Monday, September 1, 2014

A Day Out with Thomas ~ Burnet, TX ~ September 27 & 28, 2014

My boys were obsessed with Thomas the Train, so when he comes to town, we are the first to buy tickets!  Thomas is coming to Burnet, Texas with the Austin Steam Train on September 27 & 28, 2014.  I'm a little sad that my boys have outgrown the fun, so I want to encourage you to take your kiddos for this amazing experience.  Here's our experience.  Ticket info is below. 

From the very beginning, my two boys have had a fascination with trains.  They are thrilled to see one - parked or moving.  You can only imagine what it is like when we pass by a train yard!!  So of course, my boys had loved Thomas the Train.  And how can you not?  These soft spoken, individually named engines have fun little stories behind them.  Our 10 year old had an overwhelming amount of Thomas the Train tracks & building from when he was little, so naturally, it was the first toy place din our youngest hands.  It has been a great source of fun for both of them.

Do you have a little guy or gal who loves Thomas the Tank Engine too??  Then you must take him to ride on Thomas!  We did with both our boys (and girl) when they were younger and all 3 of them were thrilled to "see" Thomas up close & personal.  Luckily, Thomas really likes Central Texas, as he visits us every fall.

The Austin Steam Train Association presents a Day Out with Thomas: Mystery on the Rails Tour 2012 coming this weekend, Saturday, September 29th and Sunday, September 30th out in Burnet, Texas.  I just checked online and tickets are still available for rides on Thomas at the ticket window.

We took our little guy last year and he LOVED it! Still talks about it to this day.  Obviously, the ride on Thomas is the highlight.  Honestly, a ride on any train is fantastic to a little one, but because Thomas is pulling it makes it even more special.
The train ride is fun.  I love that it is out in the Hill Country, as you have such a scenic view the entire ride.  The conductor "punches" your tickets and presents you with a certificate.  But really, the kids just want to watch the world go by......
But there is a lot more offered at the event than just the ride.  We also enjoyed the story-telling, arts & crafts, and meeting Sir Topham Hatt.  And even though his collection at home was bigger, my little guy just wanted to play with all the trains.  I guess it's more fun somewhere else?

They also feature an excellent gift shop with loads of Thomas merchandise. And professional photographers will be on hand to snap pics with your family & Thomas.

It is a very well organized event and one that we will remember fondly.

Texas Travel Facts A Day Out With Thomas:
Location: Burnet Community Center, 401 East Jackson Street, Burnet, Texas
Hours: Saturday & Sunday from 8:30 am - 7:00 pm
Admission: Tickets for 25 minute train ride: $14-20 (2 and up)
Recommended Time: 2 -3 hours 
Good to know: 12 departure times each day; ticket good for one ride; tickets are available at ticket office on site

Friday, August 29, 2014

The $500 Disney Gift Card GIVEAWAY

Want to win a $500 Disney Gift Card? Of course you do! 

I mean just the word "Disney" brings butterflies to your stomach.  Whether it's Disneyland or Walt Disney World,  everyone brings home some pretty amazing memories when they visit.

We have visited both parks over a dozen of times and quite honestly, it never gets old.  If you are bringing young ones or teenagers, going as adults or with a big family, Disney does magical things to a person. It takes them away from their daily lives and makes the world around them happy and cheerful and wondrous and special.  I don't know if I could ever get sick of a place that makes you just that darn happy.

And we come home from each trip with our arms full of special memories.

It's that perfect shot of your son's first ride on the iconic Dumbo.

Or when meeting his "hero" almost brought him (and you) to tears.

And when all these tweens got along perfectly the whole day.  What? No fighting?

Or finding out that Pizza Planet really does exist. 

No matter the memory, a trip to Disney holds a special place in your heart and that's why I am so excited to be a part of a major giveaway to help you on your next trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

One winner will receive a $500 Disney Gift Card.

Giveaway ends September 19th at 11:59pm, open to US, ages 18+. Only one entrant per household, per address. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Enter using the giveaway form below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: The participating bloggers were not compensated for this post. No purchase is necessary to enter. One entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited by law. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest. Contact if you have any additional questions or comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social City Dash in Austin, TX ~ October 18, 2014 {A GIVEAWAY}

Adventure races are all the fad right now but frankly, getting covered in mud and ducking under fire is just not this mom's thing.

So when I was invited to participate in the Social City Dash, I was hesitant...until I read what it was all about. and this twitter-loving, Instagram-posting-fool signed right up.
The Social City Dash is a one day event where teams of two or more (two adults maximum, kids are free, families are always welcome) use social media to solve clues, complete tasks and overcome challenges while learning cool things about the town they live. In a nutshell, the Social City Dash is, "...a family-friendly, community-oriented, urban adventure race for the social media savvy."
Our friends at the Dash (as they call it) have given us 10 free team admissions to give away. 
To enter your team in the Social City Dash, be one of the first ten to visit the event registration page:
...and use the promo code, RWTYM

This deal is only good for the FIRST 10 people who use this code.  After than, you can use the 90%off sale through Saturday. This makes the cost of the ticket $9. 
How does it work? Register your team for the Dash. Then, join other members of your community to test your social media prowess. Use your mobile device, your social network and your noggin to discover clues about your city to win prizes for your whole family.  
The Social City Dash will be held on October 18, 2014 in downtown Austin. Registration will begin at 11AM. the Dash begins at noon and will take most teams anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete. The first few teams to complete the Dash will win cash and prizes! 
Although it's a family friendly event and here are a few things you should know prior to registration:
·        Participants must complete the Dash on foot
·        Public transportation is allowed when possible
·        Most physical tasks will be easy enough for the typical 7 year old to complete
·        All teams are required to arrive on time with a smart phone capable of using the most popular social media apps
·        A complete list of the different social media used will be provided before the day of the Dash
·        Each team will determine their own route to complete the course
·        The #1 goal of the Social City Dash is to have fun
If you have any more questions or would like to nominate a local charity to be used in the Dash, please contact:

Social City Dash
I'm in with my family.  Are you??

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sleep Under the Sea at Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade's Aquatica Suite ~ San Antonio, TX

What's the coolest, most fun way to visit SeaWorld San Antonio & Aquatica??  By staying the night in the Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade's Kid's Aquatica Suite!  My family and I were recently invited to stay a few nights in the newly opened suite and let me tell  you, they DID NOT want to leave!


After a full day at Aquatica, we were overwhelmed at how well this room compliments the actual park.  Designed by a student at the Art Institute of San Antonio, Omni & SeaWorld partnered to bring it to life.  You can't imagine the excitement your children will express upon walking into the room for the first time.

The floor is painted as a sandy beach, the ceiling has black lights with a wavy texture and the walls are covered in coral, giving you the sensation of being "under the sea".  The WOW factor on these effects are off the chart. The Aquatica map, height chart and aquarium that stretches from the bathroom to the bedroom finish out the full Aquatica theme.   Even the stuffed animals, the books, the toys all had a sea theme.


One of the highlights of the suite for my children included the 2 TVs with both a Wii U & Playstation and DVD Player.  The suite comes with a variety of games & movies - most of which my children have not played or seen yet.  And there are age-appropriate games and toys for the little ones. 

I love the warm cookies & milk that are brought to the suite each evening - just another little touch that was appreciated.

Parent's Comfort

And where do the parent's sleep? Right through the porthole door is a quiet oasis.  Seriously, it's so quiet and relaxing to walk into your own suite.  The parent's side has both a sitting area that has a couch that folds out into a queen size bed and a bedroom with a king.  As expected, Omni provides a wonderfully comfortable bed.

And as minor as this may sound, one of my favorite programs that Omni Hotels provides is the morning coffee service.  Place your coffee order outside the door at night and they will bring it up at your requested time with a gentle knock on the door.  Coffee in bed that I didn't have to get up to make was heavenly.

Kid-Centric Hotel

We stayed at the Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade 2 years ago in their Kid's Fantasy Suite and I was really impressed by some of the changes I noticed to make this hotel more kid-friendly. Obviously, the addition of another suite helps bring families to the hotel, but there are other amenities that are nice.  During the summer, they offer Dive in movies each weekend night in the pool.   This hotel has both a heated indoor and outdoor pool, fully equipped exercise room, and a spa for full massages and facials.

The Kid's Suite comes with breakfast for the entire family at Bolo's Restaurant which offered a terrific buffet.

There is something so special for the kids to be able to sleep in these incredibly designed rooms.  It's everything they could want in a bedroom but more.  And it's a break from the typical hotel room - they deserve it!

Take a full tour with my daughter:

The Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade Aquatica Suite runs from $359 to $499.

Some fun things to do while you are in San Antonio:
Top 5 Things to do in San Antonio
10 Tips to Visit SeaWorld's Aquatica

Texas Travel Facts for Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade:
Location: 9821 Colonnade Blvd., San Antonio, TX 
Good to Know: Outdoor lap pool and indoor heated pool; Workout facility; complimentary self-parking and valet; Located minutes from Downtown, the River Walk, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Disclosure: My family & I were invited to stay at the Omni San Antonio at the Colonnade Kid's Aquatica Suite.  I was not compensated for this article. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Texas ~ Palo Duro Canyon, TX

If you live in Texas, on of the must do items you need to put on your list is to see the production "Texas" in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  On it's 49th season, this show is as good as it was when I saw it as a 10 year old.  My parents took me as a young girl, so when creating our Texas Road Trip this summer, I knew this had to be a "must-do".

What makes this show so good?  Good enough to last 49 seasons?


The show is in an outdoor amphitheater, that actually incorporates the beautiful bluff  backdrop into the show.  From the lone cowboy with the Texas flag that starts the show, to the fireworks, hillside fire, and projected images, the bluff is a central part of the show.

The amphitheater is in the actual canyon within Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and runs only in the summertime.  But we all wore sweatshirts to the evening show, so it wasn't as hot as you'd think it would be.  There was always a nice breeze.


Though the story doesn't change much year after year, the cast of talented actors do an amazing job. You can tell the actors enjoy telling the story as many of them return year after year to perform in it.  And when you read the bios, many come from all over the state (and even out-of-state) to be in the play.

Special Effects

The special effects in Texas were terrific, with thunderstorms, a mountain fire, fireworks, water show and more. The night we saw the show, thunderstorms were moving into the area and we thought it was a part of the show they do such a good job with the show lightening.  I think the special effects really add to the excitement of the show and keep the kids entertained.


Once the show ended, the cast of Texas performs a special tribute to Texas and America that gives you goose bumps.  With patriotic music, dancing, water show, fireworks, and more, this was better than a 4th of July fireworks display in terms of evoking emotion.  I was surprised to find out how choked up I was.


I think the most important part of what makes this show so special is the tradition of Texas.  The show 
itself is a sweet story about the settling of the Texas panhandle in the 1800s - ranchers versus farmers and the railroad coming into the area and of course it's a love story. I keep going back to the bluff, but it's as much of the show as the actors are.  It's just so cool how they can incorporate it into the story as well.

This show is a tradition that all Texans should see.  It tells a story of the hard-working, persevering Texans that created our great state and it will make your very proud of the amazing state we live in.   

The show itself starts at dusk (8:30 pm), but there is great preshow entertainment in the courtyard, and a chuck wagon BBQ dinner too. You can also take a backstage tour before the show.

The show only runs throughout the summer - May - August.  Tickets to the show are reasonable - its a good deal for this broadway-quality show.

The show is good for all ages, the story is easy to follow and fun - both my 11 & 5 year old watched the entire show entranced. It is a long show, so be prepared for sleepy car riders on the way home.  We were camping in the park, so we had a 10 minute walk to the camper and didn't get home until close to 10:45 pm.

Again, seeing Texas should be on every Texan's list.  There is actually a great deal of fun to be had at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, so make a trip out of it.

Disclosure - My family and I were invited to see Texas! while visiting Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Parkview Riverside RV Park: Why a Private Campground Worked for Us

Private campground versus Public campground – which do you do?  As relatively new  “campers” we had heard all the pros and cons as to which to choose.  And in planning our trip RV Camping trip this summer, we wanted to try both.

So when it came to our time at Garner State Park, we opted to stay in an RV Park versus the park itself.  Here’s why:

In researching the area, we had talked to several people who had stayed at Parkview Riverside RV Park.  Located directly across the river from Garner State Park, you have the main amenity of the park, the Frio River, right at your doorstep – ok, maybe a few minutes walk from your doorstep.

We stayed 2 nights at Parkview Riverside RV Park and enjoyed the quiet, peaceful, and clean facility.  It had lots of trees and almost every spot had some sort of shade.  The park is well-maintained and is gated, as to deter a great deal of traffic.  And we found it to be quiet.  We camped near the front entrance and didn’t find it to be noisy at all.  It was the perfect first stop of our week-long RV roadtrip.

Here are a few more things we really enjoyed about Parkview Riverside RV Park:


Since our main goal of traveling down to this area was to visit Garner State Park and play in the Frio River,  we liked having the river so close to us.  There were 2 entrances down to the river and it was very easy to haul our tubes and cooler down with us when we wanted to go.  If we had stayed over at Garner, we would have encountered a long walk to the river – with 3 kids, that might not have been fun.

Full Hook-ups

Garner State Park does not have sewer hook-ups, and for this new RV-camping family, it was nice to have “full hookups” available to us.

Hot & Clean Showers

Parkview Riverside RV Park has a nice bathroom complex that was always sparkling clean when we used it.  It was so nice to have steaming hot showers after spending the day in the river.  I did not have a chance to see the Garner bathrooms, but I hear during the summer, they are usually busy.

Cocktail Time

Look, let’s be honest, we are on vacation, so Mom & Dad might want to enjoy a cocktail while floating in the river or sitting around the campfire at night. Open consumption of alcohol is not permitted in Texas State Parks. But it is allowed at private parks. Enough said.

General Store

Once again, let me remind you that I am NEW to this camping thing and I “may” have forgotten a few key items  - butter, ketchup, bandaids , whatevers…… Parkview Riverside RV park has a really nice general store on property.  One night, we took a walk up to it to grab a few Blue Bell ice cream treats.

Great for Families

The park had every age represented while we were there.  It was summer, so there were a lot of kids on bikes, but we saw a few older couples as well.  Each campsite has plenty of room for horseshoes, lots of chairs to circle the fire pit and an area for a nice outdoor kitchen set up.  One group of campers watched a movie one night on the side of their RV with a projector.  Fancy!

No Access to Garner State Park

Just beware that when you are booking your reservation, the only way to get over to Garner State Park is by crossing the Frio River.  You can do it, but it’s not legal, unless you hike up to the entrance and pay your daily fee.  So if you are wanting to hike in the park or go to one of the nightly summer dances, you will need a vehicle to drive around to the entrance of the park.

There are many choices of places to stay and camp along the Frio River, so what set Parkview Riverside RV park apart?  The people.  From making the reservations over the phone with the owner, to chatting about the area with one of the staff when we checked in, everyone we encountered here was so friendly and helpful. Even as we were leaving, they helped us out big time.  We accidently left our 5 year old’s bike behind and they came running to the front of the park to catch us with it!

Maybe it’s because they are living in one of the prettiest little pockets in South Texas that I have ever seen.  Maybe it’s cause they get to deal with happy people on vacation.  Or maybe they are just friendly people - Whatever it is, they welcome the weary traveler with welcome arms, eager to help you have an awesome vacation.

Parkview Riverside RV Park rents by the week and you can make your reservations a full year in advance.  Or if your last minute (like me, ahem…) give them a call to see if they have any openings for a few days.  I know from personal experience, they are more than happy to accommodate you.

While on our #darlingroadtrip, we are camping in a 2013 Jayco Redhawk Class C RV.  Woody RV Rentals in Georgetown, Texas provided us with our home on wheels.  They specialize in renting RVs of every size to help you have a memorable RV vacation.

Disclosure: Parkview Riverside RV Park invited us to stay for 2 nights. I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Don't miss our other Camping Articles:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Complete Guide to Hawaiian Fall Pflugerville ~ Pflugerville, TX

Ok, let me be completely honest with you.  I did not visit Hawaiian Falls all summer long because I am not a waterpark gal. But being that Austin's newest place to play in the water is less than 15 minutes away from our house AND the fact that the kids have been wanting to go all summer, I planned a day to check out the new Hawaiian Falls in Pflugerville.  And I'm glad I did.

Despite the rush to open and hearing all the complaints that came out earlier in the summer about it, I wanted to go with an open mind.  I was lucky enough to get a tour of the park and meet with the General Manager.  Truthfully, I was overwhelmed with how much there was to do at Hawaiian Falls.  Not only do they have a lazy river, one of the biggest wave pools in Texas, and several different types of water slides, they recently opened their Adventure Park with a 7-story ropes course and zip lines that zig-zag all over the park.

We had a great day and I would recommend Hawaiian Falls as a fun place for the big kids to cool down & have fun.  It is convenient for those that live in the Austin area and a fairly inexpensive day.  There is more to do for the big kids than there is for the little ones (see below).  My 11 & 13 year old loved it and can't wait to go back.  My 5 year old is a beginning swimmer and was not tall enough to do most of the slides, so it wasn't as full of a day for him.  Next year, he'll be ready for it.

If you are planning to go to Hawaiian Falls, here is your complete guide to know before you go:

Tickets - The best prices I have found are at HEB or if you bring in a Coke can to the park. Both of these deals offer you $7 off the Big Kahuna ticket.  Also, there are some coupons on the Hawaiian Falls website that offer great deals:

  • MauiMoms Mondays - Free Kids Admission with a full price Big Kahuna ticket on Mondays before noon.
  • MauiMoms Meal Deal - Free Kids meal with the purchase of a meal on Mondays.
  • Tuesdays 2Fer - Buy One, Get One Free Big Kahuna ticket on Tuesdays.
If none of these work, check out the Ohana Combo Pack, that includes admission to the park, one combo meal and all-day drinks for $29.99.

If it rains continuously for 15 minutes or if the attractions are closed due to bad weather, all paid guests will receive a complimentary ticket good for any normal operating day through this Labor Day. You receive the free return ticket even if the park stays open.

*Make sure to keep your receipt or ticket stub. YOU MUST PRESENT YOUR PROOF OF PURCHASE TO RECEIVE THE FREE TICKET. (Guarantee excludes season passes and rain or bad weather starting after 4 p.m.)

Parking - Parking at Hawaiian Falls is $5 or you can buy a season pass for $20.

Cooler Policy - If you would like to bring in a cooler with food, snacks, & drinks, you will pay a $10 cooler fee ($30 season pass).  Don't bring with you outside fast food or pizza, alcohol, or glass bottles. If you don't want to pay the cooler fee, you can leave it in your car.  There are shaded (with umbrellas) picnic tables in the parking lot. Also, unopened, clear water bottles are allowed.

Food - Food is available for purchase. As of last week, the Surf Side BBQ sells brisket sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, sausage on a stick, and corn dogs. I think the prices are reasonable too - the 4 of us ate for under $25 and it was pretty good. They also offer large Hawaiian Ices.  Another restaurant is planned to be built for next summer.

Cabanas - Hawaiian Falls has around 15 cabanas for rent for the day.  A cabana can fit up to 8 people and it includes a locker rental, free drinks all day and a server to wait on you.  We had a cabana for the day and it was great to have our own shady spot to hang out in.  Make sure to reserve the cabana in advance, as your admission tickets are discounted too. ($125 weekday/$150 weekend)

Lockers - There are lockers available for rent for $10 ($2 refunded when you return a key).  It is such a small park, that I felt completely comfortable leaving my bags on the chair.

Where is the Shade? - For obvious reasons, get there right when it opens.  While there are many umbrellas for shade over the tables and chairs, you need to get to the park early to claim them.  When we arrived at 11:30, they were all taken.

Is the park good for Little Kids? - Most of the slides require a height of 48" or taller.  There is the lazy river, wave pool and a kiddie splash pool for the little guys.  I would have liked to have seen the inner tubes for the wave pool and lazy river have a bottom, as my 5 year old kept slipping out of them.  Unless you have some strong & brave swimmers, I think this park is geared more toward the big kids.  And that is GREAT - think about the multitude of splash pads and kiddie pools we have in the Austin area, the big kids need a place to play in the water too.

Lifejackets - Lifejackets are available all over the park to use for free.  You are not allowed to bring in your own personal floatation devices and floaties, so it is nice to have these available.

Adventure Park - The Adventure Park at Hawaiian Falls features a 7-story Big Island Adventure Trail for the little kids, a 3-level ropes Challenge Course, and 3 zip lines that fly over the water park (Pineapple Zip Tour).  Everything within the Adventure Park is included with the waterpark admission with the exception of the Pineapple Zip Tour.

Is the Ropes Course Safe? - The 3-tiered, 7-story Challenge course is for 48" and above.  A full body harness and Smart Belay System is used.  There are 2 lobster-claws that attach to the ropes.  When one is off the rope (as when you move from one rope to another), the other is locked in the "clipped in" state.  In other words, you will always have at least one claw attached to the rope at all times.  This gives a mom a great peace of mind when it comes to seeing you 11 year old seven stories high in the sky!

What do I Wear in the Adventure Park? - You are not allowed in the Adventure Park when sopping wet, but you don't have to wear completely dry clothes.  Shirts & shorts are required as well as closed toed shoes (no flip flops).  My son wore his bathing suit with a shirt.

Pineapple Express Zip Tour - The Challenge Course has 2 zip lines, but the really big zip line is the Pineapple Express Zip Tour.  You need to sign a waiver to go on it and pay an additional cost.  The price is less expensive if you buy it online before getting to the park.  My 11 year old did it and said it was AWESOME!

When will the Adventure Park be open? - The Adventure Park will be open year round on weekends after the water park closes.  It was very hot to climb the Challenge course, which took about a half hour to 45 minutes, so I can imagine it will be an awesome winter and spring activity.  The Adventure Park will also be open for team building during the week.

I love the size of Hawaiian Falls.  I felt very comfortable allowing my kids to go off and do a slide or the lazy river and check in with me. I also felt fine leaving my bag on the table of the cabana and getting in the water. As big and exciting as it is for the big kids, as a mom, I felt like this was a small, hometown park.  We ran into several people we knew throughout the day.  And I really like how close Hawaiian Falls is to home.  I could see us buying a season pass next summer and really getting good use out of it.

I think Hawaiian Falls rushed to open and in that time received a really bad rap.  I think the company did the best they could to rush to provide a fun, family option this summer.  The organization is family-owned based on Christian principles. They strive to bring families closer together in a fun way.  I think they succeed with the Pflugerville location.  Now that the summer season is coming to a close,  they will have ample time to finish construction and make improvements before next summer.

Hawaiian Falls Pflugerville Water Park will be open daily through Sunday, Aug. 24, and also Labor Day weekend Aug. 30-Sept. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The Water Park will also be open 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6 and Sunday, Sept. 7.

This Friday, August 22, 2014 - Hawaiian Falls presents a Luau with Live Music, Hula Dancers, 
Fire Dancer Performance, Special Menu items and more. Luau activities are FREE for all guests to enjoy.  Delicious Luau Meals will be available for only $10. Luau begins a 6 pm. 

Disclosure - My family & I were invited to visit Hawaiian Falls Water Park & Adventure Park.  I was not compensated to write this article.  All opinions are my own.