Let’s Go Fly a Kite: The Zilker Kite Festival


Spring is in the air. Which means that in Austin this weekend, kites will be too! The Zilker Kite Festival is one of Austin’s favorite springtime events. Usually held the first Sunday in March, this year’s festival was postponed due to the unseasonably cold weather, and will take place this Sunday, March 9th. The event is free and open to the public and is a great springtime activity for the whole family. Because, honestly, who doesn’t love kites?

Zilker Kite Festival

Photo courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman

In its 85th year, the Zilker Kite Festival (originally called the “Kite Tournament”) was created by The Exchange Club of Austin in 1929 with the mission of encouraging creativity in children. In 1936, The Exchange Club partnered with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department to bring the event to newly-opened Zilker Park, which is still the home for the annual event.

The festival continues to be presented by The Exchange Club of Austin, which is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. The group encourages good citizenship, community service, and uses the Zilker Kite Festival as a way to bring attention to the mission of the nonprofit. To find out more about The Exchange Club, visit The Exchange Club of Austin website.

Zilker Kite Festival

Photo courtesy of the Downtown Austin Alliance

The Kite Festival begins at 10 a.m., and at 11 the Kite Making workshop, registration for the kite contest and kite flying demonstrations by professional fliers begin. The afternoon of fun continues with the kite contest launching at 1 p.m., and hours of free-range flying. Categories for the kite contest include: highest angle kite, steadiest kite, strongest pulling kites, smallest kite, most unusual kite, largest kite and mass kite ascent.

The festival will host several booths for food, crafts and other services. Check out the entire list, which includes local Austin favorites such as Amy’s Ice Creams, Daily Juice, Hat Creek Burgers and more. The vendors will be open for the entirety of the Zilker Kite Festival, so when all that kite flying activity wipes you out, nutritious local Austin food can revive your energy levels for many more hours of kite-flying fun!

Prepare for the Zilker Kite Festival by buying or creating your own special kite and viewing the map of the park for the event.  More information can be found on the festival’s Facebook page and on their website. The festival accepts volunteers for the event and donations to continue the growth of the event and the associated nonprofit. So check it out – and let’s go fly a kite! Up to the highest heights!

You knew it was coming at some point, didn’t you?

Indoor Kid-Friendly Locations for those Cold Central Texas Weekends


The weather in Central Texas has been unseasonably cold this January with two “snow days” happening here within the past week! And while more snow and ice seems unlikely – considering it’s been a few years since we’ve even seen snow flurries of this magnitude until now– we’ve compiled some indoor kid-friendly activities in the Central Texas area to keep your kiddos entertained for the rest of the winter – so they aren’t stuck in front of a screen the next time the temperature drops too far for outdoor fun.

Here in Kyle, The Jumpy Place is a great place to take elementary-age kids. It’s a socks-only inflatable play center for children 10 and under – just south and across the highway from Plum Creek. They do both advance parties and walk-ins, so those weekends where you just want to get your kids out of the house but don’t want to venture too far from home, The Jumpy Place is a great start. They even have free wifi and coffee for parents – so, you can have some fun relaxing while your kid bounces all that energy out. Who’ll enjoy it more? Depends on how badly you need that grown-up coffee time.

Central Texas Activities

Photo courtesy of The Jumpy Place

This November, if all goes well, residents of Kyle will have even more indoor entertainment options available within the city limits – with the opening of Texas Cinema’s entertainment complex at Kohler’s Crossing and I-35, just minutes away from Plum Creek. The 75,000 square-foot facility would include 14-lanes of bowling, a two-story laser tag arena, over 40 arcade games, a restaurant and a bar and 12 movie auditoriums. Currently, the project is slated to open in November, so once the weather starts turning cold again, there should be additional entertainment options available in Kyle for adults and kids alike, all in one location!

Central Texas Activities

Photo courtesy of Little Austinite

Until then, residents of Kyle and Central Texas have other indoor entertainment resources within 20 minutes from home. While Buda’s Cabela’s might not be top of mind when it comes to indoor entertainment, the outdoor retail giant is a kid’s education and entertainment hub, even if you don’t buy a thing! A huge animal-based diorama is the centerpiece of the store, and consists of various animals standing on a mountain, as if in their natural habitat. The display can be viewed from both the lower and upper levels of the store, and is surrounded by a pond, complete with live trout! Cabelas also has a large walk-through aquarium section and two other dioramas. Not to mention an in-store restaurant with exotic fare such as elk, bison and wild boar sandwiches, and a general store that sells old-fashioned candy (like fudge). If that’s not an afternoon of fun for your little one, who knows what is!

Central Texas Kids Activities

Photo courtesy of Austin Mod House

Further north in Austin, the Southpark Meadows Gatti Town is another fantastic place to take the kids to play indoors. The restaurant features over 9,000-square-feet of the latest video and redemption games, electric bumper cars and mini bowling, not to mention all you can eat and drink buffet. Gatti Town dining rooms also come complete with big-screen TVs, and a variety of dining areas including a sports room and a fun flicks room for family entertainment. So bring a book, a friend or your iPad and set the kids loose after stuffing them full of pizza and you’ll have some tuckered out kiddos at the end of the afternoon.

Also in South Austin: Blazer Tag, The Art Garage, Westgate Lanes

Hill Country Lights for the Holidays


Chilly nights in December are the perfect time for packing up your family and friends to explore some of the beautiful holiday light displays available across Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country. The annual Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail is an assemblage of  lighting displays from small towns throughout the region, including  Austin, Bandera, Blanco, Boerne, Burnet, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Marble Falls and Wimberley. To help you navigate the displays, the lighting trail website offers a helpful map and schedule of events and activities in each city.

Bandera is one of the stops on the Regional Lighting Trail, and, as the ‘Cowboy Capital of Texas’, Bandera will be hosting its annual Christmas Singing in the Saddle event at the Longhorn Saloon tomorrow evening, December 18th. Visitors are encouraged to bring, or rent horses, for Christmas caroling down Main Street at this event, and there will be hot chocolate and sweet treats available for visitors at the end of the parade ride.

While Fredericksburg, Texas is a popular getaway year-round, the town is extra special during the holiday season. Over the course of the holidays, Fredericksburg’s unique German heritage is on display with holiday décor, which includes a 26-foot-tall Christmas Pyramid at the town’s Marktplatz. Other attractions include an outdoor ice skating rink, 150 specialty shops with crafts from local artists, 75 restaurants serving everything from traditional German cuisine to unique Hill Country dishes, and over 400 bed and breakfast options for overnight guests.

Central Texas holiday

Photo courtesy of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce

Just down the road from Fredericksburg, the Johnson City courthouse lighting display is one of the largest lighting displays in the state. Millions of lights cover the historic Blanco County Courthouse, creating a visual treat.  The lights are up until January 1st, and the inside of the courthouse is open on Saturday and Sunday nights throughout December from 6:00-9:00 p.m. for photos in front of the large Christmas tree, and the local Garden Club will be on hand to sell crafts and ornaments.

Located on Highway 281, just 40 miles west of Austin, Blanco, Texas celebrates the holiday season with the lighting of Blanco’s downtown Bindsiel Park. The park lights are open for holiday visitors until January 6th and, while in Blanco, visitors can enjoy the many antique shops and boutiques along the courthouse square as well. Another notable lighted courthouse in the area is the historic Burnet County Courthouse in Burnet, Texas, which shines  with thousands of white lights all over the building’s façade. Burnet is also home to a massive 18-foot multi-color Christmas tree, which is perfect for photo ops.  The Burnet lighting display is open nightly until January 1st.

Since 1991, the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights has also delighted visitors of all ages. Over 2 million lights dot  150+ decorated sculptures, which create a magical reflection on the waters of Lake Marble Falls. This enchanting self-guided tour is open nightly beginning at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. until January 1st.

Central Texas holiday

Photo courtesy of the Marble Falls Walkway of Lights Facebook Page

Also just outside of Austin, Wimberley hosts its 16th Annual Trail of Lights at the EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens. This year’s trail features 8 acres of glowing displays decorated by local businesses and community groups, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to celebrate the season every Friday and Saturday evening until Christmas.  Nearby, in Austin, the beloved Trail of Lights at Zilker Park is open nightly until December 22nd, with an exciting schedule of entertainment from local bands.

Holidays in the Hill Country are unlike any other celebration. The region offers free, easily accessible lighting displays and events sure to charm visitors of all ages.  So pack up your crew this weekend and experience the joy of the season.

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

Holiday Films and Live Showings in Central Texas


Of all of the holidays throughout the year, those in December are often the ones that are most celebrated in pop culture – whether it’s through song, films, plays or other live experiences. Such mainstays as The Nutcracker, The Grinch and It’s a Wonderful Life have become holiday traditions for many people this time of year; and across Central Texas, there are countless opportunities for experiencing your favorites.

Austin is the perfect place for getting your holiday fix this December, as it’s a mere 20 minute drive away from Kyle – and nearly every movie theater or theater house in town is celebrating the holiday season in their own way. The Alamo Drafthouse, for example, is showing both holiday classics and modern favorites (many with their own special programming) including a Home Alone Pizza Party, a Christmas Vacation Quote Along, It’s a Wonderful Life and more.  Most of the special programs are shown at the original Drafthouse location on 6th Street, just down the road from I-35, making it an easy stop for those of us traveling to the theater from Kyle. Plus, there’s the Paramount and Stateside Theaters a little further into downtown Austin which are also showing holiday films throughout the month.

Plum Creek Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of Ballet Austin

If a live experience is more your thing, the ZACH Theater in Austin is showing their own take on the Christmas classics A Christmas Story and This Wonderful Life the whole month of December; and Ballet Austin will be performing their annual presentation of The Nutcracker at The Long Center for the Performing Arts as well.  The Nutcracker will also be shown in San Marcos at the San Marcos High School Performing Arts Center thanks to the River City Ballet, and THIS THURSDAY, the famous jazz version of the classic ballet from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, will be put on by the Texas State University Jazz Ensemble and the Department of Theater and Dance at Texas State’s Evans Auditorium. The Evans Auditorium will also be home to the Hill Country Youth Chorus’ free presentation of the “Holidays in the Hill Country” on December 9th as well.

Plum Creek Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of the San Marcos Mercury

In Kyle, the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center located in Plum Creek is host to another array of holiday shows and events throughout the month, including holiday performances from the districts’ choirs, orchestras and bands, a performance of The Nutcracker on Sunday, December 15th and The Night Before Christmas on December 20th and 21st.

So to get you and yours in the holiday spirit this month, complement the holiday classics you have on VHS and DVD with some live film and theater experiences, and celebrate not only the season, but the talent and creativity that’s present here in Central Texas!

 

 

Austin Arts Event: The East Austin Studio Tour


There’s something about Central Texas that invites creativity. Maybe it’s the beauty of the Hill Country, the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of Austin or merely the history of creativity that’s been present in the area for decades; either way, there’s a lot of creative minds living, working and creating in Austin, and, this November, these creatives are celebrated at Austin’s annual East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) – a two-weekend event that showcases the best of local art and craftsmanship in the city.

EastAustinStudioTour

Photo courtesy of The Austin Chronicle

The East Austin Studio Tour – taking place this year the weekends of November 16th and 17th and November 23rd and 24th – is a free, self-guided tour of the artist studios, galleries and event spaces on Austin’s east side. Hundreds of art spaces open their doors these two weekends, and for many of them, EAST is the only time of the year they are open and available to everyday folk to see. This year, more than 400 artists are participating in EAST, and there are a number of cool events and activities happening both weekends of the event, including out-of-the-box events, projects, art competitions, traveling performances, art parties, site-specific projects and more.

East Austin Studio Tour

Photo courtesy of The Austin Chronicle

EAST comes with its own catalog, which is a free, full color tour guide that comes with a tour map. They’re out and available on the east side the two weekends of the tour, or can be picked up at all 22 Austin Public Library branches beginning November 6, as well as select other locations around town.

Wurstfest: Sausages, Beer and Texas-German Fun


The first ten days of November, New Braunfels will host the city’s largest and most popular event – Wurstfest: an annual celebration of the German heritage and culture that remains in the city from the influx of German immigrants to Central Texas in the 1850s. The ten-day celebration is rich in Alpine and Bavarian culture, with great food, German, Texan and domestic beer, live music, dancing, carnival rides, games and more.

Plum Creek Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

The event runs daily from November 1st to November 10th. On weekdays, Wurstfest opens at 5 p.m., and 11 a.m. on the weekends. Tickets to the event are $8 before Halloween, and $10 after.  In addition to the Wurstfest event itself, there are a number of other local events happening in New Braunfels and beyond, including “Frankenwurst,” at the Circle Arts Theater, the ARToberfest art show at the New Braunfels Art League, and the 45th annual Wurstfest Regatta in Canyon Lake.

Plum Creek Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Wurstfest has been a staple in New Braunfels since 1961 when the event began as a promotional event for the city’s sausage-making industry. Since then, Wurstfest has exploded into one of the largest cultural events in the state. Recently it was rated the #3 event in the state of Texas, behind San Antonio’s annual Fiesta celebration and the Texas State Fair.

For more information about Wurstfest and to purchase tickets, visit www.wurstfest.com