naturalist events, and educate yourself on the TX Hill Country riverscape. *free*
  • Stonehenge II: Stop for a few photo ops with this replica of the real deal. *free*
  • Ingram Dam and Schumacher Crossing: Rent a mat from the nearby Dam Store to slide down the dam into the roaring water and spend the rest of your time wading, watching waterfalls, and riding the rapids at Schumacher Crossing. *free*
2. Brenham
Blue Bell Ice Cream Brenham TX

Take the kids on a trip through history and sprinkle in a lot of kid-friendly activities in the home of Blue Bell ice cream.

  • Washington on the Brazos: Walk the trails along the Brazos River and visit the site of Texas independence. Reservations not required, but it’s recommended to call to confirm availability due to capacity restrictions. (936-878-2214) *$8/adult, $5/child over 5, includes admission to Barrington Plantation.
  • Barrington Living History Farm: Show your kids what life was like on the plantation, which includes teaching opportunities about the history of slavery.
  • Blue Bell Creamery: The observation deck is currently closed, but you can still enjoy a scoop from the ice cream parlor, visit the store, and learn the history of Blue Bell in Texas. *free to visit*
  • Downtown Brenham: Enjoy art walks, casual outdoor dining, an architectural scavenger hunt, live music, and unique shops. Check online for scheduled events. *free events*
3. Wimberley
Cypress creek behind downtown Wimberley

This sweet little town has a lot more to offer than just a main street full of shopping and sipping. Here’s a list of how to make the most of Wimberley with your family.

  • Swimming Hole at Cypress Falls: Laid-back swimming hole with boat rental options, a mini limestone cave to sneak into, plus a taco restaurant and full bar on-site. $8/adult, $6/child over 5.
  • Blue Hole Park: The swimming hole is all booked up weeks in advance, but you can still visit the playgrounds and shaded hiking trails in the large park. *free*
  • Wooden Spoon Frozen Yogurt: Fill up your cup and add toppings at this self-serve froyo shop and then wander along the creek in the parlor’s backyard. *under $5*
  • Community Pizza and Beer Garden: Outdoor dining with a pirate-themed play area for kids. Call ahead to make sure they’re open.
4. Fredericksburg
On top of Enchanted Rock

This adorable German town isn’t just for the retirees; there’s plenty to do for the whole family.

  • Marktplatz: Open green space, covered pavilion with tables, beautiful garden, public restrooms, and a large playground make this park the perfect place to spend a couple hours and picnic with the kids. *free*
  • Luckenbach: Live music on the weekends, great people watching, bar and grill options for outdoor dining, and an old campsite to wander and explore. *free*
  • Wildseed Farms: Walk the trails, shop in an outdoor space, enjoy the wildflowers, and sip on some wine or lemonade in the garden. *free admission*
  • Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park: This 150 acre city park has fishing access on Live Oak Creek, a playground, hiking trails, covered pavilions, sand volleyball, and basketball courts. *free*
  • Enchanted Rock: If you can get a reservation at this popular state park, challenge yourself to hike to the top for a spectacular hill country view. It’s not stroller-friendly, though, and it’s quite a haul both up and down with little ones. $8/adult
5. Boerne
River  Road Park Trail in Boerne

We visited this cute town outside of San Antonio recently and can’t wait to return when we have the full day to explore. The following spots are on our Boerne bucket list.

  • Cibolo Nature Center: Walk the trails among the cypress trees, splash in the Cibolo Creek, search for dinosaur tracks, and picnic in the shade. (Restrooms may not be open during Covid closures.) *free* Visit on Saturday, and you can add a stroll through the Farmer’s Market and Herff Farm.
  • Kinderpark: Large playground with hilltop slide and lots of climbing opportunities. *free*
  • Visit a Cave: Cascade Caverns and Cave without a Name are both living caves that offer tours and grounds to hike, picnic, and explore.
  • Random Beer Garden: Outdoor play space for kids including a bouncing pillow, craft beer, food trucks, and live music make this spot a great place to wrap up the day for everyone in the family.
  • Downtown and Riverside Stroll: Visit the shops, restaurants, and walking trail along Cibolo Creek at River Road Park to watch the geese and ducks play. If you packed your fishing poles, you can fish in this creek as well. *free*

I hope you enjoy your adventures with the kids in the Texas Hill Country, and I invite you to share your photos on Instagram with the tag, #drippingwithkids. Also, please comment below if you have other towns you’d love to see featured in Part 2 of Day Trips from Austin with the Kids!

On those days that you’d prefer to stay closer to home, check out these things to do in Austin and nearby.

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
Things to Do Dripping Springs vacation

The Essential Summer Kit for the Car

A violent storm in the middle of tennis practice that we walked to…

A vomiting episode while on the way to a birthday party…

A car seat covered in urine…

A random invitation to a friend’s pool while out running errands (with no swimsuits on hand)…

An extended play date at a shade-less playground in 95 degree heat…

A swarm of mosquitos on a hiking trail…

After years of summer surprises hitting me like a ton of bricks, I finally smarted up and decided that my car needs to be well-stocked for summer! I always keep a duffel bag in the back of my mommy-van full of these essentials for the entirety of summer, which in Texas lasts from March through October.

Essential Summer Kit for the Car
  • Swimsuits & towels
  • Extra change of clothes, hats, & sandals
  • Picnic blanket
  • Sunscreen & aloe
  • Bug spray
  • Sand toys (pails, shovels, trucks) & Bubbles
  • Soccer ball or kickball
  • Playing/flash cards & books
  • A little cash
  • Wipes, paper towels, & tissues
  • Baby powder (for cleaning off wet sand)
  • A couple plastic bags for wet clothes or trash
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Umbrella

This kit has saved me more times than I can count and allowed us to have uninterrupted summer fun. We’ve been able to linger longer at an activity or park. I’ve been able to say ‘yes’ to random splash pad stops. We’ve added on state park visits to an otherwise boring morning. I’ve been able to clean up disgusting messes while on the go, tame countless snack cravings without resorting to fast food, and wait out unexpected downpours.

This little bit of preparation has helped us truly enjoy summer’s spontaneous moments.

Check out A Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer for more ideas on how to have your best summer yet!

Categories
Frugal Living

Why You Want a Zoo Membership

A few years ago, I was invited to write an article for the Houston Zoo website and newsletter as the Member of the Month. I’ve never been more excited to work for free. Maybe this could be considered my first blog post! Here is an excerpt from it:

My family has had a membership at the zoo for about 7 years. In the first couple years, I pushed a single stroller with my eager and curious daughter, planning each visit around her favorite animals: the elephants, sea lions, and big cats. Soon enough, I was cruising around the zoo with a double jogger, making sure that each visit included a carousel ride, a trip to the playground, many animal sightings, a crawl (or two or three or thirty) through the tunnel in the Natural Encounters house, and a stroll past the monkeeeeeys for my son. Now, we go as a family of five with two big kids leading the way and another eager and curious daughter in the single stroller. We never miss the African Forest, which houses my favorite animals, the majestic giraffes, and my husband insists on going through the bug house, despite the terrifying cockroaches, because he was one of the engineers for that exhibit. We all challenge ourselves to see if we can make it to every corner of the zoo. We don’t want to miss anything!

After submitting this article, it hit me that the zoo truly was one of our family’s happy places, and we vowed to visit zoos all over the country whenever we travel together. However, zoo admissions continue to increase, and many of them have added pricey experiences you can feel tempted to take advantage of when you book online. This is where a zoo membership can make a huge difference!

I am still a proud card-carrying member of the Houston Zoo despite moving away 3 years ago, and I’ll tell you why.

Reciprocal Membership

Paying for one zoo membership not only gets you in for free at that zoo for an entire year, but it also gets you in free or 50% off admission to dozens of other zoos and aquariums across the country. Check out this site to see which zoos and aquariums are included. https://www.aza.org/reciprocity

In the last two years, my family has visited the Cameron Park Zoo three times, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Houston Zoo at least three times, the Oakland Zoo, the Dallas Zoo, and the San Antonio Zoo. Because of the membership benefits, we’ve saved over $400 on zoo visits while traveling, and that amount does not include the savings we’ve been able to pass along to friends through free day passes and inviting them as our guests. I also saved precious summer cash when I used to enroll my kids in camps at the zoo.

Special Events

Most zoos have special events for Halloween (Zoo Boo), the holidays (Zoo lights), and in the spring or summer (Zoobilee) to which members get free or reduced admission. Many zoos also have free yoga classes, education events for children, opportunities for overnight campouts, and toddler/infant socialization times. Additionally, most zoos offer a member morning each month that allows you to get in one hour earlier than the normal opening time and feature specific animal talks. Members also get discounts on carousel or train rides and gift shop purchases.

Animal Conservation and Taxes

100% of your zoo membership is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation going toward animal and habitat conservation. Saving money on family experiences and taxes too… win-win!

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