11 Easy, Free, and Meaningful Activities to Do with Kids of Most Ages

As of this school year, I’ve ventured into homeschooling my two younger children. People ask me daily how it’s going, and depending on the day (or even the time of day), they’ll likely get a different answer than I previously gave.

The highs are very high, and the lows can be quite low. I can go from feeling pure joy and bliss to doubting every parenting decision I’ve ever made. However, I’ve come to realize that these feelings occur no matter what schooling decision parents make for their children. We’re so hard on ourselves and tend to let the emotion du jour lead the way.

To counter this whiplash of emotions, I try to engage in meaningful activities with my kids that will fill their cups but also fill mine. I usually find a bit of free time for myself after fully participating in one of the options below because everybody walks away fulfilled.

Most of these incorporate time in nature and/or sensory experiences, which tend to be antidotes to boredom, crankiness, frustration, sibling rivalry, and screen daze for all of us.

I hope that these ideas might allow other parents to break away from the norm and reset those flip-flopping emotions. These 11 easy, free, and meaningful activities have worked well for us. Let me know if any stand out to you!

1. Nature Hike and Journaling

We kept our nature journals really simple and just made them out of cardstock and twine. Anytime we go on an adventure, I carry crayons and pencils. The kids either draw something they see and find interesting, then we research it on my phone to add notes … OR they’ve already drawn and researched something that we then go and try to find, such as certain types of trees.

2. Act Out a Favorite Storybook

We choose a favorite or recently-read story book and act it out in real life. We create costumes, find props, and make up character voices. The kids love this activity and often want to act out the same book more than once. We’re hoping to go all out after finishing the Little House on the Prairie series and throw a themed party.

3. Lego Challenge

There are a million and one ways to create Lego challenges for kids. You can just type the words and google for a plethora of ideas. I even found some printables for head-to-head Lego challenges. What I love the most about starting one of these challenges is the fact that the kids usually want to continue playing with legos independently for hours or days on end!

4. Create a Wall of Weird

Kids love to find the weirdest things! Whether out on a hike or rummaging through a thrift store, they find something so unique, but often too odd, to want to include it with the rest of the home decor. As a compromise, my kids and I agreed upon a Wall of Weird, which was an idea borrowed from someone much more clever than myself. So, when a little one wants to collect a fallen bird’s nest, an odd-shaped stick, or a dead bug, there has to be room on the Wall of Weird for it to come home with us. (Sometimes, interesting crafts make it on to the wall as well.)

5. Guided Drawing

If you haven’t tried the Art for Kids Hub videos on You Tube yet, you’re in for a fun afternoon! These easy-to-follow guided draw videos are our favorite way to spend a rainy day… and sometimes a sunny one. Some videos are easy enough for a pre-schooler, but many are challenging even for me. This activity may not fit the bill for reducing screen time, but it’s definitely worth the extra minutes (or hours) in our house.

6. Make Shaped Crayons

Any chance you have a few broken crayons in your home? Maybe a few hundred? If so, this activity can keep your kids busy for an entire day. Not kidding. All you needs are lots of crayons and a silicon candy mold. First, have the kids find all the crayons that are too broken to use or are nubby duplicates of newer ones. Have them sort by color. Then they peel off the paper of each one. After that, place the crayon bits into the candy mold shapes. Mix colors if desired. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees until they start to harden. Voila – “new” shaped crayons for the kids to use during guided drawing! They also make great gifts. We’ve printed coloring pages and attached several fun-shaped crayons to create gifts for friends.

7. Fort-building

With older kids or young kids, indoor or outdoor, soft and cozy or challenging and maze-like, forts are always a family favorite! To change things up a bit, we sometimes set up a huge tent in the house (along with other accessories) for indoor camping.

8. Sensory Obstacle Course

When I hear “obstacle course”, my brain tends to immediately picture a ninja gym or gymnastics floor. However, an obstacle course can be set up anywhere! Sometimes, it might look like my kids shooting water guns at a target (or each other), stepping into buckets full of goo, crawling from one end of the yard to another, and ending with a little shaving cream play. Sometimes, the kids just leap over toys, roll under a table, and hop around on different surfaces. Sometimes, they do somersaults, a certain number of jumps on the trampoline, and then dig in the sand to find toys. No matter the location or the props used, obstacle courses always seem to satisfy my kids‘ sensory cravings! They also tend to be prompts for initiating independent play, which allows me a chance to sit down and catch up on a book.

9. Simple Science Experiments

Make It Rain Experiment

What kid doesn’t love science experiments?! Thankfully, there are hundreds options to copy from Pinterest or Google. The library is also a great resource to check out a book with dozens of ideas. I always look for experiments using ingredients we already have on hand and that can be done in under 15 minutes. What I‘be found is that my kids continue doing the experiment or a similar activity afterward. More independent play time for the win (and usually a bit of a mess to clean up afterward).

“Churning” Butter 🧈

11. Surprise a Neighbor

It can be any type of gift, any time year, and for any reason whatsoever… my kids love to be secret elves. We just come up with something simple, like a baked good or a funny theme or sometimes an envelope of cash for a friend in need. The kids then work hard on the gift and get to be super sneaky when they deliver it. This usually leads to an over-exaggeration of spy or ninja behavior, but they love leaving a gift somewhere on the porch or in an interesting spot in the yard without that friend seeing them. Occasionally, I will have to send a text to let our friends know to look out for something because it was hidden so well.

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear which activities work best in your home to reset your kids’ emotions. Please share in the comments! Also, if you try any of the 11 listed above, please post on Instagram and tag @DrippingWithKids.

Follow on Instagram or subscribe for more ideas…

Categories
Bucket list

Best of Fall in the Texas Hill Country, 2022

Your Fall Bucket List is Here!

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!

Texas Hill Country Fall Bucket List (’22)

1. Visit a local farm and pumpkin patch.

PumpkinFest at The Pound House in Dripping Springs

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.

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

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.

Barton Hills Farm

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.

Sweet Berry Farm

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.

2. Check out a local festival.

Dance in the streets at the Songwriters’ Festival in Dripping Springs

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!

Support a local school at their Fall Festival

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.

Follow beautiful wings at the Monarch Celebration at Wildseed Farms

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.

Probst at Wurst Fest in New Braunfels

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.

Spend an afternoon at Boo Hole at Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley

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.

3. Get creative!

Attend a free crafting class at Michael’s

In-store making is back! My kids and I love these free classes, and my daughter is especially excited for the Fall necklace project. Check out the offerings at your local store (link above).

Make Fall signs at 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 older kids! (Prices start at $35)

Build a kids’ project at Home Depot

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.

4. Peruse a farmer’s market.

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

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.

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.

5. 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. 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. 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.

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.

One final attraction worthy of this list yet not quite right for the above categories is Fortlandia at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We can’t wait to see the new forts in this highly-anticipated seasonal exhibit!

There’s so much to do in a short amount of time, but hopefully we can make quite a dent in this list. Let us know which is your favorite!

Categories
Family Traditions

2022 Easter in the Texas Hill Country

Plus 9 UNIQUE At-Home Easter Egg Hunt Themes

Easter is a BIG DEAL in our family, and we have the added bonus of two kids’ birthdays the day 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 promises 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…

Weekend of April 8-10:

Bluebonnet Fest in Burnet
Weekend full of events, live music, gorgeous crafts and flowers, and kids’ activities in Burnet!
Crawfish Boil at Founders Park
FREE Crawfish Dinner at Founder’s Park in Dripping Springs, provided by Foundations Church… great opportunity to get to know neighbors!
Artisan Market, Live Music, Yummy Pizza, and Great Beer at Family Business Beer Co. in Dripping Springs. Get some goodies for your kids’ Easter baskets!
Egg Hunts and Festival at Bannockburn S Austin
Super Fun Block Party and Egg Hunts at Bannockburn in South Austin – don’t be late and bring your basket!
Easter Party at Bethany Lutheran
Easter egg hunts, petting zoo, bunny face painting, train rides, carnival swing ride, empty tomb scene, food and coffee trucks and the Easter Bunny at Bethany Lutheran in Austin!

Weekend of April 15-17:

Egg Hunt at Suds Monkey
Annual egg hunt is back at Suds Monkey… enjoy pizza and their new location on 290 in Dripping Springs!
Easter Weekend at 12 Fox Beer
Always a great time at 12 Fox Beer’s Events, especially the Easter Party… Even the adults get in on the fun!
Easter at Addison Grove
Easter service, egg hunts, and family photos at a special location in Austin!
Brunch and Egg Hunt at Duchman Winery
Yummy Brunch, Egg Hunts, and Beautiful Scenery at Duchman Winery in Driftwood!
Service and Egg Hunts to follow.
Egg hunts will follow Easter Service at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church.

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 and amidst all the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 virtual dance party”, “drop encouraging bits of scripture in all the neighbors’ mailboxes”, “write a thank you note to a hospital ER”, etc. You can customize a flyer created by Austin Ridge Church to drop on your neighbors’ porches, offering help.

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!

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

The Best FREE State Park in Texas

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing our hiking experiences and recommendations with you in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground and Sports Fields

✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

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

The Museum and Visitor Center

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

Easy and Interesting Trails

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

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

The Animals!

Texas Longhorns!

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

Working Farm with More Animal Encounters

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

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

Picnic Areas and Playground

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

Swimming Pool, Tennis Courts, and Baseball Field

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

LBJ’s Working Ranch

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

Go Fishing in the Pedernales

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

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

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too, and I’d be happy to add them to This Week’s Hike!

Categories
Bucket list

Get Your Dinosaur Fix in Austin, TX

Where to find dinosaurs with your kids!

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

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

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

The Dinosaur Park

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

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

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

Texas Memorial Museum

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

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

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

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

At the Nature and Science Center, the most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. But there is also a beautiful garden and trail, a unique hands-on museum, and live animal exhibits to explore.

Champions Park

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

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

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

Witte Museum

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

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

Mayborn Museum

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

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

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

Mammoth Site, Waco TX

Extend the Learning and Fun…

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

Categories
Bucket list

A Weekend in Dripping Springs with the Kids

Your itinerary for a weekend in Dripping Springs, TX is right here!

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.

Treaty Oak Dripping Springs, TX

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
  • Fitzhugh Brewing
  • Vista Brewing
  • 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.

After all of that hiking and exploring, settle in at Hamilton Pool Vineyards and Farm for a glass of wine and some snacks at the bistro.

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.

Quick tip: If you still have any energy left at the end of the day, check out Hudsons on Mercer for great live music or the Mercer Street dance hall for a little boot-scootin’.

Sunday in Dripping Springs

For those looking for a church option, there are several in town that will welcome any and all guests with open arms. Check out device times online.

For those looking for a relaxing coffee break, make your way to Mazama or Rolling in Thyme and Dough for a relaxing atmosphere and yummy goodies.

Then, head to one of the favorite playgrounds in the area, such as Founders Park, where your kids can enjoy multiple playscapes and view the first homestead built in Dripping Springs by Dr. Pound, as mentioned in the first couple paragraphs of this post.

When you’ve built up an appetite, make your way to a nearby local favorite, Get Along Grill, or try out some famous Texas barbecue at The Salt Lick, known for family-style dining and byob.

Then, wrap up the weekend at one of Austin’s top attractions, The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, or the Nature and Science Center in Zilker Park. Kids and adults alike will love both nature centers!

Quick tip: Book your next trip to the Hill Country before you leave. You know you’ll be back!

For additional hiking options in the area, check out This Week’s Hike, and to find more ideas on how to make the most of each season in the Texas Hill Country, see our bucket lists!

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

Austin’s Nature and Science Center

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)

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground nearby

✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Trail leading to Austin Nature and Science Center

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

Austin Nature and Science Center hands-on exploration

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.

The Animals!

Exhibit at Austin Nature and Science Center

There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.

Dino Pit

Dig for fossils in the Dino Pit at Austin Nature and Science Center

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

Find tadpoles in the stream at Austin Nature and Science Center

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…

View of Lady Bird Lake on Hike and Bike Trail

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.

Boat rental on Lady Bird Lake

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.

Categories
Bucket list

A Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer 2021

Summer can be a season of unpredictability when you have kids. You never know how each day will turn out, but that summertime spontaneity may be exactly what we all need right now.

It’s summer and time for wandering.

Kellie Elmore

As free, fun, and fabulous each long summer day can be, nothing kills that joy like being unprepared for what these hot mid-year months can throw at us. Parents have to be ready for anything, including what a change in season can bring. I recommend starting with this Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer before you launch into June.

1. Get your mind and your heart in the right place each morning.

How do you take your coffee?

If ever there is a time to get into the routine of spending the early part of your morning in God’s Word, in peaceful meditation, in a yoga squat, or in reflective journaling, summer IS IT! These long days require mental, emotional, and physical endurance. The best way to prepare is to ground yourself before tackling it all. My favorite place to do this is on my back porch with a cup of coffee.

Recommended Devotionals:

Pressing Pause by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk

– The Better Mom Devotional by Ruth Schwenk

Recommended Journals:

– Getting to Good: A Guided Journal

Gratitude: A Journal

2. Make a Summer Preparedness Kit for the car

Essential Summer Kit for the Car

Keep a plastic bin, large bag, or sturdy basket full of essential summer items in the back of your car so that you can be ready for anything summer’s spontaneity throws at you.

3. Create a Favorite Places List.

Things to do with kids in Austin area

Have a list readily available of at least 5 free/cheap familiar places that you and your kids already love. When you all need to get out of the house or you’re looking for a quick stop between errands, just refer to the list. Ideas include favorite playgrounds, hiking trails, river access point, patio restaurant, splash pad, or library. (And if you’ve already packed your car with your summer essentials kit, you should be prepared for any of the options.)

4. Create a Summer Bucket List.

Summer bucket list

Your bucket list is a separate list of new-to-you places worth exploring when you have an open day and an adventurous spirit. You can access the 2020 Hill Country Summer Bucket list for ideas. Or maybe you’d like to schedule a hike each week for the summer. If so, let us know if your new favorite spot should be featured in This Week’s Hike.

5. Squeeze in adult time.

Adult time

Set specific date nights for you and your spouse on the calendar as you plan summer. Schedule a few mom’s nights out for mid-week escapes. Hold those dates sacred, and don’t let lack of a babysitter cause you to cancel. Keep a few family-friendly hot spots in your back pocket where you can enjoy time with other adults while the kids are occupied on a playground or in a sandbox nearby.

5. Have indoor play kits ready.

Scrapbooking kit for kids

Use toys or craft items you already have to create themed kits for indoor play time. Tuck them away in your closet or garage until a rainy or super hot day. A few kit ideas include:

– Dress up play with costumes and accessories

– Puppet theater with an old sheet, socks or paper sacks, random crafts, and markers

– Bring a board game to life

– Indoor scavenger hunts with prizes (use picture flashcards for littles)

– Car racing kit with some painters’ tape – and hot wheels

– Kids’ scrapbooking kit

6. Plan a trip.

Air travel with a large family

Not comfortable with flying right now? That’s ok. Road trips are all the rage this summer. Book a house on the beach or explore an historic town nearby. Be sure to choose a location that has plenty of outdoor activities.

But if you want all the fun of a vacation yet don’t want to spend extra cash on staying overnight, day trips are still a fantastic option and will feel like a great escape.

6. Put those kids in camp.

Our favorite type of camp is Vacation Bible School. They’re usually free or really cheap and offer a couple hours of good clean fun. They fill up quickly, though, so get your kids registered ASAP.

Wherever this summer may take you, I hope you feel empowered and prepared for anything with this Mom’s Guide to Summer! Don’t miss out on future posts about family fun in Texas this summer, travel tips, and the best road trip destinations… subscribe below!

Categories
Bucket list Hiking

Reimers Ranch Park in Dripping Springs

In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

❌ Free Admission for Park and Trails

(Cash ONLY for admission – $5/person 12+)

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

On the famed Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs, just a few miles from one of the most popular travel destinations in our area, lies a beautiful and diverse park that offers river access, a cave, miles of trails, and additional surprises for visitors of all ages. We’re excited to share everything we love about Milton Reimers Ranch Park!

The Beach!

Public access to the Pedernales River with opportunities to swim, float, kayak, fish (white bass), and cliff jump is one of the top reasons to visit Reimers Ranch Park. You can park at the top of the hill and get a short hike in (300 yards) before jumping in the water to cool off. The beach area extends as far as the eye can see and allows plenty of space to claim your spot. Be sure to brings chairs or picnic blankets, along with water shoes, because it’s a pebble beach, and those little rocks get hot! Also, the park (and beach area) can close due to capacity limits, so be sure to arrive early or near dinner time to ensure a spot.

Variety of Trails

There are primitive, equestrian, hike and bike, and multi-use trails, as well as paved roads for every type of transportation and level of hiking experience. The multi-use trails offer little shade so be sure to prepare by wearing sunscreen and a hat, as well as packing extra water.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Whether you’re a novice boulder-jumper or experienced rock climber, Reimers Ranch offers multiple locations to practice. Some of our favorites are just past the cave (see below) and across the river from the beach. There are also additional climbing areas marked along the main road, none of which we’ve attempted yet.

Cave Exploration

Upon entering the park, ask for directions to the canyon or cave. (You’ll get a kick out of its name!) If no one is there to guide you, travel along the main road until you reach the parking lot for the “Rock Climbing Trailhead”. There is a covered pavilion and several picnic tables, as well as bathrooms.

To find the trailhead, follow the path between the bathrooms southbound on foot. About 100 yards along the path, you’ll see a small temporary sign that guides you to a rocky stepped trail down toward the creek. Follow the trail to the right to get to the cave and additional interesting trails.

The trail to the canyon requires a bit of traversing and may be difficult for young children or elderly hikers. Along the trail to the canyon, you’ll find multiple streams for wading, as well as climbing opportunities.

Beautiful Wineries and Fun Breweries Nearby

After a full day of swimming, biking, climbing, and/or hiking, travel just a bit further to discover one of Dripping Springs’ finest vineyards: Hamilton Pool Vineyard and Farms. Also, just a 10-15 minute drive away are several breweries with more than just a cold beer to offer. Check out our favorites!

Whether you’re a Dripping Springs resident or visitor, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Hamilton Pool Preserve, and while it’s a beautiful site, you definitely don’t want to miss the equally beautiful sights at Reimers Ranch Park just down the road.

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

Dripping Springs Ranch 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

✅ Bike Trails

✅ Equestrian Trails

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

❌ Bathrooms

✅ Playground

✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails

❌ Reservations needed

In the heart of Dripping Springs and about 25 minutes west of Austin, you can find a variety of trails for both novice and advanced hikers, biking enthusiasts, and horseback-riders! We’re excited to share everything we love about Dripping Springs Ranch Park!

The Trail System

Set on 130 acres, the DS Ranch Park has a variety of trails for a quick walk or for a full afternoon of adventure. The longest trail is 6.2 miles, and it’s shared by bikes, hikers, and horses. Most trails are easy enough for children to traverse, and visiting the pond is a special treat. You can easily get lost meandering through the beautiful trees, rolling hills, and alongside farmland.

P.S. Wear sunscreen and bug spray!

Wildflowers Everywhere

Visiting the Ranch Park in Spring adds an added feature: Texas Wildflowers. Be prepared to stop for several photo opportunities.

Bird-Watching

Discover the wooden bird blind with views of the pond so you can watch the ducks, along with other local bird species. (Follow signs along the trail to get to the right spot.) The bird-watching area has several feeders in the trees, as well as a book to help you identify the winged visitors.

Fun Playground

There’s a cute playground near the back parking lot at the main trailhead. My kids love the play structures, but they enjoy climbing on and jumping from the boulders just as much. This playground made our list of the best in Dripping Springs.

Amazing Breweries and Distilleries within 5 Minutes

Quench your thirst and fill your belly after a long hike at one of these amazing local hotspots.

Attend a Unique Event

The Ranch Park hosts horse shows, rodeos, monster truck rallies, vintage shopping days, and galas. Check out the calendar to see if you can make a full day out of your visit with a hike or ride and then a little extra fun.

Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.

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