Marble Falls Texas: Hill Country Pleasures
Shopping, Shows and SpasThe small, lakeside town of Marble Falls possesses a charm that heralds back to a simpler time. The pace is relaxed and the locals are friendly and inviting. One look at the glimmering lake and the promise of a carefree summer spent in leisurely pursuits comes to mind. It's the kind of place that is fun to explore, especially on the town's Main Street with 32 cool art sculptures gracing the area. Dozens of intriguing shops beckon to the curious shopper, such as the stylish GG Ganache that proffers any array of gorgeous apparel, a divine chocolatier and must-have home accents. Further, the residents and celebs of nearby Horse Shoe Bay frequent GG's, as well the trendy shop Elements for modern art and La-Ti-Da for country decor.
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For many, spas are an important part of leisure time and traveling. Sana Vida Spa, located on HWY 14311, just outside of town, is one of the best spas in Texas! Sana Vida is the vanguard of spas and wellness centers with two yoga studios, Tea Bar, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncturist and full spa. Owner Patti McCormick holds a Master's of Science in Oriental Medicine and has created a brilliant and extremely popular wellness center with outstanding practitioners. Try the spa's Sana Vida Signature Massage for a sublime blend of eight massage techniques designed to relax and stimulate body health. Try the Tea Bar after, for a refreshing herbal infusion.
Outdoor RecreationThe Texas Vanishing River Cruise, located about 30-miles from Marble Falls, offers several different cruises. However, if you're interested in scenic landscapes and history of the area, book the fascinating, two-hour History Cruise Of Old Bluffton. In 1937, the Buchanan Dam was built on the Texas Colorado River to provide hydroelectric power. As the dam was plugged, a massive weather system dumped rainfall for two straight weeks and filled the basin creating Lake Buchanan. The flow of water into the basin reached 42,000 cubic feet per second and quickly flooded the town of Bluffton, forcing residents to flee and leave everything behind.
Today, due to drought conditions for the last few years, Bluffton rises above the lake and visitors on the cruise can walk through this watery ghost town and see an old gristmill, machinery, doorstep of the old hotel and even old shoes forgotten in the rush to escape. The boat tour also cruises past haunting treetops that still raise their barren branches above the lake, even after 77-years of submersion.
The cruise also glides through scenic, landscapes with migratory birds, such as Osprey, White Pelicans, White Egrets and the American Bald Eagle that fly by or rest on the submerged trees. If you enjoy light hiking, the Westcave Preserve Outdoor Discovery Center, located about 30-minutes from Marble Falls, provides a fantastic grotto and cave walk. From Westcave's state-of-the-art learning center, the hike meanders past indigenous trees and plants and then down into a lush canyon. Oak and cypress trees line the trail past the Pedernales River with spots of wild Columbine flowers and fragrant Bay trees leading to the grotto. Upon arrival at the grotto, an emerald pool surrounded by sun-dappled ferns and mossy outcrops lies before you. And, in times of wet weather, a waterfall crests the ledge adding a sheer enchant to the grotto. A short distance from the grotto, visitors can walk in a cave riddled with interesting stalactites and stalagmites. Make sure to pack a lunch for this beautiful grotto hike. For additional information and opening schedule, visit WestCave
Canyon Of The Eagles Nature Park And Resort, located in Burnet, is an amazing 940-acre nature preserve. The public (with day-use fee) can hike, as well as bike, on numerous trails in this scenic Texas Hill Country's Upper Highland Lakes Region. Bird watchers are afforded stunning views of American Bald and Golden Eagles in the winter months, with over 200 indigenous species of birds that nest in the area as well.
The resort also offers a bevy of inspiring guided educational hikes, live music and culinary presentations, nature programs and stargazing at their Eagle Eye Observatory. This is a rare opportunity to look through a 16-inch Ealing "Educator" Cassegrain telescope, view the planets and learn about our solar system. Make sure you check the resort schedule for visiting the Observatory, as the Austin Astronomical Society operates it and is only open during specific evenings for public viewing.
FestivalsIn spring, dazzling, Bluebonnets carpet every roadside, pasture and hillside. In fact, the flowers are so predominant that a distinctive festival was created 31-years-ago to mark the blooming of this lovely flora, the Bluebonnet Festival. The festival takes place annually the second week of April, in Burnet, located 13 miles from Marble Falls. This exciting and popular three-day festival draws crowds from across Texas to enjoy family-fun with pageants, parades, live music, contests, art and great food.
Over 200 vendors sell everything from Texas olive oil and jewelry to unique art and crafts. After you join in the fun of pet parade and wacky rubber ducky races, stop by the main stage to hear some great Texas country and blue grass music; you'll see why this is one of the best festivals in the state.
While visiting the festival, make sure to stroll through the friendly small town of Burnet. You'll find half-a-dozen affordable and enticing antique shops and one of the best BBQ restaurants around, the Burnet Feed Store; just ask the locals! Make sure you try the delicious BBQ brisket and awesome fruit cobblers.
Marble Falls also celebrates a fabulous festival in spring, the annual Paint The Town -- Plein Air Art Competition, ArtFest & Auction. The two-day art fest takes place in Old Oak Square downtown with regional juried artists painting throughout the weekend; artist's works are up for display and are for sale. The art sold at the thrilling live auction varies in theme from landscape motif to iconic town landmarks. In addition to the light-hearted comradery of the auction, it is a great opportunity to bid on fantastic art for less than you'd pay at a gallery; and the proceeds from the artwork go to charity.
The Canyon of the Eagles Resort and Falkenstein CastleFor accommodations in a beautiful nature setting, The Canyon of the Eagles Resort offers 61 lovely guestrooms/cabins with relaxing porches and chairs. There are no TVs in the rooms, but you won't miss them with so much to do at the resort and nature preserve. The cabins are a blissful way to go glamping. If you prefer RV or tent camping, the resort offers spacious sites in breath-taking, woodland settings. And, the resorts Overlook restaurant is the ultimate place to dine with superb cuisine and stellar, panoramic views of the Hill Country. Try the delicious goat cheese enchiladas if you get a chance.
Texas is probably the last place you'd expect see a Bavarian castle, especially the largest in the U.S. However, take a drive to Burnet and there upon the highest hill, you'll see a magnificent, 90-foot stone castle, Falkenstein Castle Terry and Kim Young built their amazing private castle but what is more astonishing is the story of its origins.
In 1995, the Youngs were in Germany on a tour of King Ludwig's Castle, Neuschwanstein. They were looking over pictures of other castles the king had built and realized portions of a drawing they saw for one, were for a castle never built. Thus began the Young's epic journey across Germany to find a former director of the castle who had the plans. After the journey and castle plans in hand, the Youngs spent four years building Falkenstein with adaptive designs for modern heating, plumbing and electricity. Today, this spectacular castle with medieval suits of armor, a French chapel, wooden pews and artifacts would awe even King Ludwig. The grounds are equally impressive with winged angle statues in flowing fountains and lovely gardens surrounding the castle.
Falkenstein is open for weddings and events and this year, the Youngs will open the lower portion of the castle and grounds to the public for viewing during specific times, so make sure to check the castle schedule before you go.
If You GoFor additional information on Marble Falls and the Texas Hill Country, visit their websites: Marble Falls
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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site OffbeatTravel.com and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author