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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cypress Bend Park (898 Mather Street) in New Braunfels is a relaxing and easy day-trip getaway! This 15-acre park provides generous access to the beautiful Guadalupe River.

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The park was not crowded at all when we visited on a Tuesday afternoon. What a treat!

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The river is just under the trees on the left side of this picture. The tiny orange dots are kids running with tubes to the river.

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The boys got in the river here. It’s a little sandy but if you wear water shoes (or just old running shoes), it shouldn’t affect you very much.

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This is the view looking downstream.

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We didn’t try the rope swing, but it was pretty tempting.

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The cypress trees were really amazing and they provided some shade, too.

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This huge tree was quite a sight!

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The boys could not resist running across the beautiful green lawn.

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We decided to swim over to a shallow area and look for crawdads. In this picture, you can see that the river bottom is sandy (vs. rocky) by the trail my son is leaving behind him.

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As we were swimming, we noticed a little reptilian head peeking out of the water. Don’t worry: it’s just a turtle!

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Here was the view as we headed upstream.

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The sign lets people who are tubing know that this is the last public exit for the river.

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We were nowhere near ready to “exit the river.” We were just getting started.

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We saw lots of interesting creatures during our visit to Cypress Bend Park including this stately snowy egret. Too bad his distinctive yellow feet aren’t visible.

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The boys played in this section of the river for over an hour.

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We were delighted to spot (and get a picture of) this yellow-crowned night heron.

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There was a small section of “rapids” that the kids enjoyed playing in.

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They made up a complicated game with all kinds of rules about when they could use their hands, etc. to swim upstream. This section of rapids leads to an area of the river that is at least 6 feet deep. Plan ahead and bring life jackets or other swimming support for younger children or inexperienced swimmers.

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Before we left, we visited the playground.

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There isn’t much shade on the playground but it was still worth stopping by.

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There’s a nice pavilion where you can enjoy your picnic or snacks.

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While we didn’t bring our own horseshoes, if we had, there’s horseshoe pit ready to go!

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THE RUNDOWN:

Austin Active Kids Opinion: This picturesque and easy-going park is a perfect getaway for water-splashing fun!

Outing Time: 3 hours at Cypress Bend Park plus 45 minutes each way driving to New Braunfels (in no traffic).

Reminders: Cypress Bend Park’s hours are 8 a.m. to dusk. There is no admission fee or parking fee at the park. Please note that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Bring lifejackets for kids still developing swimming skills, sunscreen, drinks, snacks, towels, water toys, water shoes, and floats. We had a lot of fun with our water guns! If you plan to stay a while, consider bringing camp chairs and a pop-up shade canopy.

The park has restrooms, picnic tables, and a playscape.

We visited on a Tuesday afternoon and the park had very few visitors. We drove through the park once before when we were in New Braunfels for Father’s Day. While there were some people picnicking and celebrating, it still was not very crowded for a Sunday.

If you’re looking for more fun activities in New Braunfels, read Top 5 Things to do in New Braunfels from R We There Yet Mom?

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Today we visited one of nature’s genuine masterpieces: Hamilton Pool Preserve at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road (Dripping Springs, TX, 78620) in western Travis County. The 232-acre preserve features a remarkable pool created by a collapsed grotto, beautiful scenery along Hamilton Creek, and access to the Pedernales River.

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Every day around 9 a.m. the Hamilton Pool Preserve web site is updated regarding the pool’s water quality and whether swimming will be allowed. The natural pool and creek are not chemically treated and bacteria counts fluctuate. It’s important to find out this information before you go if you think your kids will absolutely have their hearts set on swimming in Hamilton Pool. We arrived around 9:15 a.m. and were a little disappointed to learn we wouldn’t be able to swim. Nevertheless, we decided to make the most of the hiking opportunity!

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The boys were excited to begin exploring the trail.

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Because we knew we could not swim in Hamilton Pool, we decided to follow the 0.6 mile trail to the Pedernales River.

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The trail had quite a bit of shade.

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There were some really interesting features along the trail!

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The kids were fascinated by this Texas Giant Centipede. We stayed a respectable distance away since these critters are known to have a bite similar to a wasp sting.

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The River Trail was very scenic.

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Hamilton Pool Preserve is kept in its natural state as much as possible. Here you see my 7-year-old son looking down toward the creek bed. There is not a guard rail or fence so you must watch your children closely.

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The boys were thrilled to find this daddy long-legs nest hidden in a rocky area.

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The trail was very interesting to follow and kept us on our toes. It felt a bit longer than 0.6 miles (one way). I tracked the distance on my pedometer for the return trip and that length was accurate. If you have children who are not used to hiking or who are age 5 or younger, you might want to think twice about exploring the River Trail.

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Finally, we could tell we were close to the Pedernales River!

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It was a beautiful sight!

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I think my sons can turn anything into a “beach.” They enjoyed playing along the river bank for about an hour, where there was a cool breeze.

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We began the return trip away from the river and back toward the crown jewel: Hamilton Pool itself. The trail kept us alert and focused, as you can see by these tree roots…..

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….and rocks!

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It was a beautiful day to be outside!

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If you look closely through this “peep hole” of rocks, you can see Hamilton Creek flowing.

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We made it back to our starting point for the River Trail and took the Pool Trail, which is about 1/4 mile long.

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The trail was very engaging, with a little bridge….

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…..and these rocks to walk across.

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When they saw the pool, all the kids could say was “Wow!”

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There is a trail that winds around behind the curve of the rock.

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There are some tight spots!

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The view was worth it.

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What an amazing place!

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Once you go around the pool, you will go up these steep stairs. It’s a little slippery.

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We took a break to appreciate the view.

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My 10-year-old son was fascinated by these fish nests (the lighter-colored circular areas). He specifically asked that we tell you about them so that if you go to Hamilton Pool you know to try to not step on the baby perch eggs.

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We had a wonderful time but we were pretty worn out. Remember to save some energy for the walk back up to the parking lot!

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THE RUNDOWN:

Austin Active Kids Opinion: The beautiful pool and its natural surroundings will take your breath away!

Outing Time: Just under 3 hours.

Outing Distance: About 2 miles covered total on the River Trail and the Pool Trail.

Reminders: Hamilton Pool Preserve is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting). Check the web site after 9 a.m. or call (512) 264-2740 to see if swimming will be allowed for the day. Please note that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Plan to arrive as early as possible in the day to beat the crowds. The parking lot can only accommodate 75 vehicles and once it’s full, cars are allowed in only on a “one out, one in” basis. Admission cost is $10 per vehicle (no credit cards or debit cards).

There is no concession stand or store at Hamilton Pool Preserve. While there are restrooms, there is not running water, i.e. water fountains or sinks. Bring a lot of drinking water, any snacks you will need, and hand sanitizer or wet wipes.

Wear sturdy, safe shoes for the trail. Strollers and bikes are not allowed.

The Texas Department of Transportation will be working on some road improvements to Hamilton Pool Road from June 24 – July 19, 2013. This is not a major construction project and should not cause significant delays.

Free Fun in Austin visited Hamilton Pool in April 2012 and you can read even more in these articles by Austin Explorer and the Austin Post.

While this is known as a great swimming hole and tends to be an activity people think about in the summer time, it’s also an appealing place to visit year-round due its beauty and the variety of wildlife.

We visited two incredible places in East Austin that are rich in history and fun for kids, too: the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center and Rosewood Park.

The Carver Museum, located at 1165 Angelina Street, is dedicated to the collection, preservation, research, and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material.

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The 40,000 sq. ft. facility opened in 2005 and is named after George Washington Carver, prominent African-American scientist and inventor.

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The museum is very inviting and easy to navigate. The Juneteenth and Austin African American Families Galleries, as well as a small art gallery, were right behind these doors.

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I wasn’t able to take pictures in the main gallery. The kids were interested in the Austin African American Families exhibit, specifically a map of Austin with overlays of where freed slave communities (like Kincheonville in Southwest Austin) developed after the Civil War.

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The boys’ favorite part of the museum was the Children’s Gallery, which features African American inventors and scientists.

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The museum’s namesake George Washington Carver is highlighted, including this quote, “It has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of people.”

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Several other well-known and pioneering African-Americans are featured, like astronaut Mae Jemison.

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The Wall of Inventors was a big hit!

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The top of each diamond-shaped flap shows the design sketch of an invention. When the flap is opened, you see a brief profile of the inventor.

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Another interesting area of the Carver Museum is the section dedicated to the original L.C. Anderson High School, which served Austin’s African American students for decades until it was closed in 1971 during desegregation.

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The vintage trophies and other memorabilia are beautifully displayed.

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Next, we went outside to find out more about this historic structure adjacent to the museum.

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This humble building was Austin’s first main library and it was originally located at Guadalupe and 9th Street. In 1933, it was moved to its present location on Angelina Street and was named the George Washington Carver Library, which served as Austin’s first branch library. You can read more about the library’s history here.

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This building is currently not open to the public because it’s being renovated to serve as genealogy center.

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While Kealing Park is right next to the Carver Museum, we wanted to check out Rosewood Park since it has a splash pad. We drove less than 1 mile east to 2300 Rosewood Avenue and parked in the Doris Miller Auditorium lot.

As you can see by this description of Rosewood Park when it was “park of the month” in 2012, this park has something for everyone: splash pad, playscape, historic structures, beautiful trees, swimming pool, picnic tables, athletic fields, and more! We headed straight for this shady area by the Rosewood Recreation Center to relax for a few minutes. The recreation center building includes the Bertram-Huppertz house, built circa 1875.

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Very close to the recreation center is the Henry G. Madison Cabin, which was built around 1863 on East 11th Street, donated to the City of Austin in 1968, and moved to this site in 1973.

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From our shady spot, we could see the Rosewood Pool, which was renovated in 2012. Here are the pool hours and pool fees.

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We walked around to the northern section of the park (toward N. Pleasant Valley Road). The boys enjoyed running around and exploring the pavilion area.

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We thought this was a really beautiful picnic spot. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a picnic lunch with us!

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This sign explained why we saw such a variety of trees. The Catherine Lamkin Arboretum Trail of Trees was dedicated in 1995. It consists of 35 trees total along the Boggy Creek Greenbelt, with 19 trees located in Rosewood Park.

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In the summer sun, the playscape looked a little too sweltering for us.

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But the splash pad was just right!

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: We had fun and learned a lot….what a great combination!
Outing Time: About 2 hours for both the Carver Museum and Rosewood Park back-to-back.
Reminders: Bring a change of clothes and towels if you plan to enjoy the splash pad at Rosewood Park. Your kids will work up an appetite running around, so also pack drinks and snacks.
Both of these locations are venues for Juneteenth celebrations in mid-June so if you are visiting in that timeframe, check community calendars like the Austin Chronicle’s in advance.
Both facilities have free parking. The Carver Museum has free admission and operating hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s closed on Sundays. Rosewood Park is open to the public 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and the splash pad is in operation May 18 – September 8, 2013.
There is a public library, the Carver Branch, at 1161 Angelina if you would like to add a library visit to your outing.
Do512Family.com has also visited Rosewood Park; read their post here.

We’ve heard about the amazing Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock for a while now. We were really excited to finally visit!

The park’s address is 151 North A.W. Grimes Blvd. I was glad I had taken the time to read this Free Fun in Austin post about the park with very helpful directions before we went or I don’t know if we would have located it. Basically, the turn into the park is very close to this train bridge over A.W. Grimes Blvd. If you can find this bridge, you can find the park!

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Here’s how the sign at the entrance looks.

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Then turn right when you see this sign.

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The boys were determined to check out the banks of Brushy Creek before we went to the playscape. We hope we get to explore Brushy Creek more in the future!

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The creation of the Play for All Abilities Park was a community-wide endeavor that took five years. The mission of the park is to provide a safe, fun place to play and develop new skills for children of all abilities in Round Rock and surrounding areas. What an impressive accomplishment! The hard work has been recognized. The City of Round Rock received the 2012 Municipal Excellence Award in City Spirit from the Texas Municipal League, which recognizes community-wide efforts to reach a common goal, and the City of Round Rock’s Parks and Recreation Department was given the Park Development Innovations Award from the Texas Recreation and Park Society.

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Your kids won’t know which way to run first! My boys were attracted to this green spinner almost immediately. It was my 11-year-old son’s favorite thing in the park.

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There were so many interesting things to try!

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This fun playscape even has shade.

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A shaded “rock band” pod provides a variety of musical instruments.

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As you can see, the playground is really big and offers a lot of activity choices for kids.

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The sand pit looked really fun!

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Round Rock Village was my 7 year old’s favorite part of the park. Kids can bring their bikes to ride along the “streets” of the little town.

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Here are the boys in the “car dealership” building.

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More car fun.

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Too bad this Gatorade display wasn’t real. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and it was pretty hot. We’ll plan better next time!

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: This unique, creative, and inclusive park has something for every child!
Outing Time: Under 1 hour in mid-afternoon heat. (Plan for a longer outing if you go in cooler weather or in the morning hours.)
Reminders: The Play for All Abilities Park has restrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables. Bring drinks, snacks, and sunscreen. You might also want to take along some toys for the sand pit.
Our friends at R We There Yet Mom? have also visited this park and described it in this post. Here’s another post about the park by LiveMom.

School’s out for summer! To get our summer started off right, we went on a quick and easy outing to Ricky Guerrero Pocket Park at 2006 South 6th Street in South Austin’s eclectic and historic Bouldin Creek neighborhood. Yes, you read correctly…there is a South 6th Street running north/south in this neighborhood that is bordered by Barton Springs Road to the north and Oltorf Street to the south. (South 6th Street does not connect directly to either one of these more well-known streets.) Plan your route ahead of time if you are not familiar with the area since this location is a little off-the-beaten-path.

Ricky Guerrero Pocket Park is nestled along the banks of West Bouldin Creek. Even though the park has a playscape and a splash pad, the boys wanted to check out the creek bed first!

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The water from recent rains had receded but there were still some small pools.

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In one of the pools, we found dozens and dozens of tadpoles!

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We went to the small playscape, which is geared toward younger children.

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My 7 year old thought the fake cannon was pretty fun!

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And the swings, too.

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There was also a nice picnic area.

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The splash pad was pretty crowded with very young children when we arrived. Once it was a little less busy, my boys were ready to cool off in the water.

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As you can see, the splash pad is relatively small but all of the kids were having a blast. It’s very well-shaded and that is a huge plus in the hot summer months.

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: This tiny 2-acre park is perfect for kids 7 and under.
Outing Time: Under 1 hour.
Reminders: Ricky Guerrero Pocket Park has restrooms and picnic tables. Bring drinks, snacks, and towels. A lot of the kids were having fun playing with empty cups in the water from the splash pad so maybe bring along some empty cups, too!
If you will have older kids with you, think about packing activities (like balls or games) that are more geared toward their age.
The Bouldin Creek neighborhood has a rich history, which you can read about here. The 54-acre West Bouldin Creek Greenbelt is located slightly north of the park, at 1200 South 6th Street. We did not visit this area but you can read about it in this Austin Explorer article.