Thursday, March 31, 2016

Texas Hill Country Day Trip Ideas

A few weeks ago I finished writing about all the locations my family visited during our Texas Coastline Roadtrip back in November of 2014. Even through I'm done with that huge writing project I'm not done writing about Texas.

I want to share all the interesting places that my family discovered during the two years we lived in the Texas Hill Country.  We lived in the Killeen/Fort Hood area. The area had it's charms, but was rather lacking in interesting things to do.  As often as possible we'd go for little day trips to explore the surrounding areas. Our adventures took us to waterfalls, caves, large hills that pretended to be mountains, zoos, reservoirs that pretended to be lakes, and a few historical buildings - just to name a few.

So here you have a list of all the places we discovered. - I should add that in no way is this a comprehensive list of everything there is to do in the Texas Hill Country.  These are things that fit our small budget, and were child friendly enough for our young children.

I've listed each location by city starting with the southern most and then travelling north and then west.  As I write about each place I'll add a short description and a picture.  Click on the name of the place to be taken to the full post.

San Antonio

The Alamo
San Antonio Riverwalk and boat tour
Sea World

New Braunfels

Landa Park

San Marcos

Aquarena Springs

The water from the Edwards Aquifer is perfectly clear as it flows out of over 1000 springs into Spring Lake. Since 1945 people have been able to see into the depths of the water by taking tours on glass bottomed boats. You can see all sorts of fish, turtles, and even flowering plants under the water.


Mt Bonnell
Mount Bonnell rises 770 feet above sea level.  That make it the highest point within the Austin City limits.  Most of the height is already achieved as you dive up to the trail head.  The most climbing you will have to do is to walk up 202 steps built into the side of the mountain.  Once you reach the top you'll have an impressive view of Austin and the surrounding area.

McKinney Falls State Park
Austin Aquarium
Texas State Capitol


Inner Space Caverns
Inner Space Cavern lay undiscovered by the modern world until 1963 when unsuspecting engineers drilled through 40 feet of rock and into one of the large chambers of the cave. The cave was open to the public in 1966 and since that time thousands of people have been able to see the fascinating world created from limestone. A tour of the cave is like a trip into another world.

Lake Georgetown


Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum
The Old Santa Fe Depot in Temple, Texas was built in 1911. Part of the depot has been converted into a museum. The grounds around the museum have a beautiful plaza with well maintained walkways and gardens. There are historic train cars and an engine on display in front of the building. The rail lines next to the building are very busy. A smaller building near the depot has model trains on display. The Whistle Stop Park is also near the depot. Several free activities are held at the depot throughout the year. This is a great place for families to spend the day.

Mother Neff State Park
Mother Neff State Park is a small state park in Central Texas. There are tall trees which provide shade on even the hottest days. Many of the structures in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. This is a great place to camp, hike, and just unwind from life.


Yettie Polk Park
Downtown Belton
Miller Springs Nature Center
Stillhouse Hollow Lake

Fort Hood


Mounted Weapons Demonstration
Modern Calvary is made up of tanks and other machines, but Fort Hood has a way to remind people of what the cavalry used to be like. Every Thursday they put on a free demonstration of how horses were used in warfare.  This is a fun show for any horse lover.  And for people who love explosions there are gun shots and cannon blasts throughout the show.

Last Drive in Picture Show (in Gatesville)
Gatesville, Texas, north of Fort Hood, has a drive in movie theater that is an amazing deal. You can see two new release movies for only $10 per car. Let me repeat that. Two movies for only $10. You can't beat a deal like that. So load up the family and head to Gatesville tonight.

Copperas Cove

The Topsey Exotic Ranch and Drive Through Safari is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country just a few miles north of Copperas Cove, Texas. You can drive your own car along a loop road and feed the hundreds of animals living on the ranch. You will see many zebras, goats, emus, ostriches, buffalo, deer, elk, llamas, and many more animals including a camel. When you are done with the drive through part of the ranch you can walk through a small zoo which includes some animals that you can pet.


Cameron Park Zoo
The slogan for the Cameron Park Zoo is that it's the Happiest Surprise in Texas.  And that is certainly true.  This zoo is the perfect size. It's big enough that it has all the animals you expect to see in a zoo, but it's small enough that you can walk around it in just a few hours. It's also shady which means that even on hot summer days this is an enjoyable place to visit. Go see it for yourself - you won't be sorry.

Marble Falls

Sweet Berry Farm


Main Street Bethlehem

Longhorn Caverns State Park
Longhorn Cavern State Park has wonders above and below ground. The cave contains many fascinating features that were carved by an underground river. The surface of the park has medieval looking buildings built from stone by Civilian Conservation Corps workers. Everything makes you feel like you stumbled into a fantasy realm.

Johnson City

Pedernales Falls State Park is a great location for many types of recreation. You can view the waterfall, hike on the many trails, swim or tube in the river, and camp at one of the many campsites.


Enchanted Rock
Enchanted Rock is a large hill made of solid granite rock. The rock rises 425 feet above the surrounding landscape of the Texas Hill Country. It is a total of 1,825 feet above sea level. A hike to the top of the rock is only seven tenths of a mile one way, and provides excellent views. There are many other trails around the rock that allow you to really get a feel for this 640 acre natural wonder.

And here is a map that will help orient you to some of these locations.

You may notice that one prominent city is missing from this list.  Dallas.  It's sad, but during the two years that we lived in Fort Hood we never made the two and a half hour drive up to Dallas.  That's because my sister lived three hours away in Houston.  Whenever we had time to make a long drive to a large city we choose to drive south to Houston.  Sorry Dallas.

In case you are met with the same situation, here are some things you can do in the Houston Area.


Houston Zoo
Oil Ranch
Oil Ranch is located in the farm country on the outskirts of Houston, Texas. The ranch provides a chance to enjoy farm life as well as participate in many fun activities. There are many opportunities to see and pet farm animals. You can even learn how to milk a cow, and children can go on pony rides. In addition to all the standard farm activities you can also go on a small train ride or play miniature golf. There are enough activities here to keep you and your family busy all day.

Washington on the Brazos
Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site is a large park along the Brazos River in Washington, Texas. This is the location of Independence Hall - the rough frame building where early leaders of Texas declared their independence from Mexico in 1836. The Barrington Living History Farm is another part of the park. This farm shows how families in Texas lived during the 1800's. There are plenty of picnic areas and other recreation areas throughout the park.

Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park is less than an hour away from busy downtown Houston, Texas, but it feels like it's a whole different world. The park's 5000 acres are home to wildlife such as many species of deer and birds as well as alligators who roam free through some areas of the park. In addition to the animals, the park is full of large Live Oak Trees practically dripping with Spanish Moss.

NASA Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center
Rocket Park is a stop on the Johnson Space Center Tour in Houston, Texas, but it is also available to the public for free. The park contains a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Little Joe II rocket, as well as some other large equipment from the 1960's space program. The most amazing thing on display is an actual Saturn V Rocket which is housed inside a giant climate controlled building.

Battleship Texas State Historic Site
The USS Texas is a very rare battleship. She is the only surviving ship that served in both World War I and World War II. She is also the only Dreadnought style battleship that has been preserved. When she was commissioned in 1914 she was the most advanced weapon in the world. Now she serves as a reminder of the technology and the people who used it to help defend our country.

San Jacinto Battlefield
Texas declared independence from Mexico in March of 1836. In April of that year the decisive Battle of San Jacinto was fought on what is now the outskirts of Houston. The Texans won the battle and secured freedom. 100 years later the State of Texas built a monument and a museum on the battleground as a memorial to the battle. A visit to this site will help anyone gain a greater understanding of Texas history.

Fred Hartman (Baytown) Bridge
This double suspension bridge spans the Houston Shipping Channel to connect Highway 146 between LaPorte and Baytown. The diamond shaped towers rise to a height of 440 feet, and support the six lanes of traffic 178 feet above the water.

Houston Port Authority Boat Tour
This free boat ride takes you on an hour long tour of the Houston Port Authority.   The tour will take you past large shipping vessels, and give you an understanding of how important shipping is when it comes to imports and exports.

I'm hoping this list will help you enjoy your time in the Texas Hill Country.  Check back often to see all the updates that I make over the next few weeks.  You can also follow me on Facebook and Pinterest to receive updates.

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I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?


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