Hill Country Happy

One of the best parts of spring is…Spring Break! With a newborn in tow this year, our options were limited to destinations within driving distance, so we decided to take a Texas road trip from Dallas down to San Antonio, landing at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, a place WHERE THE GENERATIONS MEET™. Part of what we love about this legendary resort is how there’s fun for all ages and several dining options on-site throughout a week’s stay. This trip was nostalgic for Lolli and me, as we have many fond memories from my childhood of the same resort and nearby attractions, like visiting Sea World and, of course, the Alamo and the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. But a lot of the fun of a road trip is the road trip itself! Here are some more details about our family vacation:

On the Way

San Antonio is about a five-hour drive from Dallas, so we broke up the trip with a couple classic Texas road-trip stops. Near Waco are two of our favorites: Buc-ee’s and Slovacek’s. Not only can you take a break and fill up your gas tank at these spots, but go inside for a “general store on steroids” experience with lots of snack and souvenir options to boot! The boys left Buc-ee’s with barbecue sandwiches and “bath bombs” this time. We adults like a stop at Slovacek’s for a pecan kolache (a popular Czech pastry) and a quick coffee refresh before jumping back on the highway.

Just prior to hitting the road, we surprised the boys with new LeapFrog Academy learning tablets filled with educational, kid-friendly content pre-downloaded. In our family, we allow some limited technology time on trips longer than three hours, but we try to spend most of the travel time listening to music or audiobooks, playing “I Spy,” and enjoying other activities. Sticker books were actually the big hit this time!  I mentioned a few road-trip activities at the end of our Splash Into Spring post from a few weeks ago, and I’ve included some of those here again:

Where to Stay

Our go-to landing spot is the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, a place that holds sweet memories for me as a little girl, from making sandcastles at the “beach” with my brothers, to charging giant lollipops from the General Store to our room! The boys had so much fun floating laps around the lazy river, and my oldest even rode some waves on the FlowRider Surf Simulator, a new addition since my childhood visits (They’ve installed a waterslide recently, too!). There is fun for the whole family all day long, beginning with an amazing breakfast spread, followed by rubber ducky races, swim (or spa) time, lunch by the pool, a visit to the game room, and eventually onto dinner and daily s’mores around the fire pit, all topped of with an evening movie on the lawn. There’s so much to do, we didn’t even get to try it all. Next time, we want to rent bikes and ride the nature trails, but this trip, we spent more time near the playground with the boys’ scooters and a baby stroller.  I’m sure golf will be an activity the family can enjoy in the future, too! 

Sidenote: If you have a large family, there’s a guest cabin onsite called “Sunday House” that holds up to six people. Although we booked a two-bedroom suite this time, we may try this special spot in the future. It comes with a golf cart to explore the property and get to and from the main hotel with ease (It’s closer to the resort’s Windflower Spa). Plus, I love the background story on this style of accommodation: Sunday houses became popular in the late 1800s among farmers who lived too far out for a quick trip into town. They would buy a house in town and make a weekend trip for church, market, and other business, staying just Saturday night before returning to their farms late Sunday afternoon. 

What to See and Do

While we were in the area, we drove about a half hour into San Antonio to see the Alamo. Thank goodness the line moved quickly, all while the baby slept in her stroller! It was the boys’ first time to visit the Alamo, and they will definitely remember it. At ages five and three, they thought it was so neat to see somewhere a real battle took place. We went inside the Alamo itself but also explored the grounds where they had costumed “soldiers” near tents, sharing about the cannons and other weaponry of the time with appropriate historical context. Our last stop on the site was the gift shop, of course. My boys chose Davy Crockett raccoon hats, along with some story books about their newfound Texan heroes, and a few Alamo postcards to send family and friends.

Just across the street from the Alamo sits the Historic Menger Hotel, which holds an enchanting toy soldier shop in its lobby. We found a cardboard Alamo pop-up and some army men from there as souvenirs, then continued onward for more Texas history fun. Since a visit to the historic Spanish mission had sparked my boys’ interest, we walked across the street to The Shops at Rivercenter, which houses the Battle for Texas Experience on its lower level. This basement exhibit displays historic Texas artifacts, and you’re invited to walk through an interactive reenactment of how it would feel to be inside the Alamo mission centuries ago during the two-week long battle. The experience ends with a Texas pride video on repeat, which we watched a few times! It provided a great introduction to state history for the little ones and several family discussion points. I especially liked all of the Texas quotes on the wall as you exit the exhibit.

The River Walk is connected to The Shops at Rivercenter, so we continued our day by enjoying a stroll along the river, culminating with a lunch of chips and queso, fajitas, quesadillas, and other Tex-Mex favorites. There are riverboat tours available, but since we had the baby and her stroller in tow, we skipped that fun feature of a downtown San Antonio outing. Maybe next time!

River Walk photo by Bee Creek Photography

If we had stayed downtown for dinner, the plan was to get a reservation at  Tower of the Americas. Like Reunion Tower in Dallas, Tower of the Americas has an observation deck and full restaurant at the top. It’s a great place to take the kids for panoramic views of the city, and there’s even a 4D theater ride included in the ticket! For a grownup date night, though, I’ve heard great things about the landmark Hotel Emma, and seeing a cooking demonstration at the adjacent Culinary Institute of America would be lots of fun, too!

While we didn’t want to spend too much time away from the Hyatt resort, a half-day at Sea World was also a must with the boys at their ages. (Thank goodness for Lolli, who took care of Baby Liza back at the hotel!) The Hyatt provided tickets day-of at a discounted rate, and the drive was just five minutes. Between kiddie rides and aquatic shows, we certainly “splashed” into spring!  We learned about how Sea World rescues, rehabilitates and researches animals and our oceans during “Killer Whales Up Close” and giggled throughout the cute “Sea Lion High” skit also. Although we didn’t get to it, I saw that Aquatica, the SeaWorld waterpark attachment, has a stingray encounter experience that lets you swim with stingrays, which may be fun for children a bit older. There is also a “Sesame Street Bay of Play” for tots, with Sesame Street characters on-site for pop-up shows and photo opps!

How to Pack

Packing for a family vacation (including a newborn!) is no small feat, but it was a fun excuse to shop some and also pull out all the spring and summer patterns that have been hiding during the colder months. My boys’ shoes of choice right now are their Texas cowboy boots (easy to slip on and off), and those were right on-point for this trip! The only other shoes needed were a pair of water shoes, flip flops, and some tennis shoes. Boots, flip flops, tennis shoes (and a pair of Soludos mules) worked just fine for me, too! Even little Liza had a pair of pink cowgirl boots for her visit to the Alamo!

Besides the right footwear, we packed lots of swimsuits and rashguards for the boys, sweaters for nighttime temperatures, and pool-to-playtime wear. Lolli and I both loved the excuse to wear our “Fiesta dresses,” and  we also packed white blouses and jeans as our other go-to outfits, since that is an easy ensemble that also pairs well with boots or sandals and some accessories.

Cactus Swim Trunks // Fiesta Dress

MAMA ALWAYS SAID™ to pack your own water bottles and snacks for family vacation (You never know if hotel options will disappoint!), so we brought some food and drink options for our stay, as well as everything needed to set up the baby’s changing station and crib (See Baby Gear Galore and Newborn Essentials for more on that!). We were also so glad we packed the boys’ scooters! Even though you can rent trikes and bikes from the hotel, one of their favorite activities was zipping down the hallways and around the resort in their pajamas and boots each morning (with a stop for Lolli’s latté delivery along the way!). From footwear and snacks, to swimsuits to sweaters, we packed everything up in our favorite luggage Lolli gave our family for Christmas. Here’s more of what was inside:

When to Go

Although we went over spring break, we found that the Hyatt and nearby attractions were busy but bearable. Sea World and the Alamo were especially bustling, but lines moved quickly. The spring weather was also not too hot, which in Texas is rare! On that note, I would avoid visiting in July and August, just so you can take full advantage of all the outdoor activities. Early June or Labor Day weekend may be good summer-weather options. We heard from other hotel guests that they’ve enjoyed visiting around Thanksgiving, when it’s cooler and as the leaves change. Whenever you do get a chance to visit the Texas hill country, we hope you enjoy the lovely landscape, the history, and the #intentionalmemories it offers!

Have you visited the hill country recently? Let us know about your experience over on Instagram @lolliandme by commenting on our post or tag your own photos with #hillcountryhappy!

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