Weekend Escape: Bastrop
Small town 45 minutes east of Austin offers big fun, adventure
Located less than 45 minutes from downtown Austin, Bastrop is brimming with outdoor adventure, unique boutiques and a variety of restaurants sure to make you feel like you've been transported a world away. Want to stay overnight? There are plenty of options for that, too. Here's a guide for what to do during a quick visit to the Bastrop area.
Even though the drive to Bastrop is short and a pit stop might not be necessary, it's still worth popping in at Berdoll Pecan Candy and Gift Company, where delicious pecan goodies and a surprisingly robust gift shop will delight various members of your crew. Extra points if you snap a photo with Ms. Pearl, the shop's squirrel statue which, at 14 feet tall, shop owners say is the largest squirrel statue in the world. Learn more about her, and Berdoll, at berdollpecanfarm.com.
If you have thrill-seekers in your group, book a visit to Zip Lost Pines, which features six dual ziplines that zoom participants high above McKinney Roughs Nature Park, where the stunning panorama of marshmallow clouds and lush greenery will take your breath away (assuming the speed of the zipline doesn't do that first). Because the ziplines are side by side, it's especially fun for siblings or competitive couples who race to see who can cross the finish line first. "We have some pretty intense races every day," said Sarah Linden, director of sales and operations at Zip Lost Pines. "It's pretty feisty out there." There's no age requirement, but participants must be at least 60 pounds and 52 inches tall to ride. Cost is $79 per person for a three-zipline tour and $99 for a six-zipline tour. Learn more at ziplostpines.com.
For a truly "roar-some" time, head to the Dinosaur Park, where more than 30 life-size exhibits are waiting to greet you. You'll find everything from the popular T. rex and triceratops to lesser-known creatures including the Coelophysis, a 4-foot-tall carnivore said to be among the oldest dinosaurs known in North America. Austin Nunez, whose family opened the Dinosaur Park in 2005, said growing up at this "outdoor museum" was a treat. "As far back as I can remember, we've had the Dinosaur Park," said Nunez, who is now 19 and handles the park's PR and marketing. "(The educational piece) is incredibly important. ... Even if someone comes in here and they're a total dinosaur expert, they can still appreciate the full size of the animals in a naturalistic environment." Learn more and check hours at thedinopark.com.
Lake Bastrop also presents a wealth of options for fun along the water, including canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Gain access to the lake, rent watercraft and discover new hike and bike trails at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, lcra.org/parks/pages/lake-bastrop-south-shore-park.aspx.
Eats and drinks
The stack of pancakes — 12 to be exact — leans and wobbles like a delicious version of Jenga as sticky maple syrup drips off the sides and settles in small pools on the table. To order the Texas Monthly Stacker, which costs $20 and includes a quarter-pound of bacon, at Maxine's Cafe on Bastrop's Main Street is to commit to a culinary experience. Even the regular pancakes, which come in flavors such as chocolate chip, blueberry and pecan praline, are super-size, measuring in at 12 inches and enveloping the dinner plates they're served on. "At Maxine's, we take great pride in our perfect mix of Texas charm, Southern hospitality and our food made from scratch 'just like your mama used to make it,'" said owner David Sartain. Other menu items include chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, meatloaf and, yes, liver and onions. On your way out, grab a glistening fruit pie or towering cake to go — the bakery is another thing that has made Maxine's famous. Learn more at maxinescafe.com.
If you still need to satisfy your sweet tooth, look for the building with a giant Texas flag painted on the roof at 114 Loop 150 West, also known as the Sugar Shack. A family-owned business since 1995, the Sugar Shack has gained a reputation for its handmade goodies including chocolate-dipped strawberries, fudge and truffles. The shop also serves a variety of classic and contemporary candies as well as Blue Bell ice cream, which we enjoyed on the shop's relaxing back porch. Get more information at sugarshackbastrop.com.
For a more adult temptation, swing by Copper Shot Distillery, coppershotdistillery.com, on Main Street, where you can participate in a tour or taste-test a flight of the distillery's small-batch spirits such as moonshine, vodka and whiskey.
Shop and see
You could spend a whole afternoon ducking in and out of the shops and galleries in downtown Bastrop. From the trendy and contemporary Spoiled Sisters boutique to the adorable accessories at Relic Jewelry and Gift Emporium, there's a little something for everyone.
And don't miss a visit to the Lost Pines Art Center, which features classes, galleries and special events from local artists. It's open every day except Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; check lostpinesartcenter.org for details.
Book a room
If you're visiting Bastrop, I recommend making a weekend out of it, not only because there's so much to see and do but also because there are some incredible lodging options. One of my favorite experiences is booking an Airstream trailer at Lake Bastrop North Shore Park. Thanks to the upscale amenities (can you say Keurig?) and the sparkling lakefront views, this is "glamping" at its finest.
Or, for the full resort experience, reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, an upscale retreat that offers everything from luxurious spa treatments to vibrant children's programming. See hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/texas/hyatt-regency-lost-pines-resort-and-spa/auslp for details.
For general information about Bastrop and ideas for planning a trip, go to visitbastrop.com.
Our new series
Weekend Escape is a new monthly series featuring Texas destinations that are worth a visit. View a video with this story online at austin360.com. Have an idea for a city we should visit? Email travel editor Kristin Finan at firstname.lastname@example.org.