Romance in Nature: Spending Valentine’s Day Outdoors in Central Texas


It’s that time of year again – Valentine’s Day is around the corner and as you’re researching fun, romantic things to do with that special someone, Plum Creek has compiled a list of ways to show your love for your honey and the beauty of nature in Central Texas.

Central Texas Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of the Adventure Journal

Botanical gardens are cheap and romantic date option, and Kyle is bounded by two beautiful botanical gardens to the north and the south. The Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin is a serene and peaceful date spot located in Central Austin in close proximity to other outdoor hot spots, like Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park. The 30-acre facility features a number of theme gardens, with romantic nooks and crannies for intimate moments, tinkling waterfalls, ponds and other hidden gems, Of course, the best time for the garden is the spring, once it starts getting warmer, but there is still beauty to be found. The Garden’s proximity to many other date spots is an added bonus – Zilker Park, Barton Springs, great restaurants and bars along South Lamar, and more.

Austin Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of Austin Texas.gov

San Antonio also has a couple of flower gardens, including the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Tea Gardens. Both are located near each other, in Central San Antonio. The Tea Gardens is a quiet and lush area that contains a large open-air pagoda, as well as koi ponds and a waterfall. It is such a beautiful and romantic space that it is a San Antonio favorite for weddings and engagement photography, so you know it’ll facilitate flying sparks. Plus, it’s near the sprawling Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo and the Pearl Brewery.

Central Texas Valentines Day

Photo courtesy of Expedia.com

Elsewhere in Central Texas, there are scenic Hill Country drives, wine country and Valentine’s Day specials out in Fredericksburg, countless cute and interesting restaurants, breweries, day spas and more. Pick your location of choice – goodness knows pretty much every town in Central Texas and the Hill Country has something beautiful or something going on – and do a little research. There are plenty of ways to love your honey and love the beauty of nature. And if it turns out to be cold on Valentine’s Day weekend, there’s no short supply of indoor date ideas either!

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The Best Places in Central Texas to See Fall Foliage


Texas isn’t exactly New England when it comes to turning trees. Even so, there are still some absolutely breathtaking places for experiencing the fall colors of Central Texas – just a day or weekend trip away from Kyle.

One such area is the Lost Maples State Natural Area in Fredericksburg, about 86 miles northwest of San Antonio. Lost Maples is one of the most popular places for seeing the changing trees in the whole state, with over 200,000 visitors to the park a year. The natural area covers 2,000 acres and includes 11 miles of hiking trails, camping sites, and fishing in the Sabinal River.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

Photo courtesy of the Lost Maples Facebook Page

The area predominately features big tooth maples, and in the past week or so, the trees have changed to display some bright colors along the main road. The drought of the past few years has been challenging for the trees in Central Texas, but the last cold front and the recent rain in the area has made a difference in the color show. The next color change this season will be the Red Oaks, which will turn in late November and early December. So bundle up and hop in the car this week for a beautiful day amid the trees, for a hike, or a picnic to catch the colors in their prime. Weekends, of course, are the most popular time for witnessing the colors so make the journey on a weekday to get the most out of the experience.

The Devils Backbone, Ranch Road 32 from Wimberley and Blanco, is another great place for a beautiful drive to see fall colors in Central Texas. The Devils Backbone is a winding journey through the hills and canyons of the Hill Country, and both sides of the road are riddled with trees, which seem to go on for miles and miles in either direction. And this time of year they are even more breathtaking than usual. Further west, the scenic drive from Camp Wood to Leakey is another excellent spot for witnessing fall colors. The route has been named one of the most scenic drives in Texas, with roads climbing some of the highest elevations in the Hill Country at over 2,300 feet, and numerous roadside lookouts that offer great views of reds, greens and golds.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

The Devil’s Backbone, courtesy of Active Rain

So, this week before or after the Thanksgiving celebrations begin, pile the family into the car for a day trip out to the Hill Country to catch Central Texas trees in one of their most beautiful states.

 

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.

Central Texas Guide to Wildflower Season


Tis the season for wildflowers. And we sure live in the right place for them, don’t we? Every March and April, Central Texas becomes a little more beautiful, and a LOT more colorful, as wildflowers bloom in the green spaces along the highways and hills of the state. Of course, wildflower season varies from year to year (based on the weather and rain conditions), but with TxDOT  literally distributing over 300 pounds of wildflower seeds across the state each year, there’ll be plenty of natural eye candy for you this spring. So, to help you make the most of the wildflowers this season, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best places for viewing them in Central Texas. But, really, the best way to experience the phenomenon is to hop in the car and wander around for yourself until you stumble upon a hidden gem.

Plum Creek, TX

In Fredericksburg, Willow City Loop is one of the most popular wildflower destinations in the Hill Country. The 13 mile drive meanders through some of the oldest and most unique geology in Central Texas; so naturally, the chiseled terrain is beautiful any time of year, just especially breathtaking in the spring. The two-lane road winds through the area’s canyons and hills, and offers stunning views of the landscape, as well as the area’s meadows, fully ablaze with color. Also in Fredericksburg, Hwy 965 on the way to Enchanted Rock offers prime wildflower viewing as well. Plus, the road takes you out to Enchanted Rock, which, in-and-of-itself is worth the drive.

West of Austin, Marble Falls and Burnet offer additional areas for experiencing the beauty of Central Texas’ wildflowers.  Located on Lake Marble Falls, just five minutes away from Lake LBJ, the wildflowers in Marble Falls are perfectly complemented by the area’s water offerings as well. While in the area, be sure to stop in at the Bluebonnet Café in Horseshoe Bay – a fitting place to fuel your eyes and your gas foot for the colorful adventure you’ve embarked upon. A short drive away from Marble Falls, Burnet is another beautiful wildflower destination in the area. In fact, it is officially recognized by the Texas legislature as the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. For other prime wildflower viewing in the area, check out Park Road 4 off Hwy 281 between Burnet and Marble Falls. You won’t be disappointed. And, while on Park Road 4, be sure to check out Longhorn Cavern State Park, which offers visitors an incredible underground and above ground cave experience.

Plum Creek, TX

If you’d rather experience the wildflowers on foot this year, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Wildseed Farms are incredible places to experience some color. Both places feature acres upon acres of open green (and multi-colored) space for exploring, and they also play host to various special events and activities throughout the year. Check out each of their websites for more information about their upcoming wildflower-related events and activities for the whole family.

Plum Creek, TX

If this isn’t enough wildflower info for your taste, TxDOT’s website is another great resource for wildflower information, including best places and times for viewing, as well as detailed descriptions of where to find the best spots this season.  With over 800,000 acres of open highway, more than 5,000 species of wildflowers and 30,000 pounds of seeds distributed each year, there should be plenty of beauty for you to experience and enjoy.

Ways to Get Ready for Spring in Central Texas


lkv-wildflowerblog

Photo courtesy of Austin American-Statesman

It’s almost March, which, in Central Texas, means that spring is on the horizon, or, honestly, already here. This March, get your home, your yard, and your mind ready for the season, and all the fun things there are to do here in the area.

The most oft-talked about spring activity is the dreaded spring cleaning. But, really, it doesn’t have to be THAT bad. Open the windows to let in the fresh cool breeze and the spring sunlight, bust out your favorite Pandora radio station (something upbeat and inspiring to get you dancing with that broom) and get to cleaning. Of course, the degree of clean depends on your personal preferences, but wouldn’t it be nice for your home to start fresh and new, like the flowers and the plants that are about to bloom?

Remember, there are some small tasks you can do that make a big impact, like giving your front door some love (a fresh coat of paint, perhaps), cleaning your windows inside and out, adding some fun-loving color and prints to your home (like on the fridge) and putting out a colorful, spring welcome mat. And, when you’re done, you can light a spring-smelling candle as the cherry on top of your fresh, clean home. Up in Austin, Lights Out Candles and Soy Delites offer local, organic candle options to your home will smell clean AND local!

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of The Daily Green

The next step in spring preparation is usually the yard. As the cold slips away into warmth, our front and back yards typically need a little more love than they did the past few months, and it often requires some additional effort to get everything back in green, healthy mode. Get the boring, tedious tasks done first – pruning, mulching, and clearing gutters – so you can spend more of your time planting flowers and landscaping instead.

There are some wonderful local nurseries in the area that can provide you with the perfect colors and complements to your soon-to-be mowed, fertilized and green front yard. Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, for example, is one of the largest plant nurseries in Central Texas. They grow both “hard to find” tropical trees and shrubs, and local, native plants like Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes and Laura Bush Petunias. And, on your way out there, if you wait a few weeks, you might be able to see the wild versions of these plants out on the sides of HWY 290. In Austin, the Barton Springs Nursery has a robust selection of native and well-adapted plants for Central Texas weather as well; and, they aim to be more than a nursery, but also a place for information, guidance and entertainment. The nursery is located on three and a half acres, complete with groves of Live Oak trees, a Parakeet atrium, a toy-filled sandbox and flourishing ponds with fish and turtles galore, so the whole family can be entertained while shopping for flowers for the flowerbed.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of J Peterson Garden Design

KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener offers some excellent tips for gardening in Central Texas too, so if you’re stumped on how to care for your new plants they’re a great resource. For those interested in planting a vegetable garden for the spring, Texas Gardener has a free weekly email newsletter with gardening tips and information, and the A&M Horticulture Department is a nice resource as well. The A&M webpage is really robust, and has gardening fact sheets and gardening guides for virtually every veggie out there!

Perhaps the most important “spring cleaning” activity, though, is cleaning YOURSELF (and we don’t mean literally). Just like January 1st, the spring is a time of new beginnings, as the flowers bloom and the weather changes, and with all the spring cleaning and organizing you’ll be doing, why not clean and organize your body and your brain too? It’ll be warm enough for you to bust out that bicycle, do some morning yoga, or get out on Plum Creek’s hike and bike trails. Revamp your wardrobe. And make some goals. What do you want to accomplish this spring and summer? Think about it, plot it out on a calendar and get going! And remember, there’s going to be so much going on this spring and summer in Central Texas that you should add some events and activities to that goal list. Stay tuned to Go20 for information about some of these upcoming opportunities. Happy Spring, everybody!

 

Romantic Getaways, Views and Restaurants in Central Texas for Valentine’s Day


Central Texas is a wonderful place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The area is replete with romantic views, beautiful locations and literally TONS of things to do on a date. And, the scenic Texas Hill Country offers countless breathtaking places for a quick kiss, or some nighttime star-gazing as well – away from the lights and the traffic of the city. So, to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day the right way, we’ve made a list of some of our favorite romantic things to do in and around the Hill Country and Kyle, Texas.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday – making a romantic weekend getaway the perfect V-Day gift for your loved one – and there are countless bed and breakfasts in the area that offer couples a tranquil retreat from the stress and chaos of day-to-day life. Biscuit Hill in Canyon Lake, for example, is a 5,000 square foot house designed to look like a home built in the 1800s that offers scenic views, abundant wildlife and a close proximity to countless Central Texas attractions. Additionally, guests at Biscuit Hill can enjoy a complimentary 4-5-course breakfast every morning, free wifi, in-room refreshments, a personal fireplace, and a robust movie library. Some rooms even come complete with their own private hot tubs, too!

In Wimberley, the Blair House Inn bed and breakfast creates the perfect environment for relaxing and enjoying the company of that special someone as well. Blair House rests on 23 scenic acres, and offers visitors absolutely wonderful views of the surrounding Texas Hill Country – along with an outdoor swimming pool and a whirlpool spa. Additionally, the inn provides state-of-the-art spa services that are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, at no extra charge. All massages begin with full one-hour sessions, and additional time may be added by the half hour.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Rare Austin

In Austin, the oldest operating hotel in the city, The Driskill Hotel, and Hotel Saint Cecilia on South Congress, both offer love birds the perfect environment for enjoying a romantic weekend in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Capitol City. Romantic restaurants are EVERYWHERE in Austin, too, so there is no limit to the romantic food options available to you and your date. Some of the most iconic romantic restaurants in the city include The Driskill Grill, La Condesa, Chez Nous, Peche and Justine’s Brasseire, among others. Justine’s, pictured above, is located in an industrial neighborhood in East Austin. But don’t let the location fool you – the restaurant is the epitome of romance, evoking a Parisian atmosphere with it’s fabulous ambiance, a light-strung patio and a menu of delicious French food items. It tops the list of romantic restaurants in the city, so prepare to be amazed.

Plum Creek, Texas

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

If a natural romantic experience is more your thing, Central Texas is chock-full of breathtaking hot spots and views for sneaking a kiss, or for the 1950s’ favorite pastime of “parking.” Some of our favorites in the area include the stretch of Highway 290 between Dripping Springs and Fredericksburg, which is perfect for nighttime star-gazing with your loved one, Enchanted Rock all the way out in Fredericksburg, and the crème de la crème – the Devil’s Backbone. This beautiful loop takes adventurers on a 122 mile stretch along State Highway 32 amidst breathtaking views of rolling hills and steep drops on either side of the road. There is even an isolated rest stop, so you and your date can pack a dinner and watch the sunset on the big day. But, beware, the area is renowned for ghost-sightings. But that might work to your benefit, right?

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!