LAST-MINUTE LABOR DAY DESTINATIONS TO CONSIDER,
These close-to-home getaways are ideal for the three-day weekend.
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
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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.
Rooms have Hill Country views for miles at the JW Marriott San Antonio.
Little ones will love cooling off in Surfenburg’s fantasy water playground.
Friday night fireworks make your stay especially memorable at Gaylord Texan.
Beat the heat at the Gaylord Texan Resort’s guest-only 10-acre outdoor water park, Paradise Springs.
Cool off on a hot day at Schlitterbahn.