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Fix'in to visit Texas: town and country, with young kids

Fix'in to visit Texas: town and country, with young kids

Old Feb 16th, 2013, 01:07 PM
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Fix'in to visit Texas: town and country, with young kids

Dear Fodorites,

We're a family with two young kids (aged 5 and 2) who intend to visit Texas in late April/early May. We want to experience a slice of the state, both cities and countryside, get a taste of texas history and meet some texans.

We have time for 8 nights on the road (we'll hire a car) and were thinking of the following itinerary:

1. Fly to Dallas Fort Worth
2. Fredericksburg
3. Austin
4. Wimberley
5. Greune/New Braunfels
6. San Antonio - Fly Home

We'd love to stay on a ranch at some point, enjoy (short) hikes, authentic local restaurants, child friendly music venues, cycling (if we can hire), strolling through lively down-town areas on warm evenings etc.

We'd be really grateful for any comments on the itinerary (especially if we have chosen the right places and how long to stay in each) and any ideas of specific places, parks, historic monuments, friendly churches, restaurants etc to visit - especially if they're off the beaten track or hidden. We always most enjoy the places the local go !

Thanks so much in advance.

HaSo
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Old Feb 16th, 2013, 07:07 PM
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Have you purchased your tickets yet? If not, why did you chose to fly to Dallas? Also, how long is your trip, and tentatively, how many days are you planning for each place, planning to have a base or stay in all 6 locations. More information, please and I'll be happy to help.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 12:01 AM
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Agree - if you're concentrating your stay on the Hill Country area, fly in/out of Austin or SA. South of Austin/New Braunfels would make a good base for the places you've mentioned - minimizing the moving around with the little ones. Plenty to do in that area to keep you busy for 8 nights.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 04:10 AM
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Thanks to both of you. We probably have 8 or 9 days excluding the flying in and out. Nothing is booked yet, including the flights, so we're completely flexible. We only considered starting in Dallas because we thought it might be a bit different, but really open to your advice. We weren't necessarily planning to stay in all the locations and would be happy to base ourselves in one or two.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 05:00 AM
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If you start in Dallas, from Dallas to San Antonio, Go west from DFW on I-20 and then take US 281 south thru a string of smaller Texas Hill Country towns. This avoids I-35 which is both boreing and congested

We stayed at this BnB a couple of years ago and liked it. It's not a "Dude" Ranch, but a real working ranch that is now also a Art Retreat.

The owwner is a real character . . pretty typical of Texas Ranch women!

www.wenmohsranch.com
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 05:59 AM
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On the other hand, If you would like to try a dude ranch, this is one that gets good reports from friends who have been there

http://www.flyingl.com/
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 07:33 AM
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I think you'd be better off flying into Austin or San Antonio as well, as almost everything you have listed is the Hill Country area. The drive from Dallas to Austin/San Antonio over I-35 is a hard drive and about 4 hours of big rig truck traffic, unless you take the more leisurely (but slower) 281 that Rich mentions. DFW is nice because its a direct flight from much of Europe, but that drive is just too hard, IMHO. We've returned to SA from France via DFW, and the transfer is an easy process (MUCH more so than flying through Miami).

Both F'berg and Gruene can be done as day trips from San Antonio. F'berg has been a disappointment to me from the first time I saw it, probably 25-30 years ago, and it hasn't improved with age IMHO. It is VERY touristy, which isn't necessarily bad, but it is one long long strip of tourist oriented shops playing off its old German theme. To me the best part of Fredericksburg is the drive too and from it, through some pretty countryside. We've always enjoyed hiking Enchanted Rock there too, but your two year old is too young for that.

As rents increased in F'berg, many shops were driven out, some of them landing in Boerne, which is very close to San Antonio. (Enough so that many, if not most, people living there work in SA.). I doubt your kids would be too thrilled with the shopping in either town, but I find Boerne more fun now than F'berg as far as shopping goes.

A beautiful drive from San Antonio with the destination offering some easy hiking, is the drive to Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool. You'll get some nice Hill Country views and you'll be driving through the still authentic old Texas town of Bandera. Lost Maples has some very easy walks along a stream...really really pretty, and your kids will have fun. We do it as a day trip from San Antonio, including the more vigorous hiking of the upper section of Lost Maples. I think you all would get more of a kick out of that than you would out of F'berg. Jmho....

There's a cool little restaurant heading back to San Antonio but I'm blanking on the name. ___ and ___, two first names. It'll come to me if someone else doesn't fill in the blanks first! You drive in....it's just picnic tables and you order from a little window. It's a bring your own wine and they provide corkage. The food is GOOD and its a fun experience for all age groups.

Gruene and vicinity. I love this little town! Gruene Hall, an old historic dance hall with live bands, is usually free. There is some good music there and kids are welcome...and have fun dancing along with everyone else. If the mood hits, just get out on the dance floor, but the music and new and old groups are "the thing". Google Gruene Hall and you'll see an impressive list of people who have performed there, and some who have gotten their start there. The dance hall is absolutely Texas casual, with old old wood floorboards, picnic tables, a funky little stage for the bigger names, or perfprmances just down on the floor for lesser known names. There is tubing in the river there, and the water park, Schlitterbahn. Not sure how water temps are then, and your little one may be too young. Not far off is Natural Bridge Caverns and Animal Park (separate admissions for each). We love the Caverns, live just down the road from them, and always take our house guests. The animal park is a drive through experience. We even had friends visiting from England who said the caverns were the highlight of their trip. The walk through the caverns is over a paved path and quite doable for even your youngest. The formations are beautifully lit and the guided tour ( the only way to do it) is usually very enjoyable.

This is getting too long...I'll cut it off and perhaps pick up again later. I'm not as familiar with Austin, tho we visit often. Wimberly...well, it's a pretty drive there, and I'll leave it at that.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 07:46 AM
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Oh no...I remembered the restaurant, it's Mac and Ernie's http://www.macandernies.com/ but I went to their website and they've upgraded. It looks like you order inside now. Are the picnic tables gone?? There are times when upgrades are not a good thing. I hope they haven't changed too much. The old vibes were the best.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 09:49 AM
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I've used the San Antonio airport for many international flights and it's small, quick, and easy. That said, you may find slightly better fares going into DFW or Houston. Between the two, I would fly into Houston as there is more to see for families. I'm a born and raised Texas - grew up in Houston and currently live in the Hill Country. This is what I would do:

Fly into Houston. Spend 2 days.

Arrival Day: Recover from your trip, do minimal sightseeing and get the kids on the new schedule. Maybe see the Galleria shopping center and watch the ice skaters or go downtown or to the Rice Village area. Just move around a bit!
Day 2: Clear Lake/Galveston/Kemah - See the Johnson Space Center (NASA) in the morning and hit Moody Gardens Aquarium and Rain Forest in the afternoon. On your way back to Houston, stop in Kemah and spend some time on the boardwalk and have dinner there. Depending on where you stay in Houston, the drive will be about 1-1/2 hours one way. About 45 minutes to the Space Center (it's 27 miles from downtown)and 30 minutes from there to Galveston (Moody Gardens).
Day 3: Hermann Park/Museum District - Take the kids to the Natural Science Museum. There is an Imax theater, the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and wonderful exhibits (dinosaurs for the kids!). A great zoo and nice grounds are also right by. If you have time, you could also go to the Children's Museum, which is just around the block. I think the children's museum is free on Thursday from 5-8 p.m.

Day 4: Head to Austin via Hwy. 290. Houston to Austin - about 2-1/2 hours. If you enjoy shopping there is a WONDERFUL outlet mall on the way that you could stop in for a couple of hours. http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=77
Get to Austin in the afternoon, and check into your hotel. See the State Capitol, Bob Bullocks Museum, go to the Wholefoods store (it's the flagship store and is AMAZING if you're a foodie!). In the evening, be at Congress Bridge at sunset to watch the bats take flight. It's an unforgettable sight to behold and will not be scary for the children.

Day 5: Check out of you hotel, and head to Zilker Park. Spend the morning exploring the park; have lunch and hit 290 toward Fredericksburg. On your way, possible stops include: Pedernales Falls State Park; Lyndon B Johnson Historical Park/Ranch in Stonewall; Luckenbach; the Wildseed/Wildflower Farm; or a winery (do a bit of research to see what interests you!). Get to Fredericksburg in the early evening; have dinner and call it a day.

Day 6: Check out of hotel. Go to Enchanted Rock early in the day before it gets hot. Have lunch in F'burg and spend the afternoon strolling Main Street and exploring the shops. Head to San Antonio about 4:00pm - it will take you about an hour to get there. Check into your hotel and go have dinner.

Day 7: SeaWorld.

Day 8: Day trip to Natural Bridge Caverns

Day 9: Downtown San Antonio: Alamo, Riverwalk, El Mercado; Hemisphere Plaza, etc.

Day 10: Fly home out of San Antonio.

If you DON'T want to do Houston, just fly into San Antonio and spend your first couple of days seeing places like Wimberly, Gruene (pronounced Green, like the color),and New Braunfels. It will be too cold for water activities and I think your 2 year old is too young anyway, but you are coming at a beautiful time of year and the wildflowers along the roads should be gorgeous! You could also skip SeaWorld and use that day for something else.

Hope this has been helpful, and I'm sorry it was so long!
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 05:11 PM
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I live in the New Braunfels/San Antonio area and it may or may not be too cool to swim. For example, on May 1, 2012, the high was almost 90 degrees. If you guys do firm up your plans, I can provide kid friendly, independent places to eat in those 2 areas.

With Gruene Hall, be aware that they do charge for most shows on weekend nights and with big shows, they clear the place out a couple of hours before showtime so you may go and not be allowed in. The best time to go is on the weekend before 5pm or on Sunday. I notice on Sunday May 5 Paula Nelson is playing a free show--she is Willie Nelson's daughter. We'll probably be there that day.

http://www.gruenehall.com/may2013.html

Paula and Willie singing Have You Ever Seen the Rain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRTKVvHxyLs
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 12:08 PM
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Wimberley is definitely a day trip from Austin -- nice scenery, but mainly shopping.
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 12:09 PM
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Oh yeah -- thanks for the nod to Texas slang -- "fixin" doesn't have an apostrophe.

you'll love it here!
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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I-35 from DFW to outside of Travis County isn't bad, but once you're within spittin' range of Austin it sucks. Austin is like Texas's own slice of LA - same attitude, same traffic. But there's a bypass road that goes straight to San Antonio . . .
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 03:20 PM
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I hate the drive from Dallas to Austin and would not make it unless I had a specific thing I wanted to do in Dallas.
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