Earth Day in Central Texas


This year is Earth Day’s 43rd anniversary; and in that time, the eco-friendly observance has grown from a U.S.-only celebration (of only 20 million participants) to an international day of awareness, with an estimated 1 billion people from countries across the globe celebrating the day each year. This years’ Earth Day occurs next Monday, and, this weekend, there are a number of ways you and your family can celebrate nature and further benefit and support the environment in Central Texas.

Twenty minutes north of Kyle, up in Austin, the weekend is filled with earth-friendly events, including Austin Earth Day Saturday April 20th, and the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, Sunday April 21st. Both events take place in Austin’s east side, and serve to showcase some of the city’s most eco-friendly businesses, farms and restaurants, musicians and non-profit organizations. Austin Earth Day takes place on Saturday in the “Historic Browning Hangar” in Mueller (off of Airport Blvd) from 12 – 7 p.m. The event features live music, (including an interactive drum circle!) speakers and presentations on topics like “Austin’s Progress Toward Becoming a Sustainable City” and “A Crash Course on Composting” as well as exhibitions and booths from over 50 Central Texas-based organizations, businesses and nonprofits. Food and drink will be provided from a number of Austin-based establishments, and there will be a Kid’s Zone for the young ones, with face painting, a petting zoo, an interactive storytelling stage, and more. The event is free and open to the public, which makes it the perfect way to spend an eco-friendly Saturday with the fam.

Plum Creek, Texas

On Sunday, the East Austin Urban Farm Tour showcases four of Austin’s urban farms in the Govalle neighborhood off Airport Boulevard, near 183. The guided tour provides attendees with the opportunity to experience the farms and produce fields of Boggy Creek Farm, HausBar Farms, Rain Lily Farm and Springdale Farm while learning about each of the farms and the way in which they operate. Additionally, chefs from a number of local restaurants who source from these farms will provide a sampling of food items, with accompanying beverages as well. Tickets to the event are $45 and can be purchased in advance, here. The East Austin Urban Farm Tour has sold out the past two years, so buy yours now!

The following Saturday, April 27th, San Marcos hosts another Earth Day celebration at the San Marcos Springs. This event features live music performances from local bands “Green Mountain Grass,” “Albanie and her Fellas” and “Those Nights” as well as educational booths, green vendors and a kid-friendly talk from Doc Edwards from the Edwards Aquifer Authority and Karson, his Texas Blind Salamander puppet sidekick. The event benefits the Hays County Food Bank, and if you bring a non-perishable donation to the celebration, you can receive $2 off a glass bottom boat ride that day!  San Marcos also hosts a weekly farmers market every Saturday throughout the year where attendees can get local produce, sustainable products and other food items from a number of Central Texas-based farms and green organizations. For other Farmers Markets in the area, check out Edible Austin’s list of Central Texas farmers markets and resources.

Plum Creek, Texas

 

If you’d rather celebrate Earth Day on your own, there are many ways for you and yours to help and benefit the environment. Try to walk or ride your bike to school or work instead of getting in the gas guzzler, make a bird feeder from a milk carton or an empty liter soda bottle, plant a tree or flowers at home, or spend an afternoon outside walking around Lake Kyle or one of Plum Creek’s many parks. Or you can practice Earth Hour by turning off the lights, and the TV, and the computer, etc. in your home for one hour. Use the time to chat with the kids about sustainability, or do something fun by candlelight like reading a book.

In Plum Creek, the New Urbanist community located in Kyle, being green is easy, as the neighborhood privileges alternative modes of transportation, and there are countless ways to get out and enjoy the environment in the neighborhood! The streets are designed to slow traffic, and sidewalks offer residents the perfect space for taking a stroll and stretching those legs. Additionally, homes, amenities, schools and businesses are located within walking distance from each other, so you can virtually get anywhere in the neighborhood without the car. If that’s not green we don’t know what is!

Plum Creek, Texas

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Zilker Botanical Garden’s Annual Zilker Garden Festival


The first Saturday and Sunday of April, April 6th and 7th, the Zilker Botanical Garden hosts its 56th annual Zilker Garden Festival, which offers Central Texas and Austin residents the perfect introduction to spring. The family-friendly event takes place amidst the beautiful 30-acre Zilker Botanical Garden grounds, which are located near Lady Bird Lake on a diverse topography that is well-suited for showcasing different the types of native, hybrid and exotic plants that thrive in the climate of Central Texas. Themed gardens – such as the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden – are sprinkled throughout the facility, and are interconnected with streams, waterfalls and Koi-filled ponds, which create a peaceful, serene environment for enjoying nature, wildlife and the great outdoors.

Plum Creek, TX

The Zilker Garden Festival is the Zilker Botanical Garden’s most high-profile and anticipated annual event, and all proceeds support the Zilker Botanical Garden. The event is co-sponsored by the Austin Area Garden Council and the City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department.

Highlights from the Zilker Garden Festival include gardening talks and information sessions, shopping and food offerings, as well as an array of kid-friendly events and activities. Additionally, live music is available both days of the Garden Festival from local Central Texas artists from the likes of Harps of Many Colors, The Better Halves, and The Siekers, among others.

An array of garden talks and other information sessions from local flora and fauna experts are available at the Garden Festival as well. Topics range from “Care for Drought Stressed Trees” to “Rainwater Harvesting” to “Cacti & Succulents,” so festival-goers can receive a wide-range of area-specific information about Central Texas gardening from local, knowledgeable gardening experts.  These informational garden talks are included in the Festival as a part of the City of Austin’s Grow Green program – which promotes sustainable landscaping practices by addressing hot button topics such as water quality and conservation, recycling and sustainable pest control. Additionally, an array of vendors from across Central Texas will fill the Zilker Botanical Garden the two days of the Garden Festival to sell a variety of plants and garden-related items, including garden-themed arts and crafts, ceramic pottery, jewelry and herbal products, baskets, birdhouses and colorful garden benches, among others. These items, along with the informational gardening talks, create the perfect recipe for gardening success this spring!

Plum Creek, TX

Additionally, a Flower Show in the Zilker Botanical Garden Center with three special exhibits – featuring Bonsai, Cactus and Orchid plants – will showcase the best local horticulture in the area and will be judged by 6 accredited judges. This is the 55th annual Zilker Flower Show, hosted by the Violet Crown Garden Club and the Capital City Judges Council, which has been in existence since April 1958. Now, that’s a lot of flowers.

For the kiddos in your family, the Zilker Garden Festival features a number of kid-friendly events and activities in their Kid’s Corner as well. Here, the young ones can get their face painted, build their own birdhouses or bird feeders, make butterfly wings and masks, and will receive a free plant to take home and grow themselves. Additionally, the City of Austin will host an array of children’s activities in the Rose Garden, and near the “Faerie Homes” on the Escarpment Trail.  There will also be food products available at the Garden Festival, from the likes of Amy’s Ice Cream, Crepe Crazy, and Texas Tradition BBQ, among others, who will offer spring food items for your Garden Festival experience.

Plum Creek, TX

For more information about the Zilker Garden Festival, including location, activities and features, please visit the Zilker Botanical Garden website. And happy gardening!

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!

 

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?

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Photo courtesy of Faire Freak

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!