Early in my time as a military spouse, I was given the standard advice: “Bloom where you are planted. This assignment is whatever you make it.”
It’s great advice, but let’s get real for a minute: Some duty stations are easier to embrace than others. So, when my husband came home with orders for Fort Hood, I was a little apprehensive. Most of what I knew about Fort Hood came from friends’ stories of crazy allergies and threads on shaming Facebook sites about ridiculousness happening on post.
Arriving in Texas at 3 a.m. on July 3 in the middle of 30+ days with triple-digit temperatures wasn’t the most auspicious of starts. Now, after three years here in Texas, we’ve found ourselves charmed by the incredible variety of things to do and enjoy!
Things to Do at Fort HoodLess than an hour away down I-35 or 195, Austin is close enough to go spend the day exploring the fabulous restaurants, great shopping or live music scene. Add even more drama to one of the stunning Texas sunsets you’ll see by watching the Bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge. We’ve taken my 6-year-old son several times, and he regularly asks to go watch again. For a more active Austin experience, Zilker Park offers hiking, biking, jogging, paddle boarding and kayaking. The park also hosts a calendar of festivals and events that ranges from concerts to farmers’ markets. Oh, and it’s dog friendly, too!
The “Live Music Capital of the World” offers venues galore. Best bet? Follow the Facebook pages of venues like Emo’s, Stubb’s and Mohawk to get the heads up on upcoming events.
While the summers are triple-digit hot, the other three seasons are mild and perfect for outdoor fun. Big Bend is a must-see way to explore the Western edges of Texas. Ranging in elevations from 1,800 to 8,000 feet above sea level, there are canyons, rivers and trails for everyone. Dinosaur Valley State Park is just a short drive from Fort Worth (3-4 hours from Fort Hood depending on route, traffic and road construction). This state park was a wonderful day’s adventure for my family. There are campgrounds, 20 miles of trails to explore, an interpretive center with games and info and dinosaur tracks you can find. Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park is home to a secluded waterfall at the end of a 1.5-mile hike. Enjoy the truly spectacular Texas sunsets at Enchanted Rock where you can rock climb, hike or camp while experiencing some of the best views in Central Texas.
Looking to cool off during the summer? Hamilton Pool Reserve, a stunning swimming pool with a small beach and 50 foot waterfall, is one of those must-see Texas experiences. At $15 per vehicle, it is also an affordable way to enjoy a day. But, with limited admittance, you’ll need to make a reservation at least a week in advance.
As you travel around Texas, there will be plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the robust restaurant scene. Eats on 8th, an easy drive down I-35 in Georgetown, is a personal favorite in a part of the country boasting exceptional dining experiences. Located in a historic home, this farm to table restaurant is both delicious and approachable. It’s become our date night go-to.
If you’re looking to take advantage of your time in Texas to enjoy the best in barbecue, Franklin BBQ is a stop you have to make. Just be prepared, you’ll need to get in line because there is almost always a wait. Grab a coffee, get in line at 9 a.m. and eat some of the best brisket around when they open at 11! Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ is reportedly boasting the best taco in Austin. Head to out-of-the way Valentina’s to avoid the lines and get world class barbecue.
When the Army makes us leave Texas, I’m going mourn the end of my breakfast taco adventure. There are hundreds of wonderful places to get breakfast tacos (and so many are amazing!). If you’re going to try one, though, Juan In A Million is the place to go. Great value, delicious food and huge portions; it’s breakfast taco heaven. Veracruz All Natural is a favorite, too, and deserves mention.
Fredericksburg deserves its own special category. This German settlement is a wonderful place for a long weekend trip or a day out (if you don’t mind all that car time in one day, it’s very doable). The wonderfully-preserved historic town is worth visiting any time for its boutique shops, family-owned restaurants and antiques. Christmas offers an extra incentive to visit with Market Square on Main Street, beautiful lights and ice rink.
Of all the duty stations my family has been to, Fort Hood is the one we’ve spent the least amount of time on the actual installation itself. Spending the day around Austin and Central Texas, weekend trips to San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and hunting the food trucks we see on various cooking shows has built an “installation bucket list” of things we might never reach the end of. Whether you want to get out of the heat, enjoy some fresh air or enjoy a wonderful meal, there is always more to do in Texas.