LAST-MINUTE LA­BOR DAY DES­TI­NA­TIONS TO CON­SIDER,

These close-to-home get­aways are ideal for the three-day week­end.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - AUSTIN 360 SUNDAY - By Mauri El­bel

School may have started, but sum­mer isn’t over just yet. Triple-digit days are still upon us, and summertime fun re­mains in full swing at a hand­ful of Texas re­sorts, beck­on­ing fam­i­lies to squeeze in one last trip be­fore fall rolls in. These five fam­ily-friendly re­sorts are per­fect for beat­ing the heat and mak­ing mem­o­ries over La­bor Day week­end and beyond.

Sch­lit­ter­bahn Water­park & Re­sort, New Braun­fels

My old­est son and I step into a ca­nary-yellow two-per­son in­flat­able boat and brave the Master Blaster — Sch­lit­ter­bahn New Braun­fels’ 1,000-foot, six-story up­hill wa­ter coaster that’s re­peat­edly been voted the coun­try’s best wa­ter ride. The day be­fore, my other son and I plunged head­first down side-by-side speed slides on the Down­hill Racer, which drops riders three sto­ries from the top of the wa­ter park’s iconic Cas­tle En­trance. Sprin­kled be­tween nu­mer­ous adren­a­line-laced ad­ven­tures dur­ing our two­day Sch­lit­ter­bahn stint, we coax Dad and lit­tle sis­ter away from which­ever wa­ter-in­fused fan­ta­sy­land they’re cur­rently splash­ing in to en­joy fam­ily-friendly rapids to­gether like Sur­fen­burg’s end­less Krys­tal River, the Hill­side Tube Chute that snakes through the orig­i­nal sec­tion and the Falls — the world’s long­est wa­ter park ride that of­fers white­wa­ter “trans­portain­ment” to and from var­i­ous points through­out Sch­lit­ter­bahn East.

Revisiting Sch­lit­ter­bahn New Braun­fels is al­ways a nos­tal­gic ex­pe­ri­ence. Grow­ing up in New Braun­fels, my child­hood sum­mers were spent cap­tur­ing thrills on some of these very same rides be­fore I traded in my sea­son pass for a pay­check as a Sch­lit­ter­bahn life­guard in high school. Two decades later, an an­nual trip to this flag­ship wa­ter park that’s grown to encompass 51 at­trac­tions and span 70 acres has be­come an an­tic­i­pated adventure for our three chil­dren.

This sum­mer, our fam­ily ex­pe­ri­enced the re­sort side of Sch­lit­ter­bahn for the first time. The now-sprawl­ing wa­ter park ac­tu­ally started as a re­sort when the Henry fam­ily moved to New Braun­fels and took over Camp Landa in 1966 to of­fer guests wa­ter­front lodg­ing along a tree-lined stretch of the spring-fed Co­mal River. To­day Sch­lit­ter­bahn Re­sort is open year­round and of­fers 220 ac­com­mo­da­tions rang­ing from ho­tel rooms and va­ca­tion homes to River­bend Cab­ins and the up­scale, spa­cious Sch­lit­terStein Lofts where we stayed, perched above the Co­mal and across from Sur­fen­burg fea­tur­ing two bed­rooms and bath­rooms and a full kitchen.

Dur­ing wa­ter park sea­son, re­sort guests can splash, sleep and re­peat with ad­mis­sion start­ing the day of check-in and ex­tend­ing through the day of check­out so even one-night stays come with two full days of wa­ter park fun. Re­sort guests also en­joy special perks like ex­tended ac­cess to sig­na­ture at­trac­tions be­fore and after park hours as well as the con­ve­nience of let­ting lit­tle ones rest up be­tween rides. Make the most of your visit with a Sch­lit­ter­bahn Blast Pass ($35 dur­ing La­bor Day week­end), which lets guests re­serve rides, skip lines and play while you wait — we ex­pe­ri­enced the most pop­u­lar rides through­out the wa­ter park without the typ­i­cal lines or whines. More at sch­lit­ter­bahn.com/new-braun­fels.

JW Mar­riott Hill Coun­try Re­sort and Spa, San An­to­nio

Days be­fore our two boys headed back to el­e­men­tary school, I stuffed their swim trucks and jam­mies into their “Star Wars” suit­case and we took off for the JW Mar­riott Hill Coun­try Re­sort and Spa for a special mom-and­sons getaway. This Hill Coun­try oasis, stud­ded with tow­er­ing oaks and sur­rounded by green

con­tin­ued from D10

rolling hills, is a lux­u­ri­ous es­cape for any­one, with an ar­ray of din­ing options, a 26,000-square-foot spa fea­tur­ing 30 treat­ment rooms and two golf cour­ses. But for fam­i­lies, the re­sort of­fers an ef­fort­less va­ca­tion play­ground where en­ter­tain­ment is at your fin­ger­tips and mem­o­ries come easy. Dur­ing our two-day stay, we swam and splashed on leisurely loops around the 1,100-foot lazy river that cir­cles the re­sort’s 9-acre River Bluff wa­ter park (it’s open year-round and heated to 86 de­grees dur­ing cooler months). We braved jaw-drop­ping 47-foot-high body slides and rush­ing rapid river rides without ever wait­ing in line more than a minute or two. We fol­lowed our but­ter­milk pan­cake and ba­con break­fasts with morn­ing swims, nib­bled lunch pool­side when we got hun­gry and, as evening ap­proached, or­dered a round of fruity cock­tails and mock­tails be­fore trot­ting to the fire pit to make s’mores.

Out of the wa­ter, kids can en­joy ev­ery­thing from an ar­cade room and tech-fun ex­pe­ri­ences to a daily cu­rated menu of chil­dren’s activities such as kids yoga, make-yourown-ice-cream work­shops, wild an­i­mal en­coun­ters and drive-in movies where kids can craft their own card­board hot rods and “drive” them to watch a flick on the lawn be­neath the stars. There are also daily Kids Club drop-offs and Kids Night Out pro­grams for par­ents want­ing some alone time. Seven on-site din­ing options keep meals from be­ing bor­ing — try the ca­sual Ci­bolo Moon, which serves Texas-style cui­sine and has a green lawn out­side where kids can run off their meal, or High Ve­loc­ity, a sports bar with a 120-foot video wall.

The re­sort also tends a 5,000-square-foot or­ganic gar­den, with its farm-totable phi­los­o­phy showing through the dishes served at 18 Oaks, its fine-din­ing restau­rant where I treated my bud­ding food­ies to a char­cu­terie board piled with locally cured meats and cheeses, per­fectly seared diver scal­lops and a ten­der filet mignon sourced from nearby Windy Bar Ranch. More at bit.ly/2w0MiTd.

Port Royal Ocean Re­sort, Port Aransas

If the Texas coast is call­ing, set your sights on Port Royal Ocean Re­sort in Port Aransas — this beach­front re­sort mar­ries sea­side fun with re­sort re­lax­ation. Sit­ting on a 25-acre en­clave, 210 spa­cious one-, two- and three­bed­room beach­front con­dos hug lagoon-style pools, a heated Olympic-size lap pool, four hot tubs, a splash pad, two swim-up bars and wa­ter­slides. Fam­i­lies stay­ing here can skip over the sand-in-car fi­asco and walk straight from the pool to the beach, and when lit­tle ones have too much fun in the sun, you don’t have to drag them off-prop­erty to a restau­rant. Cook a meal in your own kitchen, or­der room ser­vice or eat at one of the din­ing options on-site in­clud­ing Restau­rant 361, the pool­side Cabana Grill and Bar, and the Bistro, which serves up break­fast tacos, sand­wiches and pizza pies. On La­bor Day week­end, fam­i­lies can look for­ward to a spread of free activities in­clud­ing sand cas­tle lessons, dive-in movies, yoga, Zumba, bounce houses, live mu­sic and more, many of which re­main on the sched­ule through­out fall. More at port-royal.com.

Gaylord Texan Re­sort, Grapevine

Texas-size sum­mer fun is still go­ing strong through La­bor Day at Gaylord Texan Re­sort, where splash­ing and laugh­ing come with your stay. The Gaylord Texan is of­fer­ing a slew of familyfriendly activities through La­bor Day in­clud­ing fire­work shows, a western com­edy show, an es­cape room, gold pan­ning, can­vas paint­ing, scav­enger hunts, strolling en­ter­tain­ers, live mu­sic, a Build-A-Bear mo­bile work­shop, Ju­nior Chefs Camp led by the re­sort’s award-win­ning ex­ec­u­tive chefs and more. Fam­i­lies can cool off with com­pli­men­tary ac­cess into the re­sort’s ex­clu­sive gue­stonly 10-acre out­door wa­ter park, Paradise Springs, fea­tur­ing a 6,000-square-foot fam­ily lagoon, a 600-foot­long lazy river, a gi­ant wa­ter tree­house, mul­ti­ple wind­ing wa­ter slides, a zip line, a pool bar and pri­vate ca­banas for rent. When hunger strikes, choose from 10 restau­rants, bars and cafes on-site of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from steaks and seafood to Ital­ian and Mex­i­can dishes. More at gay­lord­texan.com.

Hy­att Re­gency Lost Pines Re­sort and Spa, Bas­trop

Just over a half-hour drive from Austin, you’ll find a lux­ury-meets-wilder­ness es­cape wait­ing for you at the Hy­att Re­gency Lost Pines Re­sort and Spa. Hug­ging the banks of the Colorado River on 400-plus idyl­lic acres, fam­i­lies can en­joy fun-filled activities in­clud­ing splash­ing and swim­ming at the Crooked River Water­park, movies on the lawn, nightly s’mores roasts, com­pli­men­tary bi­cy­cle rentals, horse­back rid­ing and pony rides, kayak­ing and more. Camp Hy­att fea­tures en­ter­tain­ing kid-friendly activities and pro­grams so Mom and Dad can en­joy some alone time to­gether, play golf at the Wolf­dancer Golf Club or re­lax at Spa Django. Na­ture lovers can hike or horse­back ride through the ad­join­ing McKin­ney Roughs Na­ture Park, a 1,100-acre park that of­fers 18 miles of foot trails and 12 miles for horse­back rid­ing as well as the new Zip Lost Pines, which al­lows thrill-seek­ers to glide above shady pine forests and steep canyons. With nearly 500 guest rooms and an ex­ten­sive daily lineup of familyfriendly activities that un­fold right beyond your door, this re­sort of­fers an ef­fort­less va­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence for those who don’t want to travel far. More at lost­pines.re­gency. hy­att.com.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY MAURI EL­BEL

Rooms have Hill Coun­try views for miles at the JW Mar­riott San An­to­nio.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY MAURI EL­BEL

Lit­tle ones will love cool­ing off in Sur­fen­burg’s fan­tasy wa­ter play­ground.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY GAYLORD TEXAN EL­BEL

Fri­day night fire­works make your stay es­pe­cially mem­o­rable at Gaylord Texan.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY GAYLORD TEXAN

Beat the heat at the Gaylord Texan Re­sort’s guest-only 10-acre out­door wa­ter park, Paradise Springs.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY MAURI

Cool off on a hot day at Sch­lit­ter­bahn.

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