As you might have noticed, this summer we are running a few new regular features. On Wednesdays, we’re writing about taking on the city as tourists — even though we live here. So, we might write about packing up the family to check out a swimming hole, taking part in a tour or checking out a nearby resort for a staycation. Here’s to a summer full of exploring the best city around!
Summer vacation planning this year proved tough, because, first, I got grumpy about the idea of flying anywhere. Then I decided road trips weren’t much fun either. Still, I really wanted to escape the Texas heat and the drought and to get away as a family.
So I was looking for a vacation spot close by that felt far, preferably because it had a lot of water. A coworker recommended Hyatt’s Lost Pines Resort near Bastrop. “The lazy river. The kid-sized buffets. The nightly campfires and movies,” she said. “It’s like they had scientists perfectly calibrate the whole place to everything that kids love.”
That sounded worth a try, so we made our reservation. We unnecessarily packed the car with snacks and audio books enough for a car trip, but the trip turned out to be less than 30 minutes from downtown Austin.
Right at arrival, we felt like we were somewhere special. Lost Pines was built only seven years ago, but its stately architecture and hundreds-of-years-old live oaks lend the feel of a resort with a much longer history. (I pictured characters from Dirty Dancing playing croquet or learning to pachanga out on that lawn.) Registration staff greeted us with mimosas and, for the little ones, cookies, and handed us a calendar of events like this one that previewed our activity choices for the week.
The resort offers a full schedule, and some offerings are free while others have an extra price. My 6 year old thought we should try some arts and crafts projects and “Meet the Mini-Mascots,” essentially a petting zoo with ponies, alpacas and donkeys. My 9-year-old nephew noticed capture the flag; his 15-year-old sister liked the idea of trying horseback riding or archery. I wanted to get us out for a hike in McKinney Roughs Nature Park, which surrounds the resort; my husband was interested in the gym. There was even “Camp Hyatt,” an on-site childcare option, should golf or a visit to the spa beckon. (Actually, even then, including kids is an option since there are family golf packages and Wednesday “family day” at the spa.)
Still, there was one thing we all agreed needed trying first: the pool. More accurately, Lost Pines offers multiple swimming pools, a sandy “beach” area, a splash pad and a water slide, plus 1,000 feet of “Crooked River.”
The grown-ups in our party liked grabbing an intertube and lazing our way around bend after bend, or sometimes sitting under a pecan tree to read and sip tropical drinks while the kids swam. Lost Pines doesn’t employ lifeguards, so it was good to have our teenager on hand to help make sure the littler ones were safe on the water slide and playing by man-made waterfalls.
We tried out all the restaurants, and each meal rivaled the next. The children’s menu is informed by Alice Waters, the Berkeley chef known for making tasty fare out of healthy, whole foods. But there was plenty of decadence, too, including an expansive dessert bar, complete with chocolate fountain at our Italian buffet dinner at the Firewheel Café.
Dark clouds rolled in one afternoon, but a rainy day wasn’t wasted at Lost Pines. We tried out at making leather art, but there was also life-sized Connect Four, a bouncy house, mega Legos, and more in an indoor playroom.
We did learn on our trip the value of planning. Horseback riding was out, since no one had thought to bring long pants and close-toed shoes, two riding necessities at the resort. And one night, we planned to attend the “Twilight Trail” nature walk, though we failed to mention our plans to the recreation desk until a few hours beforehand. By that time, the walk had been cancelled because no one had signed up. Whoops.
Still, the free nightly offerings—like s’mores at the fire pit and family movies under the stars—were a constant, allowing even poor planners like us to give them a try.
Each morning, after one of those big breakfasts, we would head to the bicycle corral and select some wheels. Bicycles are free for one hour, which was plenty of time to pedal around, checking out the butterfly and hummingbird gardens and the resident longhorns.
Since bicycles aren’t allowed in the park, on the last day I managed to convince my family to finally try a hike. The river sparkled, attracting beautiful birds that could be spotted all along the trail. Somehow, my little one also detected this fellow, who lay still as could be, hiding in the grass right beside the trail while waiting for his mom:
Overall, the trip felt just right: convenient, kid-friendly, and supremely relaxing for us grown-ups. If those scientists my co-worker talked about do exist, I think they’ve struck on a formula that works not just for kids but for the whole family.
Disclosure: LiveMom received a free night’s stay, one meal, and a discount on an extended stay to come check out Hyatt Lost Pines. LiveMom did not receive compensation for this post, and the opinions here are the writer’s own.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Christine_Sinatra.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] Christine Sinatra is communications director for a local nonprofit and has worked as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company, writing features.[/author_info] [/author]