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.

 

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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!

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!

Free Week Austin | Nights upon Nights of Local Music


 

The first week in January is a special time for the Austin music scene. Free Week is an annual tradition of about 10 days of free shows at some of Austin’s most iconic music venues. What began in 2003 as an attempt to drive attendance to Emo’s during a slow time of the year, has become an annual January tradition that takes place at multiple venues across the city.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of The Austin Chronicle

Starting at the New Year and continuing until January 12th, Free Week is a showcase of the great musical talent available in Austin. Focusing almost exclusively on local bands, Free Week takes place at such live music venues as Emo’s , Beauty Ballroom, Stubbs, The Parish, Red 7 and the new Holy Mountain, among others. It’s a great activity for the post-holiday season, as some people’s pocketbooks might still be reeling from all the gift giving and the activities of the holidays.

The show list is a bit overwhelming, with multiple shows and multiple venues each night, but Culture Map, Do 512 and the Austin Chronicle have written round ups of their favorite acts and round ups to make it a bit more digestible. Plus, the Free Week Austin website has Free Week Radio with a selection of songs from the bands playing each night, and there is a Spotify Radio playlist as well.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Vegan

So, if you have an evening with nothing to do this week, head 20 minutes north to Austin for a night of free live music. And, since the shows are free, that leaves more room in your budget for an adult beverage or a nice meal downtown before the show.

A Stitch in Time | Quilting in Central Texas


It can’t be denied that recently there has been a surge in popularity for all things handmade. Crafts are growing in popularity thanks to favorite websites like Pinterest and Etsy, and many people are taking an interest in craftsmanship, learning new skills and embarking on their own projects. Quilting is one such craft that is experiencing a revival, and Kyle resident quilters (beginners or novices) don’t have to travel far to participate.

Kyle Quilters

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle, Texas

(Photo credit: Kyle Quilters)

The Kyle Quilters are the area’s resident quilting experts. Meetings are held twice a month, on the second Monday at 6:30 p.m. and the third Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Kyle Quilters meet at the recently renovated Historic Kyle City Hall located at 109 Burleson Rd. Those interested in trying their hand at the art can call Kathy Gilson at 512.449.6565 or by email at gilsonk@hayscisd.net.

Buda Quilters

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle, Texas

(Photo credit: B&B Quilting and Gifts)

Just up the road in Buda, B&B Quilting and Gifts offers classes for all knowledge and skill sets. Owned and operated by two fourth-generation quilters, the local store is a wealth of knowledge in the art of quilting and sewing. Experts from various parts of Central Texas teach a range of classes, and while classes are held from February to April, advice is doled out in healthy amounts to those with questions all year round! Head on down to 107 S. Austin Street in Buda to find out more.

Austin Area Quilters Guild

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle, Texas

(Photo credit: Austin Area Quilters Guild)

Even further north, the Austin Area Quilters Guild (AAQG) invites quilting enthusiasts to join the nonprofit organization established to preserve the art and legacy of quilting. The organization is not limited to quilters but encourages people who appreciate quilts, quilting and the history of quilting to participate. The guild hosts trunk shows, lectures and quilting bees as well. The AAQG serves as a source for information and experiential learning for quilters throughout Central Texas. Meetings are held at the Faith Lutheran Church at 6600 Woodrow Ave. To learn more, please visit the Austin Area Quilters Guild website.

Ready your needle and thread, get lost in patterns and rub elbows with the top quilters of Central Texas.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Think I Won’t Scream… | Favorite Ice Cream Picks in the GO20


Ice cream is putting the squeeze on cupcakes. The No. 1 Dessert title now belongs to the frozen, creamy treat. And people are beginning to notice and experiment. The classic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors (while still delish) are being replaced by tastes with a twist: balsamic strawberry, peppered bacon and spicy dark chocolate.

But we don’t discriminate. Old school or new, we love ‘em all. And we’ve found the best places to indulge your taste buds that are just a hop, skip and jump away.

Likkity’s Frozen Custard

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle TX

Photo credit: Yelp

Don’t be thrown off by the fact that Likkity’s serves frozen custard; it’s just as good – some say better – than traditional ice cream or soft serve. Likkity’s keeps it simple and offers vanilla and chocolate flavors to be fancified with your choice of candy, nuts, sauces and other mix-ins. Owned by Michigan transplants who were appalled by the lack of frozen custard eateries in Texas, Likkity’s is a great stop for those passing through south Austin.

Rhea’s Ice Cream

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle TX

Photo credit: Yelp

Avocado. Goat cheese and honey. Corn. No, this isn’t a recipe for a stellar party dip. These are just a few of the flavors that ice cream-maker Rhea offers at her San Marcos shop. Tucked into a small, narrow store on North LBJ, Rhea’s Ice Cream also provides a cool – if not small – reprieve from the heat. Bright, vintage touches offer patrons eye candy as they nosh their slowly melting fare. And if you happen to catch Rhea behind the counter, be prepared for a conversation just as sweet and enjoyable as the ice cream itself.

Chill Out

Plum Creek, Homes for Sale in Kyle TX

Photo credit: Yelp

Locally owned and operated, Chill Out is a gem among yogurt and ice cream offerings in Kyle. The self-serve yogurt bar opened just over a year ago. Non-fat and low-fat yogurts line the walls, beckoning patrons to their shiny, condensation-laden levers. Our favorite, you ask? Dulce de leche. Thick, creamy and not too sweet. Top that with waffle cone bits and heath bar. Located in the Target shopping center, this spot provides a nice break from a shopping-filled Saturday. We’ve even heard of Texas State University students camping out for long study group sessions – and we whole-heartedly approve.

Don’t blame us if you find yourself in a goodness-induced coma; most likely because we’ll be in one, too!