Brushy Creek Regional Trail The Brushy Creek Regional Trail is the 'burbs’ answer to Austin’s popular hike and bike trails. It’s easy to spend an entire day traversing this 6.75-mile path connecting Round Rock to Cedar Park. The path is ideal for walking or biking with kids--especially since it connects an unbelievable six parks! While travelling along Brushy Creek, you’ll encounter lakes, dams, bridges (to go over and under), picnic areas, playgrounds, splash pads, rocks for climbing, and lots of geocaches. My sons’ favorite feature is the historic railroad trestle, which played a pivotal role in procuring granite for the Texas State Capitol. (There’s an historical marker that tells the whole tale.) While the trail is mostly flat, be aware that there are a couple of steep sections, the most intense of which is the climb to the top of the dam. The BCRT does get very busy on weekends, so coaching your kids on how to share the trail safely would be wise before getting started. Free.
Laguna Gloria Strolling the grounds of Laguna Gloria is the perfect way to while away an hour or two. While I imagine myself as Clara Driscoll, surveying my beloved estate, my boys jog around as if they’re on an epic adventure. The path, which follows the shore of Lake Austin, is flat and easy other than the initial descent (by stairs or a long, somewhat steep path) from the parking area. What this trails lacks in length, it makes up for in beauty: outdoor art installations; the occasional peacock; benches with views of the lake; a dock ideal for spotting fish, turtles, ducks, and swans; and a gazebo ripe for all sorts of make believe fun. Plus, Mayfield Park and Preserve next door is a great add-on experience. Free.
Schroeter Park I must confess that I’m partial to this park because we can walk to it from our house. That admission aside, Schroeter is a great hike (using the term very loosely) for beginning walkers and a great spot for kiddos experimenting with riding their bikes off the pavement. There’s a small web of very short, interconnected trails here, all bordered by a wide lawn and a gravel exercise path. The mulch and crushed granite trails wind through the woodsy core of the park, which is dotted with cool rock formations (urban legend has it that there may be a cave under the park), lots of flowers, and abundant prickly pear cactus. The trails are flat and easy but they give the littlest explorers a feeling of independence. Without creeks to fall in or cliffs to tumble off of, this is a spot where I’m comfortable letting my boys roam solo knowing they will, ultimately, find their way out safely--most likely to one of the park’s two playgrounds. Free.
Bull Creek Greenbelt The 4.5-mile Bull Creek trail system offers a lot of versatility, as you can easily adjust the length of your hike according to your access point. The trails are not very well marked, but with the proximity to Loop 360 and the creek you can really only get so lost. Bull Creek is popular for its swimming holes, especially after a heavy rain. (Water quality is often less than ideal; please use caution and common sense. We follow the feet-only rule.) The majority of folks don’t stray far from the parking areas, so the farther you venture from parking, the greater your chances of achieving a quiet walk in the woods. Aside from the various pools and waterfalls, there are some impressive, rocky cliffs along the trail. Although Bull Creek is a designated on-leash area, there are plenty of 4-legged friends roaming free, particularly in the park area off Lakewood Dr. Free.
Bonus (not free) hike…
I saved my absolute favorite for last. Westcave Preserve is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited. It’s made all the more magical by the fact that, during the course of a fairly short hike, I feel like I’ve been transported to another time and place. What begins as a pretty typical, flat walk through ash junipers drops abruptly (and quite steeply) into a canyon filled with enormous cypress trees and unbelievably lush, green ferns. It wouldn’t seem the least bit out of place for a dinosaur to stroll past on the trail. It’s that otherworldly. The climax of the hike is the arrival at the cave, pool, and grotto. Wildlife is abundant in the area; we’ve seen fish, a Summer Tanager, copperheads, and even heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler. The only way to see Westcave is by guided hike but it’s totally worth it. This limited access keeps the park feeling much wilder than its neighbor Hamilton Pool. The guides we’ve encountered have been enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and happy to engage with my kids. Do note that the hike may be difficult for anyone with a short attention span. Despite covering a relatively short distance, the hike takes a solid two hours and everyone is required to stay with the group at all times. $10 per adult; $5 per child (ages 4-12 years); $25 max per family (immediate family only). Price includes access to Westcave's new self-guided Upland Trails System.
- City of Austin trail directory
- Austin Explorer
- Heidi Okla's picnic at Laguna Gloria
- Nicole’s 10 Walks for Families in Central Texas
- Heidi Okla's magical experience at Westcave
In her life before kids, Emily held jobs as a zookeeper, a middle school teacher, and a tour bus driver in the wilds of Montana--not one of which prepared her for the adventures of motherhood. Now she’s living the good life in Austin with her husband, two sons and a Great Dane. When she’s not off gallivanting with her boys, you might find Emily baking up a mean batch of cupcakes, recalling obscure 80s song lyrics, or dreaming of peace and quiet.
Wizard World Comic Con is coming to the Austin Convention Center this week, October 2–4, 2014 (that's Thursday through Saturday) — and you could win free tickets for a family of four to attend the convention on Thursday and Friday!
If you love Dr. Who, Minecraft, comics, superheroes, art, films or pop culture, this giveaway is for you! This family four-pack of tickets (two single-day adult tickets for Thursday, 10/2 or Friday, 10/3, valued at $85, and each adult pass includes free admission for up to two children age 10 and under) gets you entry into this family-friendly multi-genre entertainment convention that celebrates comics, pop culture, celebrities, film, TV, animation, gaming, original art, horror, wrestling, and more. Kids 10 and under get in free, so this is fun for the whole family!
are coming to Austin, bringing everything from Doctor Who T-shirts to Minecraft collectibles, superhero-themed jewelry, one-of-a-kind original artwork, rare comics, lightsabers, nerdy t-shirts and more! There will even be photo-op and autograph opportunities with celebrity guests (fees may apply), and you can also join many of those celebrities in popular panels throughout the entire weekend.
Check out the events schedule to see what's happening when at the convention.
To enter this Wizard World Austin Comic Con giveaway, simply fill out the form below. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, and notified by email. By submitting the form, you are agreeing to the Sweepstakes Official Rules.
If you cannot see the form below, please visit the original post to enter.
Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, many of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two toddlers, Pearl and Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.
The water attractions at Hawaiian Falls Pflugerville have closed for the season, but the fun continues at the Park's Pfall Pfestival, held every weekend from October 4 through November 2, 2014.
Head to Hawaiian Falls for craft stations, activities, live music, fall food, bounce houses, a pumpkin patch and pumpkin decorating stations, a daily Monster Mash Dance Party, live entertainment and the Spooky Family Adventure Maze of Fun! Hours for the Pfest will be 3-9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sundays. There will be a special Trick or Treat Trail on Halloween, from 5 - 8 p.m.
Entrance to the festival grounds and family arcade is free. Attractions will be priced individually, ranging from $1 to $8 each.
Free Fun in Austin readers can receive 2 free activity tickets for every 10 tickets purchased using this coupon.
Pumpkins in the Pumpkin Patch will range from $5 to $25, depending on the size. Pumpkin painting on-site will be available for a nominal fee. You may provide your own pumpkin.
During Pfall Pfest weekends, the Hawaiian Falls Adventure Park will also be open. The Adventure Park features a three-level Family Adventure Trail with 18 rope bridges; a 70-foot high, 1,000-foot long Zip Line Canopy Tour; three-level Challenge Course with 45 different activities; six-story Free Fall; 45-foot Climbing Wall; and 45-foot Cargo Net Climb. Closed-toed and closed-heel shoes are required for all guests who will be using the Adventure Park.
Free Fun in Austin has a Family 4-Pack of All-Adventure Park Passes - including 10 tickets for the Pfall Pfestival - to give away. This prize has a value of $160!
For more information, visit hfalls.com, facebook.com/hfalls or call (512) 270-6967.
Hawaiian Falls Pflugerville Adventure Park and Aloha Event Center are located just south of the FM685 & SH 130 intersection, accessible from the SH 130 southbound service road, across from the Stone Hill Town Center shopping center.
18500 N SH 130 SVRD SB
The 5th Annual Chalk Walk and Arts Festival will be held in a new Round Rock location this year – Centennial Plaza – on Friday, October 3, from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, October 4 from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Chalk Walk is the Round Rock Arts Council's annual arts and music festival, which last year attracted 17,000 visitors. The family-friendly event is FREE and open to the public, and will be host to an array of art activities for all ages, including musical performances on multiple stages, food vendors, area businesses, and artists. Professional fine artists will be onsite, creating chalk masterpieces which will later be judged and auctioned off. Festival-goers are encouraged to get in on the fun by purchasing a square of asphalt for the weekend to create their own unique works of chalk art!
On Friday night, visitors can enjoy “Blues Night,” with barbecue available for purchase from Republic BBQ and live music from Texas great John Blondell on the main stage. Artists will commence work on their chalk designs that afternoon, so stroll around and interact with them as they create!
On Saturday, The Atlantics and The Biscuit Brothers will be the featured artists on the main stage. The day’s festivities will include chalk artists, local musicians on three stages, visual artists, crafters, food trucks, jugglers, pony rides, a petting zoo, a train, street performers, and special activity areas for children and families. There will also be a performance by Round Rock Ballet Folklorico and activities inside the nearby Allen R. Baca Center for Senior and Community Activities.
To close out the festival, there will be a Saturday Art Auction, where works of chalk art (created during the festival on ampersand boards) will be auctioned off to raise funds for art programs. Festival attendees are invited to start placing their bids at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, visit the Chalk Walk website. Click here for the schedule (pdf).
On the weekends, the recurring appeal was "let's go feed the ducks." Whenever we had visitors from out of town, Maya would insist we take them to see the ducks. No amount of rain, cold, or heat could deter us. It became almost a daily outing. In summer, after gymnastics camp, we went to the dock and watched the fishermen. In fall, we visited the pumpkin patch and painted our own.
We enjoyed the lake from numerous vantage points: From the fishing dock, the amphitheater, the floating dock, the bank below the pavilion, and Brushy Creek Regional Trail, which, by the way, extends all the way from Camp Twin Lakes, past Brushy Creek Lake Park (one of our favorite parks), to Champion Park (another of our favorites), and beyond.
For me, the main attraction to the lakes was the peace and serenity I felt sitting there, listening to the honks of the geese, watching the ripples as the wind gently gusted over the water, seeing the turtles peek their heads up out of the water, and feeling the sun warm my back (most of the time). Even on cloudy days, the weather seemed temperate and the scene refreshed my spirit.
As we spent more time at the Lakes, we explored further and further down the Trail and began spending our afternoons getting some exercise and fresh air. If you were to walk, jog, or bike the Trail from Camp Twin Lakes to Champion Park, you'd get 6.75 miles of exercise, as well as some gorgeous views of the greenbelt. Because the Trail connects so many different parks, there are also opportunities for rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, and more. There were plenty of places to stop and use the restrooms and get some water from the water fountains.
Even now that Maya is in Kindergarten, and we no longer use the MDO Program at the Y, we still spend time on the grounds having picnics, sitting idly on the docks, and, of course, "feeding the ducks."
Camp Twin Lakes
204 E Little Elm Trail
Cedar Park, TX 78613
Monday, September 29, 2014
So, if you'd love some photos of your family looking relaxed and natural in an outdoor setting, Sarah Siller can take of you! She is fun to work with and her sessions are quick and painless. Her mini sessions move so fast, you won't have time to worry about things like, "Are all the kids smiling and looking in the same general direction?" You'll be too busy following her prompts to jump up, move around, and sit down again. Then, boom! It will all be over and you'll be on your merry way.
Sarah Siller Photography is now booking half-hour holiday mini sessions! For $150 you will get a 30-minute session, access to a hand edited viewing gallery of your photos, and three digital images of your choice on a flash drive, along with the print release, so you can have copies made. Extra images will be available for purchase. To make an appointment, simply fill out the contact form found here.
Enter below for your chance to win a free Holiday Mini Session with Sarah Siller Photography (a $150 value)! To receive a bonus entry in the giveaway, be sure to like Sarah Siller Photography on Facebook!
For your chance to win, simply fill out the form below. One (1) winner will be selected using random.org on Monday, October 6, 2014 and notified by email. Winner must be able to travel to an Austin area outdoor location of the photographer's choosing. By submitting the form below, you are agreeing to the Sweepstakes Official Rules.
If you cannot see the form below, please visit the original post to enter.
October 11 - SOAR IT (planes/rockets)
October 18 - SAIL IT (boats)
October 25 - SAY IT (language)
November 1 - ROLL IT (cars/trains)
November 8 - CODE IT (software)
November 15 - LIGHT IT (electricity)
November 22 - PLAY IT (musical instruments)
1102 West Avenue, Suite 200
Austin, Texas 78701
Once again, Austin will flex its musical muscles as our residents prepare for the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), which will take place this weekend and next at Zilker Park. If you have tickets, you probably already know that kids 10 and under get in free with a ticketed adult and that there is a special place inside the festival, Austin Kiddie Limits, which caters to families.
Although wristbands and single-day passes are now sold out, there are plenty of opportunities to catch musicians in the Live Music Capital of the World and not break the bank. While we all appreciate free music, it goes without saying that these musicians perform to support their own livelihoods, so there are always ways to support them, whether it's putting in some money when the tip jar comes around or buying their music or merchandise.
Budget friendly live music during ACL:
ACL Live at The Moody Theater
310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701
Friday, October 3rd
8:00 a.m. Night Terrors of 1927
8:30 a.m. Arum Rae
9:00 a.m. James Bay
10:00 a.m. Robert Ellis
10:30 a.m. Bleachers
11:00 a.m. Paolo Nutini
Saturday, October 4th
8:00 a.m. Bernhoft
8:30 a.m. The Nightowls
9:00 a.m. Jamestown Revival
9:30 a.m. Benjamin Booker
10:30 a.m. Lake Street Drive
11:00 a.m. Saints of Valory
11:30 a.m. Lucius
Threadgill's World Headquarters
301 West Riverside Dr.
Austin, TX 78704
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons takes place on Friday, October 3rd. A donation of $10 supports the Seton Shivers Cancer Center and gets you a FREE gourmet breakfast taco and coffee. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on. The performances will also be broadcast live on the radio.
9:30 a.m. Hard Proof
10:30 a.m. Lake Street Drive
11:30 a.m. Temples
12:30 p.m. The Head and the Heart
98 San Jacinto Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701
LiveMom is hosting the Hush Hush Music Bash, a FREE kid after-party on Saturday, October 4th from 5:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Attendees will enjoy sweet treats from Baked by Amy's, cupcake decorating and a photo booth from Passion Flower Mobile Parties, face painting by Rising Star Pediatric Dentistry, a gaming zone set up by the Microsoft Store, costumed characters, imagination playground blocks and more!
5:00 p.m. Sugar Free Allstars
5:45 p.m. Joe McDermott
6:30 p.m. Elizabeth McQueen
7:15 p.m. Tor Hyams
8:00 p.m. Ralph Covert
In front of Dillard's, next to Maggiano's
11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 210
Austin, TX 78758
Other chances to catch free or low-cost live music this fall:
October 4th: Zydeco Blanco
October 11th: Johnny P and the Wiseguys
October 18th: Two Tons of Steel
October 25th: Roxy Roca
9300 IH-35 South
Austin, TX 78748
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church has teamed up with Spicewood Tavern in northwest Austin to host musicians on select Sunday evenings for intimate shows and conversations with the artists. The Soul of a Musician Music Series begins at 7:30 p.m. most Sundays, and there is no cover charge.
October 5th: Gina Chavez and Michael Ramos
October 12th: Lex Land
October 19th: Rebecca Loebe
October 26th: Erin Ivey and Joel Eckels
November 9th: Reed Turner
November 16th: Shinyribs
November 23rd: Akina Adderly
November 30th: Dustin Welch
December 7th: Patrice Pike
December 14th: Bill Carter
8127 Mesa Drive A100
Austin, TX 78759
Beat the Rush is part of the special programming which takes place at 5:30 p.m. each Third Thursday. Beat the Rush features a guided musical tour of performances by small ensembles in a sequence of galleries in the museum. The musicians discuss with the audience how the music compositions that they’ve chosen connect to the paintings, drawings, and sculptures on display.
Remaining Third Thursdays of the year:
Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701
October 16th: Mother Falcon
November 20th: Michael Fracasso
December 18th: Sara Hickman
January 15th: TBD
February 19th: TBD
All Saints Episcopal Church
209 West 27th St.
Austin, TX 78701
Remaining fall concerts:
Hill Country Galleria
12700 Hill Country Blvd
Bee Cave, TX 78738
There are of course many, many other places to enjoy free live music in this town. Heidi O. recently wrote about the kid-focused free music happening around town. What's your favorite venue?
A recovering workaholic, Nicole Basham now spends her time rediscovering Austin through her 8-year-old son's eyes. A soccer-playing mom, Nicole also enjoys tickling too close to bedtime, taking in some live music and being silly. You can also find her writing at LiveMom, Savvy Source for Parents and CultureMap. She recently penned 50+ Places to Eat Out With Kids in Austin.
Mustang Island, a 4-hour trip from Austin, is a beautiful stretch of beach just outside of Port Aransas, Texas. Every year, we book a weekend trip to the island for our family and two others; usually in September, when the weather is still warm but the crowds have dissipated.
In the past, we had taken a straight highway route from Austin through San Antonio and on through Corpus Christi to the beach. This time, we decided to make part of the trip about the journey: we took the new (FAST) toll road past the Circuit of the Americas, and down through historic towns Goliad, Gonzales, and Refugio. The old mission buildings and court houses along the way were worth the trip, along with the painted pump jacks and farmer’s market of oil town Luling.
Every other mile, it seemed, had a roadside marker to explain some facet of Texas history. As an East Coast-born, Midwest-raised girl, I was not very familiar with Texas’ illustrious history before I moved here in 2008, and I was fascinated by each marker. If you’re a history buff, pick up the book Why Stop?, which includes the text from each historic marker so you can follow along without having to park the car and read each one.
Arriving at Port Aransas Pass, the ferry boats take you and your car straight across for a free and quick trip to the town of Port Aransas, where you’ll find the bulk of the souvenir shops, restaurants, and hotels. The quaint Amelia’s Landing hotel caught my eye, and we might have to stay there next time. It has been our tradition to stay at the Seagull condos on the Mustang Island side, about 10 minutes from Port “A”. The great thing about renting a condo, when traveling with a family, is encompassed by two words: full kitchen. This means that you can bring lunch and breakfast items and easily run up to your room between beach or pool sessions to eat, saving money on restaurants. The Seagull and its sister property, the Sandpiper, are right on the beach, with beautiful views of the sunrise from the balcony windows.
On rainy afternoons or when you’ve had enough sun, peruse one or more of the souvenir shops with huge sculpted shark jaws for the kids to run through and pose for vacation photos. A $10 boogie board provides hours of entertainment. There’s also a fun candy shop in Port A, Winton’s, complete with bins and bins of sugary treats for you and the kids, and the bonus attraction of a live rattlesnake in a cage in the corner nearest the right side of the door. Stay away from the gummies if you don’t want to see the snake.
Seafood is abundant between Port A and Mustang Island, and if you bring a fishing pole and some bait and have a successful catch, you may bring your fish to one of the local restaurants like Fins or Castaways to grill it up for you. If you feel like splurging, have dinner at La Playa on Beach Street. The wait is worth it.
The beach is gorgeous, the service typically Island-time slow but friendly, and the accommodations plentiful. For a quick getaway with history and small-town beauty along the way, head down to Mustang Island and Port Aransas to renew your soul.
KRISTIN SHAW is a freelancer by day, writer by night, a full-time wife of an Austin native, and mother of a mini-Texan. Her favorite things are family, 80s hair bands, classic cars, sports, Italy, and dessert; not necessarily in that order. She's proud to be a co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin. You can reach her via Twitter (@AustinKVS), her blog, Two Cannoli, or on The Huffington Post, where she is a featured blogger.