Whether you refer to it as a fall festival or a pumpkin patch, the month of October isn’t complete without a visit to one… or many!
Is it even Fall if you haven’t taken super cute photos surrounded by pumpkins and funny signs; dirtied your shoes with dust, hay, and dried corn in a big pit; gotten lost in a winding maze; fed some farm animals; sipped sweet tea; and watched your kids bounce, ride, and run to their hearts’ content?
This list includes the festivals we always try to squeeze in, as well as a few pumpkin patches we haven’t seen … yet.
Visit the homestead of the founding family of Dripping Springs, and enjoy lawn games, a pumpkin patch, food trucks, live music, animal visits, photo opps, and beautiful picnic spots under the oaks. Also, the Founder’s Park playground is right next door. Admission price is a flat $15 per person (65+ and 0-3 are free).
Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to take another spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course. $25/person if purchased online in advance.
You can find this farm and pumpkin patch near Austin in Manchaca, TX. Fall festival activities include a Pumpkin patch, fall-themed photo-ops, exotic animals, authentic Native American tipi, kids’ swings and playground, kids’ Spider Web, face painting (only open Saturday & Sunday), jumping pillow (only open Saturday & Sunday), and food vendors. Go on a Thursday or Friday for half-price admission. Sat and Sun visits cost $16/person.
The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, a funny hayride, and horseback riding (on weekends only). Admission is free, but activities are charged individually. We usually spend about $15/person.
In the beautiful and fun city of Fredericksburg, $14 admission cost gets you Corn Maze, Jump pass, Wagon Ride, Flower Field, Barnyard Basketball, Barnyard Rollers, Barnyard Bubbles, Corn Pit, Tile Maze, Tug-O-War, Roping, Tetherball-m, Peach Mountain and Tunnel, and more. We’ve never been, but we’re excited to check out Jenshke this year.
Save Money with These Alternatives to Austin and Hill Country Hot Spots
There seem to be limitless attractions, trails, swimming holes, museums, playgrounds, classes, farms, festivals, and historical sites in Austin and within the surrounding Texas Hill Country. My kids and I enjoy almost everything in this area! However, too many choices can paralyze the planner; they can also blow the budget.
Two of my kids are homeschooled, and we have a lot of time each day to fill with unique learning experiences. The term “homeschool” can often be a misnomer. We don’t really replicate school, and we also don’t stay home all that much. Many of my weekly plans involve getting my kids out of the house.
Unfortunately, many attractions, even those in natural landscapes, can be upwards of $20 per person. That adds up too quickly, especially with a large family. We’re often searching for options that are free or at least cost half as much as the typical attraction price.
To help with my own planning (and yours), I’ve made a list of frugal alternatives to the top attractions in the Austin area and the Texas Hill Country. These alternatives are not only cheaper, but they’re likely to be less crowded, especially on weekdays.
While Hamilton Greenbelt is more of a trail than a tourist attraction, it offers a view of waterfalls, shaded walking trails, creeks to splash in (if it’s been raining), a bird blind, picnic tables and grassy area for sunning, a few animal sculptures to search for, and no fee, plus free parking.
This short trail is a fun stop to add on to a day at the Hill Country Galleria, where you can visit the cute library, do a little shopping, and see additional art exhibits along the store fronts and at Bee Cave Art Foundation.
Hot Spot: The Thinkery Children’s Museum ($18/person)
This museum is my younger kids’ absolute favorite! Their imaginations come alive in the many role play areas, including the hospital room, the grocery store, the space station, the bank, the art studio, and the outdoor water play area. We spend the whole day there for just $8 per person. Plus, there are several cute restaurants nearby to grab lunch. (Admission fee grants you in/out access all day.)
Check out animal exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, a frog pond and streams where you can catch tadpoles with your own net, discovery rooms with insect and animal specimens, as well as a sandy dino dig area…. all for free.
If you’re willing to travel out of town for a bigger, better zoo experience, head north instead of south. You’ll find several of the same animals and a more chill and close-up experience at the Cameron Park Zoo. If you really, really love zoos like we do, it might be worth looking into a zoo membership for reciprocal discounts at other zoos.
If your goal is to stroll among beautiful wildflowers, marvel at creative art pieces, find cute photo ops, enjoy a picnic or cafe-style lunch, roam free in the great outdoors, and even do a little wine tasting or shopping, this free alternative is the way to go. There aren’t as many play areas specific to children, but this unique spot hosts many fun events with kid-friendly activities, including a Fall Festival on September 23rd with face painting, pumpkin patches, and games.
Hot Spot: Guadalupe or Comal River Tubing Float ($20-$25/person)
Hit the rapids, jump off the bridge, linger in the shade, or float the slow current of the San Marcos River. Bring your own tube to drop in at Rio Vista Park and head downstream a short ways to find one of the best tube chutes around.
Check the high school websites in your area for musicals in the Fall and in the Spring. Most are produced at a very high quality, and there’s a lot of young talent on those stages!
Hot Spot: Barton Springs Pool ($5-$9/adult, $3-$5/child)
Frugal alternative: FREE Barking Springs
This open access swimming area is just downstream from the popular swimming hole. It’s open year-round and has no restrictions on food and drink. It can attract a crowd, as well as lots of dogs, during popular times and really hot days. Swim at your own risk and go early to claim a spot on the bank. The easiest way to access Barking Springs is to go down the staircase just east of the Zilker Park Playground. You can park in the first parking lot near the playground.
Head down to San Marcos for a glass bottom boat tour, aquarium, discovery center, and trails. The cost is significantly less, and the experience is focused on conservation and education. If you want a truly frugal experience, go on a Family Fun Day for FREE admission and activities for children. There are also homeschool days that mimic a field trip for only $10/person (pre-registration required).
For only $5/hour, you can try out a variety of challenging and unique climbing walls at Hill Country Indoor, even if you’re not a member of the gym. Call ahead to make sure the climbing area isn’t reserved for a party.
Hot Spot: Painting with a Twist ($40-$50/event) OR fee-based art classes
This library has several options for all ages, including teen art projects and Adult Art with Inspired Minds, but they have more than just art classes. There are also STEM classes for homeschoolers, come and go crafting, cooking classes, and more.
While Pioneer Farms is a cool place and not that expensive, Sauer-Beckmann Farm and LBJ State Park are completely free, and it’s one of our favorite attractions in the area. There are period actors every day working the farm and demonstrating how people homesteaded more than 100 years ago. There are also hiking trails, a museum, and animals to visit.
We hope this list encourages you to check out some of the lesser-known attractions in the area! It’s true that some require more of a drive and maybe a bit more packing or planning, but my family thinks it’s all worth it. Plus, the savings make a huge difference, allowing us to get out and explore even more.
If you’d like to experience some of the bigger attractions, as well as semi-professional games, in San Antonio, Waco, and Austin at a huge discount, check out the POGO Pass, which charges one annual fee per person for free admission into multiple family-friendly places.
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, dreaming about the vacations we’ve booked, and reserving coveted spots in local camps. But after paying for those trips and camps, there’s little left in the budget for the rest of the summer days. That’s when this bucket list can come to the rescue.
This year, I’m a little behind in making our list because so many great ideas and new opportunities have been flooding my inbox and text chains. Sometimes, I consider keeping these hot spots a secret to be enjoyed without much of a crowd, but NAH, this blog is all about sharing the fun!
I invite you to check off these Top 21 FUN (and affordable or FREE) things to do in Austin and the surrounding areas with us, so we can make the summer of 2023 memorable!
Items marked with an * are FREE.
HILL COUNTRY SUMMER BUCKET LIST (in no particular order)
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 charged for entry at $5/adult, cash only, and reservations are not allowed.
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.
Multiple porches, splash pad, small playground, casual food menu, and full bar make these hotspots great family-friendly options for a summer evening. Dreamland also has putt putt golf for $10/person and pickle ball courts.
Pack a cooler, load up the tubes, grab a fishing pole, pull out some cash ($10 for adults, $6 for kids), and remember the slip-proof water shoes for a full day in and on the water. The trek down can be a tad difficult so be prepared to carry little ones. There are bathroom facilities on site but no food options. Overnight camping is also available with advanced reservations.
This scenic park is free for day use, and it has a variety of shaded trails, as well as a few swimming spots. Park at any of the designated parking areas and go right for lake swimming, left for creek and waterfall. Bring in all your own swimming toys, food, and blankets/towels. The trails toward the lake are flat enough for a wagon.
This is one of the best priced water parks with 3 distinct pool areas for all ages, as well as multiple slides, cargo net for climbing, splash pad, and small obstacle courses. Two of the pool areas are spring-fed and quite cool. There is a large locker room with bathrooms and changing areas. You can bring in your own food and drinks. Just outside of the aquatic center is a train that takes you around the park, which has multiple playgrounds and trails.
Walk the trails, photograph the peacocks and peahens, and lounge in a beautiful, shaded outdoor space at this free city park. If you go on a Thursday, you can visit the Laguna Gloria art gallery next door for FREE. Make a full day of it by traveling less than 10 min to Red Bud Isle for hiking, kayaking, and an off-leash dog park or to Hula Hut for a unique dinner on the water.
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 cycling trail, and lots of wildflowers. $5-$10/vehicle admission, coins or card only, unless you book online in advance.
Spend the cool morning hours touring the farm and hiking the easy trails to see Texas Longhorns. When it gets too hot, take the driving tour through the national park to see the LBJ family working ranch, as well as historic sites. Check out the link above for more details.
Sand, boulders, a flowing river for swimming or wading, shaded trails, unique wildlife, campsites, and beautiful views… what more could you want for a summer day or weekend? Be sure to reserve a day pass or campsite in advance. They do sell out.
14. *Chill in the San Marcos River after Playground Fun
Check out one of the best playgrounds in the area, The Children’s Park in San Marcos, and then cool off in the river just steps away. Bring your own floats or tubes as well as a picnic lunch. Then head into downtown San Marcos for a unique treat at Icy Rolls. Your kids will never look at ice cream the same way again.
15. *Attend Awesome Library Events
The Dripping Springs, Bee Cave, Lake Travis, Westbank, and Wimberley Libraries have amazing magic and puppet shows, petting zoos, parties, summer reading challenges, Lego and chess clubs, and movie nights. Some require registration in advance. Be sure to check the summer event calendars and plan ahead.
16. 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 and opportunities to splash in the creek. 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 (check online before you go to see if it’s open). 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.
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 pizza and playtime at Community Pizza, and some live music. (Make swimming reservations for Blue Hole in advance. $12/adult, $6/child)
Spend the whole day on a paddle board, in a canoe, or in a tube. You can bring your own or rent on site. You can also climb in the small cave, search for the goats, and lounge on the shore munching a delicious taco from the on-site restaurant. $10/adult, $6/child 5+.
Zilker Hillside Theater is back with a free production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical! The show must go on rain or shine or 100 degree heat every Thursday through Sunday at 8 pm from July 7th through Aug 12th. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out the famous Barton Springs pool before the show if you’ve never been. And if you can’t get in, good news… there’s a free, public-access side too! It’s right next door to and down the hill from the Barton Springs facility.
This park has it all: playground, 1500 foot beach, large shallow swimming area, several shaded picnic spots, boat ramps, volleyball courts, and a deeper side of the lake for floating and boating. $20/vehicle for all day (no in and out) or $5 for Comal County registered vehicles.
I hope this list gets you motivated to get out and explore without breaking the bank, even on the blistering hot Texas summer days. And for those weeks when your kids need a break from all the outdoor fun, check out this list of the best VBS options in the area.
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!
Easter is a BIG DEAL in our family, and we have the added bonus of two kids’ birthdays about a week after Easter this year. It’s gonna be a full month!
Easter brings so much joy to our family, and the promise of new life that the holiday represents puts it up there with Christmas on how we honor it. I highly encourage you to find a church service to go to on Easter Sunday. Most churches have multiple services available.
I also encourage you to take advantage of the many fun events in the area to celebrate. Check out this list of Easter and Spring celebrations offered in Dripping Springs and nearby areas…
Take part in a variety of activities, including our annual egg hunt in the pool and outdoors, balloon artist, face painting, games and more! Local non-profit, service and wellness organizations will be available to offer resources, services and information. Registration is required. March 25th afternoon.
Head to Burnet on Easter weekend, April 7-9th, for activities sure to please all ages. There’s something for everyone such as live music, a carnival, food, races of all kinds, and lots and lots of shopping.
Sweet Berry Farm is open for fun activities, such as barrel train rides, berry bounce, flower-picking, sand art, and picking strawberries through mid-May.
If all of the events listed above still don’t give you your Easter fill, below is a list of my favorite at-home egg hunt themes. You can make a whole weekend out of egg hunting with these options and keep those kiddos happy for hours on end.
1. Trick or Treat (or April Fools) Egg Hunt... Fill most of your eggs with goodies and trinkets, but reserve about 25% of them for tricks instead of treats. They can be filled with rocks, fake money, dried up flowers, or pieces of paper with chores and dares written on them. The only caveat to participate is that you have to agree to take the bad with the good.
2. Tickets and Prizes Egg Hunt… Instead of filling eggs with tiny toys and candy that you may not want your children to have, put 1-5 tickets in each egg instead. Then, once all the eggs have been found, let kids redeem their tickets for bigger gifts, prizes, and coveted snacks.
3. Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt… Wait until after dinner to stuff and hide eggs that each have a glow stick and a treat inside. (You’ll need the large plastic eggs to pull this off.)
4. Mission Impossible Egg Hunt… Section off your house or yard to hide eggs at varying levels of difficulty. Let hunters begin in an area where the eggs are easy to spot and collect, then move on to an area where they’re hidden a bit more inconspicuously, and finally move to an area where egg-collection requires climbing, crawling, digging, and uncovering.
5. Party-themed egg hunt… If you were to throw a birthday party for your child(ren) this month, what would the theme be? Superheroes? LOL dolls? Mickey Mouse? Sports? Whatever that theme would be, fill the eggs with party favors, balloons, tattoos, stickers, and treats related to it. Add a few confetti eggs to the mix as well.
6. Snack frenzy egg hunt… Buy up all of your kids favorite snacks in individual bags. Then print thumbnail size pictures of the logos of each type of snack (adding up to the total number of bags you have). When they collect eggs and open them, they can exchange their logo picture for the real thing.
7. Good deeds egg hunt… In the spirit of the season, we can all do a bit more for our friends, family, and community. Spread joy with an egg hunt that has ideas for random acts of kindness that can be performed on the days following Easter. Fill several eggs with candy and treats and many others with ideas, like “draw a picture and send to a grandparent”, “drop off coloring pages and crayons in the mailbox of a young family in the neighborhood”, “call a friend you haven’t seen in a long time”, “paint rocks with words of encouragement and drop them along a walking trail”, “create a list of feel-good songs and mail them to a friend, along with an invitation for a face time dance party”, “drop encouraging bits of scripture in all the neighbors’ mailboxes”, “write a thank you note to a hospital ER”, etc.
8. Game Night Egg Hunt… Buy, borrow, or dig out of a closet a few board games, lego sets, or jigsaw puzzles. Hide pieces in plastic eggs and when all are collected and opened, have a family game night. (If you have time to plan ahead, have a puzzle made with your family picture on it.)
9. Arts and Crafts Egg Hunt… Fill eggs with kids’ favorite crafts items, such as googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, chalk, play doh or clay, string, poms, mini-paints, beads, erasers, ribbons, stickers, etc. Then, provide empty mason jars to categorize and store all of their new crafting supplies, and let them be creative the rest of the day. This variety pack on Amazon has it all!
Finally, I’d like to add that resurrection eggs are a fantastic way to incorporate worship into your secular celebrations. There are many resources online to make them yourself or you can have them shipped pre-made along with a book.
However you choose to celebrate this very special holiday, I hope it’s an Easter to remember and that it brings the promise of new life and redeeming love to your family. Happy hunting!
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…
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)!
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:
Lake Hills Church starts at incoming kinder age. Theme: TBA. Dates: June 5-8, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Registration opens at the end of March. Cost: Unknown
Bethany Lutheran Church has VBS for PK3(potty-trained) through 5th grade. Theme: Stellar. Dates: June 19-23, 9 am – noon. Cost: $20, includes T-shirt. Registration is open. Other camps are available throughout summer for $300 per week.
Life Family Churches hosts Camp Life Kids in Austin and Marble Falls. This VBS is so popular that the Austin location already has a waitlist, but you can still register for the Marble Falls location, which will occur June 19-23, 9 am-4 pm. Cost: $210. For rising kindergartners through 6th grade.
Woodlawn Baptist Church is offering VBS daily from June 26-30th from 9 am – 12 pm for preschool-age through 5th grade. Registration to open later in March.
Austin Ridge Bee Cave has Camp Ridge Kids starting at age 3 (potty trained) – 5th grade. Theme: Summer Blast. Dates: July 10-13, 9 am – noon. Cost: Unknown, registration opening soon.
Dripping Springs United Methodist Church has a unique approach to VBS: it’s for the whole family. Their VBX will structure programming for the kids and for the adults as well. The evenings include dinner, worship, games, petting zoo, and shows. Theme: Pets Unleashed. Dates: 7/11-7/13, 5:30-8:30 pm. Registration will open 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.
Dripping Springs is a unique destination that people from all over the country quickly fall in love with. It attracts families, retirees, travelers, wedding parties, brewmasters, distillers, entrepreneurs, corporate execs, farmers, and chefs. It has quite the draw for small town Texas, but why?
I recently heard someone describe Dripping Springs as the biggest small town she’d ever been to. Don’t let the population size of under 6,000 confuse you: this town includes many more people and a lot more to explore than what’s included in its official borders. The extra-territorial jurisdiction of Dripping Springs extends south into Driftwood, east into Austin, north to the Travis County line, and west toward Henley.
Dripping Springs is home to over 20 wedding venues and dozens of distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and breweries to entertain the wedding parties, as well as local families. Patio weather is year-round in Texas, so on any given sunny Saturday, it can be hard to find a picnic table available at any of the outdoor favorites. This town is quickly adding more restaurants, fast food chains, entertainment venues, churches, and even another HEB. The new developments are popping up annually; the roads are being expanded; the playgrounds are often full; the YMCA is packed; the schools are multiplying; and the sports programs are overwhelmed with little athletes.
Dripping Springs is also home to multiple nicknames, from The Drip to Pound Town to Drinking Springs, each of which has an origin story the locals can tell well. Speaking of locals, there are only a few native Drip residents left, and they know this town’s history well. They remember when there was only one tiny grocery store, when the first car wash popped up, and when there was little to no traffic, except on Founders Weekend. It’s been quite an adjustment to watch their small town expand so quickly in recent years.
My family is not native to this area, but Dripping Springs can quickly feel like anyone’s hometown. I moved here in late 2016, with a husband, three kids, and one more on the way. We had land we intended to build on (then sold); we lived on a few acres for 3 years; and we’re now experiencing the master-planned neighborhood life. All have suited our family well at the time, and no matter where we’ve lived in town, we’ve met the nicest people, who are all fans of their beloved Drip.
What makes this town so appealing, though? How can a place that’s growing rapidly, at a rate of 6% or more each year, still have that small hometown vibe? How can a location so close to the city still resist the influence of “Keep Austin Weird”? How can a once rural community continue to attract life-long city-dwellers? What makes Dripping Springs a place that everyone loves?
This post will attempt to answer those questions from the perspective of someone who once lived in Austin but last moved from the big city of Houston, someone who is raising a family in Dripping Springs with a couple of homeschooled kids and two others in the school district, someone who’s been writing a blog in an attempt to experience as much of what the Hill Country has to offer (yet has barely scratched the surface), someone who hopes this post doesn’t make anyone on the Dripping Springs Neighbors Facebook page angry…
In honor of February, the month with my least favorite “hallmark holiday” smack in the middle of it, here are 28 Things to Love about Dripping Springs. Click on the links in the list to read more about what makes Dripping Springs the place to be.
The People —- Most Dripping Springs residents are friendly, polite, ethical, genuine, successful, humble, welcoming, and interesting. A majority of locals volunteer at the schools and in kids’ sports. We wave to neighbors walking by. We use manners at the grocery stores and restaurants, chat with the person standing next to us at the playground or in line somewhere, and scoot down to let more people on the football bleachers. We cheer for other people’s children. We help strangers move animals or debris during an emergency, and we open up our homes when others are without water, power, or food. We care. No one can be perfect all of the time, but it’s the general kindness and friendliness of fellow residents that make be proud to call Dripping home.
The Library — We have such a sweet, small-town library, but don’t let its facade fool you. It is very well-stocked, has a huge children’s area with dozens of family activities and contests each month, plus many interesting events for teens and adults.
Emphasis on a Well-Rounded Education (post about education options and experiences to come soon)
Generous Charitable Organizations — With a full food pantry, an active Veteran program, a variety of small organizations started by local students, a center for youth in crisis, rescue homes for foster children, a pregnancy resource center, services and a thrift shop for the elderly, and conscientious animal shelters, Dripping Springs proves it has a heart for giving.
The First Responders — Not to boast, but we have the best. The Hays County First Responders are held in high regard due to the love and protection they selflessly provide to Dripping Springs and the surrounding towns. You’ll find local firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel at almost every town event, teaching children and adults about safety, giving away gifts and important info, and simply making friends with the residents. They’re quick to respond to emergencies and bravely put their lives on the line for others. They uphold a high standard for this part of Texas. They show respect to everyone and have earned it ten-fold.
West of Weird — Austin is a unique place and a great city to be near, but most people in Dripping are happy to be just outside of the boundaries of the big city. Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird”. Dripping Springs has little interest in weird. Our residents do love the restaurants, the shows, the trails, the playgrounds, and the jobs available in Austin; we just choose a slightly different culture for our daily lives and our families.
Support of Small Businesses — The franchises are slowly moving in, more on the east side of Dripping Springs, but for a long time, the town shied away from endorsing franchised businesses. The people hereare extremely supportive of small businesses and local owners.
Church Communities — If anyone asks on the local forums or Facebook page about finding a church in the area, there are hundreds of positive responses. Each church-goer LOVES his or her church, and there’s a reason for it. Narrowing down a church home here can be difficult because each one in and near Dripping Springs does incredible work to serve the body of Christ. Worship services are meaningful and entertaining, and most of the churches offer Bible studies, events, children’s programming, and summer camps to continue to foster a community of faith.
4H and Equestrian Barns — Just about every small (and large) town in Texas has roots in ranching. Caring for livestock and connecting with animals are core qualities of native Texans, and these values run deep in Dripping Springs as well. The equestrian, 4H, and FFA communities are active and growing. There are a dozen or more horse-boarding and training barns within 10 miles of Dripping Springs, and several residents keep horses, chickens, goats, cattle, swine, and even “exotic” animals on their properties. There are also therapeutic riding barns serving children and adults with neurological and physical disabilities, most notably the RED Arena. A community that cares for animals and carries on traditions of the past is something most people want to be a part of.
The Weather — It’s Texas y’all. The weather is unpredictable and usually hot, which is exactly how most of us prefer it. The random ice storms are a pain and the 6-month summer can get tiring; however, the ample sunshine leads to hours spent in the great outdoors, and the challenges presented by random weather events unite neighbors and our community even more.
Sneak Peak of Country Life — As the “Gateway to the Hill Country”, Dripping Springs allows people to dip their toes into country life. It’s a step in the direction toward settling out west in rural America while still having all the conveniences that we depend on close by. Rarely do I meet a Dripping resident who hasn’t dreamed of more land and a simpler country life. Many have been able to find that on beautiful acreage in DS, but many are biding their time and seeing that dream as a possibility just a little further down the road.
Safety — The crime rate is low, and we intend to keep it that way.
Plethora of Car Washes, Banks, and Mattress Stores — This one is just for the locals. #insidejoke
George P. Bush, as land commissioner, once said, “Texas isn’t just a place on a map… it’s an idea in the hearts of our people.” I believe this to be true for every small town within Texas, but some towns represent the Texas ideal just a little bit better than others. Dripping Springs happens to be one of them.
I’d love to hear what others think makes our town a place that everyone loves. Please comment below and subscribe to the Dripping with Kids blog to read more about the best of Dripping Springs and the Texas Hill Country.
There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.
Whether hiking with tiny tots or solo with climbing gear in your bag, this is the place for you! The trail options are many, from a meandering flat surface that takes you to the (usually dry) creek bed to the rocky paths and large boulders that lead to the popular rock climbing spots.
Easy Parking and Access
Google Maps will take you directly to the entrance. You can park for free on the street nearby and walk along the sidewalk directly to the trailhead. There’s a sign at the entrance.
Hours of Nature Exploration
While there are no benches or bathrooms, there are many spots along the trails that allow for nature exploration… bouldering, climbing trees, crawling through natural tunnels, collecting rocks, and traversing rocky terrain. The creek bed is easy to get to, so once there, even little ones can explore while their parents take a rest.
After burning calories hiking, climbing, and exploring, treat yourself to burgers, beer, and ice cream, as well as more play time on the playground, at Phil’s Ice House or enjoy delicious pizza at Pinthouse Pizza | Craft Brewpub | Austin Texas. There are dozens of additional options within 5-10 minutes of Gus Fruh as well.
Gus Fruh is perfect for a quick hike or a full screen-free afternoon with your family. For other family hike recommendations in the Texas Hill Country, check out 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 favorites as well.
Fall is here! Sometimes I think the ‘a’ in Fall should be changed to the letter ‘u’ because our calendar is so FULL… in the very best way imaginable. There’s just so much to do and so much to love about Fall in the Texas Hill Country.
We’ve already been checking off some of our Fall to-do list. I put the Halloween decorations up and pulled the orange and black T-shirts to the front of my kids’ drawers. I switched out the candles throughout the house from summery scents to pumpkin vanilla and honey apple. I’ve hung the leafy wreaths and garland throughout the house. I’ve stocked the kitchen with the best fall recipe ingredients. And last week, while running those essential errands, I tried the new Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato at Starbucks, which is a delicious mouthfull!
Now, it’s time to tackle our Fall Bucket List with all the places we want to go and things we want to do during this beautiful season of pumpkin patches, cute costumes, cooler temps, colorful leaves, and outdoor adventures. Feel free to join us!
At the homestead of the founding family of Dripping Springs, enjoy lawn games, a pumpkin patch, food trucks, live music, animal visits, photo opps, and beautiful picnic spots under the oaks. Also, the Founder’s Park playground is right next door. Admission prices vary. Check link above.
Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to go back again to take another spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course, plus so much more.
You can find this farm and pumpkin patch along the scenic banks of the Colorado River in Bastrop, TX. Fall festival activities include a very complex corn maze, baseball and football toss, fall photo opps, train rides, tree fort, super slides, jumping pillow, fishing, face painting, and more. There will also be live music and a biergarten this year.
The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, and horseback riding. Admission is free, but activities are charged individually.
It’s a 3-day small-town music festival highlighting the best local talent on multiple stages. Enjoy music, food, friendly people, and adorable downtown shops on the weekend of Oct 14th-16th. In my opinion, the highlight of the weekend is the Gospel Brunch on Sunday morning at Hudson’s on Mercer. You can attend the showcases for FREE!
Enjoy Fall fair festivities, such as rock wall, cake walk, concessions, and games while supporting a local elementary school. Bring the kids to Dripping Springs Elementary School from 3 – 6 pm on Nov. 5th and/or Walnutpalooza on the same day from 12-4. Admission is free; tickets for activities and food sold on site.
Enjoy the beautiful drive past vineyards and state parks to Fredericksburg, where you will find this fun stop with shopping, wine tasting, lunch options, wildflower trails, and butterfly gardens. Save the date for the Monarch Celebration on Oct 8th (9:30 am – 2:30 pm) during which there will be tagging demonstrations, followed by butterfly releases at 11:30 am and 2:15 pm.
The food, music, dancing, carnival rides, and hours of German-inspired entertainment at the biggest festival of the year in the town of New Braunfels are all great reasons to travel south down I-35! The festival lasts for 10 days, and there are several opportunities for FREE admission. Check the link above. If you go on a Saturday, allow a little extra time in the morning for the New Braunfels farmers’ market in downtown.
This FREE family-focused event has so many fun activities on the schedule, from costume contests to wildlife exhibits to s’mores around the campfire. Make plans to spend Halloween eve in Wimberley! Schedule linked above.
Most likely, there’s a Board and Brush near you with dozens of adorable signs to make for the Fall season. You can join an established workshop or book a private party. All signs can be personalized with name, color choices, and texture. It’s such a fun activity, especially with older kids! (Prices start at $35)
Head to your local Home Depot before noon on the first Saturday of the month (and the Sat after Thanksgiving) to create unique woodworking projects for kids. You can also collect the patch, certificate, and token HD orange apron if you don’t have one yet. Upcoming projects include Scarecrow Napkin Holder on Nov 5th, Train Ornament on Nov 26th, and Santa Mailbox on Dec 3rd.
Find artisan crafts, beer and wine, tasty food, and nearby shops with sales on the third full weekend of the month and first weekend of December. Stick around for lunch at the Gristmill and free live music (fingers crossed!) at Gruene Hall.
Located near the historic Pound House (and DS Pumpkin Fest) in Founders’ Park, this Farmers’ Market has grown to include vendors from Dripping Springs and surrounding towns as well. It’s definitely worth stopping by on Wednesday afternoons for a thai dinner to go, locally grown produce, organic meat from sustainable farms, and live entertainment. Also, you can spend the rest of your evening at a family friendly brewery in the area.
Travel south on RR12 for a scenic drive and the 2nd largest flea market in Texas, held the first Saturday of every month (Mar – Dec) from 9 am to 4 pm. Grab a glass of wine, browse the shops, pop in the candy store or Scoops Frozen Yogurt for a treat for the kiddos, and then walk the trail along the creek behind downtown to skip rocks, play on the playground, or wade in the water. If it’s a particularly hot day, check out Cypress Falls Swimming Hole.
My kids beg to return to this festival every year. They love the costumes, the accents, the shows, the rides, the games, and the feeling of time travel. It’s a bit of a drive from the Hill Country, but camping sites are available next to the festival grounds. Children 12 and under are FREE on Sundays. Advanced tickets required.
This living history farm offers guided tours and classes, such as blacksmithing and Texas swing dancing. Visit a Tonkawa Indian Encampment, a German Emigrant Farm, a Texian Farm, a Cotton Planter’s Farm and a rural village called Sprinkle Corner all in one day. You can also get tickets for their special event, Pumpkin Nights, which has the entire farmstead lit up with fantastical Halloween decorations and pumpkins everywhere.
Go prehistoric and make your kids’ day by walking a trail to find large dinosaurs and dino clues in the woods. Then, play on the playground, dig for fossils, take hilarious photos, and guard your wallet (from your children) in the expansive gift shop. Drive a little further south and use your dino park wristband to enjoy 10% off lunch along the Colorado River at Neighbors Kitchen and Yard.
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)
✅ 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 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….
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!
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!
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
Your itinerary for a weekend in Dripping Springs, TX is righthere!
Just a couple decades ago, Dripping Springs, Texas was practically unknown to the rest of the state. It was one of those small, sleepy towns that attracted songwriters and ranchers but few others had heard of it, despite its natural beauty and proximity to the state capital. But it didn’t take long for it to grow from a vast expanse of ranch land to a booming town, now well-known across the nation.
It seems that our little town was discovered twice… once in 1854 by Dr. Pound and two other families trekking across the Indian-filled frontier… and then again in the early part of this century by the many city-dwellers looking for a taste of country life with all the conveniences of a big city nearby.
Dripping Springs still has that wonderful small town feel, but it’s growing rapidly. Not only has it become a destination for young families, empty-nesters, and young professionals to settle down, it now has a huge tourist draw as well.
You might ask, “What’s the draw of Dripping Springs?” Recently, The Drip has been penned by the Texas Legislature as the Wedding Capital of Texas. Our small town hosts more than 3,500 weddings per year in over 35 unique venues within a 15 mile radius, from rustic barns to a former Vietnamese temple.
We are also home to dozens of micro-breweries, famous distilleries, and family-owned wineries, most of which are kid-friendly and showcase the beauty of the oak trees and rolling hills in this part of Texas.
Dripping Springs is also considered the “Gateway to the Hill Country” because of its easy access to nearby towns that make up this region of central Texas. From DSTX, you can easily travel south to the adorable town of Wimberley for unique swimming holes and a meandering square of shops and art galleries. You can take a scenic drive between rolling hills along back country roads to the historic town of Gruene for some boot-scootin’ and delicious barbecue. Or you can head further west to make your way onto the Hill Country Wine Trail and end up in the quintessential German town of Fredericksburg. In fact, there are dozens of day trips or short road trips easily taken from Dripping Springs that offer a window to Texas’s remarkable history and the variety of cultures in our great state.
But those interesting nearby towns are not the feature of this post. Dripping Springs gets all the glory here, and if you’re looking for an amazing weekend in The Drip with your family, we’ve got your weekend itinerary planned out. Fair warning, though: After a weekend here, you’ll probably want to move to our sweet town too.
Friday in Dripping Springs
Start your afternoon at the shops on historic Mercer Street, and try to find the dripping springs that our town was named after. Hint: look for a hidden staircase among the downtown shops. Read about the town’s history while on the path.
Then, take the kids to one of Dripping’s family-friendly breweries or distilleries to get a taste of the talent that has flocked here from all over the world. Your family could linger for hours at one venue, enjoying the open green space, live music, unique food offerings, and playground. Or you could bounce around to a few before settling in for the night. Just please be careful and designate a driver because our roads are winding, and this is a dark sky community without street lights. (Click the hyperlink above for specific reviews of each of the following.)
Jester King Brewery and Kitchen
Treaty Oak Distilling
Family Business Beer Co
12 Fox Beer Co
Dripping Springs Distillery
Quick tip: Be sure to be outside at sunset. The Texas Hill Country boasts some of the best sunsets in the South!
Saturday in Dripping Springs
If you’re visiting the Hill Country, exploring the great outdoors is a must. Two of our most famous natural spots are Hamilton Pool Preserve and Reimers Ranch Park. You can visit both in the same morning as they are just down the road from each other. Hamilton Pool requires reservations, and you may need to verify before you go whether the swimming hole is open. Regardless of whether you get to take a dip, the 50 foot waterfall at the bottom of the natural staircase and the caverns behind it are definitely worth the visit. Bring your camera!
Afterward, head to Reimers Ranch Park for a little bit of easy climbing, cave exploration, hiking, (rocky) beach bumming, and swimming or wading in the Pedernales River.
If Hamilton Pool is booked or if you find yourself with a little extra time, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is another option for a fun and informational guided hike down to a beautiful grotto and limestone cavern. It’s also along Hamilton Pool Road. Call to make reservations before you go.
For dinner with the kids, stop in at Route 12 Filling Station on Hwy 12 and Fitzhugh Road. In the hot months, which are most of them, there is a splash pad for the kiddos, but the playground and large patio are open year-round. There’s a variety of delicious food for even the pickiest eaters.
Another dinner option in the area is Verde’s Mexican Parilla, which also has a huge covered patio, as well as a playground and fenced-in grass area for the kids to play. The menu is unique, and every single appetizer is worth trying. The food is phenomenal.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing our experiences often in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
❌ Swimming (seasonal)
✅ Playground nearby
✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
In the heart of Austin, among the many Zilker Park attractions and trails, lies a unique center with multiple attractions drawing adults and children alike to explore and discover the best parts of nature and the science behind it. We’re excited to share everything we love about Austin Nature and Science Center! (2389 Stratford Drive, Austin, TX)
Unique Museum and Science Center
As you walk through the doors of the Nature Center, you’ll first be pleased to discover that there’s no admission fee. It’s FREE!
But then you’ll soon be mesmerized even more by the opportunities to explore bug and animal skeletons, 3D maps, furs, fossils, and other fascinating artifacts. It might be tempting to stay inside for your whole visit, experiencing the hands-on science exhibits, but make sure you leave time to explore the great outdoors as well.
There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.
If you’re with little ones, this hike will be very slow-moving because there are many stops for kids along the paths. The most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. (If you have a dinosaur lover, add a short trip to Bastrop to your itinerary.)
Beautiful Garden and Splashable Stream
While you might think the trail that goes around the stream is meant to prevent you from venturing into the water, you’d be wrong. I have seen many children with nets in the stream catching tadpoles and water bugs. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding the water, as well as the little swimmers in it.
About that Hike We Promised…
After taking it slow and exploring everything the Nature and Science Center has to offer, extend your day with a stroll or a run along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. You could make the hike as short or as long as you want. There are maps everywhere, guiding you to a path that suits your individual staying power.
There is so much more to do in this lovely pocket of Austin than just what’s listed above. As you wander around, you can’t miss the many opportunities to learn a little history, rent a boat, roll down a hill, or just linger on the lawn. We definitely recommend packing a lot of snacks and a meal or two. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave!
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.