Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Texas

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 to do in Texas.

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Top 10 Things to do in Texas

10. Texas State Fair

things to do in Texas with kids Texas State Fair

Photo by: Flickr/Barbara Brannon

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 at 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 incorporating 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! 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.)

Check for amazing deals on family-friendly hotels near the Texas State Fair.

9. Cowboy Culture

Things to do in Texas with kids Farm Stay

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 their own horse for the 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.

Not completely sold on the camping overnight bit and just need a taste of cowboy culture? 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 longhorn 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, view wild and exotic animals, watch a pistol show, eat out of a chuck-wagon, and learn about the history of cowboy culture.

Here’s a list of more places for families to experience cowboy culture in Texas.

8. Spend Time in San Antonio

Things to do in Texas with kids 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 shouldn’t miss Morgan’s Wonderland. History buffs should head over to the Alamo and 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 a family-friendly hotel in San Antonio!

Need specifics? Here are our Top 10 Things to Do in San Antonio with Kids and our Guide to History and Culture in San Antonio. 

7. Explore the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex

Things to do in Texas with kids Dallas

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.

Dallas is an extremely family-friendly place with great art galleries, zoos, nature and science museums, and a few wildlife 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!

Check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Dallas and our guide to Two Days in Fort Worth!

6. Get to Know Houston

Things to do in Texas with kids Houston

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 are tons of museums and parks to explore in downtown Houston like the Children’s Museum. 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

Check for deals on amazing hotels in Houston.

5. Relax at Texas Beaches

things to do in Texas with kids Texas Beaches

Flat, sandy shores blending with the salty sea in a dramatic expanse of blue and white hues. What’s not to love? South Padre Island is a National Seashore. It’s well maintained with an education facility, snack bar, sand 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 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.

Check for deals on family-friendly hotels in Port Aransas.

4. Stay Weird in Austin

Things to do in Texas with kids Austin

Austin is all about exploring trails and 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 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. Bring your best game to the diving board! Last but not least, you have to check out the Congress Bridge Bats which put on quite a show at sunset.

For more on Austin, check out our guide to Day trips from Austin with Kids, our curated collection of Kid Friendly Restaurants in Austin, and our Top 10 Things to Do in Austin with Kids!

Look for amazing hotel deals in Austin.

3. Sports Fans Unite!

Things to do in Texas with kids sports

No matter the sport, Texas has a team ready to entertain and amaze with their dynamic spirit. Picture hot dogs, peanuts, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and your kiddo catching his first ‘outta the park’ hit. Imagine the excitement in shouting for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns, protecting their coveted pigskin ball, while painted college kids cheer from the sidelines. Cheer for 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 and the venues are geared toward family fun!

Here’s a list of even more favorite family-friendly sports venues in Texas for families.

2. The Great Big Outdoors

things to do in Texas with kids 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.

We’ve got all the details on the best spots for outdoor adventure. Check out our West Texas Road Trip Itinerary, our guide to the Best Family Friendly Lake Resorts in Texas, and our guide to the Best Swimming Holes in Texas.

1. Extreme Adventures, Texas-Style

Things to do in Texas with kids zipline

Photo by: Flickr/JenKnoedl

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, skydiving, hang gliding, and hot air balloon rides. With Lake Travis Zipline Adventures, families can zip line across the lakes’ inlets on the largest zip line in Texas!

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, learning about movie special effects, and making extreme weather!

Texas 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.

Don’t miss these hotel deals in Texas.

Special thanks to Heather Reed who wrote the original version of this article. 

Lead image by: Shutterstock.com

Thanks for checking out the top 10 things to do in Texas! What state do you want to visit next?

Top 10 State Series 567x378From coast to coast, we’re determining the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in each state of our great nation.   Head here to see what tops the list in your favorite state.

About the author

Tarlie Harris is one of Trekaroo's Travel Experts. She is always planning her family's next trip and writing about the last one. She currently lives in Austin, TX where she enjoys hiking the greenbelt, swimming in Barton Springs, and catching shows at The Mohawk. She was raised in the deep south, spending many summers on the Florida Panhandle. While she is very accustomed to wide open green space and swimming pools these days, the memories from her decade in New York City are never far from her heart.
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