Get out of town! 5 day trip ideas for the holiday weekend

Sure, everyone loves a long weekend. But sometimes you’ve got to go beyond the city limits to fully relax and recharge. Thankfully there are loads of options near Austin that offer a great escape for all ages. Here are five of our favorite day trip spots within two hours of downtown.

MARBLE FALLS

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Adrianna Forister marks boxes of strawberries as paid at Sweet Berry Farms outside of Marble Falls in this file photo. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For family friendly fun, it’s hard to beat Marble Falls, located about 80 miles from Austin. Begin at Sweet Berry Farm, which is open for all of Memorial Day weekend, including Monday. You can pick your own strawberries and also take part in a variety of fun activities such as sand art, barrel train rides and a bounce pillow. You’ll also discover sweet treats including fresh strawberry lemonade and homemade strawberry smoothies. While you’re in Marble Falls, grab lunch and a slice of pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe. Ready for a drink? If you go on Friday or Saturday, don’t miss Save the World Brewing, where all profits go to charity. They’ve got lots of fun games to keep the kids busy, too.

FREDERICKSBURG

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Tasting room employee Wayne Brinlee pours wine for Lorena Apodoca and Javier Valdez in this file photo. The Torre di Pietra winery and giftshop is located 10 miles east of Fredericksburg. Amber Novak FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Start your day with a hike up the massive granite dome that is Enchanted Rock — just be sure to arrive to the park arrive early, as it can get extremely crowded. Next, grab brunch at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant, home to a number of standout dishes including German pancakes, Opa’s sausage and eggs and country fried steak. Once you’re fully nourished, spend your afternoon touring the wineries that put Fredericksburg on the map, such as 4.0 Cellars, Baron’s Creek and Kuhlman Cellars.

ROUND ROCK

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Round Rock Donuts are the best in Texas, according to a Buzzfeed article that lists the best doughnut shops in each state. credit: Mike Parker

From the famous orange delicacies at Round Rock Donuts to the fanfare filling the Dell Diamond, there are so many reasons to visit Round Rock, a short 30-minute drive up Interstate 35 from downtown Austin. Another great reason? The already excellent Rock’N River Family Aquatic Center, conveniently located right next to Dell Diamond, reopens this weekend after a multi-million dollar renovation that doubled its size.

 

 

 

WACO

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Adrieanna Macias makes a float in the soda fountain at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco. credit: Statesman file photo

Whether you sip a float at the Dr Pepper Museum, check out the Waco Mammoth National Monument, say hello to the elephants at Cameron Park Zoo or pay your respects to Chip and Joanna Gaines at Magnolia Market at the Silos, there’s something for everyone in Waco. Located 100 miles from Austin, you’ll want to get an early start if you’re doing it as a day trip.

DRIPPING SPRINGS

Grab a pie and a pint in the sunshine at Stanley's Farmhouse Piz
Grab a pie and a pint in the sunshine at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza and Jester King Brewery. credit: Travis Albrecht

The laid-back vibe combined with spectacular Hill Country sunsets make Dripping Springs, located 35 minutes from Austin, a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. Alcohol aficionados can take their pick between 15 area breweries, wineries and distilleries including Deep Eddy Vodka, Twisted X Brewing Co. and Treaty Oak Distilling Co. The food scene isn’t bad, either, featuring standouts like Crepe Crazy, Drippin Donuts and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Nearby Hamilton Pool is open again, too, although you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.

Dr. Beach releases 2017 Top 10 list: Did Texas finally make the cut?

Dr. Beach, aka Stephen P. Leatherman, just released his famous Top 10 Beaches list for the year.

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Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters ideal for swimming. credit: Dr. Beach

 

And once again, it snubs the Lone Star State.

Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety. His list, which has been published since 1991, evaluates beaches based on 50 criteria such as water and sand quality and safety and management.

This year’s No. 1 pick is Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida, which Leatherman said has “the finest, whitest sand in the world, which attracts sand collectors and beach lovers from all over. The clear, clean waters along this gently-sloping beachface make for ideal swimming.”

Hapuna Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii
Hapuna Beach State Park in Hawaii ranked No. 8 this year. credit: Dr. Beach

Beaches in Hawaii, New York, California, South Carolina, North Carolina and Massachusetts were also included. Our own South Padre Island, Galveston, Port Aransas, Rockport and Corpus Christi were noticeably absent. Below you’ll find Leatherman’s complete list for 2017; we’ll keep our fingers crossed that a Texas spot will make the cut next year.

Here’s Dr. Beach’s 2017 Top 10 Beaches list:

1. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida

2. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii

3. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

4. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida Panhandle

5. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

6. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

United to Austin-area national guardsman returning from Afghanistan: Pay up for bag

A national guardsman on his way home to Kyle, Texas, after a 21-month deployment in Afghanistan said United Airlines made him pay $200 to check a bag because it was too heavy to qualify for the airline’s free military baggage policy.

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A United Airlines plane takes off from San Francisco International Airport.

“I was told point blank that I’d have to pay $200 for the overage or find another bag to siphon stuff off with,” First Lieutenant John Rader, who was preparing to board a flight in El Paso Monday night when the incident happened, told FOX 7 Austin. “Well, I didn’t have another bag, so I was caught in a bind.”

United’s policy states that U.S. military and their dependents traveling on official business receive waived service charges for up to five checked bags at 70 pounds each. Because Rader’s bag, which contained items including a Kevlar vest, helmets and boots, was over 70 pounds, he said he was given no choice but to pay the fee.

“In the past, airlines have been very flexible to soldiers, whether its upgrading us in our seating arrangements, helping us with numerous bags we travel with often. This is the first time and an isolated case in my history where it’s actually occurred. It became upsetting when all you want to do is get home and you have a $200 charge thrown on top,” Rader told FOX 7.

Military baggage policies differ depending on the airline. Southwest offers active duty military an exemption from its two-bag limit and free baggage up to 100 pounds, while Delta allows two free bags up to 50 pounds for active duty military traveling on personal business.

Maddie King, a spokeswoman for United, said the airline is reaching out to Rader to issue a refund for his over-sized bag “as a gesture of goodwill.”

We offer members of our U.S. military a variety of benefits to thank them for their service,” King told the Statesman via email. “One of these benefits is allowing them to check five bags and increasing the weight limitations for these to 70 pounds. We are disappointed any time a customer has an experience that doesn’t meet their expectations.”

It hasn’t been a great year for the airline. In March, United received widespread criticism for barring two teens from their flight because they were wearing leggings. And in April, video footage of a man being forcibly removed from a flight made national headlines.

Read more about Rader’s experience here.

Dripping Springs wedding capital of the state, Texas House says

Trying to decide where to have your wedding? The Texas House has a suggestion.

On Thursday, the House voted 139-9 to designate Dripping Springs “the wedding capital of Texas” for the next 10 years.

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Gay and Nicholas Dotin are the owners of Mercer Street Dance Hall in Dripping Springs. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

The resolution, authored by Rep. Jason Isaac, touts Dripping Springs as an “ideal setting for joyous celebrations of matrimony” and states that “countless couples have selected Dripping Springs as the perfect spot to exchange the vows of matrimony and embark on a new life journey together.”

The Hill Country hamlet located 35 minutes from Austin has plenty to support this distinction, including a bevy of unique venues, from barns, dancehalls and ranches to mansions and distilleries. The laid-back vibe combined with those spectacular Hill Country sunsets does indeed make for an unforgettable place to get hitched.

If you do get married in Dripping Springs, you might as well stay for your honeymoon. After all, there’s lots of stuff to do. In recent years Dripping Springs has become a hub for alcohol aficionados who can take their pick between 15 area breweries, wineries and distilleries including Deep Eddy Vodka, Twisted X Brewing Co. and Treaty Oak Distilling Co. The food scene isn’t bad, either, featuring standouts like Crepe Crazy, Drippin Donuts and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza.

Grab a pie and a pint in the sunshine at Stanley's Farmhouse Piz
Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. credit: Mauri Elbel

Will the Senate agree with the House’s decision? We’ll know soon. And even if they don’t, Dripping Springs is certainly a place to put on your summer bucket list, especially with Hamilton Pool now open again.

Who knows? Next time you go, you might just fall in love.

6 water parks to visit across Texas before summer ends

With temperatures already starting to spike, it won’t be long before we’re hitting triple digits. Which means it’s a perfect time to start thinking about unique ways to cool yourself down. Thankfully, Texas is home to a variety of water parks that can’t wait to welcome throngs of visitors this summer. Need ideas? Check these out.

Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels

Grab a gator and float the Kristal River at Schlitterban in New
Grab a gator and float the Kristal River at Schlitterban in New Braunfels. credit: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort

You know it, you love it. After all, it’s the “hottest coolest time in Texas.” For water park fun, it’s hard to beat this local institution, which opened in 1979 and quickly became a must-see destination for people across the country. It’s currently home to 51 attractions that span more than 70 acres. This summer will also bring the first full season for the MASSIV, which Schlitterbahn calls the world’s tallest water coaster. For added fun, book a night or two at one of the on-site lodging options — you’ll get access to the park before it opens to the public and after it closes for the night. The park will be open daily starting May 12. Heading to South Padre Island, Corpus Christi or Galveston this summer? You can find Schlitterbahn locations there, too.

Typhoon Texas, Pflugerville

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The “Gully Washer” at Typhoon Texas in Katy is one of several family-friendly attractions expected at the renovated Pflugerville water park. Courtesy photo

If you want the thrills of a big water park but only have a few hours to spare, Typhoon Texas might be just what you’re looking for. Located 40 minutes from Austin in Pflugerville, Typhoon Texas opens May 27 in the spot that was previously Hawaiian Falls. (Typhoon Texas took over the lease for Hawaiian Falls and the park has undergone a multi-million dollar transformation, according to Pflugerville officials.) Don’t miss the Gully Washer children’s playland, which includes seven slides, 100 spray areas and an 800-gallon water bucket that douses the entire space. Season passes are currently on sale. There is another Typhoon Texas located in Katy near Houston.

Wet’n’Wild Splashtown, Spring

Located on the outskirts of Houston, this popular park recently underwent a massive transformation that brought with it attractions such as the Big Kahuna raft ride and the FlowRider surf simulator. New this year is the Alien Chaser, a “three-saucer mega slide” that’s six stories tall and 429 feet long. If you’ve got little ones, be sure to stop by Wet’n’Wild Jr., which features spray fountains and twisting slides built just for them.

White Water Bay, Fiesta Texas, San Antonio

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Thunder Rapids is a new ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. credit: Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Heading to Six Flags Fiesta Texas? Don’t forget your swimsuit. From massive pools and lazy rivers to rafting adventures and speed slides, you’ll find lots to entertain you at the park’s on-site water park. And it’s free with the cost of admission to Fiesta Texas. New this year is the Thunder Rapids Water Coaster, a three-story, 942-foot-long thrill ride that includes five uphill blasts, four spiraling turns, custom-made inline rafts and new water jet propulsion technology. Oh, and there will be no awkwardly lugging tubes to the top of this ride — it features a loading system where guests board at ground level, then ride up the lift hill to the top of the slide.

SeaWorld Aquatica, San Antonio

You’re at SeaWorld, so in addition to water park fun that includes 450-foot-long body slides and a 48-foot-tall tube ride, you’re also going to be surrounded by marine life. The Stingray Falls attraction, for example, take visitors on a four-seated raft into an underwater grotto where stingrays and tropical fish are waiting to greet you.

Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine

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A bucket dumps 1,000 gallons of water into the Great Wolf Lodge water park in Grapevine, Texas. credit: Great Wolf Lodge

Want to make a splash but tired of the sun? Plan a weekend trip to Great Wolf Lodge, located near Dallas in Grapevine. Here you’ll find over 80,000 square feet filled with slides, pools, a tipping bucket and a water fort treehouse. Don’t miss the Howlin’ Tornado, which drops you down through a six-story funnel.