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.

Lockhart-2902

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.

Popcorn & More: Central Texas Movie Theaters near Kyle, Texas


The movies are coming to Kyle! Construction on the city’s first movie theatre and entertainment complex – the EVO Family Entertainment Center – has begun. And by November of this year, residents of Kyle will be able to go to the movies, play bowling and laser tag just minutes away from home.  The complex will feature an 11-auditorium theatre, a 14-lane bowling center, a “casino style” arcade floor featuring video and redemption games, and a full-scale restaurant and bar.  In anticipation for the November opening, here are some other movie entertainment options available around Plum Creek for date nights, girls’ night out or for family-friendly entertainment.

Central Texas Movie Theaters

In South Austin at the intersection of Mopac and Slaughter Lane lies The Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin establishment that offers visitors movies, alcohol, delicious food, and themed/special events. The Drafthouse hosts special screenings, the latest blockbuster releases, as well as sing and quote-a-longs for adults and children to enjoy. Additionally, the Slaughter Lane Drafthouse is home to 400 Rabbits, a cocktail lounge adjacent to the movie theater that features Spanish-inspired bites and specializes in tequila and mescal based cocktails. The programming at Alamo Drafthouse changes every month and can be viewed on the theater’s website. This month they’ve been featuring the Bring it On Cheer-Along and special subtitled showings of Hayao Miyazaki’s newest movie, The Wind Rises.  The Alamo Drafthouse also offers convenient ticket purchasing via their official app available in the iTunes app store. And remember – events at the Drafthouse are popular, and unlike a traditional movie theater, the Alamo Drafthouse requires movie-goers to reserve seats online before attending a show.

Central Texas Movie Theaters

Photo courtesy of the Austin Chronicle

Deeper into Austin (downtown to be exact) Violet Crown Cinema is another food-and-movie establishment located in the 2nd Street District that offers moviegoers an upscale theater experience. The theater’s four screens are devoted to independent, documentary and international and the cinema bar and café offers a full cocktail bar and an appetizer menu with a wide range of options, too. Tickets for the cinema can be reserved and purchased online and the schedule of shows can also be found on the Violet Crown website.

Just south of Kyle, Texas Cinema Showplace in San Marcos offers a movie experience on the cheap – $1 to be exact. It’s a small theater, with only three auditoriums that show movies once they’ve left the big screen, but they’re a dollar or less and close to home – can’t beat that!

With these theaters and more around Kyle, there are plenty of entertainment options available for Kyle residents to  enjoy until November when EVO opens its doors!

Plum Creek Challenge Kicks Off in Kyle This Saturday


With miles of hike and bike trails, wide open spaces and pocket parks galore, Plum Creek is a neighborhood that privileges fitness and outdoor activities. And being in Central Texas, there is no end to the kinds of outdoor and fitness-related activities you can get your hands on around Plum Creek. This year, the fitness offerings within the neighborhood itself expand significantly with the Plum Creek Challenge Race Series, a new, year-long fitness experience that is open to the general public and to Plum Creek residents as well. The family-friendly race series expands upon existing races and the fitness culture of the neighborhood, with plans for expansion in future years, and kicks off this year with the Negley 5K, which takes place in the neighborhood this Saturday, March 1st.

In its fourth year, the Negley 5K was originally created as a fun way to get Negley Elementary students moving and active. Over time, parents and other people from Plum Creek and beyond have begun participating in the annual race, which has 5K, 3K and 1K courses to accommodate participants of all ages, and is probably the most popular race in the community, to date.

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

The idea for the Plum Creek Challenge Race Series germinated from the popularity of the existing races in the neighborhood, including the Negley 5K and two races associated with community-wide events in the neighborhood, Front Porch Days and Hootenanny on the Hill, which take place in May and October, respectively. These races are popular among Plum Creek residents and those from the Central racing community, but participation fluctuates considerably from race to race. Thus, the Plum Creek Challenge came into fruition: to encourage people to stay active and participate in all of the races throughout the year.

As one of the Plum Creek Race Coordinators, Jennifer Crosby put it: “My ultimate goal for this series is to build an active community, and to get people off their couches and into this beautiful neighborhood. And that is done in small, consistent steps. We already have some great races here in Plum Creek that draw elite runners and families from outside the neighborhood because they enjoy our closed courses and the difficulty of the courses themselves. But if you don’t have a natural progression for people to sign up for future races, then that momentum is lost. The Plum Creek Challenge was created to keep people coming to the starting lines.”

Plum Creek, Kyle TX

So, the Plum Creek Challenge unites the three existing races in the neighborhood, the Negley 5K, the Front Porch Days 10K / 5K and Hootenanny on the Hill, and adds a 4-mile Fourth of July race to the neighborhood’s repertoire – while also creating an incentive for people to participate in all of the races, all year long. The Challenge is divided into four racing divisions: the long track and the short track for adults, and the same for kids. To encourage committed participation in all races, finisher medals and exclusive long-sleeved t-shirts are awarded for each individual who completes all four races, and there will be overall male and female Series Champions for the overall times for the long and short track adult divisions.

Over 30 people have signed up for the Plum Creek Challenge to-date. Depending on the success and participation in this years’ Plum Creek Challenge, the two Plum Creek Race Coordinators, Jennifer Crosby and Brandee Otto, hope to add even more races to the neighborhoods repertoire, so that those who wish to participate in the whole challenge will be able to run an entire marathon or a half marathon over the course of the year. This would eventually manifest in approximately one race every two months, and could include such exciting races as the Color Run, scavenger hunt races and more.

So, if you’re in the area Saturday March 1st, come cheer on the racers and learn more about the Plum Creek Challenge, so you can participate in the rest of the races throughout the year. Details and more information are available here.

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!

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.

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!