Whether you refer to it as a fall festival or a pumpkin patch, the month of October isn’t complete without a visit to one… or many!
Is it even Fall if you haven’t taken super cute photos surrounded by pumpkins and funny signs; dirtied your shoes with dust, hay, and dried corn in a big pit; gotten lost in a winding maze; fed some farm animals; sipped sweet tea; and watched your kids bounce, ride, and run to their hearts’ content?
This list includes the festivals we always try to squeeze in, as well as a few pumpkin patches we haven’t seen … yet.
Visit the homestead of the founding family of Dripping Springs, and enjoy lawn games, a pumpkin patch, food trucks, live music, animal visits, photo opps, and beautiful picnic spots under the oaks. Also, the Founder’s Park playground is right next door. Admission price is a flat $15 per person (65+ and 0-3 are free).
Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to take another spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course. $25/person if purchased online in advance.
You can find this farm and pumpkin patch near Austin in Manchaca, TX. Fall festival activities include a Pumpkin patch, fall-themed photo-ops, exotic animals, authentic Native American tipi, kids’ swings and playground, kids’ Spider Web, face painting (only open Saturday & Sunday), jumping pillow (only open Saturday & Sunday), and food vendors. Go on a Thursday or Friday for half-price admission. Sat and Sun visits cost $16/person.
The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, a funny hayride, and horseback riding (on weekends only). Admission is free, but activities are charged individually. We usually spend about $15/person.
In the beautiful and fun city of Fredericksburg, $14 admission cost gets you Corn Maze, Jump pass, Wagon Ride, Flower Field, Barnyard Basketball, Barnyard Rollers, Barnyard Bubbles, Corn Pit, Tile Maze, Tug-O-War, Roping, Tetherball-m, Peach Mountain and Tunnel, and more. We’ve never been, but we’re excited to check out Jenshke this year.
Save Money with These Alternatives to Austin and Hill Country Hot Spots
There seem to be limitless attractions, trails, swimming holes, museums, playgrounds, classes, farms, festivals, and historical sites in Austin and within the surrounding Texas Hill Country. My kids and I enjoy almost everything in this area! However, too many choices can paralyze the planner; they can also blow the budget.
Two of my kids are homeschooled, and we have a lot of time each day to fill with unique learning experiences. The term “homeschool” can often be a misnomer. We don’t really replicate school, and we also don’t stay home all that much. Many of my weekly plans involve getting my kids out of the house.
Unfortunately, many attractions, even those in natural landscapes, can be upwards of $20 per person. That adds up too quickly, especially with a large family. We’re often searching for options that are free or at least cost half as much as the typical attraction price.
To help with my own planning (and yours), I’ve made a list of frugal alternatives to the top attractions in the Austin area and the Texas Hill Country. These alternatives are not only cheaper, but they’re likely to be less crowded, especially on weekdays.
While Hamilton Greenbelt is more of a trail than a tourist attraction, it offers a view of waterfalls, shaded walking trails, creeks to splash in (if it’s been raining), a bird blind, picnic tables and grassy area for sunning, a few animal sculptures to search for, and no fee, plus free parking.
This short trail is a fun stop to add on to a day at the Hill Country Galleria, where you can visit the cute library, do a little shopping, and see additional art exhibits along the store fronts and at Bee Cave Art Foundation.
Hot Spot: The Thinkery Children’s Museum ($18/person)
This museum is my younger kids’ absolute favorite! Their imaginations come alive in the many role play areas, including the hospital room, the grocery store, the space station, the bank, the art studio, and the outdoor water play area. We spend the whole day there for just $8 per person. Plus, there are several cute restaurants nearby to grab lunch. (Admission fee grants you in/out access all day.)
Check out animal exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, a frog pond and streams where you can catch tadpoles with your own net, discovery rooms with insect and animal specimens, as well as a sandy dino dig area…. all for free.
If you’re willing to travel out of town for a bigger, better zoo experience, head north instead of south. You’ll find several of the same animals and a more chill and close-up experience at the Cameron Park Zoo. If you really, really love zoos like we do, it might be worth looking into a zoo membership for reciprocal discounts at other zoos.
If your goal is to stroll among beautiful wildflowers, marvel at creative art pieces, find cute photo ops, enjoy a picnic or cafe-style lunch, roam free in the great outdoors, and even do a little wine tasting or shopping, this free alternative is the way to go. There aren’t as many play areas specific to children, but this unique spot hosts many fun events with kid-friendly activities, including a Fall Festival on September 23rd with face painting, pumpkin patches, and games.
Hot Spot: Guadalupe or Comal River Tubing Float ($20-$25/person)
Hit the rapids, jump off the bridge, linger in the shade, or float the slow current of the San Marcos River. Bring your own tube to drop in at Rio Vista Park and head downstream a short ways to find one of the best tube chutes around.
Check the high school websites in your area for musicals in the Fall and in the Spring. Most are produced at a very high quality, and there’s a lot of young talent on those stages!
Hot Spot: Barton Springs Pool ($5-$9/adult, $3-$5/child)
Frugal alternative: FREE Barking Springs
This open access swimming area is just downstream from the popular swimming hole. It’s open year-round and has no restrictions on food and drink. It can attract a crowd, as well as lots of dogs, during popular times and really hot days. Swim at your own risk and go early to claim a spot on the bank. The easiest way to access Barking Springs is to go down the staircase just east of the Zilker Park Playground. You can park in the first parking lot near the playground.
Head down to San Marcos for a glass bottom boat tour, aquarium, discovery center, and trails. The cost is significantly less, and the experience is focused on conservation and education. If you want a truly frugal experience, go on a Family Fun Day for FREE admission and activities for children. There are also homeschool days that mimic a field trip for only $10/person (pre-registration required).
For only $5/hour, you can try out a variety of challenging and unique climbing walls at Hill Country Indoor, even if you’re not a member of the gym. Call ahead to make sure the climbing area isn’t reserved for a party.
Hot Spot: Painting with a Twist ($40-$50/event) OR fee-based art classes
This library has several options for all ages, including teen art projects and Adult Art with Inspired Minds, but they have more than just art classes. There are also STEM classes for homeschoolers, come and go crafting, cooking classes, and more.
While Pioneer Farms is a cool place and not that expensive, Sauer-Beckmann Farm and LBJ State Park are completely free, and it’s one of our favorite attractions in the area. There are period actors every day working the farm and demonstrating how people homesteaded more than 100 years ago. There are also hiking trails, a museum, and animals to visit.
We hope this list encourages you to check out some of the lesser-known attractions in the area! It’s true that some require more of a drive and maybe a bit more packing or planning, but my family thinks it’s all worth it. Plus, the savings make a huge difference, allowing us to get out and explore even more.
If you’d like to experience some of the bigger attractions, as well as semi-professional games, in San Antonio, Waco, and Austin at a huge discount, check out the POGO Pass, which charges one annual fee per person for free admission into multiple family-friendly places.
Dripping Springs is a unique destination that people from all over the country quickly fall in love with. It attracts families, retirees, travelers, wedding parties, brewmasters, distillers, entrepreneurs, corporate execs, farmers, and chefs. It has quite the draw for small town Texas, but why?
I recently heard someone describe Dripping Springs as the biggest small town she’d ever been to. Don’t let the population size of under 6,000 confuse you: this town includes many more people and a lot more to explore than what’s included in its official borders. The extra-territorial jurisdiction of Dripping Springs extends south into Driftwood, east into Austin, north to the Travis County line, and west toward Henley.
Dripping Springs is home to over 20 wedding venues and dozens of distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and breweries to entertain the wedding parties, as well as local families. Patio weather is year-round in Texas, so on any given sunny Saturday, it can be hard to find a picnic table available at any of the outdoor favorites. This town is quickly adding more restaurants, fast food chains, entertainment venues, churches, and even another HEB. The new developments are popping up annually; the roads are being expanded; the playgrounds are often full; the YMCA is packed; the schools are multiplying; and the sports programs are overwhelmed with little athletes.
Dripping Springs is also home to multiple nicknames, from The Drip to Pound Town to Drinking Springs, each of which has an origin story the locals can tell well. Speaking of locals, there are only a few native Drip residents left, and they know this town’s history well. They remember when there was only one tiny grocery store, when the first car wash popped up, and when there was little to no traffic, except on Founders Weekend. It’s been quite an adjustment to watch their small town expand so quickly in recent years.
My family is not native to this area, but Dripping Springs can quickly feel like anyone’s hometown. I moved here in late 2016, with a husband, three kids, and one more on the way. We had land we intended to build on (then sold); we lived on a few acres for 3 years; and we’re now experiencing the master-planned neighborhood life. All have suited our family well at the time, and no matter where we’ve lived in town, we’ve met the nicest people, who are all fans of their beloved Drip.
What makes this town so appealing, though? How can a place that’s growing rapidly, at a rate of 6% or more each year, still have that small hometown vibe? How can a location so close to the city still resist the influence of “Keep Austin Weird”? How can a once rural community continue to attract life-long city-dwellers? What makes Dripping Springs a place that everyone loves?
This post will attempt to answer those questions from the perspective of someone who once lived in Austin but last moved from the big city of Houston, someone who is raising a family in Dripping Springs with a couple of homeschooled kids and two others in the school district, someone who’s been writing a blog in an attempt to experience as much of what the Hill Country has to offer (yet has barely scratched the surface), someone who hopes this post doesn’t make anyone on the Dripping Springs Neighbors Facebook page angry…
In honor of February, the month with my least favorite “hallmark holiday” smack in the middle of it, here are 28 Things to Love about Dripping Springs. Click on the links in the list to read more about what makes Dripping Springs the place to be.
The People —- Most Dripping Springs residents are friendly, polite, ethical, genuine, successful, humble, welcoming, and interesting. A majority of locals volunteer at the schools and in kids’ sports. We wave to neighbors walking by. We use manners at the grocery stores and restaurants, chat with the person standing next to us at the playground or in line somewhere, and scoot down to let more people on the football bleachers. We cheer for other people’s children. We help strangers move animals or debris during an emergency, and we open up our homes when others are without water, power, or food. We care. No one can be perfect all of the time, but it’s the general kindness and friendliness of fellow residents that make be proud to call Dripping home.
The Library — We have such a sweet, small-town library, but don’t let its facade fool you. It is very well-stocked, has a huge children’s area with dozens of family activities and contests each month, plus many interesting events for teens and adults.
Emphasis on a Well-Rounded Education (post about education options and experiences to come soon)
Generous Charitable Organizations — With a full food pantry, an active Veteran program, a variety of small organizations started by local students, a center for youth in crisis, rescue homes for foster children, a pregnancy resource center, services and a thrift shop for the elderly, and conscientious animal shelters, Dripping Springs proves it has a heart for giving.
The First Responders — Not to boast, but we have the best. The Hays County First Responders are held in high regard due to the love and protection they selflessly provide to Dripping Springs and the surrounding towns. You’ll find local firefighters, police officers, and EMS personnel at almost every town event, teaching children and adults about safety, giving away gifts and important info, and simply making friends with the residents. They’re quick to respond to emergencies and bravely put their lives on the line for others. They uphold a high standard for this part of Texas. They show respect to everyone and have earned it ten-fold.
West of Weird — Austin is a unique place and a great city to be near, but most people in Dripping are happy to be just outside of the boundaries of the big city. Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird”. Dripping Springs has little interest in weird. Our residents do love the restaurants, the shows, the trails, the playgrounds, and the jobs available in Austin; we just choose a slightly different culture for our daily lives and our families.
Support of Small Businesses — The franchises are slowly moving in, more on the east side of Dripping Springs, but for a long time, the town shied away from endorsing franchised businesses. The people hereare extremely supportive of small businesses and local owners.
Church Communities — If anyone asks on the local forums or Facebook page about finding a church in the area, there are hundreds of positive responses. Each church-goer LOVES his or her church, and there’s a reason for it. Narrowing down a church home here can be difficult because each one in and near Dripping Springs does incredible work to serve the body of Christ. Worship services are meaningful and entertaining, and most of the churches offer Bible studies, events, children’s programming, and summer camps to continue to foster a community of faith.
4H and Equestrian Barns — Just about every small (and large) town in Texas has roots in ranching. Caring for livestock and connecting with animals are core qualities of native Texans, and these values run deep in Dripping Springs as well. The equestrian, 4H, and FFA communities are active and growing. There are a dozen or more horse-boarding and training barns within 10 miles of Dripping Springs, and several residents keep horses, chickens, goats, cattle, swine, and even “exotic” animals on their properties. There are also therapeutic riding barns serving children and adults with neurological and physical disabilities, most notably the RED Arena. A community that cares for animals and carries on traditions of the past is something most people want to be a part of.
The Weather — It’s Texas y’all. The weather is unpredictable and usually hot, which is exactly how most of us prefer it. The random ice storms are a pain and the 6-month summer can get tiring; however, the ample sunshine leads to hours spent in the great outdoors, and the challenges presented by random weather events unite neighbors and our community even more.
Sneak Peak of Country Life — As the “Gateway to the Hill Country”, Dripping Springs allows people to dip their toes into country life. It’s a step in the direction toward settling out west in rural America while still having all the conveniences that we depend on close by. Rarely do I meet a Dripping resident who hasn’t dreamed of more land and a simpler country life. Many have been able to find that on beautiful acreage in DS, but many are biding their time and seeing that dream as a possibility just a little further down the road.
Safety — The crime rate is low, and we intend to keep it that way.
Plethora of Car Washes, Banks, and Mattress Stores — This one is just for the locals. #insidejoke
George P. Bush, as land commissioner, once said, “Texas isn’t just a place on a map… it’s an idea in the hearts of our people.” I believe this to be true for every small town within Texas, but some towns represent the Texas ideal just a little bit better than others. Dripping Springs happens to be one of them.
I’d love to hear what others think makes our town a place that everyone loves. Please comment below and subscribe to the Dripping with Kids blog to read more about the best of Dripping Springs and the Texas Hill Country.
There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.
Your itinerary for a weekend in Dripping Springs, TX is righthere!
Just a couple decades ago, Dripping Springs, Texas was practically unknown to the rest of the state. It was one of those small, sleepy towns that attracted songwriters and ranchers but few others had heard of it, despite its natural beauty and proximity to the state capital. But it didn’t take long for it to grow from a vast expanse of ranch land to a booming town, now well-known across the nation.
It seems that our little town was discovered twice… once in 1854 by Dr. Pound and two other families trekking across the Indian-filled frontier… and then again in the early part of this century by the many city-dwellers looking for a taste of country life with all the conveniences of a big city nearby.
Dripping Springs still has that wonderful small town feel, but it’s growing rapidly. Not only has it become a destination for young families, empty-nesters, and young professionals to settle down, it now has a huge tourist draw as well.
You might ask, “What’s the draw of Dripping Springs?” Recently, The Drip has been penned by the Texas Legislature as the Wedding Capital of Texas. Our small town hosts more than 3,500 weddings per year in over 35 unique venues within a 15 mile radius, from rustic barns to a former Vietnamese temple.
We are also home to dozens of micro-breweries, famous distilleries, and family-owned wineries, most of which are kid-friendly and showcase the beauty of the oak trees and rolling hills in this part of Texas.
Dripping Springs is also considered the “Gateway to the Hill Country” because of its easy access to nearby towns that make up this region of central Texas. From DSTX, you can easily travel south to the adorable town of Wimberley for unique swimming holes and a meandering square of shops and art galleries. You can take a scenic drive between rolling hills along back country roads to the historic town of Gruene for some boot-scootin’ and delicious barbecue. Or you can head further west to make your way onto the Hill Country Wine Trail and end up in the quintessential German town of Fredericksburg. In fact, there are dozens of day trips or short road trips easily taken from Dripping Springs that offer a window to Texas’s remarkable history and the variety of cultures in our great state.
But those interesting nearby towns are not the feature of this post. Dripping Springs gets all the glory here, and if you’re looking for an amazing weekend in The Drip with your family, we’ve got your weekend itinerary planned out. Fair warning, though: After a weekend here, you’ll probably want to move to our sweet town too.
Friday in Dripping Springs
Start your afternoon at the shops on historic Mercer Street, and try to find the dripping springs that our town was named after. Hint: look for a hidden staircase among the downtown shops. Read about the town’s history while on the path.
Then, take the kids to one of Dripping’s family-friendly breweries or distilleries to get a taste of the talent that has flocked here from all over the world. Your family could linger for hours at one venue, enjoying the open green space, live music, unique food offerings, and playground. Or you could bounce around to a few before settling in for the night. Just please be careful and designate a driver because our roads are winding, and this is a dark sky community without street lights. (Click the hyperlink above for specific reviews of each of the following.)
Jester King Brewery and Kitchen
Treaty Oak Distilling
Family Business Beer Co
12 Fox Beer Co
Dripping Springs Distillery
Quick tip: Be sure to be outside at sunset. The Texas Hill Country boasts some of the best sunsets in the South!
Saturday in Dripping Springs
If you’re visiting the Hill Country, exploring the great outdoors is a must. Two of our most famous natural spots are Hamilton Pool Preserve and Reimers Ranch Park. You can visit both in the same morning as they are just down the road from each other. Hamilton Pool requires reservations, and you may need to verify before you go whether the swimming hole is open. Regardless of whether you get to take a dip, the 50 foot waterfall at the bottom of the natural staircase and the caverns behind it are definitely worth the visit. Bring your camera!
Afterward, head to Reimers Ranch Park for a little bit of easy climbing, cave exploration, hiking, (rocky) beach bumming, and swimming or wading in the Pedernales River.
If Hamilton Pool is booked or if you find yourself with a little extra time, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is another option for a fun and informational guided hike down to a beautiful grotto and limestone cavern. It’s also along Hamilton Pool Road. Call to make reservations before you go.
For dinner with the kids, stop in at Route 12 Filling Station on Hwy 12 and Fitzhugh Road. In the hot months, which are most of them, there is a splash pad for the kiddos, but the playground and large patio are open year-round. There’s a variety of delicious food for even the pickiest eaters.
Another dinner option in the area is Verde’s Mexican Parilla, which also has a huge covered patio, as well as a playground and fenced-in grass area for the kids to play. The menu is unique, and every single appetizer is worth trying. The food is phenomenal.
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Bike Trails
✅ Equestrian Trails
❌ Swimming (seasonal)
✅ 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!
Visiting the Ranch Park in Spring adds an added feature: Texas Wildflowers. Be prepared to stop for several photo opportunities.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.