I know it’s not even Spring Break yet, but it's not too early to start planning for a summer vacation! Many Texas State Parks book up quickly in summer & can be difficult to get into for late planners. If you're not sure where to escape to on a summer weekend, I recommend one of my favorite areas to explore - the Texas Hill Country!
Okay, okay, so maybe I'm biased because I live here, but the Hill Country offers so many great outdoor adventures & is a perfect spot for a summer weekend getaway with the kids! If you need some help figuring out what to do, here's a weekend itinerary that's sure to be a hit for the whole family!
WHERE TO STAY: Stonewall Motor Lodge in Stonewall, TX. A newly renovated historic motel with standard rooms, cabins, & RV sites. Centrally located between your points of interest & close proximity to some great wineries (if you're into that)!
Check into your accommodations & get ready to explore Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg is about 16 miles west of Stonewall & is a popular spot for tourists in Texas. Walk along Main Street & browse the boutiques. Stop at Clear River for some ice cream. Don't eat too much, though! You'll want to save your appetite for dinner…
Dinner will be at Alamo Springs Cafe, where you can feast on some of the best burgers in Texas! Sit on the patio to eat, where there is typically live music on weekend evenings. Don't get too comfortable, though, because you won't want to miss the bat emergence from Old Tunnel State Park just next door!
Old Tunnel State Park
You must book bat viewing tickets in advance. Reservations can be made on the Texas State Parks reservation site. There are two places to watch the bats - the upper viewing area ($2/person) & the lower viewing area ($5/person). The lower viewing area is better (in my opinion) because you're closer to the bats. However, children under the age of 4 aren't allowed in the lower area for a variety of reasons, one being that kids can be loud & quiet is important so the bats don't get disturbed.
The time that the bats emerge varies throughout the summer. You'll want to check the park's social media to see when the bats have been emerging recently so you can get an idea of when you'll need to be there by. Volunteers do educational presentations before the emergence so while you wait, you can learn about the history of the tunnel & the 3 million Mexican Free-tailed bats that call it home seasonally.
BE THERE EARLY! Like… at least 30 minutes before the emergence times from the previous days. An hour is better. I say this because I have completely missed the emergence while eating at Alamo Springs Cafe beforehand & I don't want that for you! Remember - this is nature & it is on its own schedule. Best to be there early & have to wait than to miss the whole thing!
The bats can be seen from May - October usually. I recommend visiting towards the end of the summer. At that point, the mama bats have had their babies & the size of the colony has essentially doubled from the beginning of the summer!
Rise & shine! Head to breakfast at Woerner's Warehouse in Fredericksburg (they open at 9AM). It's delicious & the restaurant has a really awesome industrial vibe. Once you're fueled up, head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. This needs to be a morning activity because, by summer afternoons, the rock gets crazy hot. Like.. 140 degrees hot. Best to hit this iconic Hill Country gem before the day heats up! Climb the summit for a good workout & a great view of the Texas Hill Country!
Enchanted Rock Vernal Pools
Head back to Fredericksburg for lunch at Tubby's. They have good food, drinks, & a playground! Return to Stonewall for a little siesta (am I the only one who needs an afternoon nap?), then head a few miles down Highway 290 to LBJ State Park. The park is free & is home to the Sauer Beckmann Farm, which the kids will love! They run the farm as it was run by German settlers in the early 1900s. It's fun to see the kids learn about what people did before the internet and video games! In the summer, the garden is flourishing & kids may be able to help pick vegetables or cotton or gather eggs from the chicken coop. The farm closes at 3PM during the summer.
Sauer Beckmann Farm
For dinner, I recommend staying close by because the kids will be tired (and let’s be real, so will you). Pop over to Albert Ice House & Dance Hall! It's got the same laid back vibe as the famous Luckenbach, but with fewer crowds. There is a food truck on site, which is open until 8PM on the weekends. Grab some grub & a beer and enjoy live music on the patio!
Pack up and depart the Stonewall Motor Lodge to get some coffee at Johnson City Coffee Co. Caffeinate yourself as you drive to Pedernales Falls State Park. Start the day off with a hike to the falls, where the kids will love hopping around on the rocks. Once you've worked up a sweat, take a swim in Pedernales River! There is a dedicated swimming area that is a little bit of a hike down a hill. Be warned - the water can be fast flowing! I like to walk down the river away from the rapids to find a gentler area for a dip. This is a great way to end your trip!
Have some extra time (and energy) on Sunday? Make a stop at The Science Mill in Johnson City after exploring the park!
There is so much to explore in the Hill Country! This itinerary is a great way to hit some of the best spots during a weekend summer vacation! Don’t forget that you’ll need to make reservations for your park day passes in advance, as most of the parks reach capacity during busy summer weekends. Visit the parks’ websites before your visit to get the most up-to-date information!
This article was written by WanderWheels trusted travel guide Nina Cardenas. You can find more helpful adventure tips and tricks on Nina’s Instagram (@ramblinroundtexas)