Categories
Hiking vacation

Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley, TX

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 (except for swimming May through Sept)

❌ Free admission for Swimming Hole

Just south of Dripping Springs and about 45 minutes southwest of Austin lies one of the cutest Texas towns and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Blue Hole Regional Park!

The Swimming Hole

In the summer, this swimming hole is the perfect spot to cool off. The clear waters flow beneath huge oak trees offering plentiful shade, keeping the spring-fed waters even colder. If you’re looking for a hike and then a swim, Blue Hole is perfect. Details for the swimming hole:

SWIMMING SEASON: Blue Hole is open for swimming starting Weekends in May, everyday Memorial Day – Labor Day, and weekends in September.

RESERVATIONS: Reservations are required. There are 2 time slots for swimming (9 am – 1 pm, 2 pm – 6 pm) but you can reserve both and stay all day. Our reservation system opens March 1st. Everyone must make a reservation online (excluding season pass holders).

ADMISSION: $12 Adults (14-59), $8 Youth (4-13), Seniors (60+), and Military. $8 Wimberley Residents (78676 only). Season Passes are $120  Adults and $80 for Youth, Seniors, & Military.

In the off-season, visitors can enter the swimming area free of charge. Swimming is not allowed, but there is plenty of space for picnicking and opportunities to enjoy the crystal clear water.

Easy Trails

The park has 4.5 miles of flat trails meandering around the swimming hole and sports fields. Most of the trails are shaded, and it’s possible to push a jogging or all-terrain stroller on them.

A Story Walk

Currently, there is a story walk on the main trail loop. Getting to the next page in the book was a positive motivator for both of our little ones.

Great Playground

Near the bathrooms and parking lot, there is a playground with climbing options for both older kids and young ones.

Clean Bathrooms

The park has public restrooms near the swimming hole and the playground. They’re kept open and clean.

FUN Town Nearby

Blue Hole Regional Park is in the heart of downtown Wimberley, where you can stroll to find unique shops, dozens of restaurants and wineries, cute photo opps with painted boots, live music, and another small trail along Cypress Creek.

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Blue Hole Regional Park the next time you have a day free! There are several other hiking spots and cool tourist attractions in Wimberley as well.

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
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
vacation

2022 Spring Break in the Texas Hill Country

Spring Break in the Texas Hill Country offers more options than almost any major vacation destination! I’m bringing this popular post back to the surface again in case you haven’t quite hit the “Book” button on your Spring Break plans.

Spring Break takes on many different roles as you go through life. As a child, it represents freedom from school and, hopefully, a memorable family vacation. In college, it’s a week of clandestine partying and naïve independence. As a young professional, it means less traffic on your commute and sunset happy hours on a lively patio. 

However, when you become a parent of school-age kids, as the end of winter approaches, the term Spring Break initiates plans to get the kids out of the house!

the planning can become overwhelming, though. There are just too many options. Do we play hometown tourists? Blow our budget and go skiing? Take a road-trip and camp in the great outdoors? Rent a house on the beach? Or do we visit family or friends? It can be pretty daunting.

BUT… the planning, pressure, and patience it takes to celebrate Spring Break is so worth it. After surviving those grueling winter months (spoken as a true Texan), Spring Break is a turning point from one season to the next. It represents the promise of less illness, sunny days, and plenty of opportunities to get outdoors. It’s a rite of passage throughout life, but it’s also the perfect pivot from too much screen time to too much sunscreen.

If you’re still stuck in a planning rut, you’re in luck because I love to plan! Read on for some amazing, last-minute options that can be perfect for day trips or short stays in the Texas Hill Country. You can even have a completely FREE staycation!

Bastrop Area

Whether your family is into history, the rustic outdoors, chilling by the water’s edge, or window-shopping, there’s something fun for all in this small town. Check it out….

Places to Stay –

Bastrop River House

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Dinosaur Park Bastrop, Texas

Things to do –

  • The Dinosaur Park: Check out dino replicas, explore the gift shop, walk the trails, dig for fossils, and have a picnic near the playground.
  • McKinney Roughs Nature Park: discovery center, hiking trails, canopy zipline tours, UTV tours, and horseback riding.
  • McKinney Falls State Park: hiking, biking, fishing (rental equipment available), swimming, cabin and campsite rental, waterfalls, Junior Ranger program. (Book a day pass in advance.)
  • *Downtown Bastrop: nestled along the Colorado River, this historic downtown has art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, breweries, a museum and visitor center, live music, and theater performances at the old Opera House.
  • *Fisherman’s Park: riverside park with basketball court, playground, splash pad, and boat rentals – Enjoy a walk along the river trail and a yummy lunch at Neighbor’s Kitchen.

New Braunfels/Gruene 

Gruene, TX
Gruene Hall

With no shortage of family activities and so much natural beauty in this part of Texas, it has become one of my family’s favorite areas to visit. Check it out….

Places to Stay –

Guadalupe River Houses

World Mark New Braunfels

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

Things to Do –

  • *Landa Park: spring-fed wading pool, miniature train, mini golf, 4 playgrounds, hiking, and sand volleyball.
  • *Fischer Park: 62-acre hilltop park with amazing views, hiking and biking trails, fishing ponds, kayak rentals, outdoor amphitheater, education center, and archaeology dig.
  • Comal and Guadalupe River: check online for tube rental and river access
  • Stars & Stripes Drive-In Theatre: old-school drive in theater with kid-friendly movie options and concessions.
  • Natural Bridge Caverns: cave tours, zip lining, gem mining, maze, canopy explorer (full day of activities!).
  • Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch: drive-thru safari park with giraffes, zebras, rhinos, lemurs, and so many more. Make reservations in advance and start early in the day.
  • McKenna Children’s Museum: indoor fun for all (limited hours, check website)
  • *Historic Gruene: Visit Gruene Hall for live music, shop the boutiques, stroll along the river, and eat at the Gristmill.

Johnson City and Fredericksburg

Nestled between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg, Johnson City features so much of what the Texas Hill Country is known for: rolling hills, stunning views, delicious home-cooking, rich history, and local wine! There’s something for everyone in this tiny town.

Places to Stay –

The Lighthouse Hill Ranch

The Carnegie Hotel

Wild Currant Farm

Things to Do –

Hunt Area

Paddle boarding on the Rio Frio

I’ve always known Hunt as the location of my childhood friends’ favorite summer camps. As you drive into Hunt, it’s easy to see why it was chosen for their location. The wide open spaces and winding Guadalupe River take you far away from home with their beauty.

Places to Stay –

WorldMark Stablewood Springs

Waterfront Cabins

Things to Do –

  • Garner State Park: one of our fave state parks, offering challenging to easy hiking trails, tubing, paddle-boarding, overnight camping, evening activities, and mini golf.
  • *Schumaker’s Crossing: Swim, kayak, or float in the crystal clear waters just east of downtown Hunt. Paddle about 30 min to Ingram Dam to try out a natural water slide, then make your way back to relax and enjoy a picnic at the tables under the beautiful Cypress trees.
  • YO Ranch: Go on a private exotic wildlife tour. Book in advance for a spot.
  • Bridget’s Basket: Book a table in this old farmhouse and enjoy farm-to-table goodies
  • *Explore Kerrville: You can fill the day visiting meaningful tourist attractions, shopping in the historic downtown, floating the river, and playground-hopping.

Waco

Still one of our favorite places to visit as a family, we’re always finding new-to-us things to do there. This Road Trip Edition highlights our faves.

* FREE activities 

I hope Spring Break planning goes smoothly and that your family is able to enjoy the best the Texas Hill Country has to offer!

Not ready to travel? Try a few of these at-home Staycation ideas, do a tour of the best hiking spots in the Austin area, or plan a few fun day trips, then come home to your own bed!

Thank you for reading! Follow Dripping with Kids on Instagram or subscribe to this blog to get the best ideas on what to do with your family throughout the year in the Texas Hill Country.

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Bucket list Things to Do Dripping Springs

2020 Holiday Bucket List (Texas Hill Country)

Christmas doesn’t have a cancel button, so don’t give up on your favorite holiday events just yet. The 2020 Holiday Bucket List is just as full as the lists in previous years. Make the most of this season with these amazing events in our beloved Texas Hill Country.

This year, it seems that most families want to go BIG with their holidays … BIG on giving, BIG on decorating, BIG on family time, and BIG on celebrating the reason for the season. 2020 is the perfect year to start some new holiday traditions or to revive a few that got lost in Christmases past.

One of our favorite traditions is our Family Advent Calendar:

Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)

Our Family Advent Calendar

Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets in years past, followed by the 2020 Holiday Bucket List.

TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME – 

  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Make cards/gifts for teachers
  • Holiday movie night
  • Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
  • Deliver treats to neighbors
  • Caroling at home and holiday charades
  • Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
  • Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
  • Tell stories of our family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
  • Make gingerbread houses

HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –

Santa’s Wonderland at Cabela’s (Buda)

Santa's Wonderland

Nov 7th – Dec 24th

Make a reservation for a socially-distanced photo with Santa and a stroll through the store’s holiday decorations. Your kids can also mail a letter to Santa and take home a holiday craft kit. Plus, no visit to Cabela’s is complete without a visit to the dead zoo.

Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin) 

Nov. 27th – Jan 3rd

Enjoy the natural wonder of a Hill Country winter on a strollable, illuminated trail walk featuring the forts of Fortlandia. Purchase tickets in advance.

Christmas in Marble Falls

Walkway 1 thumbnail

 Nov 20th – Jan 2nd

Walkway of Lights with a variety of themes, weekend events including breakfast with Santa, ice skating, shopping, and “No Room at the Inn” gallery exhibit… With this many holiday-inspired activities, you could spend every weekend in Marble Falls!

Lost Pines Christmas

Nov 27th – Dec 27th

Take a short drive to Bastrop for some spectacular holiday events, including a wassail fest, river of lights, a drive-in movie and virtual tree lighting, holiday sidewalk stroll and scavenger hunt, and Elf the Musical.

Johnson City Lights Spectacular

Johnson City Light Spectacular

Nightly November 27th  – Jan 3rd

The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. The town of Johnson City is still deciding which events will occur this year. Check website for details.

Holidays in Fredericksburg

Nov 12th – Jan 6th

Show up on any day of the week for a spectacular holiday light show and events-a-plenty. Fredericksburg is so full of holiday cheer that you may need a few days to take it all in. Check the website for specific activities and lodging options.

Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs)

December 5th, 10 am – 5 pm

This fun hometown festival isn’t giving up on 2020. Enjoy shopping with local vendors, a trackless train, pony rides, a festive atmosphere, and an opportunity to write a letter to Santa and mail it on-site.

Holidays in Gruene

Weekends in December

Photos with Cowboy Kringle (appointment required), free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. Traditional events, such as the town lighting and the gospel brunch, are postponed until 2021. Check website for events still taking place.

Home Depot December Kids’ Take-Home Workshop

Dec 5th, 9 am and noon

Take a kit home so your kids can to create their own Treat Tray for Santa. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last.

Christmas in the Parks

Enchanted Rock

Texas State Parks have several holiday events, from scavenger hunts to Santa sightings to s’mores and ornament-making. Find a park near you and enjoy the great outdoors this season!

Bee Cave Buzz Fest

Dec, 17th -19th, 7:00PM & 8:30PM

FREE light and sound show each night created and performed by nationally-acclaimed artists.

Mozart’s Light Show (Lake Austin)

Now through Jan 6th

Make a reservation online for this special Austin tradition. Grab a hot cocoa or coffee and enjoy the “dancing lights”.

Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin)

Nov 21st – Jan 3rd

Over 120,000 lights are on display at a family’s home in Austin for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish foundation! Check out their “Believe” theme this year and leave a donation.

Find more Dripping with Kids at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

2020 Halloween in the Hill Country

Were you skeptical whether Halloween 2020 would actually happen? I was. But I’m so glad I was wrong. In true Texas spirit, not only is Halloween still on, but it’s bigger than ever. The number of events to choose from has become endless. So, don your orange and black face mask, pocket some hand sanitizer, and hit the town!

Trick or Treat Events

Hudson’s on Mercer: Friday, Oct 30th, 5:30 – 8:30 pm. $5 admission per child. Must RSVP to hudsons@hudsonsonmercer.com.

Sunset Canyon Baptist Church: Drive thru Trunk or Treat – Saturday, Oct 31st, 4-6 pm No reservation required. FREE

12 Fox Brew Co.: Saturday, Oct 31st, 4:30 – 9 pm, Candy from 5-7 pm. No reservation required. FREE

Hays City Store: Saturday, Oct 31st, all day. Costume competition and candy. Reservations not required. FREE but you’re gonna want to order food and drinks. 😋

Movie Nights

Dripping Springs Ranch Park: Friday, Oct 30th, 7:30 – 10:30 pm. Drive-in Movie Experience, The Addams Family. Pre-registration required, capacity limited. FREE

Blue Hole in Wimberley: Friday, Oct 30th, 7 pm. Friday Night Frights movie on the lawn: Scooby Doo. Pre-registration required. FREE

Waterloo Ice House at Capital of Texas Highway: Friday, Oct 30th, 7 pm. Hocus Pocus on outdoor screen. Pre-registration not required. FREE

Haunted Houses

Acopon Brewing in Downtown Dripping Springs: Thurs, Oct 29th – Sat, Oct 31st, 7 – 10 pm (only til 9 pm on Thursday). Beer available on the patio. Reservations not required. FREE

Lucky Arrow Retreat: Sat, Oct 31st, 5 – 9 pm. For ages 15+. Pre-registration not required. FREE

Kids’ Night Out

Bannockburn Dripping Springs: Fri, Oct 30th, 6 – 9 pm. Have a date night while the kids participate in a fall festival and movie night. $10/child or $20/family. Pre-registration required.

Pumpkin Patches & Festivals

Sweet Berry Farm, Marble Falls, TX

Hamilton Pool Vineyard and Farms: Fri, Oct 30th and Sat, Oct 31st, times vary. $5 admission. Pre-registration not required.

Sweet Berry Farm: Fri – Sun, hours vary. Pre-registration not required. Admission FREE, pay for individual activities.

Barton Hills Farm: Fri – Sun, all day. Advanced tickets required. $20/person.

Pioneer Farm PumpkinFest: Fri, Oct 30th and Sat, Oct 31st, 7 – 11 pm. Advanced tickets required. Flashlight ghost tours, exhibits, demonstrations, and movie night.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

Best of Fall in the Texas Hill Country, 2020

Your Fall Bucket List in Texas

During this second week of September, temperatures in our beautiful part of Texas dropped 40 degrees after a chronic spell of sweltering 100-degree heat. The powers-that-be are calling it a “False Fall”, but my family has decided that it’s an invitation to start early on excitedly preparing for the best season of the year.

Pumpkin patch fun in the Texas Hill Country

Yesterday, we skipped out on afternoon responsibilities to browse Home Depot’s selection of Halloween decorations, spying on others to see which animated monsters would cause the most fright. We made dirt cups with gummy worms and lit pumpkin-vanilla scented candles. My kids played pick-up football in an open field, jumped on the trampoline in sweatshirts for hours, and begged for hot cocoa by the fire. We even got to watch part of the kick-off game of the NFL season. Nothing about today feels false. We’re forging ahead toward Fall, and there’s no stopping us now!

In keeping with tradition, it’s also time to create our family’s Fall Bucket List of 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!

Texas Hill Country Fall Bucket List (2020)

1. Visit a local farm and pumpkin patch.

Sweet Eats Fruit Farm:
About to enter the corn maze at the fall festival

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 a 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. We also plan to stay late for a trip through the huge corn maze with flashlights. All of these activities are included for one admission price. ($16/person for ages 2+; opens Sept 19th)

Barton Hills Farm:
Fall fun for big and little kids at Barton Hills Farm in Bastrop, TX

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. ($16.95+tax/person for 2+, advanced purchase online required)

Sweet Berry Farm:
Cute fall photo opp at Sweet Berry Farms in Marble Falls, TX

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. Check website for details.

2. Get creative!

Find beautiful flowers and Fall decor at Wildseed Farms
Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX

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 Pumpkin Festival on September 26th.

Make Fall signs at local Board and Brush

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 the kids! (Prices start at $35)

Pick up a kids’ project to-go at Home Depot
Fun decorations at Home Depot

Unfortunately, Home Depot is not currently hosting the Saturday kids’ workshops in person, but you can still go pick up the projects to do at home. You can also collect the patch, certificate, and token orange apron if you don’t have one yet. Just go to your local Home Depot before noon on the first Saturday of each month, and a team member will be give you everything you need for free.

3. Peruse a farmer’s market.

New Braunfels Farmer’s Market

Enjoy this food festival every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm. Then, spend the rest of the day at the super cool parks along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers in the area. Or travel a few minutes to the next town for …

Old Gruene Market Days

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.

Dripping Springs Farmer’s Market

While this may be one of the smaller farmer’s markets, there are many local delicacies worth stopping by for on Wednesday afternoons. Also, you can spend your evening at a family friendly brewery in the area.

Wimberley Market Days

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.

4. Go back in time!

Texas Renaissance Festival
Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston, TX

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. Groupon is offering discounted tickets, and children 12 and under are FREE on Sundays. Advanced tickets required.

Pioneer Farms

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.

The Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park in austin, TX

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.

5. Explore the Great Outdoors

Fortlandia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

My kids and I look forward to this every year. We walk the trail, climb forts, play hide and seek, swing freely among the trees, and enjoy the beautiful foliage all around. Free with cost of admission.

McKinney Falls State Park

Trails, cliff diving, camping, fishing, and swimming in a beautiful setting…. what more can you ask for in the gorgeous fall weather? Be sure to make day pass reservations in advance.

Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical garden in Austin

With themed gardens, panoramic views of Austin, opportunities to learn about gardening and local flora, and shady picnic spots, this is the perfect place to spend a fall afternoon with the family.

My family and I can’t wait to start checking things of this bucket list; however, upon creating it, we were saddened to see that a couple of our favorite places are no longer operating or have not been able to offer the same services this Fall. Please support local businesses and vendors as much as possible so that we and those business owners can continue to give our kids amazing experiences, like the ones above, every Fall.

Top 6 Family-Friendly Breweries in the Dripping Springs Area

Before moving to the Texas Hill Country, I never would have guessed that my family would often be found at an outdoor brewery on a weekend evening. It didn’t occur to me that an establishment earning an income on alcoholic beverages would be family-friendly. However, when we visit our favorites below, we get to linger for hours, slowly savoring craft brews with friends or family, and we also get to enjoy our children playing in a beautiful, relaxed, screen-free environment.

Craft beers are what the cool kids drink, and I can’t think of anyone cooler than exhausted parents. We spend our days holding babies, holding everyone’s trash, holding it together, and holding in swear words. By the time happy hour hits, we deserve to be holding a delicious, full-bodied beer, cider, or local wine. I am thankful that many craft brewers in Dripping Springs and Austin recognize this fact of life.

Playground at Vista Brewing

Many of these visionaries bought up acres of ranch land. They built pavilions and barns. They invested in huge brew kettles. They developed yummy farm to table menus and set out dozens of picnic tables under majestic oak trees to draw in the crowds. But most importantly, they also devoted part of their property to a play space for kids!

Here’s my list of the top 6 family-friendly breweries in the Dripping Springs area, as well as a bucket list of places we hope to try soon. If you’re not a beer fan, don’t fret; all of these cool spots offer wine, cider, and/or non-alcoholic options.

Jester King Kitchen

1. Jester King Brewery & Kitchen

Pizza, beer, an epic sand box, and baby goats are just a few of the reasons we can spend hours at Jester King. Our kids absolutely love playing on this 165 acre property made up of a vineyard, oak grove, beer garden, pasture, farm trail, and goat pen, and we adults love the food and relaxed atmosphere. While I’m not personally a fan of their home-crafted brews, although I know many are, I appreciate that the restaurant offers guest beer and wine. (Currently open by reservation only.)

Treaty Oak

2. Treaty Oak Distilling

Yes, Treaty Oak is primarily a distillery, but they also brew a few beers, which are delicious, so I think it fair that this super cool family-owned business makes the list. Treaty Oak has a gorgeous property that includes several shaded seating areas, a restaurant with mouth-watering barbecue, a garden, an open-aired event center, and a distillery open for tours. But it tops my kids’ list because of the natural playground that’s always full of familiar faces. (Open Wed – Sun, no reservations needed)

Playground at Family Beer Business

3. Family Business Beer Co.

The tap room, brewery, and outdoor space at Family Beer Business are the epitome of cool. The playground is large and fenced-in, with tables available nearby to monitor the kids. Added bonus: my children claim it has the fastest slide in town! There’s a large variety of tasty beer on the menu and interesting merch available in the small shop or at one of their regular artisan markets (pre/post-covid). Sitting on the tap room porch, listening to live music waft through the open doors, while staring out at the grove of oaks, instantly transports you to the tranquility of the Texas Hill Country. (Currently open Wed-Sun, reservations requested but not required.)

Brewery in dripping springs

4. 12 Fox Beer Co.

With a motto of “Family. Country. Great Beer.”, you know exactly what you’ll get from this brewery that was founded by combat engineers who fell in love with European craft beer while stationed in Germany. It’s a great story with an even better destination. The playground is an awesome replication of a castle, and the biergarten is pretty and intimate. (Now open Wed through Sat with live music and nightly food trucks.) This playground also made it onto our Top 10 Playgrounds In and Around Dripping Springs list!

5. Fitzhugh Brewing

Delicious, unique food accompanied by yummy craft brews and happy, playful kiddos is a recipe for a fantastic afternoon in the Hill Country. There are three separate areas to gather – under the oaks, on the covered patio, or inside the farmhouse style restaurant/brewery. With an awesome playground, baby swings in the trees, and room to roam, this family-friendly brewery is a win-win for parents and kids alike. You can bring your furry kiddos too. (Currently open Thursday-Sunday, no reservations necessary)

Dark Skies beer at Vista

6. Vista Brewing

What’s not to love? With a laid back vibe, outstanding beer, shaded beer garden, cool playground, live music, tree swings, interesting menu, acres of beauty, and trails through the farm, Vista has become our go-to. I highly recommend their Dark Skies Pilsner with its hints of coffee and roasted marshmallows. Yum! It pairs perfectly with muddy children and recalling embarrassing stories with old friends.

Honorable Mention…
Acopon Dripping Springs, TX

Acopon Brewing

A friendly face behind the bar, a very knowledgeable brew master, and some of the tastiest beer I’ve ever tried makes this brewery very worthy of a pop in. There’s no playground or open green space, but it’s located in the heart of downtown Dripping Springs, near shops and a secret hiking trail. (Currently offering beer and merch to-go, including the coolest masks with their plague doctor logo on them.)

On my bucket list…

Suds Monkey

I’ve heard often that the pizza is reason enough to go, but the beer is definitely the featured attraction. This nano-brewery is kid- and pet-friendly, offering events such as “kids eat free” and trivia night on different days of the week. (Currently open afternoons/evenings Wed-Sun.)

Twisted X Brewing Co.

I’ve seen the beer in the stores. I’ve driven by the lively patio. I’ve even chatted with one of their loyal employees. But for some reason, I haven’t stopped in yet. This one is definitely on our list to try out a flight and enjoy some porch-sitting. (Currently open Thurs – Sun with to-go pizza and pint specials.)

Beerburg Brewing

This new brewery is so much more than just beer and bites. The owners have committed to creating a zero solid and liquid waste facility that provides its own energy and water. There is a focus on hyper-local ingredients, and the brewmasters use rainwater collection tanks, practice ethical harvesting, study herbalism, and raise bees on the property in their apiary. I’m excited to not only try their beers but also check out this unique property with my family. (Currently open by reservation Thurs – Sun with limited food menu.)

While kid-friendly and beer may not typically belong in the same sentence together, these family-focused breweries recognize the unique opportunity for every member of the family to enjoy a night out together.

Please drink responsibly, especially if you’re planning to get behind the wheel after visiting the establishments listed. It’s important to remember that many craft beers have a higher ABV than other beers on the market. Usually, when my husband and I take the kids to a local brewery, we either split a pint, share a flight, or take turns on who gets to do the tasting on nights out.

If you’re interested in finding more family-friendly activities in the Dripping Springs and Austin area, check out my summer bucket list.

Categories
Hiking

Hamilton Greenbelt: Why You Want to Go Tomorrow

If you live in the Austin area, the term greenbelt seems to refer to any land with more than a few trees that has building restrictions, whether it be just behind the iron fence in your backyard or the 13-mile long Barton Creek Greenbelt with dozens of secret and not-so-secret access points. Central Texas is full of these gems, and when someone says he’s heading to the greenbelt, it’s the equivalent of a sports enthusiast saying “I’m watching the game.” To each his own. Your favorite team is obviously playing in THE game, and your favorite outdoor hiking spot is THE greenbelt. Well, I’m excited that I’ve finally found that favorite spot for our family: Hamilton Greenbelt in Lakeway.

Here’s why I’ve fallen in love with this space and why I think you will too.

Shaded Trails

Every trail in Hamilton Greenbelt is almost completely shaded. With summer temperatures soaring above 100 degrees already, it’s rare to find a place to take the kids that provides this much shade.

Easy to Moderate Hiking

You can make your visit what you want. You can get a good workout on the hills and by taking a few climbs, or you can stroll at the pace of a child and stay on the flat, smooth paths.

Stroller-Friendly Trails

The main trail is wide, flat, and easy to maneuver, even with a double stroller. There are other trails that would require you to abandon the stroller, but there’s plenty to explore and see by staying on the main path.

Creek Access

You can easily access Hurst Creek in a few areas along the main trail. The water isn’t deep, and my 3 year old had a blast splashing around and searching for shells.

Beautiful Waterfalls

Be on the hunt for a few small waterfalls throughout the park. Our favorite spot was across a bridge about a 1/2 mile from the Hamilton Trailhead. We found several waterfalls, watched the fish meander, and settled on a great shaded picnic spot on a boulder just above the pond.

Bird Blind Fun

My kids had so much fun watching birds as they squabbled over access to the bird feeders. There was also a bird identification chart in the bird blind that allowed my kids to identify the beautiful creatures they were giggling at.

Picnic Tables and Benches Throughout

There were several picnic tables and benches along the trail to allow for a quick snack break or rest. All of them were in the shade and secluded from other tables and benches.

Garden Area

As you enter at the Hamilton Greenbelt Trailhead, there is a beautiful garden area with a pond and small waterfalls to allow for rest, reflection, or prayer for yourself or an opportunity for free play and splashing for the kids.

Free Parking and Restrooms

There is a decent-sized parking lot off of Lohman’s Crossing at the Hamilton Greenbelt Trailhead, and restrooms are available at the entrance.

More to Explore

We only just scratched the surface of exploring this beautiful greenbelt. There were more trails (Sailmaster, Hurst Hollow, Squires, Duck Lake), and we can’t wait to go back!

Chick Fil-A is 8 Minutes Away

You might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. The promise of nuggets and an ice cream kept my kids going for the last 30 minutes of our hike, and I personally can’t think of a better way for me to add back on those calories I had just burned. 😆

I hope you get a chance to check out this beautiful Greenbelt for yourself! You can find Hamilton Greenbelt Trailhead off of Lohman’s Crossing at Cross Creek in Lakeway, TX.

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!

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!

Find more Dripping with Kids at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.

Categories
Things to Do Dripping Springs

Save the Drama for the Llama (The 2019 Holiday Bucket List)

Children and holidays are a lot alike. They can both drive us insane, but oh, how we love them so! I’m a huge fan of the holiday season, but I have to admit that every year, I feel a bit like the stressed, impatient, beloved main character in the children’s book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama.

“Is the big day coming soon? Llama Llama starts to swoon… All this waiting for one day? Time for presents right away! Too much music, too much fluff! Too much making, too much stuff! Too much EVERYTHING for Llama…  Llama, Llama, HOLIDRAMA!” ¹

Not only do we have to find gifts for every human we’ve ever come in contact with, but we also have to make sure we make it to each white elephant party, see ALL the lights, and prepare for the perfect pic with Santa. Oh, and don’t forget the family traditions of holiday movie-thons, tree-decorating, caroling, searching for that dreaded elusive elf, and sending dozens of cards, all while wearing matching PJ’s! How do we squeeze everything in?

With so much going on, having a plan and finding a good balance is the only way to avoid ending up on the floor in a holidrama trance like little Llama Llama. In our house, we use the Advent calendar to maintain a game plan and limit the holiday commotion.  Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)

Our Family Advent Calendar

Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets, along with our annual Holiday Bucket List, so you can find that perfect balance to fill you up with the joyful holiday spirit yet keep you sane!

TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME – 

  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Make cards/gifts for teachers
  • Holiday movie night
  • Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
  • Deliver treats to neighbors
  • Caroling and holiday charades
  • Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
  • Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
  • Tell stories of your family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
  • Make gingerbread houses

HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –

Reindeer Visit at the Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave): Santa’s reindeer will be in the Central Plaza from noon – 4 pm one day only (Nov 30th)! Stay for shopping and a movie at the Hill Country Holiday Village. Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting will occur at the same location one week earlier on Nov 23rd at 6 pm. (https://www.hillcountrygalleria.com/)

Michael’s Stores Holiday Maker Fest: Make 3 holiday crafts with the kids for (almost) FREE on Nov 23rd from 11 am – 2 pm. (https://www.michaels.com/events/classes-events)

Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin): Dec 5th – 8th and Dec 12th – 15th, 6 – 10 pm… Gardens will be lit with thousands of luminarias and filled with music and festive fun. Plus, there will be performances by the aerial dance group, Blue Lapis Light. $18 for non-members, free for members and children under 5. (https://www.wildflower.org/event/luminations/all)

Emily Ann Theater Trail of Lights (Wimberley): Nov 30th – Dec 28th, 6 – 9 pm… Stroll through over 100
lighted exhibits, roast marshmallows, listen to live music, and visit with Santa on select nights. FREE, donations appreciated. (http://emilyann.org/trailoflights.html)

Donuts and Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (S. Austin): Join and support AOC MOPS while enjoying quality time with Santa and the Mrs. There will be photos with Santa, a doughnut breakfast, festive crafts, and story time with Mrs. Claus! Plus raffle items from Kendra Scott, Rodan and Fields, a complete car detail, personal chef services and much more. Reservations just $10 per family. Follow the link to make yours. Spots are limited, and it is expected to sell out.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040d4aadac23a2fa7-donuts

Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Nightly November 29th  – Jan 5th… The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. Parade rolls through town at 6:30 pm on November 30th, and food court will be available that night. On Dec 7th and 14th, there will be lamplight tours through LBJ’s boyhood home, crafts for children, and live music. Carriage and hay rides are available for a fee. (https://www.johnsoncitytexas.info/local-events–calendar.html

Holidays in Gruene: Weekends in December… photos with Cowboy Kringle, free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. (www.gruenetexas.com)

Crafts, Music, and Stories at your local library: Check your local library’s newsletter for FREE holiday events, including  making holiday gifts, hunting for Elf on the Shelf, donating items to local shelters and senior centers, live music, and much more.

Home Depot December Kids’ DIY Workshop: On Dec 7th between 9 am and noon, create your own countdown to the holidays, and have a blast with your child while doing it. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. With help from parents and store associates, your child will make a merry memory this holiday season. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last. (https://www.homedepot.com/workshops/#store/8995)

Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs): This fun hometown festival on Dec 7th from 10 am to 5 pm draws a crowd to see Santa cruise in on a fire engine, to sip hot cocoa while perusing local vendor tables, and to watch local groups perform dance routines and sing Christmas carols. Come dressed to impress so you can snag a FREE picture with Santa. There will also be pony rides, a petting zoo, and a trackless train ride for the kids. (https://www.destinationdrippingsprings.com/events/2019/christmas-on-mercer-street)

Community First Village of Lights (Austin): Dec 6th & 7th and Dec 13th & 14th, 5:30 – 9 pm… With more than 200,000 lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas. Be sure to include a stop at the Advent Market to shop for unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live at the Village. Your purchase of gifts and concessions during the event will help our Community First! Village neighbors earn a dignified income. (https://give.mlf.org/event/village-of-lights-2019/e255043)

Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day (Bastrop – Fisherman’s Park): Dec 14th, 12 pm – 5 pm, followed by a lighted parade through downtown at 6 pm! (www.visitbastrop.com)

A Pioneer Christmas at the Pound House (Dripping Springs): Dec 14th, 12 – 2 pm… Food, Wagon Rides, Photos with Santa, Make-and-Take Ornament Crafts, Story Readings, Live Holiday Bluegrass Music, Demonstrators, Shopping with Local Artisans, Re-Enactments, and Tours of the House decked out for the Holidays! FREE admission. (http://www.drpoundhistoricalfarmstead.org/pioneer-christmas.html)

Mozart’s Light Show (Lake Austin): Check out this FREE Austin tradition any night from Nov 21st – Jan 5th , 6-11 pm. Grab a hot cocoa or coffee and enjoy the “dancing lights”. (https://mozartscoffee.com/christmas-lights-show/)

Holidays in Fredericksburg: There are several events throughout the season that will fill even the scroogiest attendee with the holiday spirit. Check out the town lighting on Nov 29th or the Light the Night Christmas parade on Dec 6th. There are also markets, ice skating, lights tours, live music, crafting, art walks, and many more activities happening in this cute little German town throughout the month of December. (https://www.visitfredericksburgtx.com/plan/events)

Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin): Over 120,000 lights are on display at a family’s home in Austin for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish foundation! Check out their “Believe” theme this year and leave a donation. (https://maywaldchristmasdisplay.weebly.com/)

Save the Date: Snow Day at the Science Mill (Johnson City): Jan 18th, 2020, 10 am – 4 pm… 20 tons of snow will fill the museum’s backyard. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9.50 for children 3-12. (https://www.sciencemill.org/upcoming-events-1/)

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¹ Dewdney, Anna. Llama Llama Holiday Drama. Scholastic Inc: 2012. https://www.amazon.com/Llama-Holiday-Drama-Anna-Dewdney/dp/0670011614