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day trips

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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Austin Active Kids went on our first out-of-town excursion: San Marcos or bust!

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We arrived at Aquarena Center (921 Aquarena Springs Drive) at 10:15 a.m. If you haven’t visited in the past few years, erase from your mind your previous experience of Aquarena Springs in its “amusement park” incarnation. The old visitor’s center and other buildings (including the underground theater) are being torn down and removed. The ultimate goal under the stewardship of Texas State University and the Rivers Systems Institute is to return Aquarena Springs–specifically San Marcos Springs and Spring Lake–to its natural state.

Fortunately, the famous glass-bottom boats are still in service. The 30-minute boat ride costs $9 for adults and $6 per child over age 4.

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The glass-bottom boat tour guide was very knowledgeable about the springs, their history, and their ecological significance.

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The lake below was clear and beautiful. One of our favorite parts of the tour was seeing spring water bubbling up through the limestone far below us (visible as the circular areas in this photo).

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We will be talking about this boat ride for a long time!

Next, we went to the education center to see the new aquariums.

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The aquarium area is relatively small but that didn’t make the creatures within any less fascinating to the kids (or me). The highlight of the aquariums was the Texas blind salamander, an endangered species that lives only in the Edwards Aquifer beneath and near the City of San Marcos. I could not believe the creature on display was real! I asked a staff member, who told me that not only was he real but when he moves he has robotic motions. Despite my waiting around, he stayed still during our visit.

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Our next stop was about 1.5 miles away: the Children’s Park at 205 South CM Allen Parkway. This park has an incredible playground, lots of shade, and several picnic tables. We ate lunch and took advantage of the sprawling playscape.

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Across the parking lot is a trail along the San Marcos River. If you head north on the trail (to your left from the playground) and walk less than 1/4 mile, you will find a scenic area where you can enter the river for wading and splashing. The water was cold and refreshing!

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The kids found a lot to investigate in and around the river. There were some other visitors enjoying the river (including these folks floating by) but it didn’t feel crowded.

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My sons were happy to have a friend along to share in this adventure.

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: A whole day’s worth of fun in just a few hours!
Outing Time: About 3 1/2 hours (not including travel time to and from San Marcos)
Reminders: Pack water, snacks, lunches, towels, bathing suits or change of clothes, water shoes, nets, and buckets.