Outdoor Adventures

Nothing Square about The Square

The San Marcos Downtown Square

Overall Rating: 8     Good for: all ages     Time spent: 2 hours

2292670165_f659a05594_bThe Square of San Marcos refers to the perimeter of the Hays County Historic Courthouse. It’s bustling with life from the nearby Texas State University and is both populated and run largely by students and alumni. The exclusivity of the population, however, shouldn’t be any sort of a turn-off. Included in the surrounding buildings are bars, mom and pop shops, restaurants, and art exhibits. The courthouse lawn is also home to a variety of events year around including small music festivals. This place couldn’t feel any more like home with its historic buildings and friendly inhabitants.

I like to spend my days in the square doing one of two things: (1) Stopping by two of my favorite resale shops. The first is a store affectionately named “Junk in Da Trunk.” It’s a huge collection of vintage clothes, accessories, and collectibles. Hands down the cutest antique store I’ve ever been to. The second is only half resale, but whole vintage. Superfly’s Lonestar Music Emporium is way less country than you would imagine but does carry the largest selection of vinyl records that I’ve seen in a very long time. It truly feels like you’ve stepped into the 1960’s and I couldn’t be more excited about it. (2) Munching on the famously good Insomnia cookies. I mean, who couldn’t love a cookie shop that delivers fresh warm deliciousness to you until 3am? It’s a must try in the town of San Marcos.

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Speaking of 3am, the nightlife at the Square is nothing short of what you’d expect it to be 5 minutes away from a college campus. Live bands can be heard performing inside many of the 27 bars and lounges in the surrounding streets. It’s a trademark of this town, and not taking advantage of it would be a huge mistake.

All and all, the Square is a very cool place to visit if you enjoy historic towns and of course shopping. It’s a neat experience that you can’t necessarily find in a whole lot of cities outside of the Northeast coast. The Texas charm is very present in the mannerisms of shop employees and in the buildings themselves, but it’s contemporary enough to be a hit with teens and 20-somethings alike. It’s a wonderful stop for all ages during the day, and its really great for ages 21+ at night. The perfect combination for family vacations if you ask me.

I’ll be back soon!

Jen

 

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Outdoor Adventures

Sunburnt but Happy at the Japanese Tea Gardens

The Japanese Tea Gardens

Overall Rating: 10!     Good for: All Ages     Time Spent: 1.5 hours

IMG_9196These gardens are so beautiful. It was like taking a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very industrialized, crowded city. The Japanese Tea Gardens are between 5 and 10 minutes from downtown San Antonio, depending, of course, on traffic and your willingness to speed. It’s publically and privately funded, which is to say that its free to get into and free to stay for as long as you’d like. The pathways are largely wheelchair accessible, and you should absolutely save this trip for a day with a little less sunshine and a temperature a few degrees lower than I did on my most recent trip. It’s a great place for short walks, sunshine, and individuals of any age. At the top of the garden stairs, and closest to the entrance there is a tiny shop that sells teas and trinkets, and attached is a lovely cafe with a variety of very tasty menu options.

The ponds that lay in the center of the gardens are home to beautifully colored Koi fish, which was a fun surprise for me. Surrounding these ponds are 360° views of exotic flowers, bushes, and trees. My visiting family was amazed that such a place could exist in a city as large as this, and you will be too. The outside noise in non-existent, and it feels like you’re in an oasis 100 miles away from everything else, a truly beautiful concept. You won’t find anything this green anywhere else in San Antonio.

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The aspect of the gardens that most interests me is the “secret” path behind the waterfall. It’s a bit muddy and a bit narrow, but it is so worth it (in the right shoes). If you follow this trail all the way up it will take you to the most magnificent view of the San Antonio skyline, and it’s definitely a view you won’t forget anytime soon.

I could not recommend the Japanese Tea Gardens any more highly. It is a tradition that has been kept alive for almost a hundred years, and I hope it is one that is kept alive for 100 more.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” -Gary Snyder 

Bye for now,

Jenna

Outdoor Adventures

The HOPE Outdoor Gallery and Other Underrated Places

HOPE Outdoor Gallery (The Grafitti Park)

Overall Rating: 10     Good for: ages 15+     Time Spent: 1 hour

IMG_6793The HOPE Outdoor Gallery is a place I’ve visited more than a few times in my relatively short lifetime, and it will always be one of my favorite places to be. Affectionately (and appropriately) nicknamed The Grafitti Park, HOPE took over an abandoned development project in downtown Austin and is now home to hundreds of layers of spray paint, and the love of locals and foreigners alike.

HOPE Gallery is the only art display of its kind the United States. It is for everyone and open to everyone. You’re welcome to bring spray paint and leave your mark on the wall, the ground, the grass, wherever. Artists use it to display their favorite quotes, support for sports teams, doodles, political statements, and much, much more. They pour their souls into these works of art on the walls for the entirety of Austin to see and it is absolutely stunning. You will never find anything like it anywhere else. The most fascinating aspect of this park is its constant change. It is so popular with artists that it will be completely refaced in less than a day. Every day. It will never be the same gallery that you left.

It is absolutely free to go, but it probably not best for small children. It is an unfinished building, so there are uneven surfaces, places to fall off of, and pipes sticking out of the ground. There’s also profanity allllll over the place, be careful. You should be warned: Parking Sucks

I can’t think of any more words to describe HOPE Outdoor Gallery, so I’ve left you with a slide show, for you to discover it for yourself.

With love,

Jenna

 

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Outdoor Adventures

Jenna and Tim Barely Make it to the Top of Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Overall Rating: 6.5     Good for: Ages 10+     Time Spent: 2.5 hours

IMG_1222 (2)You read that right. Two able bodied, not-quite-adults struggled up Enchanted Rock, outside of Fredricksburg, Texas. You may be asking yourself: “Self? Why in the world would they struggle up a rock that Jenna says is good for 10-year-olds?” and I would answer you “because this rock, is just that. It’s a huge boulder in the ground. It’s not a trail. It’s a 60° angle straight shot up a rock in the middle of nowhere.”

I would say to you that I have hiked 5 national parks in Utah through their crazy 40°-100° in-one-day weather changes and none of those hikes were as challenging as this stupid enchanted rock hike. I was a little afraid I was going to tumble down from the lack of literally anything to grab onto in case I slipped (as I often do) BUT I don’t want these harsh words to discourage you and your loved ones, and maybe a frienemy or two from taking this “hike.” Enchanted rock is what we in the family call “an experience.” It wasn’t my favorite experience, but the sheer ridiculousness of this huge rock just sitting on the ground with no trees, and no proper trail, was something we laughed about all the way up.

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. The view at the top was lovely. The Texas hill country like you’ve never seen it before, and the drive there was beautiful. It wasn’t my favorite hike, but it’s one of my favorite memories.

Some Tips: (1) WEAR GOOD SHOES, as I stated above, its a straight shot up a huge rock with nothing to hold on to. (2) Pack a lunch, it is way too hard to get to the top for you to not be able to sit there and enjoy good food and good company. (3) Stop by Fredricksburg on your way home, but not too late, most places close down at 6pm. There’s a ton of cool stuff to see in the town like the WWII museum, or the Five and Dime store. Good coffee, good sights.

That’s all for now!

Jenna