As many of you know, I felt challenged to find something fun and unique for my family to experience together each day of Spring Break this year. For the first time EVER, I didn’t have to work the entire week, so I thought we might as well do stuff together as a family since we weren’t quite sick of each other yet. The challenge. It had to be close to home (within 60 miles or so), cheap, and something we hadn’t done before.
I really have to give my husband credit for the quest. Monday started out like any other Monday. We had plans to work all day, moving dirt and trying to get our yard ready to lay sod by the end of the week. Honestly, I didn’t have anything fun planned. But at 4 o’clock, and after putting in a long day’s work, Brady asked me and Kassidy if we wanted to go on an adventure. The immediate answer was yes. So I packed a cooler of snacks, and we all piled into the Jeep dirty and smelly, unzipped our windows, and set out on the secret adventure.
At one point, while navigating down a long gravel road, I asked Brady if he was taking me somewhere to kill me. He said he would never do that in front of Kassidy. I felt better.
But we finally arrived at a legit spot, complete with historical marker signs. Sugarloaf Bridge and Sugarloaf Mountain are located not far off Hwy 485 down a gravel road that connects Hearne to Gause. I had never heard of it until this little secret adventure; Brady had never heard of it until one of his students bragged about climbing a mountain in Hearne. Brady’s response at the time was “There’s not a mountain in Hearne.” Student – 1, Mr. K – 0.
Anyway, after checking out the bridge, timing how long it took for our spit to hit the Little River, and initially taking the wrong trail to the mountain top, we finally found the right trail to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. It was an easy hike, meaning that if a teacher, pregnant lady and 2-year-old can hike it, anybody can.
Kassidy loved every minute of it, and I have to say it was a simple yet breathtaking experience. I’d like to go back with a picnic lunch and enjoy a little more time on Sugarloaf Mountain again.
Total cost. Free. But we did stop at Ama’s for dinner because I refused to still cook when we got home. So total cost. $16.
Tuesday was a planned trip. And thank goodness because we were not in the mood to work. I had been wanting to take Kassidy to Blue Bell Creameries for the longest, but their tours are only operational during the week. So it was either now or never. The last and only time I had ever been was on a third grade field trip. Brady had never been. So we were excited.
We cashed in our free ice cream tickets before the tour (since we had about an hour to kill), and let Kassidy walk around the grounds wearing her ice cream hat and making cow sounds. Yeah, we are that family. The tour itself was only about 35 minutes, but I totally recommend it if you’ve never done it. It’s not something I would do every year, but it’s good to have a refresher course every so often. It was very kid friendly, and Kassidy waved to any employee she saw working behind a window. Brady and I answered every question the tour guide asked, and we learned some interesting facts along the way. Trivia: Homemade Vanilla is the only flavor made every single day, and the word Popsicle is actually trademarked by Nestle. And it’s true. Every employee can eat as much ice cream as they want during their shift. Too bad the commute’s a little long from Franklin.
After Blue Bell, we headed to the Brenham Airport for lunch. I had heard about the Southern Flyer Diner years ago, and this seemed like the perfect time to check it out. Food and airplanes. What more could you ask for? The food at the diner was a tad pricey, but the atmosphere was great. Jukeboxes, waitresses in poodle skirts, old-fashioned milkshakes, and best of all, a front row seat to watch planes take off and land.
While we were there we got to see two planes take off, and one nice pilot let Kassidy sit in his plane. She buckled herself right in and decided she was going home with him. If you take the kids, don’t be afraid to ask any of the pilots the same thing. Pilots love their planes, so they love showing them off to cute little ones. If your husband asks though, you may get a funny look.
Total cost. $12 for two adult tour tickets (with included 3 free ice cream tickets), $5 at the gift shop, and about $25 for lunch. Not too bad.
Wednesday we had to put in another long day of work, so I tried to find something VERY close to home. I knew Robertson County was full of historic cemeteries, and thought this would be a good time to check them out. How funny that the Franklin Cemetery we drive by every day is home to some pretty notable figures, like Doie “Tex” Owens, writer of the song “Cattle Call,” and six Civil War veterans and two Spanish American War Veterans.
I had mapped out our journey and given a copy to Kassidy so she could feel like an explorer. We took the Jeep, and Massey, and headed to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, about 4 miles from our first stop. General Walter Williams is buried here and is thought to be the last surviving soldier of the Civil Water. Not only that, but he lived to be 117!
Our final stop was one that Brady and I had stumbled upon years before, but we had never taken Kassidy, and it seemed only fitting that we conclude this little journey at the Hammond Colony Cemetery, where “Aunt Jemima” is buried. Not only is this little cemetery tucked away down a gravel road, but it is literally only about 4 miles from our house.
So, in less than 45 minutes, we took a fun little historical journey close to home, and I got back to the house in time to make supper.
Total cost. Zero. But I did draw a map for Kassidy that took me an extra 5 minutes to make.
So I kinda dropped the ball on Thursday. I had the best intentions to take the family to Fort Parker State Park near Mexia, but after putting in a long day’s work, it didn’t quite work out that way. But it’s still something I plan to do one weekend; maybe when we can even spend more than an evening there and actually camp out.
If you’ve never heard of Fort Parker, it’s only about 45 minutes from Franklin, and offers all the amenities of most Texas state parks – picnicking, biking, hiking, swimming and camping. You can even rent canoes! But this park also gives you the opportunity to tour the actual Fort Parker.
Total cost. It would have been only $4 for us to go for the evening to roast hotdogs and marshmallows, hike at sunset, and explore the grounds. For just a little more, you can reserve a campsite for the evening.
Friday had been a planned trip for weeks, which is probably why we pushed ourselves Thursday and didn’t save any time for fun. We met Brady’s parents and our two nieces in Waco and went to the Cameron Park Zoo. And even though we’d technically been to the zoo twice already, it was still a new experience to let Kassidy and Mia explore the zoo together.
Why we love this zoo? We can literally be parking in the zoo parking lot in a little over an hour; it only takes about 2 hours to make it through at a normal pace; and as a whole, it’s mostly shaded and easy to navigate.
You’re also allowed to bring your own wagons, and children under 3 are free. Double win.
We did try a couple of new things this time around. We met the family for lunch first at George’s. George’s is the Waco equivalent to the Dixie Chicken. And now I see why. Probably the only place that still serves lunch specials for $5.99! Anyway, good food and a “must-try” if you’re ever in Bear Country. Funny thing is the waiter saw all our Aggie rings and still served us with a smile. Insert “Ahhhh” here.
We also made sure to stop by the Dr. Pepper Museum on our way home. My advice. Skip the tour, which we did, and just head to the Soda Shop, which doesn’t cost you anything, except for whatever delicious Dr. Pepper goodness you decide to buy. My suggestion. Try the Dr. Pepper Shaker (or whatever it’s called). It’s basically a shake/malt made with Dr. Pepper instead of vanilla or chocolate. And you can add a mix-in for free. Kassidy stole Brady’s; it was that good.
Total cost. $18 for the zoo, $15 for lunch, and $8 for our Dr. Pepper treats. And a little girl that passed out on the drive home. Priceless.
So, there you have it. My Spring Break recap. It just goes to show you that even if you don’t have a lot of time, or a lot of money, you can still take the time out of your day, or afternoon, to be together as a family. And put a smile on your kid’s face.
In case you’re looking for other ideas, here’s some more cool things to do around the area that I either didn’t have the time to get to, or had already done before. Check them out sometime!
And if you have anything to add, please share. Chances are I’ve not heard of it, and I’ll need new places to explore too!
- Bryan, Buffalo, Caldwell or Calvert Livestock Auctions – You may think I’m crazy, but I grew up going to these in my hometown. There’s just something about the catwalk, and watching an auctioneer do his thing, that is a cool experience for anyone that was brought up on a working farm or ranch. I’m thinking it’s also a great excuse to come home with another goat…or two.
- Falls on the Brazos Park
- Franklin Drive Thru Safari
- Franklin Ranch Community Park
- Horseshoe Junction
- Lake Limestone
- Mayborn Museum
- Pick your own orchards
- Washington on the Brazos