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parks across central texas

Georgetown’s beautiful San Gabriel River provides a lovely setting for outdoor fun, especially at San Gabriel Park and Blue Hole Park. We started out at the Randy Morrow Trail in San Gabriel Park. (We parked at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Lower Park Drive.) The trail is named after Georgetown’s first Director of Parks and Recreation, who had the vision to build a hike-and-bike trail along the San Gabriel River to connect parks and neighborhoods.

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Here’s a map of the trail around San Gabriel Park and its connections to other nearby parks. The park has a unique location: where the South and North Forks of the San Gabriel River meet.

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We couldn’t wait to walk around San Gabriel Park, which was was designated a Lone Star Legacy Park by the Texas Recreation & Parks Society in March 2012.

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We strolled along the riverbank.

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While swimming is not prohibited, there aren’t any lifeguards and it’s “swim at your own risk.”

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The ducks and geese were very friendly.

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We walked about 3/4 mile along the river. The boys just had to cross this dam.

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I walked on it, too. Here’s a picture from the middle of the river!

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Next, we went below the dam.

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My 11-year-old son found a tiny frog. (He is a strong believer in catch-and-release.)

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We were now near the eastern boundary of the park, close to the College Street bridge.

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It appears the old bridge I was reclining upon while the kids played was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1935-37. It’s no longer open to vehicles but is used by bikes and pedestrians as part of the City’s trail system.

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We began our return trip and the kids stopped to take advantage of some of the fun playground equipment. They thought this purple dinosaur–which seats two–was hilariously entertaining.

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This is another small playscape along the trail.

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My 11-year-old son liked walking perilously close to the edge.

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The boys’ generous cracker-throwing attracted an onslaught of ducks and geese.

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We escaped from our feathered friends and drove south toward Blue Hole Park, a lagoon on the South Fork of the San Gabriel River. This park is located just off of N. Austin Avenue, with the entrance at W. Second Street and Rock Street. It’s possible to hike from San Gabriel Park to Blue Hole Park. See route on this map.

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It was quite a sight!

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Like San Gabriel Park, there aren’t lifeguards and “swim at your own risk” signs are posted.

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The wading-depth water was too inviting to pass up!

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It was getting dark so we took one final look around.

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We hope we can make a return trip to Blue Hole Park and stay a lot longer!

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: Your kids will love playing and exploring in these two beautiful parks along Georgetown’s San Gabriel River.
Outing Time: About 2.5 hours at San Gabriel Park and 45 minutes at Blue Hole Park. We went on a rainy day, with temperatures ranging from 75 – 80 degrees. In hotter weather, you might not be able to spend as much time.
Outing Distance: About 1.5 miles to walk along the river at San Gabriel Park (3/4 mile one way)
Reminders: San Gabriel Park has bathrooms, picnic tables, water fountains, BBQ grills, playground equipment, and more. At Blue Hole Park, you will have access to bathrooms, a water fountain, and picnic tables but no sinks. To make the most of your trip, pack towels, a change of clothes, sunscreen, water, other drinks, hand wipes, and snacks (and possibly snacks for the ducks and geese at San Gabriel Park). If you want to stay in Georgetown all day, consider visiting some other parks or their historic downtown square.

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Visiting Landa Park in New Braunfels isn’t just a day trip…..it’s a “stay all day” trip! This historic 196-acre park provides an array of fun options for families and features beautiful Comal Springs, the largest group of natural springs in Texas, and 14-acre Landa Lake. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. and decided to start at the playground. This playscape is for younger children.

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Not many children can pass up playground equipment disguised as a fire truck.

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There are two playscapes for older kids.

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This one had had a lot of opportunities for climbing.

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My 11-year-old son thought the zip line was a blast.

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After eating our picnic lunch, we walked toward Landa Park Aquatics Complex. The kids were immediately attracted to the beautiful Comal River, which is the shortest navigable river in Texas, traveling only 2 miles before joining the Guadalupe River.

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We crossed Landa Park Drive and the boys went back to the river again. This time, to hunt for crawdads.

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Mission accomplished.

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Now we were ready to go swimming! The Landa Park Aquatic Complex (350 Aquatic Circle New Braunfels, TX 78130) has something for everyone: a springfed pool, a zero depth pool, and an olympic pool. The bathhouse facility has restrooms, changing rooms, and showers. The complex is only open during the summer season. Hours are 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. (except Saturdays when the pools open at 10 a.m.) and fees are $4 for adults and $3 for kids age 3 and up. Hours can vary so check the schedule before you go. (For example, the olympic pool is closed on Mondays and the spring fed pool is closed on Tuesdays.) Read all the details for Landa Park Aquatics Complex here.

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Closest to the entrance is a pool for young kids. The maximum depth is 2.5 feet.

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Older kids will want to dive into Coach E.E. “Bud” Dallman Olympic Pool, with depths ranging from 4 feet – 7 feet.

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In our opinion the “star” of the Landa Park Aquatics Complex is the natural pool fed by Comal Springs. The water stays 72 degrees year round. Built in the early 1900s, it is one of the oldest and most historic bathing pools in Texas, with depths up to 9 feet. This pool is a “natural aquatic environment,” meaning algae and aquatic life like fish are present.

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Here’s the shallow end, where many young children (including my 7-year-old son) were having a blast.

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This is the Wet Willie slide. It was closed for most of our visit but it looks pretty exciting!

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Many older kids enjoyed climbing up this rope to the cargo net.

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My 11-year-old son loved the zip line, which has a 54-inch height requirement.

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There’s also a rope swing and a shaded playground.

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After we were thoroughly chilled by the cool waters of the Comal, we headed to the train depot for ice cream and train tickets.

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The train ride was a steal at $2.50 per person. After riding the train, we had a better idea of what we wanted to see next in the park: the wading pool.

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We walked west on Landa Park Drive toward the wading pool. We saw this lovely creek and many friendly ducks and geese. (The train depot has duck food for 50 cents per bag.)

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We walked north and crossed a little bridge. Looking out from the fishing pier, we could see the paddle boats.

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Landa Lake was really gorgeous. As you can see, swimming and tubing are not allowed here, as the area is environmentally sensitive.

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The wading pool is located right off of Landa Park Drive in the southwest section of the park. The water is cold! My kids could not resist getting wet (again). While the words “wading pool” might make you think of ankle-deep water, the water is closer to waist-high for most kids. The wading pool does not have lifeguards.

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Now that we had cooled off a little, we explored the park some more. We found a tree that was perfect for climbing.

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This neighboring cypress tree was pretty impressive.

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To top it off, a little spring was running near the roots!

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From 1756-1758, a Spanish mission was located in the area. The historical marker led us to quite a sight…..

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After walking all the way to the marker, we came upon this beautiful spring-fed creek.

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A gazebo provided a scenic spot to view Landa Lake. The gazebo is slated for repair as part of the Landa Park River Front Rehabilitation Project.

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We were running on empty after all of our adventures but my son still wanted to take the time to say “goodbye” to his new friends before we left.

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THE RUNDOWN:

Austin Active Kids Opinion: Run…don’t walk…to your calendar and plan a day trip to Landa Park!

Outing Time: About 6 hours at Landa Park plus driving time (45 minutes – 1 hour) to and from New Braunfels. We easily could have stayed longer and taken advantage of the mini golf or paddle boats.

Outing Distance: Less than one mile walking around the playground area and the river.

Reminders: Click here for driving directions to Landa Park from Austin. Even if you get off course, the City of New Braunfels has numerous directional signs to area attractions like Landa Park. It’s probably a good idea to bring this park map or have it easily accessible on your phone.

If the Landa Park Aquatic Complex parking lot is full, you can find parking spots throughout the park including near the playground and by the wading pool.

For the aquatic complex, visitors are allowed to bring in their own food, drink, and coolers as long as no glass, styrofoam or alcohol is brought. Lawn chairs and folding tables are allowed as long as they are not staked to the ground and do not impede a walkway/public access point. No canopy tents except by city permit. Remember that the aquatic complex is only open during the summer season. If you have any questions about pool hours, just call the aquatic complex at 830-221-4360.

For your day trip, you should plan to bring: water, other drinks, snacks, picnic lunch or dinner, hats, sunscreen, floats, swimming supports (like lifejackets for kids still developing swimming skills), change of clothes, swimsuits, and towels. Camping chairs could be useful, too.

You might want to pack your items in different bags (pool bag and picnic bag) so you aren’t carrying one huge bag around the whole time. We started out with our picnic in the park. Then, we traded out our picnic bag for the pool bag before “downsizing” to the backpack for the train ride and walking around.

In addition to the train ride and paddleboats, Landa Park also has miniature golf. Click here for the hours and fees for all of these Landa Park attractions.

Around the playground, we saw many signs stating that some picnic table sections can be used by reservation only. The City of New Braunfels web site mentions that individual picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis and that park rangers will come by to collect a $10 fee. We did not encounter park staff at the playground and were not asked to pay this fee but you should be aware that is their stated policy.

Here are some other takes on visiting Landa Park from Free Fun in Austin and R We There Yet Mom?

Memorial Park and Chisholm Trail Crossing in Round Rock provide a great opportunity to explore Brushy Creek while learning about the area’s history.

We started out at Memorial Park (600 Lee Street).

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The park was pretty peaceful around 5 p.m. on a weekday.

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We headed east on the sidewalk and walked under IH-35. This bridge over Brushy Creek looked pretty inviting.

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This is the view to the east as we crossed the bridge.

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Brushy Creek must be quite a sight when it’s fully flowing. As you can see, the water level is low due to the ongoing drought.

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The exposed creek bed made for fruitful fossil hunting.

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My 7-year-old son was over the moon about finding this sea urchin fossil. It was upside down when he picked it up…what a fun discovery!

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We saw The Round Rock, the City of Round Rock’s namesake, which is located just east of Chisholm Trail Road. The Round Rock indicated what was an important low-water crossing during pioneer times. In fact, it was one of the most famous markers along the Chisholm Trail, which stretched from South Texas to Kansas.

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This is a pretty famous rock! You can read more about it here on the Williamson County Historical Commission web site.

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We crossed Chisholm Trail Road to take a closer look at this small waterfall over an old dam. Interestingly, an 8- to 9-ft deep section of the creek just upstream of this dam was the city’s primary swimming hole, complete with bathing beach and bath house beginning in the early 1900s. The City of Round Rock plans to revitalize the area as part of Round Rock’s Heritage Trail Project.

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We walked south toward Chisholm Trail Crossing (500 Chisholm Trail Road). Greeting us was the “Bell Steer” sculpture. According to the sign nearby, a “bell steer” could help lead cattle herds and cowboys would keep track of this steer by tying a bell around its neck.

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Also at Chisholm Trail Crossing you will find the “Pioneer Woman” sculpture. It represents Hattie Cluck, who was the first woman to travel the Chisholm Trail. Believe it or not, she was pregnant during the journey! The “Pioneer Boy” is Hattie Cluck’s son Emmett, who was 5 years old in the spring of 1871, when the expedition occurred. You can read more about the bronze sculptures at Chisholm Trail Crossing here.

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As a mom of three boys, I was really amused by the toad in young Emmett’s hand. I guess some things never change!

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On our way back to Memorial Park, both my 7 year old son…..

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….and my 11-year-old son were determined to find more fossils.

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They were pretty successful!

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We could hardly believe that these grooves in the limestone were really from years and years of wagon wheel traffic. Pretty amazing!

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The boys still had some energy left to race to the bridge.

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We had worked up an appetite so we stopped in Round Rock’s Downtown Historic District for dinner. We enjoyed walking around and reading the informative signs on each building describing their history. We stopped to take a break at the Main Street Plaza before heading home. We did not take the opportunity to cool off in the Main Street Plaza Fountain since we forgot to bring towels. You might want to plan for that if you go!

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: Brushy Creek was a fossil-finders dream and the historical insights were an added bonus.
Outing Time: 1.5 hours to cover both parks. Add another 30 minutes or more to that if you visit the Historic District and the Main Street Plaza Fountain.
Outing Distance: Just over a mile covered to walk from Memorial Park to Chisholm Trail Crossing and back.
Reminders: It’s important for visitors to know that neither park has restrooms or water fountains. There’s a port-o-potty at Memorial Park near the softball field. Bring snacks and drinks. If you plan to stop at the Main Street Plaza Fountain, pack a change of clothes and some towels.
While we were near the waterfall and dam, we saw a family swimming in Brushy Creek. The City of Round Rock does not prohibit swimming in Brushy Creek but it’s not encouraged. Use caution and your best judgment in any natural body of water. Remember to always avoid stagnant water.
If you are not familiar with the area, plan your route ahead of time. Memorial Park straddles IH-35 and the turns are easy to miss. This map shows our walk from Memorial Park to Chisholm Trail Crossing. We returned the same way.

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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.

We decided to have a preview of summer fun today and headed to Lake Pflugerville Park (18216 Weiss Lane) for a swim! This park has something for everyone, including an 180-acre reservoir for swimming and a 3-mile trail for walking or jogging.

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We arrived around 11:15 a.m. and the park was not too crowded.

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The boys were very interested in this unusual playscape feature.

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We walked to the lakeshore to take a look around.

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The sand made it feel like we were at the beach!

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The boys couldn’t resist wading into the water.

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Before long, they had changed into their swimsuits and were ready to take the plunge!

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More families showed up to enjoy the lake but it wasn’t too crowded. Many people were better prepared than we were, with chairs, pop up shade canopies, lunches, beach toys, etc.

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The lake isn’t just for swimming. There were windsurfers.

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And people in kayaks.

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If you don’t have your own equipment, you can rent it on site!

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Lake Pflugerville Park also has a pavilion with tables to enjoy your snacks or meal.

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After 1.5 hours of swimming, the boys wanted to take one final run at the playscape.

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: You could play for an hour or play all day at Lake Pflugerville Park!
Outing Time: Just over 2 hours.
Reminders: The park has restrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, and grills. There is not much shade. Bring hats, sunscreen, pop up shade canopies, small tents, etc. Other items you might need are: snacks, picnic lunch, water and other drinks, towels, bathing suits, and sand or beach toys. Please note that there are no lifeguards on duty at Lake Pflugerville! Make sure to pack your life jackets or other swimming support gear (depending on your kids’ swimming skills) and watch your children carefully.

Special events like the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon and the Pflugerville Pfirecracker Pfestival occur at Lake Pflugerville so check the City of Pflugerville’s online calendar or other community calendars, especially if you go on a weekend or holiday.

Our friends at Free Fun in Austin visited Lake Pflugerville in 2011.