Ready Set Go
By June Naylor
Nothing begs you to pack bags and head out for a family vacation like the arrival of springtime. Once flowers are in bloom, the winter holiday break seems like it was ages ago, and everyone has a bad case of cabin fever. Whether your crew needs something nearby, far away or somewhere in between, we have you covered. Read on for the in-town escape, the short getaway, the longer road trip and the jet-setter’s dream trip, all chosen with fun in mind for the whole family.
Arlington New and improved
Roller coasters and waterslides aside, there’s plenty happening in Arlington to keep you busy for two or three days. With a new baseball stadium, a new entertainment playground and the city’s first luxury resort, you’ll find a great escape in your own backyard.
PLAYTIME The much-anticipated $1.1 billion Globe Life Field’s opening day festivities happen on March 23, when the Texas Rangers host the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training exhibition game. The Rangers play their home opener for regular season on March 31, welcoming the Los Angeles Angels to town at the new park, with its retractable roof and seating for 40,300 fans. Inside, enjoy special areas (with special seat purchases) like the StubHub Club, a premium space on the first base side with all-inclusive food and beverage service and close-up views of baseball action. If you’re not there on a game day, there are ticketed stadium tours of the ballpark and, right next door, AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Nearby, go climbing at Dyno Rock or take your bikes for a ride through the woods in River Legacy Park.
DOWNTIME The new $150 million Live! by Loews is the resort Arlington has long needed. The 300-room luxury hotel offers five lounges and an outdoor infinity pool where you can watch ballgames or movies on a giant TV. A residential feel in the rooms comes from natural wood surfaces, comfy and spacious areas for lounging and sumptuous bed and bath linens. Your floor-to-ceiling room windows offer panoramic views of the neighboring stadiums, too.
EATS Inside Live! by Loews, the River Market has plenty of grab-and-go meals, while Cut & Bourbon is the all-day, full-service restaurant with oysters on the half-shell, grilled grouper sandwich, the Impossible Burger, hanger steak and fancy mac and cheese. Soak, the swim-up/poolside bar, offers acai bowls, crudités with dips, pizza, quesadillas, fried shrimp tacos and chicken tenders. Next door at Texas Live!, food choices can overwhelm. The options include Guy Fieri’s Taco Joint and Lockhart Smokehouse, along with Pudge’s Pizza and Troy’s, a place for burgers and margaritas. (Note that you might see Pudge Rodriguez and Troy Aikman drop by, too.)
Glen Rose Nature Calls
The quick trip to Glen Rose takes you to a far different world. The rolling landscape of limestone ridges cut by clean rivers and narrow ribbons of highways immediately puts you into relaxation mode. There’s much to enjoy, with places for kids to play, trails to hike and fascinating windows through which to view ancient history and also connect with wildlife.
PLAYTIME Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a haven for more than 1,100 animals, including bison, tortoises, blackbuck antelope, cheetahs, wildebeests, emus, giraffes, zebras, rhinos and lots more, living on 1,800 rugged acres. Plan to arrive between 8 and 9 a.m. to pick up a free bag of animal feed, and note that spring break crowds dictate special hours (see website). Book a guided tour (8 a.m., 9 a.m. or 1 p.m.), giving you views of more animals than on self-guided tours. The Children’s Animal Center, located at the Overlook, is free to visit. Also nearby: the Overlook Cafe and Nature Store. At Dinosaur Valley State Park, 4 miles west of Glen Rose, find some of the world’s best-preserved dinosaur tracks. The solid limestone Paluxy River bed bears prints of the sauropod, a gargantuan creature that measured longer than 55 feet and weighed more than 30 tons. Wander the park’s 1,500 acres of scrubby bluffs, with 20 miles of trails and plenty of picnic places. Ask about ranger programs.
DOWNTIME Fossil Rim’s Lodge has five large rooms and private baths; the Foothills Safari Camp cabins sit in a 2-acre, fenced-in area overlooking a watering hole so you can observe animals. A luxury option is Rough Creek Lodge & Resort, just a few miles south of Fossil Rim, offering a main lodge with 51 guest rooms, as well as four cabins. Activities include catch-and-release fishing, ziplining, swimming, hiking on nature trails, and horseback riding, plus basketball and tennis.
EATS Loco Coyote Grill offers chicken-fried steak, smoked pork ribs and massive burgers on a back road near Fossil Rim. At Rough Creek Lodge, exceptional food includes Texas quail, chicken-fried pheasant, tortilla soup, swordfish and rib-eyes.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, 254-897-2960, fossilrim.org.
Dinosaur Valley State Park, 254-897-4588, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/dinosaur-valley.
Rough Creek Lodge & Resort, 800-864-4705, roughcreek.com.
The Hill Country Something for everyone
About 20 miles north of the Alamo, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa supplies the whole vacation. The 600-acre spread over a hilly landscape carpeted in old oak trees is a beautiful spot with wagonloads of activities.
PLAYTIME The resort’s 9-acre River Bluff Water Experience is its own water park, with a 1,100-foot-long lazy river, four swimming pools, two hot tubs, five water slides, two body slides and a sandy beach. (There’s also an adult pool with private cabanas.) Add golf, tennis, board games, an arcade, and family yoga and Zumba to the mix. New this spring, Hit & Giggle Golf makes golf fun with oversize clubs, balls and targets; and workshops let you make your own sand, snow or sparkle globes. Teens have their own area, too. Nearby, find 40 miles of hiking trails at Government Canyon State Natural Area, fantastic spelunking at Natural Bridge Caverns and roller coasters and other thrill rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
DOWNTIME Grown-ups should indulge in the resort’s Lantana Spa, with every skin and body treatment imaginable; we say book the Ultimate Escape for 4½ hours of bliss. Options for guests rooms — all outfitted with lovely bedding and space to spread out — vary, from those by the pool to those with golf course views. Rooms come with king or queen beds, and some even feature deep soaking tubs.
EATS Hotel dining choices abound. Cibolo Moon serves three meals a day (smoked ribs and margaritas are tops). 18 Oaks specializes in melt-in-your-mouth 44 Farms beef steaks. The High Velocity sports bar offers loaded tater tots, nachos, fancy dogs and onion rings. Replenish Spa Bistro is known for its healthy dishes from an organic garden. Rivertop Grill serves up casual fare, such as club sandwiches, burgers, salads and frozen cocktails.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, 210-276-2500, jw-marriott.marriott.com; click on Destinations, then North America, USA, Texas and San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.
East Cape of Baja For the jet-setter
New on Baja’s quiet side, the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos is part of the developing Costa Palmas. The 1,000-acre private beachfront resort (45 minutes from the Los Cabos airport) gives guests spectacular Sea of Cortez and Sierra de la Laguna range views. A private marina, yacht club and world-class golf await, too. Enjoy roaming long stretches of undisturbed white sand.
PLAYTIME The 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course offers walkable, links-style play along the Sea of Cortez, with challenges to match the views. A special practice facility includes a family social course and a putting green, too. The Costa Palmas Sports Park provides tennis courts and playing fields perfect for pickup baseball, soccer and football games, and there’s a grotto pool for cooling off. The Four Seasons — which has six pools of its own — provides a Kids for All Seasons program, with a movie theater, table tennis and scheduled activities. There’s a place just for teens, too. The resort concierge hooks you up with scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing and ATV excursions, as well.
DOWNTIME Find all the renowned Four Seasons luxe elements in 118 rooms and 23 suites, with choices like immediate beach access, oceanfront views or sunrise views; some even have their own private plunge pools on the patio. All are spacious and all have sofa beds in addition to king or double beds. Make time for the Oasis Spa, with its menu of facials, body treatments, massage therapies and couple experiences. You can also visit the 18-acre organic farm that supplies ingredients for the resort kitchen.
EATS The Four Seasons’ five dining options include Estiatorio Milos, renowned for Mediterranean seafood (with locations in Montreal, New York, Athens, Las Vegas, Miami and London). The casual poolside restaurant, Casa de Brasa, has shrimp tacos and guacamole made to order. El Puesto is a beachside ceviche shack. Ginger’s is a great spot for coffee, gelato and take-away snacks. Try Limón for a farm-to-table alfresco bistro experience. At the nearby sports park, Jimmy’s is your destination for burgers and old-school ice cream sodas.
Costa Palmas, costapalmas.com; fourseasons.com/loscabos.