Family Fun in the Hill Country

For all-ages fun, the Texas Hill Country can’t be beat. Watery wonderlands and sporting events with themed nights are just some of the region’s highlights. Here, welcoming weather and human ingenuity give the whole family something to agree on.

Finding a happy-medium activity for the whole family can be difficult on any trip. But in the Hill Country? It’s almost unavoidable. The region’s blend of man-made attractions and natural assets ensures as much. From ballpark hot dogs to skyscraping waterslides, we found unanimous thrills on a recent family romp.

Dell Diamond

Catching a game in Round Rock at Dell Diamond, the home stadium of the Round Rock Express, is about more than baseball, grand as the game is. It’s also about hot dogs dripping with mustard, clear blue skies, swag, music, and atmosphere.

Sure, the Triple-A affiliate team of the Houston Astros can pull out some heart-stopping wins, but parents and kids fall for the ballpark as well as the team. Opened in 2000 on 85 acres of former farmland, the state-of-the-art facility often approaches its 11,600-plus capacity.

It’s no surprise why so many turn out; views of the neatly manicured diamond are great from every seat, and entertainment extras are plentiful. Inexpensive tickets make it an affordable evening no matter your family’s size, while promotional nights extend throughout the summer season.

A Star Wars theme prevailed on the night we attended. Darth Vader, flanked by two Stormtroopers, showed up to terrorize the audience—and to throw out the first pitch. Fans were invited to don their best costume; more than one woman was sporting mom-tastic Leia buns. After the game, themed fireworks burst into the night sky, accompanied by the franchise’s unmistakable theme song.

Regular fixings also impressed. Our little ones beelined for the Fun Zone, where they broke a sweat on the rock-climbing wall, the quad-bungee bounce, and various inflatables. They also took pictures with Spike, the team’s jowly dog mascot. The adults enjoyed cornhole and tasty flights at the beer garden, while everyone enjoyed buffalo wings, gourmet hot dogs, funnel cakes, and even some gluten-free deli options in the concession area.

Oh, and the game? When the Express beat the New Orleans Zephyrs 8–5, we all cheered like Ewoks at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Schlitterbahn

Amidst the green hills of New Braunfels, a city halfway between San Antonio and Austin, is a citadel of streams, slides, and spouts. Schlitterbahn New Braunfels Waterpark does H2O right.

The family-owned park, whose German name translates to “slippery road,” was opened in 1979 with only four slides. But it expanded and innovated—eventually sprawling to its present-day 70 acres, spawning four other parks with its name, and inspiring scores of industry imitators.

Forty attractions dominate the four main adventure areas, with several of them harnessing the Comal River’s spring-fed waters. The seamless mix of artificial and natural environments produces an all-consuming experience. We tried a surfeit of the park’s rides, from mild to wild.

In the latter category lies the Black Knight, an enclosed slide that plunged us into pitch-black surroundings and shot us down 550 feet of pipeline. We dried out in the Skycoaster, a ride that involves strapping three people into one harness, lifting them up 42 feet, and releasing them in a hair-raising swoop. The temporary free fall truly felt like flying.

The Master Blaster uphill water coaster brought by far the biggest rush of adrenaline. Scaling six stories and winding 1,100 feet, it’s an award-winning marvel of engineering that lives up to the hype. The unpredictable twists, precipitous drops, and variable darkness had us whooping the whole way down.

But the park offers softer moments between the big thrills. We set the kids loose in Han’s Hideout, a five-story fun house with blasts of water, net crawls, and slides. And our favorite meeting place was Blastenhoff Beach, a subtle wave pool that lulled us into a midday rest. That is, until the raging Torrent River beckoned.

The park is open weekends from mid-April to late September, and daily from May to early September.

The park is open weekends in early spring and fall and daily during the summer.

FUN FACT
Dell Diamond’s Saturday nights offer ever-shifting promotions. Depending on the date, you might find yourself enjoying a postgame concert, winning a car, or nabbing some swag. Check the online schedule for a full rundown.