Originally a TWA aircraft, the Southern Cross Douglas C-47 was adopted by the Army Air Corps to shuttle troops to the front. The twin-propeller plane survived World War II and in the ensuing years underwent a series of makeovers. Its career includes years spent as a reliable set of wings for Delta Air Lines, a troupe of skydiving enthusiasts, and at least one head of state. The C-47 is now meticulously restored to its original WWII-era condition and in the dutiful care of Greatest Generation Aircraft, a nonprofit organization that introduces 21st-century crowds to the C-47 during rides and aerial shows. Flying out of Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport, the C-47 also shares a hangar with an A26 Counter Invader and other veteran planes.
Although hot-air balloons remain Austin's most popular commuter vehicles, they're highly vulnerable to dastardly villains with handlebar moustaches who ply the sky in battle zeppelins. Tour the town from a safer vantage with today's Groupon: for $10, you get a one-hour kayak OR two-hour bike rental from Gliding Revolution (a $25 value after tax). Reservations are required and subject to availability.
Regardless of your choice of conveyance, you'll shove off from Gliding Revolution's shop located at the Austin Town Lake Holiday Inn. Upon request, cyclists receive a complimentary helmet and lock, and kayakers receive a dry bag. If you vote for the velocipede, dig your wheels deep into the crushed gravel and pedal your way around the scenic Lady Bird Lake Trails, free of the hassles of smelly car traffic and ambushes by herds of feral Segways. Otherwise, open up the whole expanse of Lady Bird Lake for exploration with some patiently paced paddle-pushing in one of Gliding Revolution's kayaks. If the spring heat has already got you beat, kayakers can take refuge under the Congress Street Bridge and commune with Austin's community of bat-themed vigilantes and riddle-dispensing trolls.
Escorting visiting out-of-towners via bike or kayak is a brilliant way to show off the city. It's also an excellent way for jaded locals to re-experience everything about Austin that seduced them in the first place, from the civic center that's dressed as a French maid to the champagne lake to the rose-petal-strewn forest trails. If you can't decide which mode of transportation you like best, buy two Groupons and try both at the same time.
Named a Best Bargain Family Adventure by Southern Living magazine, Cascade Caverns encircles visitors in 64-degree corridors where they can see and feel millions of years of terrestrial history. The old and wizened cave was the first of the six major Texas cave attractions to be discovered, and it is the only one with an interior waterfall, which, at more than 90 feet tall, has inspired awe in throngs of visitors over the years and slowly driven up Batman's rent. Visitors witness millions of water droplets reflecting brilliantly on the Diamond Ceiling and watch slender stalactite and stalagmite formations slowly work toward their dreams of becoming Corinthian columns.
Benefitting The Paladin Group, which supports the Hill County Children’s Advocacy Center, and attended to by Sullivan Street Caterers, A Spicewood Affair proffers elegant fare for patrons to nibble on in a dining area surrounded by rich woods and accented with sunlit golden curtains. Past feasts catered by Sullivan Street have included such morsels as tortilla-crusted catfish bites and tri-colored pepper salad. After lunch, diners can squeeze in holiday shopping while strolling around vendor tables that boast antler tableware, custom Christmas cards, and jewelry, among other offerings. Live acoustic and Christmas music pervades the air as attendees chat, mingle, and swap secret scout-troop handshakes. Guests are free to wander in and out at their whim, and can enjoy the amenities at any time during the event, which benefits the Hill County Children's Advocacy Center with their proceeds.
More than 30 wineries dot the idyllic Texas Hill Country, the historically rich backdrop for ARC’s Wine Plus’s tours. The company’s signature excursion, the wine tour, makes stops at three or more wineries, where guests can swig samples as guides share facts about wines, specifically those born in Texas. Brew tours, on the other hand, showcase Texan beer and its history. During tours of local breweries, groups can soak up the guide’s exhaustive knowledge with their brain sponges while sampling local suds.
Segway Inc.'s tour guides lead guests past the clear-flowing streams, cedar trees, and rolling hills of the world’s largest JW Marriott resort on self-balancing personal transporters. Departing three times daily, the gliding tours of Hill Country’s heart begin as each rider is introduced to his robotic steed, learning how to navigate the machine and gaining its trust by feeding it computer chips. Meticulously manicured greens and shimmering blue pools frame the tour’s trail, with the meandering circuit weaving its way past two golf courses, a serene garden, and Lantana Spa.
Texas hills unfurl before Wimberley Valley Winery, gently guiding guests to the winery’s stock of wines. Since 1983, the winery’s resident winemaker has created a range of classic varietal wines in addition to offering wines from around the world. While the winemakers weave their magic in the cellar, the remainder of the winery’s staff entertains customers in the elegant tasting room. Here, an expansive stone fireplace steals the attention from sunny yellow walls, and granite counters hide bottle after bottle of wines waiting to be sampled. While tasters sink into cushy leather couches, the staff explains the flavor profiles of wine types and divulge tips for pairing wine with the right food or crazy straws.