Family Ties

Idyllic vacations are the norm in the picturesque Texas Hill Country

Photographs by Melanie Grizzel

A Polaroid style picture of a young woman and a dog A selfie of a young man in a swimming pool

Largest image: exploring Albert Dance Hall; Bottom: Knox Young takes a self-portrait; Polaroid: Knox and sister Ari Young with golden retriever, George.

Contentment comes easier

in the right environment. For families, that ideal setting is often far from home and its many obligations. Flashes of joy might strike, for example, when your 12-year-old builds a fort in the middle of your vacation rental, and he’s so enamored by his creation that he asks you to crawl inside with him. Or, when at a Hill Country cabin, your animal-loving 5-year-old daughter’s eyes widen with awe as she feeds a goat for the first time. Or, when the teenagers laugh with their dads by the firepit, s’mores in hand instead of cell phones. Or, when your 10-year-old, after a weekend by the Frio River, says, “Mom, can we stay longer?”

That’s the beauty of a family weekend away, when schedules and to-do lists fade so what really matters can float to the surface. In late winter, my family and two others set out in pursuit of these simple moments of joy. We escape to rentals in the Hill Country—our children outfitted with Polaroid and disposable cameras—where we take in big Texas sunsets over limestone ridges, watch hawks catch thermals in the wide-open skies, play freely, and just be.

The Lynch family—Tisha, Brandon, and their children, Thomas, 10, and Renee, 5—retreat to a rustic cabin near Uvalde where farm animals make up for the lack of cell service. “We really needed to unplug,” says Tisha, a financial analyst. “When you have small kids there is this constant pressure, always thinking about everything that needs to be done. There’s something so nice about just getting away for a weekend and saying, ‘Let’s let go of all this structure and really just breathe and exhale and not worry so much.’”

Meanwhile, my own family heads to Albert House, a modern Scandinavian-inspired vacation rental near Fredericksburg, where we bunk with the Young family, close friends since our now 16-year-old daughters were in preschool together. For us, sharing a house translates to a jumble of wholesome amusements: kids of all ages playing monkey-in-the-middle on the trampoline, a paella-making party in the kitchen, a convergence in the hot tub while the golden retriever runs off with somebody’s socks. It also means the youngest, 7-year-old Knox Young, can serenade the teenagers with his favorite song, “It’s Raining Tacos,” and they actually listen. Along for the fun is our exchange student from Spain, Marina Salaverría, who wants to see some real cowboys and country dancing at Albert Dance Hall, just down the road from our rental.

Sometimes, it only takes a weekend away for a different kind of magic to emerge. The open spaces and free time bring out the best in us. It’s not that we don’t love home, but out here without all the busyness and distractions, we get a good dose of what we all need most—quality time together. —Clayton Maxwell

A picture of a woman in a colorful robe standing in an entryway
Writer Clayton Maxwell
A Polaroid picture of people hanging out in a hot tub

Group hangout in the hot tub.

A woman and young woman lean together in front of a neon sign reading "Dancing"
Clayton and Marina Salaverría
A young woman sits in the smoke of a campfire

Edwin Young with Marina toasting her first s’more

A picture of two young men playing cornhole with a golden retriever in the background
Clayton’s son, Harry Sloan, and Knox play cornhole; group hangout in the hot tub
A woman shows off cowboy boots in front of a metal bar

Marina shows off her first pair of cowboy boots

A picture of a young man swinging another young man around on a trampoline
Harry spins Knox on the trampoline
Enjoying this article?
A group of people turn away as a person splashes them from a pool
Harry splashes everyone with a cold pool plunge

The Albert House

Sleeps 10
7 beds
Starts at $599/night

A Polaroid picture of a woman walking up toward a metal-sided building reading

Approaching Albert Dance Hall

A young man and woman relax in a hot tub under a Hill Country sky. The young man drinks a soda.
Ari and Knox relax in the hot tub
A young man in a green shirt leans his body out of the window of a car with a goofy smile
Knox hams it up
A man and his daughter walk down a tire-track dirt path in a dry Hill Country landscape with a white house in the background
Brandon Lynch and daughter Renee Lynch hike from the Dry Frio River to the house

The Chimney House on the River

Sleeps 4
Starts at $172/night

A Polaroid picture of a young woman crushing rocks together underneath a canopy of trees

Renee crushes rocks outside of the Airbnb

A young woman licks a fork behind a platter of cinnamon rolls frosted with white icing
Cinnamon rolls for breakfast
A black and white picture of a young man looking pensively toward the camera
Thomas in a thoughtful moment
A yoiung man jumps down a wooden ladder from a bedroom loft
Thomas Lynch jumps from the loft ladder
Two children feed a small white and gray goat in a barn
Renee feeds a goat
A group of four people in cool-weather attire pose for a selfie
A family selfie
A Polaroid picture of two women looking at rocks in an outdoor setting

Tisha and Renee examine the landscape

A family sits and embraces behind a roaring fire
Brandon, Tisha Lynch, and Renee enjoy the fire pit at dusk
A young man wearing a shirt reading "NASA" drives a bright green remote controlled car on a dirt path
Thomas plays with remote-control cars
A young man's face fully fills the frame of a selfie image taken from below
Thomas snaps a selfie
A group of four people stand in a Hill Country landscape in an orange sunset
The Lynch family takes in the sunset
A young man and his father hold sticks with toasted marshmallows in front of a roaring fire
Brandon teaches the secret to perfectly roasted marshmallows
Two children smile slyly looking down from a bedroom loft
Thomas and Renee begrudgingly pose for a shot in the loft
A Polaroid picture of a man and a young man working on an RC car in an outdoor setting

Brandon and Thomas repair remote-control cars

From the May 2022 issue

Get more Texas in your inbox

Sign up for our newsletters and never miss a moment of what’s happening around the state.