. During 45-minute Kindermusik classes, tots stimulate their minds, bodies, and sense of play with diverse activities based on research demonstrating music's beneficial effect on childhood development. As pintsize hands bang out tunes on provided instruments, brains busy themselves with forming the connections necessary for multiple forms of intelligence, including spatial reasoning, interpersonal skills, and the ability to tell a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo from the synthesized parrot squawks on a Jimmy Buffet album.
The academy's roster of instructors dispenses private education on diverse instrumentation during 30-minute, one-on-one music lessons. Euphonic apprentices can open up their epiglottises in voice lessons, strum away on guitar, or prepare to marshal their army of G.I. Joes by beating some drum skins. Lessons are also available on the piano, as well as band and orchestral instruments. All students except drum and piano pupils must supply their own instruments for use during lessons, where they will learn a curriculum geared to their individual goals and interests. An extensive library of method books imparts the techniques to tackle any style of music and teaches students to read music, so that they're able to interpret the plotline of Mozart's romance novels.
More than 500 exotic animals prowl, scamper, and crawl through their expansively recreated habitats at Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo. One of the rarest and most beautiful of all the animals is on display in the Ghosts of the Jungle presentation. There, two white lion cubs, some of a very small number in the world tumble and play. They're not albinos, but uniquely pigmented animals first seen in the Timbavati region in 1938, and they have beautifully colored eyes that flit intelligently around their space.
There's plenty else to see there, as well. Guests quake with curiosity as they watch the alligator and crocodile ponds. Patrons can interact with cuddlier critters at the petting zoo, where dozens of fluffy goats, alpacas, and llamas gather to tie-dye their coats. Elsewhere, cackles of hyenas reverberate throughout the grounds, spurring a pack of wolves to emit a more introspective sound by baying at the moon. Wizened tortoises bask in a field of lettuce and racing trophies as a duo of ring-tailed lemurs relax in their environment.
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.
On a regular day in New Braunfels, groups of 16 people can be seen pedaling down the street, perhaps drinking beer as they go. They aren't a crowd of irresponsible cyclists: rather, they're passengers on the PubCrawler of New Braunfels. With seating for a driver, 10 pedaling riders, and 5 other passengers on a rear bench, the pedal-powered bus rumbles along at leisurely speeds of up 5 miles per hour.
Though it's been used for events ranging from bachelorette parties to parades, the PubCrawler—true to its name—most often wheels out for pub crawls. For these outings, the bike embarks along scenic areas such as the historic Town Square, pausing only for drinks at up to three pubs. All rides are BYOB, but passengers are required to bring only glass-free containers, such as cans or an entire fermentation tank. On-board taps with ball or pin-lock connections also allow riders to tap into their own pony kegs.
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.