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.

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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.

 

Microbreweries and Brewpubs in Central Texas – For Those Hot Summer Days


Central Texas is fast becoming known for its craft and local beer scenes, and in the past decade many have cropped up in Austin and throughout the Hill Country. This summer, a nice cold locally-crafted beer offers the perfect way to cool off when the temperatures rise. And now that the Texas legislature has signed the Texas Craft Beer Bills into law, microbreweries can now sell beer on their premises to customers, as well as to wholesalers and beer distributors. This means that many microbreweries will start extending their hours, and there will be more opportunities to tour and taste craft beers from the source!

There are multiple resources for finding the best local and microbreweries around Central Texas including the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, which lists the names and locations of its members on its website, and the annual Texas Craft Brewers Festival, taking place September 28, 2013. The Austin event is the perfect opportunity to sample and try some of the best craft beers in Texas, but, until then, here are some local breweries, micropubs and other craft beer supporters in Central Texas in close proximity to Kyle.

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Thrillist

Just outside of Wimberley, Middleton Brewing sells their own homebrewed Belgium and American style ales on Ranch Road 12. The brewpub is open seven days a week, and you can sample 5 beers in a beer flight there for only $6! They regularly host beer tasting groups, beer classes and other special events; and they’re huge supporters of the home brewing scene. In fact, they run a homebrew shop upstairs above the pub.

In San Marcos, Darkside Fermentation is a one-man nanobrewery located in the basement of the Root Cellar Café. It’s the only brewery / brewpub in San Marcos, and they specialize in Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned ales. Four beers are available there, including a gluten-free beer! The Root Cellar Café itself has robust lunch and dinner menus, and a rotating gallery of local art is featured on the walls of the restaurant!

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Do512

A little further south, three microbreweries call New Braunfels home, the Faust Hotel & Brewing Company, the Guadalupe Brewing Company and the New Braunfels Brewing Company, while Austin and the area immediately north of Kyle is replete with places to grab a local beer. In South Austin, Jester King, Thirsty Planet, the South Austin Brewing Company and Independence Brewing Company are good options for Kyle-ites looking to trek north (but not too north) for a craft beer. Some of the breweries even have special events and tastings planned, like Groovy Sundays pictured above at the South Austin Brewing Company!

For more information about local and microbreweries in Central Texas, there are many articles and round-ups on the topic, and the aforementioned Texas Craft Brewers Festival in Austin is a great place to start as well. Tickets to the festival are now on sale online and General Admission is only $20! But remember, be safe when trekking around Central Texas in search for a good local beer. Responsible drinking is paramount. So once you’ve got your DD – cheers and happy drinking!

Plum Creek, TX

Photo courtesy of Texas Craft Brewers Festival

Celebrate the Fourth of July, Central Texas Style


July 4th is around the corner. And various cities around Central Texas have some wonderfully patriotic events planned for the big day and the weekend afterward so you and yours can celebrate our country’s independence Central Texas style – with pet parades, rodeos, art exhibits, WWII reenactments, horse racing and more.

Plum Creek and the City of Kyle have some great activities planned for 4th of July itself including a firework display at the Plum Creek Golf Course. Before the official city activities begin, though, the Golf Course is hosting a 4-person scramble Fourth of July Tournament that will start at 3 p.m. Its $38 per person to play, but this includes the green fee, cart fee, prizes, celebratory finger food and an up-close-and-personal perspective of the fireworks. Teams can register by calling the Plum Creek Pro Shop at (512) 262-5555.

Plum Creek, TX

The official City of Kyle Fourth of July celebration takes place at the golf course as well, with live music from the April Hall Band as well as food and drinks from 6-9 p.m. The event itself is free and open to the public, but all proceeds from parking ($5) and the available food stuffs will benefit the Kyle Masonic Lodge. When it gets dark enough, around 9:30 p.m., the real show begins, with fireworks launching from the PCGC driving range.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a variety of events are taking place throughout the Hill Country, including Wimberley’s annual VFW Pro Open Rodeo, which has occurred every Fourth of July weekend for the past 68 years, and was once the largest outdoor rodeo in the world! This year’s festivities fall on Thursday July 4th through Saturday July 6th with gates opening at 5:30, the first Mutton Bustin’ at 7:00 p.m. and the rodeo taking place at 8 p.m. Rodeo events include bull riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, women’s barrel racing and more. Food and vendors are available on the grounds, and there is a dance after Friday night’s show.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of the Hill Country Current

On Saturday, Bastrop has a number of family-friendly activities including their 8th annual Pet & Pal Parade and the Bastrop Patriotic Festival. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and takes off from the Bastrop County Courthouse. Pets of all shapes and sizes can strut their stuff, everything from goats on leashes to bearded dragons. Judging occurs in seven categories including: the most patriotic pet, most creative pet costume, most unusual pet, best trick, best decorated pet vehicle, best pet / owner look-alike, and the best overall pet. Proceeds benefit the Bastrop County Animal Shelter. Later in the day, the Patriotic Festival occurs in Fisherman’s Park, with music by the Bastrop Community Chorus and Band beginning at 6 p.m. followed by music from the Austin Symphonic Band. People can picnic and relax in the park during the festivities, and fireworks will begin at dusk. For more information about the Bastrop Independence Day festivities, click here.

Plum Creek TX

Photo courtesy of The Gloss

Fredericksburg, – a little further away from Kyle to the west – has a number of Fourth of July festivities occurring throughout the weekend as well. On Friday night nearly a dozen art galleries in the city will stay open until 8 p.m. for the city’s First Friday Art Walk, which will feature show opening receptions, artist demonstrations, meet and greets and more. Other events throughout the weekend include concerts by Roger Creager Friday night and Saturday, multiple performances of the Fredericksburg Theater Company’s rendition to “Oklahoma” and a USO style Hangar Dance that is 1940s themed and will feature big band music from Bill Smallwood and Lone Star Swing. Even more, they’ll have WWII reenactments and two days of live pari-mutuel quarter horse and thoroughbred horse racing. More information is available at the Visit Fredericksburg website.

With all this available, in town, and to the west and the east, there are endless opportunities for authentic Central Texas fun next week and weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July.

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.

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?

Winter Films for those Cold Nights


We know, it’s cold. But what’s a better cold-weather activity than sitting down, all cozy on the couch, or in a nice, dark theater to watch a movie? Not much. Some stellar films came out this holiday season, and there’s a ton of winter weather classics to keep you occupied and content when its cold and blustery outside.

Groundhog Day – 1993

Plum Creek, TX

Starring Bill Murray in his comedic prime, Groundhog Day is a winter classic that celebrates, or mocks, one of the season’s most iconic holidays. Murray plays an arrogant, self-obsessed weatherman, who, during a Groundhog Day assignment, finds himself reliving the most boring day of his life, over and over and over again. At first, he’s confused and upset, but after he’s relived the day a few times, he decides to take advantage of the situation. A funny, February classic that’s worth a watch before Punxsutawney Phil rears his furry head on February 2.

Ice Age – 2002

Plum Creek, TX

Set in the pre-historic days, Ice Age is an animated children’s film about, well, the ice age. Animals around the world are heading south to avoid the phenomenon, except a motley crew of soon-to-be friends – a sabertooth tiger, a clumsy sloth and an agitated wolly mammoth. They find a lost human infant on their journey up north, and they attempt to return him to his tribe. The movie’s a major laugh – for the young and old alike – which set in motion a series of three other hilarious children’s films.

Cool Runnings – 1993

Plum Creek, TX

Cool Runnings is loosely based on the true story of a Jamaican bobsled team’s debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada. An improbable and inspiring story, Cool Runnings is a great winter film, about overcoming obstacles, working hard and having faith in yourself.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004

Plum Creek, TX

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a romantic, science fiction film that uses a nonlinear narrative to tell the story of an estranged couple who have erased each other from their memories. Since its release in 2004, Eternal Sunshine has developed a cult following, and it won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film stars Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and a uncharacteristically serious Jim Carrey. A definite winter must-see.

Zero Dark Thirty – 2012

Plum Creek, TX

Zero Dark Thirty is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. It was released in December to wide critical acclaim, and has been nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It’s one of the many amazing films to put on your to-watch list before the Academy Awards in February.

For a complete list of Oscar nominated films, visit the official Academy Awards website soon, so you can catch some of the winter releases while they’re still in theater before the awards.