The Veloway, located in South Austin, is a 3.1 mile paved pathway that is only available to bikers and roller bladers.  The path is 23 feet wide - about the width of a two lane road.  This makes it absolutely perfect for children who have just learned to ride a bike.  It is also perfect for adults who have just gotten clips for the first time!
My son, who has been riding his bike for awhile, recently was in a nasty bike accident.  He pulled out onto a street without looking and only then noticed a truck barreling down toward him.  I believe it was the grace of God that threw him off his bike.  The bike was run over and destroyed, but he walked away with minor scraps and bruises. 

However, since then he has been very afraid to get back on a bike again. 

The Veloway was the perfect answer.  He could ride the wide trail without any fear of traffic - get his bike legs back, so to speak.  We could go as slow as he wanted.

The morning we went riding, he was full of tears and fears, but was willing to give it a try.  We put him on his new bike, safely strapped his helmet to his head and got him back on the saddle.  I sent my older son ahead, so I could concentrate on working with K.  No more than 50 feet into the Veloway, K looks back at me and says, "Mom, can't we go any faster???"  and pulled away.  That is the beauty of the veloway :o)

Tips and Thoughts
* Walkers are not allowed on the Veloway.  So if this is your child's very first time riding a bike, you should probably start elsewhere.  Many people will recommend an empty parking lot, like a school during off hours.  My sister, mother of seven and an amazing font of wisdom, recommended starting on a slight grassy hill.  The hill helps them move forward and the grass breaks the fall.  It worked for both of my boys!  Once your child is able to bike around a parking lot, the Veloway is perfect.

* The Veloway is also used by serious bikers training for races.  Most of the bikers understand that we all started out slow on the bike.  Some, well... you know.  Stick to the right (inside of the track) and you should be okay!

* The path is a 3 mile loop.  Around mile two there is a difficult hill for beginning bikers.  However, there are two turnoffs earlier on the loop that shorten the path to 1 and 2 miles. The one mile loop is perfect for beginners.  There is one slight hill, but it is right when you return to the parking lot.

* Bring lots of water.  There is a water fountain on the premises that usually works.  You can buy a bike water carrier for just a few bucks, and it is a worthwhile investment for anyone thinking about biking in Texas!

Austin Zoo

Maybe we are a family that likes small or simple things, but we have always loved the Austin Zoo.  While it is more Animal Sanctuary than zoo, it is still a fun place for a couple of hours of entertainment for any age.

I loved it when my boys were younger, as it was the perfect size to run them around and then head home for a nap.  And I was pleased to see that they enjoyed as well, now that they are older!  Just no nap afterwards ;o)

The zoo has a petting area with goats, llamas and deer.  In the past, there was an area where you could walk amongst the animals.  I'm not sure if that is a permanent change or temprorary, but we couldn't get into the petting corral today.  But the animals are more than happy to crowd the fence to visit! 

When you purchase your tickets, make sure you buy a bag of food for each child, as feeding the animals is always a lot of fun!

There is a small snake and reptile area and in the main zoo area there are a dozen or so lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), some birds, monkeys, tortoises, and variety of other animals.  There was a new (to us) large play area for the wolves.  And walking around the whole park are a bunch of peacocks, showing off their feathers!

The zoo also has a small train that loops along the length of the zoo.  While we've rideen the train many times in the past, the boys felt they were too old for it this year :o)

A mama peacock with her chicks!
Tips and Thoughts
* You can frequently find coupons for half off of zoo admission if you look around.  We found some on Groupon and ad pages from earlier in the year (though none available now)

* There is a small food truck that sells snow cones and hot dogs, but if yuo are coming during the lunch hour, you might want to bring a cooler as the food seelction is very limited

* The zoo has a variety of special event days.  We have attended the Boo at the Zoo, which is the usual animal entertainments, plus a "haunted" train ride that is a lot of fun.  This is a great time to visit the zoo, as the weather is typically cooler!

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Wild Basin Preserve, located off of 360, was founded in 1974 by seven women interested in saving the area as a natural preserve and a nature laboratory.  Its 227 acres wind through typical Texas Hill Country with trails that cross over Bee Creek.

There are 2.5 miles worth of trail in the preserve that are open from sunrise to sunset.  Bikes and pets are not allowed.

The Easy Access trail has 20 natural highlights to check out.  A trail guide identifies typical Texas foliage and rock formations.  Past the Easy Access Trail is the Waterfall trail.  Less than a mile from the parking lot, the trail leads to a secluded pond with a 15 foot waterfall.
Also along the trails are two scenic overlooks that give a great view of the wooded valley with a glimpse of downtown in the background.

One word of note:  This is not a creek crawl hike.  My boys were disappointed, as they had suited up in bathing suits and had all of their frog catching apparatus... only to find very little actual access to the creek.  Much of the natural area was roped off, and the little that was available was pretty minimal. 

However, as a hike, the views are amazing and the small waterfall charming.  I would highly recommend this hike for a cool fall day, or early spring.  Though in the middle of summer, it was pretty hot!

Tips and Thoughts
* Bring lots of water as there is no water available on site

* The preserve has many organized activities including full moon hikes, astronomy nights and guided tour hikes.  Check out their calendar for more details

* There are notes in the parking area recommending you not leave any valuables.  We have visited this place multiple times and never had any problem, but you might want to clear your car of any valuables before you head here for the day

* While the preserve is free, donations are suggested in the amount of $3 per person

Volunteer - at the Capital Area Food Bank

Summer is more than half way over, you've hit all of the regular places, and the kids are so bored they fight with each other just to make some entertainment. 

It's one hundred degrees outside and even the swimming pools seem too hot.

Now is the perfect time to teach your family the value of volunteering!  Let's face it, we all want to teach our kids the value of helping others. But during the year, this can be difficult, as schedules are so much tighter.  Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of excess time!  So make some time during this summer to help out with a local volunteer organization. 

We have helped out numerous times at the Capital Are Food Bank.  With a group of friends it can be a surprising amount of fun!  Slots are available in three hour increments. You can drop in on one of their open volunteer days or schedule ahead if you have a group.  Their calendar has a list of available times.  In the past, we have sorted bread and bakery product, canned goods and a variety of other tasks that help the Food Bank to collect and distribute food. 

At the end of our session, we told the boys that many other kids were home playing video games.  We were then going to explain that while sorting cans may not be as fun as video games, it helped a lot of people in need.  Instead, the boys all said that Yep, this was more fun than video games... Oh well, there goes that speech ;o)  Not only did they learn the value of volunteering, they learned that it can also be a lot of fun!

Tips and Thoughts
* All volunteers must be 8 years or older

* Volunteers must wear closed toe shoes

Camp Ben McCulloch

Camp Ben McCulloch, located in Driftwood, was established in 1896 as a reunion camp for Confederate Soldiers. It hosted the last reunion in 1946. 

These days, it
is probably best known for hosting the Old Settler's Music Festival in April. 

However, it is also a great way to spend a morning or afternoon for any child that loves to creek crawl!

This campground is open to the public and free for day use.  Tent camping is $15 per night and RVs are slightly more.

While the grounds are not the most up to date, they do include gorgeous old trees, a playground and a very nice pavilion for large groups (available for rent).

But the highlight of the place runs through the back of the camp - a beautiful section of Onion Creek.

We have been here many times throughout the years.  During times of high drought, the river is completely dry, but most of the time, there is at least some water running.  Maybe not enough to swim in, but enough to collect frogs and tad poles and definitely get your feet wet. 

During a wet season, there has been enough water to tube the entire length of the river! 

This year, coming out of high draught, there was enough water to swim in areas and wade in others.  In the deepest section of the river, there is a rope swing.  Both boys decided to give it a try, though it probably would be safer in slightly deeper water.

The boys spent a wonderful couple of hours exploring the river!  They captured frogs and chased lizards.  They used the containers we brought along to collect fish.

And at multiple points down the river, they used all the available rocks to divert the water flow with dams and waterfalls
Tips and Thoughts
* Defintely suit up for this one.  Although only parts of the river are deep enough to swim, almost any child who comes here is going to get very wet!

* Bring water shoes as you will spend a lot of time climbing over rocks

* There are restrooms on site, but no vendors.  Bring a picnic lunch and some extra water... or head across the street to the Salt Lick for a yummy barbecue lunch!

* My boys loved having their goggles so they could spy on the fish and get close up looks in every crook and cranny!

* During times of heavy rain, bring a tube and float down the river!

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