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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!

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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!

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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.

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Hiking

Reimers Ranch Park in Dripping Springs

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

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

❌ Free Admission for Park and Trails

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

✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails

❌ Reservations needed

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

The Beach!

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

Variety of Trails

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

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Whether you’re a novice boulder-jumper or experienced rock climber, Reimers Ranch offers multiple locations to practice.

Cave Exploration

Upon entering the park, ask for directions to the canyon or cave. (You’ll get a kick out of its name!) The trail to the canyon requires a bit of traversing and may be difficult for young children or elderly hikers. Along the trail to the canyon, you’ll find multiple streams for wading, as well as climbing opportunities.

Beautiful Wineries and Fun Breweries Nearby

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

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

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

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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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.