Archives for posts with tag: hiking


Little B and I are slowly adjusting to our changes in homeschool due to our move in the fall to Virginia. We are loving the “real” winter, though I fear the short winters in Texas grew on me and the cold is finally getting to me. We have begun using new curriculum choices as I have researched different approaches, since we have always been pretty eclectic. We miss our old co-ops and group of friends. Because there were only a set number of activities or learning opportunities available it was easy to plan for the following year. There is a dizzying amount of classes, organizations, learning opportunities, field trips, outdoor adventures, etc here and it can be overwhelming. I find myself more often than not saying, “Nope, we can’t fit that in, though I wish we could,” more often than not. I suppose that is the beauty of homeschooling, though, especially in an area like we currently find ourselves. Being able to pick and choose just the right activities for B’s interests and passions, as well as exposing him to new activities and adventures to broaden his knowledge base and interests is incredibly exciting. And boy oh boy! The amount of history stuff available in this area has this history buff all kinds of excited!

So on Monday (and mind you, I really don’t like scheduling things for Mondays since it’s the start of the week and I like to start it without anything on the schedule) we headed out for a nature class at the Rockwood Nature Center in Chesterfield County.

Here is their link:

ImageThey have classes geared just for the homeschooled crowd, and one class in particular sounded like loads of fun. I signed B up a few weeks ago and off we went, excited at the promise of a new favorite outdoorsy spot.

ImageFirst, the bad news (and the aforementioned change in plans): they had canceled the class (but had failed to call me). Apparently they had not had enough interest to hold the class or had not met their minimum number of students. I was BUMMED! (Secretly, I was hoping to get an hour and a half of homework in while The Boy took his super duper class). B was instantly energized, “Let’s go for a hike, Mom! It’s okay, we’ll have our own nature study.” And off he bounded to peruse the trail map by the center.

ImageNow, I have to say the Rockwood Nature Center is crazy fun. There are so many trails. some paved (great for strollers, me thinks) and others the type I love (all nitty gritty in their natural splendor). We tried our hand at a few and marveled at how different the area must look in the spring. We found some cool spots, collected some neat rocks, and almost got lost (though all the trails are clearly marked).

Besides all the hiking (and the nature center, which was sadly closed – though I believe they are on “winter” hours and will be open more regularly in the spring), there is a dog park, several sports fields, a huge playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, etc etc. This place is, in my book, a day trip during the spring or summer. And best of all, they also have camping, if I read their website correctly. They also hold different classes or events throughout the year, so it’s sure to be a favorite of ours in the coming weeks and months.

ImageWe had a blast and instead of studying (who needs to do that anyway, when one has an energetic and very happy and excited nine year old in tow) I was able to watch My Boy excited at new discoveries, we discussed Spore creatures, and made up habitats, and lamented that we’d left the puppies behind.

Sometimes, the best plans are the ones interrupted.


And by using quotation marks I’m signifying that we probably won’t partake in all the listed activities; however, it’ll give us a good spring board from which to draw ideas. My beau is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy and I like to give him options when planning on a day out that way he maintains his spirit of spontaneity.

With that being said, the longer we live in Central Texas the more I find myself falling in love with the area. And the fact that we’ve had a pretty mild start to our summer is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Brooks will only be home with us for a few weeks before he heads off to school and misses most of our summer. A few weeks without him will not be a breeze, regardless of how many deployments we’ve been through. We’ll still miss him like crazy and we’ll still have to adjust to his absence, but having him here for a little bit surely helps. And the 31 days of leave he’s just completed helps too.

I’ve always said that the lessons learned from these deployments will be with me for a lifetime. And still, months after Brooks’s arrival home, I am still grateful for each moment with him, for each day that we find ourselves in the same zip code. Cheesy? Perhaps. But so ridiculously true.

So, with all that fanfare, fellow readers, enjoy the following list of things to do in Central Texas. Get out and enjoy the warm breezes, the beautiful sights, the amazing trails, and the quirky events and things that make this area so unique. Maybe we’ll see you along the way!

(To make it easier, I’ve listed each activity in its corresponding group- so peruse to your heart’s delight, and please do let me know if I’ve missed something).



There are so many museums in the Central Texas area. There is so much to see and do, and each museum could provide the gateway to a great day. There is also a good listing at this Wiki Page:

1. Gold Star Museums are at it again, offering countless free entrances to museums and sights across the US. The link below will highlight those available here in TX.

Of particular note:

2.  The Austin Children’s Museum is FREE 🙂

3.  Bell County Museum:

4.  1st CAV Museum, Fort Hood

5.  Waco Kids Museum, AMAZING (also known as the Mayborn) :  They do offer a free day and they offer free entrance for military members (not dependents).

6. Bob Bullock State Museum in Austin (offers free 1st Saturday’s each  month). They also have an IMAX theater that is pretty neat to visit.

7. Texas Natural Science Center:

8. Blanton Museum of Art:

9. George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center:

10. Pioneer Farms:

11. Mayborn Planeterium and Space Theater:

12. Visit the State Capital:

Hiking and Outdoorsy Venues:

There are so many opportunities locally for the outdoor enthusiast. These are just a few of the opportunities available locally. Check out this site to get you started ( , and then peruse the list below:

1. Colorado Bend State Park :

2.  Chalk Ridge Falls:

3.  BLORA has a nice trail right off the main entrance

4. Austin Nature Center (which is free) has a nice trail as well, though nothing too fancy :

5. Enchanted Rock :

6. Mother Neff State Park:

7. Inks Lake State Park :

8. Longhorn Cavern State Park:

9. Old Tunnel State Park: (this particular park has bat viewing during the summer months).

10.McKinney State Park:

11. Lake Whitney:

12. Barton Creek and Campbell’s Hole:

13. Wild Basin Preserve:

14. Pace Bend Park:

15. Five Mile Dam:

16. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

17. Caves

Caves really deserve their own special designation but I’m including it here since it is kind of outdoorsy 🙂 Here is some info on the Edwards’ Aquifer:

Underground Texas Grotto:
Natural Bridge Caverns:
Inner Space Caverns:
Caves of Sonora: (this one is quite a drive away, but I hear it’s worth it)

18: CTC Duck Pond in Killeen (off the highway)

It remains one of our favorites and is also a great place for playing catch, flying a kite, and having a picnic.

19. Mt. Bonnel:

20: Mill’s Pond:

21. Bushy Creek Lake Park:

22. McKinney Roughs Nature Park:

23. Aquarena Center:

Swimming and Spray Pads:

1. Pools at Fort Hood

The pools at Fort Hood open at noon and are open relatively late. Although rules are supposed to be mainstream we’ve learned that some pools are more apt to follow every rule while others are more lax. Sometimes it depends on the lifeguards on duty. So sometimes pool toys are okay, sometimes not so much. It’s hit or miss. Arrive early to grab some shade.

2. Spray Pad at Long Branch Park (free)

3. Spray Pad at various community centers on post (for those who reside in military family housing)

4. Family Aquatics Center, Killeen :

5. Spray Pads in the Austin Area:

6. Barton Springs Pool, Austin TX

7. Deep Eddy Pool:

The cool thing about Deep Eddy Pool, beyond the history of the place, is that they show movies on a large screen outside during the summer, after dusk of course, and you can float in the pool and watch a movie. Call for movie schedule, since I can’t seem to locate it 🙂

8. Hamilton Pool :

9. Granite Beach Park in Marble Falls:

10. New Braunfels City Tube Chute:

11.  Hancock Springs Pool in Lampassas :

12. Schlitterbahn, of course. They do offer military Sunday’s which are cheaper AND include a drink and something else 🙂 Of course, the best time to visit is in the off season, before school’s let out or after they commence. We were fortunate enough to visit early this year and won’t return till late September. Going in the off season is great because there is little to no wait time for each ride and the place is relatively empty.

13. Tubing

There are various tubing companies in the Central Texas region. Tubing is sure to be fun, be sure to bring plenty of drinks, snacks, and sun screen 🙂

14. Summer Fun Water Park:

15. BLORA has a nice clean lake front as well as a spray pad for the littles and two water slides. One of our favorite get away spots :

Events :

There are so many events occurring in Central Texas at any given time. Below are just a few, though I’ll add more as I find out about them from week to week. The most painful thing is deciding which event to attend when there are several to choose from occurring concurrently.

1. Congress Avenue Bat Viewing :

2. Summer Nights Series, Killeen TX

They alternate between a concert one weekend and a movie the next. The movies are either family friendly-ish. We always take a huge blanket, some pillows, and a huge cooler filled with drinks and yummy snacks. One of our favorite summer time pastimes, for sure!

3. Zilker Park Outdoor Theater’s Summer Production: The Sound of Music July 6 through August 11th.

4. Austin Ice Cream Festival:

August 4th 🙂

5. Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center in Austin:

6. Austin Bat Festival August 25th:

7. Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio:

Venues with Animals:

1.Cameron Park Zoo:

2. Austin Nature Center:

3. Snake Farm:

4. Topsy Exotic Ranch:

5. Austin Zoo:

6. San Antonio Zoo:

7. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center:

8. Mayfield Park and Preserve:

9. Turtle Pond at UT Austin:

Cities to Visit and Explore:

Obviously, this list could be incredibly long, but I’ll keep the list short by listing some of our favorites. Take the time to look at a road map and explore some cool Central Texas cities in depth. You’ll be happy you did and you  just might find yourself falling in love with Texas a bit more 🙂

1. San Antonio (between the Alamo, theme parks, outdoor venues, events, and museums, not to mention the River Walk) is one of our most favorite destinations.

2. Gruene :

One of our most favorite locales, as well. Between the quaint downtown area and the outdoor opportunities, as well as Gruene Hall and the restaurant overlooking the river, this place is a gem.

3. Fredericksburg:

4. New Braunfels:

5. Austin, of course 🙂 :

6. Salado:

7. Boerne:

8. Gatesville:

9. Waco:

10. Marble Falls:

Theme Parks

There are several theme parks in the area, though we avoid them like the plague until school’s back in session. We just don’t do lines. But there are quite a few, between both Six Flags, Sea World, and Schlitterbahn, there is plenty here for the amusement park enthusiast.

1. Austin’s Park.  They offer half entrance for military on Monday’s:

Quirky Things:

1. Round Rock Donuts:

2. Lazer Tag at the Copperas Cove Theater:

3. Rock Climbing at the Resiliency Campus on Fort Hood:

4. Boulders:

5. Apache Arts Center on Fort Hood:

6. Archery:

7. Putting Green at the Resiliency Campus Fort Hood:

8. Golfing on Post:

9. Skating Rinks:

Fort Hood Skating Rink:
Skate Palace: (4 bucks Sunday nights)

10.Bowling Fort Hood:

11. Zoomerang:

12. Chuck E Cheese:

13. Bike Riding: various locations are great for bike riding. Zilker Park is especially nice.

14. Cathedral of Junk in Austin:

15. Ghost Town:

16. Music at Central Market Austin:

17. Austin Farmer’s Market:

18: Asian Supermarket :

19.Greetings From Austin Postcard Mural:

20. Big Top Candy Shop:

21. Geocaching:

22.Texas State Cemetery:

23. The Natural Gardener:

24. Disguise Store in Austin:

25: Children’s Day Art Park:

26. Float Flicks:

27. Round Rock Baseball:

28. Nature Challenge: Super duper fun, with lots of challenges listed!!!


There are some pretty neat playgrounds in the area, and they make for some great get aways.

1. Mueller Lake Park:

2. Creative Playscape Georgetown:

3. All Abilities Playground:

4. Children’s Park San Marcos:

5. Lake Pflugerville Park (bring swim trunks 🙂


1. CTC College for Kids:

2. Summer Acting Workshop, VLA:

Theaters (Performance):

1. VLA:

They are showcasing The Frog Prince this summer. Check out the website for more details.

2. Austin Playhouse:

3. The Paramount in Austin:

4. Alice in Wonderland: (These are free and will be running in August).

Theaters (Movies):

1. The Alamo Drafthouse (has incredibly entertaining events, as well as regular run of the mill movies. The food is well priced and delicious. AND the popcorn comes with REAL butter. That’s a winner in my book).

They are also hosting a FREE Kid’s Camp all summer long. Check the website out for specific movies and showtimes:  Some of the movies they are showcasing are pretty, pretty, pretty neat.

2. Blue Star Lite Drive-in Austin:!HOME/mainPage

3. Last Picture Show Drive-in Gatesville:

4. Killeen Theater:

5. The Killeen Theater is also hosting free movies this summer, on Wed I believe. Call for more info

6. Harker Height Theater: they are also hosting movies this summer, though I believe theirs are a buck each.

7. USO Movies on the Lawn: check with their Facebook page for the latest showtimes and dates, as well as locations.

8. Republic Square Movies in the Park:


There are various locales locally for campfing, both primitive and with hook ups. Summer isn’t our favorite time to camp because the heat is so oppressive, especially at night, but it still makes for some great summer memories. Check out the hiking slot above for some camping ideas.


1. Check out this site for up to the minute condition reports for various fishing spots:

Vacation Bible Schools:

Most large churches today will offer VB’s over the summer. Check with your local churches for more info:)

The Chapel on Post is offering several opportunities.

Summer Reading Programs:

There are so many great opportunities for fun at our local libraries. Each library is offering weekly programs and fun. Check with your library of choice for events and programs. We tend to do all the reading programs 🙂

The Fort Hood Library Summer Program (need to get calendar of events)
The Killeen City Library Summer Reading Program
The Copperas Cove City Library Summer Reading Program
The Harker Heights Library Summer Reading Program
The Oakalla Library Summer Reading Program (I love the summer reading programs for the various libraries as they usually provide a weekly program with guest speakers/activities. Past programs have included Ringling Brother’s Clown visit, the Singing Zoologist, Magicians, etc. You get the gist…It’s plain fun – and educational).

I’ll be sure to add more as the week progresses, since I know I’m boung to be missing stuff.
Free Food Offers in Austin:

This list is updated daily, check it out for free offers if in the Austin Area.

Here are some things to do at home:

Have a theme day (Brooks loves these and they can revolve around anything, really)
Movie at home with homemade popcorn
Art, art, art 🙂
Baking or cooking a new recipe
Water fun outside with sprinklers, water balloons, water guns, etc.
Fun science projects (I usually google these and find slimy, icky, or weird/interesting things to try)
Read books (in novel places, like outside on a blanket, or under a homemade fort)
Make homemade toys, like kites, marble runs, jumping cups, the list is endless. (Google works great here too!)
Make homemade clay, playdough, slime, Gak, etc.
Go for a dice walk.
Campout in the back yard.
Play board games.
Be your own fitness instructers, play crazy loud music, put on some leg warmers and have fun 😉
Build something
Sleepovers and playdates are great, they keep each other busy 🙂
Create an indoor obstacle course
Have a video game tournament
Allow for a No Rule Day
Do an Opposite Day, start with dinner and work your way back, Brooks loves those days
Go for a walk/skate/bike ride
Make an indoor fort
Make a program, create tickets, and put on a puppet show
Make and edit a homemade movie with plot, characters, etc.
Nerf Dart War!!!
Fun Jar fun 🙂 We like to fill a jar with fun activities, randomly choosing one or two each day.
Create a Summer Bucket List and post, trying to cross off each item posted before summer’s end.
Visit a local dog park with your furriest friends in tow.
Volunteer somewhere!
Scavenger Hunts
Make homemade ice cream and toppings.

The list is truly endless!


Have a safe and memorable summer of 2012!!!