Today’s the Day for a Day Trip
Summer’s the time for vacations, but if you can’t bear to wait patiently for the big family outing, or if your vacation options are limited to “staycations,” there are some great spots right here in Central Texas that are every bit as entertaining as any long-distance destination.
Many of our favorite local day trips share a common theme — water. We just can’t get enough of it during the hot summer days. Drink it, swim in it, or just let it carry you away; the natural waters of our area (and the cool ways we’ve found to play with it) can create a great day trip for family, friends and any other local folks you want to take with you.
A Cool, Cool Day Trip
We need a place to cool off! The unrelenting heat makes us long for something cold and refreshing, and this time of year we want to get away from the ordinary. Why not combine the two? There are some great “staycation” spots here in Central Texas, and most provide relief from the sweltering sun.
Parks and Rides
No summer is complete without a trip to Schlitterbahn, voted the “World’s Best Waterpark” for 13 consecutive years by Amusement Today. This 70-acre park combines the natural waters of the Comal River with dozens of man-made attractions that tempt thrill seekers and those who just want to spend an afternoon cooling off.
There's something for everyone at Schlitterbahn. If you like your water white, you have to visit The Falls. This 3,600 foot whitewater river is the world’s longest waterpark ride, pushing travelers through rapids, under waterfalls and careening over giant waves. Want to ride a second time? The AquaVeyer will take you back to the beginning on a conveyer belt lift. If you’re ready for a detour, the Deluge Whirlpool River will carry you from The Falls through a canyon, pushed along by the wildest of waves.
But this is only the most recent of the park’s many installations. Race down hills up to six stories tall on major slides like the BlackKnight Tunnels and Der Bahn Speed Slides. Relax on Blastenhoff Beach or swim up to the bar in the Biergarten Hot Tub. Float around on the Congo River Expedition or the Comal Express Tube Chute. You may not be able to do it all in a day, so if you decide to change your single-day excursion into a multi-day vacation, you can spend the night — or the weekend — in one of the resort’s hotel rooms or vacation townhomes.
On the shores of Lake Travis lies Volente Beach Shore Club, a small water park that takes advantage of the lake waters and the natural surroundings. Kids will love the Pirate Ship, Gator Crossing and Lazy Lagoon; screamers will love the Sidewinder, Flash Flood, Roadrunner and Texas Twister — a ride that may make you feel a little “flushed.” You can also rent a boat or a jet ski and take to the lake. The park features an excellent restaurant serving steaks and seafood, a bar and grill for hamburgers and shakes, or you can bring your own picnic and pack all the family favorites.
Turn off the Tube and Go Tubing
There are few better ways to cool off on a hot summer day than sitting on an inner tube and drifting along with the currents. There are some great places to “tube” in Central Texas, and any of them will make a great day trip.
The Comal River is the shortest navigable river in Texas — only three miles long. But that three miles is filled with some of the clearest spring water you’ve ever seen. The crystal water and constant flow make it one of the most-loved tubing destinations in Texas. For a few dollars, you can rent an inner tube and just drift through a lazy New Braunfels afternoon. You’ll meet folks from all over Central Texas, taking in the sun and sippin’ a cold one; alcohol is allowed on the River, but no glass or styrofoam. Of course, you may not have had your fill by the time you get to the end of the River, so there are shuttles waiting to take you back to the beginning — it’s an easy way to fill up a day.
Pedernales Falls State Park is one of the most beautiful places to float. The area of the river past the main falls has been designated as safe for swimming, and you’ll find tubers (the non-potato variety) baking in the sun all summer long. The park also has a number of campsites available, so you can turn your day trip into a weekender, if you prefer.
A Hole lot of Swimmin’s Goin’ On
Folks love to dive into our local swimmin’ holes this time of year. Hamilton Pool is one of the most beautiful. This large, tree-covered pool is graced by a magnificent 45-foot waterfall that keeps the air cool and the banks covered in green, lush foliage. One of the most popular day trips, it was designated as a preserve in 1990 to make sure that its popularity didn’t become its ruin. A maximum of 75 cars are allowed at any one time, so come early to claim a good spot.
Jacob’s Well is not only a great swimming hole, full of clear, fresh spring water, it’s also the deepest underwater cave in Texas. Cave diving is no longer allowed, due to the dangers posed by narrow fissures and unstable sediment, but this is still a great place to touch the source of the water that makes life in the Hill Country possible. Guided tours can teach you all about this complex, fragile ecosystem and the 10,000-year history that permeates it.
Sidebar of Related Information
What’s for Lunch?
A perfect day on the water must include a picnic. Make your moveable feast extra special with a few of the following ideas:
- Keep cold drinks cold by freezing them. Fix a batch of your favorite drink and pour some into ice cube trays. Freeze the trays and refrigerate the rest. When it comes time to pack your picnic, put the frozen cubes in the refrigerated portion, and the whole batch will stay cooler for much longer, but won’t be diluted by extra water.
- Bring your fans. Both the manual old-fashioned-Southern-lady kind and the new-fangled-battery-operated sort can generate a cool breeze when the afternoon gets a little too still.
- Designate a “toolmaster” for the trip. Fill a backpack with plates, cups, utensils, plastic bags (don’t forget one for the garbage!), candles, insect repellent, hand wipes, suntan lotion and all of the other non-food items that you might need, then give it to one of the picnickers to carry. This saves precious cooler space and shares the work.
- If folks are arriving separately, bring balloons and string to mark the path and location of your picnic. Lit torches or paper bags filled with sand and a candle can do the same for a nighttime affair.
- Pack a few gel coldpacks in your cooler. These will help keep food cold, and can cool off folks that get too hot playing in the sun.
- Be extra careful with mayonnaise-based salads or meat of any kind. One hour is the maximum time that food can be out of the cooler before it needs to be thrown away.