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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!

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.

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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.

Categories
Hiking

Bee Cave Sculpture Park Trail

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

✅ Trails for Children

❌ Swimming (seasonal)

✅ Bathrooms

❌ Playground and Sports Fields

✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails

❌ Stroller-friendly Trails

❌ Reservations needed

Just a few miles north of Dripping Springs and about 25 minutes west of Austin lies a hidden sculpture park and adjacent trail leading to shops and restaurants in Bee Cave, TX, which is the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Bee Cave Sculpture Park!

The Art

Sharing a parking lot with the Bee Cave Police Department located on Highway 71 is this unique sculpture park with permanent and rotating exhibits. Kids will love trying to identify the sculptures and taking funny pictures with them. The trail meandering through the exhibits is stroller and kid-friendly. There’s also a beautiful pond to picnic next to and hunt for frogs.

Easy (but rocky)Trails

Adjacent to the sculpture park is a wide rocky trail going eastward. It takes you a short distance to an open green space with another pond. This trail is not stroller-friendly, but it leads you to the Shops at the Galleria. The distance is approximately 1/2 mile. After reaching the back of the Shops, there is a trail loop that can be walked to add more distance.

Great Playgrounds

The trail leads you directly to two restaurants with great playgrounds: Mandola’s Italian Kitchen and soon-to-open Louisiana Crab Shack.

If you’re looking to enjoy unique art and then burn calories before indulging in a delicious meal and a bit of shopping, this is a great way to spend a late morning with the kids!

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

Categories
Hiking

Guadalupe River State Park

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

✅ Trails for Children

✅ Swimming

✅ Bathrooms

✅ Playground

✅ Reservations needed

❌ Stroller-friendly Trails

❌ Free admission

Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:

The River

In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)

Easy to Moderate Trails

On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.

The Views

There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.

A Story Walk

Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.

The Discovery Center

Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)

More Challenging Trail Options

The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.

Guided Tours

On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.

A Small Playground

Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.

Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas

The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.

The Wildlife

Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.

Great Towns Nearby

After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.

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

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vacation

2022 Spring Break in the Texas Hill Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bastrop Area

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

Places to Stay –

Bastrop River House

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Dinosaur Park Bastrop, Texas

Things to do –

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

New Braunfels/Gruene 

Gruene, TX
Gruene Hall

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

Places to Stay –

Guadalupe River Houses

World Mark New Braunfels

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

Things to Do –

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

Johnson City and Fredericksburg

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

Places to Stay –

The Lighthouse Hill Ranch

The Carnegie Hotel

Wild Currant Farm

Things to Do –

Hunt Area

Paddle boarding on the Rio Frio

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

Places to Stay –

WorldMark Stablewood Springs

Waterfront Cabins

Things to Do –

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

Waco

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

* FREE activities 

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

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

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

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Things to Do Dripping Springs

Best of Fall in the Texas Hill Country, 2020

Your Fall Bucket List in Texas

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

Pumpkin patch fun in the Texas Hill Country

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

In keeping with tradition, it’s also time to create our family’s Fall Bucket List of all the places we want to go and things we want to do during this beautiful season of pumpkin patches, cute costumes, cooler temps, colorful leaves, and outdoor adventures. Feel free to join us!

Texas Hill Country Fall Bucket List (2020)

1. Visit a local farm and pumpkin patch.

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

Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to take a spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course, plus so much more. We also plan to stay late for a trip through the huge corn maze with flashlights. All of these activities are included for one admission price. ($16/person for ages 2+; opens Sept 19th)

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

You can find this farm and pumpkin patch along the scenic banks of the Colorado River in Bastrop, TX. Fall festival activities include a very complex corn maze, baseball and football toss, fall photo opps, train rides, tree fort, super slides, jumping pillow, fishing, face painting, and more. There will also be live music and a biergarten this year. ($16.95+tax/person for 2+, advanced purchase online required)

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

The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, and horseback riding. Admission is free, but activities are charged individually. Check website for details.

2. Get creative!

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

Enjoy the beautiful drive past vineyards and state parks to Fredericksburg, where you will find this fun stop with shopping, wine tasting, lunch options, wildflower trails, and butterfly gardens. Save the date for the Pumpkin Festival on September 26th.

Make Fall signs at local Board and Brush

Most likely, there’s a Board and Brush near you with dozens of adorable signs to make for the Fall season. You can join an established workshop or book a private party. All signs can be personalized with name, color choices, and texture. It’s such a fun activity, especially with the kids! (Prices start at $35)

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

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

3. Peruse a farmer’s market.

New Braunfels Farmer’s Market

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

Old Gruene Market Days

Find artisan crafts, beer and wine, tasty food, and nearby shops with sales on the third full weekend of the month and first weekend of December. Stick around for lunch at the Gristmill and free live music (fingers crossed!) at Gruene Hall.

Dripping Springs Farmer’s Market

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

Wimberley Market Days

Travel south on RR12 for a scenic drive and the 2nd largest flea market in Texas, held the first Saturday of every month (Mar – Dec) from 9 am to 4 pm. Grab a glass of wine, browse the shops, pop in the candy store or Scoops Frozen Yogurt for a treat for the kiddos, and then walk the trail along the creek behind downtown to skip rocks, play on the playground, or wade in the water. If it’s a particularly hot day, check out Cypress Falls Swimming Hole.

4. Go back in time!

Texas Renaissance Festival
Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston, TX

My kids beg to return to this festival every year. They love the costumes, the accents, the shows, the rides, the games, and the feeling of time travel. It’s a bit of a drive from the Hill Country, but camping sites are available next to the festival grounds. Groupon is offering discounted tickets, and children 12 and under are FREE on Sundays. Advanced tickets required.

Pioneer Farms

This living history farm offers guided tours and classes, such as blacksmithing and Texas swing dancing. Visit a Tonkawa Indian Encampment, a German Emigrant Farm, a Texian Farm, a Cotton Planter’s Farm and a rural village called Sprinkle Corner all in one day.

The Dinosaur Park
The Dinosaur Park in austin, TX

Go prehistoric and make your kids’ day by walking a trail to find large dinosaurs and dino clues in the woods. Then, play on the playground, dig for fossils, take hilarious photos, and guard your wallet (from your children) in the expansive gift shop. Drive a little further south and use your dino park wristband to enjoy 10% off lunch along the Colorado River at Neighbors Kitchen and Yard.

5. Explore the Great Outdoors

Fortlandia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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

McKinney Falls State Park

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

Zilker Botanical Garden
Zilker Botanical garden in Austin

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

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

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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.

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vacation

Road Trip Edition: Waco with Kids

“What’s in Waco?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question after revealing the destination of a recurring road trip for our family.

Is there an amusement park for children? Nope. Is there a nice resort to stay at? Not that I know of. Is there a beach? Definitely not. (But read on to find out how you can ride the waves in the center of Texas.) Is there anything more to do than following the Gaines family on their latest venture? Surprisingly, YES.

There’s something about the many small towns of Texas that really piques my family’s interests. Each town in this great state has such a unique history, culture, and vibe, and Waco is no exception.  It has a long and intriguing history rooted in Native American culture and early American settlers. It’s also the site of one of the largest mammoth excavations in the world and the location of the first bridge over the Brazos River, which connected east and west Texas, forever changing the population and economy of the future republic. Waco has also had a negative and notorious reputation for murder, including the lynching incident deemed the Waco Horror, David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult massacre and fire, and the biker gang shoot out in 2015. These stories made Waco less than popular among tourists, yet this town has a thriving university, multiple museums, beautiful natural landscapes, cultural diversity, and a story to tell. Chip and Joanna decided that Waco wasn’t worth giving up on, and my family tends to agree. One weekend just isn’t enough to take all of it in, but here’s our version of how to make the best of those few days and entertain the entire crew in the infamous town of Waco…

Where to Stay:

We found a great house in the nearby town of Riesel. It’s off the beaten path, and there’s no grocery store or special attractions, but it’s just a 15-20 min drive from Waco and offers a relaxing country setting, as well as opportunities to enjoy quiet quality time with family and friends. Check out this house: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/22227878

If you want to stay right in town, there are plenty of options through Airbnb, but we’ve also stayed at a hotel (Springhill Suites) that had rooms big enough for our family of 6 and included a full kitchen and free breakfast. Highly recommend!

Things to Do:

Cameron Park Zoo – One of our fave zoos! The  zoo has plenty of shade, a fun playground, and interactive exhibits; plus, it’s easy to walk through the whole zoo in half a day. Highlights include the slide through the otter exhibit, feeding the giraffes, bridges over animal habitats, several cute photo ops, the nocturnal animals barn, and the extensive reptile house. Tip: Feed yourself and the kiddos in advance. There are two cafes, but they are spread out. There aren’t many snack options in between the two.

Cameron Park – This Park has it all… multiple playgrounds, a splash pad, picnic areas, scenic views, and hike and bike trails. It is one of the largest municipal parks in Texas, and the Brazos River runs alongside it. Tip: Explore the website and map in advance to determine where to park your car based on trail heads or playgrounds you want to visit. https://www.waco-texas.com/cms-parksandrecreation/page.aspx?id=310

Magnolia Market at the Silos – The Gaines family ventures aren’t completely avoidable. With lawn games for the kids, shopping for Mom, and food trucks for Dad, there’s plenty to do here to keep everyone happy. (BONUS: Joanna Gaines has re-opened her original store on Bosque as a liquidation shop. If you make a purchase at Magnolia Market at the Silos, you can bring your receipt to the Bosque location and get an additional 10% off the already reduced prices.)

Mayborn Museum – It’s a history museum and children’s museum in one… win-win for the whole family! Highlights include the mini mammoth site, kinetic music hallway, outdoor pioneer village, and dozens of interactive children’s exhibits, including a toddler play area. Also, the museum is on the Baylor campus, which is really pretty to walk or drive through. Tips: Allow a lot of time for this visit. Your kids will want to stay put in specific rooms, and you will want to have plenty of time leftover to explore the outdoor village. Outside food and drinks are not allowed.

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The Dr. Pepper Museum – Do you love the sweet, sugary concoction and want to know all about its history? Then, this museum is for you. There are some nostalgic components worth reminiscing over and some fun photo ops, but if you are with small children with little patience, save this museum for another visit when they’re a bit older and/or when the grandparents want to relive their early years with the soda jerk. (Sorry, Mom.)

On the bucket list for a future visit:

Waco Mammoth National Monument – This paleontological site represents the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. Visitors can view “in situ” fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago.  https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm

Homestead Heritage – Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftsmanship. It also strives to live in peaceful coexistence with the land, other people and other faiths. You can visit the craft village Mon-Sat. https://www.homesteadheritage.com/overview/

BSR Cable Park – This surf resort boasts the longest lazy river in Texas, plus opportunities to learn how to ride the waves and satisfy your dreams of becoming a pro surfer. This adventure is meant for older children and adults, but it offers cabins to rent and picnic spots for the whole family. https://www.bsrcablepark.com/

Texas Ranger Museum – Yes, it’s a history museum… about law enforcement. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s still on our list for the history nerd in our family. (I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed who that is.) https://www.texasranger.org/

Texas Sports Hall of Fame – This one’s for the guys in our household. It’s supposed to be a really cool place to visit with lots of sports photos, memorabilia, and statistics that are necessary for the male brain to memorize. http://www.tshof.org/visit/info/

Baylor’s McLane Stadium Tour and Bears Football Game – What’s more Texan than football?? As our kids get older, we’d love for them to experience a game at each of the major universities, and if we can tack on a tour of the stadium, even better! https://baylorbears.com/sports/2018/5/16/facilities-mclane-html.aspx

Hawaiian Falls Water Park – This park looks like fun for all ages with attractions for thrill seekers and toddlers alike. https://hfalls.com/waco.php