Off-the-Beaten-Path Family Day Trips That Will Make the Whole Family Smile

As a family, our favorite thing to do is jump in the car early in the morning, on the weekends, or during the summer and take off on a random day trip. We love to explore things that are outside the box and maybe a little strange. We like cheap and weird. The weirder it is, the more my kids love it, and the cheaper it is, the more I love it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled “weird things to do in Texas.” My kids are pretty much up for anything and don’t mind an hour- to two-hour drive just to see the biggest squirrel in the world.

I want to share some of our favorite adventures. Maybe we’ll run into you while taking pics with one of the many hippo statues in Hutto…

If you head north towards Bastrop, you can find your way to The World’s Largest Squirrel. Ms. Pearl is a gentle giant located in Cedar Creek, easily one of my favorite drives. Texas back roads are the best, so the drive is half the fun. Back-road gas stations is where you’ll find the best beef jerky and homemade jam. Snap a pic with Ms. Pearl, then head inside the store to taste some of the best pie and fudge you can get your hands on.

If you want to make a full day of it, you can go straight to Hutto from Cedar Creek and have fun trying to find all the hippos around town. There are several brightly painted hippos through Hutto. We haven’t seen them all, but I’m planning a scavenger hunt for our next visit. Find your favorite and snap a family picture. If you need to take a lunch break, get in line at Texas Cafe and Pie Shop—you won’t be disappointed. (Wait, do I have a pie theme going on here? Maybe I’m just hungry.) I suggest the chicken-fried steak, but you’ll have to bring your appetite because it’s Texas-sized! 

Our next adventure probably isn’t for everyone and wins me the award for either Best Mom Ever or Worst Mom Ever, depending on whom you ask. Lately one of my daughters has been obsessed with all things horror films, which led us to what she calls “the best day of her life.” Did you know you can grab a barbecue plate and dine where the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed? Eek, I know, but cut me some slack—this kid is legit obsessed. About six miles outside of Bastrop you’ll find The Gas Station, and if you’re brave enough, head inside and have some lunch surrounded by tons of horror movie memorabilia: wall-to-wall toys, shirts, games, and more. There isn’t a square inch that doesn’t have something a little scary on it.  We may or may not have gone home with a Leather Face plush doll.

Also along the lines of “What Kind Of Mother Are You?” I’m now going to urge you to take your kids to a Moonshine distillery. Smack dab in the middle of Comfort, you will find Hill Country Distillery. It has a beautiful courtyard with cornhole set up and a few picnic tables, so you can grab a drink and watch the kids burn off energy running around in the green grass. We always have the car loaded with things for the kids to do, so we set out our bubble blower, grab our ball and bat, and sometimes have a hula hoop contest. The yard is beautiful and family-friendly, so I promise you won’t be the only parent who brought their babies to a bar. Take a short walk around the corner to Comfort Pizza—just look for the ring of old bicycles parked outside—for some real deal brick oven pizza and Blue Bell ice cream. What more can you ask for?

On days we want to escape to a tropical hideaway and feel like we’re on a vacation, we head to Toucan Jim’s in Center Point. When you walk inside it’s truly like you’ve transported to a beach…just one without water. The kids love this place. They get to run around the “island,” play in the kids’ area that offers sand and tables, and pretend to perform on the dance floor. I don’t know if there’s a more family-friendly place than this. The food is great, the drinks are cold, and it’s the perfect spot to waste the day away. 

My family is a bunch of river rats. We love to get knee-deep in the Texas rivers and spend the day skipping rocks or stacking river stones. We could live on a river bank. There’s an out-of-the-way river spot that we try to keep secret, but I like you, so I’m letting you in the circle of trust. James Kiehl Park is our spot. The river is clear, the banks have huge spots to park your stuff, and I’ve never seen it busy—we’ve always found a spot to camp out on for the day. I’ll warn you: be prepared to hike a little. The trail down to the river is steep and slightly treacherous, but it’s worth it. Pack an ice chest, blow up your float, and spend the day relaxing in the water. 

After you’ve soaked in the river all day and built up a good hunger, find your way to Waring Country Store and order a cheeseburger with fries. I think that’s pretty much all they serve, but you won’t want anything else because theirs is one of the best burgers ever. My favorite part of the gas station is everything they have on the shelves. I think some of the stuff has been there long before my family even existed. It’s truly nostalgic, and the people who work there are the friendliest you’ll find. 

What would a day trip post even be if we didn’t talk about Luckenbach? It’s not just for beer drinking and circle picking. My kids have a blast whenever we visit. In Luckenbach, you’ll find people randomly playing the guitar and singing some tunes, kids running wild, food flying out the window of the food truck, and the chickens ruling it all. If you pick this day adventure, definitely check the website first to see if there are any big events going on, as these can draw a crowd. We prefer to go on the quiet days when we can roam around at a snail’s pace. 

So next time you want to head out on an adventure, take the road less traveled and see what kinds of weird stuff you can find. Head to see the hippos or snap a pic with the world’s largest squirrel. I’ve learned along the way that the kids don’t care that much about fancy things; they care about time and memories, and I promise they won’t forget eating barbecue next to the guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Now, which one of these are you going to visit first?

Candice Curry is a born and raised San Antonio mother of 6. She and her husband escape their kids by taking backroad drives in the Texas hill country seeking out the best whiskey and coolest antiques. When she grows up she wants to own an ice cream truck and travel around Texas selling ice cream and french fries with her family.