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Checklist of fun for last days of summer break

How many baby catfish can you count? Clay Johnson and his daughters, Zoe (left) and Addie, visit the Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Hoover’s Valley, where they check out the catfish fingerlings. Later, the family watched as a hatchery volunteer fed much larger catfish in one of the ponds. The hatchery is open 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays except for federal holidays and offers a free summertime excursion. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The carefree days of summer break are coming to an end for Highland Lakes students, but there’s still time to have some fun. Enjoy those last days of freedom with help from this list of things to do before the school bells ring.

Two scoops or three?

What says summer more than ice cream? It’s tough to pick one favorite flavor or spot, so why not sample as many as you can.

Along with the ever-popular Dairy Queen and Sonic Drive-In, the Highland Lakes boasts a number of ice cream establishments. Here are a few — but probably not all — worth checking out:

You can also find cool, frozen treats at the local coffee shops.

And, be on the look out for the O2 Kool Kreamery. It’s a big, gray and red, ice cream bus that hits the road on most weekends. You can usually find it in Granite Shoals and, sometimes, Kingsland on Sundays as well as several resorts on Saturdays. But it also turns up on some Fridays. Check its Facebook page for details.

More than fish

Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery is located at 345 Clay Young Road in Hoover’s Valley. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, 345 Clay Young Road in Hoover’s Valley, is more than a fish hatchery. OK, the staff’s primary responsibility is raising fish — particularly catfish for Native American reservations — but there’s a whole lot more going on there.

The hatchery is very welcoming to visitors. Staff love sharing what they do. The facility is open 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday except for federal holidays. Admission is free.

You can walk around the site on your own and check out the visitor center or set up a guided tour with a member of the Friends of the Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery by calling the office at 512-793-2474.

You can also hike a number of trails at the hatchery and visit the world-class bird blind. If you want to fish, there’s a nice stretch of shoreline on the Colorado River.

Side note: You cannot fish in any of the hatchery ponds.

Putt-er around

Margo Richards (left), vice president of Community Resources for the Lower Colorado River Authority, and Clara Tuma, public information officer for the LCRA, laugh at Richards’s first shot on hole No. 1 at the new Lake Buchanan Mini Golf course at Black Rock Park. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

If your kids are bored puttering around the house, let them spend the afternoon putting around Black Rock Park’s new mini-golf course.

You can play for relaxation or set up a family tournament to see who has the most Tiger Woods-like putting skills.

Park admission is $5 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger. Play nine holes of mini-golf for $8 or 18 holes for $14.

Black Rock Park also offers canoe, kayak, and standup paddleboard rentals.

Located at 3400 Texas 261 in Buchanan Dam just steps away from the cool waters of Lake Buchanan, it’s the perfect backdrop for fun on a hot summer day — or any day.

Crack a book — for fun

Study after study shows how reading to and with kids helps them in school and life. But the reason kids like to read is it’s just fun to do — everyone loves a good story. Children can journey to places they’ve never been and meet the most amazing characters.

Highland Lakes libraries have regular reading program times for young readers:

  • Herman Brown Free Library, 100 E. Washington St. in Burnet — Story Time! is 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays. It’s geared toward preschool-age kids and features stories, games, crafts, and music. On Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m., the library hosts “To Be Continued …” a chapter book version of Story Time! for ages 7 and older. A book is read aloud over several weeks and incorporates games and challenges.
  • Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk St. — Toddler Connection is 10:30-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
  • Llano County Library, 102 E. Haynie St. in Llano — Story Time! is 10 a.m. Thursdays.
  • Marble Falls Public Library, 101 Main St. — Preschool Story Time for ages 3-6 is 10:30 a.m. Thursdays; Mother Goose Time for ages 0-2 is 10 a.m. Fridays; and Toddler Time for ages 18 months-3 years is 11 a.m. Fridays.
  • Spicewood Community Library, 1011 Spur 191 in Spicewood — Children’s Story Time is 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays.

Play that funky music

There's never a wrong note at Harmony Park in downtown Marble Falls. Staff photo by Jared Fields

You don’t have to be musically inclined to make great music at Harmony Park, 800 Third St. in Marble Falls. All five giant instruments installed at the downtown park are designed so there are no wrong notes or discordant sounds.

You’ll find three chimes — a contrabass, a manta ray, and a swirl — along with a xylophone-like merry and lilypad cymbals.

You can hold a solo performance or round up a group of friends for a jam session.

Hook, line, and sinker

Before you send the kids back to school, give them a chance at a school of fish.

Fishing is a great way to get outside and away from digital devices. The great thing about the Highland Lakes is there are plenty of places to drop a line.

One spot that’s high on our list is Inks Lake State Park, 3630 Park Road 4 in Hoover’s Valley. While there is a day-use fee — $6 for ages 13 and older but free for ages 12 and younger — you don’t need a license if fishing from the bank or pier within the park. The park also offers loaner fishing equipment at its store.

The park also offers plenty of shade trees to duck under to avoid the sun.

Another advantage of Inks Lake State Park is its fish habitat. Over the past several years, park staff and volunteers have sunk or set brush piles down near the two fishing piers as well as at other prime areas.

These piles draw in smaller fish, which use the brush for cover, and also to find food. And larger fish haunt the brush piles looking for the smaller fish to feed upon.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll catch a fish off the pier or around the brush, they do help your chances.

And when the kids get tired of fishing, they can hike, swim, and even take a leap into Devil’s Waterhole.

Get wet

With August temperatures hitting the triple digits, you might be looking for a place to cool off. Many of the Highland Lakes communities have public pools and/or splash pads.

These include:

The fees vary at each facility, so click the links for more information.

You can find more ideas in the spring/summer edition of 101 Fun Things to do in the Highland Lakes magazine or at

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