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.

 

Kyle Parks & Rec’s Outdoor Family Workshop and Geocaching in Central Texas


The cooler weather of the fall is here, which means it’s time to get out of the house and enjoy the time of year that’s meant for Central Texas. Rake some leaves, relax on a front porch in the crisp, autumn mornings, host a neighborhood block party, or coordinate a spontaneous flag football game in your neighborhood. Or better yet spend some time discovering some of the outdoor hidden gems sprinkled across Central Texas, just minutes away from home!

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Kyle Daily Photo

To start you off, the City of Kyle Parks & Recreation Department is hosting an Outdoor Family Workshop & Campout at Lake Kyle this weekend to celebrate the return of fall. The workshop is designed to get families outside to appreciate nature – and to introduce them to some fun, outdoor activities in the process. The stay-the-night workshop takes place this Saturday and Sunday, with instructional sessions scheduled throughout the day on Saturday. Families can choose to participate in the sessions, or, if you’d prefer, you can use the allotted session time to explore the Lake Kyle facility on your own.

Some really fun instructional sessions are planned for the day though, including geocaching, kayaking, air rifle shooting, archery, fishing, basic outdoor survival, camping 101, rock climbing and slacklining! And where else can you shoot a bow and arrow or go rock climbing so conveniently in Kyle? More information about the workshop, including registration information (just $10 a tent!) can be found on the Kyle Parks and Recreation Department’s website.

One of the Workshop & Campout’s session topics – geocaching – is a great way to organically discover some new and interesting outdoor marvels in Central Texas.  Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game that takes participants to special outdoor areas to discover beautiful views, breath-taking trees and scenery, and many other hidden gems. There are over 2 million geocaches all over the world, and all you need to take the journey is a GPS device or a GPS-enabled cell phone to help you navigate to the secret spots. Central Texas is replete with geocache spots, and there are multiple websites available to help with the process, including Central Texas Geocachers and Austin Explorer. There are tons of geocaching smartphone apps out there too – some free, others not – to make your exploration as simple and convenient as possible.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of Central Texas Geocachers

It’s a fun way to explore old haunts, and to discover new ones – so, some weekend this fall, put on some comfortable shoes, grab some sunscreen and load the family up for a day of outdoor exploration. Who knows what you might find?

 

Rock the Porch Public Art Rocks Kyle


Plum Creek, TX

The Tertiary Man by Negley Elementary School’s Garden Club

After months of suspense on our part, and much creativity and hard work on the part of our participating artists, Plum Creek’s Rock the Porch public art initiative is now complete and out in the community!  As of early August, thirteen Kyle-made rocking chairs were placed in locations around Plum Creek and Kyle for people to look at, appreciate and enjoy. Each chair has its own unique personality, and we love the variety of people, concepts and artistic realizations the initiative brought along.

Plum Creek, TX

Pictures of each chair, along with information about each of the participating artists is available at the Plum Creek website: www.plumcreektx.com/rocktheporch. All of the chairs are out in the community, and they’re there for you to interact with and appreciate. So send us your pictures, and tell us what you think about the chairs when you come across them in Plum Creek or in Kyle. We’d love your feedback! We’re also currently sharing information about Rock the Porch on Plum Creek’s Facebook Page, so like us to learn more about the initiative!

Plum Creek TX

The S.S. Adventure by the City of Kyle’s Parks & Rec Adventure Summer Camp

 

Water Spots in Central Texas + Ways to Keep Cool AND Have Fun This Summer


It’s getting hot, hot, hot. And even though the outside temperature is rising, your body temperature doesn’t have to, with these fun, water-based ways for you, your friends and the kids to keep cool in the out-of-doors.

Central Texas is one of the most water-replete areas of the state, and with all the rivers and lakes in and around the Hill Country, there are countless watering holes to explore. In Wimberley, Jacob’s Well is one of our favorites. One of the longest underwater caves in Texas and an artesian spring, Jacob’s Well has been a beloved swimming hole for generations, and is a source of water for recharging the Edwards Aquifer. The water stays at a constant 68 degrees throughout the year, so it’s a wonderful place to cool down in the summer, too. There isn’t too much room for wading or actual swimming, but there is a rock face on the side of the well that makes a great diving board. And the hole goes 30 feet deep, so there’s no chance of diving too far.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Visit Wimberley

Also in Wimberley is Blue Hole, a more traditional swimming hole with changing rooms and restrooms, stone walkways in and out of the pool, and ladders for the deeper areas. The hole is shaded by mature Cypress trees, and there is a nice, grassy area across from the water that is perfect for a family picnic or for drying off in the sun. There’s a $7 entry fee – but it’s well worth it. Both Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole are less than 20 minutes away from Kyle, making them a perfect afternoon excursion for cooling off with the family or friends.

Up north in Austin, there’s the Barton Creek Greenbelt, an urban oasis of trails for running or biking and great watering spots like Campbell’s Hole, Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls. They’re really popular places for Austinites to explore, and some of them are a bit of a hike, but they’re magical natural spaces, and are great for people watching. Here’s a PDF map of the Greenbelt with details about trails, water spots and access points, courtesy of the Austin Parks & Recreation Department.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo of Sculpture Falls courtesy of Flickr

For at-home water fun for the family, there’s a lot that can be done with sprinklers, ice and the outdoor hose. Games like water limbo, splash tag and musical sprinkler freeze are great games for a crew of kids, and there’s always a traditional water balloon or water gun fight. Here’s a pretty robust list of some great water-based outdoor games for summer parties or those afternoons where your house is the place to be.

You can also have your kids play outside with ice to keep cool in the summer. Freeze action figures in blocks of ice for an icy excavation game, or make an art craft out of ice by sprinkling salt in a block of ice to melt the cracks and tunnels. Then drip liquid watercolor paint into the tunnels and see the beautiful patterns that the salt created.

Plum Creek, TX

 

Then there’s always the traditional pool action. Plum Creek has two in the neighborhood – Fergus and McNaughton – each with their own distinct personalities, and the City of Kyle’s public pool is open throughout the summer. Plus they have fun programming going on this summer, too.

So whether you want to stay in the neighborhood, in the city, or do some exploring, there’s so much to do to keep cool this summer in Central Texas. For more watering holes in the area, check out some of our past posts here.

Summer Activities in the City of Kyle


Plum Creek TX

Ahhh summertime. Lightning bugs. Lemonade. Later and later sunsets. It’s the time of year for family reunions, having fun and enjoying the great outdoors (in a pool of nice, cold water that is). The last day of school for Hays CISD students is June 5th, and, for a couple months, kids in the community are free to expend their energies playing games, exploring and having fun instead of studying for those pesky spelling tests. To help keep you and your kiddos entertained this summer, the City of Kyle has a number of fun activities available for the whole family.

The Kyle Parks and Recreation Department is the master-mind behind many of the city’s summer activities. They have youth and teen day camps available throughout the summer, to help keep the kids away from the TV and the ever addicting video games. Instead, they’ll explore new places and ideas, and will engage with other Kyle area kids through physically and mentally exciting field trips and on-site activities. Field trip destinations include Blazer Tag, Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, rollerskating, bowling and more. Breakfast and lunch will be provided at the camp too, through the Hays CISD summer feeding program. Camps run from Monday to Friday each week of the summer, from June 10th to August 9th, with the exception of the week of the Fourth of July.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of Peter French

In addition to Parks & Rec summer camps, the department is also offering special programming at the Kyle Pool this summer. The pool is open daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, offering times for free swim and swimming lessons. Special night swims occurring throughout the summer including Teen Night at the Pool June 7th, Family Night June 21st, the Dive in Movie at the Pool July 26th and a Back to School Swim and Supply Drive August 9th. Each of these events takes place from 8:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Another special summer feature from the Parks and Recreation Department is the city’s monthly Movie in the Park. Four times throughout the summer, the city will erect its 282” inflatable movie screen at Gregg-Clarke Park to show a G or PG-rated movie 30 minutes after sunset for the Kyle community. The 2013 schedule includes Here Comes the Boom June 14th, Madagascar 3 July 12th, Finding Nemo (at the Kyle Pool) July 26th and Jumanji on August 16th. The movies are free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and snacks.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of the City of Kyle

The Kyle Library is also offering summer activities, including their Summer Reading Program which will take place in June and July. Registration begins Monday, June 3rd. In addition to the traditional summer reading log, the Summer Reading Program features fun, family-friendly events and activities such as the Kay Cassidy Book Scavenger Hunt, Zombie Day, Science Rocks and more. More information is available on the Kyle Library website.

We can’t forget, of course, the City of Kyle’s annual Fourth of July Firework Show, taking place at the Plum Creek Golf Course in Plum Creek. The golf course will host a golf tournament after lunch on the big day, and from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. live music, hot dogs and snacks will be available at the golf course clubhouse before the firework display.

With all these activities at your disposal from the City of Kyle, plus all the things available in Plum Creek and Central Texas in general, there’s no limit to the fun you can have this summer. Enjoy it!

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!