Spring Broke: Vacation on a budget

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    The plan

    Students looking at ski resorts or beaches south of the border might be overlooking some affordable attractions in our backyard.

    This guide will provide a running tally on the costs for each attraction. Once you factor in gas prices at around $1.73 a gallon, you can effectively plan out your recession road trip. Instead of going back up I-35 to return to Fort Worth, be sure to take the scenic route through Luckenbach, Fredericksburg and Dublin before arriving back at home base.

    The map

    The route we will be using is I-35W. Check out the Czech Stop and the Little Czech Bakery for their famous fruit kolaches and other sweets such as cinnamon rolls, cookies and brownies. Pick up a dozen fruit kolaches for $9.35 to tide yourself over on the trip to Austin.

    Located at I-35 Exit 353.

    You might want to get away from all the traffic in town for the SXSW festivals that start March 13, so that means staying away from the downtown area no matter how alluring it may be. When the lines for even the smallest of bars stretch around the corner, it’s probably not worth the wait.

    In the south part of Austin, Zilker Park provides a lot of fun including these four natural springs, the largest of which supplies the Barton Springs Pool, where you can take a swim or rest and relax under the shade provided by the lush trees surrounding the area. It costs $3 for parking and $3 for admission during the week and on the weekend.

    San Marcos

    Shoppers who have downsized their spending habits can find well-made merchandise without all that sticker shock at the Prime Outlet Mall and Tanger Factory Outlet Center. Prime Outlet Mall has outlets for glitzy stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Gucci while Tanger has stores for Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole.

    Discretion is key here when it comes to costs. While the prices are nice, don’t go crazy. Leave some wiggle room in your budget for this. Both are located at I-35 at exit 200.

    New Braunfels

    Gruene is a small town nestled between San Marcos and New Braunfels, home to the dance hall and saloon Gruene Hall. So far this year, bands like Los Lonely Boys and solo artist Delbert McClinton have played at the venue with styles ranging from folk, bluegrass to country and rock. Many times visitors can come in without having to pay a cover charge, but some upcoming concerts require tickets so call ahead to confirm.

    Fredericksburg

    This state park hosts Enchanted Rock a huge granite dome that’s popular with hardcore rock climbers as well as casual hikers. It costs $6 a day for adults to get in. When it comes to backpacking, it costs $12 for 4 people per night to set up camp.

    Dublin

    The small town is the namesake for the “Dublin Dr. Pepper,” a famous variant of the soda that calls for pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. It costs $2.50 to tour the Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant and an 8-ounce bottle of the sugary sweet concoction costs a dollar.

    Possible Detour

    The small town of Brenham is home to Blue Bell ice cream’s “Little Creamery” which opened its doors in 1907. $3 will get you in the door along with a sample of one of the company’s 50 flavors.