From treehouses to trailers, check out these unconventional Texas hotels

Sure, hotels and Airbnbs are great, but sometimes we all crave a little something different.

If you’re seeking a unique stay during your next Texas getaway, here are some spots to consider.

Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

Architectural-Style-2
The Nest at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours. Contributed by Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

Cypress Valley Canopy Tours may be known for its zipline tours above the lush Texas Hill Country, but it’s also gaining a reputation for the overnight stays it offers in its treehouses. The property’s Nest, for example, includes two bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchenette/dining room, an outside shower and a small bridge that connects to a bathhouse.

Infocypressvalleycanopytours.com

The Flophouze Hotel

exterior4 (1)
The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top, Texas, is made from recycled shipping containers.

Visitors to the Flophouze Hotel, which opened in Round Top in 2017, can choose from a half-dozen shipping-container “houzes” outfitted with eco-friendly and recycled materials such as bowling alley floors. Hammocks, fire pits, cozy chairs and complimentary Topo Chico are among the amenities. Oh, and just to complete the theme, there’s a shipping container pool, too, manufactured by Modpool.

RELATED: You won’t believe this Texas hotel and pool made of shipping containers

Infoflophouze.com

El Cosmico

El Cosmico in Marfa
Guest trailer at El Cosmico in Marfa, where customers stay in trailers, tents, yurts and teepees. credit: Chris LeBlanc

From yurts to trailers to safari tents, if you’re looking for an unconventional place to stay in West Texas, El Cosmico is the place for you. Self camping is also available here.

RELATED: Stay with the hipsters at Liz Lambert’s funky Marfa outpost, El Cosmico

Infoelcosmico.com

Son’s Island

IMG_0431 (002)
Son’s Island in Seguin also offers “glamping.” Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

In addition to being a hidden island paradise that’s just an hour from Austin, Son’s Island offers overnight glamping. Guests receive overnight entry for four people, use of a cabana overnight and a 14-by-9 tent with two cots and foam queen-size mattresses. There’s even s’mores on Friday and Saturday nights.

Infolakeplacidisland.com

Want to try a rope swing? Head to this free swimming hole just outside of Austin

We weren’t planning to try a rope swing that day.

But when my two daughters and I walked past one last week while visiting one of our favorite swimming holes — Camp Ben McCulloch — the temptation was immediate.

They looked at me expectantly: “You go first, Mom.”

It’s been years since I did a rope swing, if ever. But this one, flanked by crisp, blue-green water and conveniently located along the trail just to the right of the main parking area, was too inviting, and too easy to access, to pass up.

IMG_0604 (002)
Camp Ben McCulloch offers access to a rope swing. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

First, I got in to test the depth of the water. It was deep. Then I swung the rope back and forth and pulled on it to test its sturdiness. It was sturdy. Safety is paramount in rope swinging, of course — read Pam LeBlanc’s guide to Austin-area rope swings for more safety tips.

At long last, I plunged in, much to the delight of my daughters, 9 and 6, who instantly followed suit.

IMG_0597 (002)
Camp Ben McCulloch is a kid- and pet-friendly place to swim on the outskirts of Austin in Driftwood. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

RELATED: Did you know there’s a tropical island paradise an hour’s drive from Austin?

It was the most fun we’ve had in ages.

Want to try it for yourself? Learn more about Camp Ben McCulloch, which is located in Driftwood and also offers camping, at campbenmcculloch.com.

Did you know there’s a tropical island paradise an hour’s drive from Austin?

[cmg_anvato video=4409309 autoplay=”true”]

If you’ve lived in Central Texas for very long, you probably have a list of favorite swimming holes. But here’s one I just discovered and instantly fell in love with — Son’s Island in Seguin.

IMG_0432 (002)
Son’s Island in Seguin has a tropical feel. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Picture this: A private, thatched-roof lakeside cabana for you and your friends, complete with a hammock, grill, tables and lounge chairs. You can rent a kayak, a canoe or a paddleboard on site, or enjoy beach volleyball, cornhole or jumbo-size game of Connect Four.

IMG_0442 (002)
Canoe rentals are available at Son’s Island in Seguin. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

OK, so the water might not be quite as blue as Hawaii, but you’ll still feel far, far away.

Want to stay overnight? There are tents available that come with two queen-size beds, two fans and lanterns.

IMG_0431 (002)
Son’s Island in Seguin also offers “glamping.” Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

You can book online at lakeplacidisland.com. Cabanas, which cost around $150 for an eight-hour rental and include a private dock, go fast, so reserve early.

Ideas for free fun in Galveston

There’s nothing more fun than a trip to the beach in the summer. But costs can add up. Got Galveston in your travel plans? Here are three free things to do.
TR aas Galveston3
Bicyclists roll past the Galveston Pleasure Pier at sunrise, before Sea Wall Boulevard fills with cars. credit: Galveston Island CVB
Tree sculpture tour
After Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston in 2008, a group of Galveston homeowners decided to band together and turn the devastation into art.
As you travel the island, look for its incredible tree sculptures, which range from the historical (a replica of the figurehead from the island’s famous Tall Ship Elissa) to the whimsical (a pod of dolphins with a mermaid). Kids will appreciate recognizable items such as a guitar, a squirrel and even SpongeBob SquarePants.
Find a list of sculpture addresses online at galveston.com/treesculpturetour — many are centered in the city’s East End Historic District — then take a free driving tour.

Taffy demonstration at La King’s Confectionery

La King’s Confectionery dates back to 1927, when Jimmy King learned how to make “Old World” candy in Houston. In 1976, his son, Jack, moved to Galveston and recreated an old-fashioned confectionery in the historic Strand District.
In summer, it’s a must-visit destination thanks to its working 1920s soda fountain, delicious handcrafted shakes, rainbow rows of candy and saltwater taffy, which you can watch being pulled and stretched in store most Wednesday through Sundays.
During a free hourlong taffy-making demonstration, made using antique equipment, guests receive samples. Call 409-762-6100 or visit lakingsconfectionery.com for more information.

Movie night on the Strand

No visit to Galveston is complete without spending some time in the historic Strand District, which is filled with shops, museums and restaurants.
After a fun-filled day exploring the area, head to Saegerfest Park, which hosts Movie Nights and Music Nights many Saturdays in summer. It’s a great excuse to grab a blanket or some lawn chairs and take in a free family-friendly flick or concert. Visit galveston.com/saengerfestpark for more information.

You won’t believe this Texas hotel and pool made of shipping containers

Move over, yurts, tree houses and Airstream trailers — there’s a new hotel trend on the rise. Now, visitors to the popular Texas town of Round Top, located just 70 miles down the road from Austin, can rest their heads inside a decked out recycled shipping container.

exterior4 (1)
The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top, Texas, is made from recycled shipping containers. Contributed by Flophouze Hotel

At the Flophouze Hotel, which opened in Round Top in 2017, visitors can choose from a half-dozen “houzes” outfitted with eco-friendly and recycled materials such as bowling alley floors. Hammocks, fire pits, cozy chairs and complimentary Topo Chico are among the amenities.

interiorhouzeIV-4
The interior of one of the “Houzes” at Flophouze Hotel in Round Top. Contributed by Flophouze Hotel

MORE PHOTOS: The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top

Oh, and just to complete the theme, there’s a shipping container pool, too, manufactured by Modpool that recently opened.

pool
The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top has a shipping container pool. Contributed by Flophouze Hotel

Rates start at $175 a night. Learn more at flophouze.com.

New floating water park and obstacle course to open on Lake Travis June 29

If you’ve been seeking a new way to make a splash this summer, you’re in luck — a floating water park and obstacle course will open on Lake Travis at the end of this month.

PHOTOS_BL_lake_travis_waterloo_adventures_things_to_do_austin_outdoor_activity_atx_family_fun_austin_lake_water_park_austin_tx
Waterloo Adventures, a floating water park on Lake Travis, is expected to open on June 29. Contributed by Waterloo Adventures

The new park, called Waterloo Adventures, comes from the same team that created Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. Participants will take a boat ride (included in the cost of admission) out to “adventure island,” where they will participate in a 45-minute session on the 600-foot Floating Challenge Course that includes more than 70 obstacles such as monkey bars, slides, balance beams, hurdles and climbing walls.

The $50 excursion cost also includes unlimited access to the Aqua Park, home to a 14-foot climbing tower, water slide, jumping tower and 25-foot trampoline.

Oh, and if you want a cocktail, never fear — wine, beer and frozen drinks, as well as other beverages and food, will be available. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday-Monday through October. Reservations are recommended.

This is the second water obstacle course to open in the area this summer — in May, QuestATX cable wakeboard park opened Quest Waterpark.

• MORE ONLINE: Nominate your favorite people and places in Austin for our inaugural Best of the Best Awards 

5 tips for planning a bat-centric Austin staycation

Recently I had a revelation. Despite growing up in Austin and spending most of my life here, I had never seen the famous Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge bats. With bat season now in full swing (it’s March-October), I decided the time had come to correct that.

IMG_2188
People line the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in anticipation of the bats. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

So my husband and I planned a bat-centric staycation for ourselves and our three children, ages 9, 6 and 5. It was a quick, one-night getaway, but it provided the perfect opportunity to relax, re-center and yes, finally spy some of Austin’s 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats.

RELATED: The story behind the new bat mural under Congress Avenue Bridge

Here are some tips for planning a bat-centric Austin staycation.

IMG_2091 (002)
The Hyatt Regency Austin affords beautiful views of the downtown skyline. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman
  1. Stay at a hotel along Lady Bird Lake. We booked a night at the Hyatt Regency Austin and started with dinner at the on-site Marker 10, which had a perfect balance of kid-friendly (think macaroni) and parent-friendly (think delicious sushi) options to please the whole family.
  2. Book a bat-watching cruise. The bats are spectacular no matter how you see them, but we loved our bat-watching tour through Capital Cruises, which departs next to the Hyatt Regency Austin. Our knowledgeable tour guide offered lots of fun facts as the bats peppered the sky above us.
  3. Snap a selfie by the Night Wing Bat Sculpture. It’s located at 300 S. Congress Ave., right in front of the new YETI flagship store. Afterwards, grab a drink at YETI’s on-site Barrr, which offers beer, wine and snacks. The Hyatt Regency Austin is even partnering with YETI to offer a YETI Experience Package that includes a visit to the YETI Flagship store and BARRR, as well as official YETI products.
  4. Sip a bat-themed beverage. If you prefer your beverage with a batty twist, head across the lake to the Four Seasons Austin, which serves up a Batini cocktail made with Ketel One vodka, house-made blackberry syrup, grapefruit, sparkling wine and mint. Extra points if you sip it while relaxing outside on the beautiful lawn.
  1. Time your Bat-cation with Bat Fest. Bat Fest 2018 will be held Aug. 18. Really, really love the bats? Plan your bat-themed staycation to coincide with it.

Berry picking, other spring fun worth a day trip from Austin

The breezes are cool, the sky is blue and fruit is fresh. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to appreciate Texas’ beloved springtime activities (berry picking, anyone?), now’s the time. Here are four places where you can get a true dose of spring fun just down the road from Austin.

Sweet Berry Farm, Marble Falls

dycsweetberry7jpg866309
Adrianna Forister marks boxes of strawberries as paid at Sweet Berry Farm outside of Marble Falls in this file photo. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There’s no better way to welcome spring than by picking fresh berries, and there’s no better place to do that than at Sweet Berry Farm, where you can pluck your own fresh strawberries through the end of May for $2.89 per pound. The farm, which is open daily except Wednesdays and located near Marble Falls, also offers 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. Blackberries may also be available starting in mid-May.

zinnia5
You can pick a fresh flower bouquet at Barton Hill Farms’ new Backyard Bash. credit: Barton Hill Farms

Barton Hills Farm

Barton Hill Farms has already made a name for itself as a great place to go for fall family fun, but now they’re dabbling in spring, too, with the new Barton Hill Backyard Bash. Held Saturdays and Sundays May 5-27, expect 30 activities including face painting, backyard games, live music and fresh food and beverages including beer and wine. You can’t pick any fruit here, but you can pick a fresh flower bouquet. Barton Hill Farms is located on the banks of the Colorado River 30 minutes from downtown Austin.

 

 

Sweet Eats Fruit Farm

Located just east of Georgetown, Sweet Eats offers a variety of fruit ripe for the picking, including cherries, pears, nectarines and peaches (check website for picking dates). The farm also has lots of fun for the family, such as pony rides, a petting zoo, an obstacle course, a jump pad, live music and more.

Marburger Orchard

JNH peaches 09
The Marburger Orchard has been serving businesses, pickers, and product for decades. AMERICAN-STATESMAN file photo

A trip to Fredericksburg is always a good idea, especially when you can pick your own fresh fruit along the way. At Marburger Orchard, which is open daily, strawberries are currently on offer, with blackberries and famous Texas peaches on their way soon, too. For more information about pick-your-own season in Fredericksburg, visit visitfredericksburgtx.com/attractions-activities/pick-your-own-orchards-seasonal.

Start planning for summer! 5 water parks to consider across Texas

Are you ready for summer? Temperatures are already starting to creep up, which means it won’t be long before we’re hitting those triple digits. Never fear! There are plenty of water parks across the state that are well equipped to keep you cool and calm. Here are five you might want to put on your summer to-do list.

Epic Waters, Grand Prairie

EpicWaters_034-768x512
Epic Waters is one of the newest water parks in Texas. credit: Epic Waters

This Dallas-area water park opened in January, making it one of the newest, and most innovative, on the scene. There are no bad-weather days at this 80,000-square-foot facility thanks to a retractable roof that keeps the fun flowing all year round. Expect 11 slides on the water park’s slide tower, an outdoor wave pool, FlowRider boogie-boarding, the longest indoor lazy river in Texas and more. Want to make it a water park weekend? Stay at the nearby Great Wolf Lodge, which also houses an indoor water park as well as family friendly accommodations.

Big Rivers, New Caney

Located on the outskirts of Houston, this new water park is scheduled to open for its inaugural season on June 29. Expect a giant wave pool, a sprawling lazy river and the Gator Splash, which incorporates more than 300 water play elements. Also on property is Gator Bayou Adventure Park, where a nature center (with gators!), a petting zoo, pony rides, ropes courses and zip lines await.

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

For water park fun, it’s hard to beat Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, which is already open on weekends and will be open daily starting May 11. Known as “the hottest coolest time in Texas,” this local institution opened in 1979 and quickly became a must-see destination for people across the country.  Go for the day or, 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. Special events this summer include American Heroes Week (May 28-June 1), National Women Learn to Surf Week (June 11-15) and the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (June 21). Heading to South Padre Island, Corpus Christi or Galveston this summer? You can find Schlitterbahn locations there, too.

 

Typhoon Texas, Pflugerville

Gully Washer 17
The “Gully Washer” at Typhoon Texas in Katy is one of several family-friendly attractions expected at the renovated Pflugerville water park. Courtesy photo

Seeking the thrills of a big water park but only have a few hours to spare? Head to Typhoon Texas, which is located just 40 minutes from Austin in Pflugerville and opens for the 2018 season Memorial Day weekend in the spot that was previously Hawaiian Falls. 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. There is another Typhoon Texas located in Katy near Houston.

SeaWorld Aquatica, San Antonio

SeaWorld-Aquatica-Vacation-Ticket-1
Cool off at SeaWorld Aquatica.

You want to go to SeaWorld, but in the summer it gets HOT. Never fear! Aquatica is here. This water park located on SeaWorld San Antonio property is filled with refreshing family fun, including 450-foot-long body slides, a 48-foot-tall tube ride and Stingray Falls, which takes visitors on a four-seated raft into an underwater grotto where stingrays and tropical fish are waiting to greet you. Go early to avoid the crowds.

 

Attention, last-minute shoppers! You can buy these awesome gifts at the airport

You meant to do your holiday shopping early this year, but once again you’ve run out of time. Now you’re at the airport without any gifts for Aunt Jenny, Grandpa James or Cousin Michael.

tylers scene
The new Tyler’s store, which opened at the airport in November, is filled with gift options. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

No worries. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare before you board your flight, you can knock out most, if not all, of your shopping list at the airport.

“We pride ourselves in this airport in helping our local vendors,” said Austin-Bergstrom International Airport retail manager Linda Barton. “We do a mix of national brands, but we really, really try to focus on our local vendors to support the community.”

Here are 10 gifts to consider picking up while you’re at the airport.

1. Taco paraphernalia.

taco
A taco T-shirt, like these, $24.99 at Tyler’s, is a great way to share Austin culture with out-of-towners. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Austin loves its tacos, so why not spread that love with out-of-towners this holiday season? From taco T-shirts to “taco money” coin purses, there’s options for everyone.

2. Handmade fun.

stuffed
This Abbey Roadkill skate monster is available at Tyler’s. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

The only thing that could make these crocheted monsters cooler is the fact that they were created by Abbey Roadkill, a former roller derby skater for TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. Each monster contains nearly 1,200 individual crochet knots and no two are alike. The young one in your life, or the young at heart, will love ’em. Prices vary; they’re available at Tyler’s.

3. Flying brisket.

salt lick
Take your brisket to go at the Salt Lick’s airport location. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

You love Salt Lick. Why not share it with the people who love you? At the airport location, you can purchase a whole brisket with sauce that’s ready to travel in an insulated bag for $64.95. Want dessert? Head to Amy’s, where you can buy a six-pint sampler pack that comes packed ready for an eight-hour trip for $50.

RELATED: Get barbecue shipped from these Central Texas restaurants

4. Onesie ready.

IMG_7173 (002)
This onesie at ACL/Waterloo Records and Video at the airport has a statement to make. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

It’s never too early to show someone that Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. These onesies from ACL/Waterloo Records and Video do just that. They’re around $20.

5. Weather ready.

jacket
This men’s Tumi coat is $245 at the 5th and Congress shop in the airport. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Looking for a nice gift for the guy in your life? Sample the wares at 5th and Congress, which is well stocked with coats, hats, scarves and accessories.

6. Topped off.

hat
Get in style with fresh hat from 5th and Congress. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

A hat is a fun and easy gift for your favorite aunt, cousin or friend. This one is $65 at the airport’s 5th and Congress.

7. Orange you ready? 

horns
Little Longhorns will appreciate this dress. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Got Longhorns in your life? You’ll find a wide selection of Longhorn gear at the airport’s Austin Article. This sweet dress is $35.

8. Sock it to me.

socks
The Austin Article features a variety of socks. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

If you’ve got hard-to-shop-for folks on your list, why not consider some fun Blue Q socks? These, from the Austin Article, start around $15, and a percentage benefits Doctors Without Borders.

9. Sweets for the sweet.

coover

If you know someone with a sweet tooth, head to Tyler’s for a batch of Coover Caramels, which are made in Texas using Grandma Coover’s 1930s recipe. A small box is $12.99.

10. Ready to be pampered.

lotion
Latika lotions are made in Austin. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

If your loved ones could use a little pampering, try Latika’s lotions, creams and bath bombs. They’re handmade in Austin and come in a variety of scents. Prices vary depending on product and size.