Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau/Tribune Media Services
Watching the bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge.
Ryan Libbey, 10, was in vacation heaven.
Lounging poolside at the deluxe Barton Creek Resort and Spa (www.bartoncreek.com), Ryan had a smoothie in one hand and with the other he prepared to dig into a plate of chicken fingers and fries, which the waitress had just delivered to his chair.
"Much better than the beach," declared Ryan, who is from Dallas. "There's always something to do here."
In fact, Barton Creek Resort, a short drive from downtown Austin and known for its four golf courses, is working hard to attract families this summer with midweek packages starting at $150 a night (add golf starting at $50), themed camps (it was wacky water week when I visited for a mini-family reunion of my husband's gang) an arcade, mini-golf and nature trail, spa discounts and ever-attentive staff.
"They're very accommodating," said Jeff Thompson, who provided " daddy day care" for his two daughters, ages 4 and 2, while his wife spent the morning working. The couple, also from the Dallas area, liked that the resort offered a first-rate business center, as well as first-rate amenities for them and the kids. We liked that the pool area was an ideal gathering place for relatives staying at the resort and for those who lived in Austin.
A half-hour away at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop, Texas (www.lostpines.hyatt.com), Hyatt's newest U.S. resort, Heather Taylor was busy snapping vacation shots of her husband and two young children, as they played in the resort's "lazy river" pool area. They too had found summer vacation bliss, they said, and they hadn't gone far for it either: The Taylors live in Austin. "It's so stressful to travel with the baby," Heather Taylor said. "You come here and it's perfect."
All around Lost Pines were other families determined not to miss one second of vacation fun—floating in the lazy river, watching the kids on the water slide or in the baby pool, saddling up for horseback rides or bike rides around the extensive property (405 acres and an adjoining 1,100-acre nature park!), playing "golf" with preschoolers on the lawn and watching them on the playground nearby.
"A lot of good memories," said Desiree Wilburn, who is from near San Antonio. Her extended family decided to come here with their young kids instead of taking their traditional beach getaway together. "It's a lot easier and they never get bored."
Should parents want to steal away from a round of golf (as my guys did) or a spa treatment (how about a raw sugar body scrub?), there is Camp Hyatt, and by the end of the year a youth spa. But what parents seemed to appreciate more was the roster of free activities conveniently posted on a chalkboard at the pool: Double Dutch on the lawn at 11:30 a.m., kite flying at 2:30, flag football at 3:30, s'mores at 7 p.m., along with outdoor movies. (Deeper discounts are coming for August and there are packages good until late September that include resort credits, 20 percent discounts on spa and golf and a range of other freebies.)
"I could fly to Cancun and end up with the same experience," said William Morrow, who, after a business trip, tacked on a little family R & R at Lost Pines, which is less than two hours from his home. http://bastropremodeling.webnode.com