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Heading to Houston or Dallas? Don't miss Candytopia

Kristin Finan
A confetti cannon is part of the fun at Candytopia in Houston. [Kristin Finan/American-Statesman]

Move over, Willy Wonka. A new candy wonderland has arrived.

Candytopia, a self-proclaimed “deliciously immersive and outrageously interactive” experience, is now treating visitors in Houston and Dallas to its highly Instagrammable tour, which includes everything from a marshmallow pit to jellybean works of art to confetti cannons.

In a world of “interactive experiences” — think the FOMO Factory, the Museum of Ice Cream and the Color Factory — it can be hard to know what’s worth your time and money.

At Candytopia Houston, tickets are $28 for adults and $20 for kids 4-12. Steep, yes, but worth it, I’d say, thanks to the vibrant colors, unique activities and, yes, the handfuls of candy distributed throughout the tour. Bring a bag to carry it all — you’ll need it.

When we visited earlier this week, the five kids in our group were enthralled during our roughly hourlong tour of Candytopia’s 14 rooms, which featured everything from a Frida Kahlo portrait that incorporated 6,500 pieces of candy and took 102 hours to create to fake lollipops as high as the ceiling.

The highlight, though, was wading through the marshmallow pit, which was filled with 300,000 fake marshmallows, including some that rained down on our heads thanks to a marshmallow machine.

Candytopia Houston runs through Sept. 29. Candytopia Dallas concludes Sept. 2. Visit for details.

Seguin ‘most haunted hotel’ to offer overnight stays

It’s been deemed “the most haunted hotel in Texas” and been featured on everything from “Ghost Adventures” to “PBS Strange Town.”

Soon, in addition to touring the historic Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, located about an hour from Austin, you will be able to spend the night, too.

The property, which was built in 1840, has a long history in Seguin. It was initially a two-room log cabin and was transformed into a hotel in the 1850s. In 1874, it was home to serial killer Wilhelm Faust, according to the hotel website. It had fallen into disrepair and was included in the “2012 Most Endangered Places in Texas” list before owners Erin and Jim Ghedi purchased the property with a goal of restoring it and eventually turning it into a museum.

On Aug. 12, the hotel will open reservations for its restored two-bedroom suite. Stays will be offered Monday-Thursday nights; maximum of four guests.

“Warning, not for the faint of heart!” the website says. “Our spirits have been known to come forward ... so please be aware.”

Learn more at

Disney cruise returns to Galveston this winter with upgraded ship

Disney Cruise Line will once again offer a selection of holiday-themed sailings out of Galveston this winter — and this time on an upgraded ship.

Prior to its fall and winter sailings, the Disney Wonder will undergo a variety of enhancements in September that will include the addition of a new French Quarter Lounge featuring live music and themed activities for the family, a redesigned retreat for teens and an adults-only coffee shop. The French Quarter Lounge will be a companion to the existing Tiana’s Place Restaurant on the Disney Wonder — both inspired by the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog.”

The new enhancements will debut on the Disney Wonder’s four-night sailing from Vancouver to San Diego on Sept. 30. The Galveston sailings will begin in November and run through January. The Disney Wonder will also call New Orleans home in 2020 for the first time with Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries beginning Feb. 7.

Learn more at

Want to go to Hamilton Pool? Here’s an update on summer bookings

Those of us who grew up in Austin can remember making spur-of-the-moment jaunts to Hamilton Pool Preserve, where the cool, blue-green waters offered instant relief on 100-degree days.

But as you probably know, Hamilton Pool — a natural pool created thousands of years ago after the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion — has experienced excessive crowding of late and several years ago switched to a reservation system.

Right now, reservations are being accepted through the end of the year. The earliest available openings are weekday slots in September; September weekends are fully booked. October offers weekend and weekday availability. Last-minute cancellations sometimes occur; check regularly for additional openings.

Reservations are required at Hamilton Pool between March 1 and Oct. 31 and on weekends and official Travis County holidays during November and December. You can pick a morning or afternoon reservation (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.); each reservation includes one vehicle with no more than eight people.

Want to take a dip at Hamilton Pool? Here are some other things you need to know.

Bring cash. Cost for a reservation including service fee is $11 and is paid online when you make your reservation. Make sure you bring cash to the park, too, because an additional $15 cash entrance fee is required on the day you visit.

Wear tennis shoes. It’s advisable to wear tennis shoes because a steep and rocky quarter-mile hike is required to access the pool.

Swimming is not guaranteed. Sometimes visitors are not allowed to swim due to high bacteria levels. Call the public information line for the current status of the preserve: 512-264-2740. Life vests are available but no lifeguard is on duty. No pets are allowed.