Howdy y’all!! Everything IS bigger in Texas. Biggest continental state, big scenery, big art galleries, big belt buckles, and big fun for families! From Big Tex to big canyons, Texas is a mecca for family fun in a BIG way. Here are Trekaroo’s top 10 things for families to do in Texas.
Going all out for your visit to Texas? Check out our handpicked collection of Luxury Family Hotels in Texas.
10. Texas State Fair
You’ll know you’re at the Texas State Fair when you can hear the “Yee-Haws” from a mile away! At the Texas State Fair, you can tour the Innovations in Agriculture exhibit, watch the Amazing Archery Show, cheer for the cutest pup in the Dog Stunt Show, and whirl away on the rides of the Midway. Let the kids get in on the action as a member of the Backyard Circus. Little ones will especially love Home on the Range, a farm-to-market themed play area combined with the petting zoo.
At night, watch the magical water and light show, Illumination Sensation, and the Starlight Parade. You haven’t been? Don’t let another year pass you by! It’s so big, the fair is held for an entire month, from the end of September to the end of October. Get to the fair, grab a fried snickers or cotton candy taco, and don’t forget to wave hello to Big Tex. (Seriously, you can’t miss him.)
Have you or your family ever had your picture taken with Big Tex (the 52 foot statue) in the background? If so, I want to see it! Go here, write a few lines about your experience, and post your picture!
9. Cowboy Culture
Do you want to introduce your kids to an authentic cowboy experience? Picture this: riding horses, wrangling cattle, camping under the stars, and listening to coyotes howl in the distance. Sounds heavenly, right? There are excellent opportunities to bring out the hidden cowpoke in your family. The Sugar and Spice Guest Ranch creates a unique experience for moms and daughters to bond through horse riding. Kids even get to take ownership of a horse of their own for a week! Farm Stays U.S. offers farm-style accommodations like those of Greer Farm. Families will find working cattle operations, sustainable agriculture, cooking classes, berry picking, and good old-fashioned fun on the farm.
Or maybe you’re not completely sold on the camping overnight bit and just need a taste of the cowboy way? If a day excursion is more your style, the Fort Worth Herd in the Ft. Worth Stockyards will be a hit! You can watch real cowboys and cowgirls lead a long-horn cattle drive. They also have rodeos, a kid maze, an old-fashioned steam train, and some unique shopping opportunities. At Enchanted Springs Ranch, an old west theme park, families can go on horseback rides, find wild and exotic animals, watch a pistol show, eat out of a chuckwagon, and learn about the charm and history of cowboy culture.
Here’s a list of more places for families to experience cowboy culture in Texas.
8. San Antonio
San Antonio is a melting pot of flavor, history, and entertainment. At SeaWorld, families can experience up-close animal encounters with whales, dolphins, and penguins. For thrill-seeking families, check out the Superman: Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Families who have kids with special needs/disabilities shouldn’t miss Morgan’s Wonderland. For history buffs, head over to the Alamo or the Institute for Texan Cultures, an educational museum with artifacts and great information on the early settlers of Texas. The Riverwalk is a 15-mile long pedestrian pathway along the San Antonio River. Restaurants, hotels, museums, and markets line the route. Enjoy a long stroll or hop in a canal boat and cruise the river on the Rio Taxi. The Riverwalk is especially magical during the holidays, with special events like the Ford Holiday River Parade, and beautiful lights during the entire season.
Book your hotel in San Antonio!
7. Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex
Texas is just desert, right? WRONG! The Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex is surrounded by lakes! The Grapevine Mills Mall (with LEGOLAND and the Sea Life Aquarium) is on Lake Grapevine and The Dallas Arboretum looks out over White Rock Lake. There are at least 7 big lakes in the Metroplex alone!
Dallas is an extremely family-friendly place with great art galleries, zoos, nature and science museums, and a few wild animal refuges. The Dallas Museum of Art allows families to explore art together with hands on activities! You’ll find a planetarium, IMAX theater, prehistoric creatures, and more at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The Ft. Worth Zoo is a favorite, with a clean, easy-to-navigate layout and well-cared for animals. For an underwater experience, the Dallas World Aquarium has an underwater tunnel where you can see sharks swim over your head!
If you’re in the area, you Trekaroo has reviews of family-friendly lodging in Texas.
See how astronauts live on the International Space Station, dine with a live astronaut, check out real space shuttles, relax as your kiddos play on the giant space-themed play structure, or watch a science show at the Space Center Houston. If your family contains Star Trek junkies, “The Galileo Seven” is a life-size replica of the films’ ship, and is on permanent display.
Even though the Space Station is a major attraction, there is a large zoo, and tons of museums and parks to explore in downtown Houston. Check out our Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Houston!
Do you have a favorite spot in Houston? Write a review of kid-friendly attractions in Houston!
Flat, sandy shores blending with the salty sea in a dramatically distinct expanse of blue and white hues. What’s not to love? South Padre Island is a National Seashore so it’s well maintained with an education facility, snack bar, sandy dunes, clean restrooms, and wildlife. Our favorite beach town in all of Texas is Port Aransas, about 4 hours due south of Austin. It’s funky, laid back, and offers plenty of opportunity for fun in the sun. Check out places to stay and all of the fun things to do in our guides to both Port Aransas and South Padre Island!
We can’t mention beaches without boardwalks! The Kemah Boardwalk near Houston is filled with roller coasters, a train, dancing fountains, and a live stingray touch pool! For an underwater dining experience, the Aquarium Restaurant has a floor to ceiling aquarium allowing every table a unique view of its creatures. At Galveston’s Pleasure Pier you can actually ride a roller coaster out over the Gulf of Mexico! There are also midway games, shops, and family dining joints, like the Rainforest Café, Fishtales, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
Austin is all about hiking, swimming holes, good food, and good music. Zilker Park has a bunch of free family-friendly activities! The Botanical Gardens has a children’s garden, a Japanese Garden, and an aromatic rose garden. At the Nature and Science Center, kids can view objects under the microscope, uncover a dinosaur fossil or drive trucks in the giant sand pit, and play in the indoor cave. Ladybird Lake has easy hiking trails, a playground area, and large expanses of green grass for kiddos to fly kites or expend some pent-up energy. Barton Springs Pool (an underground spring) is open year-round and is famous for its celebrity crowds, as well as locals and tourists. If you’re near Zilker Park, you have to check out the Congress Bridge Bats!
3. Sports Fans Unite!
No matter the sport, Texas has a team ready to entertain and amaze with their dynamic spirit and family-friendly venue. Picture hot dogs, peanuts, singing “Take me Out to the Ballgame,” chanting for the Houston Astros, and your kiddo catching his first ‘outta the park’ hit. Or the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns with black smudges under their eyes, protecting their coveted pig skin ball, while painted college kids cheer from the sidelines. Or the Dallas Stars sliding effortlessly over a sheet of thick ice and the Houston Rockets going straight for the slam dunk. There’s a game somewhere for every season!
Here’s a list of even more favorite family-friendly sports venues in Texas for families.
2. The Great Big Outdoors
Have you ever gone on a hunt for dinosaur tracks, taken an African-style safari, or rafted through igneous rock cutouts? Texas has a ton of outdoor activities to thrill the whole family! At Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, families can spot prehistoric tracks from an Apatosaurus and a T-Rex. Junior Ranger Explorer Packs and available and include binoculars, a magnifying glass, an animal tracking key, a sketchbook, flower and animal guides, and more! If an African-style Safari is more your thing, then check out Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. It’s a 400-acre drive-through ranch where guests can observe giraffe, ostrich, zebras, rhinos, and wildebeest, all from the safety of their own vehicles.
Just south of Amarillo is Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in America! Guests can camp in a basic cabin overlooking the canyon, hike on one of the many trails, or arrange a tour via Jeep or horseback. And last, but not least, Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and most unspoiled National Parks in America. Families can hike along trails used by Native Americans and early settlers, visit hot springs, raft through the Colorado Canyon, and participate in the Junior Ranger Program.
1. Extreme Adventures, Texas-Style
There’s nothing like a jolt of adrenaline! From race car driving to explosions, Texas has a range of family activities that are sure to delight even the most hardcore thrill-seekers. Sportations allows you to choose your own adventure, including feeling weightless in a zero gravity experience. A specially modified Boeing 727 will soar above the earth performing parabolic arcs while you float, spin, and flip just like astronauts in space! A few of the other adventures include: skydiving, hang gliding, and hot air balloon rides. With Lake Travis Zipline Adventures, families with children over 70 pounds can zipline across the lakes’ inlets on the largest zipline in Texas! Parents with children over the age of 18 can even participate in Night Flight, a night-time zip with headlamps and glowsticks.
Rusty Wallace’s Racing Experience allows children as young as 14 to ride with an experienced driver in a real NASCAR Sprint Cup Car! Adults can even drive the cars themselves! How about explosions? Families visiting Stunt Ranch have the opportunity to learn about physics and engineering while watching explosions, experiencing a zero shock airbag, special effects from movies, and making snow, rain, steam, and smoke!
As you can see, Texas is not just the “Lonestar State.” It is a BIG state filled with fun and unique family adventures perfect for your family. From its BIG cities to its BIG culture, Texas is a state you don’t want to miss.
Lead image by: Shutterstock.com