2018 Heartland Pioneer
2018 Heartland Pioneer
Central Texas is home to one of the best cities for a family road trip in the state. San Antonio is a great modern city with incredible cultural diversity and a beautiful downtown that is exceptionally visitor friendly. Graced with nice weather nearly year round, there is no bad time to visit San Antonio. The downtown area has three major attractions. The exceptionally walkable nature of this city means all three can easily be visited on foot, although they do also have a great public transportation system. The first of these sites is the Alamo. Visiting the site is free and includes the original church and several other buildings on the site. There is also a museum, gift shop and outdoor movie pavilion which shows a film detailing the history of the site.
Within a block of the Alamo, you'll find the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a beautiful path that follows along the shores of the San Antonio River. This is a family-friendly area that is lined with shops, restaurants, hotels, and gardens which makes for a great afternoon out on the town. There are boat tours on this section of the river with river guides that provide great insight into the city's history.
A few blocks to the west is the Historic Market Square. Today, there is a large Hispanic market and several great restaurants there.
The Stone Creek RV Park is a good place to stay here. It is located just north of San Antonio on RT-35. This park provides a good basecamp to visit both San Antonio and Austin to the North.
The path to Hot Springs National Park takes us out of San Antonio along I-35 North. Follow that all the way up to Waco, TX. From Waco, take I-395 to Dallas. From Dallas, take I -30 east to Rockport, AR. Exit there to US-270 to AR-7 North, which will take you right into town.
You can't visit Texas without hitting up a BBQ restaurant and one of the best is Salt Lick BBQ. This amazing restaurant is located just southwest of Austin in Driftwood, TX and it is here that some of the finest Texas BBQ is cooked over a large open-pit fire which you can smell as soon as you arrive. The restaurant itself is huge, seating hundreds inside and out. There is also an entertainment stage and a separate building next door to handle takeout orders if you prefer. Also on site is a small winery and garden area where you can relax and enjoy the warm Texas sunshine with a fine bottle of wine made onsite. The service here is great, the food arrives fast and is incredibly delicious.
This makes a great day trip from San Antonio and is a restaurant that should not be missed while you are in the area.
Magnolia Market at the Silos is the most popular tourist attraction in Waco. This is the market put together by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's “Fixer Upper” fame. Here you'll find all sorts of boutique shops, dining, and entertainment options to keep you busy for the day. This is a great place to stop and find that unique accent piece for your home to remember your trip by. There are also tours available to see some of the homes featured on the show.
Flat Creek Farms RV Resort is located on the south side of Waco. This is a quiet, wooded park located on the Flat Creek, just off the highway. It is also only about 10 minuted to Magnolia Market so this campground is as beautiful as it is convenient.
The Sixth Floor Museum is one of the most historically significant sites in the Dallas area. It is located in the old School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The museum is on the sixth floor of the building and includes excellent displays covering the Kennedy presidency, the events of the assassination, the investigations that followed and President Kennedy's legacy. The area where the shots were fired from is viewable through glass walls which preserve it as it was that morning. You can also walk outside and walk through the plaza and stand on the infamous “grassy knoll”. This is a very popular museum which only lets groups of people enter in half-hour increments so it's best to buy your tickets online for a specific date and time in advance. If you don't you may wait a long time, or not get in at all.
Plantation Place RV Park provides a solid place to stay while visiting Dallas. It is located on the east side just off of I-30 which provides a quiet stay that is conveniently located right along our route.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is located off Route 30 in Murfreesboro, AR. This park is famous for its plowed 37.5 acre field where you and your family can hunt for real diamonds. The park is located on top of an ancient volcano that produced diamonds during its last eruptions. Diamonds can be found by searching right on the surface, or by more traditional mining methods like digging and sifting through the soil or using a small sluice or jig. Tools are not required, but you can use them if you want and you can bring your own or rent them in the park. There is a small fee per person per day to gain access to the diamond field and any diamonds you find are yours to keep. As of 2020, recent heavy rains in the area have made diamond finding quite good. A teacher found a 2.1 carat diamond in July of 2019 and finding smaller stones is quite common.
The park has a great campground on-site with 47 full hookup sites that can accommodate RVs or tents.
Hot Springs National Park is a different national park experience then you may be used too. First, it is completely free to visit so you won't come across an entrance gate with a smiling ranger like at most parks across the country. Also, unlike most parks which are large areas of land dedicated to a park-like setting, the majority of the activity at Hot Springs occurs on a couple of city blocks. On those blocks stand several bathhouses that used the local hot springs as sources for hot mineral waters. These were therapeutic sites for some of the wealthier folks during the late 19th and early 20th century. A couple of the bathhouses are still active if you'd like to enjoy a good soak and feel the benefits of this therapy of days gone by. The park visitor's center is located in the Fordyce Bathhouse, which should be your first stop on your tour here. There you can take one of the excellent free guided ranger tours of the bathhouse or you can explore on your own.
Behind Bathhouse Row is the Promenade. This beautiful paved walking path makes for a great family walk on a sunny afternoon. It also provides access to some of the trailheads which lead up the mountain behind Bathhouse Row. At the top of the hill is a fire tower which provides excellent views of the valley below. There are also a number of hot spring features in the area including the beautiful hot spring above ground in the park.
The best place to park is the free parking garage on Exchange Street 1 block west of Bathhouse Row. It's a short, easy walk to the visitor's center from there.
A great place to eat is The Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Beer Garden. It is located on Exchange Street just north of the Parking Garage. They have outstanding pizzas that are served in a beautiful wooded patio environment.
All along Bathhouse Row, across the street from the bathhouses, there are also numerous small shops and boutique stores to visit.
The best place to stay is Catherine's Landing RV Resort. This is a large upscale RV park located right on the river. They have a beautiful pool, a splash pad, a huge pavilion/entertainment complex and a lot more.