Things to Do

10 Awesome Ways to Celebrate Spring in the Texas Hill Country

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No better time exists for a journey into the Texas Hill Country than springtime. The landscape looks like an impressionist painting swimming in brushstrokes of color. Rivers and streams gurgle with renewed life after seasonal rains. The warm sun and the gentle breeze hypnotize folks into spending time in the great outdoors. Here are a few things to do to celebrate the season.

1. Bike the Willow City Loop

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Photo: Flickr/davehensley

For the ultimate wildflower adventure, bike lovers can tool around the Willow City Loop. Just 12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg, the town of Willow City is the starting line for the 20-mile ride. Riders can roll through the hills on two wheels gazing on wide open bluebonnet fields. Cows lollygag roadside while cotton candy clouds drift by. Riders should be on the lookout for low water crossings and cattle guards while pedaling through the picturesque countryside. Those needing to refuel can stop at Harry’s on the Loop or The Knot in the Loop Saloon for drinks, eats and some local flavor. For those looking to log more miles, start at Marktplatz in Fredericksburg and follow this 55-mile the route.

2. Hike the Backside of Enchanted Rock

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Photo: Flicker/joediev

Sure everyone has climbed up Enchanted Rock once or twice, but the giant granite dome boasts a backside, too. Vernal pools (ecological areas of flora and fauna that have adapted to the harsh environment) dot the rock and are home to fairy shrimp. Hikers might stumble across a Texas Horned Lizard sunning itself or numerous varieties of birds. Hikers with flashlights can sneak through the seam of a large fissure and explore the dark area within. Campers can while away the evening bat watching and stargazing. A ring-tailed cat or fox may even stroll through the campground.

3. Kayak in Castell

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Photo: Flickr/paddymurphy

Just 15 miles from Llano is a bump in the road known as Castell. Stop here on any given day, and Castell General Store proprietor Randy Leifeste will spin a yarn a country mile long, and may even throw in an off-color joke or two. Leifeste loves to tell stories of Castell days gone by pointing out the vacant lot that used to house a two-story hotel and the former car dealership now used to kayak storage.

Next door to the shed, a cluster of cabins welcomes over-nighters. Visitors can browse the general store for anything from wine to sunscreen. For a unique Hill Country view, visitors can rent kayaks and paddle the Llano River. A favorite with motorcycle enthusiasts, there’s even a special parking area called the “hog pen” for parking Harleys.

The smoker lures hungry visitors to the picnic tables outside the general store to enjoy barbecue chicken, ribs or brisket. On busy days, it’s best to reserve a plate early because when the food is gone, it’s gone.

4. Take an Electric Bike Foodie Tour

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Photo: Facebook/RocketElectrics

Foodies suffering from guilty feelings about their passion for eating, take note. Rocket Electric Bike tours in Austin organizes rides that bring participants to some of the hottest dining spots in town – all by pedal power with an added bonus – a boost of electricity when things get tough.  It’s a progressive dinner on wheels or a pub crawl for pedal pushers. Trips include a guide and reservations so there’s never a wait for food and drink. Patrons can also choose to rent a bike for the day and create their own capital city adventure.

5. Paddle Board Boerne Lake

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Photo: Flickr/vikapproved

Stand up paddling (or SUP) originally hails from Hawaii. But now main-landers have fallen “paddle over boards” for the sport, not only for its health benefits, but as another wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors. No ocean needed here and no real experience either. A wide floating board and a paddle are the only requirements to glide through the water in a whole new way. Hill Country Paddle Sports located at the Boerne City boat ramp on Boerne Lake, rents paddle boards starting at $15 per hour. Yoga lovers can put their balance to the test participating in a SUP yoga class.

6. Attend a Festival

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Photo: Flickr/mannymoss

There is no coincidence between the advent of spring and the plethora of festivals available for merry-making. The return of warm weather makes people eager to party and make merry outdoors. Since every Hill Country town has something to celebrate, throwing a festival outside only makes sense. Below are just a few:

Bloomin’ Fest – Celebrate spring, green and everything that grows in downtown Lampasas during the first weekend in April (April 2 – April 3). This year’s festivities include a sip and stroll event perfect for sampling a few Hill Country bevvies while meandering around the square. Poke around in arts and crafts booths, buy some flower bling for your garden, or sidle up to the stage for some toe-tapping tunes.

Old Settlers Music Festival – The sounds of good old country music spilling across the bluebonnet blanketed meadows of Driftwood leave no doubt that spring has arrived. This year’s 29th Annual Old Settlers Music Festival April 14-17 promises four days full of rollicking roots music as well as workshops and impromptu jams. Expect regular festival fare like fabulous food, craft brews, arts and crafts booths and kid’s activities. There’s even a youth talent show. Camping is available too but sells out fast so get your tickets now.

New Braunfels Crawfest 2016 – Festival-goers can celebrate the season with mudbugs and music at the Comal County Fairgrounds April 29 – April 30.  New Braunfels rolls out a big Texas red carpet honoring Louisiana’s favorite delicacy. Activities include the Crawfish Gumbo Cook-off, Crawfish Eating Contest, and 5K Crawdaddy Dash. Humans won’t be the only runners as the speediest crustaceans will compete in their own crawfish race. Country music lovers can two step the day away with artists such as Pat Green, the Bill Ayers Band, and William Clark Green. Zydeco fans can check out their own brand of jams at the Zydeco stage.

7. Ride a Horse

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Photo: Flickr/heatheronhertravels

Wandering on horseback through 6,000 acres of the Hill Country State Natural Area might sound like a dream to some, but the folks at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in Bandera aim to make that dream a reality.

Guests may bring their own horse or choose to ride a horse available from the lodge herd. Horses will feel pampered in well-ventilated 12×12 stalls with an automatic fly misting system. Staff clean the stalls daily and replace bedding as necessary. All guests need to do is feed, groom, and ride into the Hill Country sunset.

Guest accommodations are equally posh with private cabins and complete kitchens stocked with breakfast goodies. Visitors can cruise into Bandera and check out a local joint for dinner or hit up the grocery store and whip up their own cowboy cuisine back at the cabin.

8. Visit Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Photo: Flickr/haveclipperswilltravel

Besides browsing the 650 species of Texas native plants at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, guests can participate interesting list of other outdoor activities tailored for kids and adults. Kids will love the learning sessions during Nature Hour held on Saturdays in the family Garden or the Flashlight Hike exploring the sounds and the sights of the Family Garden at night. Wildflower Cave tours offer families the chance to explore all things creepy and crawly.

Adults can take part in learning about invasive plants, friendly and not-so-friendly insects or earn their native plant certificate in special classes offered. The big kids can even bring flashlights and attend their own Moonlight Hike meandering the park at night.

9. Sip Some Suds at Jester King Brewery

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Photo: Flickr/tswicegood

With loads of breweries to visit in the Hill Country, why choose this one? It’s a family affair. From the kids to the pup, families are welcome at Jester King Brewery. Adults can sample the brewery’s unique farmhouse ales while the whole family noshes on wood-fired pizza from Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. The kids and the pup will appreciate the ample grounds at Ceres Park (home to both businesses) for post pizza exploration. Parents can sit back and sip another sample of serious craft brew – a perfect way to enjoy the day in the spring Hill Country sunshine.

10. Texas Wine and Wildflower Trail

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Photo: Flickr/csmartin82

No celebration of spring is complete without a toast to the wildflowers. And in the Texas Hill Country, finding a good glass of wine is about as easy as snapping a picture in the bluebonnets.

During April 1 – April 17, Texas Hill Country Wineries welcomes folks to the Texas Wine and Wildflower Trail. Ticket prices ($40 for singles, $70 per couple) include a Hill Country Winery Passport, one free packet of wildflower seeds. Participating wineries are also offering a 15% discount on wine purchases of 3 bottles or more to passport holders. Participants choose a winery for passport and seed packet pickup and enjoy a complimentary wine tasting at that location. Then, travel onward for more free tastings to as many as 3 more wineries that same day. Tickets are good for the duration of the festival so wine lovers should reserve a few days to visit the 48 participating wineries while also enjoying multiple drives through the Hill Country.