The engine's howl steadily builds as the Robinson R44 helicopter's blades churn with increasing velocity. Passengers look out of bubble windows and see grass whipping beneath. In a moment, the turf disappears, fading from view as the chopper lifts higher into the sky. So begins an aerial adventure led by experienced pilots Steve Van Buren and John Holler, who venture into the airways above Austin, San Antonio, the hill country, and central Texas. The air-conditioned copters—equipped with four-way communication that allows guides to maintain contact with passengers—glide through the firmament, as pilots obey all stop-sign-shaped clouds on their way to eye-catching views of sites such as historic Gruene. Crews also bring helicopters to clients for party rentals and assist landowners with predator control and game surveys.
Within the McKenna Children's Museum, the laughter of parents and children bounces through the corridors of hands-on educational exhibits. The ever-changing features and activities foster creativity in youngsters while stimulating their interest in science, health, and nature. In a realistic grocery store, shelves full of goods let kids practice nutritional shopping and arguing over the expiration dates of coupons. Further along, the Destination Space exhibit hosts a simulated space shuttle where children can take the helm of important-looking controls. Outside the museum, a colorful maze snakes up a 30-foot climbing structure, and cushy blue building pieces are scattered across the outdoor playground.
A large gift shop packs shelves with interactive toys. A fresh salad bar stretches across the dining room of the onsite bistro, complementing a menu of healthy snacks that fuel wee ones for their day of play and night of blackmailing the boogeyman.
For three days in November, the Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas Market brings Olde World Christmas spirit to New Braunfels. Vendors set up cheery red and green booths in the German-style holiday market, where they sell homemade wares such as aromatic roasted nuts, unique toys, vintage cameos, and homemade toffee. Nearby, authors sit ready to discuss their novels or sing their favorite Christmas carols at the on-site book fair and a jolly Santa eats breakfast with kids of all ages. To keep guests warm during the event, Sophie's Cafe serves up warm mugs of soup paired with sandwiches or tempting desserts.
Proceeds from the event benefit The Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which serves as the hub for immigration ship logs, photos, and documents of the first German Americans who found their way to Texas.
Texas Ski Ranch sends wakeboarders, kneeboarders, and water-skiers skimming across the placid surface of a cable lake?all without the use of a boat. Ropes connected to a circulating cable high above the water pull up to six athletes at a time around the water, with kickers and sliders stationed throughout to provide opportunities for big air, as well as a Little Bro cable system for beginners.?
Aside from the cable park, the 70-acre sports wonderland also boasts a 15,000-square-foot city-style skate park, an indoor trampoline park, a beach area, a portable rock wall, and Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurant. Even snowboarders and snow-tubers can visit to slide down the SnowPark's artificial slopes, or take lessons from a crew of seasoned instructors.
Texas Sphere Ride brandishes a novel thrill with its massive inflatable spheres that send adrenaline junkies tumbling along a fenced-in track. The hollow, cushioned plastic balls safely cradle strapped-in pairs as they gather speed, rolling and bouncing along a dirt path. For added excitement, Texas Sphere Ride’s partnership with Helicopter Tours of Texas augments spherical jaunts with a short ride in a chopper for a more heart-pounding adventure than a hostage negotiation in a cardiologist’s office.
Discovery flights and tours, which take place in a cozy Piper Tomahawk airplane, are ideal for anyone considering the aerial career path of a pilot. The lesson begins with 15–30 minutes of ground training and includes a variety of preflight procedures. Following this earthbound orientation, you'll take to the skies for 30 minutes (from startup to shutdown) of hands-on, instructor-guided flying, learning how to turn, climb, descend, and read the GPS system with real-time satellite weather. If you aren't interested in piloting the Piper Tomahawk, you can perch above the skies crying "Nevermore!" with an aerial tour instead. During the hands-free experience, you will float above the earth's crust for a customized tour of the city, scoping out views of your house, the Guadalupe river, downtown New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Texas State University, or anywhere else that strikes your flying fancy. Whether piloting or passengeering, you'll be treated to a variety of sublime natural views.