So July is always a great time to visit Texas...tubing, beaches, hiking, shopping...what's not to love?! That being said, if you aren't a fan of the hot humid Texas summers you may want to wait until September when it starts to cool down but still warm enough for all the above!
On this trip I flew from Nuremberg Germany with a connection in Munich and then to Dallas and finally reached San Antonio via Lufthansa operated by United - the ticket was purchased at abctravel.de for about $600. Everything went smoothly except that I had to pay $159.00 for an upgrade to premium seating to get moved to an aisle seat....but it is soooo totally worth it on these long flights across the pond. It was cold and raining the day I flew out and I was definitely looking forward to some Texas sunshine!
I arrived at San Antonio IA around 9 pm with only a carry on luggage, zipped out of there quickly, picked up the rental car and headed to the Air Force lodging at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), where I stayed the first night. It took me about 30 minutes to get there but I believe I payed a whopping $48 for the room with a shared bath, thanks to my military retirement benies! The temperature and traffic were not bad at that time of night. I rented the car from Dollar at the airport for 10 days at $234.00.
Day 1 - Woke up before the sun came up to the sound of hundreds of Air Force basic trainees doing organized physical fitness in cadence....wow, I was so glad I was on my balcony sipping coffee just listening to all that fun...lol! Can't say I miss those days even though I was more physically fit because of it. After a quick shower I hauled everything back into the rental car to head over to Randolf AFB on the other side of San Antonio to meet up with some good friends, who now live in Killeen, TX. On the way out I spotted this Jack Rabbit and had to double back around the parking lot to get a pic of him...or her. :)
The traffic was definitely heavier than the night before and the temperature was starting to creep up fast...time to turn on the A/C! Once I arrived at Randolf I found the Base Exchange and did some shopping while waiting on my friends to get there. I was impressed with the entire base, it was really beautiful and the architecture reflected the feel of this part of Texas and the Alamo. Luckily they still had some vacancies in the lodge so we were all able to stay at the same location and I wouldn't have to drive back and forth across San Antonio and it was still only $60 per night with a private bathroom this time!
I hung out with my friends, did a little shopping and dinner and went to bed early because we were going toobing in the morning...and I was super excited, I think it had been about 10 years since my last toob trip down the Gruadalupe river at Canyon Lake, but this time we were going to get our toobs and put in the river at the Rocking R in Gruene Texas.
Day 2 -We were up and on our way by 0830 or 0900. The ride to Gruene was about 30 minutes give or take. We rented toobs with bottoms at $20 per person which included the bus ride back to the main entrance from any one of their departure points along the river. Parking is free during the week and $10.00 on weekends, however, if you spend $25 or more on rentals, you get half of the parking fee back! We opted for the 1.5-2 hour trip. The Rocking R also provided mesh bags for beer cans (yeah can bring beer along - cans only..this is Texas) and other trash. Even though it was the start of 4th of July weekend it really wasn't crowded on the river. Surprisingly this section of the Guadalupe is much warmer than at the Canyon Lake area where I am used to toobing...comfortable, yet still had some nice rapids... the river was a bit low, but that is to be expected this time of year. The scenery going down the river in Gruene was beautiful - my friends really enjoyed their first time toobing in Texas, I think they will go again! Although we slathered on the sunblock we still got a bit of mild sunburn in some of those exposed areas. All in all, it was a fantastic way to stay cool because the temp that day was over 100 degrees! Once we finished our river trip we mosied around town stopping in at Gruene Hall to listen to some live music and .....
...I swear I spotted Sam Elliot standing against a wall on one side of the hall .... you judge for yourself below!
One of the places I liked the most in Gruene was the Grapevine wine cafe, a nice little place to have a glass of wine and sit under the shade trees and get sprayed with water mist while listening to more live music....and, because it was so hot, they had free infused lemon water available as well!
For lunch we decided on Mexican food (go figure..lol) and Cantina del Rio just like it's name implies is a cantina on the edge of the river.
It wasn't bad but it was more I will say commerialized than I had hoped for and not the home style Mexican food that San Antonio is known for.
Although I had lived in Texas for 8 years and had heard of this town that was originally settled by German Farmers in the early 1800s, I had never actually visited Gruene (pronounced green) before today....what a shame... if I ever moved back to this area, Gruene would definitely be one of my favorite hang outs, it is a quaint and lovely area and I really enjoyed the live music!
Day 3 & 4 - My daughter flew in from Wisconsin to meet me and I was able to secure another room at the Randolf lodge for her and the kids for the night. The following morning we moved to a hotel on the outskirts of New Braunfels and had planned to take the the kids to the Natural Bridge Caverns but, the line was just too long by the time we made it out there, so we opted to wait until the following day and to an earlier start and headed back to Gruene to hang out, listen to some good music and sip a for the rest of the day and enjoy some wine at the Grapevine.
Day 5 - I'm so glad that we decided to get to the Natural Bridge Caverns as soon as they opened and avoided the long lines since it was a holiday. We started out with the discovery tour of the caverns. I was a little concerned about my four year old grandaughter because it is wet and slippery as you desended into the cavern but she did okay. I also thought it would be nice and cool inside but, it was quite humid so I am glad we did the cavern tour before the heat of the day crept in again.
We took the kids to the the gem and fossil mining attraction where they could sluice for gems and, while it was fun for the little one, my 13 year old grandson wasn't all that impressed so we let him have a go at the open air maze challenge afterward, which he thought was pretty cool.
Of course everyone was looking forward to the Canopy Challenge with the obstacles and zip lines which is an option for all ages. Everyone wears a harness even with the rope climbing so it was very safe and the kids both enjoyed this attraction.
Around 1 pm everyone was starting to get hot and hungry so we packed it up and headed back to the hotel room that we had moved to on the outskirts of New Braunfels. What a great choice this was, I would definitely recommend this site for families!
Day 6 - The kids wanted to go toobing so we had to go to the Rocking R in New Braunfels this time, which is on the Comal river, because non-swimmers and children under 6 years of age are not allowed on the Guadalupe for safety reasons. We didn't get there until nearly noon and it was crazy busy since it was the 4th of July, so my advice to anyone going on the weekend or holiday is to get there early...traffic was really bad and parking was very limited. We ended up parking in a satellite parking area and were bused to rental area and then had to walk down to the river entry point with all of our stuff and the toobs.
They have a toob shoot at this location, which my daughter and grandson loved, but I didn't feel it was safe for smaller children so I entered the river past that point with my grandaughter. The Comal river runs a little slower than the Guadalupe and the water temperature was somewhat warmer and very comfortable. It was the 4th of July and the river was much more crowded than it had been on the Guadalupe a few days earlier and, since you are not supposed to tie your toobs together it it was challenging for us to stay together. We decided to get out at the 1.5 hour exit point because there wasn't as much shade on this river and we didn't want the kids to get sunburn.
Day 7-9 Off to Corpus Christi! The ride down to Corpus wasn't bad, We left around 10 am and it took about 2 hours. We decided to stay downtown at the Emerald Beach Hotel which is the only hotel that is actually on the beach downtown. After spending the day wandering and the night at the beach, the next morning we headed down to the Rio Grande Valley to visit with my son and his family and hang out at the pool where we could stay cool for a few days before driving back to San Antonio for our flights home.
There was a little traffic delay at the Sarita Checkpoint heading back up from the Rio Grande Valley but not too bad!
We made sure to take a pit stop at the Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay in Robstown on our way back to San Antonio. It is fairly new and some places are not open yet but there was still enough open to make it worth the stop!
Day 10 - The Alamo and the River Walk San Antonio! Once we checked back into our rooms at Randolf upon our return to San Antonio we decided to spend our last night in Texas in downtown San Antonio. It was still over 100 degrees outside so after touring the Alamo and walking along the riverwalk for a while we had to stop at Dick's Last Resort on the Riverwalk for a cold drink before heading back to the room!
Day 11 - Adios Tejas! We had an early morning flight out of San Antonio to Atlanta where my daughter and kids would catch their flight back to Wisconsin and I to Munich. I flew back on Delta and unfortunately there was a mechanical issue that had us stuck on the runway and at the gate on the plane for about 5 hours total before they finally let us de-board at the gate for about 40 minutes then re-boarded us and FINALLY took off so the return trip was not fun, but, I made it back to Germany and alles gut!