Day Trips 2013: Five Ways to Get Outta Here

1. Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool:

Krause Springs
Krause Springs (Spicewood)
(830) 693-4181

Opie’s BBQ
9504 Hwy 71 E (Spicewood)
(830) 693-8660

Hamilton Pool Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool (Dripping Springs)

When the temperature gauge starts sweating bullets and the world begins to slowly melt around you, a cool way to beat the heat is by heading 90 miles north to one of the most treasured swimming holes in Texas — Krause Springs. The gin-clear waters, just down the road from Willie Nelson’s rancho deluxe, provide the perfect place to reconnect with nature, make some new (old) hippie friends, and float around in the not-so-hot water. In fact, the spring holds constant at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words? Heaven on a hot Texas summer day. If you want to make it a two-for-one day trip, about 30 miles down the road (we suggest stopping at Opie’s BBQ on your way out of Krause Springs) lies another Texas swimming hole gem, Hamilton Pool. A hidden grotto once revered by Native Americans, the pool sports a 50-foot waterfall and plentiful shade.

$6 admission Krause Springs
$10 vehicle permit Hamilton pool
$20 lunch at Opie’s

What to Pack:
• Sunscreen and water (we like to take care of our readers)
• Floaties, noodles, blow up rafts… even a snorkel might be kinda cool
• Camera — you WILL want to take pictures of this natural beauty
• Snacks on snacks on snacks. Relaxing, er, swimming really takes it out of you!

Miles Round Trip:

Threat Level:
3 — Blow up your floaties if ya can’t swim

2. Castroville:

Affectionately known as “The Little Alsace of Texas,” Castroville is a quaint romantic getaway. It’s like being transported to the French countryside without the hassle of, well, stepping through metal detectors and flying halfway across the world. A village that time has nearly forgotten, and not overrun with tourists sporting “authentic German beer mugs” (names need not be mentioned), Castroville is a lovely place for a leisurely day full of history, nature, and antiquing. Alsatian-style cottages and architecture can be seen throughout the town creating a historic and romantic vibe. You can take self-guided tours to view more than 60 classic dwellings, including the famous Steinbach house, a 17th-century building brought over from Wahlbach, France as a gift from the Alsace people. You might even consider bringing a picnic basket and dining next to the rustic Medina River — Bon appétit!

$30 picnic. Might we suggest including some cheese and wine in your basket? (caveat: Castroville regional park does not allow alcohol).
Self guided tours are free

What to Pack:
• Walkin’ shoes
• Picnic blanket and basket
• Beret

Miles Round Trip:
50 miles

Threat Level:
1. There’s always that chance you can get stung by a bee?

3. Shiner:

K. Spoetzl Brewery
603 E Brewery (Shiner)
(361) 594-3383

Antiques, Art, and Beer
720 N Avenue E (Shiner)
(361) 594-2337

Handcrafted, micro-brewed beers are everywhere. Part of the credit for the so-called “independent beer movement” in the U.S. goes straight to the tiny town of Shiner, Tex. — and its most famous product: Shiner beer. Take a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery (where Shiner brews are created). Don’t worry, you get to taste the suds as well. You will be given the chance to try four of the eight beers on tap; but if you enlist a pal who’s OK with swapping spit you can try all eight between yourselves. On the way out of town be sure and stop at Antiques, Art and Beer—the name says it all. With over 170 different kinds of beer, both boozers and perusers will be satisfied.

Free Tour at Spoetzl
$20 at the gift shop (beer mug heaven)
$20 at Antiques, Art and Beer

What to Pack:
• Camera
• A thirst for some beer knowledge, as well as a thirst for beer

Miles Round Trip:
184 miles

Threat Level:
5 — 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall…

4. Llano-Mason:

LanTex Theater
113 W Main (Llano)
(325) 247-5656

The Badu House
601 Bessemer (Llano)
(325) 247-2238

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
604 W Young (Llano)
(325) 247-5713

Mason County topaz

Yee-haw! There is a two-for-one special in the more rugged northwestern corner of the Texas Hill Country. Take a 100-mile trip up I-10 this summer to Llano and Mason — neighboring cities that offer all kinds of hidden treasures. Llano is home to the enduring and diverse LanTex Theater (host of movies, oprys, and country concerts), as well as the Badu House, a swankified and romantic country hideout located downtown. After a dip in the Llano River, one of the prettiest in the state and a perfect place to fish or swim, head on over to Cooper’s BBQ — a world-renowned joint famous for its pit ’cue. Thirty miles away, Mason is a bit quieter, but filled with marvelous old buildings constructed by the German settlers in the 1800s. There are peaceful B&Bs and amazing junk-thrift-collectibles stores — including some that still hawk the highly sought-after state gem, the Texas topaz . . .a stone only found in and around Mason. If you want to try your luck, three ranches in town (Garner Seaquist Ranch, Lindsay Ranch, Bar M Ranch) offer the chance to look for the gem yourself for only $15 — Don’t forget to bring a pick, shovel and wire screen.

$15-$20 lunch at Cooper’s
$15 Topaz digging
Browsing antiques and 1800’s German architecture… priceless

What to Bring:
Pick, shovel, wire screen with ¼ inch mesh

Miles Round Trip:
216 miles

Threat Level:
4 — Try not to stab yourself (or anyone else, for that matter) with your pick when digging for topaz.

5. Texas Hill Country Wine Trail

Windows rolled down. Warm summer air blowing through your hair. Country music blaring. Attempts to sing along. There is only one thing that can make a trip down a Lone Star state highway any better… Texas wine. Take a turn at the well-established Texas Hill Country Wine Trail. One of the more popular attractions for a bachelorette or birthday party, the trail, boasting 12 wineries along Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, offers vineyard views, tasty wines, and friendly folk — hey, its 5 o’clock somewhere! With prices ranging from $5-$12, one can generally taste five to six wines per vineyard. Not a bad deal considering the trail is known for fabulous customer service and some honest-to-God good wine.

$50 for wine tasting (some wineries will provide you with cheese, but you might consider bringing your own snacks)

What to Bring:
Miranda Lambert CD
Designated driver

Miles Round Trip:
100 miles

Threat Level:
9 — One word: wine.