Spring is the perfect time to explore Central Texas. Butterflies swirl around bluebonnets, swimming holes rest tranquil, and small town festivals abound. So, when Chevrolet invited me to borrow a 2018 Traverse to find new roads in the Texas Hill Country, I jumped at the chance. Quickly planning a long weekend full of adventures, both big and small, I told the kids we were going on a good old-fashioned road trip.
Finding New Roads in the Texas Hill Country
I have lived in Central Texas for 17 years, and in that time have traversed many a winding road en route to Texas Hill Country destinations. But, there are two Wimberley hot spots I had yet to visit: Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole. These natural swimming holes had long been on my Texas bucket list. Also on that list was two annual festivals: Fiesta San Antonio and the Buda Wiener Dog Races. So, naturally, given the chance, I decided to tackle all of these things, plus a few more, in one weekend trip with four kids.
2018 Chevrolet Traverse
The completely redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse was perfect for our Texas Hill Country weekend tour of swimming holes, parades, and festivals. The kids and I filled up the trunk (love that it opens with the push of a button on the key fob), and every other little nook and cranny (my helpful packrats found 24 different storage spaces). The kids gleefully connected to the Traverse’s Wi-Fi hotspot, I turned on Sirius radio, and we struck out in search of new roads. Before long we stumbled upon the remote and picturesque Lone Man Mountain Road, and we were on our way to Wimberley!
Texas Hill Country: Jacob’s Well
Stop number one on our weekend itinerary was Jacob’s Well in Wimberley, Texas. Jacob’s Well is the second largest fully submerged cave in Texas, and you can swim in it. Underwater. In the cave system. That’s a hard pass from me. I absolutely did not want to swim in an underwater cave. And I did not want my children swimming in what is known online as “one of the most dangerous diving spots in the world.” But I really wanted to see it. So, we parked at Jacob’s Well Natural Area and took the short hike down to the swimming area. It was much smaller than I expected. The deepest part of the Jacob’s Well cavern system is 140 feet deep and at its widest point it’s 4,341 feet long, but from above ground, it looks like a little hole. There’s not much room for actual swimming.
So, Jacob’s Well is a swimming hole, in the most literal sense. It’s a hole. You’re not actually supposed to dive or scuba there (although, from watching online videos it seems like many people do both). I have heard some scary tales from friends who saw people get injured while diving there, so swim/dive/jump like hooligans at your own risk. For my part, I just enjoyed a lovely hike through Jacob’s Well Natural Area. The Texas Hill Country is beautiful and Wimberley is always a good idea.
Know before you go:
- Jacob’s Well Natural Area is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Jacob’s Well is open for swimming May through September.
- Reservations are required to swim and must be made online. Each reservation guarantees two hours of swimming.
- Swimming fees are $9 per adult; $5 per child age five to 12; $5 for seniors age 60+; $5 for service members and veterans; free for children age four and under.
- Parking is free, but the lot is small. If the lot is at capacity, you will only be admitted if you have a reservation to swim.
- The hike from the parking lot is about 15 minutes. The last portion of the hike is not stroller- or wheelchair-friendly. The website mentions that accommodations can be provided to those who need assistance reaching the well.
- There are portable toilets located by the parking lot, but nowhere else that I saw.
- You are allowed to bring your own food and water. There is no water fountain.
- There are no lifeguards. Bring your own life jackets.
- The water temperature stays a constant 68°F.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area is the head waters of Cypress Creek, which flows through Blue Hole Regional Park. So next, we hopped back in the Traverse to check out Blue Hole.
Texas Hill Country: Blue Hole Regional Park
The natural swimming area at Blue Hole Regional Park is stunning. And much less intimidating, for me. There are rugged tree ladders and rope swings. There is plenty of open space for sunning and picnicking. It’s a fairly glorious spot to spend an afternoon.
New this year, if you’d like to swim at Blue Hole, you’ll need to make a reservation online. This will guarantee you a four-hour window to enjoy swimming in a three-acre stretch of cool water. It’s a nice, easy hike from the parking lot down to the water and a beautiful spot to relax.
Know before you go:
- Blue Hole is open for swimming on weekends in May and September, and daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- Reservations for swimming are “highly encouraged.” Reservation time slots include 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Reservations are for swimming only. All other amenities in the park are free to the public. You do not need a reservation to visit the park.
- Swimming fees are $10 for adults; $6 for youth age four to 12; $6 for seniors age 60+; $6 for military; free for kids younger than four.
- If you visit on a day when swimming is not available, admission is free and no reservations are required.
After grabbing some Blue Bell ice cream at The Wimberley Way, and making one more quick stop to swim at Cypress Falls Swimming Hole (because three swimming holes in one day is better than two!), we hopped back in the Traverse and made our way to San Antonio.
Big City Party: Fiesta San Antonio
San Antonio is one of my favorite weekend destinations, but we usually try to visit when the River Walk won’t be packed with tourists. This time, however, we went during the busiest time of the year: Fiesta! We parked the Traverse at the beautiful Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, and set out on foot to enjoy the annual festivities.
It is said that 3.5 million party-goers show up to enjoy Fiesta San Antonio, so the crowds are no joke. This 120-year-old festival honoring the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto is a Texas-sized festival for sure. It takes over the city for ten days each April, with more than 100 events hosted by more than 100 non-profits. So, you’ll likely spend a lot of money, but you can feel good about it. It’s for charity!
Our first stop on Saturday was the family-friendly King William Fair. This huge street fair, a favorite part of Fiesta San Antonio since 1968, includes a parade, arts and crafts, live music, dance, and a whole cast of interesting characters. My kids had a great time spending all my money on carnival games. The festival was packed, and it was a pretty hot day, so we only lasted a few hours before heading back down the River Walk in search of lunch (and air conditioning).
We stopped at Casa Rio, a touristy favorite, where my kids nearly fell asleep in their rice and beans. Fiesta is not for the faint of heart! We stopped by the hotel to rest up a bit before heading out to claim our spots for yet another parade. The Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, known as “America’s Largest Illuminated Night Parade,” was also packed – sold out in fact. But we lucked out by meeting a lovely lady with five tickets to spare. We grabbed our reserved seats along the parade route and joined more than half a million fellow street spectators to cheer on parade participants for three hours. The people of San Antonio love to party until well past our bedtimes. I’ve never been so thankful to have hotel beds just a few blocks away from the action. Hotel Valencia for the win!
Know before you go:
- Fiesta San Antonio takes place over 10 days each April. You can see the Fiesta dates for the next 10 years here.
- If you plan to attend the Fiesta Flambeau Parade, buy seats in advance. The event is packed and it’s too long to stand the whole time. You’ll be so very happy to have chairs.
- Bring along glow-in-the-dark sticks, toys, snacks, and drinks. Everyone around us at the parade had their own cooler.
- Staying in a centrally-located hotel is the way to go. You do not want to deal with Fiesta traffic and parking.
Small Town Fun: Buda Wiener Dog Races
On Sunday morning, after snacking on pastries at the Hotel Valencia’s cappuccino bar, we hopped back in the Traverse and headed up to Buda. This small town, located just south of Austin, is the Wiener Dog Capital of Texas. Once a year, the Lions Club hosts the infamous Wiener Dog Races. This year’s race theme was “Wonder Wieners.”
This event is pretty great. What’s not to love about a park full of adorable dachshunds? There are dogs in costume, happy dogs trying to run in straight lines, and, in some cases, dogs standing still and looking confused because they don’t actually know how to race. It’s a good time for the whole family.
Know before you go:
- Admission is $5 for ages 13+; free for kids 12 and under.
- Parking is free and there are free shuttles from the parking lot behind Cabela’s.
- You can sign up your dog to race; mixed breeds are welcome.
As weekend getaways go, this one felt like a real vacation. We packed a lot in, and only had a short drive to get back home. Leaving Buda, I put on a new podcast, the kids watched Netflix on their devices, and we cruised right back on up I-35 in our swanky SUV.
What We Loved About the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
I tell you what, I wasn’t ready to part with the Chevrolet Traverse when we got back home. The newly redesigned model is amazing. I got quite attached to all the bells and whistles.
2018 Chevrolet Traverse Features:
- Where are my keys? It doesn’t matter! Keyless open and start are standard on all models of the Traverse.
- When I try to leave my keys in the car, the Traverse beeps at me. Every time. Thanks, Traverse!
- If I were to try to leave a kid or pet in the rear, the Traverse would beep at me for that, too.
- The rear view camera is fantastic. It shows all sides of the SUV when reversing.
- The side mirrors alert me when a car is close by.
- Power liftgate with hands-free operation makes this mama’s life easier.
- Tri-zone automatic climate control is very fun. I’m a big fan of the heated and cooling seats as well.
- The MyLink radio systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. I love having my iPhone menu on the car’s touchscreen display. Additional apps are available for the “infotainment” screen, like Weather and Pandora.
- OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is standard on all models. Where is my new office? Why, it’s in my car!
- There is a very handy MyCheverolet app. It offers remote commands, like locking and unlocking, starting the engine remotely, and turning off the lights.
- The Traverse comfortable seats seven to eight, which is perfect for my large family.
- And, finally, the Traverse has Teen Driver mode. This allows parents of teens, like me, to set a maximum volume for the radio, a maximum speed limit for the car, and to mute the radio until all seatbelts are fastened. It also provides parents with reports, including information like how many speed limit warnings and tailgating alerts were issued while your teen was driving. This can open the door to many a “hey, maybe just slow down a little” conversation with your beloved teen.
In all, we had a wonderful time roadtripping in our Traverse and I’m so happy that Chevrolet encouraged us to get out and find new roads. The Texas Hill Country is boundless with scenic gems and family fun – there’s always more to discover.
Disclosure: This trip was sponsored by Chevrolet. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own.