Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas


Break out the Tents! Exploring the Great Outdoors in Central Texas

As fall finally approaches and those scorching Texas temperatures finally cool off, it’s the perfect time to make plans to visit one of the many state parks right here in Central Texas. Whether you like to camp or spend the day exploring, these hidden gems offer the chance to appreciate the natural beauty of Central Texas without traveling far from home. Grab your hiking boots and get ready to roast some marshmallows.

Lower-McKinney-Falls

Photo courtesy of McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls is the closest State Park to Austin and has all the natural beauty you could wish for but still close to home. Campsites are large and have a picnic table and fire pit. Located at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks, the park is a great place for swimming and hiking, and the falls are especially scenic after a good rain. You can also pay a visit to “Old Baldy,” a 500+ year-old, 103 food tall cypress tree, one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in Texas. At only 25 minutes away from Plum Creek, this park offers a natural escape without a long-distance road trip beforehand.

texas parks

Photo courtesy of Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park offers a magnificent bike trail through the Lost Pines of East Central Texas, in addition to swimming, hiking, and golf. The park has rebounded after the devastating 2011 wildfire, and nearly all of the trails, campsites, and facilities have reopened to the public. Cabins and facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s are still standing and available for group rental, or for those wishing to experience a bit of history while enjoying the outdoors. You can also rent a canoe or a barbeque pit at the park and spend the day enjoying the natural wonder of the Lost Pines at Bastrop or neighboring Buescher State Park. The park also features scenic drives, if you’d prefer to experience the great outdoors from the comfort of your own vehicle.

PedernalesFalls1TXDOT

Photo courtesy of Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park is a favorite for family hikes, featuring an easy 7-mile trail that winds along small canyons created by the Mescal and Tobacco creeks. Located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country west of Austin, Pedernales Falls is a great place for camping, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and more. The campground is spacious and well-kept, and offers campers a peaceful escape in a uniquely beautiful setting. The Pedernales River also offers some great swimming, tubing, and wading for cooling off after a day exploring the natural wonders. A quarter mile nature trail also leads to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, perfect for capturing those postcard moments or just enjoying the breathtaking view. For equestrians, the park can also be explored on horseback on the rugged, 10 mile trail that winds up and down the hillsides.

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Photo courtesy of Lockhart State Park

Lockhart State Park

Southeast of Kyle, Lockhart State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities for the whole family, including picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, and more.  With nice hiking trails and several dams and fishing holes, this park is a great place to make a day trip or to camp for the night. The park also features a nine-hole golf course, the only staff-kept course in the Texas State Parks System, and a park swimming pool. RV travelers are welcome as well as traditional campers, and there is a CCC built recreation hall that can be rented for group events. And if you get tired of roasted marshmallows, the famous BBQ joints in Lockhart are only minutes away.

Want more to explore? Check out the Texas State Parks map on their website and plan your own adventure.

Elgin and Bastrop This Holiday Season


Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm is open for business. The Christmas tree farm has been a beloved Central Texas tradition since it opened as a small retirement business in 1984; and today, the farm has the largest selection of Christmas trees in Central Texas.  Each year the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm plants over 6,000-7,000 seedlings, and they have multiple fields that they sell from each year. Their farm has a variety of different trees, including Virginia Pines, Loblolly Pines, Leyland Cypresses and pre-cut Fraser Fir Trees, and not only are you getting an authentic, Central Texas-grown Christmas tree  at their farm, you’re getting an experience along with it as well! The farm  features fun, family-friendly activities including a petting zoo, scenic hayrides, mazes, a Christmas Cottage and a children’s playground. They’re open every day until 5:30 p.m., except later on Thursdays and Fridays, when they’re open until 8:30 p.m.

Central Texas

Photo courtesy of YNN

Elgin is a bit of a drive from Kyle for a Christmas tree. (And totally worth it, for the experience of the farm and the smell of fresh pine in your home throughout the holiday season.) But if you need another reason to make the journey worth your while, Bastrop is hosting their annual Lost Pines Christmas celebration this weekend (Thursday , December 12th through Sunday, December 15th). Each day of the holiday party offers something different and unique, including stargazing and other activites at McKinney Rough Nature Park, the Christmas Street Market in downtown Bastrop, Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Bastrop Public Library, an array of shows and performances including The Nutcracker, as well as lighted Christmas parades, the Bastrop River of Lights and more.

More than 30 family-friendly activities occur throughout the four day weekend, and each event is distinctly and uniquely Bastrop. Visit the Lost Pines Christmas website for a full schedule and details about the event. It’s a great way to have some holiday fun away from home, for a day or for the weekend!

Central Texas holidays

Bastrop River of Lights courtesy of the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce

Pumpkin Patches, Haunted Houses and More Halloween Fun Around Central Texas


Halloween is less than a week away, and we’re sure that by now, your house is decorated, you’ve watched The Nightmare Before Christmas at least once or twice, and you’ve mastered your costume, or at least have an idea of what to do. If not, you can always scrape together something from Goodwill or your closet, right?  If you’ve done all of the above (or even if you haven’t) and you’re looking for some fall and Halloween-related activities, there are a TON of things to do in Central Texas to help get you outside and into the spirit of the fall.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of the Kyle United Methodist Church Facebook page

One great way to do so is to visit a pumpkin patch. Kyle has its own at the Kyle United Methodist Church, which is open for your pumpkin pleasure until Halloween day. The patch’s hours are 2:30 p.m. to dusk, Monday – Friday; 9 a.m. to dusk, Saturday; and noon to dusk on Sunday. When the season started, KUMC had over 1,300 pumpkins to choose from, and, with such a starting collection, there are still plenty of pumpkins for you and your family to carve or paint. If you’re up for more of an adventure, or just want to get out-of-town for some fun, Sweetberry Farm in Marble Falls and the Barton Hill Farms in Bastrop both offer more fall fun than just pumpkin patches. Sweetberry Farms’ festivities take place 6 days a week (save for Wednesday) and includes scarecrow hayrides, corn mazes for all ages, a petting zoo, ice cream, picnics and more. Parking and entrance to the farm is free, but there are some small charges for the activities. More information about Sweetberry Farm is available here. And info about Barton Hill Farms’ fall festivities, here.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Barton Hills Farm Corn Maze via Hilltop Views

Haunted Houses are also fun ways to get in the spirit, and the area around Kyle is known for having some scary ones. Up in Austin, the House of Torment was recently voted one of the scariest haunted houses in the NATION by Haunt World. Three different haunted houses make up the House of Torment, and general admission to all three of them is just $24.99. House of Torment is open nightly until Halloween, and after Halloween they’re open on Fridays and Saturdays until November 16th. You probably want to keep the kids at home for this one though, as it’s a pretty rough ride – but maybe you’ve got a trooper with nerves of steel who can handle the spookiness Other area haunted houses include the Shivers Haunted House and the 13th Floor Haunted House, both a little further away in San Antonio.

For a little tamer Halloween fun, the Kyle public library is hosting a Halloween movie night and a Halloween story time  the Tuesday and Wednesday before the big day. And the “R We There Yet Mom” blog has a robust list of family-friendly events taking place throughout the month across Central Texas, including the Halloween Children’s Concert from the Austin Symphony on October 27th, Goblins in the Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin and the Umlauf’s Pumpkin Sculpting Competition.

So here’s to fall fun, being scared and eating lots of candy. Hope you and yours have a very Happy Halloween!

Celebrate the Fourth of July, Central Texas Style


July 4th is around the corner. And various cities around Central Texas have some wonderfully patriotic events planned for the big day and the weekend afterward so you and yours can celebrate our country’s independence Central Texas style – with pet parades, rodeos, art exhibits, WWII reenactments, horse racing and more.

Plum Creek and the City of Kyle have some great activities planned for 4th of July itself including a firework display at the Plum Creek Golf Course. Before the official city activities begin, though, the Golf Course is hosting a 4-person scramble Fourth of July Tournament that will start at 3 p.m. Its $38 per person to play, but this includes the green fee, cart fee, prizes, celebratory finger food and an up-close-and-personal perspective of the fireworks. Teams can register by calling the Plum Creek Pro Shop at (512) 262-5555.

Plum Creek, TX

The official City of Kyle Fourth of July celebration takes place at the golf course as well, with live music from the April Hall Band as well as food and drinks from 6-9 p.m. The event itself is free and open to the public, but all proceeds from parking ($5) and the available food stuffs will benefit the Kyle Masonic Lodge. When it gets dark enough, around 9:30 p.m., the real show begins, with fireworks launching from the PCGC driving range.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a variety of events are taking place throughout the Hill Country, including Wimberley’s annual VFW Pro Open Rodeo, which has occurred every Fourth of July weekend for the past 68 years, and was once the largest outdoor rodeo in the world! This year’s festivities fall on Thursday July 4th through Saturday July 6th with gates opening at 5:30, the first Mutton Bustin’ at 7:00 p.m. and the rodeo taking place at 8 p.m. Rodeo events include bull riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, women’s barrel racing and more. Food and vendors are available on the grounds, and there is a dance after Friday night’s show.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of the Hill Country Current

On Saturday, Bastrop has a number of family-friendly activities including their 8th annual Pet & Pal Parade and the Bastrop Patriotic Festival. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and takes off from the Bastrop County Courthouse. Pets of all shapes and sizes can strut their stuff, everything from goats on leashes to bearded dragons. Judging occurs in seven categories including: the most patriotic pet, most creative pet costume, most unusual pet, best trick, best decorated pet vehicle, best pet / owner look-alike, and the best overall pet. Proceeds benefit the Bastrop County Animal Shelter. Later in the day, the Patriotic Festival occurs in Fisherman’s Park, with music by the Bastrop Community Chorus and Band beginning at 6 p.m. followed by music from the Austin Symphonic Band. People can picnic and relax in the park during the festivities, and fireworks will begin at dusk. For more information about the Bastrop Independence Day festivities, click here.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of The Gloss

Fredericksburg, – a little further away from Kyle to the west – has a number of Fourth of July festivities occurring throughout the weekend as well. On Friday night nearly a dozen art galleries in the city will stay open until 8 p.m. for the city’s First Friday Art Walk, which will feature show opening receptions, artist demonstrations, meet and greets and more. Other events throughout the weekend include concerts by Roger Creager Friday night and Saturday, multiple performances of the Fredericksburg Theater Company’s rendition to “Oklahoma” and a USO style Hangar Dance that is 1940s themed and will feature big band music from Bill Smallwood and Lone Star Swing. Even more, they’ll have WWII reenactments and two days of live pari-mutuel quarter horse and thoroughbred horse racing. More information is available at the Visit Fredericksburg website.

With all this available, in town, and to the west and the east, there are endless opportunities for authentic Central Texas fun next week and weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Renaissance fun in Central Texas: The Sherwood Forest Faire (February 9 – March 31)


Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Pixtus

This February and March, the 4th annual Sherwood Forest Faire returns to Central Texas for eight weeks of Renaissance fun in Bastrop’s beautiful Lost Pines. Every weekend from February 9th until the end of March, the medieval festival brings great food, medieval entertainment and over 150 merchant shops to Central Texas for families to appreciate and enjoy. The eight-week extravaganza features something for everyone, so children and adults alike can experience and enjoy a simulation of what life was like in the olden days, without a time machine or a trip across the globe.

A wide array of Renaissance-related, European food items are available at the faire, and food booths range from The Golden Conquistador (Mexican food), to The Greek Agora (Mediterranean food),  to Merlin’s Favorites and much more. A wide selection of vegetarian food items are available at the Sherwood Forest Faire as well. Special food-related events are available at the Sherwood Forest Faire this year as well, including a Wine Tasting and a multi-course, authentic Renaissance feast, which are both available with an RSVP and an additional charge.

Plum Creek, Texas

The Wine Tasting is officially called “Tasting Wine with Madame Ghislaine,” who is a French midwife and wine connoisseur who gives an exclusive look at some carefully selected wines from around the world. The tasting accommodates up to 24 guests, and will last an hour and fifteen minutes. Tickets to the wine tasting are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the tasting is only at the Faire for a limited time, so if you’re interested, check it out now. Robin’s Feast is the other food-related event at the Sherwood Faire this year, and is a five-course, all you can drink extravaganza complete with music and dancing. Each feast-goer receives a soup course, several meat and veggie courses in succession and dessert. Tickets for Robin’s Feast are a little more expensive, but the “all you can drink” caveat makes it worth it. Again, tickets and times are limited, so do some research if Robin’s Feast tickles your fancy.

In addition to food, Sherwood Forest Faire offers more than 150 places to shop and enjoy yourself. Shop offerings range from medieval novelties, to clothes items, to jewelry, to leatherwork, musical instruments, weaponry, and more. Local artists and craftspeople are predominately featured at the festival, so remember that you’re supporting the local economy. Plus, who doesn’t want a bow and arrow, or some authentic Reniassance-type candles?

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Photo courtesy of The Austinot

The main draw of the Sherwood Forest Faire, though, is the entertainment. Each week, the Faire releases a new performance lineup, which includes musical acts, magic shows, chess matches, dog shows, dance performances, jousts and more. There are over 20 performance spaces and stages, so you can plan your day to a tee and catch all the medieval entertainment you can muster. Most events are family-friendly, too, so you don’t have to worry about little eyes being offended or scared. The Sherwood Forest Faire even has its own cast of characters and performers listed online so you can see what kinds of peoples and costumes are in store for your weekend of Renaissance fun.

SherwoodForestFaire.com has much more information available about the festival, so if you’re interested in checking it out this month or next, meander on over to their webpage and see other events and entertainment that are available at the Faire. And remember, this is an authentic Renaissance experience, so costumes are encouraged. And we all know you’ve been waiting for an excuse to bust out that elf or troll costume since college. Perfect right?

Sherwood_Forest_Faire_Parade

Photo courtesy of Faire Freak

Fitness in Central Texas


Every January, the number of 24 Hour Fitness, Lifetime Fitness and Gold’s Gym commercials skyrocket, as people make their fitness New Year’s resolutions. If you made a commitment to become healthier in 2013, or you just want to get out there and be more active, we’ve made a list of of places in Central Texas to help you to achieve these goals while enjoying the out-of-doors, and supporting local business.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

One of the great things about living in Central Texas is the number of places for being active outside, including several nearby state parks and natural areas. One, west of Kyle, is Enchanted Rock, the enormous pink granite dome 15 miles north of Fredericksburg that is steeped in Native American mysticism and lore. The rock formation itself is surrounded by the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which features miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, as well as spaces for picnicking and technical rock climbing. The Summit Trail is one of the most popular hiking paths, which leads to the top of the dome and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The three-quarter mile trail is relatively short, but the 800 foot climb up the structure can be strenuous – so come prepared.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Basecamp

Also located west of Kyle is the Pedernales Fall State Park. Most of Pedernales’ activities are water related – and therefore more suited to warmer weather – but the park is also a favorite for family hikes – with a duck pond, a quarter-mile nature trail to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, and a wheelchair-friendly wildlife-viewing station. The park also features a beautiful 7-mile trail that wraps around the Tobacco and Wolf Mountains, and the small canyons created by the Mescal and Tobacco creeks, so you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Hill Country while getting your workout on.

East ways, the Bastrop State Park also provides opportunities for backpacking, camping, canoeing, and viewing wildlife, as well as hiking and biking. In fact, a 12-mile scenic bike route between Bastrop and Buescher State Parks takes you along Park Road 1C, through the mesmerizing Lost Pines of East Central Texas. This winding and hilly trail is actually a part of the MS-150, too, the famed annual bike race from Houston to Austin.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of AustinBike.com

Other great locations for bicycling around Central Texas abound. AustinBike.com is a great resource for those interested in mountain biking, as the group travels around the area, testing out and reviewing mountain bike hot spots. Two such spots include the Madrone Trail in Canyon Lake and Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville. The Madrone Trail takes bikers on an 8.4 mile loop along the scenic areas around Canyon Lake’s, well, lake! It’s ranked a “medium” as far as difficulty goes, and there is a wide variety of trails available, making for a fast ride with lots of twists and turns. Rocky Hill Ranch offers a variety of trail options in Smithville, too. The main loop is about 16 miles long and takes you through trails to ledges, short climbs, twists, turns and bunny hops over logs and more. To top it off, the trail ends at The Rocky Hill Café, which offers burgers, fries and ice cold beer to reward you after the ride. Can’t ask for much more than that, eh?

If street riding is more your thing, there are a number of bike riding resources available from those up in Austin. Bike lanes are everywhere up there, and BicycleAustin.com even offers a route from Austin through San Marcos all the way to San Antonio.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Plum Fit, located in Plum Creek

If this cooler, winter weather has deterred you from outdoor activities, indoor fitness opportunities are everywhere, too. Plum Fit is a 24-hour, key-card controlled fitness facility located in Plum Creek that provides local residents with a wide variety of fitness opportunities, including cardio and weight machines available at any hour of the day. And the City of Kyle is offering fitness programs for Kyle residents this year, contracted through Live Well personal training. These programs include indoor and outdoor bootcamps, walking and running training, as well as Pilates and Yoga classes.

So, as you’re embarking on your 2013 health and fitness agenda, keep in mind the wonderful indoor and outdoor opportunities available in Central Texas. There’s so much more out there than the big, corporate gyms, so explore the area and support local business!

Farmers’ Markets A-Plenty


Spring is in full swing in Central Texas and residents are rejoicing by getting outside, gardening and seeking out local markets. Farmers’ markets dot our Hill Country landscape and Plum Creek residents are perfectly situated to take advantage of this feast of riches.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Several markets in Buda, Austin and Dripping Springs lie just north of Kyle’s city limits. The Buda Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Main Street, in the parking lot of City Hall. Drive a few more minutes north and you’ll find yourself with even more options. The SFC and Hope Farmers’ Markets cater to different areas of Austin, yet all provide locally sourced produce, artisan crafts and live music. SFC markets offer Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday market days north, south, east and west of central Austin. Hope has two east side markets open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. Just a bit west of Austin, Dripping Springs hosts a Thursday market from 3 to 6 p.m. Local bakers, ranchers, farmers, chefs and craftsmen provide visitors a chance to sample their wares and enjoy a bit of the western Hill Country scenery.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Shifting the focus to the east of Kyle, the Bastrop 1832 Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. This market functions as a business, with a legislative board, a target market and a charitable arm that donates to local nonprofits. Customers are even polled to gauge their experiences and to find areas that could use improvement. For a full experience that extends beyond the normal market, head to Bastrop to find a seamless operation. On the way back home, stop at the Lockhart Main Street Farmers’ Market, open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Along with browsing the fresh produce, baked goods and preserves, visitors can shop artisan crafts and enjoy live music.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Traveling south, people in search of locally-sourced produce and goods can find and abundance in San Marcos and Wimberley. The San Marcos Farmers’ Market hosts a Saturday and Tuesday market in two San Marcos locations. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., visitors can head to San Antonio St. for fresh vegetables, fruit, baked goods and more. Tuesdays, the market is located on Edward Gary St. from 3 to 6 p.m.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

If a smaller town experience is preferred, simply head west on Rand Road 12 out of San Marcos until it hits Mill Race Lane in Wimberley, Texas.  The Wimberley Farmers’ Market is open every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and is a strictly produce-only market, so be ready to stock up on fruits and vegetables.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

For residents who prefer to keep their money local, Kyle has a market closer to home. Just a few minutes north of Kyle, residents can head to the 150 Market located at Michaelis Ranch on FM 150 for a unique farmers’ market that rotates wares. The first Saturday of the month is dedicated to local artists and craftsman while the other Saturdays feature purveyors of fresh produce, garden plants and other foods.

Gather the reusable bags and containers, make sure you’ve got plenty of cash and fill up the tank for a fun farmers’ market road trip, near or far.